A former House Republican staffer on Wednesday alleged that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) sexually assaulted her during a National Republican Congressional Committee dinner in 2014.
In an exclusive interview with Kremlin-backed news network RT, conservative commentator Rory Riley-Topping alleged that the Republican congressman grabbed her from behind at the event while she was a staffer for the House veterans committee.
“Duncan Hunter had clearly appeared intoxicated and came up to me and said he wanted to speak to me about Agent Orange, which was an issue the committee was dealing with at the time,” Riley-Topping recalled to RT host Manila Chan. “He leaned into me very closely and said, ‘No, I want to talk to you,’ and I felt very uncomfortable and tried to back up and he reached around and put his hand on my behind and said, ‘Let me give you my cell phone number.’”
Hunter, 42, and his wife were indicted last August with conspiracy, wire fraud, and falsification of records after allegedly spending $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses and falsifying Federal Election Commission reports to cover their tracks.
After previously denying any wrongdoing with her husband, Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty in federal court last week, admitting the pair stole a quarter-of-a-million dollars in campaign funds to pay for vacations and credit-card payments.
In response to a Monday motion to dismiss the case, federal prosecutors requested a judge’s permission to tell jurors about several instances in which the congressman used campaign funds to pay for Ubers, bar tabs, and expensive getaways he used to woo five D.C. women into “intimate” extramarital relationships. Some of these women, prosecutors alleged, included three lobbyists and one aide to a member of the GOP leadership team.
“All of the women with whom Hunter pursued these relationships were involved in politics in some manner, and Hunter sometimes met or socialized with them in professional settings,” prosecutors stated. “Evidence of the intimate, entirely personal quality of Hunter’s specific encounters with these women is essential to demonstrate that his spending to facilitate those encounters was improper.”
Unlike the women prosecutors alleged had a consensual affairs with Hunter, Riley-Topping told Chan she “immediately pushed [Hunter] away” and told former Rep. John Runyan (R-NJ) of the encounter.
“I went up to Congressman Runyan and said ‘please get me out of here,’” she said. “And we left and I actually left my position on the committee shortly thereafter because it was not an environment that I felt comfortable working in after that.”
Riley-Topping, who served as staff director for the committee for three years before becoming an attorney for the National Veterans Legal Services Program and later starting her own consulting firm, said the #MeToo movement gave her the confidence to come forward after five years despite her previous fears of retaliation.
“Members of Congress are very powerful in this town and you don’t want to jeopardize your professional future because somebody has the potential to retaliate against you,” Riley-Topping said, adding that the latest revelations about Hunter’s multiple trysts are not surprising.
“I think when you have a married congressman who is targeting young staffers and lobbyists, that’s a big red flag,” she added, noting that Hunter could possibly face jail time.
Hunter first came to the attention of investigators in 2016 when the Federal Election Commission questioned more than $1,300 spent by his campaign committee on Steam, an online video-game portal. While the Republican lawmaker initially blamed the illegal spending on his son, federal agents executed a search warrant in 2017 on the Alexandria, Virginia office of his campaign treasurer. According to the warrant, law-enforcement officials searched the office in pursuit of evidence that Hunter had defrauded a bank by “making false statements related to video game charges.”
“We are seeing over and over again, unfortunately, that people are spending this money on personal expenses that are not related to their campaign,” Riley-Topping said on Wednesday, pivoting the interview to Hunter’s ongoing legal woes.
Hunter’s attorney did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.