A former Capitol Hill staffer has accused Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) of sexual harassment, the latest in a string of scandals to beset the lawmaker as he faces criminal prosecution for allegedly misusing campaign money to fund a lavish lifestyle and several extramarital affairs.
Rory Riley-Topping went public on Wednesday with her claim that Hunter groped her at a dinner party in 2014.
Riley-Topping, who was then the staff director for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, claims Hunter grabbed her buttocks at the event, an annual affair organized by the National Republican Congressional 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 told Russian state TV station RT.
“I said I’m happy to reach out to your staff and follow up on that. 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 cellphone number,’” she continued.
RT was the first outlet to report on the harassment allegation. Riley-Topping told CNN that a personal friend who works as an anchor on the channel had encouraged her to appear on the network to tell her story.
Riley-Topping said she pushed Hunter away from her after the alleged groping and immediately approached Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), a member of the committee, and told him what had transpired.
“This is gross. This is what happened: Duncan Hunter just grabbed my ass. I don’t want to be here anymore,” she recalled telling Runyan, according to CNN.
Riley-Topping, who is now a consultant specializing in veteran law, said she left her position on the committee “shortly thereafter because it was not an environment that I felt comfortable working in after that.”
Neither Hunter nor Runyan, who has since retired from Congress, has spoken publicly about the alleged incident. Hunter’s office did not immediately respond to an after-hours request for comment.
Hunter has come under scrutiny in recent months for alleged financial misconduct and other questionable behavior.
The 42-year-old congressman and his wife were indicted last August on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and falsification of records after allegedly spending a quarter-million dollars in campaign funds to pay for vacations and other personal expenses ― and then submitting false reports to the Federal Election Commission to cover up their misdeeds.
The congressman has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges; but his wife, Margaret Hunter, who had initially also denied wrongdoing in the case switched her plea earlier this month to guilty. Hunter has since been accused of throwing his wife under the bus.
In court filings on Monday, prosecutors described how Hunter allegedly used campaign funds to “pursue a series of intimate personal relationships” with five women, including three lobbyists.
“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 wrote, according to The Daily Beast. “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.”
DOJ says @rep_hunter took a lobbyist skiing near Lake Tahoe, and charged it to his campaign. Prosecutors said their relationship "blossomed beyond a mere friendship." They say he even charged the campaign for his $7 Sam Adams when he arrived in Tahoe. pic.twitter.com/PswO6AdlDB— Brad Heath (@bradheath) June 25, 2019
Hunter, a Marine veteran, recently also faced criticism for saying his unit “killed probably hundreds of civilians” during his 2004 tour in Iraq.
Hunter, who was defending Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who has been accused of war crimes, told Barstool Sports’ Zero Blog Thirty podcast that his unit “probably killed women and children, if there were any left in the city when we invaded.”
“So do I get judged too?” the congressman asked.
Hunter had earlier admitted to posing for a photo with an enemy combatant’s corpse while serving in the Marines ― as Gallagher allegedly had.
“I’ve taken pictures just like that when I was overseas,” he said at a May town hall. “Didn’t text them to anybody, didn’t put them on Facebook or Instagram, but a lot of my peers, a lot of us have done the exact same thing.”
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