From 2016 to 2019, Cunningham served as the deputy staff judge advocate at the school house where the Army’s elite Special Forces are trained, known as the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS), according to his campaign website.
His access to Fort Bragg and special operations forces would make him an enticing target by foreign adversaries.
“He was the deputy staff judge advocate at SWCC, right? So that’s a pretty important position and he likely had access to a lot of special operations compartmentalized programs. If he did, he’s an absolute prime target for them,” the retired SOCOM colonel said.
The U.S. military has also put a lot of effort in recent years in trying to warn service members to avoid situations where they could be compromised by “sextortion.”
Katherine McDonald, an intelligence specialist with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service,
told the Military Times in 2016, “The concern really is twofold: the concern of harm to themselves and, on a national security level, a lot of these service members do have [security] clearances.”
Indeed, Guzman Todd indicated she herself had compromising material on Cunningham and even threatened to use it.
“I’m just going to send to his opponent his naked photos,” she wrote in text messages obtained by the Associated Press. “That will teach him.”
She added in another message to her friend, “He knows [that I] can tank his campaign.”
Some legal experts say that as a reservist, Cunningham would only be subject to the UCMJ if he were
on duty at the time of the adultery.
However, as a military judge advocate general (JAG), he may fall under additional professional standards, regardless of whether he was on duty or off-duty at the time.
Leaven said that for military officers, having an affair is “an absolute career killer.” He said that while court-martials for adultery are not common, service members who commit adultery can face less-than-honorable discharges from the military.
The retired colonel said Cunningham could also lose his security clearance for not disclosing his affair.
It is also heavily frowned upon in the military for a senior officer to engage in an affair with an enlisted soldier’s wife.
There is indication that Cunningham and Guzman Todd’s husband served at Fort Bragg at the same time and may even have known each other.
Her husband, Jeremy Todd, has served five combat deployments and a stint at Fort Bragg before being wounded in a training accident and becoming a University of Southern California (USC) graduate student, according to an
article published on USC’s website in 2016.
According to the article, Todd
served as the senior religious top enlisted officer for all of Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg between 2010 and 2016.
Cunningham’s campaign website states that Cunningham served at 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg as a Reserve Augmentee from 2009 to 2012.
One of Cunningham’s text messages to Guzman Todd indicated that he had known her for awhile.
“Happy belated birthday,” Cunningham
wrote in a text to Guzman Todd about her son. “Cannot believe he’s 8 years old!!! He was so little when we met!”
Leaven, who said he knows Cunningham and still supports him in the Senate race, said he was dismayed by his actions, especially given the fact that Cunningham was a military prosecutor.
“He should know military law better than anyone else,” he told the
Citizen-Times. “If there’s an expert on the [UCMJ], it should be Cal. And knowing it, he still decided to take the risk, and that’s on him.”
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