Sunday, 27 March 2022

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry to Resign After Felony Convictions for Lying to FBI

 Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) announced his resignation from Congress on Saturday, effective March 31, after a federal jury convicted him on felony charges for lying to federal authorities about an illegal campaign donation.

“It has been my honor to serve with you in the United States House of Representatives,” Fortenberry said in a letter to his colleagues. “Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer effectively serve.”

After Fortenberry was found guilty of three felonies on Thursday, he faced bipartisan calls from House leadership to resign from office. “I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said.

“Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Fellow Nebraska Republican Don Bacon applauded Fortenberry’s decision to resign. “I respect Rep. Fortenberry’s tough, but right decision to resign from his position and wish him and his family the best,” Bacon said.

Fortenberry is scheduled for sentencing on June 28. Each count carries up to five years of federal prison and fines. Fortenberry intends to appeal his convictions.

As The Guardian reported:

Fortenberry was indicted in October after authorities said he lied to FBI agents in two separate interviews about his knowledge of an illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign from a foreign billionaire. Fortenberry was interviewed at his home in Lincoln, and then again with his lawyers present in Washington DC.

At trial, prosecutors presented recorded phone conversations in which Fortenberry was repeatedly warned that the contributions came from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent. The donations were funnelled through three strawmen at a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles.

According to court documents reviewed by the Washington Post, Chagoury was accused of making illicit campaign contributions worth up to $180,000 to four American political candidates, including Fortenberry.

After a grand jury indicted Fortenberry on two charges of making false statements and one charge of scheming to deceive federal agencies in October, he resigned from his role as ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture.

In his resignation letter, Fortenberry quoted a poem written on Mother Teresa’s childhood home walls. “People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway,” one line reads. “If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway,” another line read.

“In the final analysis it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway,” the poem concluded.

Under state law, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) has up to 90 days to schedule a special election for a vacant congressional seat.

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