On Thursday, Nebraska Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry was found guilty of lying to the FBI regarding illegal campaign donations from 2016. He was convicted by a jury on one count of falsifying and concealing material facts and two counts of making false statements.
Fox News reports:
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, 61, was charged last year after being interviewed by two FBI agents who were investigating Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury who gave Fortenberry a $30,000 campaign contribution at a Los Angeles fundraiser before the 2016 election and has donated to other campaigns.
The nine-term Republican congressman’s defense has maintained his innocence, arguing that the investigators knew he was unaware of the donation at the time but directed an informant to feed him the information in a 10-minute recorded call with the intention of trying to prosecute him. They claimed the FBI used false pretenses a year later to interview him and charge him after he couldn’t remember the recorded conversation.
Dr. Elias Ayoub, who hosted Fortenberry in Los Angeles in 2016, confessed in a recorded 2018 call with the congressman that he distributed $30,000 to friends and relatives who attended the fundraiser so they could write checks to Fortenberry’s campaign. During the call in 2018, Ayoub had been cooperating with the FBI. Ayoub said the money probably came from Chagoury, who admitted in 2019 to funneling $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions to four campaigns and agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine.
In 2019, Fortenberry told the FBI he hadn’t received any foreign donations when he didn’t realize he was being recorded.
Fortenberry “chose to conceal the truth, he chose to lie to federal investigators when they came to ask question [sic]… believing his status and privilege as a congressman would shield him from his choices,” prosecutor Susan Har said during closing arguments, according to KETV in Omaha.
Fortenberry faces up to five years in prison for each of the charges.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has urged Fortenberry to resign from Congress.
Per The Hill:
“He had his day in court. I think if he wants to appeal, he can go do that as a private citizen,” McCarthy said in a press conference Friday from House Republicans’ annual policy retreat in Florida.
McCarthy said he texted Fortenberry on Thursday night and plans to talk to him today.
“I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign,” McCarthy said.