GOP Rep. Fortenberry Resigns After Felony Conviction

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., announced Saturday he is resigning from Congress, amid bipartisan calls to do so after his conviction on charges of campaign finance violations and lying to the FBI.

“Thank you for entrusting me with the great responsibility of governing our nation,” Fortenberry wrote in his “Fort Report” emailed newsletter, North Platte, Nebraska’s NBC affiliate KNOP reported. “Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer serve you effectively. I will resign from Congress shortly.”

He added a letter to the House of Representatives to announce his decision, stating in it his resignation will be effective March 31.

A spokesperson for the congressman confirmed to KOLN in Lincoln, Nebraska, the representative has also ended his reelection campaign, but his name at this time cannot be removed from the ballot.

A federal jury Thursday in Los Angeles found Fortenberry guilty of concealing information about donations and making false statement to the FBI after he denied to the federal investigators he was aware he had gotten some $30,000 in campaign funds from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, a man of Lebanese descent living in Paris.

Three men who funneled the money to Chagoury were also of Lebanese descent and had ties to In Defense of Christians, a nonprofit Fortenberry supported.

Fortenberry will be sentenced June 28, and each count carries up to five years in prison.

After the conviction, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Fortenberry had his day in court and could appeal the conviction as a private citizen, but he added Friday he thinks “when someone’s convicted it’s time to resign.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had also called for Fortenberry to step down, saying his conviction “represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law.”

Nebraska GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts called on Fortenberry to “do the right thing and resign” so his constituents can have “active, certain representation” while the outgoing congressman can focus on his family and personal life.

Fortenberry has been in Congress since 2005, but filling his vacancy is a complicated procedure, according to Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen. Under state law, since the congressman has resigned before Aug. 1, Ricketts is required to call a special election within 90 days of the resignation.

With it being an election year already, the special election will be difficult and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and no special election can be called in time to coincide with the May 10 primary, according to Evnen.

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