Kevin McCarthy Tells Jeff Fortenberry to Resign After Felony Convictions

The day after U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, was found guilty of several charges related to donations made to his campaign in 2016, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called on Fortenberry to resign.

"I think when someone's convicted, it's time to resign," McCarthy said at a Friday morning event alongside several other Republican lawmakers. He also said he plans to talk with Fortenberry today, adding that if Fortenberry wants to appeal the conviction, that should be done as a private citizen, according to a tweet from CNN reporter Melanie Zanona.

On Thursday, Fortenberry, who has represented his Nebraska congressional district since 2005, was found guilty by a jury of one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts, along with two counts of making false statements to federal investigators.

Fortenberry, who is set to be sentenced on June 28, faces up to 15 years in prison, as each charge carries a maximum sentence of up to five years, Newsweek previously reported. The investigation into Fortenberry's campaign centered around donations from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury made in connection to a 2016 fundraiser, violating laws about campaign contributions from foreign nationals.

"After learning of illegal contributions to his campaign, the congressman repeatedly chose to conceal the violations of federal law to protect his job, his reputation and his close associates," said United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison in the announcement of his conviction. "The lies in this case threatened the integrity of the American electoral system and were designed to prevent investigators from learning the true source of campaign funds."

The jury heard evidence in the trial indicating that Fortenberry contacted an unnamed individual who was the co-host of the 2016 fundraiser about setting up an event for his 2018 campaign as well.

During at least one phone call, prosecutors said, that individual told Fortenberry that an associate of Chagoury had distributed $30,000 among several people attending the fundraiser so they could donate under their own names as a way around the foreign nationals donation ban, adding that the money "probably" came from Chagoury himself.

After that information came to his attention, prosecutors said, Fortenberry still did not file an amended report with the Federal Elections Commission about where the money came from. Over the course of several 2019 interviews with investigators, Fortenberry said that he was unaware of any money coming from foreign nationals.

In 2019, Chagoury admitted to contributing $180,000 to four different campaigns and received a fine of nearly $2 million, Newsweek previously reported.

When contacted about whether Fortenberry had a response regarding his conviction, potential resignation or McCarthy's comments, a spokesperson reiterated what Fortenberry said Thursday, that he is spending time with family at the moment and that is "what's most important today."

In January, U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. rejected motions from Fortenberry's attorneys alleging that testimony given to the FBI in interviews that took place in Nebraska and Washington, D.C., should not be allowed to be used in court in California, paving the way for the trial to take place.

Update 3/25/22, 4:02 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and a comment from a spokesperson for Fortenberry.

Jeff Fortenberry Kevin McCarthy Resign
Representative Jeff Fortenberry has been called on to resign by House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy after being convicted of several counts related to donations made to his campaign in 2016 on Thursday. Above, Fortenberry walks through the Capitol on October 15, 2013, in Washington, D.C. Andrew Burton/Getty Images