Jeff Fortenberry Resigning After Convictions and Urging From GOP Leaders

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican convicted of lying to federal investigators about illegal donations to his campaign, announced Saturday that he is resigning from Congress.

Fortenberry, 61, was found guilty Thursday of allegedly lying about accepting a donation from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury in violation of laws banning foreign nationals from contributing to a federal campaign.

He announced his plans to resign from Congress "shortly" in a statement, writing that he can "no longer serve" his constituents effectively "due to the difficulties of my current circumstances."

"Thank you for entrusting me with the great responsibility of governing our nation," he wrote. "When I first ran for Congress, I said I would focus on our national security, economic security, and family security. It is my sincerest hope that I have made a contribution to the betterment of America, and the wellbeing of our great state of Nebraska."

Prosecutors said he "lied to and misled authorities" when he was being interviewed about the $30,000 donation from Chagoury, who allegedly tried to get around the rules by giving the money through "straw donors" who attended a fundraising event in Los Angeles for the congressman's 2016 reelection bid.

He was found guilty of one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and Fortenberry is set to be sentenced June 28.

The congressman has maintained his innocence, however, and said he would appeal the decision.

"We always felt like it was going to be hard to have a fair process here," he said after the verdict, according to KETV-Omaha. "So this appeal starts immediately."

Democrat and Republican lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, have called for his resignation.

"I think when someone's convicted, it's time to resign," McCarthy said Friday alongside other GOP lawmakers, adding that if Fortenberry wants to appeal the conviction, he should do so as a private citizen.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said he should resign in a statement, writing that his conviction "represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve."

Fortenberry was first elected to Congress in 2004 and leaves open a House seat that Republicans are likely to hold. Former President Donald Trump won the newly redrawn district, which includes Lincoln and other parts of eastern Nebraska, by just over 11 points in 2020.

He faced a primary challenger from Senator Mike Flood. Prominent Nebraska Republicans including Governor Pete Ricketts backed his primary opponent after he was indicted last October.

Newsweek reached out to Fortenberry's office for further comment Saturday. This story will be updated with any response.

Jeff Fortenberry resigns from Congress
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, above in October 2013, announced he would resign from Congress after being found guilty of lying to federal investigators regarding illegal donations to his campaign.  Andrew Burton/Getty Images