Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry was under increasing pressure from both congressional leaders and Nebraska's GOP Governor to resign.
Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, and Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader, both called for the resignation of the nine-term congressman. Pete Ricketts , who has endorsed Fortenberry’s top Republican primary opponent.
Ricketts stated that Nebraskans deserve an active and certain representative. I hope Jeff Fortenberry will do right and resign to ensure that his constituents have certainty, while he focuses his attention on his family and other matters.
McCarthy claimed that he had texted Fortenberry regarding the conviction and intended to speak to him on Friday.
McCarthy stated that McCarthy believed it was time for someone to resign after they have been convicted.
Pelosi stated that Fortenberry's conviction was "a breach of public trust and confidence about his ability to serve." "No one is above the law."
Fortenberry was found guilty by a federal jury in Los Angeles of concealing information as well as two counts of false statements to authorities. After denying to the FBI that Fortenberry knew he had received illegal funds from Gilbert Chagoury (a billionaire Nigerian of Lebanese origin who lives in Paris), Fortenberry was arrested.
Three men from Chagoury funneled money towards Fortenberry. They were all Lebanese and had connections to In Defense of Christians. This nonprofit, which Fortenberry supports, was dedicated to fighting religious persecution in Middle East.
Fortenberry stated outside the courthouse that the process was unfair and that he would appeal the decision immediately. Fortenberry did not answer whether he would suspend his campaign to reelect, but he said he was going home to spend some time with his family.
He said, "I'm receiving so many beautiful messages by people literally all over the world who've been praying and pulling for me."
Mack Jenkins, Assistant U.S. attorney, stated that prosecutors have not yet decided what penalty they will seek for Fortenberry's June 28th sentencing. Each count could result in a five-year sentence or more.
Vince Powers, a Lincoln, Nebraska veteran trial lawyer who has been following Fortenberry's case said that the judge will likely use federal guidelines to decide what sentence to impose.
Powers stated that Fortenberry could face between 15 and 21 months imprisonment based on his review of the guidelines. Powers stated that Fortenberry would likely be sent to FPC Yankton in South Dakota because of his location. It is located about 180 miles (290 km) north Lincoln.
A judge can also decide to go against the guidelines and give Fortenberry a sentence that is either higher or lower than what was written. Powers stated that Fortenberry is unlikely to be given probation.
Powers, who was a former chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, stated that he doesn't understand how he can stay out of prison.
Felons can run for Congress and serve, but most choose to resign in fear of being expelled. Unless their constituents elect them to reelect, Congressional rules prohibit members from voting on legislation if they have been convicted of a felony.
This was the first trial for a sitting congressman since Rep. JimTraficant, D.Ohio was convicted in 2002 of bribery, and other felony charges.
Chad Kolton, a campaign spokesperson, stated Friday that Fortenberry did not respond to calls for his resignation.
Kolton stated, "He is spending time with his family right at the moment." "That's what is most important right now."
Fortenberry's October indictment drew a serious Republican primary challenge by state Senator Mike Flood. Flood is a former speaker in the Nebraska Legislature and has since received endorsements from Ricketts as well as former governor. Dave Heineman. A Flood campaign spokesperson declined to comment on Friday's news about Fortenberry being convicted.
The Republican primary winner will likely face Patty Pansing Brooks (a Democrat from Lincoln), but Nebraska's 1st Congressional District, which is heavily Republican, hasn't been competitive for decades.
Pansing Brooks stated Friday that Fortenberry's conviction was "a wake-up call" and that the district requires a change. He called for a review of campaign finance laws in order to improve transparency.
Pansing Brooks stated that "we cannot allow a business return as usual as this dust settles", and added that Nebraska will likely "to bear the brunt of some jokes," because Fortenberry was convicted.
Although Fortenberry, 61 did not testify, his lawyers claimed that he was unaware of the contribution. Agents directed an informant, to give him the information in a 10-minute phone call to set him free.
Jenkins, the federal prosecution, stated that there was plenty of evidence and that the jury's quick verdict validated the prosecution's efforts.
Jenkins stated that Jenkins believed it was a straightforward story. Jenkins said that he saw a politician who was caught up in the power and money cycle. He lost his way, as I have said.
Jenkins stated that Jenkins' verdict should be a reminder for lawmakers to take serious foreign influence and violations under the Federal Election Campaign Act.
Jenkins stated that lawmakers should adhere to the law. Jenkins stated, "If we expect anyone to obey the law, it begins with the legislators. I believe that's even more important when the investigation goes to electoral integrity."
Jenkins stated that Operation Titan's Grip, the probe was still being conducted.
Jenkins was asked by Jenkins if Fortenberry would have been prosecuted if Fortenberry had sooner disclosed the money and returned it, like other politicians who learned about the donations.
He stated that it was difficult to know, but that Fortenberry was evidence of a scheme to conceal his "inaction."
Other legislators who received money from this group were Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, and ex-Republican Rep. Terry Lee who was a member of Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District.