Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry on Friday faced growing pressure from congressional leaders and Nebraska’s GOP governor to resign after a California jury found him guilty of lying to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 campaign donation from a Nigerian billionaire.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urged the nine-term congressman to leave office, as did Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has endorsed Fortenberry’s top Republican primary challenger, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“The people of Nebraska deserve active, certain representation,” Ricketts said. “I hope Jeff Fortenberry will do the right thing and resign so his constituents have that certainty while he focuses on his family and other affairs.”
McCarthy said he texted Fortenberry about the conviction and planned to talk to him about the matter on Friday.
“I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign,” McCarthy told reporters in Jacksonville, Florida.
Pelosi said Fortenberry’s conviction “represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law.”
A federal jury in Los Angeles deliberated for about two hours Thursday before finding Fortenberry guilty of concealing information and two counts of making false statements to authorities. Fortenberry was charged after denying to the FBI that he was aware he had received illicit funds from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent who lives in Paris.
The three men who funneled money to Fortenberry from Chagoury were all of Lebanese descent and had ties to In Defense of Christians, a nonprofit Fortenberry supported that was devoted to fighting religious persecution in the Middle East.
Outside the courthouse, Fortenberry said the process had been unfair and that he would appeal immediately. He would not say if he would suspend his campaign for reelection, saying he was going to spend time with his family.
“I’m getting so many beautiful messages from people literally all around the world, who’ve been praying for us and pulling for us,” he said.
The judge set sentencing for June 28. Each count carries a potential five-year prison sentence and fines.
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