The House Republican Leader is calling for the resignation of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., after he was convicted on three counts including lying to the federal investigators.
Fortenberry, formerly the top Republican on the House Ag Appropriations subcommittee, was convicted by a federal jury in Los Angeles of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. The Department of Justice was investigating an illegal $30,000 contribution to Fortenberry’s 2016 reelection campaign from a foreign national, and investigators say he made false and misleading statements to cover up his knowledge of the contribution’s origin.
The Nebraska Republican stepped down from his committee posts when he was first indicted and is now facing calls from House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to resign.
“He had his day in court, if he wants to appeal, he can go do that as a private citizen,” McCarthy told reporters during a news conference at the House GOP retreat. “I think when someone is convicted it’s time to resign.”
Fortenberry has signaled he intends to appeal the conviction, telling reporters outside the courthouse “it was going to be hard to have a fair process here, so this appeal starts immediately.”
He has not yet signaled any intent to step down or suspend his reelection campaign. Fortenberry was running for reelection in Nebraska’s 1st District, where he is facing a primary challenge from Mike Flood, a state senator and former speaker of the Nebraska House.
Pete Ricketts, the GOP Governor of Nebraska, has already endorsed Flood in the primary race and called for Fortenberry's resignation on Friday. In a statement to the Nebraska Examiner, Ricketts said he hoped Fortenberry "will do the right thing and resign so his constituents have that certainty while he focuses on his family and other affairs."
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Convicted felons can legally serve in the House of Representatives but can be subject to censure or expulsion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also called for his resignation, saying his conviction “represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve.”
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., was named the acting Ranking Member of the subcommittee in November following Fortenberry's departure and continues to serve in that role.
Fortenberry is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28. Each charge comes with a maximum of five years in prison.
U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said in a press release the conviction helps secure American elections.
“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,” she said. “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.”
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