Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska was convicted of 3 felonies on Thursday.
He was found to have lied to the FBI about his knowledge of an illegal $30k donation from a foreign national.
McCarthy said that “when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign” but still wants to talk to Fortenberry.
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that it’s time Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, a member of his own caucus, to leave Congress after he was convicted on Thursday of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I want to discuss with him today, I think he had his day in court and I think if he wants to appeal, he can go do that as a private citizen,” said McCarthy at a press conference on Friday at the House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra, Florida. “I think, out of respect, you can let me talk to him today, but I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called on Fortenberry to resign, saying in a statement Friday that his conviction “represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve.”
The Nebraska Republican was convicted of three felonies on Thursday, including one count of “scheming to falsify and conceal material facts” and two counts of making false statements to the FBI, which was investigating whether he knew about receiving $30,000 from Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury at a fundraiser in 2016.
“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 US Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison in a statement. “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 US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California also said that Fortenberry was told multiple times in a June 2018 call by the same person who hosted the original 2016 fundraiser that the money “probably did come from Gilbert Chagoury.”
He now awaits sentencing in California on June 28, and each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Fortenberry told reporters outside of court that he’s going to “spend some time as a family.”
“We’re going to spend some time as a family, and that’s what we’re doing right now,” he told reporters when asked whether he would continue his campaign, according to a video posted by the Omaha World-Herald. His brief statement came before McCarthy called on him to resign.
McCarthy’s call comes as Fortenberry faces an increasingly hostile reception back home as establishment Republicans desert him.
Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman have both thrown their support behind state Sen. Mike Flood, the first Republican to challenge Fortenberry in a primary since 2014. Even Tom Osborne, the legendary college football coach and a former congressman himself, has endorsed Flood.
“In modern political times in Nebraska, Jeff Fortenberry is the only Nebraska Congressman that has ever been indicted on felony criminal charges. His actions have resulted in a dilemma for Nebraska’s first district voters,” Heineman said when he announced his endorsement in January.
The Nebraska 1st District, which Fortenberry represents, is heavily conservative and stretches from the state capital in Lincoln to just outside of Omaha. But Republicans have wanted to avoid any scenario where a convicted congressman could endanger their lock on the seat. The GOP is also usually preoccupied with keeping the 2nd District, one of the swingiest-seats in the US, under its grasp. Rep. Don Bacon, who represents the 2nd District, is one of just 15 Republicans who represents a seat won by President Joe Biden.
Just before Fortenberry was indicted by a grand jury in October, he released a YouTube video filmed from a pickup truck in front of a corn field where he said he felt “personally betrayed” by FBI investigators and denied knowledge of the illicit nature of the contributions .
“Two and a half years ago, I had a knock on my door on a weekend,” he said in the video. “They were FBI agents from California. I let them in my house, I answered their questions. Later, we went back and answered further questions. I told them what I knew and what I understood.”
“They’ve accused me of lying to them, and are charging me with this,” he said incredulously. “We’re shocked. We’re stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help.”
Fortenberry’s campaign had also asked supporters to donate to the “Jeff Fortenberry Legal Expense Trust,” which he said would be used to fight back against “Deep State operatives at the FBI” who “are lying to target me with a Fake Crime.”
Insider has reached out to Rep. Fortenberry’s office for comment on both the conviction and McCarthy’s statement.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism