In a development sure to make waves inside the White House, Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE) announced on Saturday that he would resign from Congress effective March 31, following his conviction for lying to the FBI about a contribution to his 2016 campaign, according to The Hill.
Addressing his congressional colleagues in a letter, Fortenberry, 61, said, “It has been my honor to serve with you in the United States House of Representatives. Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer effectively serve.”
“It has been my pleasure to call many of you friends,” the disgraced lawmaker said, according to Fox News, adding, “May God bless you as you labor for the good of our country, help those in need, and strive for what is right and just.”
Jury votes to convict
As detailed in a Justice Department press release, Fortenberry was found guilty by a federal jury on Thursday of making false statements and concealing material information in discussions with federal authorities probing illegal contributions to his 2016 bid for re-election to his seat representing Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District.
The release went on to explain that according to evidence presented at his trial, Fortenberry deceived and misled investigators looking into contributions made by a foreign national who has prohibited by law from donating to U.S. election campaigns.
Gilbert Chagoury of Nigeria, was found to have contributed $30,000 of his own funds through a series of “straw donors” who were in attendance at a Fortenberry fundraiser held in California, and despite having been made aware of the situation, the congressman proceeded to mislead and misrepresent the situation to the FBI.
Mounting pressure prompts departure
In the wake of his conviction, Fortenberry was the subject of vocal calls for his resignation from leaders on both sides of the aisle, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging him to step down immediately.
“He had his day in court. I think if he wants to appeal, he can do to that as a private citizen,” McCarthy opined during a Friday press conference at the GOP policy retreat in Florida. “I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign,” the California lawmaker added.
Pelosi was a bit more blunt in her assessment of the Nebraska representative’s future in office, saying, “Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law. Congressman Fortenberry must resign from the House.”
Even Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts joined those calling for Fortenberry to voluntarily resign his seat in Congress, declaring it “the right thing for his constituents.”
Sentencing date looms
Fortenberry and his legal team have continued to declare his innocence, and the congressman has vowed to appeal his conviction, according to the Nebraska Examiner.
That said, U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. has scheduled Fortenberry’s sentencing for June 28, and each of the three felony charges on which the soon-to-be-ex lawmaker was convicted carries upwards of five years in prison, a fate the congressman surely never envisioned at the start of his political career.