Updated Mar 26, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry resigns after conviction

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry speaks to reporters at the Capitol
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry speaks to reporters at the Capitol in 2013. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) resigned his House seat on Saturday after he was convicted of three felonies earlier this week.

Why it matters: The resignation marks the end of Fortenberry's nearly two decades in Congress, and comes after both party leaders in the House called on him to step down.

Driving the news: Fortenberry told his House colleagues in a letter that his resignation is effective March 31.

  • "Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer effectively serve," he wrote.
  • The letter includes a poem from Mother Teresa, which reads in part, "People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway."

The backdrop: A federal jury in California found Fortenberry guilty of two counts of making false statements and one count of concealing information.

  • Fortenberry lied in two interviews with FBI agents about $30,000 in illegal campaign donations he received from Nigerian Lebanese billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, prosecutors said.
  • Fortenberry and his attorneys argued the prosecution was politically motivated and that Fortenberry misremembered details of a call with an associate who informed him of the illegal donations.
  • Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for June 28.

What they’re saying: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking at a GOP retreat in Florida on Friday, said Fortenberry “had his day in court” and should make his appeal as a “private citizen.”

  • “I think when someone's convicted, it's time to resign,” he said at a press conference, adding that he planned to speak with Fortenberry later in the day.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi followed suit in a statement in which she said Fortenberry “must resign from the House.”
  • “Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law.”

Editor's note: This story and headline have been updated to reflect Fortenberry's resignation.

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