Nebraska congressman faces calls to resign after convictions

Although Mr. Fortenberry has already lost his committee assignments under House Republican rules for members facing federal indictments, a conviction does not automatically disqualify him from retaining his seat. He could be kicked out, if two-thirds of House members vote to approve, but such a move is extremely rare. Many MPs convicted of crimes resign long before they get to that point.

In October, when he was indicted, the congressman claimed his innocence.

“Five and a half years ago someone from overseas illegally transferred money to my campaign,” Mr Fortenberry said in a video he posted online at the time. “I didn’t know anything about it.”

He was convicted after a week-long trial.

“The lies in this case threatened the integrity of the US electoral system and were intended to prevent investigators from knowing the true source of campaign funds,” said Tracy L. Wilkison, one of the prosecutors.

Mr. Fortenberry, who has served in Congress for nearly two decades, received a $30,000 donation for his re-election campaign at a fundraiser in 2016, according to the federal indictment in the case. Foreign citizens are prohibited from making donations to US election campaigns.

Rather than report the contribution in an amended filing with the Federal Election Commission or return the money, as required by federal law, prosecutors said Mr. Fortenberry kept it and told investigators in 2019 that he was not aware of any contributions made by foreign citizens.

The charges did not stem from the donation itself, which came from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian-Lebanese billionaire accused of conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions to US politicians in exchange for their access.

The charges came after prosecutors said Mr. Fortenberry denied knowing that the donation, which had been routed through an intermediary, came from Mr. Chagoury – even after the congressman told a cooperating witness, a fundraiser mentioned in court documents as Individual H, that the donation “probably came from Gilbert Chagoury”.

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