A federal court in Los Angeles on Thursday found Nebraska MP Jeff Fortenberry guilty of lying to federal investigators about concealing illegal campaign aid during a 2016 California fundraiser.
After a two-hour debate, the judges convicted the Republican congressman of three counts. U.S. District Judge Stanley Bloomfield set a June 28 sentencing date.
Prosecutors allege that Mr Fortinberry learned that Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagori had illegally helped a Los Angeles donor through a ښو 30,000 2016 re-election campaign. But during interviews with federal agents, Mr. Fortenberry repeatedly denied knowing about Mr. Chagori’s involvement, prosecutors claimed.
Foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to candidates in U.S. elections, and it is illegal to conceal the identity of a donor through third party contributions.
The process, which opened last week, highlighted a rare example of a trial for members of Congress. Mr Fortune Berry is battling allegations while campaigning for re-election.
Following Thursday’s ruling, Mr Fortune Berry called into question the fairness of the action. “The appeal is being processed immediately,” he said.
The chairman of the Republican House of Representatives said Friday that Mr. Fortin Berry should be fired.
“Once someone is convicted, it’s time to resign,” said Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.). “He spent his day in court. I think if he wants to appeal, he can do so as a private citizen. He said he plans to speak to Congress later in the day.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, Calif.) Also said Mr. Fortenberry should resign.
During the trial, his defense team argued that the case was being pursued by more courageous prosecutors who called for a greater arrest after little progress was made in the extensive investigation into the alleged involvement of U.S. political candidates.
Prosecutors pointed to a secretly recorded phone call in which the Los Angeles co-host, co-host Mr. Fortin Berry, said some of the meeting’s funding may have been funded by Mr. Chagori. The co-host collaborated with federal investigators.
Mr Fortuneberry’s lawyers told the judges the phone call was an unforgettable one for Congress, which may have been confused or unable to hear – and did not recall the details of the conversation during a subsequent interview by federal officials.
Mr. Chagori signed an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2019 to prevent the trial, and acknowledged that he had paid individuals in the United States to use the four candidates’ contributions.
“If we want everyone to follow the law, ultimately it starts with the legislators,” McKinnings, the deputy attorney general, said after the court’s decision. “This is especially important when the audit itself goes to the completion of the election.”
Mr Fortinberry was a member of the House Appropriations Committee and a senior Republican on the Agriculture Subcommittee, but resigned following his allegations. The Jirga’s GOP regulations state that a member convicted of a felony may resign from committee positions as a result of two or more years of probable imprisonment.
Write to Dina Powell at [email protected]
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Published March 25, 2022, published as “Agents”. Fortune Berry is guilty in the campaign investigation.