Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said Saturday he will resign from Congress after he was convicted Thursday on three felony counts for lying to federal investigators about illegal campaign contributions from a foreign billionaire.
In a letter to his House colleagues, Fortenberry said his last day in Congress will be March 31.
“It has been my honor to serve with you in the United States House of Representatives,” Fortenberry wrote. “It has been my pleasure to call many of you friends. 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.”
Fortenberry’s charges stem from a 2016 fundraiser held in Glendale, Calif., for the congressman’s reelection. There, Fortenberry received donations totaling $30,200 from Gilbert Chagoury, a wealthy Nigerian business executive of Lebanese descent who used other people as conduits to make the contributions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced in October.
Foreign nationals are prohibited from donating to candidates running for federal office in the United States. It is also illegal to disguise a donor’s identity through third-party contributions.
Fortenberry was convicted of one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. Each of the counts carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Fortenberry’s week-long trial in Los Angeles concluded with a guilty verdict announced after two hours of deliberations on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
The congressman — who has maintained his innocence since being charged in October — said he planned to appeal the verdict. His defense team argued that authorities had used deceptive investigative tactics to indict the congressman.
House leadership, however, called for his resignation after the conviction.
“Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement Friday. “Congressman Fortenberry must resign from the House.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also called on Fortenberry to step down.
Speaking during the House Republicans’ annual retreat in Florida on Friday, McCarthy said Fortenberry “had his day in court.”
“I think if he wants to appeal, he could go do that as a private citizen,” McCarthy said. “But I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign.”