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GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry says he will resign from Congress

The Nebraska Republican was convicted by a jury Thursday of lying to federal agents about illegal campaign contributions in 2016 from a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., on Saturday announced that he would resign from Congress, saying in a statement to constituents, "Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer serve you effectively."

Fortenberry, 61, was convicted by a federal jury in Los Angeles on Thursday of one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, as well as fines. He said outside the courthouse that he would appeal.

In a letter to his colleagues in the House of Representatives, Fortenberry said he will resign from Congress effective March 31.

Jane Fleming Kleeb, chair of the Democratic Party in Nebraska, tweeted that "a special election will now be held" for Fortenberry's District 1 seat.

The government's case against Fortenberry involved a $30,000 contribution to his 2016 re-election campaign from Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury. Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to federal candidates.

Prosecutors said Chagoury used “straw donors” to make contributions equaling $30,000 to Fortenberry’s re-election campaign during a Los Angeles fundraiser in 2016.

Chagoury had entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in 2019 under which he spoke about providing about $180,000 in illegal contributions to four candidates in U.S. elections.

Prosecutors successfully argued at Fortenberry’s seven-day trial that he lied to investigators on two occasions when he was asked in interviews what he knew about the donations.