Nebraska Rep. Fortenberry charged with lying about campaign funds

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A federal grand jury indicted Rep. Jeff Fortenberry on Tuesday, charging the Nebraska Republican with falsifying and concealing evidence from federal investigators in a case related to allegations of illegal campaign contributions. 

The charges include “one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators,” the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California tweeted. 

The Department of Justice alleged that the congressman “repeatedly lied to and misled authorities” during an investigation into Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagour’s illegal campaign contributions during the 2016 election cycle. 

“The indictment alleges that Fortenberry repeatedly lied to and misled authorities during a federal investigation into illegal contributions to Fortenberry’s re-election campaign made by a foreign billionaire in early 2016. Gilbert Chagoury, a foreign national prohibited by federal law from contributing to any U.S. elections, arranged for $30,000 of his money to be contributed through other individuals (conduits) to Fortenberry’s campaign during a fundraiser held in Los Angeles, according to the indictment,” the DOJ said in a statement. 

The nine-term lawmaker preemptively notified supporters that he would likely be indicted in a Youtube video posted on Monday evening, where he maintained his innocence on the matter. 

“To be accused of this is extremely painful, and we are suffering greatly. They’ve accused me of lying to them and are charging me with this,” he said in the video, which featured him in a pickup truck with his dog and his wife. 

“We’re shocked and stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help. And now we will have to fight.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., gives the thumbs-up as he participates in the annual Applejack parade in Nebraska City, Neb., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry was charged with falsifying and concealing evidence from federal investigators.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

“I did not lie to them.”

His wife, Celeste, also sent an email to supporters which was also signed by the congressman denying any wrongdoing, alleging it is a “political attack” on the lawmaker. 

“Jeff’s entire career has been marked by his honesty and integrity. His enemies try to accuse him of many things, but never lying. His opponents may not agree with him, but they know they can trust him. Let me say it again: this accusation is entirely false,” it said,  “Jeff did not lie to the FBI. This has all the marks of being a political attack, a bogus charge manufactured to take him out.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry allegedly lied about illegal campaign contributions.
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The DOJ noted that “the three felony charges in the indictment each carry a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.” 

Under House GOP conference rules Fortenberry — who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and is the top Republican on the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies — will have to relinquish his committee positions due to the indictment. 



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