House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both said Friday that Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) should resign from Congress in light of his being convicted on three felony charges connected to his statements to the FBI about illegal campaign contributions.
“He had his day in court. I think if he wants to appeal, he can go do that as a private citizen,” McCarthy said in a press conference Friday from House Republicans’ annual policy retreat in Florida.
McCarthy said he texted Fortenberry on Thursday night and plans to talk to him today.
“I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign,” McCarthy said.
A federal jury on Thursday found Fortenberry guilty on one count of falsifying and concealing material facts and two counts of making false statements to the FBI as agents investigated a $30,000 contribution to his campaign from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury. Each count carries up to five years in prison.
“Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law,” Pelosi said in a statement on Friday. “Congressman Fortenberry must resign from the House.”
Fortenberry plans to appeal, he told the Nebraska Examiner.
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) testified on Fortenberry’s behalf during the trial, praising his character. Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) also testified on Fortenberry’s behalf.
Fortenberry stepped down from his committee posts in October after he was indicted.
It is typical for members of Congress to resign after being convicted of a felony. Most recently, former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) resigned from Congress in 2020 after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds. Former President Trump later pardoned Hunter.
If he chooses not to resign, Fortenberry could face disciplinary action up to and including being formally expelled from Congress.