Update: Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry announced Saturday that he's resigning from Congress, two days after his conviction in federal court. "Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer serve you effectively," he said in a statement, KETV reports. The nine-term Nebraska congressman's resignation will take effect March 31, per the Omaha World-Herald. A special election will follow to replace Fortenberry, the highest-ranking elected official in the history of his state to be convicted of a felony. He thanked supporters in an email. "It is my sincerest hope that I have made a contribution to the betterment of America, and the wellbeing of our great state of Nebraska," Fortenberry wrote. Our story from Friday follows:
Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry on Friday faced growing pressure from congressional leaders and Nebraska's GOP governor to resign after a California jury found him guilty of lying to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 campaign donation from a Nigerian billionaire. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy both urged the nine-term congressman to leave office, the AP reports, as did Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has endorsed Fortenberry's top Republican primary challenger. Fortenberry said he'll appeal but did not respond to calls for his resignation.
"The people of Nebraska deserve active, certain representation,” Ricketts said. “I hope Jeff Fortenberry will do the right thing and resign." McCarthy said he texted Fortenberry about the conviction and planned to talk to him about the matter on Friday. "I think when someone’s convicted, it's time to resign,” McCarthy told reporters in Washington. Pelosi said Fortenberry's conviction "represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law." A federal jury in Los Angeles deliberated for about two hours Thursday before finding Fortenberry guilty of concealing information and two counts of making false statements to authorities.
Outside the courthouse, Fortenberry said the process had been unfair. He would not say if he would suspend his campaign for reelection. "I'm getting so many beautiful messages from people literally all around the world, who've been praying for us and pulling for us," he said. The judge set sentencing for June 28. Each count carries a potential five-year prison sentence and fines. Felons are eligible to run for and serve in Congress, but the vast majority choose to resign under threat of expulsion. Congressional rules also bar members from voting on legislation after a felony conviction unless their constituents reelect them. It was the first trial of a sitting congressman since Rep. Jim Traficant, D-Ohio, was convicted of bribery and other felony charges in 2002.
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