Nebraska Representative Jeff Fortenberry temporarily resigned from his House committee assignments on Wednesday following an indictment accusing him of lying to federal authorities about a campaign donation.
The 60-year-old GOP member served on House Appropriations and the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee and was a ranking member of the Agriculture Subcommittee. Under House Republican Conference rules, members facing felony indictments must temporarily forgo committee assignments until the charges are dropped or reduced to less than a felony.
Fortenberry, who has represented Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District since 2005, also serves as co-chair of the Nuclear Security Working Group, the International Conservation Caucus and the Congressional Study Group on Europe, according to his website.
According to the House Clerk’s Office, the Republican’s resignation was accepted without objection.
Fortenberry’s official resignation comes one day after he was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators.
In a video released on Monday, the Republican said he anticipated the indictment and Fortenberry’s wife, Celeste, called the situation a “false accusation” in a letter to supporters.
The charges stem from the congressman’s alleged attempt to conceal information from authorities who were investigating a $30,000 contribution to the congressman’s 2016 re-election campaign by a foreign billionaire, according to court documents.
The documents state Lebanese-Nigerian businessman Gilbert Chagoury arranged for the funds to be contributed toward Fortenberry’s re-election through other individuals during a Los Angeles fundraiser.
Foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to elections in the United States under federal law, and it is illegal for the source of campaign contributions to be hidden by using third-party conduits to funnel the money. It’s also unlawful for a federal candidate to knowingly receive foreign donations or contributions through conduits.
Fortenberry did not amend the report with the Federal Elections Commission despite learning of the source of the campaign contributions, the indictment alleges. It continues that Fortenberry allegedly “knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme, and device material facts” after learning the truth of the illegal funds.
Former President Donald Trump defended the Republican for “possibly telling some lies to investigators,” following the indictment.
“Isn’t it terrible that a Republican Congressman from Nebraska just got indicted for possibly telling some lies to investigators about campaign contributions, when half of the United States Congress lied about made up scams,” Trump said in a Tuesday evening statement. “And when Mark Zuckerberg, in my opinion a criminal, is allowed to spend $500 million and therefore able to change the course of a Presidential Election, and nothing happens to them.”
Trump continued, “Comey lied, Schiff lied, Crooked Hillary lied, McCabe lied, the two lovers, Peter and Lisa, lied. They all lied having to do with Russia, Russia, Russia, because they knew it was a SCAM, and they all lied having to do with Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, because they knew it was a SCAM.”
“They made up fairy tales about me knowing how badly it would hurt the U.S.A.—and nothing happens to them. Is there no justice in our Country?” the statement concluded.
Trump’s comments refer to a number of politicians and former government employees who he believes tried to undermine his presidency by speaking out against him.
Each of the three felonies Fortenberry faces carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The congressman agreed to appear for a 1 p.m. virtual arraignment on October 20 in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the Department of Justice told Newsweek.