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Following felony convictions, Republican congressman to resign

Given Donald Trump’s limitless tolerance for congressional corruption, Jeff Fortenberry probably wishes the former president were still around.


As recently as five days ago, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry was a member of Congress in good standing. Now, as NBC News reported, the Nebraska Republican is resigning.

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

It was last Thursday when a Los Angeles jury convicted Fortenberry of lying to the FBI about receiving an illegal campaign contribution from a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire. The nine-term lawmaker was convicted of three counts and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for each count.

As last week came to an end, it was an open question as to what Fortenberry would do next. The Nebraskan vowed to appeal his conviction, and it seemed at least possible that he would move forward with his re-election plans.

GOP leaders had other ideas. The morning after Fortenberry’s convictions, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called on the congressman to quit. “When someone is convicted, it’s time to resign,” McCarthy said. “He had his day in court. I think if he wants to appeal, he can do that as a private citizen.”

Short on allies, Fortenberry announced his resignation plans a day later. A special election will be held in Nebraska’s 1st district, which is a Republican stronghold.

For those keeping score, this will be the sixth resignation from the current Congress, which is a relatively large number. Three House Democrats gave up their seats to serve in the Biden administration — Louisiana’s Cedric Richmond, Ohio’s Marcia Fudge, and New Mexico’s Deb Haaland — and two Republicans quit for very different reasons.

Ohio’s Steve Stivers stepped down in April 2021 to oversee his home state’s chamber of commerce, and in December 2021, California’s Devin Nunes left Congress to run Donald Trump’s controversial media company.

Speaking of the former president, it’s a safe bet that Fortenberry wishes Trump were still around. After all, Trump had a limitless tolerance for corruption, especially crimes committed by members of Congress: It was just a couple of election cycles ago when two incumbent House Republicans — New York’s Chris Collins and California’s Duncan Hunter — faced multi-count felony indictments, ran for re-election anyway, and won.

They were later convicted, sentenced to prison, and pardoned by Trump, who was eager to reward his partisan loyalists.

Were he still in office, the Republican would also likely lend Fortenberry a hand. Indeed, after the Nebraskan’s indictment, Trump issued a statement of support, saying, “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.”

Oddly enough, this was not a defense Fortenberry’s lawyers pushed during last week’s trial.