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Republican congressman Jeff Fortenberry resigns amid corruption scandal

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Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Republican Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska announced his resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday.

The Associated Press reported that Fortenberry’s resignation came in response to a California jury convicting him of lying to federal authorities about an illegal campaign donation he received from a foreign national.

“It has been my honor to serve you in the United States House of Representatives,” Fortenberry said in a letter to his constituents. “Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer effectively serve.”

Fortenberry’s resignation letter featured a poem closely associated with Mother Teresa titled “Do It Anyway.”

It said, “What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyways.”

Fortenberry’s decision to resign from congress followed front from political leaders in Nebraska and Washington coercing him to step down. Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy encouraged him to resign.

The Republican Governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, said that Fortenberry should “do the right thing for his constituents” and vacate the political office he has held and won re-election to since 2005.

In October, Fortenberry was indicted after federal authorities accused him of lying to the FBI agents in two separate interviews about his knowledge of an illegal $30,000 contribution made to his campaign from a foreign billionaire.

FBI agents interviewed Fortenberry about this donation at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska and in the presence of his attorneys in Washington, D.C.

During his trial, prosecutors played recorded phone conversations in which Fortenberry was repeatedly warned that the $30,000 donation to his campaign came from a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent. The money was funneled into his campaign’s financial apparatus through three strawmen who attended a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles, California.

The timing of Fortenberry’s resignation is expected to trigger a special election as the governor will not be able to appoint a person to fill his seat for the duration of the term.

Nebraska state law specifies that the governor must schedule a special election within 90 days of a congressional seat within the state becoming vacant. Each political party will select a nominee who will run to serve the remainder of the now-vacant member’s term.

Fortenberry’s resignation, and subsequent withdrawal from the Republican primary, leaves Nebraska State Senator Mike Flood as the likely Republican nominee and potential inheritor of the now-vacant seat in congress.

In a statement from his campaign, Flood said, “Working together, we will keep this seat in Republican hands.”

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