(TruthandLiberty.com) – US federal campaign laws make it illegal for foreigners to participate in US elections through campaign contributions. Still, that doesn’t stop some foreign donors from influencing US elections. In 2019, Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury allegedly contributed $180,000 in illegal donations to four American political candidates.
On Thursday, March 24, a federal jury found Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) guilty on three counts of lying to and misleading the FBI. In 2019, Federal law enforcement officials began investigating the little-known Congressman about his knowledge of donations made by Chagoury. Fortenberry’s attorneys accused the FBI of setting him up, and there is likely to be an appeal.
Did Fortenberry Lie to the FBI?
So, how did Fortenberry end up in this situation? In 2016, one of Chagoury’s associates donated $30,000 to a Los Angeles restaurant to hide his identity, and the restaurant later donated to Fortenberry’s campaign. The Congressman’s attorneys argued that Fortenberry was distracted during a call with the organizer of the fundraiser, Elias Ayoub, who told him about the source of the donation in 2018.
Officials say that Chagoury had relationships with a non-profit that worked to combat the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. The billionaire funneled donations to politicians from low populated areas in hopes they would recognize the gifts and allow access to the US political system on behalf of Christians persecuted in Muslim countries.
Fortenberry said he felt betrayed and maintained his innocence throughout. The Congressman said he thought he was helping people, not breaking campaign contribution laws. In 2019, the FBI visited with Fortenberry at his Nebraska home and secretly taped the interview. In the video, he denied knowing about foreign money. Little did Fortenberry know that the FBI encouraged Ayoub to call the Congressman months later. They recorded the call when Ayoub told Fortenberry about the donation’s origin.
So, did the FBI generate a crime by asking Ayoub to help entrap Fortenberry?
Will Fortenberry Continue His Political Ambitions?
Fortenberry’s conviction may end the nine-year run of the Republican Congressman. The Nebraska politician said he would take some time with his family before deciding his political future. He’s currently running for re-election. There are no laws that say Fortenberry can’t run for office and serve in Congress as a convicted felon.
The challenge is that the judge could sentence him up to five years for each count, as much as 15 years in total. In addition, Congress is likely to expel Fortenberry from membership. After the conviction, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said he violated a breach of trust and called on Fortenberry to resign. The judge scheduled sentencing for June 28 and allowed Fortenberry to remain free until that time.
Stay tuned. Defense attorneys say they are planning to appeal the jury’s decision.
Copyright 2022, TruthandLiberty.com