Rep. Fortenberry indicted; accused of lying to FBI during campaign finance investigation

The Nebraska Republican says he was unaware a foreign national had made donations to his campaign.
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 5:02 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A Nebraska Republican was indicted Tuesday over a campaign finance investigation he was questioned about years ago.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s team released a YouTube video earlier Tuesday, where the congressman explained he was expecting an indictment. The video shows the congressman in a pickup truck along with his wife and dog, telling viewers he’s being accused of lying to the FBI.

“We’re shocked,” Rep. Fortenberry said in the video.

Jeff Fortenberry, in disbelief, said he cooperated with FBI agents after it was uncovered a foreign national made donations to his campaign through California donors years ago.

Fortenberry claimed he did not know the tens of thousands of dollars came from a foreign source, and told the FBI as much when they questioned him. But now, he is facing charges.

“I feel so personally betrayed,” Fortenberry said in the YouTube video. “We thought we were trying to help.”

The Republican and his wife Celeste argued this is a politically motivated effort despite the investigation originating under President Trump.

We reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Central District of California who sent us a copy of the indictment and confirmed Fortenberry is charged with concealing information and making false statements to federal authorities who were investigating foreign donations in 2016.

We also reached out to Fortenberry’s California-based legal team who rejected our request for an interview through the Fortenberry campaign.

Brendan Fischer from the Campaign Legal Center acknowledges a lot is currently unknown in this investigation, including what Fortenberry is accused of lying about.

Fischer said Fortenberry’s awareness in accepting foreign funds is a separate question from whether he was forthcoming with the FBI. But he noted this is yet another example of foreign actors trying to impact U.S. elections - even if the candidates say they aren’t aware.

“We’ve seen any number of wealthy special interests, both foreign and domestic, trying to find new ways to buy influence and trying to push the legal envelope with the expectation that they will get away with it,” Fischer said.

The indictment says through his attorney, Fortenberry has agreed to appear for an arraignment on Wednesday in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

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