Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska said Tuesday that he expects to be indicted over lying to the FBI about a campaign finance violation, but that the allegations are not true and that he will fight them.
“We will fight these charges. I did not lie to them,” Fortenberry said alongside his wife, Celeste, and dog during a video recorded from their car. “This is wrong on so many levels.”
The video was first obtained by the Omaha World-Herald, which reported that the FBI was investigating $180,000 in illegal “conduit” campaign contributions from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire. The funds were given to four separate campaigns from 2012 to 2016 through a group based in California.
Though U.S. political campaigns are barred from receiving contributions from foreign nationals, $30,200 was funneled to Fortenberry’s campaign in 2016, the paper said, which Fortenberry confirmed.
“About five and a half years ago, a person from overseas illegally moved money to my campaign — I didn’t know anything about this — and used some other Americans to do so. They were all caught and punished, thankfully,” Fortenberry said.
Fortenberry’s wife said that the illicit funds were donated to her husband’s campaign when he went to accept an award from the Lebanese community of Los Angeles, California. And while the funds could not be legally accepted, Fortenberry’s potential indictment relates to what he told the FBI, not the funds themselves.
“They’ve accused me of lying to them and are charging me with this. We’re shocked, we’re stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help, and so, now we will have to fight,” Fortenberry said. “To be accused of this is extremely painful and we are suffering greatly. We will fight these charges. [I] did not lie to them, I told them what I knew.”
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