Nebraska GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry expects to be arrested for lying to FBI, denies crime in YouTube video

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Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., speaks as the House Rules Committee meets to formulate a rule on the H.R.4502 appropriations bill on Monday, July 26, 2021.

Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Nebraska Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, in an unusual YouTube video featuring his wife, dog and 1963 Ford 100 pickup truck, revealed he expects to be criminally charged with lying to FBI agents in connection with a probe about illegal campaign donations provided by a foreigner.

“To be accused of this is extremely painful and we are suffering greatly,” Fortenberry says on the video, which has a folksy visual appearance despite the serious nature of the disclosure.

“They’ve accused me of lying to them, and are charging me with this,” he said. “We’re shocked and stunned, I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help. And now we will have to fight.”

“I did not lie to them,” said Fortenberry, 60, who has represented Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District since 2005.

Multiple news outlets reported that the probe is focused on donations funneled to Fortenberry’s campaign from a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire, Gilbert Chagoury, who last November entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

A current resident of Paris, Chagoury paid $1.8 million to resolve allegations that he with the aid of others provided about $180,000 to people in the U.S. to make contributions to four different federal candidates in U.S. elections.

Foreign nationals are barred from directly or indirectly contributing to U.S. election campaigns.

Chad Kolton, a spokesman for Fortenberry’s campaign, declined to comment beyond acknowledging the campaign released the video Tuesday to supporters.

“We do not expect to release any additional information today,” Kolton said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, which is handling the probe, declined to comment.

Forbes.com reported Tuesday that Fortenberry’s campaign spent $80,000 last quarter for legal services from a law firm that specialized in the defense of white-collar criminal investigations.

Earlier this month, NBC News contacted Fortenberry’s office after Axios reported he had set up a online fundraising page for a legal expense trust.

On that page, which since has been removed from the Internet, Fortenberry wrote that President Joe “Biden’s FBI is using its unlimited power to prosecute me on a bogus charge!” 

The video released by Fortenberry, entitled “I wanted you to hear from me first,” opens with a shot of the GOP lawmaker introducing his wife Celeste, “and our dog, Pippin.”

He explains the trio are “out for a drive” in the vintage Ford, which “we do every now and then.”

Seen in the background of the truck, through the rear window, is what appears to be a field of tall corn stalks.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry in a still from his video.

Source: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry

“I did want to send you a video because we do have something hard to tell you,” says Fortenberry, a father of five daughters.

“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,” he says, as Pippin jostles around in the lap of his wife.

Fortenberry goes on to say that about two-and-a-half years ago, some FBI agents, “from California,” knocked on the door of his house, where he let them in, and “I answered their questions.”

“Later, we went back and answered further questions, I told them what I knew and what I understood,” he said.

Fortenberry said he since has been told the FBI believes he lied to the agents and intends to pursue criminal charges.

‘You’ve known me for many, many years. I try to give you honest, clear answers and do my duty as a representative for our great state and for America,” he says.

“We will fight this charge, did not lie to them,” Fortenberry says.

“I told them what I knew,” he added.

“But we need your help” Fortenberry says. “First of all please pray for us, because this is a difficult time, please stand with us, and if you send some kind comments that also would be helpful.”

“Hopefully, this all ends happily for the sake of justice, for the sake of my own integrity, and for the sake of the American system,” he says. “This is wrong on so many levels. Thank you so much.”



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