LOS ANGELES — A Nebraska congressman charged with mendacity to the FBI over an unlawful $30,000 marketing campaign donation from a Nigerian-born billionaire put his self-interest above his accountability and the legislation, a federal prosecutor stated Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry was hoping his privilege as a lawmaker would protect him from scrutiny and offer protection to his squeaky blank popularity, Assistant U.S. Lawyer Susan Har instructed jurors throughout last arguments in Los Angeles federal courtroom.
“You don’t seem to be going to appear the opposite direction,” Har stated. “The proof has confirmed the defendant to blame and he can not keep away from the results of his movements.”
Fortenberry, 61, a nine-term Republican congressman dealing with reelection, has pleaded no longer to blame to fees he intentionally misled FBI brokers and prosecutors who have been investigating the 2016 donations. It’s unlawful for U.S. politicians to just accept overseas price range.
Prosecutors allege Fortenberry lied about what he knew throughout an interview at his Lincoln house in March 2019 and a follow-up assembly 4 months later in Washington. He allegedly didn’t correctly reveal the contribution gained at a Los Angeles fundraiser.
Protection attorneys stated the FBI “arrange” Fortenberry after a countrywide investigation into overseas cash funneled to individuals of Congress fizzled. They stated his mistake was once voluntarily assembly with brokers and prosecutors and advised he suffered from a erroneous reminiscence.
Celeste Fortenberry, the lawmaker’s spouse, testified Thursday that her husband loathed making fundraising calls and was once ceaselessly on “autopilot” when he carried out them.
The decision this is central to the case is one between the physician who held the fundraiser for Fortenberry at his Los Angeles house in 2016 — Dr. Elias Ayoub — and Fortenberry.
Ayoub instructed Fortenberry throughout the June 2018 name recorded by way of the FBI that he disbursed $30,000 to buddies and family members who attended the fundraiser so they might write exams to Fortenberry’s marketing campaign.
He stated the cash were supplied by way of an affiliate of theirs and most definitely got here from Gilbert Chagoury, a billionaire who lives in Paris. Chagoury admitted in 2019 to funneling $180,000 in unlawful marketing campaign contributions to 4 campaigns and agreed to pay a $1.8 million effective.
The 3 males within the alleged scheme to funnel the cash to Fortenberry have been all of Lebanese descent and had ties to In Protection of Christians, a nonprofit Fortenberry supported that was once dedicated to preventing non secular persecution within the Center East.
Fortenberry requested Ayoub at the telephone name to arrange any other fundraiser with supporters in their motive.
In 2019, Fortenberry denied to FBI brokers that he gained any price range from a overseas nationwide or via so-called conduit contributions, the place the cash was once disbursed to straw donors.
Protection lawyer John Littrell stated the recording of the decision best depicted what was once heard on Ayoub’s finish and no longer what Fortenberry, who had deficient mobile phone reception, heard.
If Fortenberry had ignored as few as 3 an important phrases, he can have ignored what Ayoub was once looking to inform him in regards to the supply of the cash, Littrell stated. The truth that Fortenberry did not take into account the decision greater than a 12 months later was once comprehensible, he stated.
“This a reminiscence check each and every one certainly one of us would fail,” Littrell stated.
The federal government misled Fortenberry in regards to the objective of visiting his house, telling him it was once a countrywide safety factor, necessarily ambushing him and his circle of relatives, Littrell stated. Prosecutors then packaged up statements to lead them to glance extra incriminating, the use of issues Fortenberry each stated and ignored to lead them to extra damning, he stated.
Littrell stated the $36,000 his shopper raised in Los Angeles — maximum of it illegally — was once a drop within the bucket for a congressman in an uncompetitive district with a wholesome battle chest.
“Do you assume he would put his popularity at the line for $30,000 when he had $1.5 million?” Littrell stated. “That is not imaginable.”