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What are convicted Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s political options?

Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 2:37 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, are now calling on Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) to resign his seat in Congress. Thursday, Fortenberry was convicted in a California federal court of multiple felonies related to lying to investigators about illegal campaign contributions.

Throughout a years-long investigation and subsequent trial, Fortenberry held onto his innocence and his seat in the U.S House of Representatives.

Professor Mark Graber with the University of Maryland says even though some have called on Fortenberry to resign, technically he does not have to.

“There is no rule that says a felon can’t sit in Congress,” said Graber.

Graber says if Fortenberry chooses not to voluntarily leave office, there’s a good chance he could be expelled, in which case, the U.S House of Representatives would make the decision, acting as judge and jury.

“[Speaker] Pelosi is likely to turn to Republicans and say, ‘do we all agree we want to get rid of this person?’ And if a good deal of Republicans agree, that’s a bipartisan effort,” Graber added.

At this time, Fortenberry has not suspended his reelection campaign.

As for a possible political future though, Graber noted the prospects are grim.

“Nobody says, ‘I’ve got a good political strategy. Let’s get convicted of a felony!’”

While similar situations have happened before, they aren’t common. Most recently, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California was sentenced to 11 months in jail for stealing campaign funds. He resigned in 2020 but was later pardoned by President Donald Trump.

Fortenberry has indicated he wants to appeal the decision. Hecurrently awaits sentencing in California which is scheduled for late June. He could face up to 15 years in federal prison.

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