- Rep. Jeff Fortenberry was convicted after an investigation into foreign campaign contributions.
- Fortenberry resigned from his Nebraska congressional office Thursday night following the convictions.
- In an apparent reference to Fortenberry, Trump claimed he “possibly didn’t even know anything about” the crimes he was convicted of.
Former President Donald Trump said during a Saturday rally in Michigan that GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry “possibly didn’t even know anything about” the crimes the former congressman was convicted of.
“A congressman is being put in jail over a few dollars that he possibly didn’t even know anything about. He’s going to jail,” Trump said, apparently in reference to Rep. Fortenberry, a Nebraska congressman who was convicted on March 24 in federal court in Los Angeles on three felony counts, including a count of falsifying and concealing material facts and two counts of making false statements, The New York Times reported.
Fortenberry was charged after he denied knowing he’d received $30,000 in donations from a Lebanese Nigerian billionaire, Gilbert Chagoury, at a 2016 campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles.
In addition to it being illegal for campaigns to accept foreign funds, Chagoury had also been accused of conspiring to make illegal donations to American politicians and paid a $1.8 million fine after a deal with the US government for allegedly violating campaign finance laws.
“If they’re putting this congressman — I don’t know him well, but he’s a congressman, and it was over a very small amount of money to get to put him in jail,” Trump said during his remarks. “Over a number of 1000s, like $20,000, and he said he didn’t know about it.”
Fortenberry resigned from his congressional office on Thursday and said he would appeal the convictions as a private citizen. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 28, with each charge carrying with it a possible maximum sentence of five years in prison.
“We always felt like it was going to be hard to have a fair process here,” The New York Times reported Fortenberry said after his convictions. “This appeal starts immediately.”
Neither Fortenberry nor Trump’s offices immediately returned Insider’s requests for comment.