“Due to the difficulties of my current circumstances, I can no longer serve you effectively,” Fortenberry said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday suggested Fortenberry should resign from Congress, indicating he would talk with the congressman that day.
“I think when someone’s convicted, it’s time to resign,” McCarthy told reporters on the final day of the House GOP retreat. The news shocked many of Fortenberry’s colleagues who cited the nine-term congressman’s commitment to his faith.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday called on Fortenberry to immediately resign.
“Congressman Fortenberry’s conviction represents a breach of the public trust and confidence in his ability to serve. No one is above the law,” she said.
A federal jury found Fortenberry guilty on Thursday of three felonies after misleading federal investigators about his knowledge of campaign donations made with funds from a foreign national.
Prosecutors said Fortenberry lied to investigators when he denied knowing that Gilbert Chagoury, a wealthy Lebanese-Nigerian businessman who lives in France, donated about $30,000 to his campaign through intermediaries at a 2016 fundraiser in Glendale, Calif.
Fortenberry, who faces a possible prison sentence of up to five years on each count as well as fines, denied the charges and has said he plans to appeal. He is the first member of Congress to be convicted while in office since Rep. Chaka Fattah Sr. (D-Pa.) was found guilty of corruption charges in 2016.
Fortenberry stepped down from his top role on the powerful House Appropriations Committee in October when he was indicted by a grand jury on two charges of making false statements and one count of scheming to deceive federal agencies.
Fortenberry announced his plans to run for reelection in January. However, many prominent Nebraska Republicans moved their support to state Sen. Mike Flood, who had already jumped into a potential primary for the state’s 1st Congressional District amid concerns that Fortenberry’s conviction could cost the party a GOP seat.
The district includes a stretch of rural eastern Nebraska but also captures liberal-leaning Lincoln and grew slightly more Democratic-friendly in recent redistricting. Progressive state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks is likely to win the Democratic nomination for the district, but it’s not yet clear how Fortenberry’s resignation — and the resulting special election within 90 days — may shake up that landscape.
Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said in a statement that “Democrats are prepared to run and win in order to address the issues Nebraskans care about.”
Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican who hails from the same state, praised Fortenberry for making the right move: “I respect Rep. Fortenberry’s tough, but right decision to resign from his position and wish him and his family the best.”
Sarah Ferris, Josh Gerstein and Myah Ward contributed to this report.