After Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) was indicted last week for mendacity to the FBI over foreign donations to his marketing campaign, authorities took the uncommon step Thursday of making an attempt to forestall the nine-term Republican from tampering with witnesses or dealing with proof with out supervision.
The order, handed down by Choose Stanley Blumenfield within the U.S. District Courtroom for the Central District of California, additionally reveals that the federal government is pursuing a number of associated investigations involving different “public officers.”
Within the ruling, Blumenfield sided with the prosecution’s concerns that Fortenberry can’t be trusted to deal with proof about cooperating witnesses. The order prohibits Fortenberry from taking notes or “memorializing” the proof, and even requires his attorneys to make sure he’s “by no means left alone with any Cooperator Supplies.”
“Defendant might not take any Cooperator Supplies out of the room through which defendant is assembly with the Protection Crew. At no time, underneath no circumstance, will any Cooperator Supplies be left within the possession, custody, or management of defendant, no matter defendant’s custody standing,” the choose wrote.
“As a result of these supplies might be used to establish the confidential informants or cooperating witnesses,” the choose wrote, “the Courtroom finds that the unauthorized dissemination or distribution of the supplies might compromise the power of such individuals to take part successfully in future investigations in an undercover capability and/or might expose him/her to potential security dangers.”
Witnesses in opposition to Fortenberry embrace an unidentified informant, in addition to a number of present and former aides—together with his longtime chief of workers Dr. Reyn Archer—whose names have been listed on the Nebraska Republican’s arraignment final week. The protecting order signifies some witnesses have even been cooperating undercover.
Blumenfield additionally cited considerations that, left unchecked, the congressman might disclose details about parallel investigations involving different officers.
“A protecting order for the invention can also be vital in order that the federal government can produce to the protection supplies associated to delicate and ongoing investigations, together with these associated to public officers,” the choose wrote, including that “disclosure of this info with out limitation dangers the privateness and safety of the knowledge’s respectable homeowners.”
“About five-and-a-half years in the past, an individual from abroad illegally moved cash to my marketing campaign—I didn’t know something about this—and used another People to take action. They have been all caught and punished, fortunately.”
— Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Regular due course of rights require prosecutors to share their proof with the protection forward of a trial. In Fortenberry’s case, nonetheless, Blumenfield agreed with federal prosecutors who argued that they may not redact delicate info with out rendering the proof unintelligible. If that info obtained out, the choose dominated, it might compromise witness cooperation and create “potential security dangers,” so it was vital to limit Fortenberry to ensure that the trial to proceed pretty.
Fortenberry was indicted on Oct. 19 for mendacity to the FBI about his data of a international straw donor scheme run by Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury. The congressman preempted the information in a video posted that morning on his YouTube channel.
“About five-and-a-half years in the past, an individual from abroad illegally moved cash to my marketing campaign—I didn’t know something about this—and used another People to take action. They have been all caught and punished, fortunately, ” Fortenberry defined within the video. After a 2019 interview with the FBI, he mentioned, “they’ve accused me of mendacity to them and are charging me with this.”
“We’re shocked. We’re shocked,” Fortenberry added, saying he felt “personally betrayed” by the brokers.
In 2016, Chagoury funneled $30,000 to Fortenberry by means of American donors at a Los Angeles fundraiser, which Fortenberry acknowledges. However prosecutors declare that when one of many hosts of that occasion knowledgeable Fortenberry two years later concerning the true supply of the cash, the congressman did nothing to reveal the donation after which later lied about his data to federal investigators.
“The indictment alleges a scheme through which Fortenberry, after studying this info, ‘knowingly and willfully falsified, hid, and lined up by trick, scheme, and machine materials information’ concerning the unlawful marketing campaign contributions,” DOJ mentioned final week in its press launch asserting the costs.
It’s unlawful for international nationals to contribute to U.S. elections, and it’s likewise unlawful for candidates to knowingly solicit and settle for such donations. Whereas the indictment doesn’t declare that Fortenberry knew the unique supply on the time, it does say that the marketing campaign didn’t disclose or disgorge Chagrouy’s contributions till after the 2019 interview.
Based on prosecutors, the probe covers not simply the illicit items to Fortenberry, however to “different federal candidates” as nicely. Investigators have additionally tried to find out “whether or not any particular person sought to impermissibly affect the recipient politician in change for the contributions,” court docket filings say.
The Fortenberry indictment cites an unidentified “Particular person H” telling the congressman in a 2018 telephone name that the $30,000 “in all probability did come from Gilbert Chagoury as a result of he was so grateful to your help [for] the trigger.”
“As a result of these supplies might be used to establish the confidential informants or cooperating witnesses, the Courtroom finds that the unauthorized dissemination or distribution of the supplies might compromise the power of such individuals to take part successfully in future investigations in an undercover capability and/or might expose him/her to potential security dangers.”
— Choose Stanley Blumenfeld Jr.
Following the costs, Fortenberry stepped down from his congressional assignments, together with his seat on the Home Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Overseas Operations, which he has held since 2015.
Fortenberry denies any wrongdoing.
Whereas the character of the investigations into different public officers just isn’t clear, Chagoury—an industrialist and philanthropist with shut ties to the Clinton household—admitted in a 2019 deferred prosecution settlement that he had handed a complete $180,000 to 4 candidates for workplace.
Final week, Politico recognized three officers who had additionally acquired straw donations from Chagoury: former Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who every obtained contributions in 2014, and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), through his failed 2012 presidential marketing campaign.
Chagoury, who has leant important monetary help to American causes—together with St. Jude Kids’s Hospital, additionally a philanthropic curiosity of Eric Trump—was fined $1.8 million for the scheme.
One in all Chagoury’s spokespeople, Mark Corallo, served as spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s private protection workforce within the Russia investigation. Corallo was additionally a spokesperson for Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, associates of Trump ally Rudy Giuliani in the course of the Ukraine scandal.
Chagoury has been cooperating with the investigation as a part of his prosecution settlement.
Neither Fortenberry nor his marketing campaign replied to The Day by day Beast’s request for remark. He has retained former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) for his protection.