Fortenberry trial continues with secret FBI recording

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Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 4:43 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2022 at 11:00 PM CDT
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LOS ANGELES, Calif. (WOWT) - During the federal trial of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry on Tuesday, the government focused on the secretly recorded interview the FBI conducted at his Lincoln home in March 2019.

Fortenberry is accused of lying to the FBI about campaign contributions made through a foreign national during a California fundraiser.

The recording of a 2019 interview at his Lincoln home shows Fortenberry sitting in a chair in his living room with agents on a couch across the room.

The interview lasted roughly 45 minutes. From the audio, the jury heard repeated statements from the congressman that the government characterized as lying to the FBI. Fortenberry is heard in the audio telling the FBI no foreign national had contributed directly to him or his campaign.

Monday the jury heard from Elias Ayoub.

Ayoub is the Los Angeles doctor who held a fundraiser for Fortenberry in 2016 where $30,000 of illegal contributions were funneled to the Nebraskan congressman’s campaign.

Investigators played back recorded phone calls between Fortenberry and Ayoub in which Ayoub said there were problems with donations coming from a Nigerian billionaire.

IRS Special Agent James O’Leary testified Fortenberry struggled to remember whether he knew Ayoub, who is the same person Fortenberry called to host another fundraiser for him nine months before the Lincoln interview.

Fortenberry told federal agents all contributions he has have been publicly disclosed.

The defense team believes all of this has been a setup and today stressed that agents lied to Fortenberry in the surprise visit to his Lincoln home about the reason for the interview - and that they claimed they were from the Omaha office when in fact they were from Los Angeles.

The FBI admits they didn’t want to give advance notice to get more candid responses from the congressman.

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