Jury selection begins today in California in the trial of Nebraska 1st District Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, accused of lying to federal agents investigating an illegal donation to his 2016 campaign from a foreign national.
Federal District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld held another pre-trial hearing yesterday that included clarifying the questions he will ask prospective jurors to determine if they can decide the case fairly.
Fortenberry’s attorneys tried unsuccessfully to move the trial to Nebraska, citing multiple reasons, but the prosecution called the effort “jury shopping” and an attempt to get jurors more favorable to the 9-term Republican congressman.
Judge Blumenfeld said the jury pool will be asked if they have a general feeling about politicians or one party or another that could affect their ability to reach a fair verdict with no specific mention of Democrats or Republicans.
Fortenberry, his supporters, and his defense team have portrayed the case from the beginning as politically motivated, citing the fact the lead prosecutor is a Democrat and has contributed to Democratic candidates.
Blumenfeldt has rejected that line of attack and repeatedly told the defense they must focus on the allegations Fortenberry lied to FBI agents in 2019 about not knowing a $30,000 donation at a California fundraiser came from a foreign billionaire.
The defense contends the congressman was confused and not lying in his statements to the agents, who were investigating a total of $180,000 in illegal contributions to multiple candidates – Democrats as well as Republicans.