Jeff and I have two pieces of news to share with you. One very bad, one very good.
Here’s the news: a California prosecutor is indicting Jeff, accusing him of lying to the FBI.
Let me say right off that it is a false accusation.
Jeff’s entire career has been marked by his honesty and integrity. His enemies try to accuse him of many things, but never lying. His opponents may not agree with him, but they know they can trust him.
Let me say it again: this accusation is entirely false. Jeff did not lie to the FBI. This has all the marks of being a political attack, a bogus charge manufactured to take him out.
I can’t go into every single detail, but you deserve to hear as much of this story as we’re able to tell you. I am hoping and praying that you’ll continue to stand with Jeff. We want you to make that decision with as much information as we can provide.
This all started during the Obama Administration, when ISIS was exterminating Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in Iraq. Jeff worked unbelievably hard to save them, including leading a bipartisan resolution condemning the persecution and calling for international humanitarian intervention. And he pushed a resistant State Department to declare it a genocide (eventually with the help of Secretary John Kerry).
In 2016, a Lebanese community in Los Angeles held a weekend of celebrations which included a fundraiser for Jeff, and an event during which Jeff was inducted into the Order of St. Gregory, a knighthood bestowed by the Pope, for his service to persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
The weekend was lovely, the knighthood was a tremendous honor, and the fundraiser was a good one for Jeff—he raised approximately $37,000. What he didn’t know was that a foreign national had given attendees $30,000 to give to Jeff. In other words, many of the donations were illegal. Again, Jeff had no idea. (The FBI investigated this crime, and by the time they were interviewing Jeff they knew he had nothing to do with it.)
In 2018, in the aftermath of the Bomb Cyclone, two men knocked on our door here in Lincoln. They told me they were FBI agents and they wanted to talk to Jeff. I have to admit that scared me, a lot. We’ve had obscene signs left in our yard, nasty political messages from neighbors, phone calls and emails threatening physical harm or death to Jeff and the rest of us, suspicious packages, and more—I had no way of knowing if these men were who they said they were.
If I had known the hell this California prosecutor was planning to put us through, I think I would have preferred that they be pretenders. The truth has turned out to be more terrifying: they were men invested by our government with real power, and their intentions toward Jeff were not good.
Jeff did agree to speak with them (note: don’t ever do that—your innocence won’t protect you) without a lawyer (ditto) in our living room, but he did call the police and ask them to stay for the conversation, because the story the FBI used to gain access to our home kept shifting.
The agents said they needed his help. Jeff assumed he was one federal official helping other federal officials in the cause of justice. His instinct, as yours would be, was to help. So, he talked to them.
The scene was upsetting, so afterward Jeff called his friend Trey Gowdy, with whom he had served in Congress, for advice and legal representation. Jeff volunteered to give a follow-up interview with the DOJ (this time in DC). At every step the agents and prosecutors assured and reassured Jeff and Trey that Jeff was not a target. They knew he had no knowledge of the illegal donations, and was in fact a victim of that crime.
And then, radio silence from the prosecutors -- until the Trump Justice Department became the Biden Justice Department; and this California prosecutor was in the running for a big promotion; and don’t forget the mid-term elections right around the corner for control of the House. Only then did the prosecutors announce that they were poised to seek an indictment accusing Jeff of lying.
Jeff has excellent representation, including the continued support of Trey Gowdy, and he’s got the truth on his side. But even an accusation is a hard reputational hit. A false accusation is a particularly nasty hit. And the process could take years.
I don’t know why we have been called to fight this fight. But we are fighting it, with everything we’ve got, for our family and for America. Maybe we can help stop people in power from using the Justice Department as a weapon against their political enemies.
By the way, Jeff is having to fight this legal battle while he is also working to rescue American citizens and Afghani Christians and allies stranded and in danger in Afghanistan—rescues the Biden State Department continues to obstruct.
I know this is long, but I promised good news: We are grandparents! Our daughter and son-in-law are the happy parents of a baby girl, and we are grateful and thrilled! We praise God for this beautiful gift of new life—always and everywhere a blessing.
Thank you for standing with Jeff for so long. We both hope you will continue to stand with him during this intense attack on his integrity. If you are so inclined, we ask that you support us with your prayers, that we will have strength for the fight, and that truth and justice will prevail.
God bless you.
Celeste and Jeff Fortenberry