Stand by your sham: Omar plays the Star Tribune

We have advanced our understanding of the frauds in which Ilhan Omar is mired this year thanks to the Minnesota campaign finance board investigation and findings against her this past June. Among other things, we learned as a result of the investigation that Omar had filed joint tax returns in 2015 and 2016 with Ahmed Hirsi, to whom she was not married, while she was still married to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi. We believe that Elmi is her brother and that the marriage was a sham, which is how Omar treated it.

One of Omar’s Republican colleagues in the state legislature — Steve Drazkowski — had filed complaints initiating the campaign finance board investigation. In an important story dated October 27, 2018 (published the following day, nine days before the election), Omar discussed Drazkowski’s complaints with Star Tribune reporter Stephen Montemayor. Montemayor’s story appeared in the paper on the penultimate Sunday before the election under the headline “On the edge of making history, Ilhan Omar confronts fresh wave of scrutiny.” Montemayor introduced the subject of the campaign finance board investigation and quoted Omar:

[A]s she campaigns, Omar is also defending herself against a handful of recurrent controversies.

A Republican colleague in the state House has filed three complaints against her, including two alleging misuse of campaign funds — at least one of which is being investigated by state regulators. Her marriage and immigration history also have been scrutinized.

Omar criticized the Republican lawmaker, Rep. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa, as bent on derailing a Muslim woman’s campaign, saying he has “an insane obsession with what is in my files.” Drazkowski said he dug into the records after noticing Omar’s campaign was docked $1,100 for filing an annual financial report six months late.

Here we have Omar’s modus operandi in small: lie, disparage, accuse, deflect. I posted the campaign finance board findings here. They vindicated Drazkowski’s complaints almost entirely.

Then we arrived at Omar’s marriage to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi and related issues:

Persistent claims she married a brother to help him gain citizenship, Omar tweeted this week, are the provenance of “fake journalists on bigoted blogs.”

Again, witness Omar’s modus operandi.

Montemayor quoted Omar:

“It’s really strange, right, to try to prove a negative,” Omar said in the interview. “If someone was asking me, do I have a brother by that name, I don’t. If someone was asking … are there court documents that are false … there is no truth to that.”

Further down in the article Omar conducted her version of a modified limited hangout:

Omar, who was born in 1982, has three children with Ahmed Hirsi. The two married, she said, in their faith tradition in 2002, and briefly separated before she married Elmi in 2009. She has said they divorced in 2011 before Elmi, a British citizen, returned to London and Omar reunited with Hirsi that year. Omar and Hirsi legally married this year after Omar’s divorce with Elmi was finalized.

During an interview, Omar showed a reporter cellphone photos of documents from her family’s U.S. entry in 1995 after fleeing Somalia’s civil war. She declined to provide copies of the papers, which included refugee resettlement approval forms and identification cards, but they appeared to list her father, siblings and Omar by order of birth, with Omar as the youngest of seven children. No one named Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, who is three years younger than Omar, could be seen listed in the documents.

“For someone like me, who left a war-torn country at the age of 8, who got refugee status to come to America, where in the world am I finding a sibling 15 years, 20 years later to seek to do what people accuse me of?” Omar said.

Answer: in London.

I emailed Montemayor that week to ask whether he wrote down the names of Omar’s siblings. He told me she did not permit him to do so.

But Omar’s refugee resettlement papers would not include Ahmed Elmi whether or not he is her brother. He wasn’t resettled in the United States. He was resettled in London. What is the point of this, other than to obscure the issue? I wrote Stephen yesterday:

Steve, I’ve continued working on the Omar story this year since the release of the campaign finance board findings and related investigative file in June. Thinking over loose threads, I wondered about your look at Omar’s immigration papers on her cell phone this past October for the story that appeared in the Star Tribune [linked above].

Omar wanted to show you that Ahmed Elmi wasn’t on them as her brother. You kindly answered my inquiry regarding your story at the time, stating: “Omar did not allow me to jot down names or provide a copy of the images. I observed her father’s name, her name and other siblings but no mention of Ahmed Nur Said Elmi in the papers.” It occurs to me that you may have more information relevant to determining open issues.

First, did you note any of the names of “other siblings” in the papers? If so, would you please let me know what those names were?

Second, did it occur to you that Elmi did not enter the United States as a member of Omar’s family? He was either still in Kenya or in London at the time. Whether he is her brother or not, he wouldn’t have appeared on her immigration papers, would he? I don’t get the point of what you wrote at the time.

I would be grateful for any notes/thoughts you might be willing to share on these points.

I continue to admire your work on your new beat [covering state politics and government]. I am certainly grateful for the excellent job you and Patrick Coolican did in your work on the June 23 Star Tribune Omar story [i.e., this story]. It seems to me a significant contribution….


I subsequently sent a second message asking if he recalled how the name of Omar’s father was recorded on the papers she showed him. He promptly responded to my questions as follows:


Thank you for the kind words.

As I was not given a copy of the materials in question and that I was likewise unable to write down names, I cannot speculate on names or spellings as they appeared in the images shown to me during the October 2018 interview. I documented Rep. Omar sharing the cellphone images in the context of that being her response to questions on the matter. Beyond that, I won’t be able to offer any commentary or opinion about her response.


I thought readers who have been following this story would find this of interest.

I would like to add this personal note. I first met Montemayor sitting next to him in the press row as we both covered the 2016 “Minnesota men” trial for three weeks in federal court in Minneapolis. He is a diligent and meticulous reporter even if he sees the world through a different lens than I do.

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