Yesterday President Biden nominated Andrew Luger to serve as United States Attorney for Minnesota. The Star Tribune reported in early September that the FBI was conducting its final background check on Luger prior to his nomination. Something must have held it up. With Luger’s formal nomination, I am restating what I wrote this past September.
This would be Luger’s second tour. He also served as United States Attorney under President Obama and into the early days of the Trump administration from February 2014 to March 2017. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar did what she could to engineer Luger’s continued service under Trump. Her support wasn’t enough then under President Trump, but it is enough now under President Biden.
Luger’s work as United States Attorney was highly regarded by Minnesota’s federal district judges. He has a stellar reputation.
Luger saved Ilhan Omar’s nascent political career when the controversy we had ignited over her plural marriages — including her then current marriage to her brother — jeopardized it in August 2016. Luger issued a misleading letter that violated Department of Justice policy and withheld relevant facts. Omar’s 2016 state legislative campaign instantly put its public relations crisis to bed with this letter from Luger (below).
Luger’s letter was addressed to Minneapolis criminal attorney Jean Brandl, who had contacted him on behalf of Omar. Brandl, incidentally, had responded to my original August 2016 inquiry regarding Omar’s marriages. I published her response to me verbatim on Power Line and in the City Journal column “The curious case of Ilhan Omar.”
Brandl procured Luger’s letter to refute the story reported by FOX9 investigative reporter Tom Lyden: “Fox 9 has learned U.S. Attorney Andy Luger has asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to look into Ilhan Omar’s marriages, because she’s in ‘a position of public trust.’”
Following Luger’s letter, FOX9 deep-sixed Lyden’s story. Lyden’s story mysteriously disappeared. Ghostly traces exist in this MinnPost story and in Patrick Coolican’s Star Tribune story “U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger: Not investigating legislative candidate Ilhan Omar Luger denied a Fox 9 report of immigration investigation.”
I put this point in italics for the purpose of emphasis: Based on my own reporting, I believe that Lyden had the story right. Luger’s letter was not only improper, it was false in substance. The local office of ICE had in fact opened an investigation into Omar’s immigration status that Luger essentially killed.
I didn’t understand the critical impact of Luger’s letter until the state campaign finance board released its investigative file in Omar’s case in June 2019. The testimony of Carla Kjellberg made it clear that Luger’s letter saved Omar by extinguishing media interest in the story. I wrote Luger in June 2019:
Andy: I’ve been covering the story of Ilhan Omar’s plural marriages over the past three years on the site Power Line. Reviewing the 2016 Omar campaign “crisis committee” emails that became public earlier this month, I wonder whether you actually reviewed any documents before sending out your August 22, 2016 letter to Jean Brandl. I also wonder if you ever sent out another such letter announcing that anyone was not under investigation by the Minnesota US Attorney’s Office. Would you please let me know if you are willing to respond to these questions and, if so, when you might be able to get back to me with the answers?
Luger promptly responded: “Thanks. I will pass on this.”
I had no such luck this time around. Early yesterday morning I sent Luger a draft of this post and asked him for any comment by 8:00 a.m. this morning. He has provided no comment.
Former Dakota County District Judge Erica MacDonald was the United States Attorney for Minnesota in 2019. I wrote Public Affairs officer Tasha Rose Zerna to ask Ms. MacDonald about Luger’s letter:
I write for the site Power Line. I have been writing for Power Line about Ilhan Omar’s plural marriages and related issues since Omar won the DFL primary against Phyllis Kahn in August 2016. I was the first of many journalists who received a non-response and accusation of bigotry via attorney Jean Brandl when I asked Omar about it that August.
On August 22  Andy Luger wrote a letter in his capacity as US Attorney to Jean Brandl advising that Omar was not under investigation for immigration fraud and that she was not under investigation. The letter was widely reported at the time and I didn’t think much of it.
I found the letter again in the state campaign finance board investigative file on Omar….Reading the deposition of Carla Kjellberg, also in the board investigative file, I understood for the first time how important Andy’s letter was in tamping down the stories about Omar’s marriages and related issues. I wrote Andy [on Sunday of the week I wrote MacDonald] to ask if he reviewed any documents before sending the letter and if he had ever sent a similar letter announcing that someone was not under investigation by his office. He responded…that he would prefer not to respond (“I will pass on this”).
It seems to me that the public is owed a substantive response to these simple questions. I am seeking a response from Ms. MacDonald in her capacity as US Attorney.
Thank you for your courtesies and consideration.
Ms. Zerna responded:
Thank you for your inquiry. Ms. MacDonald was sworn in as U.S. Attorney on June 11, 2018, 15 months after former U.S. Attorney Luger’s resignation. U.S. Attorney MacDonald is not aware of Mr. Luger’s deliberative process in drafting the below referenced August 22, 2016 letter.
Tasha Rose Zerna | Public Affairs
U.S. Attorney’s Office
If our United States Attorney’s Office was in the business of giving out letters like the one from Luger, I wanted one of my own. I followed up to inquire more specifically (1) whether the office sends letters such as Luger’s to Brandl as a matter of routine and (2) whether Omar wax then under investigation. I asked Ms. Zerna: Can you be any more forthcoming? She responded:
No such letters have been sent by U.S. Attorney MacDonald. Regarding your other questions, DOJ generally does not confirm the existence of or otherwise comment about ongoing investigations. As a result, I can’t respond to or comment on any questions about the existence or non-existence of any investigation.
Now that Luger has been nominated to serve again in the position he held when he wrongly sent Omar a lifeline in 2016, perhaps some Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee can bestir himself or herself to press Luger on these issues.