Minnesota Democratic chairman says Ellison probe wrapping up

Published 8:23 pm Tuesday, September 25, 2018

ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s Democratic Party chairman said Monday that he expects an investigation of allegations of physical abuse against Rep. Keith Ellison to be completed and released soon, well ahead of the November election.

A former long-term girlfriend accused Ellison of physical abuse last month, just days ahead of his victory in the crowded Democratic primary for Minnesota attorney general. Karen Monahan said Ellison once dragged her off a bed by her feet while screaming obscenities. She claims to have video footage of the 2016 incident but has refused to release it, saying it’s embarrassing.

The longtime Minnesota congressman and Democratic National Committee deputy chairman has called the allegations false and tried to ride out the storm of questions after winning the Aug. 14 primary. But the old sexual assault allegations that have thrown Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination in doubt have renewed focus on Ellison and a six-week old investigation into his conduct that has shown few outward signs of progress.

Email newsletter signup

In Minnesota and Washington, Republicans have called Democrats hypocrites for stalling Kavanaugh’s nomination in the Senate while failing to address Ellison’s situation. Republican Karin Housley, running against Democratic Sen. Tina Smith to complete former Sen. Al Franken’s term, bashed Smith for campaigning with Ellison as she calls for an investigation of Kavanaugh.

Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin said he believes the investigation has concluded and that a final report should be issued in the coming days.

“I’m starting to get a little frustrated because it’s been a long time now, almost two months,” he said. “I hope soon. I hope any day here.”

While the state party’s attorney initially investigated the allegations against Ellison, Martin decided after the August primary to hire an external investigator to ensure “that it wouldn’t be colored by people with associations with the party.” They hired Susan Ellingstad, a partner at a Minneapolis law firm with state party attorney Charlie Nauen.

Ellingstad did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment on the status of the investigation.

The Democratic National Committee also is waiting on the state party. Chairman Tom Perez directed Martin to lead the review of Ellison’s conduct rather than have the national party conduct a separate investigation.

Democrats in Minnesota are concerned that the allegations against Ellison could impact their chances in November to hold onto an attorney general’s office they’ve held for more than four decades. Public polling shows Ellison in a close race with Republican Doug Wardlow, a little-known former state lawmaker who has turned the allegations into a campaign issue.

A recent poll performed for the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio News showed Ellison with just 41 percent of voters’ support— a 5 percentage point edge over Wardlow — while more than 18 percent of respondents were undecided. The poll surveyed 800 likely voters between Sept. 10 and 12 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Their race has been marked by a slow drip of developments in those allegations. Monahan recently published on Twitter alleged medical records from late 2017, in which she relayed to a doctor emotional and physical abuse from a former partner she identified as Ellison and that she “worried about retribution if she identifies him publicly.” The doctor’s progress report notes Monahan did not previously have physical injuries that required an examination.

Ellison said in a recent debate with Wardlow that those medical records were from more than a year after he left their relationship and suggested Monahan was “putting together those allegations” after the fact. An earlier medical record that Monahan also published on Twitter mentions a past “emotionally abusive relationship” but does not mention Ellison or any physical abuse.

Monahan did not respond to a message seeking comment on status of the investigation and whether she had been interviewed. Ellison’s campaign spokesman, Sam Fettig, said the congressman is cooperating fully with the investigation.