Gutknecht: Rep. Omar Deserves Her Day In Court

The public rightly expects better answers than we have so far received. Equal justice and the rule of law must be defended.

Ilhan Omar via Getty

Every American, including Rep. Ilhan Omar is entitled to the presumption of innocence. The evidence uncovered so far appears to support the conclusion that she is guilty of multiple crimes. They include marrying a sibling, immigration fraud, tax fraud, perjury and polygamy.

But then again, we might be wrong. 

It is possible that the evidence (though it includes pretty specific documentation) is wrong. Maybe we have taken a number of things out of context. Or perhaps we don’t understand the distinction between a legal and a cultural marriage. That may apply to divorce as well. Normal Americans have difficulty understanding where Sharia Law ends and U.S. laws begin. How does common law fit into this? Which law takes precedent in cases like this? It is confusing indeed. That’s precisely why Rep. Omar should be given an opportunity to clarify things. 

She should be given her day in court. 

The countdown to that day begins with our Attorney General William Barr. Bill Barr has already demonstrated a no-nonsense approach and a deep commitment to the rule of law. He knows well that we cannot have groups of people who believe that they can pick and choose which laws apply to them and which do not. Barr also knows that the law teaches. The Omar case represents an important opportunity to teach and clarify these points. 

Failure by the Justice Department to investigate this would send dangerous signals. Too many Americans already believe that there are two standards of justice. One for the powerful, connected people and the other for everyone else. It is also important to clarify things for immigrants and refugees. One of the reasons they wanted to come to the United States was to live in a country that respects the rule of law. Many of them fled systems where the law was whatever the powerful people said it was. There was no presumption of innocence, no equal justice under the law. Attorney General Barr has an obligation to uphold those principles. 

Rep. Omar has enjoyed the benefits of being both an American citizen and a member of a protected class. She quickly learned the word “entitlement.” Coming from the grinding poverty of a refugee camp to Minnesota, she and her family received housing, food, healthcare, education and cash. All free! Hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits, all paid for by hard-working Minnesotans. Whether she learned the meaning of the word “gratitude” is not so clear. 

It didn’t take her long to learn to demand her “rights.” Not wanting to offend her or her people, Minnesotans bent over backwards. She learned how to gain and yield political power, first in the Minnesota Legislature and then in Congress. She learned how to utilize her protected class status to great advantage. Cowing political adversaries and even the once-respected Minneapolis Star Tribune who sat on this story for over two years. 

Unfortunately she also learned that she could blur the lines between different versions of law. If she found protection under Sharia law, then she applied that. Where U.S. code afforded her rights, she demanded them. But, when it came to laws with which she disagreed (like marriage and immigration laws) she acted as if they didn’t exist. We see this in her public statements about ICE and illegal immigration. 

All of these are reasons why this is such an important teaching moment for General Barr. 

He needs only to make a call to the U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis, Erica MacDonald, and suggest that she open an investigation. Knowing Bill Barr’s propensity for avoiding grandstanding, he may have already made that call. It shouldn’t take long for a couple of FBI agents to determine if there is enough credible evidence to present to a grand jury. If there is not, they could issue a simple statement: the case was investigated and found unworthy of prosecution. 

Case closed. 

However, if the evidence merits, Rep. Omar should get her day in court. The public rightly expects better answers than we have so far received. Equal justice and the rule of law must be defended. She deserves the chance to explain her side of this sordid story. 

Gil Gutknecht

Gil Gutknecht is a former Republican congressman from Minnesota.