TIME Cover Doesn’t Clear Controversy Surrounding Ilhan Omar’s Past

Image (L) Ilhan Omar Courtesy of Ilhan Omar for State Representative; Image (R) Ahmed Nur Said Elmi Courtesy of It's Rude to Stare

MINNEAPOLIS — TIME Magazine has named Rep. Ilhan Omar a recipient of one of its “Women Leader Firsts” award.  

Omar made waves globally as the first Somali female legislator in the United States, but while the media and pundits basked in the excitement of the award, the freshman state legislator is quietly dealing with legal issues.

In May, Omar filed for divorce from Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, a man who has been identified by Alpha News as her alleged brother.

Last year, Alpha News investigated the interesting background of Omar after Powerline Blog writer Scott Johnson indicated Omar may have engaged in marriage fraud. Omar, who publicly identified Ahmed Hirsi to be her husband, is currently married to Elmi – who through extensive investigation appears to be Omar’s brother.

Court documents obtained by Alpha News show Omar filing for divorce almost a year later than she had planned to. “I have yet to legally divorce Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, but am in the process of doing so,” Omar said in an August 2016 statement.

“There are particular challenges to getting a legal divorce,” Omar told author Cory Zurowski in a December 2016 article with City Pages – one that invokes its own controversy. “One of those is getting the cooperation and presence of the other person who you are divorcing.”

As Alpha News pointed out, both parties are not required for a divorce to occur in Minnesota.

The real controversy comes from statements Omar makes in her divorce documents. Omar tells the court that Elmi left the country in 2011 to go back to London. This corresponds with her statements that she and Elmi terminated their relationship so she could resume her relationship with Hirsi. She also claims in court documents that she hasn’t spoken or seen her estranged husband since June 2011.

Alpha News obtained documentation via social media that shows these statements to be false.

Image Credit: Powerline Blog

As Alpha News reported, Omar made a trip to London in 2014. Photos from Instagram that have since been deleted showed Elmi and Omar together.

Image Credit: Screenshot – Instagram

Screenshots from social media indicate Elmi lived in Minneapolis until August 2012, when he moved back to London. Alpha News also reported last year that Elmi and Omar attended NDSU at the same time.

Image Credit: Screenshot – Facebook

Instagram posts show Omar and Elmi communicating via social media until October 2013. In an instagram post, Omar tells Elmi, “They are so cute, best uncle you are :).”

Another post from April 2013 shows Omar asking Elmi, “What are you calling baby said dummy?” Elmi replies, “he is sucking on a dummy in his mouth!”

Omar also attests that she used social media to attempt to find Elmi, but ultimately does not know of anyone who knows him. However, a simple search using Google led Alpha News to Elmi’s newest venture.

More recently Omar found herself in serious trouble because of campaign finance rules. In her end-of-the-year report, Omar recorded a $2,250 campaign finance disbursement to Kjellberg Law Offices on November 20, 2016. The same law office represents Omar in her divorce proceedings.

Image Credit: Screenshot MN Campaign Finance Board

“The petition is a public document,” Carla Kjellberg told Alpha News. “I do not make comments on private matters of my client.”

According to state statutes on campaign finance, “Money collected for political purposes and assets of a political committee or political fund may not be converted to personal use.”

Jeff Sigurdson, Executive Director of Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board  (CFB) told Alpha News that candidates for office using “funds to pay for personal legal services would need to convince the Board that such an expenditure was not a conversion to personal use.”

In 2001, CFB determined that legal fees paid by a campaign committee is permissible if it does not benefit a candidate personally. In Omar’s case, the Board notes the benefit of campaign financed legal services “was to defend the candidate’s role as an elected official.”

Neither Omar’s office nor her campaign responded to requests for comment.

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.