‘I’m not legally married to two people, but I am legally married to one and culturally married to another.’ That’s how Ilhan Omar’s campaign spokesman Ben Goldfarb summarized Omar’s conjugal arrangements in an email in August 2016, when Omar was running for Congress and her advisers were trying to stifle allegations of double marriage — with a man alleged to be her brother.
Omar supplied this email to the Minnesota Campaign and Public Disclosure Board’s investigation into her campaign financing. That investigation concluded on June 6 by ordering Omar to refund $3,500 in misused campaign funds, and to pay a $500 fine. It also revealed that in 2014 and 2015, Omar may have broken federal and state law by filing a joint tax return with her husband Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi — when she was married to another man.
When conservative journalists in Minnesota raised the bigamy allegations in 2016, Omar issued a statement calling the allegations ‘baseless, absurd rumors’ and issued a statement accusing the journalists of ‘Islamophobia’. Her statement was taken verbatim from Goldfarb’s email. That same email appears to admit that the allegations are not without basis. Goldfarb describes how he tried to construct a denial based on ‘real background information’, but found it ‘impossible’:
‘…we are probably in a position where giving real background information is helpful in tying this up. That said, having no tried to write a statement multiple times that says, “I’m not legally married to two people but I am legally married to one and culturally married to another”, I think it’s impossible without making it even more confusing.’
Here’s the real background information about Omar’s ‘confusing’ marital history, in her own words. In 2016, Omar told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that she had married Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi (Husband 1) in their Muslim ‘faith tradition’ in 2002, and that after having two children, they divorced in their ‘faith tradition’ in 2008. No marriage certificate was issued, and there is no documentary evidence for the divorce.
In 2009, Omar married a Somali immigrant to Britain named Ahmed Nur Said Elmi (Husband 2) in a wedding in an unglamorous suburban state registry. The officiator was a Christian minister named Wilecia Harris, now a pastor at the Great and Mighty Works Ministries in Richfield, Minn.
And here’s the wedding certificate:
It’s possible that Wilecia Harris might have performed only a civil ceremony, which would suffice under Minnesota law. It’s possible that Omar and Elmi didn’t know the officiant was a Christian minister. Still, given that Omar was and is a proponent of her ‘faith tradition’, it’s strange that she seems not to have consecrated her second marriage according to Islamic law or Somali tradition. The full certificate also shows that, despite Omar’s ‘faith tradition’, the couple seem to have been cohabiting before their marriage
Omar refuses to answer questions as to when and how she happened to meet a British subject, or why she married him so soon after separating from the father of her children. Then again, she didn’t separate that much from Husband 1. Documents released on Monday seem to show that she and Husband 1 were living together in Minneapolis at the time of her marriage to Husband 2. And when Omar and Husband 2 went to college in Fargo at North Dakota State University, Husband 1 came too. That must have made for some awkward silences at the breakfast table.
According to Omar, Husband 2 went back to London in 2011 after a ‘faith-based’ divorce. But according to Alpha News, screenshots from Husband 2’s social media show him living in Minneapolis as late as August 2012. In the same year, she had a third child with Husband 1 and turned Husband 1 into Husband 3 with, she has claimed, another ‘faith tradition’ marriage. Regardless of the ‘faith tradition’ divorce from Husband 2, she was still legally married to him in civil law. Unwittingly or not, she was, as Ben Goldfarb admitted in 2016, now married to two people at the same time.
Omar has sworn that she didn’t legally divorce Husband 2 until 2017 because she couldn’t get in touch with him. Apart from being an admission that she knew she was still legally married to him when she made her second ‘faith tradition’ marriage with Husband 1 and 3 in 2012, this is implausible. Now-deleted postings appear to show that Omar went to London in 2014, and that she and Elmi (Husband 2) were in touch on social media. And this week, new evidence discovered by investigative journalist David Steinberg appears to show that Husband 2 was in Nairobi from December 2012 — and that he was in contact with Omar’s sister.
The nature of Omar’s relationship to Husband 2 is clouded by as-yet unsubstantiated allegations of double marriage and immigration fraud, which Omar has consistently denied. In 2016, an anonymous writer posted photos on a Somali site alleging that Husband 2 is Omar’s brother. The post and a cached copy have both been deleted, and Spectator USA cannot verify them independently, but Scott Johnson of Powerline took copies:
The posting includes photographs that appear to disprove Omar’s claim that she couldn’t divorce Husband 2 because she didn’t know where he was. The posting also claims that Husband 2 refers on social media to Omar children by Husband 1 & 3 as his ‘nieces and nephews’, that his and Omar’s father is called Nur Said Omar, and that her marriage to Husband 2 was false and bigamous:
‘A look at her social media accounts proves that at no point were her and Ahmed Hirsi [Husband 1 and 3] living apart,’ the anonymous poster to Somali Spot wrote, ‘nor was she ever in any other relationship. They have always been a couple, even when she was legally married to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi [Husband 2].’ On Sunday, the Washington Examiner published what it described as ‘dozens of documents’ proving, the Examiner claims, that Omar was living with Husband 1 (Hirsi) while married to Husband 2 (Elmi).
Records already unearthed by David Steinberg appear to confirm that one ‘Ahmed N. Elmi’ studied at Arlington Senior High School in St Paul, MN. This Ahmed N. Elmi has the same birth date as the ‘Ahmed N. Elmi’ listed on Ilhan Omar’s marriage certificate of 2008 and divorce papers of 2017. Several of his classmates confirmed to Steinberg that the father of Ahmed N. Elmi the high schooler was called Nur Said Elmi Mohamed — the same name as a name used by Ilhan Omar’s father.
Questioned by Alpha News, Husband 2 in London didn’t deny that he had attended high school in St Paul, MN. Meanwhile, his online profile included his degree from North Dakota State University. So there can be no doubt that Ahmed Elmi the high schooler is the same Ahmed Elmi who married Ilhan Omar — and who now claims not to know her at all.
It’s impossible to read this mounting pile of credible evidence without wondering if Ilhan Omar was, perhaps unknowingly, implicated in education and immigration fraud, and whether, perhaps unknowingly, she was married to two men at the same time. So Cockburn can understand why questions have been raised about Omar’s domestic arrangements by investigators like Scott Johnson of Powerline; Preya Samsundar (now a GOP strategist) and Christine Baumann, formerly of Alpha News; and David Steinberg, formerly of PJ Media.
Cockburn can’t understand why Omar refuses to engage directly with these accusations of immigration fraud. For three years, websites have implied that she knowingly entered a false and even incestuous marriage, possibly for immigration and educational fraud. If the accusations are false, she could sue for defamation. Instead, she pretends that the accusations don’t exist — just as she pretends not to hear questions about her Minneapolis ward being a hotspot of terrorist recruitment. But they do exist, and the emails and documents Cockburn has seen suggest that Omar and her team know that at least some of the accusations may be true.
Cockburn also fails to understand why Minneapolis’s leading paper, the Star-Tribune (the ‘Strib’), was so slow to investigate this mountain of evidence. Which brings us back to Ben Goldfarb’s email of August 2016. Goldfarb advised Omar’s team how to dissuade a local reporter from digging into Omar’s story:
‘Someone should reach out to talk off the record [with Olson] and shut it down with him as we do with the Strib.’
Omar’s campaign finance irregularities — and perhaps also advance information about further releases of damaging evidence — seem to have woken the Strib from its slumbers. Earlier this month, the editorial board noted that filing false tax returns is against the law. It also described the entire issue as ‘worthy of greater scrutiny’. It certainly is, and one of the questions worthy of scrutiny is why the Strib took so long to address a scandal on its own doorstep, and why it allowed itself to be ‘shut down’ in the first place. As Omar has said, the allegations are a ‘shit show’.