Fellow Democrats rush to Ilhan Omar's defense amid controversies

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said they appeared in Minneapolis on Friday to embrace U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar amid a series of controversies, including an allegation that Omar misused campaign money to carry on an affair.

U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee and Karen Bass of California, Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts spoke with Omar at two roundtables put on by the Minneapolis Democrat’s congressional office.

“All of you who have elected this sister to the United States House of Representatives, I can’t tell you thank you enough,” Rep. Barbara Lee said during a roundtable on early childhood education held at a downtown hotel. “What Congresswoman Omar is doing is really helping America gain its soul.”

Before questions about the alleged affair surfaced this week in a Washington, D.C. doctor’s divorce filing, Omar was already facing criticism for her lack of in-district town halls, tax filings, and comments about the support for Israel.

But the first-term Democrat gained more international attention this week when the wife of political consultant Tim Mynett said Mynett left her in April for Omar. Around the same time, Omar’s campaign paid Mynett’s consulting firm, E Street Group, more than $21,000 over 10 weeks for travel expenses, according to federal campaign finance records.

Omar’s campaign paid E Street Group a total of $229,000 over a one-year period for fundraising consulting and other purposes, the records indicate.

Omar has dodged questions about the matter and called them “stupid” as she hastily left a Minneapolis grocery store after a roundtable event Wednesday.

Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said Omar retained the backing of the party.

“I think what’s most important in what happens in Washington, D.C., and how she’s representing those voices,” Martin said in an interview. “So far, so good. We continue to stand with her, and I believe that the people of our Fifth District will continue to stand with her.”

Omar has become a target for right-wing groups.

The FBI confirmed Friday that it is looking into a death threat that Omar said had been made against her. The threat, which Omar tweeted out this week, suggested that she would die at the Minnesota State Fair.

Omar had security personnel with her during events Friday in Minneapolis.

The congresswoman has held at least six in-district events this week, stepping up her presence after a FOX 9 story in which her spokesman could not say the exact number of town halls Omar has done. 

Other members of the Minnesota delegation were able to provide that information.

Town halls can feature other speakers as long as the lawmaker is the primary speaker and is available to answer questions for at least 30 minutes, according to Town Hall Project, a group that tracks town hall appearances.

Omar’s events this week were roundtables and “community conversations,” in which Omar appeared on a panel to discuss certain topics.