GOP Chair Carnahan: FBI hasn't questioned me about friend Lazzaro

Embattled Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan says she doesn't expect to be questioned by the FBI after the arrest of a close friend and big donor on child sex trafficking charges.

Carnahan spoke Tuesday afternoon in two radio interviews, her first since the scandal broke last week and threw the GOP into crisis. She said she had no knowledge of a December 2020 raid on Lazzaro's downtown Minneapolis condo until news broke Thursday.

"I think Mr. Lazzaro is going to be spending the rest of his life in prison," Carnahan said on WCCO Radio during her first round of interviews since the scandal broke. "I don't expect to be questioned...I don't know why I would."

Carnahan said she will "absolutely not" resign over allegations she faces over her connection with Lazzaro, her handling of a sexual harassment accusation against party staffers, and her use of nondisclosure agreements. Instead, she said it would be up to party activists to remove her.

"If the base has lost faith in me as chair, then I will accept that," Carnahan said.

Carnahan said she expects the 15-member Executive Committee to vote Thursday night on whether she should resign and said, "I don't think it will pass." She has also said the larger State Central Committee should meet after Labor Day.

Four members of the Executive Board have called for Carnahan's resignation. The most recent was Patti Meier, who took the step of issuing a statement from the GOP's 3rd Congressional District Executive Committee.

"She has lost our trust and confidence and is no longer an effective leader for our party," the statement read. "Jennifer Carnahan is a liability that our party can no longer accept," the statement read.

The chairwoman downplayed her connection with Lazzaro, who was one of a few dozen attendees at her December 2018 wedding to U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

"Yeah, he was invited to our wedding. But there were a lot of other Republicans invited to our wedding," she said.

In a separate interview on KNSI Radio, Carnahan said she agreed with Democrats that the Minnesota GOP is a "dumpster fire."

"It totally is right now. But look where it's coming from," she said of her internal GOP critics.

Carnahan said the opposition within the GOP is only coming from people who had opposed her run for party chair, and said those same people are trying to "relitigate" the campaign.

But state Rep. Marion O'Neill, who is among 14 lawmakers calling on Carnahan to resign, said that wasn't the case.

"Jennifer, I voted for you as a delegate and supported your run. To say otherwise is blatantly false," O'Neill, R-Maple Lake, tweeted after Carnahan's radio appearance.

In the past decade, Lazzaro has given $273,000 to Republican causes overall -- including $42,000 to the Minnesota GOP and several thousand more to its local party units since Carnahan became chair in 2017. Carnahan has not said how much Lazzaro bankrolled her three races for party chair but acknowledged Tuesday that he "helped on my campaign a little bit."

Separately, Carnahan said she was "horrified" by a flippant comment she made in January predicting that her husband would likely be dead in two years. In July, Hagedorn announced a reoccurrence of his kidney cancer.

Carnahan said she has apologized to Hagedorn for the comment, which she made in January. A GOP activist released audio of the conversation this week.

"I can't take it back but I will acknowledge it will never happen again," Carnahan said.