What Project Veritas Is Claiming About Ilhan Omar and Illegal Ballot Harvesting
Project Veritas has claimed Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar is engaging in illegal ballot harvesting and a cash-for-ballots scheme in her district in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The group, which has targeted mainly liberal groups with "sting" operations, posted a video late on Sunday showing what it claims is evidence of an illegal effort to harvest absentee ballots.
The group's founder, James O'Keefe, alleged on Twitter that Omar's team may have bribed voters in Minnesota's 5th congressional district, which she has represented since 2019.
Liban Mohamed is shown in a Snapchat video commenting on the ballots. He is the brother of Minneapolis city council member Jamal Osman.
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Newsweek originally reported that Mohamed was an Omar campaign worker. However, a spokesperson for Omar clarified that he does not work for the congresswoman.
"Just today we got 300 for Jamal Osman," Mohamed says in the video. "I have 300 ballots in my car right now."
"Numbers don't lie. You can see my car is full. All these here are absentee ballots. Look, all these are for Jamal Osman."
Mohamed can be seen showing white envelopes on his car's dashboard in a video from July 1. Later in the Project Veritas video, Mohamed says, "Money is the king in this world... and a campaign is driven by money."
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An anonymous person, identified as a former Minneapolis political worker, told Project Veritas that Omar's campaign deputy district director Ali Isse Gainey was coordinating ballot harvesting from elderly people in Charles Horn Towers, a housing complex in the city, before the Minnesota primary on August 8.
The same person claimed that women and young people were paid for their ballots during the primary. The cash-for-ballots accusation is unsubstantiated at this time.
Ballot harvesting is not illegal in Minnesota, however. A district court in the state denied a Republican motion to stay a temporary injunction against a law that made it illegal for anyone to help more than three people vote.
Jeremy Slevin, Senior Communications Director for Omar, said: "The amount of truth to this story is equal to the amount Donald Trump paid in taxes of ten out of the last fifteen years: zero. And amplifying a coordinated right-wing campaign to delegitimize a free and fair election this fall undermines our democracy."
Project Veritas has a history of dubious claims and doctored videos. O'Keefe first came to prominence in 2009 with videos about ACORN, a community group that lost federal funding and had to shut down as a result.
However, O'Keefe had to pay $100,000 to a former ACORN employee who didn't consent to be filmed and claimed he called the police after a disguised O'Keefe asked how he could make underage prostitution look like a legitimate business.
Since 2009, O'Keefe and Project Veritas have carried out several "sting" operations against liberal and Democratic groups. O'Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for unlawfully entering federal property in 2010 relating to an operation involving then-Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu.
There was instant skepticism of Project Veritas' latest claim. CNN analyst Jessica Huseman, who has covered the organization, pointed to the timing of the video release.
"Wow you're telling me that project veritas just happened to release a project right after the nyt release a bombshell huh what are the odds," Huseman tweeted on Monday.
O'Keefe's claims also come just two weeks after liberal groups in Wisconsin asked the state's attorney general to investigate Project Veritas. They say members of the group mislead them by using false identities and tried to get them to agree "to use illegal methods."
Omar casually dismissed the claims on Monday. She responded to one of President Donald Trump's tweets about the accusations with a gif mocking the amount he allegedly paid in tax in 2016 and 2017.
Correction 9/28/20, 11:00 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include comment from a spokesperson for Ilhan Omar denying that Liban Mohamed works or worked for the representative.