President Donald Trump on Sept. 28 called for the U.S. Attorney of Minnesota to investigate claims of ballot harvesting that were unearthed by a watchdog group.
Trump is referring to an investigation by Project Veritas, a watchdog group that shared video footage of a man they identified as Liban Mohamed bragging about collecting hundreds of ballots for his brother, then-City Council candidate Jamal Osman.
“Numbers don’t lie. Numbers don’t lie. You can see my car is full. All these here are absentees’ ballots. Can’t you see? Look at all these, my car is full. All these are for Jamal Osman," the man said in one video recorded in July.
The man said in the videos that he was collecting the ballots to help his brother win the special election for the City Council seat representing Ward 6. The election was held the same day as the Democratic primary for Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D-Minn.) congressional seat. Ward 6 is part of her district.
Minnesota law lets a "designated agent" return an absentee ballot for a person, but such agents are prohibited from serving more than three absentee or mail voters in one election.
Omar Jamal, chair of the Minneapolis-based Somali Watchdog Group, told Project Veritas that he believes Mohamed was working for Omar and Osman.
"It’s an open secret. She will do anything that she can do to get elected and she has hundreds of people on the streets doing that," he said.
Conversations that the watchdog group said Jamal secretly recorded allegedly show Mohamed giving instructions to him about how to have someone request a mail-in ballot and have it filled it out. Then, it's "taken away" from the person who voted, the man alleged to be Mohamed said.
"Liban didn't get it [ballots] in a unique way, he just get them the way everybody before him, or even, maybe even after him will do, which is go to the elders, you know, probably, maybe, bait them, and collect, help—to them, and he's helping them," Jamal said. "So I think that's the process of collecting from the seniors, from their buildings."
A Somali translator also alleged a connection with the purported scheme and Omar while an unnamed source claimed Somalis were traveling to Minneapolis to vote before going back to their real residences elsewhere. Omar is Somali American.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Erica MacDonald didn't answer phone calls on Sept. 28 and her voicemail was full.
Representatives for Omar and Osman didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Hennepin County Attorney Jeff Wojciechowski told a Project Veritas journalist that the ballot harvesting described to him was “illegal, and we will be investigating.”
But the The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said in a statement Monday that it hasn't received any information or cases involving ballot harvesting.
The responsibility for investigating those types of matters falls to local police departments, the office said, citing state law.
A spokesperson for Secretary of State Steve Simon told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement: "Our office does not make determinations of legality, nor do we have investigative authority. Any person who believes they have evidence of unlawful voting activity should alert the County Attorney’s Office."
Mohamed wrote on Twitter in response to the video, "This is not me and my voice Fake news mr @JamesOKeefeIII."
James O'Keefe is the CEO of Project Veritas.
Mohamed later deleted the tweet.
In a tweet that was also deleted, Mohamed added, "Y’all making me more famous I’m screaming #BlackLivesMatter."
In another post, he told O'Keefe: "You’re making me more famous buddy and the real story is present [sic] trump 2016-2017 tax returns."
Trump said on Sept. 28 that he would win Minnesota because of Omar "and law enforcement." He also said that his administration "saved Minneapolis," referring to sending the National Guard to quell unrest earlier this year.
Omar is one of four progressive female members of the House who have collectively come to be known as "The Squad." The president and his supporters have frequently criticized the quartet, which also includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)
Minnesota is a key swing state in the 2020 election. Republican presidential candidates haven't won an election in Minnesota since 1972. Trump lost the state to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election by the thinnest margin since 1984, when Minnesota was the only state not carried by Ronald Reagan.
Minnesota state Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) filed successful complaints against Rep. Ilhan Omar with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board for improper use of campaign funds in 2018. In a Sept. 28 news release, Drazkowski said that at the time, members of the Somali community in Minneapolis reached out to him to allege that campaigns connected to Omar were paying for votes.
“When I first heard these allegations, I was skeptical,” Drazkowski said in a statement. “But the more that came out, the more troublingly credible it became.”
Drazkowski said he subsequently contacted law enforcement and Project Veritas.
“Clearly we needed hard evidence of voter fraud that we could not get by guessing about the red flags of massive voter turnout or the anecdotal testimonies from voters, and now Project Veritas has the evidence,” Drazkowski said.