U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the Democratic candidate for attorney general who has been fighting an allegation from an ex-girlfriend that he physically abused her, on Wednesday asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the matter.
"I am taking this step now because I am innocent and eager to see this entire matter resolved," Ellison said in a statement released to the news media.
Ellison has repeatedly denied the abuse allegation by Karen Monahan. She said she was in an emotionally abusive relationship with the congressman, and that during a fight in 2016 he screamed obscenities at her while trying to drag her off a bed by her legs and feet.
His request for an investigation comes as Democrats in Congress push for an FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against Republican Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has denied the claims.
It's unclear what kind of consequences Ellison could face from a House ethics investigation. He is leaving Congress at the end of the year, when his current term ends.
Meanwhile, the results of a separate investigation into Monahan's allegation are about to come out. The Minnesota DFL hired attorney Susan Ellingstad to conduct that investigation, and the party said it expects to receive and release her findings soon.
After her allegation emerged in August, the Democratic National Committee — of which Ellison is the deputy chairman — said it is looking into what happened.
"All allegations of domestic abuse are disturbing and should be taken seriously. We are working with the Minnesota state party to review these allegations," a DNC spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday morning, declining to comment further.
The DFL's choice of Ellingstad to conduct the investigation was met with derision from many who said she is not independent, including Donald Trump Jr., who mocked the investigation in a tweet Wednesday.
Ellingstad is a partner at Lockridge Grindal Nauen, the firm where attorney Charles Nauen, who represents the DFL, works. The firm has a political committee that has donated to both Republican and Democratic candidates, including Ellison, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Ellison's statement Wednesday called Ellingstad an independent attorney and said he has complied fully with that investigation.
"These allegations have lingered in the public sphere, and remain unsubstantiated. I welcome an investigation by the House to allow us to move on," his statement said. Ellison first released his call for an investigation to BuzzFeed News.
A number of Minnesota Democrats on the November ballot, including gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, said in statements Wednesday they support Ellison's call for a House investigation. Other prominent Democrats in Congress from across the country similarly told BuzzFeed News they believe an investigation is warranted.
Republican Karin Housley, who is facing off with Smith for the Senate seat, condemned the motives of those calling for a congressional ethics investigation into Ellison. In a news release, Housley deemed the effort "nothing more than political cover" as Smith pushes for an investigation of Kavanaugh.
Monahan's allegation first surfaced in August, days before the primary election. At the time, many Democratic candidates called for an investigation and said if the allegation is true he should step down and end his campaign.
Nonetheless, the DFL endorsed Ellison after the primary. At a news conference shortly after the primary, DFL Chairman Ken Martin said the party has its lawyers and others looking into the allegation, including text messages between Monahan and Ellison.
"I think it's important for us to be prudent, not to jump to any conclusion, to take this allegation seriously," Martin said at the time.
When contacted by the Star Tribune on Wednesday, Monahan referred to her comment on Twitter: "I am glad it will happen but he is well aware he will be out of Congress before it is complete. He makes himself look good before the election. What people will do for power," she wrote.
Regarding the Ellingstad investigation, she said she shared text messages and medical records, signed off on a release of her therapist's notes and had others with whom she talked after the incident corroborate her story.
Monahan recently posted two medical records on social media that show in 2017 she told a doctor she was in an emotionally abusive relationship. One of the records states she identified Ellison and mentioned physical abuse, but it notes she didn't have any physical injuries requiring examination in the past. She told the doctor she was fearful of retribution if she publicly identified him.
Her story first became public when her son posted about the alleged incident on Facebook in August, saying that last year he came across a video on his mother's computer of Ellison dragging his mother.
She affirmed her son's Facebook post shortly after he wrote it. Monahan said she recorded the incident, which she told CBS News was the only instance of physical violence during their relationship. She has declined to share the video, and has said it is traumatizing. She also told CNN she misplaced it. Ellison has said such a video cannot exist, and called the allegation "painful" and "not true."
Ellison faces Republican Doug Wardlow in the November election. Wardlow said in a statement Wednesday that he welcomes "any open and transparent investigation" into the allegations by Monahan and Amy Alexander, who accused Ellison of assault in 2005. Ellison requested a restraining order against Alexander that year, and said she was harassing and threatening to "destroy" him. A judge granted the restraining order.
Jessie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044