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D.C. Memo: Person, woman, man, camera, TV

Jim Hagedorn votes to keep Confederate monuments up; tons of Fifth District news and a lot of legislation.

photo of president trump
President Donald Trump recently explained a memory test he took.
REUTERS/Leah Millis

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, Jim Hagedorn votes to keep Confederate monuments up, tons of Fifth District news and a lot of legislation. Let’s get on with this.

Hagedorn’s vote

Rep. Jim Hagedorn was the only member of the Minnesota House delegation, Republican or Democrat, to vote against removing Confederate monuments from the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday night. 72 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to remove the monuments. The final vote was 305-113.

This isn’t Hagedorn’s first brush with divisive votes or use of racist language. At Popular Information, a newsletter that often reports on corporate influence in politics, Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria report on the companies still backing Hagedorn after he used language that mirrors white nationalist talking points in a Facebook post. On June 23, Hagedorn wrote that “Black Lives Matter” is at war with “our beliefs and western culture” and that we must “defend” our “Judeo-Christian values and American way of life.” One example: Technology company Intel gave Hagedorn $4,000 prior to his comments and is now asking for a refund.

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Debates in the Fifth District

This week, DFL candidates for Minnesota’s Fifth District debated their policy platforms at a League of Women Voters event in Minneapolis. The Republican primary forum was cancelled, after one of the two scheduled candidates did not confirm attendance. Omar was not in attendance, since she was in D.C. for votes.

On the night of the debate, Antone Melton-Meaux, Rep. Ilhan Omar’s most high profile opponent in the DFL primary, sent a Q&A-style email to supporters. One question and answer caught people’s eye:

Q: Will the money you’ve received from the Jewish community influence your policy decisions?

A: No. I have been clear from the begining of this campaign that I disagree with a number of Benjamin Netenyahu’s actions, including the unitlieral annexation of Palestinian territory. I have also made it clear that I support more humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, and I believe that the U.S> must work towards strategic reforms of Israeli policy that will ease the pressure of the occupation on Palestinians. More importantly, I’ve always been clear that my policy decisions will always be based on what’s in the best interests of the people in our district.

Joel Rubin, a senior official in President Barack Obama’s State Department and director for Jewish outreach for the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, said that the remarks were inexcusable. Melton-Meaux, Rubin said to Jewish Insider, “repeated the lie that American Jews only care about Israel … He compounded this dual-loyalty trope by stating that the American Jewish political money he received wouldn’t guide his policy choices.”

The email plays into a larger conflict between Omar and Melton-Meaux, who believes Omar has irreparably damaged her relationship with CD-5’s Jewish community. Melton-Meaux’s email plays on the same anti-Semitic tropes that he has criticized Omar for, specifically when she said “It’s all about the Benjamins” in relation to Israel’s influence on American politics last year.

Omar was criticized because people thought her Tweet relied on tropes that wealthy Jews secretly influence politics and that American Jews are disloyal to the United States. In the email, Melton-Meaux relies on both tropes, suggesting “money” he’s “received from the Jewish community” influences American politics and conflates the American Jewish community with supporters of the current conservative Israeli government.

On Thursday, Melton-Meaux apologized. “We’ve gotten asked that question a lot—about the influence of getting support from the Jewish community and how that influences policy, and I wanted to answer that question. But the way I answered that question by conflating the Jewish community and issues of policy on Israel was a mistake,” he said. “I should not have done that, and I apologize for that.”

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Also this week, more than 150 Jewish residents in CD-5 released an open letter in support of Omar this week. 

Yes, Ilhan has made some mistakes, and we don’t agree with everything she has said, or every position she has taken. But she is no antisemite.

Nor has she singled out Israel in her leadership on human rights abroad. Her criticism of Israel has been mild compared to what she has said about Saudi Arabia, which she has accused of genocide in Yemen, and “daily atrocities carried out against minorities, women, activists.” Ilhan has been a staunch defender of human rights around the world.

We know some folks who want a softer touch in their politicians. But here’s the thing: Martin Luther King was divisive. Hubert Humphrey was divisive. Paul Wellstone was divisive. And even now, Black Lives Matter is divisive — but their protests are now supported by 64 percent of Americans. Sometimes that’s the way change happens. Jews have long been at the forefront of movements for social justice, and our support for Ilhan Omar is rooted in our deepest Jewish values.

The Fifth District race has also attracted outside spending from at least one Super PAC. Americans for Tomorrow’s Future, a self-described “Pro-Israel” PAC whose only other spending this cycle was to try to prevent Jamaal Bowman, a Black Democrat, from unseating Rep. Elliot Engel in New York (Bowman defeated Engel this month), has spent more than $200,000 on direct mail against Omar. None of the group’s major donors are from Minnesota.

In response to the outside money flowing into the race and the lack of clarity as to where it’s going, the DFL hosted a press conference this week “Let me be clear: We do not support efforts of big corporate Republican money coming into this state to try and support this election,” said DFL Chairman Ken Martin.

Related: How political newcomer Antone Melton-Meaux managed to raise six times the money that Rep. Ilhan Omar did

It’s also unclear how some of that money is being spent. Melton-Meaux’s campaign has paid two secretive Delaware LLC’s nearly $100,000. Melton Meaux was asked: Where is the money going? Who is behind the companies? What do they do? He and his campaign don’t want to say, eventually citing Non-Disclosure Agreements. Here’s what I was able to figure out about the companies.

NO BAN Act

On Wednesday, the House passed the NOBAN Act, sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu of California. The bill would prevent the president from unilaterally banning refugee applications from certain countries without congressional approval, specifically targeting the president’s Muslim Ban, a set of policies that prevented people from several majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

The bill passed 233-183, mostly along party lines. It is unlikely to get a vote in Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate.

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Omar, the only member of Congress from a country included in the ban, said in a speech on the House floor: “We have all been in the struggle together and we will continue to be in it until this ban goes away.”

Human rights organizations, like Amnesty International USA, applauded the bill.

“By passing the NO BAN Act, the House of Representatives is sending a clear message that the U.S. is a country that welcomes and protects people from all faiths and backgrounds, not one that applauds prejudice,” Ryan Mace, senior policy advisor for Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. “It has long passed the time for the Senate to show that it will uphold our ideals of freedom, fairness, and human dignity. We call on the Senate to take up and pass this critical legislation.”

National Defense Authorization Act

The National Defense Authorization Act, a yearly funding authorization bill for the Defense Department, passed in the U.S. House this week.

The bill passed 295 to 125, with primarily Republicans voting against it. Republican Reps. Tom EmmerJim Hagedorn and Pete Stauber voted against the bill, along with their Republican colleagues. Rep. Ilhan Omar, also voted against the bill, along with several of her progressive colleagues like Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota’s Third District secured the passage of eight amendments in the bill, including amendments that help service members access drug prevention programs, requiring the Director of the Peace Corps to resume operations after the pandemic, and assistance for the family of Gold Star Families (families of those who were killed in combat).

Stauber was able to include one amendment to build in protections for federal contractors that are small businesses. “Too often, when a small business signs a contract with a federal agency, that agency issues a change order halfway through the project that delays the small business from being paid for the work that they already completed,” Stauber said in a statement.

Omar successfully included an amendment to force the Department of Defense to report on “the impact of airstrikes and human rights when troops are withdrawn from the African continent.” Additionally, based on legislation she introduced, the final bill amends the Insurrection Act, limiting the ability of the president to use military force in American cities without Congressional approval.

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By the numbers

  • 9: Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd, is being charged with 9 counts of tax fraud, according to Tony Webster in the Minnesota Reformer.  
  • 310: The Minnesota House delegation minus two voted for the Great American Outdoors Act, which would invest heavily in national parks. Rep. Pete Stauber broke with his two Republican colleagues, voting for the bill.
  • $3.8 million: According to Motherboard, when airports fine Uber drivers, the company takes it out of drivers earnings. According to reporting from Vice, between 2016 and 2019, Los Angeles World Airports charged rideshare drivers $3.8 million in fines.

Where Prince famously performed

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn released a bill this week that would aid independent music venues impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Minnesota’s concert halls, theatres, and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art, and education,” Klobuchar said. “This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate, and serve our communities for generations to come.”

The president’s men

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, posted a racist tweet on Wednesday claiming Omar was involved with Al Qaeda in her youth. The photo he used was taken four years before Omar was born.

Omar spoke to the Daily Beast about the photo here, telling Wajahat Ali: “This is not normal. Unfortunately it’s not suprising that someone complicit in the president’s crimes would share such a false, Islamophobic post.”

In other news

Quote of the week

“It was 30 or 35 questions. The first questions are very easy. The last questions are much more difficult. Like a memory question. “It’s like you’ll go, ‘Person, woman, man, camera, TV.’ So they say, ‘Could you repeat that?’ So I said, ‘Yeah.’ So it’s, ‘Person, woman, man, camera, TV.’ OK, that’s very good. If you get it in order, you get extra points,” said President Donald Trump, explaining a memory test he recently took. 

What I’m reading

Adam Serwer for The Atlantic: How John Lewis Founded the Third American Republic

For The Atlantic, Serwer argues that it was Rep. John Lewis and his contemporaries that finally held the United States to account for the values enshrined in the Constitution.

Noah Lanard for Mother Jones: Whistleblowers Say an ICE Detention Center Used Deceptive Tricks to Conceal COVID Outbreak

An immigration officer was ordered to blast the air conditioner on immigration detainees who had high fevers because they needed to pass a temperature check in order to be deported.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions and sound advice to: gschneider@minnpost.com. Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.