Led by freshman state senator, DFL lawmakers circulating letter opposing Andrew Luger for U.S. Attorney

State Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis, opposes Luger’s potential appointment as U.S. attorney

By: - March 9, 2021 11:11 pm

Andrew Luger. PRNewsfoto/Jones Day. State Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis.

More than a half dozen Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers have signed on to a letter urging U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith to consider an alternative appointee for U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. 

Andrew Luger, who served as U.S. Attorney for Minnesota from 2014 through 2017, is one of three finalists being considered for the role, the Sahan Journal reported last week

Freshman state Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis, who is the first Somali-American member of the Minnesota Senate, is leading the effort, according to an email obtained by the Reformer and authenticated by two DFL lawmakers who had received it. Fateh wrote to his colleagues about his opposition to Luger’s potential appointment.

“During a historic watershed moment on racial equity and justice, we do not believe we should be reappointing a U.S. Attorney who has failed to bring civil rights cases against officers accused of police brutality,” Fateh wrote to his colleagues. “We are also concerned about Mr. Luger’s past involvement in Islamophobic ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ programs which vilifies young Muslims and subjects them to overreaching surveillance and entrapment by the national security state.”

Fateh did not respond to a request for comment.

Luger, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, is currently a partner at Jones Day, where he is a leader of the law firm’s national hate crimes and extremism initiative, according to his bio on the firm’s website.  

Luger is widely respected for successfully prosecuting many high-profile cases, including convicting Danny Heinrich, the killer of Jacob Wetterling, the 11-year-old boy kidnapped more than 30 years ago from St. Joseph. Luger’s office struck a plea agreement in the case, convicting Heinrich of 25 felony counts of federal child pornography charges, in exchange for Heinrich’s confession in the abduction and slaying.

Luger, however, has drawn criticism from members of the Somali community.

As U.S. Attorney, Luger prosecuted nine men who planned to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group. 

He also championed a program called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, which aimed at intervening with Somali youth who were deemed susceptible to radicalization. Critics said it targeted Muslim youth. 

During a 2016 news conference, Luger said, “We have a terror recruiting problem in Minnesota.” The case of the men who sought to join the Islamic State group “demonstrates how difficult it is to put an end to recruiting here,” he said. 

At other times he emphasized that the vast majority of Somali-Americans only sought a better life. “There are 100,000 Somalis living in Minnesota,” he said. “The overwhelming majority are here because they want to live a peaceful life in a country that has welcomed them in. The small number of radicalized youth who are seeking to commit crimes should not be confused with the vast majority of law abiding Somali Minnesotans.”

His office sued the city of St. Anthony after the City Council there rejected a proposed Islamic center. The city settled in 2014 and the Islamic center opened. 

“Eight local imams, four from the new center, stood behind (Luger) along with other Somali worshipers,” the Star Tribune reported at the time. 

A draft of the letter to Smith, Klobuchar and President Joe Biden urges them to choose someone other than Luger. As of Tuesday afternoon, signatories in addition to Fateh included state Sens. Jen McEwen and John Marty, as well as state Reps. Rena Moran, Carlos Mariani, Aisha Gomez, John Thompson and Ruth Richardson.

“By bringing back U.S. Attorney Luger, we are signaling to our historically overpoliced, oversurveilled communities that we do not care about rebuilding trust and repairing the harm that has been done in the past 20 years, that we would rather repeat the mistakes of the past than face the discomfort of acknowledging and addressing them,” Fateh wrote.

In February, Klobuchar and Smith announced the formation of a selection committee chaired by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi to make recommendations for U.S. Attorney for Minnesota. 

The two senators bring their selections to Biden for consideration and approval and must also receive a vote from the U.S. Senate.

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