Sources: Sen. Omar Fateh misled DFL colleagues about federal perjury case

The case is connected to a grand jury investigation of ballot fraud

By: - June 3, 2022 6:00 am

Sen. John Hoffman, D-Champlin, speaks with Sen. Omar Fateh, D-Minneapolis, right, on the Senate floor on May 4, 2022. Photo by Catherine J. Davis/ Senate Media Services

State Sen. Omar Fateh of Minneapolis misled Senate Democratic leaders about his relationship with a man recently convicted of perjury, according to two DFL sources with knowledge of the conversations.

Fateh’s brother-in-law and 2020 campaign volunteer Muse Mohamud Mohamed was convicted of lying to a federal grand jury last month, in a case stemming from a federal investigation into ballot fraud during the DFL 2020 primary. 

That contest vaulted Fateh into prominence after he unseated then-state Sen. Jeff Hayden by nearly 2,000 votes.

Before the trial, as reporters began asking questions, Fateh told DFL leadership he had no relationship to Mohamed. 

DFL leadership also clashed with Fateh over the fate of his top aide. Dawson Kimyon was Fateh’s 2020 campaign manager before becoming his legislative assistant. His name arose during the grand jury testimony that dealt with ballot fraud. He was recently forced out by DFL leadership after Fateh refused to fire him, the DFL sources said.

Kimyon said in a brief interview that he resigned.

Fateh, who also faces an ethics complaint and a DFL primary opponent, did not reply to phone or text messages. 

The situation has roiled the Senate DFL caucus; members aren’t saying anything publicly. 

Senate Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen declined to comment, citing an upcoming Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct hearing about Fateh, as well as Senate rules that forbid discussion of personnel issues. 

Fateh’s ongoing political problems and the resulting spate of bad headlines come at an unhelpful time for Senate Democrats. They had hoped that newly favorable district maps — redrawn this year following the 2020 census — would give them a chance at winning the majority. President Joe Biden won 37 of the Senate’s 67 districts in 2020. 

Kimyon’s name came up during the May trial of Mohamed, 30. 

Mohamed was subpoenaed in connection with a wider federal investigation into misuse of the absentee ballot “agent delivery” process, which allows voters with health problems or disabilities to have someone pick up their ballot from an election office in the week before an election. During the 2020 primary, the normally rare agent delivery process was requested by about 500 voters out of more than 84,000 in Minneapolis — about three times more than in the November 2020 general election.

A grand jury has spent more than a year investigating whether absentee ballots were being turned in without voters’ knowledge, hearing from about 80 witnesses, FBI special agent Blake Hostetter said during Mohamed’s trial. Mohamed ended up being charged with lying to the grand jury about where he got three ballots via the agent delivery process.

Two of the voters whose ballots he delivered testified that they never authorized Mohamed to deliver absentee ballots for them. During the trial, prosecutors showed portions of a grand jury transcript in which Mohamed said “Dawson” — likely Fateh campaign manager Dawson Kimyon — told him where to pick up ballots.

According to a transcript of grand jury testimony obtained by the Reformer, Mohamed told the grand jury that Dawson Kimyon taught him what to do as a campaign volunteer. A prosecutor repeatedly pressed Mohamed to say where he got the three ballots he returned for voters, but Mohamed repeatedly deflected the question. 

When contacted by the Reformer Thursday and asked about Mohamed’s testimony, Kimyon said, “I don’t know anything about that other than what you’ve reported.”

A friend of Mohamed’s, Mustafa Hassan, testified during the trial that he volunteered for Fateh’s campaign on the day of the 2020 primary. When he showed up at the campaign office, he was taken to a back room and given three envelopes to deliver to the elections office. Because he didn’t know the voters, he was unwittingly in violation of the law. 

Hassan testified that he had just become a citizen in December 2020, had never voted before, and didn’t know he was violating the law by delivering the ballots for people he didn’t know.

A group of Republican state senators filed an ethics complaint against Fateh on May 22 alleging he violated a Senate rule by failing to “expressly address” his involvement in Mohamed’s case and retaining Kimyon “who reportedly directed the fraudulent election activity.” 

They also said Fateh failed to “unequivocally refute his personal involvement and/or the involvement of his Senate staff” following Mohamed’s conviction by a jury. The complaint is also partly based on a Reformer report that raised questions about Fateh introducing legislation to award a $500,000 grant to Somali TV of Minnesota after the YouTube station aired ads in 2020 that encouraged viewers to vote for Fateh.

The ethics complaint against Fateh says Kimyon was placed on administrative leave from the Senate on May 11. His employment ended May 27, according to Senate Human Resource records. 

Fateh was confronted by DFL leaders about his connection to Mohamed. He denied being related to Mohamed — his brother-in-law — saying Mohamed’s name is a common Somali name, said a DFL source with knowledge of the confrontation. 

Members of the DFL caucus were given a transcript of the Mohamed trial before a closed caucus meeting last week, during which some Democrats defended Fateh and Kimyon. 

In an email to the Reformer, DFL District 62 chair David Tilsen said his members feel well represented by Fateh, who has “spoken and worked for us.”

“That he had ruffled the feathers of the powerful was seen as a matter of pride, he was one of us,” Tilsen said.

Those who want Fateh out are relying upon “the racist trope that all Somalis cheat, especially at elections.”

“This has been used against new immigrants who strive for a place in our community,” he said. “It’s a time-honored tradition. The Irish, Jews, Mexicans, Scandinavians, Asians and now the East Africans are tarred with this brush.”

Kimyon was “given the opportunity to resign,” said a DFL source. The resignation was handled by Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman, the source said. Ludeman did not respond to a request for comment.

Kimyon told the Reformer he wasn’t “let go,” but instead resigned. Asked if his resignation was requested, he said, “I’m not interested in playing out those details.”

“I’m moving on, trying to recoup from a lot of stress,” he said.

Just two years after his rapid ascent, Fateh will face a DFL primary challenger named Shaun Laden on August 9.

Early voting begins June 24.   

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.