Daily Digest: The Omar political saga continues

Good morning. There has been a ton written in recent days about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 9/11-related comments and the criticism they’ve prompted. Here at the Digest we’ve tried to keep it from crowding out other politics news, but today it claimed three spots.

1. Pelosi steps up defense of Omar. Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday flatly rejected charges of anti-Semitism against freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar amid a mounting onslaught of verbal attacks by President Donald Trump. “I don’t think that the congresswoman is anti-Semitic. I wouldn’t even put those in the same category,” Pelosi declared in an interview with CNN International. It’s not the first time that Pelosi has dismissed accusations of anti-Semitism against the Minnesota Democrat. But the speaker appeared to go further in her defense on Tuesday as Omar faces a rise in death threats amid an aggressive Republican campaign, fueled by Trump, over the way she recently characterized the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. GOP critics have also sought to resurface some of Omar’s comments earlier this year, which had been widely perceived as anti-Semitic and led to a rare rebuke by House Democratic leaders. Pelosi doubled down Tuesday that Omar herself is not anti-Semitic. (Politico)

2. Twitter threats against Omar  tallied. By Saturday afternoon, Chad Loder had seen enough. The cybersecurity expert noticed that President Trump’s Friday tweet — a video juxtaposing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) with footage of the twin towers falling on 9/11 — had generated a surge of activity from a sector of Twitter users he argues aren’t always taken seriously: the ones who incite violence. The threatening messages made toward Omar were so severe they prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to increase protection for the congresswoman. But Loder, who is the CEO of cybersecurity training company Habitu8, said Twitter shares responsibility. He told The Washington Post he’s been frustrated by the platform’s seeming inability to crack down on accounts that espouse racist, homophobic and violent rhetoric. The threats against Omar, one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, were just the latest example. So, in less than an hour, he crafted his own solution. (Washington Post)

3. Omar leads delegation in fundraising. Controversy proved lucrative for Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s campaign fundraising, vaulting her to the front of the state’s pack for House members. The first-term Democrat raised more money than anyone else in the House delegation over the first three months of the year. According to a newly filed campaign report, she pulled in more than $832,000 in donations, a healthy part of which was from people who gave less than $200. She reported having more than $606,000 on hand after expenses. By comparison, she raised about $1.175 million last year when she was on the ballot after joining the race for an open seat in June. Omar has been in the national spotlight for various comments she’s made since taking office that were criticized as anti-Semitic. She is a favorite Democratic target of Republicans, including President Trump. Omar represents a solidly Democratic district centered in Minneapolis and is barely into a two-year term. (MPR News)

4. Sanders not giving up on Minnesota. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won Minnesota’s last Democratic presidential caucuses, isn’t ceding the state’s 2020 primary to Sen. Amy Klobuchar. There are early signs of enduring Sanders strength: More than 30,000 Minnesotans have signed up to support him since he joined the race Feb. 19, said Claire Sandberg, his campaign’s national organizing director. At least 81 house parties for those volunteers will be held on April 27 across Minnesota — in all eight congressional districts — as part of a nationwide launch of organizing efforts, she said. That’s “not surprising, given the level of grassroots enthusiasm in Minnesota” even before Sanders became a 2020 candidate, Sandberg said. It’s a sign that Klobuchar’s candidacy hasn’t deterred the Vermont senator and several other Democratic challengers from investing resources in her home state. Klobuchar, who is serving her third Senate term after a resounding statewide win last November, has thousands of volunteers in Minnesota, her campaign said in a statement. (Star Tribune)

5. Walz fills final cabinet slot. Gov. Tim Walz filled his final cabinet vacancy Tuesday when he named Tarek Tomes as commissioner of Minnesota IT Services. The information technology agency, known as MNIT, oversees the state’s computer systems and has been faulted for the high-profile poor rollout of the MNLARS vehicle licensing system. Walz said Tomes’ hiring was critical because Minnesotans need to trust technology in state government. Tomes, 50, most recently served as chief innovation officer for the city of St. Paul. He previously served six years as a Minnesota IT Services assistant commissioner and 13 years with British Telecom. He’ll take the helm later this month at an agency of 2,300 that’s constantly battling cybersecurity threats against state computer systems. “We have to make sure that we instill a culture where we’re not scared to fail,” he said. “Certainly, some of the project outcomes have been very, very public. But we have to instill a culture where as technologists, we’re bold with the vision we set forth.” (MPR News)

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