With Focus on Keith Ellison Allegations, Karen Monahan Retains New Attorney

Keith Ellison’s accuser has retained legal services from a former boss of Ellison’s Republican opponent in the race for Minnesota attorney general.

Karen Monahan, who has accused attorney general candidate Keith Ellison of abuse, at home in St. Louis Park, Minn., Aug. 24, 2018. The core of Monahan's allegations regard what she calls "narcissist abuse," a term that describes suffering experienced by partners of self-centered people. (Tim Gruber/The New York Times)
Karen Monahan, who has accused attorney general candidate Keith Ellison of abuse, at home in St. Louis Park, Minn., Aug. 24, 2018. The core of Monahan's allegations regard what she calls "narcissist abuse," a term that describes suffering experienced by partners of self-centered people. (Tim Gruber/The New York Times) Photo: Tim Gruber/The New York Times/Redux

Republicans in Washington have attacked Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford for hiring an attorney with connections to the Democratic Party, suggesting her allegations are part of a liberal plot to destroy Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

In Minnesota, meanwhile, Karen Monahan, Keith Ellison’s accuser, has retained the legal services of a longtime friend and former boss of Ellison’s Republican opponent, Doug Wardlow. Ellison and Wardlow are facing off in the race for state attorney general.

Republicans have repeatedly drawn parallels between the cases of Kavanaugh, who is accused of attempting to rape Blasey Ford, and Ellison, who is accused of attempting to drag Monahan off a bed by her feet in 2016, as well as what Monahan has called “narcissist abuse.”

Blasey Ford is being represented by an attorney, Debra Katz, who has Democratic Party affiliations, though she is also a well-known legal advocate for sexual harassment and abuse victims. Republicans pounced on plans by Katz and attorney Lisa Banks, who is also representing Blasey Ford, to host a fundraiser for Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who is up for re-election in Wisconsin. The fundraiser was canceled.

Monahan’s attorney, Andrew Parker, said his new client contacted him for representation a few days ago, not the other way around. In a phone call with The Intercept, he said that their association had nothing to do with his close relationship to Ellison’s opponent. “As I understand, she learned of me from her son, who worked for someone I know, and that’s how she ended up calling me,” Parker said. “She didn’t have representation before and was being inundated. I have dealt with the media and done other high-profile cases, and I also have an understanding of politics.”

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 22:  U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) holds a town hall meeting at the Church of the New Covenant-Baptist on December 22, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Ellison, a candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee, spoke at the church where his brother Brian is a pastor.  (Photo by Sarah Rice/Getty Images)

Keith Ellison holds a town hall meeting at the Church of the New Covenant-Baptist in Detroit, Mich., on Dec. 22, 2016.

Photo: Sarah Rice/Getty Images
Monahan has alleged that there is a video of the incident between her and Ellison, and her son has claimed that he has seen it. Ellison has insisted that no such video exists and has denied any such physical encounter.

Parker said that Monahan did not know of his long-standing relationship with Ellison’s opponent. “I can tell you for sure she did not — she didn’t know I had any relationship with Doug Wardlow nor did she have any contact with Wardlow, or the Wardlow campaign,” he said.

When asked if she was paying for his legal services, Parker said, “I don’t want to get into it, I don’t believe it’s a relevant question.”

Parker and Wardlow’s close relationship goes far back. Wardlow, who is 40, spent nearly half his legal career working at Parker’s previous law firm, Parker Rosen LLC.

Parker is also a conservative political commentator who has previously expressed strong support for Wardlow’s candidacy. Parker hosts a right-wing radio show and podcast on a Minnesota AM talk radio station. He advertises a link to his podcast on the front page of his law firm’s website.

Parker’s show included discussion of the allegations against Ellison as recently as September 30, in which he compared Monahan’s claims to those made against Kavanaugh. 

In December 2017, Parker invited Wardlow on his show to talk about his attorney general candidacy. At that point in the race, it was all but certain that Wardlow would be the Republican nominee. On the show, Parker called Wardlow “a good friend of mine” and “an outstanding lawyer, one of the most creative lawyers that I have ever worked with.” 

Parker and Wardlow discussed the importance of Republicans seizing the attorney general’s seat in November, an office that has been controlled by Democrats for the last 47 years.

“You make sure when you get to the ballot box in November that you take close watch of the attorney general race, and cast your vote on the Republican side of the ticket,” Parker told his audience.

Wardlow and Parker discussed the importance of electing a Republican attorney general to help bolster the policy priorities of what they hope would also be a Republican governor. (Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is terming out of office, and in November, Republican candidate Jeff Johnson is facing off against Tim Walz, a Democrat.)

“There’s no question that the attorney general position is one that is to protect and defend the laws as written, but in addition, it is an arm to support policy, and with a Republican governor, I think it is important that we have an attorney general that can support the governor’s policies,” said Parker.

On Tuesday, in a Star-Tribune story about whether Wardlow would be able to set aside his partisan past if elected attorney general, Parker was quoted describing Wardlow as a prolific writer with an “outstanding analytical ability.” He added that he was confident Wardlow could keep his politics out of the attorney general’s office.

When asked if he had done any campaigning for Wardlow, Parker told The Intercept no. “To date, I have not. I may in the future, knowing a lot more about Keith Ellison than I did before,” he said, referring to new information provided by Monahan.

Monahan, Ellison’s former partner, had spent much of the last year hinting on social media of abuse by Ellison, and the existence of those potential allegations was well-known in Minnesota political circles. But Monahan’s allegations exploded into the national media in early August, when her son detailed his mother’s experience in a lengthy Facebook post. The son alleged he had discovered a video on his mother’s computer of Ellison’s physical abuse, specifically dragging her off a bed, and said he was bringing the allegations forward despite his mother’s reluctance to do so. (Monahan has since clarified that Ellison attempted to drag her off the bed, knocked off her shoe in the process, but did not ultimately drag her off.) Monahan and her son also made allegations that Ellison had engaged in emotional abuse, frequently terming it “narcissist abuse.”

It’s the alleged video that has become the lynchpin of the subsequent political debate. Monahan, who referenced the video in tweets prior to her son’s allegations, has thus far refused to share it publicly or with media outlets hoping to corroborate the story, sometimes citing changing reasons.

On Monday, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party released what it called an independent investigation into Monahan’s allegations, led by an attorney from a local Democratic-leaning law firm, Lockridge Grindal Nauen. Employees and owners of the firm have donated nearly $50,000 to Keith Ellison’s campaigns since 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Their investigation, which was conducted over the past several weeks, concluded that Monahan’s claims of physical abuse could not be substantiated because she refused to share the video footage. (Parker told The Intercept that while he disputes their conclusions, the investigation was conducted by “a very good law firm” and he would “never impugn them.” He added that he knows the investigating attorney, Susan Ellingstad, personally and likes her.)

On Tuesday, the DFL announced it would turn over its investigation to local authorities for further probing. Last week Ellison also asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegation. “I am innocent and eager to see this entire matter resolved,” he said.

Doug Wardlow’s campaign immediately blasted the DFL’s investigation, calling it a “sham.” In a statement, Wardlow said:

Karen Monahan’s allegations are substantiated by documentary evidence and a witness. Ms. Monahan’s son Austin, has seen video evidence of Ellison’s physical abuse of Monahan, and he has also witnessed the traumatic effects that the abuse had on his mother. Ms. Monahan also released medical records that detail what she told her doctors about Keith Ellison’s abusive behavior.

It was in response to the investigation that the public learned Monahan had retained the legal services of Parker. In tweeting her reactions to the report, she referred media requests to him.

Parker told The Intercept that he has not seen the alleged video and does not know if anyone ever will.

“I don’t know if there would be such a circumstance where she would share it,” he said. “She is very uncomfortable with releasing it, she doesn’t think it’s a good idea to release it, in order to shift the national dialogue on the subject. You should not need the video.”

Parker said there was no difference between releasing a video publicly and showing it privately to a reporter or an investigator. “If you are a victim and you show it to anyone, that is a revictimization,” he said. “People who haven’t suffered this and who don’t know what is on the video may well think, Oh, what’s the big deal showing it to one other person? But I suggest to them, how dare they put themselves in her position in that regard.”

Top photo: Karen Monahan at home in St. Louis Park, Minn., on Aug. 24, 2018.

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