U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison supports a Congressional Black Caucus letter urging the Justice Department to conduct a complete, stand-alone investigation of the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
The caucus signed sent a letter to Attorney General Eric. H. Holder Jr., that expressed gratitude for the Justice Department investigation already underway regarding the incident, in which a Ferguson policeman shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Police have said the teen tried to take an officer’s gun, but at least one witness said the teen was shot without cause.
“Press reports suggest that Mr. Brown’s shooting may be symptomatic of larger racial tensions in Ferguson,” the letter to Holder read.
“We ask the Department to dedicate sufficient resources to investigate the legal and civil rights ramifications of the shooting and surrounding circumstances,” the letter writers said.
"First, the St. Louis County Police Department may not be the most objective or credible body to investigate civil rights matters involving law enforcement given evidence of racial profiling in the past year,” they continued. “Second, only the federal government has the resources, the experience, and the independence to give this case the close scrutiny that the citizens of Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area deserve.”
Ellison used his Twitter account earlier this week to call for a “full, transparent investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown” and added that “Thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's eight House members voted mostly like the rest of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday on a measure to sue President Barack Obama over executive powers -- the state's three Republicans supported it, the five Democrats voted against it.
At the heart of the House resolution, which authorizes GOP Speaker John Boehner to sue the president, is Obamacare. Republicans say the president has not adequately enforced the law, which they oppose, because his administration has delayed some parts of its implementation, including the requirement that employers provide health coverage.
Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen's spokesman sent over this statement Thursday:
"Congressman Paulsen is concerned about the continued growth of executive power and its impact on our political system. The vote made by the House seeks more accountability of the executive branch through this narrowly defined action. This is more about making sure the president – and any future president – is constitutionally required to faithfully execute our nation’s laws or go through Congress to have them changed."
Joining Paulsen in a yes vote were GOP Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline.
Democrat Rep. Betty McCollum said ahead of the vote she was going to vote "no on the Boehner lawsuit and will instead focus my energy on the needs of the families of the Fourth District."
Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Keith Ellison, Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan also voted no.
"Republicans have failed to get their work done in Washington and they use stunts like this lawsuit to distract attention from that simple truth," McCollum said.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is pressing President Obama to ramp up diplomatic efforts to reach a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a letter to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, Ellison and several other House Democrats call for an immediate end to the “cycle of violence” in the region.
“Past experience indicates that the current conflict will likely end with a new cease-fire. Ground troops, air strikes, and rockets do not lead to permanent peace in the Middle East,” the letter reads. “The United States government, together with international partners, must redouble our efforts to urge all parties to avoid further loss of life on both sides by coming to a cease-fire.”
The lawmakers praised Israel for its “willingness to agree to the terms of the [cease-fire] agreement” proposed by Egypt, which Hamas has rejected. Their letter also criticizes Hamas for “indiscriminately launching thousands of rockets into Israel.”
The lawmakers also urge the Obama administration to reopen peace talks in the Middle East.
“Additional diplomacy is necessary to save lives and create lasting peace,” the lawmakers write. “… a final status agreement in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security is urgent and necessary.”
President Obama accepted the credentials for new Somali Ambassador to the United States, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, in a ceremony at the White House today.
Sharmake, a former prime minister of the African country, is the first Somali ambassador to the U.S. in more than two decades. Somalia closed its U.S. embassy after warlords ousted formerdictator and President Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the United States.
"This is a historic moment for the future of a democratic Somalia and for the future of relations between our two countries,” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said in a statement. “Mr. Sharmarke is well prepared to continue building a free, peaceful Somalia.
"I look forward to working with His Excellency and I would like him to visit Minneapolis as soon as possible. Together, we can promote security, economic prosperity, and well-being for Somalis both here in the U.S. and in Somalia."
Obama also accepted credential for ambassadors from Cabo Verde, Sri Lanka, Armenia and Guinea.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in Congress, said a report that the National Security Agency and FBI were tracking the email of five prominent American Muslims is “troubling because it suggests that Americans were targeted because of their faith and civic engagement.”
Documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the Muslim attorneys and activists were targeted for surveillance from 2002 to 2008 under a program meant to uncover terrorists and foreign agents, according to an analysis from online news organization The Intercept.
Among the documents released were training materials that used the name “Mohammed Raghead” as an example of a terrorist suspect.
“Profiling based on religion breeds distrust and resentment in communities that are potential partners in the fight against crime,” Ellison said.
“Muslim-Americans continue to face bigotry and hatred, but the NSA’s former spying practices undermine our entire nation’s progress towards greater inclusion. Undue surveillance has a chilling effect in all communities.”