Minnesota Republicans cried foul Tuesday after the office of state Attorney General Keith Ellison made what it called a “routine inquiry” into the COVID-19 preparedness for a Northfield campaign rally headlined by Eric Trump, a son of President Donald Trump.
Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan accused Ellison of using his office to “play politics,” saying state officials called to threaten the owner of a farm hosting the event.
“The abuse of power and control from certain elected officials in Minnesota is infringing on the rights of our citizens,” Carnahan said, adding that the party was filing a cease-and-desist order with the attorney general’s office. “It is not required for citizens to file paperwork with the state of Minnesota for private gatherings,” she said.
Ellison, a Democrat, said his office made a “routine inquiry” with Felton Farms in Northfield to ask about its COVID-19 preparedness plan for the rally.
Event organizers planning large gatherings must outline the steps they are taking to mitigate the spread of the disease under an executive order signed by Gov. Tim Walz, he added.
“Our goal in making inquiries like these, which we have been making of events for months, is to protect people’s lives: we do not try to stop events, we simply try to make sure they’re held safely,” Ellison said.
Ellison said that the farm had previously assured his office that it had a COVID preparedness plan in place. He said his office asked for a copy of the plan and that it was still waiting to receive it as of Tuesday afternoon. He also disputed Carnahan’s characterization of the rally as a private gathering, noting that it was selling access to the venue and extending it to the public.
Under Walz’s emergency order, such gatherings must assemble plans that include policies for identifying infected people, social distancing, face coverings and other health protocols. Violations are enforceable by fines.
The issue has come to the forefront in recent weeks since Minnesota health officials found more than a dozen infections among participants of a Sept. 18 Trump rally in Bemidji — 12 among those inside the rally and another four in people who protested outside — and another three among Minnesotans who attended the president’s rally in Duluth on Sept. 30. Trump tested positive for the virus in the days following his trip to Minnesota.