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Minneapolis cops: We can’t investigate Keith Ellison. Maybe other cops can.

Keith Ellison answers questions from the press after he kicks off a grass-roots door-knocking event at North Commons Park in Minneapolis, Friday, Aug. 17. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Minneapolis Police Department will not investigate the allegation of domestic abuse against U.S. Rep Keith Ellison but is talking to other agencies that might.

“Due to a conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest, the Minneapolis Police Department will not be handling the matter involving Congressman Keith Ellison,” the department said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The Minneapolis Police Department is in communication with other law enforcement agencies who we may refer this case to.”

Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said the decision was made out of “an abundance of caution” because Ellison’s son, Jeremiah, serves on the Minneapolis City Council.

That was also the reason given Tuesday, Oct. 2, by the Minneapolis city attorney’s office when it punted any possible review of the case to the Dakota County attorney’s office.

Ellison, who is the DFL nominee for state attorney general and also serves as deputy chair of the national Democratic Party, was accused in August by ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan of attempting to drag her off a bed while screaming profanities at her in his Minneapolis home in 2016.

Ellison said Wednesday that he is mulling whether he will continue in his position as deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee.

The police statement comes a day after the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party gave the city the results of an investigation by a DFL-hired law firm that concluded Monahan’s allegation could not be substantiated, largely because she has refused to show a video of the alleged incident that she says she took. Monahan has provided documentation showing that she told a doctor of the incident months after it happened, but long before she publicly named Ellison in August. For some time before that, she had been speaking on social media about being abused but had not named the abuser.

Ellison’s Republican opponent, Doug Wardlow, called the investigation a “sham.”

It remains unclear what law enforcement agency, if any, will investigate the claim.

State Sen. Karin Housley, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Tina Smith, a Democrat, has called for the current attorney general to investigate, but that won’t happen.

A spokesman for Attorney General Lori Swanson, a Democrat, on Wednesday noted to the Pioneer Press that the office isn’t an investigative agency, but rather a prosecutorial one. That’s the same rationale that Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom used Tuesday in saying that his office might review the situation for possible criminal charges, but it would need to receive a report from an investigatory agency, such as Minneapolis police.

It doesn’t appear that any formal criminal complaints have been filed with any agency. That shouldn’t be required — cops routinely investigate potential crimes when they become aware of them. But it would be highly unusual for police to start a domestic abuse investigation based solely on statements made in the media, legal experts have said.

Monahan’s attorney said Tuesday he doesn’t know if Monahan will make such a complaint but that she would cooperate with an investigation.

ELLISON STEPPING DOWN AT DNC?

In an interview with WCCO Radio, Ellison said he is “evaluating” whether he will step down from the position, which he has held since last year.

He did not indicate whether his decision was linked to the allegations.

“I need to put 100 percent of my time, energy and resources into the (attorney general) race and into my office,” said Ellison. “And so that’s something I am taking consideration on. I’ll put it like this, though: I will be 110 percent for Minnesota all the time, every time, without fail. And so, that is something that we are beginning to evaluate right now.”

This report contains information from the Washington Post.

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