Attorney investigating Keith Ellison: This allegation of abuse can't be substantiated without the video

In August, Karen Monahan made a credible allegation that Rep. Keith Ellison had dragged her off a bed back when their four-year relationship was coming to an end.  The state Democratic Party agreed to look into the allegations. Today the AP reports the outside lawyer who looked into it has concluded that the allegations remain unsubstantiated because Monahan refuses to release a video she claims to have of the incident.

An ex-girlfriend’s allegation that Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison once physically abused her could not be substantiated because she refused to provide video she said she had of the incident, an attorney hired to investigate the claims concluded in a draft report obtained Monday by The Associated Press…

A draft report obtained by the AP notes Monahan’s shifting rationale for refusing to produce the video footage, including that it was lost, was on a USB drive in storage and that it would be too embarrassing and traumatic to release it.

Ellingstad also wrote in her report that Monahan would not allow her to view the footage privately.

“An allegation standing alone is not necessarily sufficient to conclude that conduct occurred, particularly where the accusing party declines to produce supporting evidence that she herself asserts exists,” Ellingstad wrote. “She has thus repeatedly placed the existence of the video front and center to her allegations, but then has refused to disclose it…

Ellingstad is a partner at the law firm with the state Democratic party’s top attorney, Charlie Nauen. Earlier Monday, Republican Senate hopeful Karin Housley called for the attorney general’s office to investigate the allegation, saying it could provide “an impartial investigation into the serious allegations.”

It’s certainly worth noting, as the AP does here, that this attorney has close professional connections to the Democratic party. So it’s fair to ask how independent this investigation into one of the party’s leaders really is. That said, I think the attorney has a point.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the video has been a key part of this allegation from the beginning. This began when Monahan’s 25-year-old son wrote a long post about what had happened to his mother on Facebook. He claimed he had stumbled upon a video, which showed the incident, on her computer last year. He confronted his mother and she initially denied it until he said he’d seen the video. At that point, she changed her story and admitted it had occurred (again, this is all according to her adult son).

Monahan herself brought up the video in her first TV interview about the allegation, saying she began recording after Ellison shouted at her about taking out the trash and then demanded she get out of his house. She also claimed she still had it and that it was nearly two minutes long. Ellison has also focused on the video in his denials, saying that no such video exists because the incident itself never happened.

Monahan doesn’t need to upload the video to YouTube, all she needs to do is show it to a 3rd party who can corroborate its contents. Here’s what I said when I wrote about this back in August:

At this point, the video clip is probably hurting Monahan’s case more than it’s helping. If she had come forward with this story without any mention of a video, I think a lot of people would have believed her. But the fact that she’s choosing not to release the one item which would prove her story to be true seems odd. Why would she hesitate to do that?

It’s possible that when Ellison was yelling some choice words at her she was doing the same back at him. Maybe she’s not ready to have that side of herself broadcast on national television. But she could easily show the clip to someone at CBS on the promise that they not show it or release it. At least that way an independent 3rd party could confirm that a) the tape exists and b) it shows more or less what she claims it does. That would probably be enough to sink Ellison.

At this point, some kind of statement from her own attorney accompanied by a single screenshot showing Ellison’s face would settle it. The fact that Monahan won’t do something like that makes me wonder why not. I still think it’s possible her reluctance has to do with something else that’s mentioned on the tape. It could be almost anything she doesn’t want in the public record. But she’s painted herself into a corner (with the help of her son). If she wants Ellison to pay a price, she needs to take the next step.

All of that said, the big picture here isn’t what I think about this, it’s what Democrats, at least the ones in Minnesota, think is necessary to deem an allegation like this credible. This (allegedly) happened just two years ago and Monahan named Ellison as an emotionally and physically abusive partner when talking to her doctor last year:

Monahan also released text messages and described a meeting with Ellison, after their breakup, at which they discussed his behavior in the context of the #MeToo movement. This seems better corroborated than Christine Blasey Ford allegation, even without the video. If a video is necessary to prove Monahan is telling the truth, what should that say about the 36-year-old allegations against Brett Kavanaugh?