FactCheck: Trump's false claims about Congresswoman Omar in continuing feud

Donald Trump has made several claims about Omar recently.

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US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has been making allegations about Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar over the past few days. 

A lot of claims have been made by Trump, including that she married her brother and praised Al-Qaeda. 

Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar responding to negative comments by President Trump. Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar responding to recent comments made by President Trump. SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

Omar is the US Representative for Minnesota’s fifth district and is one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress. 

Are any of the recent claims made by Trump true? 


CLAIM 1: Omar was married to her brother. 

  • Updated: 22 July to move the verdict from ‘unproven’ to ‘false’. Please see our updates and corrections page here.
There’s a lot of talk about the fact that she was married to her brother. I know nothing about it, I hear she was married to her brother. 

Allegations have been circulating since 2016 saying that Omar married her brother to help him get US citizenship. The name of the man accused of being her brother is Ahmed Nur Said Elmi.

Donald Trump responded to a question about this on 17 July. 

Omar described this allegation as “absurd and offensive” in a statement released in 2016. Fact-checking organisation Snopes checked this claim earlier this year and found it to be unproven. 

“A number of baseless rumors have been made recently about my personal life and family. I will say it again here: they are absolutely false and ridiculous,” said Omar in the statement. 

Omar applied for a marriage licence with a different man, Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi, in 2002. The pair did not get legally married but were married in accordance with their faith traditions. 

She had two children with Hirsi and their relationship ended in 2008. 

In 2009, she legally married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi who is a British citizen. This relationship ended in 2012 and Omar reunited with Hirsi in 2012. 

The divorce from Omar’s first legal marriage with Nur Said Elmi was finalised in 2017 and she married Hirsi last year. 

US Conservative blog PJ Media claimed in 2018 that it received a school enrollment document showing a student named Ahmed N Elmi enrolled in Arlington Senior High School, Minnesota in 2003.

The alleged birth date of the individual on this document was April 4 1985, the same date as listed for Ahmed Nur Said Elmi on Omar’s marriage and divorce documents.

However, there is no official proof Omar married her brother from other sources and she has denied the allegations.

Verdict: FALSE 

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is inaccurate.

This FactCheck claim originally carried the verdict ‘UNPROVEN’ – this has been changed to FALSE. It was changed in light of evidence available and the definition of ‘UNPROVEN’. For changes, see our Corrections page

CLAIM 2: Omar said: ‘When I think of Al-Qaeda, I can hold my chest out’.

I hear the way she talks about Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has killed many Americans. She said you can hold your chest out. When I think of America, huh. When I think of Al-Qaeda, I can hold my chest out.

Trump made this statement on 15 July. The video can be watched here

This statement is most closely linked to comments made by Omar in a 2013 interview before she took her seat in Congress. 

In this video, Omar was describing and demonstrating the body movements and pronunciation of a professor she had in college. She described how the Arabic language is portrayed in terms of terrorist ideology and also described the way her professor said Al-Qaeda. 

“The thing that was interesting in the class was every time the professor said Al-Qaeda, his shoulders went up and he sort of went ‘Al-Qaeda’,” said Omar in the interview.  

“You don’t say America with an intensity, you don’t say England with an intensity, you don’t say the army with an intensity. But you say these names because you want that word to carry weight.”

These statements do align with statements said by Omar, but she was not talking about herself. She was describing her professor. 

Verdict: FALSE

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is inaccurate.

CLAIM 3: Omar is originally from a country whose government is a ‘complete and total catastrophe’.  

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe…

This is one part of the series of tweets by Donald Trump talking about US Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, sometimes referred to as ‘the squad’.

All women are US citizens and all but Omar were born in the US. Omar was born in Mogadishu in Somalia in 1982. She fled the country with her family in the late 1980s to escape war and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. 

Her family arrived in New York in 1992 and received asylum status in 1995. Omar became a US citizen in 2000, aged 17. 

Somalia’s military dictatorship was weakened in the 1980s as the Cold War was ending.

The government became more totalitarian which saw resistance movements rise across the country. This led to the Somali Civil War, which is still ongoing. 

The government was overthrown in the 1991, shortly after Omar and her family had fled to find asylum. 

So although Omar is originally from a different country than the US, you can’t definitively describe it as a “complete and total catastrophe”. 

Verdict: Mostly FALSE

As per our verdict guide, this means: There is an element of truth in the claim, but it is missing critical details or context. Or, the best available evidence weighs against the claim.

 CLAIM 4: She looked down with contempt on Americans and said ‘ignorance is pervasive in many parts’ of the US. 

She looks down with contempt on the hardworking Americans, saying that ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country. 

Trump was referencing an interview Omar did with a podcast on The Nation, a US politics magazine in May this year. 

In the interview, Omar said she thinks a lot of people have a “misconception about refugees” and the process they go through getting to the US. 

“And so it is not that they might not be knowledgeable about this, but they use it as a tool to stir up hate and division. And ignorance really is pervasive in many parts of, of this country,” she said. 

“And as someone who was raised by educators, I really like to inform people about things that they might be ignorant to, willingly or unwillingly.”

Although it cannot be proven that this statement was said while “looking down with contempt” on Americans, it is true that Omar made these comments. 

Verdict: Mostly TRUE

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is close to accurate, but is missing significant details or context. Or, the best available evidence weighs in favour of the claim.

CLAIM 5: Omar minimised 9/11 and said ‘some people did something’. 

Omar minimised the September 11th attacks on our homeland, saying ‘some people did something’. 

Trump said this at a rally in North Carolina earlier this week, along with many other claims about Omar.  

FOX 10 Phoenix / YouTube

The allegation is based on part of a speech made by Omar in March of this year at a CAIR-LA banquet. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a non-profit Muslim civil rights group. 

“It doesn’t matter how good you are if you one day find yourself in a school where other religions are talked about, but when Islam is mentioned, we are only talking about terrorists, and if you say something you are sent to the principal’s office,” Omar said in the speech. 

“Far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.

“CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognised that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” 

CAIR was actually founded in 1994, but was expanded after 9/11. In April, Trump tweeted a clip of this statement and added footage from 9/11.  

Omar responded to the criticism by referencing a quote from former President George W. Bush saying: “The people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” 

It is debatable that her statement was minimising the 9/11 attacks, but the statement was made by Omar in reference to the attacks. 

Verdict: MIXTURE

As per our verdict guide, this means: There are elements of truth in the claim, but also elements of falsehood. Or, the best available evidence is evenly weighted in support of, and against, the claim.

CLAIM 6: Omar pleaded for compassion for people attempting to join ISIS.

She pleaded for compassion for ISIS recruits attempting to join the terrorist organisation. 

Trump said this at the North Carolina rally earlier this week. The video for this is linked above under claim 3. This statement is based on a letter written by Omar to appeal for a more lenient sentencing for a man facing life in prison. 

In 2016, nine Somali-American men were convicted of multiple charges for attempting to join and support ISIS, starting in 2014. 

One of the men, Abdurahman Yasin Daud, was found guilty and could have faced life imprisonment. Prosecutors asked the judge to give him a lesser sentence of 30 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. 

Omar was one of 13 people who wrote a letter in 2016 to a US judge about Daud, asking for a more lenient sentence. 

In her letter, Omar advocated for “restorative justice”, rehabilitation and leniency over a “long-term prison sentence” for Daud.

Daud was later sentenced to 30 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. 

However, nowhere in the letter does she mention ISIS. She said the men convicted made a “consequential mistake”.

She said that incarcerating 20-year-old men for 30 or 40 years is “essentially a life sentence” and said society will view them when released with “distrust and revulsion”. 

She said that longer sentences “create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment”.

“This ruling can set a precedent and has the potential to be a landmark case in addressing extremism,” she added in the letter. 

Omar’s letter did not reference the men by name, nor did it mention anything about compassion for other ISIS recruits outside of this case. 

Although she did ask for a more lenient sentence for this particular case involving ISIS recruits, it cannot be said that she has pleaded for compassion for others. 

Verdict: MIXTURE’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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