Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), at a congressional hearing Wednesday.

 

(Image: Photo by Mark Wilson / Getty Images.)

TYT Investigates

Group Behind Ilhan Omar 9/11 Poster Tied to Trump Nominee

ACT for America, the organization reportedly behind the poster depicting Rep. Ilhan Omar in front of the burning Twin Towers on 9/11, is linked to a high-ranking Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official who also served on Pres. Trump’s transition team and is currently Trump’s nominee for another position, TYT has learned.

The poster was displayed in West Virginia’s capitol building next to a placard promoting ACT For America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a hate group. While ACT denied authorizing the display, which was part of a day of Republican Party events, a woman with an ACT shirt appeared on amateur video saying she put it up. The poster shows the burning World Trade Center with text reading “‘NEVER FORGET’ - YOU SAID..” and then a picture of Omar and the words, “I AM THE PROOF - YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN.”

Placard showing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), as photographed and posted on Twitter by West Virginia Delegate Mike Pushkin.

ACT Director of Government Relations Lisa Piraneo, a registered lobbyist for ACT who has lobbied for numerous legislative proposals relevant to homeland security, is married to John Barsa, formerly special assistant to then-DHS Secretary John Kelly. Barsa, who is now assistant secretary in DHS’ Office of Partnership and Engagement, is also President Trump’s nominee for a top post in USAID’s Latin America & Caribbean Bureau. Barsa’s potential conflict of interest has not been previously reported.

Financial disclosure records reviewed by TYT show that, under a section of his disclosure filing for “Spouse’s Employment Assets,” Barsa lists “Act for America” as well as “Camvia Inc.” He does not list the amounts in question.

In a separate ethics disclosure letter, Barsa states, “My spouse is President and employee of Camvia, Inc., a government/legislative affairs consultant firm.” According to Virginia state records, Camvia lists its registered agent as “Lisa Piraneo Barsa.”

ACT’s 2017 tax filing says that it hired Camvia Inc. as an independent contractor for “government relations,” and paid Camvia $130,000.

Piraneo has repeatedly lobbied the federal government on legislation that would restrict refugee resettlement and legal migration in the U.S., according to lobbying filings. She also lobbied for President Trump’s proposed southern border wall and for Congress to fund it.

Piraneo also lobbied for legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Conspiracy theories about the Muslim Brotherhood penetrating high levels of the U.S. government are common among far-right groups.

While ACT bills itself as “the NRA of national security,” it has been deemed an “anti-Muslim hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism,” ACT’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, said in a 2007 speech. “It’s the difference between good and evil. This is what we’re witnessing in the Arabic world: They have no soul.”

Barsa appears to share at least some of ACT’s political views, having tweeted “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?” linking to a video by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a leading anti-Islam figure who answers the question bluntly: “Islam is not a religion of peace.”

Barsa’s LinkedIn page states that he served on the Trump For America Presidential Transition Team from August, 2016 to January 2017, after having served as Co-Chairman on the Fairfax County Trump 2016 Presidential campaign from February to November of 2016.

The 9/11 poster displayed in West Virginia’s capitol building was met with sharp rebuke, resulting in the resignation of a House of Delegates official after an accusation that she had said all Muslims are terrorists.

The condemnations weren’t universal, though, with Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw saying, “We are supposed to have disagreement here. We are supposed to engage in high-minded debate. We are suppose to air out things that are sometimes uncomfortable--that’s OK.”

“That’s what makes our country great.”

Ken Klippenstein is a senior investigative reporter for TYT. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or via email: [email protected].

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