Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Tuesday that his office launched an investigation into a private security company that has been accused of recruiting armed security guards for Election Day, saying that such an effort would intimidate voters.
Atlas Aegis is accused of posting since-deleted advertisements on Facebook for U.S. military Specials Operations personnel to guard polling sites in Minnesota on Election Day, according to a lawsuit filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota (CAIR) and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota.
Ellison said that voter intimidation is against the law.
“Minnesota and federal law are clear: no one may interfere with or intimidate a voter at a polling place, and no one may operate private armed forces in our state,” Ellison said in a news release on Tuesday. “The presence of private ‘security’ at polling places would violate these laws.”
He added: “It would make no one safer and is not needed or wanted by anyone who runs elections or enforces the law. For these reasons, my office is formally investigating Atlas Aegis.”
The Tennessee-based company is run by U.S. military veterans, according to its website.
According to the job listing, Atlas Aegis was working with an unidentified “locally licensed firm in Minnesota.” The company itself is not licensed to provide security in Minnesota, according to a database search of the Minnesota Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services, a state regulatory board.
Atlas Aegis did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday and Friday.
In an interview with The Washington Post earlier this month, Atlas Aegis Chairman Anthony Caudle declined to name the company’s client, but confirmed the advertisement’s authenticity.
Caudle denied that armed, former U.S. military personnel would intimidate voters, saying the armed veterans would not be visible outside polling stations.
“These people are going to be never even seen unless there’s an issue,” he said. “They’re there to make sure that the antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites.”
Last month, NBC News reported that FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee that Antifa was “more of an ideology than an organization” — countering statements made by President Donald Trump and his administration that Antifa was a terrorist organization.
“The kind of voter intimidation that this group has planned is exactly what the Voting Rights Act was written to protect against,” Michelle Witte, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, said in a statement Tuesday.
In the same statement, Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-Minnesota, said Atlas Aegis’ alleged actions were part of a long history of intimidating and suppressing voters of color.
“Today we affirm our stand against this clear plan of voter intimidation and suppression by armed forces targeting communities of color and new Americans,” Hussein said. “Our democracy depends on the right to vote and this right must be maintained and protected.”
In the meantime, Ellison has requested that Atlas Aegis "cease and desist any planning and stop making any statements about engaging in this activity."