Rep. Ilhan Omar, Trump envoy Elliott Abrams clash at Venezuela hearing

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar clashed on Wednesday with Elliott Abrams, President Donald Trump's new special envoy to Venezuela, at a heated House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing about the crisis in the South American country.

The freshman congresswoman from Minnesota and Abrams had the testy exchange after she questioned his truthfulness, his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal under President Ronald Reagan and his position on the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador in 1981.

"Mr. Adams (sic)," Omar said, calling Abrams by an incorrect name, "in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful."

When Abrams tried to respond, Omar interrupted him, saying "it wasn't a question," to which the diplomat countered, "It was an attack. It is not right members of this committee can attack a witness who is not permitted to reply."

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Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar
Democratic congressional candidate the Midterm elections, Ilhan Omar, speaks to a group of volunteers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 13, 2018. - Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota in August, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ilhan Omar, Democratic congressional candidate, poses for a selfie with a supporter and her son while campaigning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 13, 2018. - Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota in August, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ilhan Omar headshot, as Minnesota State Representative, graphic element on gray
FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2017, file photo, new State Rep. Ilhan Omar is interviewed in her office two days after the 2017 Legislature convened in St. Paul, Minn. Omar, already the first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature, is jumping into a crowded race for a Minnesota congressional seat. Omar filed Tuesday, June 5, 2018, for the Minneapolis-area seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, State Rep. Ilhan Omar takes the oath of office as the 2017 legislature convened in St. Paul, Minn. Omar, a Muslim, is the nation's first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature. Religion's role in politics and social policies is in the spotlight heading toward the midterm elections, yet relatively few Americans consider it crucial that a candidate be devoutly religious or share their religious beliefs, according to an AP-NORC national poll conducted Aug. 16-20, 2018. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, left, laughs while speaking with an attendee during the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party endorsement convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., on Sunday, June 17, 2018. The DFL will endorse a primary candidate for the seat of Representative Keith Ellison, a democrat from Minnesota, as he runs for state attorney general. Photographer: Emilie Richardson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar speaks during the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party endorsement convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., on Sunday, June 17, 2018. The DFL will endorse a primary candidate for the seat of Representative Keith Ellison, a democrat from Minnesota, as he runs for state attorney general. Photographer: Emilie Richardson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Ilhan Omar attends the premiere of 'Time For Ilhan' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
In this Aug. 16, 2018 photo, Democrat Ilhan Omar, the nation's first Somali-American legislator who won her party's congressional primary in the race, talks during an interview at Peace Coffee in Minneapolis. Just two years ago, the Minnesota Democrat became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislature. Now she's likely to become one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Amal Sabrie, Isra Hirsi, Ilhan Omar, Ilwad Hirsi, Ahmed Hirsi, Adnan Hirsi attend the premiere of 'Time For Ilhan' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Ilhan Omar, candidate for State Representative for District 60B in Minnesota, arrives for her victory party on election night, November 8, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Omar, a refugee from Somalia, is the first Somali-American Muslim woman to hold public office. / AFP / STEPHEN MATUREN (Photo credit should read STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 07: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a rally on the East Front of the Capitol with groups including United We Dream, calling on Congress to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Thursday, February 7, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 13: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled 'Venezuela at a Crossroads,' on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. Elliott Abrams, U.S. special representative for Venezuela, testified. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
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But Omar kept going, bringing up the 1982 hearing in which Abrams, then Reagan's assistant secretary of state for human rights, testified about the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador during that country's civil war. Tensions grew.

"In that hearing, you dismissed as communist propaganda (a) report about the massacre of El Mozote of which more than 800 civilians, including children as young as 2 years old, were brutally murdered by U.S.-trained troops," she said.

"You later said that the U.S. policy in El Salvador was a 'fabulous achievement.'" Omar added. "Yes or no, do you still think so?"

Abrams responded by crediting the Reagan administration for the country's movement toward democracy, calling it a "fabulous achievement."

"Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?" Omar asked.

"That is a ridiculous question," Abrams replied. "And — "

"Yes or no?" Omar pressed. "I will take that as a yes."

"No — I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman, I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack, which is not a question," Abrams said.

"Yes or no, would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide if you believe they were serving U.S. interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua?" Omar asked.

"I'm not going to respond to that question," Abrams again answered. "I'm sorry, I don't think this entire line of questioning is meant to be real questions, so I will not reply."

Omar then asked, "Does the interests of the United States include protecting human rights and include protecting people against genocide?"

"That is always the position of the United States," Abrams said.

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