Lawmakers' racial dispute mars Cohen hearing

An already tense hearing involving former Trump fixer Michael Cohen got heated when a Democratic congresswoman and a Republican congressman traded accusations of racism.

The flareup started when Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was questioning Cohen and took a swipe at Rep. Mark Meadows for bringing Lynne Patton, a black woman who's friends with the Trump family and works for the federal government, to the hearing as a "prop." Meadows had presented Patton to the hearing to push back against Cohen's claims that the president is a racist.

"Just because someone has a person of color, a black person, working for them does not mean they aren't racist, and it is insensitive that some would even say — the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself," the freshman Democrat said.

An angry Meadows demanded Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, strike her comments from the record. "I'm sure she didn't intend to do this, but if anyone knows my record as it relates, it should be you, Mr. Chairman," he said to Cummings.

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Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
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Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) speaks during a hearing as Michael Cohen, former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, testifies before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill February 27, 2019 in Washington, DC. Last year Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful excessive campaign contributions and lying to Congress as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Mark Meadows, congressional candidate from North Carolina speaks at the second session of the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Tuesday, August 28, 2012. (Harry E. Walker/MCT via Getty Images)
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C, center, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., right, and other conservative Republicans discuss their goal of obstructing the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, as part of a strategy to pass legislation to fund the government, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Representative Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, listens as comments made by Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, not pictured, are reviewed a House Oversight Comittee hearing with Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Cohen brought documents to Wednesday's congressional hearing to back up his case that his former boss is a 'con man' and 'a cheat.' Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., left, and House Government Operations subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. talk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 12, 2016, prior to the subcommittee's hearing on whether the District of Columbia government truly has the power to spend local tax dollars without approval by Congress. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Representative Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina, questions witnesses during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. Republican lawmakers criticized potential security flaws in the U.S. health exchanges as Obama administration officials said they have made protecting customer privacy a top priority in their efforts to fix the website. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2014 file photo, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. speaks in Washington. Sen. Ted Cruz’s rivals like to say he doesn't have any friends in Washington. Despite a distinct lack of support from Senate colleagues _ not one single endorsement, the Republican presidential candidate and freshman Texas senator has a small but loyal group of supporters in the House who are flying to rallies, meeting with voters and trying to convince the electorate that he's not such a bad guy. Meadows says he's traveled to Cruz events "to really tell the personal side of Ted Cruz that not many people know." (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Republican House Oversight Committee and Government Reform Committee members, from left, Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., listen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 7, 2016, as FBI Director James Comey, right, testifies before the committee's hearing to explain his agency's recommendation to not prosecute Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her private email setup during her time as secretary of state. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Oversight Committee member Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC., returns to the closed hearing after speaking to members of the media about questioning of Justice Department official, Bruce G. Ohr, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. Ohr will be interviewed as part of an investigation into decisions made by the department in 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., left, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., right, walk to a meeting of House Republicans as work in Congress resumes following the August recess, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Meadows is opposed to suggestions by GOP leaders to connect the urgent Harvey aid bill to increasing the U.S. debt limit. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, speaks during a television news interview just before passage of the Republican tax reform bill in the House of Representatives, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., objects to House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., efforts to subpoena Trump administration officials over family separations at the southern border, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. The committee voted to subpoena Trump administration officials over family separations at the southern border, the first issued in the new Congress as Democrats have promised to hold the administration aggressively to count. The decision by the Oversight Committee will compel the heads of Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to deliver documents. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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Asked to clarify her remarks, Tlaib said, "I'm just saying that's what I believe to have happened and as a person of color in this committee that's how I felt at that moment, and I wanted to express that. But I am not calling the gentleman, Mr. Meadows, a racist for doing so. I'm saying in itself it is a racist act."

The North Carolina Republican and close Trump ally denied he'd used Patton as a prop — and said that accusation was racist.

"To indicate that I asked someone who is a personal friend of the Trump family, who has worked for him, who knows this particular individual, that she's coming in to be a prop — it's racist to suggest that I ask her to come in here for that reason," he said. "She loves this family. She came in because she felt like the president of the United States was getting falsely accused."

He said he took the accusation especially personally because "my nieces and nephews are people of color. Not many people know that. You know that, Mr. Chairman."

Cummings responded that he could "see and feel" Meadows' pain, and referred to him as "one of my best friends" before giving Tlaib another opportunity to clarify her remarks.

She maintained it wasn't her intention to call Meadows a racist and said, "I do apologize if that's what it sounded like."

"As everybody knows in this chamber I'm pretty direct so if I wanted to say that I would have, but that's not what I said," she said.

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Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)
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Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)

In this Nov. 6, 2008 file photo, Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, is photographed outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Mich. The Michigan primary victory of Tlaib, who is expected to become the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to serve in the U.S. Congress, is rippling across the Middle East. In the West Bank village where Tlaib’s mother was born, residents are greeting the news with a mixture of pride and hope that she will take on a U.S. administration widely seen as hostile to the Palestinian cause.

(AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

In this Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 photo, Fadwa Tlaib, an aunt of Rashida Tlaib points to a young Rashida in a 1987 picture with her mother Fatima and brother Nader, at the family house, in the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Foqa. The Michigan primary victory of Tlaib, who is expected to become the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to serve in the U.S. Congress, is rippling across the Middle East. In the West Bank village where Tlaib’s mother was born, residents are greeting the news with a mixture of pride and hope that she will take on a U.S. administration widely seen as hostile to the Palestinian cause. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, to unveil the "Immediate Financial Relief for Federal Employees Act" bill which would give zero interest loans for up to $6,000 to employees impacted by the government shutdown and any future shutdowns. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
No number of opponent signs can wipe our smiles of hope.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., questions Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, as he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., right, laugh as they wait for other freshman Congressmen to deliver a letter calling to an end to the government shutdown to deliver to the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Just voted with my son Adam. #MakingHistoryTogether
So Yousif came with me to one of our senior luncheons and we met Mother Williams who turned 104 years old (MashAllah). Yousif turns to me and says, "I thought you died at 100." Everyone laughed. I love being with the people I will fight and serve in Congress.
Eid Mubarak from my family to yours. @adamtlaib @fayez492
A beautiful day...so excited. #2days volunteer at www.rashidaforcongress.com
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Patton, now an official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Development, made her unusual cameo appearance earlier in the hearing.

"I asked Lynne to come today," Meadows told Cohen as she stood behind the congressman.

"You made some very demeaning comments about the president Ms. Patton doesn't agree with. She says as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, there's no way she would work for an individual who's a racist. How do you reconcile that? "

Cohen responded, "Ask Ms. Patton how many people who are black are executives at the Trump Organization. The answer is zero."

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