Elliot Abrams, special envoy to Venezuela, became visibly enraged during his House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday in a contentious exchange with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) who challenged him for previously abetting murderous Central American regimes.
The fiery exchange came as Rep. Omar attempted to gain assurances that Abrams would prioritize upholding human rights in Venezuela amid the country’s ongoing political and economic crisis.
President Donald Trump appointed Abrams as his official representative in Venezuela last month, after his administration chose to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president over Nicolás Maduro.
Abrams, however, is a political operator who worked in successive conservative administration’s throughout the past 30 years and boasts involvement in some of the darkest episodes in U.S. foreign policy history that occurred during that time.
Rep. Omar was unwilling to allow Abrams to breeze through his hearing, challenging the visibly uncomfortable Trump official on his past, specifically his cover-up of brutal massacres and his record of lying to Congress.
“I don’t understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful,” Rep. Omar told Abrams in her opening statement, referencing his past admission to perjury in 1991 about his role in the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s.
“It was an attack,” Abrams tried to interject.
The official can be seen squirming in his seat, but Rep. Omar doesn’t pause as she begins to dig in on the Reagan administration’s involvement in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s, when Abrams was serving as assistant Secretary of State.
,@IlhanMN "In 1991 you pleaded guilty … regarding your involvement in Iran-Contra … I fail to understand why [we] should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful"
Elliott Abrams "That was attack. It is not right .. to attack witness who is not permitted to reply" pic.twitter.com/yQq3xYHGxm
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) February 13, 2019
Abrams pushed back with a sharp response, refusing to answer the questions. But Rep. Omar persisted and raised his previous dismissal of the El Mozote massacre in 1981 in which hundreds of civilians were murdered by U.S.-trained Salvadorian troops.
“I am not going to respond to that question,” Abrams eventually said. “I’m sorry. I don’t think this entire line of questioning is meant to be real questions, and so I will not reply.”
Given the current turmoil in Venezuela and Abrams role, it was at this stage Rep. Omar demanded an answer as to his commitment to upholding human rights.
“The answer is that the entire thrust of American policy in Venezuela is to support the Venezuelan people’s effort to restore democracy to their country. That’s our policy,” he said.
One of America’s bravest neocons tried to defend Abrams on Twitter.
Disgraceful ad hominem attacks by @IlhanMN on my @CFR_org colleague Elliott Abrams. She doesn't seem to realize he is a leading advocate of human rights and democracy–not a promoter of genocide! More evidence of the loony left I caution Democrats about: https://t.co/dyVdVOS7PY https://t.co/yjeLJksYCj
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) February 13, 2019
It didn’t go over well.
The ratio on this tweet exceeds Elliot's kill ratio in El Salvador https://t.co/V5K3DxrE9h
— Gore Vidal Sassoon (@JimmyJazz1968) February 13, 2019
It should be emphasized that the atrocities in Guatemala have been legally recognized as a genocide. This is tantamount to Holocaust denial. https://t.co/Mq2xo3GqK1
— The Discourse Lover (@Trillburne) February 13, 2019
[whispers] now, if you look over here, we can see a baby ratio about to take its first tentative steps in the wild https://t.co/SWCSzmfEyx
— Rafi Schwartz (@TheJewishDream) February 13, 2019
This is just an embarrassing tweet. https://t.co/oIjlyTYw37
— Isaac Chotiner (@IChotiner) February 13, 2019
Watch the full exchange here: