Rep. Ilhan Omar Clashes With Iran-Contra Convict Elliott Abrams Over U.S. Role in Central America
In a heated exchange, she questioned Abrams’ credibility given his role in the Iran-Contra affair and support for U.S.-backed coups in the '80s.
“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,” Omar began during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Venezuela.
“I fail to understand why members of this committee, or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.”
“If I could respond to that,” Abrams said, quickly leaning into the microphone.
“That wasn't a question,” Omar shot back.
“It was an attack,” Abrams said his voice rising as Omar repeated that her statement was not a question. “I reserve the right to my time,” the congresswoman continued.
“It is not right,” Abrams objected. “Members of this committee can't attack a witness who is not permitted to reply.”
Omar responded, “That was not a question. Thank you for your participation.”
The progressive freshman lawmaker went on to reference Abrams’ 1982 testimony in which point he dismissed reports of the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador—which was carried out by U.S.-trained Salvadoran unit—as being “not credible.”
“You later said that the U.S. policy in El Salvador was a fabulous achievement,” Omar said. “Yes or no, do you still think so?”
“From the day that President Duarte was elected in a free election, to this day,” Abrams said, dramatically slamming a finger on the table in front of him. “El Salvador has been a democracy. That’s a fabulous achievement.”
“Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement?” Omar pressed on. “That happened under our watch.”
“That is a ridiculous question, and I will not respond to it,” Abrams said.
“Yes or no?” Omar pushed again.
“No,” Abrams replied as Omar said, "I will take that as a yes."
“I’m sorry, Mr. Chairman, I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack, which is not a question.”
Omar, however, was undeterred.
“Would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide if you believed they were serving U.S. interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua?” she asked Abrams.
“I am not going to respond to that question,” Abrams 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.”
He would later say, “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.”
Abrams was announced as the special envoy in late January after President Trump announced he would no longer recognize the legitimacy of President Nicolás Maduro and considered opposition leader Juan Guaidó to be the country’s “interim president.”
Omar’s questioning comes after she apologized for a series of tweets both Republican and Democratic lawmakers viewed as trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes.