As Republican leaders continue to heap criticism on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for a tweet that was widely denounced as anti-Semitic—for which Omar has since apologized—the congresswoman’s fierce questioning of a newly appointed Trump administration envoy on Wednesday offered a possible reason Republicans are so eager to vilify her.
The moment came during a fiery exchange with Elliott Abrams, a hardline neoconservative who was recently dispatched by the administration to be a special envoy to the deepening crisis in Venezuela, as he appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. When Omar’s time for questioning arrived, the congresswoman wasted no time invoking Abrams’ 1991 guilty plea to two counts of withholding information before Congress about the Iran-Contra affair in the Reagan administration.
“I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful,” Omar said.
“If I could respond to that—” Abrams interrupted.
“It wasn’t a question,” Omar shot back. She continued her remarks, turning to Abrams’ later denial of US-supported massacres in Central America.
“Some of those troops bragged about raping 12-year-old girls before they killed them,” Omar said. “You later said that the US policy in El Salvador was a ‘fabulous achievement.’ Yes or no, do you still think so?”
Clearly offended, Abrams responded, “From the day that President Duarte was elected in a free election, to this day, El Salvador has been a democracy. That’s a ‘fabulous achievement.'”
“Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?” Omar pressed further, before Abrams slammed the line of questioning as a personal attack.
If Republicans had hoped that their pummeling of Omar would prevent fireworks-filled moments like this, it doesn’t appear to have worked.