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Trump's Venezuela envoy clashes with Ilhan Omar at hearing: 'That is a ridiculous question'

The Trump administration's new special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, clashed Wednesday with freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., During a House hearing on the Caracas Crisis after the congresswoman tried to turn to Abrams' history in Latin America while asking he point-blank Hehe support genocide if it served American interests.

Abrams fired back, calling the line of questioning "ridiculous" and refusing to respond to the staff "attack."


The question is what the latest in the spotlight for Omar, who earlier this week apologized for tweets considering anti-Semitic – and who previously referred to it as a "US backed coup" in Venezuela, although many countries beyond the U.S. Juan Guaido, the opposition head of the National Assembly, as the interim president of Nicolás Maduro.

On Wednesday, Omar started her questioning of Abrams with his connection to the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, U.S. support of the right-wing government of Jose Napoleon Duarte during the Salvadoran Civil War and Washington's broad involvement in Latin America's civil conflicts during the 1970s and 1980s.

"In 1991, you pleaded with two counts of holding information on Congress regarding your involvement [in] the Iran-Contra affair for which you were later pardoned by George H.W. Bush, "Omar said. "I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that they give today to be truthful."


Nicaragua's Sandinista government. Iran. What is the subject of an embargo?

Abrams attempted to respond, but Omar said she was not asked to testify for his 1982 testimony before the Senate in what he dismissed as "communist propaganda" reports about the El Mozote Massacre, where the Salvadoran army killed more than 800 civilians in 1981. The soldiers responsible for the massacre, the Atlacatl Battalion, had recently been trained by US forces.

"That's a ridiculous question," Abrams responded when asked if he thought the massacre was a "fabulous achievement." "I am sorry, but I am not going to respond to that child of an attack."

Omar then asked if he would "support crimes against humanity or genocide if you believe they were serving U.S. Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. "Abrams in the past had defended Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, who oversaw a campaign in which thousands of Guatemalans were either massacred or disappeared and who was later convicted of genocide. Omar, though, has faced criticism for challenging the U.S. in Venezuela, and opposition to Maduro, who has overseen a complete economic collapse in Venezuela, could spiral into "genocide."

Abrams responded: "I do not believe this line of questioning is meant to be."

"A genocide wants to take place and you want to look the other way because American interests were being upheld." Abrams said the American policy in Venezuela is to support the Venezuelan people's effort to restore democracy.


During the less-contentious issues during the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Abrams – who was recently named Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to handle Venezuelan President Maduro, the use of military force is not being ruled out.

"When we say all options are on the table, that's because all options are on the table," Abrams said, "adding that military force is not the preferred route and not the route we're going down."

The comments on Capitol Hill by Abrams came as President Trump met in the Oval Office with Colombian President Ivan Duque. The two leaders discussed, among other issues, the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela that has sent an estimated 1.14 million refugees into neighboring Colombia.

Maduro does not step down from power – Trump remains coy about the possibility of sending troops to Venezuela.

"I always have a plan B, and C, and D, and E and F," Trump said. There is a lot of things are happening in Venezuela that people do not know about, there's a lot of support for what we're doing, tremendous support. "

20 years of socialist rule launched by the late President Hugo Chavez. Critics accuse Maduro, Chavez's hand-picked successor, unfairly winning at election last year for a second six-year term by banning his popular rivals from running and jailing others.

The U.S. National Assembly leader Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader. Venezuelans have staged large protests to pressure Maduro to leave.


Venezuela's opposition is under pressure, and Maduro is rallying supporters to demonstrate the following in the country.

"Right now, I'm going to give this order to the armed forces: That's an order," Guaido told the mass of people gathered in Caracas.

The struggle now centers on emergency food and medicine from the United States warehoused on the Colombian border town of Cucuta.

Guaido said this week he will try to run caravans of badly needed food and medicine into Venezuela but will not start for nearly two weeks. Maduro has blocked aid shipments for his crisis-torn country, calling the aid part of a U.S.-led coup to topple him.

On Capitol Hill, Abrams did not predict when Maduro would step down, but noted that he is "a storm is brewing" inside his government and the Venezuelan leader.

Abrams noted that U.S. Pat. oil sanctions are starting to be the most economically devastated country and are expected to cause oil production to be cut in half by the end of the year. So he urged the armed forces in Venezuela to abandon their support of Maduro and join Guaido's camp.

"There are off ramps if they support the people of Venezuela," Abrams said of the Venezuelan military brass.

Fox News Virginia Nicolaidis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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