There is no love lost between White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). That much is obvious from Kelly’s private email exchanges with his top aide, recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Buzzfeed News.
Kelly wrote an email describing Senator Warren in a horribly derogatory manner after a conversation between the two that followed the Senator’s week-long attempt to contact Kelly, then still head of Homeland Security, when she was trying to solve the issues surrounding several of her constituents with valid visas who were detained at the airport during the first implementation of Trump’s travel ban.
When Kelly finally did return the Senator’s call after a week’s delay, Warren was understandably furious with the level of disrespect that Kelly’s unresponsiveness indicated. Kelly’s refusal to acknowledge that she had been urgently trying to reach him, as well as the Senator’s anger over the illegal detention of her constituents, helped turn the conversation heated as Warren pointed to the numerous email exchanges that her staff had initiated.
Once the call was over, Kelly sent an email to Kevin Carroll, his then–senior counselor at the Department of Homeland Security, describing the interaction in the most insulting terms possible.
“Absolutely most insulting conversation I have ever had with anyone,” Kelly wrote in an email from Feb. 8, 2017. “What an impolite arrogant woman. She immediately began insulting our people accusing them of not following the court order, insulting and abusive behavior towards those covered by the pause, blah blah blah.”
Kelly was referring to the temporary restraining order that federal courts issued to block the initial version of Trump’s travel ban as unlawfully biased against Muslims. Perhaps even worse than Kelly’s derogatory email was Carroll’s reply:
“Too bad Senate Majority Leader McConnell couldn’t order her to be quiet again! Warren is running for president so early, trying too hard, and chasing bad pitches,” Carroll answered.
Carroll’s reference here is to the famous incident when Senator Warren attempted to read aloud on the Senate floor a letter written by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., harshly criticizing then-Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions during the debate over his confirmation.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell silenced Warren and prevented her from reading the letter by reaching back to an old Senate rule that states “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
McConnell’s admonition to Senator Warren in that incident wound up becoming Warren’s rallying cry and a potent campaign slogan for the Senator going forward. After warning Senator Warren that he would not allow her to read Mrs. King’s scathing letter about Sessions, who was still a Senator representing Alabama at that point, McConnell said:
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Ironically, President Trump is probably now wishing that Warren had been able to read that letter and scuttle Sessions’ confirmation as Attorney General, given his subsequent displeasure with Session’s recusal of himself from the Russian collusion investigation.
The indignation of General Kelly and other Republican officials who try to implement Trump’s frequently court-rejected immigration policies is perplexing until you realize that these are a group of privileged men who are simply not used to being challenged, particularly by a strong — and persistent — woman. Their aggressive attempts to steamroll their will upon the American people reek of the most authoritarian tendencies.
They must be voted out.
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