'Obstruct!' Democratic senator gets earful on Trump nominees

AP News
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Posted: Jan 30, 2017 3:54 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Protesters shouted down Rhode Island Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during a community event as they protested his vote in favor of President Donald Trump's nominee for CIA director and pushed him to vote against other nominees.

A video of Sunday's event posted by the group Resist Hate RI shows hundreds of people at the event, and the crowd chanting "Just Say No!" and "Obstruct!" while demanding an explanation of his vote for Mike Pompeo as CIA director. Rhode Island voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton by a wide margin in the presidential election.

The event at a Providence school was billed as a "community dinner" and planned before Trump was inaugurated Jan. 20, spokeswoman Meaghan McCabe said Monday. Whitehouse has hosted dozens of such events, starting from when he first ran for Senate in 2006, but they are typically sleepy affairs.

Protesters began working on social media last week to ensure a big turnout. The event also ended up happening a few hours after a hastily assembled rally protesting Trump's immigration moves, at which Whitehouse was a speaker.

Hundreds who attended the rally then walked 1.5 miles to the school, but the crowd was so large it could not fit inside the auditorium. Many chanted "Take it outside!" as the event began, according to media reports, video from the event and social media posts from people who attended.

After answering questions inside, Whitehouse went outside and used a bullhorn to address hundreds more people from the steps of the school.

McCabe on Monday confirmed a report by the Brown Daily Herald that Whitehouse at one point conceded he may have been wrong on the Pompeo vote. She released a statement from Whitehouse that said while Pompeo would not have been his choice, he knows the intelligence community well and "can be a check on dangerous impulses from the Trump White House."

The video shows people in the crowd angrily shouting and jeering as Whitehouse speaks, and Whitehouse telling them he understands many people disagree with his vote.

"Take responsibility! Be accountable! You work for us!" one man can be heard shouting on the video.

Others can be heard shouting "Why would you vote yes for any of them?" and "They're all appointed by a fascist!"

Whitehouse committed to voting no on a number of nominees, but said he had not decided on his votes for others.

He said in a Monday phone interview that he felt the conversation was productive and most people there were frustrated.

"It's a frustration that I myself feel very, very keenly," he said. "At least as a senator, I have the ability to do something about it."