One of the most heated exchanges at Wednesday's House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing did not even involve the star witness. Michael Cohen sat back and watched with the rest of the room as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) sparred with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) about his explanation for why President Trump is not a racist.
Cohen, the former Trump lawyer who faced the House panel to discuss his business dealings with Trump, spent much of his testimony trashing his former client's integrity, calling him a "racist" on multiple occasions. Meadows was among several Republicans to bristle at the comments.
"I've talked to Trump privately over 300 times, and he never said anything racist," Meadows responded.
Others wondered why, if Cohen was so dismayed by Trump's behavior, he continued to work for him for ten years.
Meadows later added that Trump has hired multiple African-Americans to fill his cabinet, including Housing and Urban Development official Lynne Patton, who he invited to sit behind him at the hearing.
When it was the Democrats' turn to question Cohen, Tlaib began her five minutes by accusing Meadows of using Patton as a "prop." It was, Tlaib said, a "racist" act.
Meadows was visibly upset by Tlaib's accusation and defended his honor. Democratic Chairman Elijah Cummings even chimed in to note he saw how pained his friend Meadows was and that he knows he's a man of integrity. Tlaib was forced to explain she wasn't saying Meadows himself was a racist, and for the moment the two seemed to make a truce.
But, Tlaib didn't appear all that regretful Thursday morning. In an interview on CNN's "New Day," Tlaib said she wasn't the only representative who was appalled by Meadow's "insensitive act" and said she knows audiences "gasped." Tlaib said she was simply speaking "truth to power."
“At that moment, it was important for me to speak truth to power,” says @RepRashida Tlaib, who appeared to accuse Rep. Meadows of "racist" act of using a black woman as a "prop" at the Cohen testimony. https://t.co/T8wv3v74pH pic.twitter.com/Ad6qyuNs6h— New Day (@NewDay) February 28, 2019
"At that moment it was important for me to speak truth to power," Tlaib said. "It was important for me to speak out against that action that I thought was very hurtful and very painful for many of us sitting in that committee room."
She did say she "apologizes" if he feels she was calling him a racist. She wasn't, she explained. Everyone knows that she's blunt enough that if she "wanted to"...she "would've done that."
This is a recycled explanation from the freshman. She used it, you may remember, after encouraging her colleagues to join her in trying to "impeach the mother f***er." She was, of course, talking about President Trump.
I will always speak truth to power. #unapologeticallyMe— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) January 4, 2019
CNN tried to play audio of Patton's bold response to Tlaib from a Fox News interview, but couldn't get the technology to work.