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AOC Tries to Grill Wells Fargo CEO on Immigration, Fossil Fuel Issues...Ends Up Embarrassing Herself

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seemed to be hoping for a gotcha moment during questioning of Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan Tuesday during a House Financial Services Committee Hearing and instead ended up embarrassing herself. 

Sloan was brought before the panel by Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) as part of an inquiry into fraudulent misconduct by the bank’s employees in recent years. But rather than focus on issues such as the creation of fake accounts, AOC took an odd twist and accused Sloan of “financing the caging of children” and questioned his responsibility for “damages incurred by climate change.”

First, her focus on ICE:

At the beginning of her remarks, Ocasio-Cortez told Sloan, "I'm interested in the human rights abuses and environmental disasters that some say are financed by your bank, Wells Fargo."

Ocasio-Cortez pointed to private prisons and for-profit immigration detention centers, asking Sloan, "Why was the bank involved in the caging of children and financing the caging of children to begin with?"

"I don't know how to answer that question because we weren't," Sloan replied. He said Wells Fargo was involved in financing one of the private prison companies "for a period of time," but "we're not anymore."

As for the other firm, Sloan said, "I'm not familiar with the specific assertion that you're making. But we weren't directly involved in that."

Ocasio-Cortez told Sloan, "So these companies run private detention facilities, run by ICE, which is involved in caging children. But I'll move on." (CNS)

And move on, she did, to fossil fuels. 

"So let's focus on the Dakota Access Pipeline. Should Wells Fargo be held responsible for the damages incurred by climate change due to the financing of fossil fuels and these projects?"

I don't know how you'd calculate that, Congresswoman," Sloan said.

"Say, from spills," she told Sloan, "or when we have to reinvest in infrastructure, building sea walls from the erosion of -- from the erosion of infrastructure, or cleanups, wildfires, et cetera?"

"Related to that pipeline?" Sloan asked. "I'm not aware that there's been any of what you described that has occurred."

“How about the cleanups from the leaks of the Dakota Access Pipeline?

"I'm not aware of the leaks associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline that you're describing," Sloan said.

"So hypothetically, if there was a leak from the Dakota Access Pipeline, why shouldn't Wells Fargo pay for the cleanup of it since it paid for the construction of the pipeline?" Ocasio-Cortez asked.

"Because we don't operate the pipeline," Sloan replied. "We provide financing to the company that's operating the pipeline. Our responsibility is to ensure that at the time we make that loan that that customer -- and we have a group of people in Wells Fargo, including an environmental oversight group headed by one of my colleagues who used to be at the EPA--"

Ocasio-Cortez interrupted him: "So, one question, why did Wells Fargo finance this pipeline when it was widely seen to be environmentally unstable?"

"Again, the reason that we were one of the 17 or 19 banks that financed that is because our team reviewed the environmental impact and we concluded that was a risk that we were willing to take," Sloan told Ocasio-Cortez. (CNS)

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