Rep. Dana Rohrabacher took a tour Friday, July 20, of a detention center in Irvine that holds unauthorized immigrants, then set out to talk about illegal immigration.
Here’s what he didn’t want to talk about: Russia.
The Orange County Republican refused to answer repeated questions from reporters regarding Russian meddling in the U.S. election and his 2015 meeting with a Russian woman, who was charged this week with acting as an agent of a foreign government.
Calling it “a bogus issue,” Rohrabacher became testy with reporters, telling the local radio, TV and newspaper media they should “be ashamed” for asking questions on the Russian investigation instead of illegal immigration.
“I am not going to be diverted today. I’ve had numerous, overwhelming number of interviews dealing with Russia. This again, the fact that you have to bring that up verifies what the president has been saying about fake news,” he snapped during a press conference he scheduled outside the James A. Musick Facility in Irvine.
Musick is currently holding 631 inmates and 269 immigrant detainees, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the minimum security detention center. The facility can accommodate up to 376 detainees who are potentially deportable and are going through immigration court proceedings.
Following his tour Friday morning, the congressman praised “the courage and hard work” of its employees and others working to secure the border and “stop an onslaught of illegal immigration into our country.”
Asked about the separation of more than 2,500 children from their parents, Rohrabacher accused the Obama administration of doing the same. (Child separation under the Obama administration was not a widespread practice, but became common under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy, according to immigration experts.)
Anyone who crosses illegally “should be sent back immediately, not go through a hearing process,” Rohrabacher said.
As for the asylum process, he said it is grossly abused: “hundreds of thousands of people have been told to just say asylum” for a free ticket into America.
Rohrabacher’s tour of the Musick jail and his press conference follows a week in which a GOP resolution supporting the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was approved in the House but blocked in the Senate.
“It’s a disgrace and an insult” that Democrats blocked the resolution, Rohrabacher said.
The 30-year incumbent, facing a tough re-election bid, has found himself mired in a number of controversies.
U.S. Justice Department officials accuse a Russian woman, Maria Butina, of working to establish back-channel relationships with Republican officials through the National Rifle Association. On Wednesday, she pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government.
Rohrabacher met with Butina in 2015, his office confirmed this week. He told the news site Politico that the indictment was “bogus” and “stupid” and said it was part of a larger plot to undermine the president’s relationship with Russia.
On Friday, he appeared irritated and refused to clarify what he meant by calling it bogus; he also would not say whether he has been interviewed by any agency investigating Russian intrusion into the last presidential election.
Earlier this week, Rohrabacher defended himself for appearing to endorse a fictional program to arm children with weapons; comedian Sacha Baron Cohen duped several American lawmakers into endorsing the use of guns among children through a program he called “Kinder Guardian.”
Rohrabacher said earlier this week that the video was unfairly edited and he never endorsed training toddlers to handle guns. He thought his video appearance, in which he said he spoke “broadly of making sure young people could get training in self defense,” was supposed to be celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary. He is seen on the show saying: “Having many young people trained and understand how to defend themselves in their school, might actually make us safer here.”
“This was fraud,” he said of the Showtime channel’s political satire, “Who is America.”
In November’s election, Rohrabacher faces his first serious challenge since first being elected. Democrats have targeted his 48th Congressional seat in hopes of retaking the U.S. House.
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Source: OC Register