Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) on Wednesday night compared President Donald Trump to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro during a discussion about whether the U.S. government should intervene in Venezuela's constitutional crisis.
"None of us are happy" with Trump, but that doesn't mean it would be okay for a foreign country to intervene in U.S. elections, Omar argued during a Busboys and Poets town hall in Washington, D.C.
The congresswoman appeared alongside fellow Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), and Mark Pocan (Wis.) to discuss their progressive viewpoints on several policy issues, including foreign policy.
She argued the United States should not back opposition leader Juan Guaido over Maduro, despite a constitutional argument for Guaido legally stepping in as temporary president.
"If we are for the advancement of Democracy, what does this country's Constitution actually call for? You can't be in the business of recognizing a country's new leader when you would not allow that for yourself," Omar said.
She went on to compare the situation in Venezuela to the 2016 U.S. election. She suggested a foreign nation could have stepped in and said Hillary Clinton was the legitimate leader because she received more popular votes.
"None of us are happy with the kind of president we have," Omar said. "Now if a foreign country just said, 'Well, we think because Hillary got lots of votes, we're just going to acknowledge Hillary as the leader of the United States.' We would have a problem with that."
Omar went on to acknowledge the U.S. Constitution dictates that the Electoral College elects the president. "Our Constitution says that it is not the number of votes you get, but—" Omar started.
"Electoral votes," the audience said in unison, prompting Omar to respond, "Fortunately or unfortunately, that is what our Constitution says. We govern within the Constitution, so we should be in the business of allowing people to govern within their Constitution."
Omar did not acknowledge Guaido's argument that Venezuela’s constitution allows him to legally step in as president because Maduro’s second term is illegitimate.
Omar went on to recognize there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, but suggested it didn't give the United States the right to support one leader over another.
The United States also has to "reckon with the fact that there are humanitarian crises going on in Yemen," she said.
"I'm in the business of saying no human life is worth less than the other, and as much as we care about our sovereignty about the protection of our Constitution, we should afford other people the same dignity and respect to do that," Omar said.
Omar's view reflects Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) refusal to support Guido. Sanders said last week during an interview with Univision's Jorge Ramos that the Venezuelan people should be able to decide the leadership in their country. Sanders refused to call on Maduro to step down and would not explicitly say whether he considered Maduro a dictator.
Rep. Donna Shalala (D., Fla.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), and other Democrats have come out against Sanders for not taking a stronger stance against Maduro.
Sanders "has demonstrated again that he does not understand this situation," Shalala told Politico, adding, "I absolutely disagree with his imprecision in not saying Maduro must go."
"I disagree with Senator Sanders in regards to the legitimacy of President Maduro," Cardin said. "I don't believe he is a legitimate leader. I do agree with Senator Sanders that we need free and fair elections in Venezuela in order to determine its future leader. That has to be done."
Published under: Ben Cardin , Bernie Sanders , Donna Shalala , Ilhan Omar , Nicolas Maduro , Venezuela