Rohrabacher is roasted on Rus­sia

GOP con­gress­man en­dures an un­friendly crowd at a Pasadena po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tion.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - CHRISTINA BELLANTONI christina.bellantoni@la­times.com Twit­ter: @cbel­lan­toni

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on Sun­day braved a crowd of po­lit­i­cally en­gaged South­ern Cal­i­for­ni­ans for a panel called “From Rus­sia with Trump.”

It started with boos for the con­gress­man and went down­hill from there.

“Let’s avoid out­right hos­til­ity,” mod­er­a­tor Vince Houghton told the au­di­ence in the Civic Au­di­to­rium at the Pasadena Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, where the Politi­con con­ven­tion was held this week­end.

Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) said he ap­pre­ci­ated be­ing able to speak with peo­ple “who ob­vi­ously don’t like me” on the topic, one from which he has not backed down even as he’s been in the head­lines for his pro-Rus­sia po­si­tions.

The crowd wasn’t hav­ing it. They heck­led him. “Shame on you!” they shouted. They called for “town hall meet­ings” in his district, 50 miles from the con­ven­tion. They called him “para­noid.” They hissed and they laughed.

Or­ga­niz­ers for Politi­con, in its third year, said more than 10,000 at­tended. Not ev­ery­one there was lib­eral, but this was an event that fea­tured a pop­u­lar panel on im­peach­ment and where fans stood in long lines to take photos with MSNBC hosts.

The mod­er­a­tor didn’t ask Rohrabacher about his own ties with Rus­sia or about his in­for­mal nick­name: Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s “fa­vorite con­gress­man.”

“There are some bad guys in Rus­sia and Putin is one of them,” he said, ad­ding there also are “bad guys” in the United States. Then he com­pared Putin to “Mayor Da­ley and his gang,” pre­sum­ably a ref­er­ence to the late Chicago politi­cian known for hard­ball tactics.

When he was shouted down, the con­gress­man warned, “It’s usu­ally fas­cists who don’t let some­body talk.”

Rohrabacher went af­ter fa­mil­iar tar­gets, in­clud­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Obama, Hil­lary Clin­ton and the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion. A man in the crowd shouted, “Fox News talk­ing point!”

When it came to special coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into Rus­sia’s med­dling in the U.S. elec­tions, Rohrabacher ques­tioned the in­tel­li­gence un­earthed in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and brought the con­ver­sa­tion back to Clin­ton’s con­tro­ver­sial cam­paign emails. “They were not mak­ing up emails,” he said. “All they were do­ing was re­leas­ing in­for­ma­tion that was ac­cu­rate.”

The con­gress­man said he’s learned not to trust U.S. in­tel­li­gence un­til he can ver­ify it, and cited the re­ports of weapons of mass de­struc­tion dur­ing the Iraq con­flict to back up his point.

“You’ve got to be skep­ti­cal and you’ve got to ask for proof be­fore you just ac­cept some­thing,” he said.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) didn’t shy away from go­ing af­ter his col­league and fel­low pan­elist.

“You can be­lieve Trump’s CIA di­rec­tor, Trump’s NSA di­rec­tor, Trump’s di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence. Or you can be­lieve Dana Rohrabacher,” Lieu said. The crowd ap­plauded.

Rohrabacher scored a point on the rest of the panel when he asked whether they had been to Rus­sia. When they con­ceded they had not, he boasted of his work for for­mer Pres­i­dent Rea­gan and his role as chair­man of the “emerg­ing threats” sub­com­mit­tee in the House.

“We have peo­ple here who are ad­vo­cat­ing pol­icy and they have not been to Rus­sia,” the con­gress­man said.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the po­lit­i­cal lean­ings of the au­di­ence and his fel­low pan­elists, Houghton took a mo­ment at the end of the panel to thank Rohrabacher for show­ing up in front of such an un­friendly crowd.

“He is on an is­land up here right now ... he has done an ex­cep­tional job,” the mod­er­a­tor said.

Christina Bellantoni Los An­ge­les Times

R E P. Dana Rohrabacher, right, was among speak­ers on the “From Rus­sia with Trump” panel at Politi­con.

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