White House chief of staff John Kelly once called Senator Elizabeth Warren an “impolite, arrogant woman” in an e-mail during his time as secretary of homeland security in 2017, according to BuzzFeed.
The news outlet obtained e-mails between Kelly and an aide in which Kelly described a discussion with Warren about the Trump administration’s controversial travel ban, which prevented travel to the United States from a number of predominately Muslim countries.
“Absolutely the most insulting conversation I have ever had with anyone. What an impolite arrogant woman,” the Brighton native wrote, according to the e-mail. “She immediately began insulting our people accusing them of not following the court order, insulting and abusive behavior towards those covered by the pause, blah, blah, blah.”
Warren was a prominent critic of the travel ban and joined protests at Logan Airport in its first days, when travelers who were citizens of the affected countries were detained by immigration authorities as they arrived in the United States or were barred from boarding US-bound planes.
In a lengthy series of tweets posted late Friday morning, Warren offered some background on her conversation with Kelly, claiming that she was unable to get him on the phone during the crisis, and when she did, Kelly denied that Warren had ever tried to reach him. Warren wrote that Kelly also resisted her requests for his direct line but eventually was given his cellphone number.
“Before we got off the phone, I gave John Kelly something back for his troubles: a message on behalf of the American people that it was time to follow the court order and allow people stranded abroad to board planes into Logan Airport,” Warren continued. “Was I tough on John Kelly in that phone call? You bet I was. Apparently he thought I was an ‘impolite arrogant woman.’ ‘Blah blah blah’ — that’s all he had to say when he was called out for breaking the law and destroying lives.”
Republican criticism of Warren’s tone has had a way of backfiring in the past.
In a reply to the e-mail calling Warren “impolite,” Kelly’s aide referenced Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s use of an arcane Senate rule to rebuke Warren in the middle of a 2017 Senate speech criticizing former senator Jeff Sessions, now Trump’s attorney general.
“Too bad Senate Majority Leader McConnell couldn’t order her to be quiet again!” Kevin Carroll wrote, suggesting her zeal was related to a quest for the presidency.
But ordering Warren to be quiet resulted in an unintentional campaign slogan for Warren. As McConnell explained his objection to Warren’s speech on the basis that she was impugning Sessions, another senator, he famously said, “She was warned. She was given an explanation, Nevertheless, she persisted.”
The quote quickly became something of a cultural moment for activists protesting the Trump administration, appearing as a hashtag, on T-shirts, protest signs, and even as the title of books.
A request for comment from the White House was not immediately returned.Christina Prignano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.