Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) fielded hours of questions Sunday from constituents angry at his supposed cooperation with the Trump administration, even moving to the open air when the middle school auditorium he had booked for a community dinner reached capacity.
Hours after speaking at a rally against President Donald Trump’s immigration executive order, Whitehouse was confronted by many of the same demonstrators at a planned event at Nathan Bishop Middle School in Providence, according to the Providence Journal.
Whitehouse’s constituents pressured him on his support of some Cabinet-level appointees to Trump’s administration. The senator has voted to allow Gen. James Mattis to serve as secretary of defense; for Gen. John Kelly for secretary of of homeland security; for former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and for Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) as CIA director.
It was Whitehouse’s vote for Pompeo, who refused to rule out waterboarding in a Senate Intelligence Committee questionnaire, that received the harshest words from constituents.
“I will concede right off the bat that I may have been wrong,” Whitehouse said, according to the Providence Journal. “This is not one of those areas where I think it’s black-and-white.”
Still, he defended his support of Mattis, saying he felt “that it was important to get people into position to form basically a cordon of maturity of people who had experience in these areas around the White House in this very dangerous opening period.”
After pressure from the assembled crowd (the Providence Journal reported he answered questions for two-and-a-half hours), Whitehouse listed the Trump nominees he would oppose, to cheers.
“Secretary of education, no; secretary of state, no; attorney general, no; EPA director, really big no; secretary of treasury, no; secretary of labor, no,” he said.
When Whitehouse waffled on Trump’s nominee for secretary of commerce, the so-called “King of Bankruptcy” Wilbur Ross, the crowd responded with chants of “Just say no!”
One constituent asked Whitehouse to send a message to his colleagues, “that the majority of the American people are behind them, and we need you to lead bravely.”
“I think you all made that pretty clear tonight and I appreciate that very, very much,” Whitehouse responded.
An advocacy group called Resist Hate RI published an edited video of the evening on YouTube: