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Luis Gutierrez stands by John Kelly insult: 'I didn't bring up his son'

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"He's a politician. He works for Donald Trump and now supports Donald Trump's xenophobic, racist policies, and he's carrying them out as his chief of staff. I'm not talking about him as a general; I'm talking about him as a politician," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., has no regrets about calling President Trump's chief of staff, retired Marine Corps general John Kelly, "a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear" following the latest fight over immigration policy.

"The general is not a general today," Gutierrez told the Washington Examiner. "He's a politician. He works for Donald Trump and now supports Donald Trump's xenophobic, racist policies, and he's carrying them out as his chief of staff. I'm not talking about him as a general; I'm talking about him as a politician."

Kelly became a target of Gutierrez's ire after Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a plan to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that protected immigrants brought to to the country illegally as children, in six months. Gutierrez argued that the decision was at odds with Kelly's stated opposition to deporting the beneficiaries of the program.

Kelly is a retired four-star Marine Corps general who took over as head of the Department of Homeland Security in January before Trump made him chief-of-staff. He is also a Gold Star father, as his son died while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.

None of that mattered to Gutierrez after the DACA decision was made. "General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear," he said Tuesday.

Gutierrez added that Kelly had failed to defend Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., when Trump attacked his military record during the campaign season. "Where was General Kelly when John McCain was said not to be a hero by the man that he works for?" Gutierrez asked. "So let's not have double-standards here."

It's the second time in the last year that a politician has attacked the well-known father of a fallen service-member. Trump famously criticized the Muslim-American parents of an Army captain who was killed in action, after the couple denounced him in a speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Gutierrez defended those parents, but said his criticism of Kelly shouldn't be compared to that fight. "I didn't bring up his son," he told the Washington Examiner. "I didn't bring up his son. What I said was that he lied, and that's the truth."

The conversation that Gutierrez describes as the occasion of the lie took place in July, at a private meeting between Kelly and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Multiple Democrats said that Kelly had endorsed the goals of the DACA program, but raised doubts about it's legality, including Gutierrez.

"Here's what he did say to us: ‘I've been fighting for DACA, and basically the reason we're in July and nothing has gone awry with DACA is because of my presence as secretary of Homeland Security,'" the Illinois Democrat told reporters after the meeting.

Gutierrez added, in a formal statement, that Kelly had disclaimed authority over the question of whether the administration would end DACA. "[Kelly] said that the future of DACA is up to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America's leading advocate against immigration, so Kelly was basically telling us DACA is facing a death sentence," he said in July.

Gutierrez demurred when asked if it was possible that Kelly had not lied, but lost an internal debate within the administration. He suggested that if Kelly had not lied, he must be "ignorant" of the legal arguments in favor of the program and the history of congressional efforts to pass legislation protecting DACA beneficiaries.

"You can interpret it," Gutierrez told the Washington Examiner. "But to me, he looked me in the face and said that he was the one that was going to support the Dreamers and he didn't do it. He went to work for the man. Here's what he said to me, so that we're clear: he said, 'I love them, I like them, I admire them, I want to protect them,' and then he went to work for the man who said you've got six months to pack up your bags and leave. Sorry."