McConnell: I won't be intimidated by protesters
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellEx-lawmaker urges Americans to publicly confront officials Manchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia Democrats slide in battle for Senate MORE (R-Ky.) said on Friday that he wouldn't be "intimidated" by protesters who have confronted him several times in public amid a heated immigration fight.  

"I'm not sure what about my career has led them to believe that I am easily intimidated. ... This is all about intimidation. It's not about persuasion but about intimidation. And I assure you I will not be intimidated by these groups of socialists who apparently prefer open borders," McConnell told reporters in Kentucky. 

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McConnell and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoMcConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant Claiming 'spousal privilege' to stonewall Congress Hillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence MORE, were confronted as they left an event in Washington, D.C., last month by protesters over the Trump administration's then-policy of separating detained families who were caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. 

Protesters heckled McConnell at two restaurants in Kentucky over the weekend, according to the Courier Journal, about abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The debate over nixing the agency has been catapulted into the national spotlight because of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, which resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their families. 

The policy drew widespread bipartisan backlash and sparked nationwide protests. Bowing to pressure, President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Gillum and DeSantis’s first debate GOP warns economy will tank if Dems win Gorbachev calls Trump's withdrawal from arms treaty 'a mistake' MORE signed an executive order last month ending most family separations, though he made no provisions at the time for reuniting families who had already been separated.

"Honestly, I enjoyed my lunch and I'm just sorry that other people at the restaurant seemed to be inconvenienced by all of this. But it's not about persuasion. It's about intimidation. I will not be intimidated by these people," McConnell added on Friday. 

He also took aim at the movement to abolish ICE, saying demonstrators were suggesting "having no one at all control the borders."

"What I worry about is that that point of view seems to be moving into the United States Senate. There are three credible Democratic United State senators thinking of running for president who have come out for getting rid of ICE," he added. 

Democratic Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandAffordable housing set for spotlight of next presidential campaign Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Pentagon watchdog knocks top admiral for handling of sexual harassment case MORE (N.Y.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBig Dem donors stick to sidelines as 2020 approaches DNA is irrelevant — Elizabeth Warren is simply not Cherokee The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump seizes on immigrant 'caravan' for midterms | WHCA criticizes Trump for praising lawmaker who assaulted reporter | Trump takes harder line on Saudis MORE (Mass.), considered potential 2020 White House contenders, have backed the push to get replace the agency. 

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBig Dem donors stick to sidelines as 2020 approaches Sanders thanks Iowa voters for giving momentum to progressive agenda Sanders: Trump setting 'terrible example' for our children MORE (D-Calif.), another potential presidential hopeful, said late last month that it was time for the agency, which was formed in 2003, to be reexamined. 

A group of House Democrats introduced legislation this week that would create a commission to examine ICE’s responsibilities and then recommend transferring them to other agencies. But they said they would vote against the bill if House GOP leadership brought it for a vote, a move Democrats argue is for political gain. 

Meanwhile, dozens of GOP senators, including McConnell, are backing a resolution that offers support for ICE and dismisses calls to nix the agency as "an insult to the heroic law enforcement officers of ICE."