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Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, speaks during a briefing at the White House on Aug. 12, 2019.
Acting Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, speaks during a briefing at the White House on Aug. 12, 2019. (Evan Vucci/AP)

A liberal ex-governor walks into a bar, followed by a conservative Trump administration official.

Instead of a punchline, what followed, one witness said, was a “shame-invoking tirade” by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, directed at former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

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The two political polar opposites crossed paths Wednesday night at the Dubliner, an Irish pub on Capitol Hill popular on Thanksgiving Eve with Gonzaga High School graduates. The two men graduated five years apart in the 1980s.

Siobhan Arnold, who was visiting from Philadelphia, had just met O'Malley at the bar when Cuccinelli walked in. Soon the two were face-to-face, she said, with O'Malley excoriating Cuccinelli over the Trump administration's immigration policies.

O'Malley said "something about his [Cuccinelli's] grandparents," Arnold said in an interview. Cuccinelli said little if anything in reply, quickly leaving the pub.

"O'Malley was shouting," Arnold said. "I don't think Cuccinelli was responding. I think he's like, 'Time to go. Just got here and I'm leaving.' He pretty much retreated."

Cuccinelli did not respond to a request for comment. O’Malley declined a request for a phone interview but gave his version of events via text. He disputed Arnold’s account on one point: He said he wasn’t shouting, but raised his voice “just to be heard” in the pub.

O'Malley, a former Baltimore mayor who was Maryland governor from 2006 to 2014 and unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said he was at the Dubliner with members of his Gonzaga class.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Jan. 16, 2015, in Annapolis, Md.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Jan. 16, 2015, in Annapolis, Md. (Patrick Semansky / AP)

When he saw Cuccinelli, he unloaded his frustration at the Trump administration's separation of migrant children from their parents and detention of immigrants in chain-link enclosures at the southern U.S. border.

“We all let him know how we felt about him putting refugee immigrant kids in cages ― certainly not what we were taught by the Jesuits at Gonzaga,” O’Malley texted.

In another text, he called Cuccinelli "the son of immigrant grandparents who cages children for a fascist president."

O'Malley was governor when Maryland approved driver's licenses and in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, and has been an outspoken advocate of "Dreamers."

Cuccinelli, who narrowly lost the 2013 race for Virginia governor to Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, was an immigration hard-liner long before joining the Trump administration. In 2015, Cuccinelli accused then-President Barack Obama of encouraging “an invasion” of undocumented immigrants. As a state senator, he sponsored a bill to strip U.S.-born children of those immigrants of their citizenship.

He eased up on his anti-immigration positions at one point during the governor's race, removing a statement from his website that he had "voted consistently against in-state tuition for illegal aliens." As a state senator, he had supported a bill that would have gone further, banning illegal immigrants from attending state colleges at all.

Arnold tweeted about Cuccinelli's encounter with O'Malley, and was surprised hours later to hear the tweet was going viral. She said she normally posts to the social media site for work, as a public relations official for Villanova University, and her audience is limited.

“I’m usually tweeting about research findings,” she said.

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