Rep. Keith Ellison, the second in charge at the Democratic Party, pushed back against criticism for his attendance at a 2013 dinner hosted by the Iranian government whose guests included Louis Farrakhan, saying he was advocating for the Iran nuclear deal and the freedom of a captive American.

"As part of the 2013 U.N. General Assembly, and as negotiations were under way for what would become the Iran deal, I attended a meeting with President [Hassan] Rouhani and nearly 50 American Muslim leaders," Ellison, D-Minn., said in a statement Monday night. "This was not a private dinner, I didn't know in advance who else would be there, and my decision to attend was not an endorsement of the political views of other attendees."

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