Kamala Devi Harris was born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father in Oakland, California on October 20, 1964. She is, in part, a descendant of a Jamaican slave owner, as Harris’s father, Donald J. Harris, explained in a January 2019 essay which he wrote about his family’s heritage:
“My roots go back, within my lifetime, to my paternal grandmother Miss Chrishy (née Christiana Brown, descendant of Hamilton Brown who is on record as plantation and slave owner and founder of Brown’s Town) and to my maternal grandmother Miss Iris (née Iris Finegan, farmer and educator, from Aenon Town and Inverness, ancestry unknown to me). The Harris name comes from my paternal grandfather Joseph Alexander Harris, land-owner and agricultural ‘produce’ exporter (mostly pimento or all-spice), who died in 1939 one year after I was born and is buried in the church yard of the magnificent Anglican Church which Hamilton Brown built in Brown’s Town (and where, as a child, I learned the catechism, was baptized and confirmed, and served as an acolyte).”
Kamala Harris earned a B.A. from Howard University in 1986 and a JD from the UC Hastings College of Law in 1989. During her student years, she organized mentor programs for young nonwhite minorities, demonstrated against South African apartheid, and pledged a black sorority named Alpha Kappa Alpha, which was engaged in social activism.
Harris subsequently served as: Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County from 1990-98; managing attorney of the Career Criminal Unit of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office from 1998-2000; head of the San Francisco City Attorney’s Division on Families and Children from 2000-03; San Francisco’s District Attorney from 2004-11; and Attorney General of California from 2011-16.
In 1994 the 30-year-old Harris was dating 60-year-old Willie Brown, who at that time was the Democratic speaker of the California State Assembly, making him one of the most powerful politicians in the state. Brown had been separated but not divorced from his wife since the 1980s. In June of ’94, Harris took a leave of absence from her job as a deputy prosecutor in Alameda County and was appointed by Brown to a $97,000-per-year position with the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (CUIAB). Harris then resigned from that board five months later and was immediately appointed by Brown to a $70,000-per-year job with the California Medical Assistance Commission (CMAC), a post she would hold until 1998. Harris had no medical background whatsoever when she joined the CMAC, which was noteworthy in light of the fact that Commission members were technically required to have experience in health-and-medical-related fields. Moreover, all the other CMAC members were former state officials who were either nearing retirement or already semi-retired, thus Harris was approximately three decades younger than anyone else on the Commission. According to former California Republican state assemblyman Brett Granlund: “Both boards [CUIAB and CMAC] are reserved for political payback or occasionally for personal rewards for personal service. The boards are considered plumb appointments as they require no work, no policy credentials, and are paid the equivalent of a full-time [state] senator for arriving at a one-to-two-hour meeting each month.”
During her tenure as San Francisco district attorney (2004-11), the number of prison terms per arrest in San Francisco were California’s lowest — ten times lower than the corresponding rate in San Diego County.
A few days after a San Francisco police officer named Isaac Espinoza was shot and killed by a gang member with an AK-47 assault rifle during a routine traffic stop in 2004, District Attorney Harris – who had campaigned for that office on a pledge that she would never pursue capital punishment for any criminal, because she considered it unjust and immoral – announced that she would not seek a death sentence for Officer Espinoza’s killer. When Espinoza’s family subsequently pleaded that she reconsider her position for this particular case, Harris said: “I approach the work of being a prosecutor as the responsibility to do justice. It’s not about the responsibility to lock people up for the maximum amount of time. It is the responsibility to make sure the criminal justice system has integrity.”
As district attorney in 2008, Harris filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller. She argued that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual’s right to own a gun.
In 2008, Harris was disturbed when California voters approved Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in that state. In December 2010, as she prepared to commence her tenure as California Attorney General, Harris announced that her AG office – in a departure from the custom whereby AGs traditionally defend state laws – would not defend Proposition 8 before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. “It’s well within the authority vested in me as the elected attorney general to use the discretion of my office to make decisions about how we will use our resources and what issue we will weigh in on or not,” Harris said. When Proposition 8 eventually went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, Harris stated: “I declined to defend Proposition 8 because it violates the Constitution. The Supreme Court has described marriage as a fundamental right 14 times since 1888. The time has come for this right to be afforded to every citizen.” When the Supreme Court decided in June 2015 to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, Harris called it an “incredible day in history.” “California is validated. We are validated,” she said during a news conference in Sacramento. “Each day that one of those couples have to go without being able to have their marriage and their love legally recognized,” Harris added, “… is one day too long.” Harris also directed a message to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented from the decision and depicted California as a cultural outlier. “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game,” said Harris.
In 2009, Harris announced that she would seek life imprisonment, rather than capital punishment, against El Salvadoran illegal alien Edwin Ramos, an MS-13 gang member who in 2008 had murdered a father and two of his sons (while critically wounding a third son) in a drive-by shooting. Ramos, mistaking the victims for gang rivals, killed them when they were returning home from a family picnic.
In 2010, Harris narrowly defeated Los Angeles County district attorney Steve Cooley, a moderate Republican. Her margin of victory was just 74,000 out of 8.8 million votes, or a margin of 0.8 percent. Cooley had been leading in er in most pre-election polls, and he actually declared victory on election night. But Harris eventually prevailed after all provisional and mail-in ballots were counted.
After she became California’s attorney general in 2011, Harris — like her predecessor in that position, Jerry Brown — refused to defend on appeal Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment whereby voters in 2008 had expressed their support for traditional marriage (and their opposition to same-sex marriage). The reason for Harris’ refusal to defend Prop. 8, was that she personally disagreed with it. City Journal explains the ramifications of Harris’ actions: “The measure’s proponents had to litigate the appeal on their own. In Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court then ruled that the proponents lacked the ‘standing’ to defend the law on appeal, which left in place a federal district court ruling that the amendment was unconstitutional. The Los Angeles Times astutely noted that Prop. 8 ‘died only for lack of a defender, not because the court reached the serious constitutional questions at the heart of it.’”
In 2011, pro-Israel legal experts affiliated with the AMCHA Initiative, the Israel Law Center, and the Global Frontier Justice Center petitioned then-Attorney General Harris to sue David Klein, a California State University at Northridge (CSUN) mathematics professor who was a member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and who served as the faculty adviser to CSUN’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Specifically, the three pro-Israel groups charged that Klein was using his publicly funded, university-provided website to promote the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a pro-Hamas initiative, in violation of laws prohibiting taxpayer dollars from being used to finance non-business-related endeavors. But Harris rejected all efforts to persuade her to bring charges against Klein. When the pro-Israel groups tried again, in 2012, to push Harris to take action against the professor, Harris said there was insufficient evidence upon which to base a lawsuit. AMCHA co-founder and director Tammi Benjamin described Harris’s response to AMCHA’s overtures as “very curt and short.”
On December 4, 2012, Attorney General Harris issued a memo informing all the executives of California’s state and local law-enforcement agencies that they could “make their own decisions about whether to fulfill” Immigration & Customs Enforcement detainers – i.e., temporary holds that federal immigration authorities may place on municipal prisoners who are suspected of being eligible for deportation.
In early 2013, Harris was one of dozens of prominent leftists who urged President Barack Obama to award, posthumously, the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Fred Ross Sr., a Saul Alinsky-trained radical who mentored both Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Among those who also exhorted Obama to honor Ross were: Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Kim Bobo, Heather Booth, Barbara Boxer, Michael Capuano, William Lacy Clay, Rosa Delauro, Maria Echaveste, Sam Farr, Diane Feinstein, Raúl Grijalva, Roger Hickey, Mike Honda, Mazie Hirono, Dolores Huerta, Benjamin Jealous, Barbara Lee, Alan Lowenthal, Ben Ray Lujan, Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Jim McGovern, Grace Napolitano, Nancy Pelosi, Frances Fox Piven, Charles Rangel, Robert Reich, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Jan Schakowsky, Martin Sheen, Albio Sires, Hilda Solis, Mark Takano, Juan Vargas, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Maxine Waters.
In 2014, Attorney General Harris refused to take a position either for or against Proposition 47, a ballot measure that would reduce several felony offenses to misdemeanors, and would thereby result in thousands of prisoners being released. Though Prop 47 was opposed by every professional law-enforcement organization in California, and by 55 of the state’s 58 county district attorneys, the measure was passed by voters.
In 2014 as well, Harris agreed to a settlement with Rodney Quine, a transgender prisoner who was serving a life sentence for murder without possibility of parole. The settlement — which came after Quine’s attorneys had argued that a denial of their client’s desire to change his genitalia would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” — permitted the prisoner to undergo a costly sex-change operation at taxpayer expense. Harris called the settlement “an important step forward in the ongoing effort to protect transgender rights in California.”
In 2015 Harris chose not to enforce a provision of Proposition 83, a measure that California voters had passed overwhelmingly nine years earlier to prevent the state’s 6,000 paroled sex offenders from being allowed to live within 2,000 feet of schools and parks. After the passage of Prop 83, the California Supreme Court ruled that those residency restrictions — because of a shortage of “compliant housing” in San Diego County specifically — violated the constitutional rights of sex offenders who lived in that county. But the Court issued no ruling whatsoever on the legality of the restrictions in California’s 57 other counties. Nevertheless, Harris concluded that the restrictions were invalid in those counties as well —and then refused to explain her legal reasoning.
Harris again demonstrated her low regard for immigration law after an illegal alien named Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez – a convicted felon who had been previously deported from the United States on five separate occasions – was released from a San Francisco prison in April 2015 and subsequently murdered an innocent young woman named Kathryn Steinle. Harris said she supported Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s decision – which was made in accordance with the city’s sanctuary policies – to set Lopez-Sanchez free rather than turn him over to immigration authorities. “I trust and believe in the ability of local sheriffs to make a decision about what’s in the best interest of his or her community in terms of local safety,” said Harris. “What needs to be looked at,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle, “is comprehensive immigration reform…. Immigration policy in our country has to be reformed, and it has to be based on the fact that we have 11 million undocumented in this country—and California has the largest numbers of undocumented, in excess of 2 million people. In California, one in two Californians was born outside the United States, or has a parent born outside the U.S.—including myself.”
In September 2015, Harris spoke out in support of the nuclear deal that the Obama administration and the leaders of five additional nations had negotiated with the government of Iran. While acknowledging that “this is by no means a perfect compromise,” Harris called it “the best available option for blocking Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability and to avoid potentially disastrous military conflict in the Middle East.”
In 2015 as well, Harris launched an investigation of journalist/anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, who had recently made headlines by releasing undercover videos demonstrating that Planned Parenthood routinely violated federal law by collecting and selling fetal tissue and body parts. As National Review reports: “The basis for investigating Daleiden was his appearing to have used a fake California driver’s license to hide his identity from Planned Parenthood, and the suspicion that he violated Planned Parenthood’s privacy. Those trivial allegations were enough for Harris to have eleven police officers raid Daleiden’s house, confiscate his computers and hard drives, some private documents, and all the yet-unreleased Planned Parenthood footage Daleiden had shot over two years. When Daleiden called his lawyer, Harris’s raiders tried to confiscate his phone too.”
In the winter of 2016, when Harris was still the attorney general of California, Mark Pulliam wrote in City Journal:
“One of the attorney general’s responsibilities is assigning a short name and description for proposed ballot initiatives, ahead of the signature-gathering process. The name and description are supposed to be accurate and unbiased. When citizen-driven initiatives have run counter to certain Democratic special interests, however, Harris has been willing to cast them in a negative light, to hamper their chances—as she did for a recent pension-reform initiative, sponsored by former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio. The measure would have required voter approval for defined-benefit pension plans for future public employees, which drive up public costs by guaranteeing pension returns, regardless of market conditions. Harris issued a misleading description suggesting that the measure ‘eliminates constitutional protections’ for current employees, among them ‘those working in K–12 schools, higher education, hospitals, and police protection.’ Reed and DeMaio withdrew the measure rather than promote it under such a misleading description.
“Harris has used her authority over the initiative process to put her thumb on the scale in favor of Democratic Party interests, as well. In 2014, she sanitized the trial-lawyer-backed Proposition 46, a transparent attempt to remove the cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases put into place by the landmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975. Harris’s deceptive ballot description characterized the measure as requiring ‘drug and alcohol testing of doctors,’ but voters overwhelmingly rejected the ploy. Even liberal newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle criticized Harris’s manipulation of Prop. 46. ‘Voters should not be fooled by the title and summary put together by Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office that focuses on the testing as if it were the centerpiece of the measure,’ the paper editorialized. ‘It is not.’ […] The more conservative San Diego Union-Tribune accused Harris of ‘intentionally deceiving’ voters ‘by highlighting one of the fig leaves that trial lawyers attached to the measure to hide their real intent. It’s in keeping with her long history of using misleading ballot titles and summaries to help measures her allies like and hurt measures they don’t.’”
In the winter of 2016 as well, Mark Pulliam wrote in City Journal:
“Harris enthusiastically curries favor with labor unions. For example, her position [as attorney general] grants Harris broad authority to review and approve transactions involving nonprofit hospitals, and she has used that power to protect unionized employees at the expense of fiscal sanity. The nonprofit Daughters of Charity in Los Angeles County run six hospitals in low-income urban areas, including a well-trafficked trauma unit that handles the highest rate of gunshot and stab wounds in the county. With a largely uninsured clientele and high labor costs, the hospitals lose about $10 million a month and are headed for bankruptcy. The Daughters of Charity found a buyer for the hospitals: for-profit operator Prime Healthcare, which specializes in pulling troubled hospitals into the black. But hospital employees, represented by the powerful Service Employees International Union—which has endorsed Harris for the Senate—were unwilling to make concessions to Prime Healthcare. At SEIU’s behest, Harris imposed more than 300 conditions on the sale, requiring Prime Healthcare to continue all existing services for ten years, in order to protect union jobs. Prime officials complained that ‘the attorney general is telling Prime Healthcare to operate the hospitals exactly as [Daughters of Charity] has and expect different results.’ Prime Healthcare abandoned its $834 million bid but has filed suit against Harris, alleging that the conditions she imposed were a quid pro quo for SEIU’s financial support. […] On December 3, Harris put similar conditions on the proposed investment by BlueMountain, which chose to proceed with a three-year option to purchase despite the conditions.
“In 2014, Harris and her union allies supported legislation (SB 1094) that would have made the A.G.’s authority over such transactions essentially unlimited, final, and unreviewable. The state legislature—beholden to organized labor—obligingly passed the law. Governor Brown vetoed the bill, explaining that the existing regulatory scheme—in place for “nearly two decades” and subject to judicial review—was working fine.”
In 2016, Harris ran for the U.S. Senate seat that was being vacated by the retiring Barbara Boxer.
On her campaign website, Harris pledged to “make the minimum wage a living wage and tie it to inflation”; “support President Obama‘s “plan for making community colleges free”; support “expanding access to Head Start [and] Early Head Start, and creating national universal pre-kindergarten”; “make it a priority to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act,” legislation rooted in the premise that “women earn about 21 percent less than men”; strive to “en[d] [mass incarceration]” by “roll[ing] back draconian sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenses”; “fight to end federal bans on student loans, food stamps, housing, and voting rights for ex-offenders”; “stop voter suppression” measures like Voter ID laws; and “expand early voting so everyone has ample opportunity to vote.” The website further stated that “everyone should have access to public education, public health, and public safety regardless of their immigration status”; that Harris would “fight for comprehensive immigration reform that creates a fair pathway to citizenship” for America’s “11 million undocumented immigrants”; that she would “protect President Obama’s immigration executive actions,” which shielded several million illegals from deportation; and that the U.S. had a duty to “responsibly resettle refugees” from war-torn, terrorism-infested nations around the world.
Around the time that California Attorney General Harris decided to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, she declared that the paperwork which conservative organizations like the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) had been filing for years in California was insufficient, and she demanded that those groups provide the state’s government with lists of their major donors. But her initiative failed, as National Review Online reports: “AFP convinced the federal district court that Harris’s request served no legitimate purpose and was part of a political campaign by Democrats against conservative organizations. It demonstrated, among other things, that government agencies had ‘systematically failed to maintain the confidentiality of Schedule B forms’ containing donor information and other financial data.”
Harris’s campaign website featured a petition to “protect” Planned Parenthood and “the important work it does.” Over the course of the 2016 election cycle, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates and employees contributed at least $30,000 to the Harris campaign. Other pro-abortion groups and their affiliates donated at least $50,000 more.
In 2016 as well, Harris was one of 17 Attorneys General (16 Democrats and 1 Independent) who joined “AGs United for Clean Power” (AGUCP), a group launched by former Vice President Al Gore. AGUCP’s objective was to file criminal fraud charges against fossil-fuel companies (and their supporters) that failed to explicitly endorse the notion that greenhouse-gas emissions associated with human industrial activity are chiefly responsible for potentially catastrophic “climate change.” Harris and New York AG Eric Schneiderman, for instance, initiated separate investigations into ExxonMobil for allegedly funding research that questioned the veracity of anthropogenic climate-change orthodoxy — and for purportedly concealing the truth about climate change from their shareholders and the general public. That same year, Harris’s Senate campaign website vowed that Harris, if elected, would “stand up to the climate-change deniers and fight to pass national climate-change legislation that promotes innovation like establishing a carbon tax or creating a cap-and-trade market for carbon pollution.”
In response to presidential candidate Donald Trump’s criticism of illegal immigration, Harris in August 2016 tweeted that “an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.”
Harris defeated Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez by a margin of 23 percentage points in a June 2016 Democratic primary race, and subsequently became a U.S. Senator when she ran unopposed by any Republican in the November general election.
Over the years, Harris has cultivated a close political and ideological kinship with California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, whose federal campaign committee, Citizens for Waters (CfW), since 2006 has accepted fees from political candidates wishing to be featured in CfW mailers and to gain Waters’ endorsement. In 2010, Harris paid $28,000 to Waters’ campaign committee in order to appear on the CfW mailers during her bid for the post of California Attorney General. And when Harris ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, she gave CfW another $30,000 in order to appear on the mailers.
In a series of tweets which she posted on January 27, 2017 — International Holocaust Memorial Day — Harris compared Jews escaping Nazi genocide during the Third Reich, to modern-day Muslims from terrorism-connected countries in the Middle East seeking refuge in the United States. She also used the occasion to condemn President Donald Trump’s then-recent executive order declaring a temporary moratorium on travel to the U.S. by people from a small handful of such terror-tied nations — nations whose residents’ ability to enter the United States had likewise been subjected to restrictions by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. Tweeted Harris:
When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2017, Harris tweet: “Judge Gorsuch has consistently valued legalisms over real lives. I won’t support his nomination.” As the American Thinker pointed out: “'[L]egalisms’ (a.k.a. what the law actually says) are the very basis of the rule of law. When [Harris] touts ‘real lives,’ [and] not the law, as the proper basis for SCOTUS rulings, she openly endorses a political system based on favoritism, not the rule of law.”
When President Trump in June 2017 announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, Harris said that Trump’s “disastrous decision” would have “catastrophic repercussions for our planet’s future,” and would “threate[n] the world our children and children’s children will live in.”
In October 2017, Harris said the following about the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): “The council has strived to improve understanding about Islam, and move toward a future in which we welcome people of all faiths and nationalities into our neighborhoods and our schools, as well as our hearts and our minds.”
In September 2018, Harris wrote a letter of support to CAIR on the occasion of the organization’s 24th anniversary. Said the letter: “As you celebrate this milestone, please accept my gratitude and admiration for your tireless work to promote peace, justice, and mutual understanding. For nearly a quarter century, CAIR has worked diligently to dismantle Islamophobic rhetoric, mobilize the American Muslim community, and encourage civic engagement…. In the face of intolerant and exclusionary policies, CAIR has steadfastly defended the Constitutional rights of American Muslims … Today, as we continue to promote tolerance and eliminate hate in our society, CAIR’s work remains as important as it was the day of its founding in 1994.”
On January 30, 2018, Harris was one of several Democrats who brought illegal aliens as their guests to President Trump’s State of the Union address. Harris’ guest was Denea Joseph, communications coordinator for the UndocuBlack Network, an advocacy group for black illegal aliens. “Dreamers like Denea represent the best of who we are as a nation,” said Harris. “Her commitment to the representation and empowerment of black immigrant communities is inspiring. We must continue to fight to give her and the hundreds of thousands of other young people like her who are living in fear, the security they need to live up to their full potential.”
At a Netroots Nation conference in August 2018, Harris charged that critics of “identity politics” were employing that term to disparage the notion that issues of race, gender and sexual orientation were worthy of public concern. “I have a problem, guys, with that phrase, ‘identity politics,’” said the senator. “Because let’s be clear, when people say that, it’s a pejorative. That phrase is used to divide, and it is used to distract. Its purpose is to minimize and marginalize issues that impact all of us. It is used to try and shut us up…. These issues that they’re trying to diminish and demean are the very issues that will define our identity as Americans.” “We’ve all heard how critical black women were to Doug Jones’ victory,” Harris said of the Democrat who had won a 2017 special election to determine who would fill the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama). “But that didn’t just magically happen. It happened because black women have been putting in the work, going door to door, organizing even when the cameras were focused elsewhere.”
During the February 24, 2019 airing of MSNBC’s AM Joy, host Joy Reid asked Harris if, during her presidential campaign, it “would it be difficult for you to advocate race-based policy.” In her response, Harris said:
“I want to talk about the issue of identity politics, Joy. This term identity politics, people will use that term — it’s like people used to talk about the race card. They bring this term up when you talk about issues that are about race, about sexual orientation, about religion. They’ll bring it up when we are talking about civil rights issues as a way to marginalize the issue, as a way to frankly try to silence you or shut you up. We need to call it what it is, which is to try and divert away from a conversation that needs to happen in America. Why? One, because we must speak truth. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism are all real in this country, so we need to have that conversation and address it. Two, and this is equally important, how America deals with the issues and the disparities, and also the hate that can be — that causes these issues to become lethal in proportion — how America deals with these issues is a matter of American identity. This is not about identity politics, and if it is, it’s about the identity of the United States of America. How we handle the issues will be about our collective identity.”
On October 29, 2018, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a non-partisan ethics watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics against Senator Harris and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Said the FACT complaint: “Senators Warren and Harris both sent campaign fundraising emails before the Senate vote on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Specifically, the campaign emails both stated Senators Warren and Harris’s official role and positions on the ongoing confirmation hearing and then made direct requests for campaign donations with ‘DONATE NOW’ and ‘CONTRIBUTE’ buttons. Senate ethics laws prohibit candidates from using the promise of official action or legislative work in a direct ask for campaign cash.” “This is a clear violation of the Senate Ethics rules which safeguard against the appearance or actuality of elected officials ‘cashing in’ on their official position for political purposes,” said FACT executive director Kendra Arnold.
In November 2018, Harris asked Ronald Vitiello, whom President Trump had nominated to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, if he believed that the public’s perception of ICE was creating fear and distrust in a manner similar to how the KKK had done in the 20th century. “Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws and do you see any parallels …?” asked Harris. At that point, Vitiello interjected: “I do not see any parallels. That puts ICE in the same category as the KKK….” A moment later, Harris asked: “Are you aware that there is a perception that ICE is administering its power in a way that is causing fear and intimidation, particularly among immigrants and specifically among immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America?”
In December 2018, Harris joined fellow Senator Mazie Hirono in challenging President Trump’s nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court for Nebraska because the judge belonged to the Knights Of Columbus (KOC), the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, which the two lawmakers characterized as an “extreme” entity. The senators’ bone of contention was the fact that KOC affirms traditional Catholic teaching on issues such as marriage, sexuality, and abortion. Both senators pressured Buescher to resign from KOC. In a Senate hearing, Harris asked the nominee: “Were you aware that the Knights of Columbus opposed a woman’s right to choose when you joined the organization?”
As columnist Kevin D. Williamson noted in the New York Post: “[T]he Constitution explicitly forbids imposing any religious test for public office, which is what Sens. Harris and Hirono here propose to do for the federal judiciary. The second and related issue is that it is not the Knights of Columbus that opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, but the Catholic Church. If a KOC member is ineligible to serve on the federal bench because of the beliefs of that organization, then every Catholic in the United States — and the world, for that matter, all 1.2 billion of them — is ineligible for similar office, since they belong to a much larger and much more prominent organization that is the source of those ‘extreme positions’.”
On January 21, 2018, Harris announced that she was launching a campaign for the presidential election of 2020. Six days later, she kicked off her campaign with a speech before thousands of supporters in Oakland, California. Early in her talk, Harris asserted that: (a) “our criminal justice system [is] deeply flawed” and needs to become “more fair”; (b) “middle class families … had been defrauded” by “wealthy bankers” whose “arrogance of power” enabled them to “accus[e] innocent homeowners of fault, as if Wall Street’s mess was of the people’s making”; (c) President Trump’s proposed border wall was nothing more than a “medieval vanity project” that would do nothing to protect Americans; and (d) “our Dreamers [illegal aliens who first arrived in the U.S. as minors] … came by the thousands … because they believe in our democracy and the only country they’ve ever known as home.”
As she continued her speech, Harris recited a series of declarations purporting to describe how the policies of the Trump administration were ruining the United States. Some excerpts:
Harris subsequently enumerated a series of uncomfortable “truths” about American life. Among them were the following:
After laying out her description of a nation where racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and all manner of hatred and intolerance were ubiquitous, Harris proceeded to condemn the “powerful forces trying to sow hate and division among us.” After that, she laid out the top agenda items of her campaign. Among the most noteworthy:
On January 29, 2019, Harris reacted with instant, horrified outrage when media outlets nationwide reported that Empire television actor Jussie Smollett, an openly gay African American, was claiming that he had just been victimized by a hate crime perpetrated by two white men who had assaulted him, poured bleach on him, draped a rope around his neck, and shouted “This is MAGA country,” along with a variety of anti-black and anti-gay slurs. Upon hearing this story, Harris tweeted: “@JussieSmollett is one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know. I’m praying for his quick recovery. This was an attempted modern day lynching. No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate.”
On February 14, 2019, Harris and fellow Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott (a black Republican) asked for unanimous consent on the Senate floor to pass the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, legislation that would criminalize lynching for the first time in U.S. history. The motion was passed.
Less than three weeks after Smollett had first reported the alleged attack against him, it was clear that the actor’s tale was a fabrication, and that he himself had orchestrated the entire incident in order to gain publicity and to discredit President Trump and his supporters. When a reporter asked Harris to comment on the matter on February 18, she replied: “Okay, so I will say this about that case. I think the facts are still unfolding and I’m very concerned about obviously, the initial, um, allegation that he made about what might have happened. And it’s something we should all take seriously whenever anyone, um, alleges that kind of behavior, but there should be an investigation. And I think that once the investigation has concluded then we can all comment, but I’m not going to comment until I know the outcome of the investigation.”
On February 21, Smollett was charged with a felony for having filed a false police report. That day, Harris tweeted: “Like most of you, I’ve seen the reports about Jussie Smollett, and I’m sad, frustrated and disappointed. When anyone makes false claims to police, it not only diverts resources away from serious investigations but it makes it more difficult for other victims of crime to come forward. At the same time, hate crimes are on the rise in America…. Part of the tragedy of this situation is that it distracts from that truth, and has been seized by some who would like to dismiss and downplay the very real problems that we must address. We should not allow that. I will always condemn racism and homophobia. We must always confront hate directly, and we must always seek justice. That is what I will keep fighting for.”
In a February 11, 2019 interview on The Breakfast Club, a New York City-based radio program, Harris was asked to comment on rumors that she opposed the legalization of marijuana. “That’s not true, she replied, laughing. “Look, I joke about it, I have joked about it. Half my family is from Jamaica, are you kidding me?” Harris, who acknowledged having smoked marijuana in college, was also asked whether she would smoke it again if the federal government were to legalize the drug’s recreational use. She laughed and replied: “Listen, I think it gives a lot of people joy. And we need more joy.” Harris was also asked, “What [music] was you listening to when you was high? What was on? What song was on?” The senator quickly responded, “Definitely Snoop, Tupac for sure.” Fox News subsequently reported that Harris was either not accurately identifying: (a) what music she had been listening to, or (b) what year she had smoked marijuana:
“Harris graduated from Howard University in 1986 and was finished with law school by 1989. She was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1990. Snoop Dogg’s debut album ‘Doggystyle’ was released in 1993. Snoop made music prior to his first album … [in 1992, but that was] … years after Harris finished school. As for Tupac, his first album ‘2Pacalypse Now’ was released in 1991. The rap legend also recorded music as part of the group Digital Underground, but it was also released in the early 1990s after Harris finished school.”
In the aftermath of Harris’s interview, her father, Stanford University economics professor Donald Harris, said in a statement to Jamaica Global Online: “My dear departed grandmothers … as well as my deceased parents, must be turning in their grave right now to see their family’s name, reputation and proud Jamaican identity being connected, in any way, jokingly or not with the fraudulent stereotype of a pot-smoking joy seeker and in the pursuit of identity politics. Speaking for myself and my immediate Jamaican family, we wish to categorically dissociate ourselves from this travesty.”
At a February 2019 campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Harris said she was in favor of doing away with Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day. She told the crowd that “we are the scene of a crime when it comes to what we did with slavery and Jim Crow and institutionalized racism in this country, and we have to be honest about that.”
During a February 21, 2019 Comedy Central interview, Harris praised the Black Lives Matter movement for its “incredible” and “smart” activism in demanding change to an American criminal-justice system replete with “bias” and “systemic racism.” “One of the benefits that I believe the system received and that helped me do the work that I was able to accomplish [as a former prosecutor] was because of the incredible activism and smart activism of folks, like the folks who were Black Lives Matter. The folks who were involved on the outside who were saying and demanding that the system would change, demanding and marching and advocating.”
In September 2019, Harris reacted vocally after The New York Times printed an article about a newly published book about Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s 2018 Supreme Court nominee. The Times piece – written by the book’s authors, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly – noted that the book – titled The Education of Brett Kavanaugh – discussed allegations in which a woman named Deborah Ramirez, who had been a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh more than 30 years earlier, claimed that a drunken Kavanaugh had once exposed his penis to her during a campus party. The article further reported that another “former classmate,” Max Stier, claimed to have personally witnessed the incident in question. But the article never mentioned Stier’s deep ties to the Democratic Party – most notably, he had worked for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, while Kavanaugh was a member of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s investigative team which looked into Clinton’s misconduct in office. Nor did the article mention that Ramirez had refused to be interviewed about the alleged incident; that all three of the friends whom she had identified as witnesses steadfastly maintained that it never occurred; and that all three friends had stated that not even Ramirez herself could recall the incident. Despite the paucity of evidence against Kavanaugh, Harris said: “He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”
On December 3, 2019, Harris ended her bid for the presidency amid declining poll numbers and reports of turmoil within her campaign. Characterizing her departure from the race as “one of the hardest decisions of my life,” she lamented that her campaign “simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.” “I’m not a billionaire,” Harris added. “I can’t fund my own campaign.”
In the aftermath of the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd — a black man who had died after being abused by a white police officer in Minneapolis — a number of U.S. cities were overrun by violent riots. On June 2, Harris delivered a speech in which she emphasized her belief that America always has been, and still is, a racist nation. Some excerpts:
“In the last couple of days, I’ve been saying America is raw right now. Her wounds are exposed. The reality of it is that the life of a Black person in America historically, and even recently with Mr. Floyd, has never been treated as fully human. And it is time that we come to terms with the fact that America has never fully addressed the systemic racism that has existed in our country. That’s just a fact. And so, the people protesting on the street are protesting understanding that we have yet to fulfill that promise of equal justice under the law. And there is a pain that is present that is being expressed in their constitutional right to march and to shout. […]
“And I can say, with full certainty that it is time that the leaders in this United States Senate, in this United States Congress, take action to reform a criminal justice system that for far too long, has been informed by systemic racism and by racial bias. It is time that we say that bad cops are bad for good cops. It is time that we say that one should not be subjected to the indignity of being told to get on your knees and put your hands behind your head, simply because you are walking while Black. And it happens every day in America. There’s not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend, or a coworker, or colleague, who has not been the subject of some form of racial discrimination at the hands of law enforcement, not one I know.
“And I’m talking about people at every level of life, including people who graduated, Harvard and Stanford and you name it. And the only thing that is common among them is that the color of their skin is black. That’s why the people are marching in the streets. […]
“This is happening at a moment in time, where we have a so called commander in chief, who also has the title of President of the United States, who I promise you will never speak the words Black Lives Matter. Well, they do.”
On June 4, Cosmopolitan magazine published an opinion piece written by Harris, in which she again discussed what she views as the intransigent scourge of American racism. Some excerpts:
“This week, something historic happened. Thousands of people from every walk of life, every state across the country, came together. Many felt feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and hopelessness following George Floyd’s killing. But we all felt the urgency for change. Change in the name of George Floyd. Change in the name of Ahmaud Arbery. Change in the name of Breonna Taylor. And change in the name of the countless other Black Americans who have died at the hands of hatred and racism.
“This past weekend, I joined thousands of protesters in Washington, D.C. as we marched through the streets to demand justice for George Floyd. As I stood among the sea of people gathered outside the White House, I was overcome with emotion. I reflected on the fact that from the moment a Black woman gives birth to a child and holds her baby’s fragile body in her hand, she fears that that body could be viewed as a threat and that someone may try to do harm to her child….
“Let’s speak the truth: People are protesting because Black people have been treated as less than human in America. Because our country has never fully addressed the systemic racism that has plagued our country since its earliest days. It is the duty of every American to fix. No longer can some wait on the sidelines, hoping for incremental change. In times like this, silence is complicity. It will take each of us to confront the injustices that continue to perpetuate a broken system that has taken countless Black Americans’ lives. It will take people of every race, creed, and gender identity to speak up and to act. Now is the time to have those uncomfortable conversations about racism with family, friends, and neighbors. It’s time to have honest discussions about our country’s dark history of discrimination and confront the fact that structural racism lives on in our policies and everyday life. And it’s time for all of us—not just some—to speak out against racism.”
On June 5, Harris was angered when President Trump said the following about George Floyd: “Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement, regardless of race, color, gender, or creed. They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement. We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen.” In response to Trump, Harris tweeted: “@realDonaldTrump, keep George Floyd’s name out of your mouth until you can say Black Lives Matter.”
On June 11, 2020, Harris joined other Democrats as well as a number of media outlets in declaring that President Trump’s plans for future campaign rallies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Jacksonville, Florida, were racist — simply because of the locations chosen, and the dates for which the rallies were scheduled. For example, Harris was vexed by the Trump campaign’s announcement that it would hold its first rally in Tulsa on June 19 — commonly known as “Juneteenth,” a day which many African Americans observe as the anniversary of the day when freed slaves in Texas were read the Emancipation Proclamation. In the senator’s calculus, Trump’s choice of that date was a deliberate provocation: “This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists—he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” she tweeted. Democrats and journalists also claimed that the choice of Tulsa as the site of the rally was racist, because in 1921 that city had been the scene of deadly race riots by local whites. Critics likewise objected to a Trump rally scheduled for Jacksonville on August 27, noting that it would coincide with the 60th anniversary of a Ku Klux Klan attack against black activists in that city.
For an overview of Harris’s voting record on a variety of key issues, click here.
On August 11, 2020, Harris was announced as former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
In August 2020, Senator Harris, who had just been named as Joe Biden‘s vice presidential running mate, said, in a reference to Black Lives Matter (BLM) and its allies: “[W]e’re experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country, demanding change.”
During an August 2020 interview with The 19th, a Texas-based news organization, Harris said: “Black women pay attention to the issue issues. Black women are motivated to vote for the people who represent their priorities and their needs. And so when you look at everything that relates to what we’ve discussed in terms of childcare when you look at what we’re talking about in terms of jobs, health care when you look at what we need to do to address racial and not only disparities in terms of the healthcare system and in terms of the economy and education system, we need to speak about systemic racism, and when you have one ticket that can say the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ and another who has full-time sowing hate and division in our country, those are the things that are going to motivate black women to vote. a point in pride about a black woman being on the ticket, it takes more than just that to motivate black women to vote.”
With regard to the ongoing protests against alleged police brutality and “systemic racism,” Harris said on August 27, 2020: “The reality is that the life of a black person in America has never been treated as fully human. We have yet to fulfill that promise of equal justice under the law. It’s no wonder people are taking to the streets. And I support them. We must always defend peaceful protests and peaceful protesters. We should not confuse them with those looting and committing acts of violence, including the shooter who was arrested for murder.”