DHS Sec. John Kelly vs. Sen. Kamala Harris: "Let Me At Least Finish Once Before You Interrupt Me"


Sen. Kamala Harris repeatedly interrupted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Gen. John Kelly as he attempted to answer questions at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on Tuesday.

"Would you let me finish once?" Kelly asked during the tense back and forth.

"Excuse me?" Harris replied. "I'm asking the questions."

Transcript from the two snapping at each other during the testy exchange:

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): And are you aware that there are a number of federal courts that have imposed civil liability on local governments for complying with ICE detainer orders that were not supported by probable cause?

Can you answer the question?

KELLY: Am I aware of that?


KELLY: I am.

HARRIS: And in order, then, to comply with the 48-hour ICE detainer made with no probable cause, wouldn't that force the jurisdiction to choose whether to comply with the federal court ruling or forfeit vital public safety funds that are administered by your department?

KELLY: I'm not a lawyer, but I think that federal law is federal law, as state law is state law. And if, you know, we have a different view of the impact of some of the state rulings. But...


HARRIS: Well, imagine, sir, if you will, that you were a local law enforcement leader presented with a choice of either complying with federal law that means that you may expose your department in your jurisdiction to civil liability, or forfeiting DHS funds that are designed and intended to help you fight terrorism at a local level. Wouldn't you agree that puts those law enforcement leaders in an -- it's almost a Hobson's choice -- a Hobson's choice? What -- how are they supposed to choose?

KELLY: Well, Senator, had you not cut me off, I would have said the same thing you just said. Probably not as eloquently, but I'd have said the same thing you said. I appreciate the fix they're in. I appreciate that they get their legal advice from the state and locals. And below the radar, we work with every police and sheriff department in this country to the degree that they can and are comfortable with.

HARRIS: Secretary Kelly, what do you mean "below the radar"? They have two choices, and they are accountable...


HARRIS: Excuse me, sir.

They are accountable to their jurisdiction, to the bodies that may have appointed or elected them. And they have to make choices. What do you mean "below the radar"?

KELLY: We talk to them on the telephone. And...

HARRIS: And what are you instructing them to do when presented with those two choices?

KELLY: ... and we tell them to whatever they can do within the law, the interpretation, we're willing to work with them. So...

HARRIS: So are you aware that there are local law enforcement...


KELLY: Let me at least finish once before you interrupt me?

HARRIS: Sir, with all due respect...

KELLY: With all due respect, Senator.

HARRIS: Are you instructing local law enforcement leaders that they can overlook at DHS detainer request so they're not exposed to criminal liability?

KELLY: We talk to them about whatever they're comfortable with, whatever they think they can do within the interpretation of their local attorneys general, as an example, or local lawyers...

HARRIS: So when they're...


KELLY: Would you let me finish once?

HARRIS: Excuse me? I'm asking the questions.

KELLY: But I'm trying to answer the questions.

HARRIS: When they are -- when they tell you, as I know local police officers -- police chiefs are being told, that it would expose their municipality to civil liability if they comply with the detainer requests, are you telling them that you will not withhold the DHS federal funding that they rely on?

KELLY: OK. Before I start to answer, will you let me finish?

HARRIS: If it's responsive to the question, of course.

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