Kamala Harris: $5.6 Billion Can Be Spent On "Issues That Impact" Americans, Not Trump's "Vanity Project"


CNN: Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) slams President Trump over the partial government shutdown in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

"Let's first acknowledge that this is a crisis of the president's own making," Harris said on CNN. "We are talking about a request for $5.6 billion that the American public knows can be spent on issues that impact them every day, not on the president's vanity project. We are talking about over 800,000 American workers and their families and the structure around them that relies on those families, who are going to go without a paycheck tomorrow. And tomorrow will also be the anniversary apparently, or that day, that will mark the longest shutdown."

Harris, defending her immigrant heritage, said the president is trying to "vilify immigrants" just because they come from a different country.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Joining me now to discuss this and much more is Democratic Senator Kamala Harris of California, a Democrat who is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee. She is here to talk about her new book titled "The Truths We Hold, An American Journey," which is just out and it’s a good read. Senator, thanks so much for being here, I appreciate it.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Thanks, Jake; it's good to be with you.

TAPPER: So I will talk about the book in a second, but I have to ask you about what we just saw with President Trump walking out of the meeting, saying he wants some agreement for some border wall funding at some point, and Nancy Pelosi saying no and he says we have no reason to talk. Is there any way out of this impasse?

HARRIS: Let's first acknowledge that this is a crisis of the president's own making. We are talking about a request for $5.6 billion that the American public knows can be spent on issues that impact them every day, not on the president's vanity project. We are talking about over 800,000 American workers and their families and the structure around them that relies on those families, who are going to go without a paycheck tomorrow. And tomorrow will also be the anniversary apparently, or that day, that will mark the longest shutdown.

TAPPER: Friday.

HARRIS: Friday -- I'm losing track of days.

TAPPER: Your days are all mixed up. Friday, but yes.

HARRIS: On Friday.

TAPPER: On Friday it will surpass the longest shutdown in history.

HARRIS: Right, And for what? And for what purpose? And let's also put it in further context. A bipartisan group, a unanimous group of the United States senators and on the House side, a bipartisan group all passed and agreed on a funding bill that this president refuses to sign.

TAPPER: I get that's how we got here.

HARRIS: Yes, but that's important -- context is very important.

TAPPER: I hear you, but let me ask you, you weren't here in 2013 when there last was a big attempt to comprehensive immigration reform. And I know you always say there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform, the problem needs to be solved.

HARRIS: And there has been a bipartisan agreement on what comprehensive immigration would look like.

TAPPER: So that 2013 bill, to get Republican votes, they did put in border security funding, tens of billions of dollars of it. Is there not some sort of agreement that can be reached, at least hypothetically? Like, we’re willing to sit down and have a comprehensive immigration reform bill...

HARRIS: And we should have that conversation about what we can do to pass comprehensive immigration reform, to pay attention to what we all care about, which is border security. It is a false choice to suggest we’re going to hold 800,000 federal workers and all of the services that they provide hostage for this president's vanity project. Let's have that conversation. But let's stop this shutdown of the government. Get the government working doing the job it's supposed to do and those workers want to do and pay them for their work.

TAPPER: So I have one more question about the news and then I'll turn to the book, which I did read to discuss.

HARRIS: OK. I appreciate that. Don't hold my book hostage.

TAPPER: I'm not, its right here. The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, so your vice chairman on the Intelligence Committee, told CNN today that if it's true that Trump's then campaign chairman, Paul Manafort shared data -- internal holding data with Konstantin Kilimnik, who is believed to have links to Russian military intelligence, if that is true, then that's evidence of somebody on the Trump campaign giving the Russians information that they would have found helpful for their intelligence operation to interfere on the 2016 election. So if it's true, is that evidence of conspiracy? Is that game, set, match for the whole collusion thing?

HARRIS: It is -- certainly there's good reason to believe it is suspicious and probably linked. Let's not lose sight of one important fact. There is a guy by the name of Bob Mueller that is engaged in a very important investigation and it is imperative that to answer the questions you are asking, we let him complete his job without any interference.

TAPPER: Did you know about this (inaudible) sharing the data thing?

HARRIS: I can not tell you what I know.

TAPPER: You can’t tell. I knew you were going to say that.

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

TAPPER: So let’s talking about your book. You have two books actually I should point out. One is for grown ups, "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey".

HARRIS: Or those who legally are grown ups at least.

TAPPER: Right, chronologically.

HARRIS: Exactly.

TAPPER: Which I include myself in.


TAPPER: And then this one is "Superheroes Are Everywhere".


TAPPER: They’re actually – I read them both and there’s a lot of overlap.

HARRIS: Yes there is, yes.

TAPPER: Both of them praise your mom a lot.

HARRIS: Yes, very much.

TAPPER: Your mom was born in India, raised in India and then she came here.

HARRIS: At the age of 19.

TAPPER: Age of 19, raised you and your sister as a single mother after you turned 5 or so and your parents split up. You described her as the stronger person you’ve ever known. You wrote very emotionally in one section of the grown up book about her being treated differently because she was an Indian American.

You wrote, "I have too many memories of my brilliant mother being treated as though she were dumb because of her accent. Memories of her being followed around the department store with suspicion because surely a brown skinned woman like her couldn’t afford the dress or the blouse she had chosen".

Your dad is also an immigrant from Jamaica. How does that affect how you – how you govern and especially when it comes to the immigration debate but not exclusively.

HARRIS: Well I think all of us or any of us who have an immigrant background will tell you that there’s so much more in common between our parents and our grandparents than what makes them different. My parents raised us with a commitment to making sure that we would be healthy, that we would be happy, that we would be productive and that was their priority.

And they – we, I think were very blessed, frankly, to have a childhood that was very nurturing and happy childhood. But when we talk about the immigration debate I think there is no question that there are powerful forces, including this President, that are attempting to vilify immigrants because they were born in another country and suggest that they are therefore any different in terms of their fundamental values or beliefs or priorities.

And I think all of us as Americans should be insulted by that suggestion knowing that all of our are just a few generations if not one generation away from immigrants who arrived in this country with the same hopes and dreams that we each have for our children.

TAPPER: You were in the second integrated class of Thousand Oaks Elementary School in Oakland. It happened because of busing, you write about that.

HARRIS: That’s right.

TAPPER: Around that time, then Senator Joe Biden changed his position on busing and became anti-busing. He joined with Jesse Helms. I don’t even know if you know this but this…

HARRIS: I did not know that.

TAPPER: … and I’m just wondering as somebody who was in an integrated class because of busing, was then Senator Biden wrong?

HARRIS: Well as we know, first of all, that there was a need for Brown v. Board of Education thanks to Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston and Constance Baker Motley…

TAPPER: Who are among the heroes in your book.

HARRIS: … who are among the heroes in my children’s book. There was a need for them to make clear that anything that was about segregating children in schools based on race was antithetical to our constitution and the values and the priorities and the ideals of our country.

So there’s no question that busing was the right thing to do as an attempt toward integrating the public schools of America and I am sure that all good people support the idea that children should not be educated separately and that we should have a society and leaders that want to integrate and bring all children together as equals.

TAPPER: I have two more questions.


TAPPER: You were a leader of the Me Too movement. You were the very vocal on the Senate Judiciary Committee during Kavanaugh. An unfortunate thing happened on your staff which is that one of your top aids you had to resign a few weeks ago, Larry Wallace and in fact he’s mentioned in the book at one point helping you run the Attorney General Department or the Department of Justice in California in fixing the problem of implicit bias.

As somebody who is a leader of the Me Too movement, how did this happen and you didn’t know about it? And what did you learn about it given that it kind of struck close to home?

HARRIS: Sure. First of all, it was a very painful experience to know that something can happen in ones office of almost 5,000 people, granted, but that I didn’t know about it. That being said, I take full responsibility for anything that has happened in my office. I always do and I always will.

The buck stops with me. But the other point, Jake, is that it really does, to your point make -- make also a clear point, which is, even in the office of someone who has been an advocate for women and women's rights and all people's rights, there's no office that is immune from this kind of behavior. And that's something we'll also have to deal with. And it is a sad statement.

TAPPER: You have said that you think the country is ready for a president who is a woman of color. Not necessarily you, but a woman of color. At the same time you also talk very movingly in your book and compellingly in your book and elsewhere about misogyny, sexism, racism.

HARRIS: Anti-Semitism, homophobia.

TAPPER: Anti-Semitism. But square the circle, how is the country ready for this, if these problems are so prevalent and when are you going to make your decision?

HARRIS: I will make my decision soon, not at this very moment. But I will say that we have to give the American people more credit. And we have to understand that the American public and the people of our country are smart people who will make decisions about who will be their leader based on who they believe is capable, who they believe has an honest desire to lead, to represent, to see them, to be a voice for them even if they have no power, and those are the kinds of people who we are as a country.

And so the pundits can talk all day and all night and there's a lot of chatter about which demographic will do this or that. It has been my life's experience that the American people are smart and they make decisions based on what's in the best interest of their household, their family and their community, and I have faith that in 2020 and in any other election that would be their motivation when they vote.

TAPPER: Do you think that people talk too much time talking about the fact that you were first woman attorney general of California, first attorney general of California, first African American, all of those trail blazing things you did? Do they spend too much time talking about that and not the accomplishments?

HARRIS: I think that people talk about both. I am proud when people talk about the fact that I created one of the first reentry initiatives of any D.A.s office in the country when I was district attorney of San Francisco, focused on first time offenders and -- and -- and what we need to do to reform the criminal justice system.

I am proud when they talk about the fact that I was the first attorney general to create a bureau of children's justice focused on education and understanding that there's a directed connection between public education and public safety. I'm proud when they talk about that fact that I was one of the first to focus on what we need to do around digital forensics and cyber security. I'm proud about all of my firsts.

TAPPER: And these two books also.

HARRIS: Yes. My first children's book. And my second book...

TAPPER: Your second for grownups.


TAPPER: First book for children, "Superheroes Are Everywhere," and "The Truths We Hold In American Journey. Thanks so much for being here, really appreciate it.

HARRIS: Thank you, Jake; I appreciate you.

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