Full Interview: VP Kamala Harris On Policing, Gun Safety, George Floyd, Working With Biden | Video | RealClearPolitics

Full Interview: VP Kamala Harris On Policing, Gun Safety, George Floyd, Working With Biden

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Vice President Kamala Harris sits down for a wide-ranging interview with CNN's Dana Bash. Full transcript, via CNN:

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: In the days since George Floyd's family and communities across America celebrated the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict, the nation has felt both hope that things are changing and despair over new police shootings.

Now a bipartisan working group in Congress says there is momentum to make real progress on policing reform, an effort that failed just last summer. And the White House says police reform will be a key part of President Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, part of an ambitious agenda he hopes to pass with the slimmest majorities in the U.S. Senate.


As the nation waited to hear from the Chauvin jury, I spoke exclusively with Vice President Kamala Harris about her history-making role, the weight of the responsibility that brings, and how and when President Biden seeks her advice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nine minutes and 29 seconds, right? We all watched that video.

Many of us watched it multiple times. And people are in pain over what we all saw in that video. And, in fact, it was in large part because of that case that, together with my then colleagues Cory Booker in particular and then on the House side Karen Bass, that we wrote the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

And I really do hope that the United States Senate -- the House has passed it -- that the United States Senate will take it on and have the courage to take it on, because there is no question that we have got to put an end to these moments where the public questions whether there's going to be accountability, questions whether there's going to be the kind of fairness that we should all expect and deserve in all of our lives and, in particular, as it relates to people of color, with a particular emphasis on black and brown men in the criminal justice system, as it relates to policing.

This verdict is but a piece of it. And it will not heal the pain that existed for generations, that has existed for generations among people who have experienced and firsthand witnessed what now a broader public is seeing because of smartphones and the ubiquity of our ability to videotape in real time what is happening in front of our faces.

And that's just the reality of it. And that's why -- that's why Congress needs to act. And that's why they should pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

BASH: This is really a moment in America.

HARRIS: Yes.

BASH: Racial tensions, as you just mentioned, they are really palpable.

Your experience, your life experience, is different from every one of your predecessors.

HARRIS: Mm-hmm.

BASH: How is that bringing itself to bear right here in the White House?

HARRIS: Well, I think that, first of all, you will recall that, when Joe Biden asked me to join him on the ticket, he did so with a sense of intentionality, of purpose, knowing that he and I may have very different life experiences, but we also have the same values and operate from the same principles.

But it was something that I know he was very intentional about in terms of asking me to run with him and to serve with him, which is that I will bring a perspective that will contribute to the overall decisions that we make.

He and I are in almost every meeting together, have made almost every decision together. I'm not going to talk about our private conversations, of course, but I can tell you that it is often the case that, as I will ask his opinion about things, he will ask my opinion.

And through that process, I think that we arrive at a good place. And, ultimately, of course, he is the president and he makes the final decision.

BASH: Do you feel a special responsibility, given the fact that...

HARRIS: Listen, I carry a great, great weight of responsibility, knowing that there are so many people, again, the generations of women who fought for and imagined there would be a woman vice president or a woman on the ticket.

And I think of that all the time, in terms of the responsibility I have to hopefully make them proud. I carry a great sense of responsibility for all of the young girls and boys of color, those who identify in some way because maybe no one expected something of them, but they expect a lot of themselves, to do well and to do right and to do good.

So, yes, I carry a great, great sense of responsibility, if not the seriousness of the responsibility, to be in this position and be a voice for those who have not traditionally been in the room.

BASH: You mentioned police reform...

HARRIS: Yes.

BASH: ... a couple of times.

The House, of course, has passed the bill that you were a co-sponsor of when you were in the Senate. But it doesn't have -- there's not a high hope for it to pass as is in the United States Senate.

So, you talked about the fact that you have a special responsibility. The president talked about the fact that he would always have the backs of African-Americans in this country.

So, will you and he get more involved in the informal negotiations going on, and, if so, how?

HARRIS: Well, we have made our position clear, each of us. And, as an administration, we have made our position clear.

But it is for the folks in the Senate to work together to resolve whatever may be differences of opinion about the details of the legislation. But I think there's no question that the American people, in a bipartisan way, realize and want that there will be some reform of the system.

BASH: More broadly, there have been at least 50 mass shootings in America in a little over a month.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

BASH: Your administration has made clear that infrastructure is the next big legislative priority.

Why not guns? Anthony Fauci told me over the weekend that gun violence is a public health emergency.

HARRIS: Well, I would disagree.

We, actually, as an administration, have taken action. The president issued executive orders, for example, on ghost guns. And there is only so much, however, that a president can do through executive action.

This president, Joe Biden, has a longstanding history of speaking very clearly and unambiguously about the need for smart gun safety laws back from the time that he was in the Senate through today.

But I guess that emphasizes the point that, both he, when he was in the Senate, when I was in the Senate, same thing, we were pushing for legislation. Congress has to act.

BASH: Exactly.

HARRIS: Because we have to codify -- that's a fancy word for make permanent, make the law that we agree we should have background checks. That's just reasonable gun safety laws.

We should have an assault weapons ban. Assault weapons have been designed to kill a lot of people quickly. They are weapons of war. And Congress has to act, Dana.

I mean, I was recently in Connecticut. Senators Murphy and Blumenthal and the governor there, so many people, the families of Sandy Hook. You know, I honestly thought, I honestly thought that, when those babies, 20 6- and 7-year-old children were slaughtered, I really thought Congress would act. I thought that would be the thing. And it didn't happen.

And...

BASH: But do you think it can happen? My question was about...

HARRIS: It has to happen. It has to happen.

BASH: But my question was about your priority as an administration, pushing it harder.

HARRIS: But it is part of our priority. We have to multitask, so not one to the exclusion of the other.
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