Har­ris de­fined by prose­cu­tor past

Se­na­tor lays ground­work for likely 2020 run af­ter as­sert­ing her­self with Trump nom­i­nees

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Tal Kopan

WASH­ING­TON — Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris’ com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor has a note in all cap­i­tal let­ters stuck on her of­fice com­puter: “Show the math.”

It’s a quote from her boss — one the se­na­tor uses fre­quently.

“There’s, I think, a run­ning joke in the of­fice about cer­tain phrases I use all the time,” the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat said. “This is how I would train lawyers, prose­cu­tors about trial tech­niques: I’d say, ‘When you’re stand­ing be­fore the jury, in your closing ar­gu­ment ... show them the math.’ In­stead of say­ing, ‘You must find 8,’ show them 2 plus 2 plus 2 plus 2.”

The “Ka­mal­ism,” as one for­mer staffer called it, is far from the only rem­nant of her prose­cu­tor past that fol­lowed her to Wash­ing­ton. That back­ground has helped de­fine Har­ris’ time in the Se­nate — which will draw in­ten­sive scru­tiny if,

as ex­pected, she de­clares her can­di­dacy for the 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

Har­ris’ Se­nate col­leagues fre­quently re­fer to her pros­e­cu­to­rial ap­proach to the job, not­ing in par­tic­u­lar her propen­sity for sharp ques­tion­ing of Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials dur­ing com­mit­tee hear­ings.

Har­ris fore­shad­owed that ap­proach in her elec­tion night speech in which she em­pha­sized her in­ten­tion to “fight” in Wash­ing­ton. But she said she’s try­ing to use her bully pul­pit to fight “not against some­thing, (but) for some­thing” — which has turned out to in­clude is­sues as broad as im­mi­gra­tion and in­come dis­par­ity and as spe­cific as honor­ing his­toric vic­tims of lynch­ings.

The em­pha­sis on her lawyer past is also ev­i­dence of her ad­just­ment to be­ing a fresh­man leg­is­la­tor. Har­ris’ two years in the Se­nate have been the only ones of her ca­reer in a leg­isla­tive body, and her im­pact has been more vis­i­ble in pub­lic face-offs than in pol­icy.

Har­ris’ tus­sles with Pres­i­dent Trump’s nom­i­nees have earned her the most at­ten­tion. Her in­ter­ro­ga­tion of Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh dur­ing his Au­gust con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing about whether he had dis­cussed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence with any­one at a law firm con­nected to Trump gave C-SPAN one of its most­watched YouTube videos of the year.

For­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions told Har­ris dur­ing a 2017 hear­ing that her rapid-fire ques­tions made him “ner­vous . ... If I don’t qual­ify it, you’ll ac­cuse me of ly­ing. I’m not able to be rushed this fast.”

Dur­ing a tense, in­ter­rup­tion-filled ex­change with John Kelly in 2017, the then-home­land se­cu­rity sec­re­tary asked, “Would you let me fin­ish once?”

“Ex­cuse me, I’m ask­ing the ques­tions,” Har­ris said, press­ing on.

“It’s a con­stant pur­suit of the truth. You know, ‘What hap­pened?’ ” Har­ris, 54, said in an in­ter­view. “It’s not about me giv­ing a beau­ti­ful speech in those hear­ings. It’s about find­ing out: Is our gov­ern­ment do­ing its job? Are we be­ing ac­count­able? Are we be­ing trans­par­ent? Are we con­duct­ing our­selves con­sis­tent with the mores and the val­ues of our coun­try?”

That style has been po­lar­iz­ing. Her sup­port­ers praise it as a no-non­sense form of over­sight. Her de­trac­tors de­scribe it as in­ap­pro­pri­ate or grand­stand­ing.

For­mer Trump cam­paign ad­viser Ja­son Miller set off a firestorm when he said her ques­tion­ing of Ses­sions was “hys­ter­i­cal.” Af­ter Har­ris pres­sured Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein in an In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing about Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­de­pen­dence, panel Chair­man Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., cut her off and said she wasn’t giv­ing Rosen­stein “the cour­tesy ... for ques­tions to get an­swered.”

The episode prompted a tweet from Sen. El­iz­a­beth

An­drew Mangum / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, D-Calif., hugs a staff mem­ber af­ter a Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus event in Wash­ing­ton.

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