Opinion
July 30, 2020

Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is reportedly the frontrunner to be picked as Joe Biden's running mate. At a time of close attention to racial justice issues, the first Black woman vice president would be a marked symbolic advance.

However, there is another side to Harris' record on this question. Alex Sammon examined documents from Harris' tenure as California attorney general for The American Prospect, and found that she disobeyed for years a Supreme Court order to reduce the extreme overcrowding in the state's prisons. Harris took office in 2011, and in May that year the court ruled the state's packed prisons — which had previously reached 200 percent of their design capacity — were a violation of the Eighth Amendment. They instructed the state to cut capacity to 167 percent by the end of 2011, to 137.5 percent by June 2013, and appointed a 3-judge oversight panel.

Harris refused. The state made little progress in 2011, and in 2012 appealed to get the final figure raised to 145 percent (which was denied). By April 2013 the state was still 9,636 prisoners over the cap, and the oversight board recommended extending "good time" credits to nonviolent offenders. Harris's office fought tooth and nail against this proposal. The judges found their arguments so "continually equivocated regarding the facts and the law" that they nearly held the state in contempt of court. Eventually, in 2014, Harris gave in and the prison population was duly reduced.

This stubborn foot-dragging to keep nonviolent, low-risk offenders in grossly overcrowded prisons bears a striking contrast with Harris's decision not to prosecute Steven Mnuchin (now secretary of the Treasury) for illegal foreclosures when he was head of OneWest Bank. As David Dayen reported at The Intercept, California prosecutors wrote a memo in 2013 describing how they "uncovered evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct," including 1,000 alleged legal violations in just a sample of OneWest loans. They recommended Harris file charges, but she declined to do so.

So on the one hand, Harris went to the mat to keep thousands of nonviolent offenders behind bars. On the other, she would not prosecute a rich, well-connected person even when her own staffers found 1,000 alleged crimes. It's not a great fit for a time when the rampant injustice in American police departments and prisons has become a first-rank political issue. Ryan Cooper

August 11, 2020

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's pick of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate got a positive reception from Democrats. But what about the Republicans hoping to defeat President Trump this fall? Well, the GOP operatives behind the Lincoln Project approve, they signaled in a new ad released just hours after Biden announced his pick.

"Joe Biden is the president for this moment," the ad's female narrator says. "Standing with him, Kamala Harris, a strong voice for a better America. Daughter of immigrants, a passion for justice, a happy warrior in the battle for the soul of America. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is the America we believe in, where hard work means more than family wealth, where compassion and kindness are strengths, not weaknesses. This is the America of our better angles. ... Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — it's time."

You can disagree with the Lincoln Project's politics — or not even really understand their politics — but you have to admire their speed. Peter Weber

August 11, 2020

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar won Tuesday's primary in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, defeating four challengers, including one who received millions in donations.

Her closest challenger was Antone Melton-Meaux, a mediation lawyer who used the millions he raised to outspend Omar by a two-to-one margin on TV ads, Politico reports. The website Open Secrets, which tracks campaign donations, said more than $2.5 million was spent by outside interests in an attempt to defeat Omar.

Omar was first elected in 2018, along with three other progressive women of color — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) — dubbed "The Squad." She faced criticism in 2019 from members of the left and right when she made comments about Israel that some called anti-Semitic; Omar later apologized. Catherine Garcia

August 11, 2020

Marjorie Taylor Greene, an adherent of the right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory who has previously expressed racist views in videos, won Tuesday's Republican primary runoff in Georgia's 14th Congressional District.

Greene, the owner of a construction company, defeated John Cowan, a neurosurgeon. She will face off against Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal, an IT specialist, in November. The district is considered a Republican stronghold.

In June, Politico reported that Greene uploaded videos to her Facebook page in which she made derogatory comments about Black people, Muslims, and the Jewish philanthropist and investor George Soros. Her remarks were condemned by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), but he did not take sides in the House race. Catherine Garcia

August 11, 2020

There are a few things Sarah Palin wants Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to know about life as a vice presidential candidate.

On Instagram, Palin said she learned a lot of lessons when she was the late Sen. John McCain's running mate in 2008. Her first piece of advice? "Out of the chute, trust no one new," she said, adding, "Fight mightily to keep your own team with you — they know you, know your voice, and most importantly are trustworthy." Palin also suggested Harris "connect with media and voters in your own unique way. Some yahoos running campaigns will suffocate you with their own self-centered agenda, so remember, YOU were chosen for who YOU are."

Palin said when she was on the campaign trail, her favorite thing was the "ropeline," which allowed her to shake hands with and hug supporters. Each interaction, she said, "melted my heart, energized my soul, and gave me the utmost hope in the greatest country on Earth!" These were pre-pandemic times, so it's not likely that Harris will be able to greet people the way Palin did, but if she does she must "be sincere in looking in their eyes, understanding why they're there, never forgetting they represent the innumerable Americans putting their trust in you to serve for the right reasons." Catherine Garcia

August 11, 2020

The Colorado attorney general's office on Tuesday announced it has launched a civil rights investigation into the Aurora Police Department's "patterns and practices," following several high-profile cases of alleged excessive force and misconduct.

This review began several weeks ago, a spokesperson said, and is separate from an investigation into the 2019 death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain, an unarmed Black man who died after officers used a chokehold on him. Earlier Tuesday, McClain's family filed a lawsuit against the Aurora Police Department and paramedics who injected him with ketamine.

Last week, a video went viral showing Aurora officers holding a Black family at gunpoint, after the officers mistakenly thought the family was in a stolen car. As they all lay face down on the pavement, one of the children is heard sobbing and screaming, "I want my mother!" The department later apologized, and interim Chief of Police Vanessa Wilson said there will be a review of how officers are trained to conduct high-risk stops. Catherine Garcia

August 11, 2020

President Trump hasn't gotten over the way Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) grilled Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 Senate confirmation hearing, saying on Tuesday she was "nasty" to Kavanaugh.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced Harris as his running mate Tuesday afternoon, and Trump was asked about this during his evening coronavirus briefing. Harris was Trump's own "No. 1 pick" for Biden's ticket, he said, but Biden is still "handing over the reins to Kamala while they jointly embrace the radical left." He criticized her for supporting the expansion of government health care.

Trump then brought up Harris' pointed questioning of Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. "She was nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing, the way she was, the way she treated now-Justice Kavanaugh," he said. "And I won't forget that soon." When asked if he thinks Harris will boost Biden's appeal to voters, Trump responded: "Well, I like Vice President Mike Pence much better, he is solid as a rock. I will take him over Kamala and the horrible way she again treated Justice Kavanaugh. That was a horrible event. I thought it was terrible for her. I thought it was terrible for our nation. I thought she was the meanest, the most horrible, the most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate." Catherine Garcia

August 11, 2020

President Trump's campaign may be calling her "Phony Kamala" now, but Trump once liked Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) enough to twice donate to her re-election campaign for California attorney general.

The Sacramento Bee first reported the donations in 2019, but they are receiving renewed interest now that former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has chosen Harris to be his running mate.

Before she became a senator, Harris was attorney general of California; she was first elected in 2010, and was re-elected four years later. Trump made two donations to Harris' re-election campaign — $5,000 in 2011 and $1,000 in 2013. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, also gave Harris $2,000 in 2014.

A spokesperson for Harris' campaign previously told McClatchy that in 2015, Harris donated the $6,000 she received from Trump to a nonprofit organization that advocates for civil and human rights for Central Americans. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads