Kamala Harris has the mic now, so everybody needs to sit down
If you’ve been watching the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Russiagate, then you know Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is killing it.
The junior senator from California is shining in the spotlight, as she puts officials’ feet to the fire, grills them and serves them up. No one is getting away with anything with Harris, who served as the California attorney general before coming to Capitol Hill.
Harris is the only black woman on the committee, or in the Senate for that matter. She is also the only prosecutor, and it shows.
Her tenacity and probing line of questioning makes her stand out among her colleagues. This, at a time when shady people in high places apparently stole the 2016 election, and sold out the country to Vladimir Putin.
Someone must hold them accountable – and it might as well be Mrs. Harris.
The Tuesday committee hearing with Jeff Sessions is a case in point. Sen. Harris challenged U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III on his evasiveness regarding his ties to Russia and meetings with Russian officials when he was an adviser for the Trump campaign.
The senator wanted to see the receipts, but Sessions didn’t have them. The attorney general learned the hard way that when Kamala Harris comes for you, you’d better be prepared.
Sessions was not.
Jeff Sessions is not the intellectual firepower of the Trump administration. To be frank, there is no brain trust in this White House. Sessions fumbled and bumbled his way through his testimony and could barely read his prepared statement of fiction. When he wasn’t lying he said he could not recall. Otherwise, Sessions relied on a nonexistent “long standing policy” as he called it, which we might as well call the “Stonewall” privilege–enjoyed by white men who believe their standing in the world allows them to avoid answering government questions under oath.
Harris: And you referred to a long standing DOJ policy, can you tell us what policy it is you’re talking about?
Sessions: Well, I think most cabinet people as the witnesses you had before you earlier, those individuals declined to comment because we’re all — about conversations with the President — because that’s a long standing policy —
Harris: Sir, I’m just asking you about the DOJ policy you referred to.
Sessions: — that goes beyond just the Attorney General.
Harris: Is that policy in writing somewhere?
Sessions: I think so.
And Sessions was nervous. We know this because he told Sen. Harris she made him nervous:
Harris: I do want you to be honest.
Sessions: — I’m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.
Harris: Are you aware of any communications with other Trump campaign officials and associates that they had with Russian officials or any Russian nationals?
Sessions: I don’t recall that —
Sessions should be nervous, because if there’s any justice, Sessions and his boss will one day be on lockdown in one of the prisons they plan to send all the black folks, while Kamala Harris will someday become president of the United States.
Back to the hearing. At some point, Harris was on the attack, Sessions was floundering, and the white men decided they had enough. Because the last thing Republican senators will tolerate is a black woman sassing a white man. “Chairman, the witness should be allowed to answer the question,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the committee chair, addressed Sen. Harris: “Senators will allow the Chair to control the hearing. Senator Harris, let him answer.”
Twitter had something to say about all of this:
It’s unacceptable that Sessions – the top law enforcement official in the country – cannot name his legal basis for evading questions.
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) June 13, 2017
What is it about Kamala Harris that makes her the only Senator Republicans interrupt at every hearing?
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) June 13, 2017
Why do Republican senators only interrupt when Kamala Harris is asking questions? A black woman can’t question a white attorney general? pic.twitter.com/0zD59hVH7E
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) June 13, 2017
— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) June 13, 2017
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) June 13, 2017
Every pothead Jeff Sessions wants to throw in jail has a better memory than Jeff Sessions
— Jess Dweck (@TheDweck) June 13, 2017
Jeff Sessions voice sounds like a White’s only water fountain.#SessionHearing
— Elon James White (@elonjames) June 13, 2017
— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) June 13, 2017
This was the second hearing in as many weeks where Burr had interrupted Harris. On June 7, Harris pressed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on whether he would give Special Counsel Robert Mueller full independence in his investigation of collusion between Trump and Russia in the election.
Rosenstein: Senator, I’m very sensitive about time and I’d like to have a very lengthy conversation and explain that all to you.Harris: Can you give me a ‘yes or no’ answer?Rosenstein: It’s not a short answer, senator.
Harris: It is. Either you are willing to do that or you are not.
McCain: Mr. Chairman, they should be allowed to answer the question.Harris: Are you willing or are you not willing to give him the authority to be fully independent of your ability, statutorily or legally, to fire him?Rosenstein: He has the…Harris: “Yes or no, sir. Are you willing to do …Burr: Will the senator suspend? The chair is going to exercise its right to allow the witnesses to answer the question, and the committee is on notice to provide the witnesses the courtesy, which has not been extended all the way across, extend the courtesy for questions to get answered.Harris: Mr. Chairman, respectfully, I would point out that this witness has joked, as we all have, his ability to filibuster.
Despite her white male colleagues cutting off the only woman of color on the committee, Kamala Harris has been persistent in interrogating witnesses and making them sweat. When fired FBI director James Comey testified, Harris managed to inject brilliant humor with her dead-serious questioning about Russia and Trump’s reasons for firing him: “In my experience of prosecuting cases,” Harris said, “when a robber held a gun to somebody’s head and said, ‘I hope you will give me your wallet,’ the word ‘hope’ was not the most operative word at that moment.”
Black excellence and professionalism in the Obama White House has given way to white supremacy and incompetence under Trump. Someone in the Senate must keep these mediocre cats in line.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter @davidalove.