Sen. Kamala Harris on Monday evening issued her most forceful call to date for the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, an escalation sparked by the news that Trump allegedly pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
But she did not attempt to shield Biden or members of his family from scrutiny as she competes with the former vice president to win the Democratic presidential nomination, though she initially sought to turn attention to Trump’s conduct.
When asked whether she believed either Biden or his son, Hunter, should be investigated for possible abuse of power, she initially deflected the question by saying, “Donald Trump is trying to play politics on this issue.”
“He (Trump) is trying to collaborate with – and conspired with a foreign leader to interfere in our democracy,” the California senator said during a visit to Oaxacan restaurant in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. “I have absolutely no support for that. And I believe that that this is a political tactic being waged by Donald Trump, because he obviously perceives a threat. That is a political threat, and I have no support for it whatsoever.”
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
But when asked whether she shared the concerns of other Democrats that Biden has too much baggage to be the Democratic nominee for the White House, Harris said, “I’ll leave that to the voters to decide.”
“In my experience, the voters are paying attention to this race, they are paying attention to the issues and people’s records,” Harris said.
Still, Harris tried to keep her focus on the current occupant of the White House and her belief that impeachment proceedings should begin now.
After visiting with the young second-generation immigrant owners of Guelaguetza, known for its mole and tamales, she pulled out a list of reasons to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump – “just to make sure I didn’t leave anything out.”
“I strongly believe that it is long past due that we begin impeachment proceedings against this President,” Harris said. “He’s pressured a foreign leader, the Ukraine President, to dig up dirt on a political opponent, in the 2020 presidential election. He urged a foreign country to attack our democracy in the 2016 presidential election. He gave classified information to Russian officials in May of 2017.”
On Friday, CNN reported Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 call to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter, according to a person familiar with the situation. That call was part of the whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, another person familiar with the situation told CNN.
Trump on Sunday said that he did indeed discuss Biden with Ukraine’s President at a time when the country was awaiting a $250 million military aid package from the United States, but he denied doing anything improper.
“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump said.
On Monday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham dismissed Harris’ comments on impeachment, telling CNN, “Another day, another Democrat shouting the word ‘impeachment’ to anyone who will listen. Nothing new here. “
Harris added that Trump “undercut the American intelligence community” in its efforts to deal with North Korea and the American student, Otto F. Warmbier, who was tortured and killed. On her list, she also referenced the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident and journalist who wrote for the Washington Post, stating that Trump “prefers to take the word of Saudi Prince over the word of the American intelligence community” while adding he also prefers “taking the word of the Russian President over the word of the American intelligence community when it came to the interference in the 2016 election.”
“He had a national security adviser who secretly worked as a foreign lobbyist and, of course, that was Flynn,” Harris continued referring to Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. “He consistently props up murderous dictators, and again that would be Kim Jong Un, it would be the President of Russia. He has obstructed justice in the investigation into his presidential campaign. And we know that because the Mueller report tells us so – and gives us 10 examples of just that. He has violated federal law by directing his lawyer to pay $280,000 in hush money to cover up two apparent extramarital affairs – of course that’s the Stormy Daniels case.” Trump has denied having affairs with Daniels and Karen McDougal.
She wrapped up the litany of what she views as impeachable offenses by Trump by stating that the President believes he is “above the law,” beyond reproach, “beyond accountability and consequences.”
“It is time that Donald Trump be held accountable for his behaviors that have been essentially against the best interest of the American people and against the best interest of America’s democracy,” she said.
She added that she believes that the transcripts between Trump and the Ukrainian President should be released to Congress.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg also weighed in on the controversy on Monday, telling an audience in Dubuque, Iowa, “We can’t go on like this.”
“We can’t have a President admit on national television to trying to involve a foreign government in impacting the American election and accept that as normal,” he said.
CNN’s Donald Judd, Rose Rashard and Jasmine Wright and contributed to this report.