- JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
- CNN anchor Don Lemon confronted Sen. Kamala Harris of California during night two of the second Democratic debate about previous statements she’s made suggesting that if she’s president, she would have the Justice Department prosecute President Donald Trump.
- Harris said last month that the DOJ would have “no choice” but to charge Trump with obstruction-of-justice if she wins the 2020 election.
- When asked about her comments on Wednesday, Harris somewhat softened her stance, though she maintained that Trump should be “held accountable” for his actions.
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During night two of the second Democratic primary debate, CNN anchor pressed Harris about her statements.
“Senator Harris, you have criticized President Trump for interfering with the Justice Department, and just last month said if you were elected president, your Justice Department would have no choice and should go forward with obstruction of justice charges against former president Trump,” Lemon said. “Why is it okay for you to advocate for the Justice Department to prosecute somebody” but not Trump? “I would never direct the Department of Justice to do whatever it believes it should do,” Harris said. “Listen, we all watched [the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s] testimony. I read the report. There are ten clear incidents of obstruction of justice by this president and he needs to be held accountable.”
She added: “I have seen people go to prison for far less. And the reality of it is we have a person in the White House right now who has been shielded by a memo in the United States Department of Justice that says the sitting president cannot be indicted.”
Harris was referring to a 1973 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that bars a sitting president from being criminally prosecuted. Mueller cited that memo as a key reason why he did not come to a decision on whether Trump obstructed justice.
Harris’ statements at the debate were significantly softer than previous comments she’s made about prosecuting Trump.
Trump, meanwhile, faced significant blowback during the 2016 election when he said that if he was elected, he would have his Justice Department prosecute then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
His rallies often made front-page news because of the “Lock her up!” chants that dominated the events. And since taking office, he and his allies in Congress have repeatedly called for the DOJ and independent prosecutors to investigate Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.
Harris has surged in the polls since the first Democratic debate last month, when she took on former Vice President Joe Biden over his record on race. But she’s faced criticism for abruptly reversing some of her positions, and her lackluster performance during the second debate on Wednesday could spell trouble as well.