Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a Democratic presidential candidate, spent many years as a prosecutor earlier in her career, both as the district attorney of San Francisco and as attorney general of California. Her prosecutorial record has come under some scrutiny throughout the campaign.
Now, Harris has made news for something else related to prosecution: She has vowed, as president, to prosecute President Trump after he leaves office.
The candidate, in an interview with NPR Politics Podcast that aired Wednesday, was asked if a Harris Department of Justice would pursue criminal obstruction of justice charges against Trump in the event that she was elected president and Trump was then out of office.
“I believe that they would have no choice and that they should, yes,” Sen. Harris said. “People might, you know, question why I became a prosecutor. Well, I’ll tell you one of the reasons — I believe there should be accountability. Everyone should be held accountable, and the president is not above the law.”
Several of the Democratic candidates have called for President Trump, based on the obstruction findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, to face an impeachment inquiry. But Harris appears to be the first 2020 candidate to call for criminal prosecution of the current president.
In reaction to the comments by Harris, many pointed out that it recalls the “lock her up” chants that were directed at Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign by Trump’s supporters and continue to be used to this day. In addition, as has come up throughout the Trump presidency, the Department of Justice is supposed to be independent and not act at the president’s whim.
“I am as opposed to this corrupt president as anyone, but Kamala Harris’ comment here is badly mistaken,” lawyer Bill Fouche tweeted Wednesday. “No politician should campaign on a promise to direct the Dept. of Justice to prosecute a political opponent. That’s what Trump did.”
Kamala Harris tells @scottdetrow and @Clay_Masters her DoJ “would have no choice” but to prosecute Trump after he leaves the WH. “I've seen prosecution of cases on much less evidence." https://t.co/zMCPRxHqKh— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) June 12, 2019
“Presidential candidates should not express their opinion as to whether Trump should be indicted after he leaves office,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted. He added that Harris having declared that could eventually be used as part of a motion down the line by Trump’s attorneys.
The current Real Clear Politics polling average lists Harris with 7.2 percent of the vote in Democratic national polls, tying her for fourth with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac University poll has Harris among several Democratic candidates who would defeat Trump in a head-to-head matchup, per CNN.