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Kamala Harris Says Justice Department Would Prosecute Trump If She Wins In 2020


California Senator Kamala Harris says if she is elected president, then President Donald Trump could wind up in federal court facing obstruction of justice charges. Harris, a longtime prosecutor, said that during a recent interview with NPR in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. NPR Politics Podcast host Scott Detrow has more on the latest in our series of conversations with 2020 presidential hopefuls.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Harris has been framing her presidential campaign as a political prosecution of the case against the Trump administration.


KAMALA HARRIS: He believes the president of Russia and a North Korean dictator over the word of the American intelligence community - securities fraud. And then he claims to be the best president we've seen in a generation. Well, I say let's call Barack Obama because that's identity fraud.

DETROW: So when the former California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney sat down with the NPR Politics Podcast, I asked her about the possibility of an actual prosecution, one based on the possible obstruction of justice episodes laid out in former special counsel Robert Mueller's report.


DETROW: If you become president, if he was never impeached, would you want the Department of Justice, now that he is no longer a sitting president, to go forward with those obstruction of justice charges?

HARRIS: I believe that they would have no choice, and that they should, yes. There has to be accountability.

DETROW: Mueller did not make a determination on whether or not the episodes broke the law. He says he never considered it because of a Department of Justice policy barring charges against sitting presidents. That would not apply if Trump loses next year. Harris says she wouldn't be deterred by the unprecedented sight of a former president on trial or possibly behind bars.


HARRIS: Well, the facts and the evidence will take the process where it leads. But I have read the Mueller report. I do believe that we should believe Bob Mueller when he tells us, essentially, that the only reason an indictment was not returned is because of a memo in the Department of Justice that suggests you cannot indict a sitting president. But I've seen prosecution of cases on much less evidence.

DETROW: If voters know one thing about Harris, it's the tough questions she asks Senate hearing witnesses. Last fall, she pressed then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on abortion access.


HARRIS: Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?

BRETT KAVANAUGH: I'm happy to answer a more specific question.

HARRIS: Male versus female.

DETROW: Presidents don't sit on committees or interrogate witnesses. Still, Harris says that approach and style would translate to the Oval Office.


HARRIS: My state of mind during those hearings is about the fact that the American public and the American people deserve the truth. And they deserve transparency. And they deserve to have a voice in those, you know, those gilded rooms.

DETROW: It's more the mindset, the approach. It's not, you know, grilling your cabinet across the cabinet table in the same style.

HARRIS: Well, but it's about accountability.

DETROW: Yeah, yeah.

HARRIS: Yeah, you're right. It is certainly about accountability. And the question being then, accountable to whom? And the point being accountable to the American people, right?

DETROW: For now, Harris' main goal isn't grilling people. It's winning them over and rallying her supporters, like she did in Iowa this weekend.


HARRIS: And I have to tell you I love campaigning.

DETROW: Some of the moments where Harris looks most excited about running for president come after her events, when she's shaking hands and working the crowd.



HARRIS: So when you're standing up to speak, remember that it's not about you.


HARRIS: Harris often stops and spends several minutes talking to younger people - young women and girls, especially - offering them advice.


HARRIS: Frankly, the joy of achieving any success is being able to lift other people up and pass that on to them.

DETROW: She says the interactions are often guided by something her mother taught her - that part of the responsibility for being the first to do something is making sure you're not the last.


HARRIS: I think the measure of one's strength and power is how much you actually strengthen and empower other people. And I will now shamelessly say that this is the contrast between that thought and the guy who's currently in the White House.

DETROW: A contrast Harris hopes to make all of next year if she emerges from the crowded primary field as the party's nominee. Scott Detrow, NPR News, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.