Evening Newsletter

Kamala Harris just got a campaign assist from Donald Trump’s attorney general

Kamala Harris’ most memorable moments during her short Senate career have come during nationally televised committee hearings with leading Trump administration officials. So the California senator and her 2020 presidential campaign came prepared for Attorney General William Barr’s testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Senator Harris’ Facebook page live streamed the entire hearing, as did her Senate Twitter account.

As one of the most junior members of the committee, Harris, had to wait four-and-a-half hours to ask questions of the attorney general, who came before the committee to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and Barr’s own response to the report. But that didn’t stop Harris’ campaign staff from commenting on the proceedings throughout the day.

Before the hearing had even started, her national press secretary Tweeted about Mueller and the release of a March letter he wrote to Barr, complaining about the way the attorney general had characterized the special counsel’s report to the public.

“With his letter’s release today, as they say, watch this space...” Ian Sams tweeted Wednesday morning. At other points Sams and Communications Director Lily Adams pointed out that Harris is co-sponsoring a bill to improve election security and protect voting systems from outside meddling, something Republicans on the committee called for at numerous points during the hearing.

Harris also chimed in on Twitter at one point, reiterating her previous criticism of the attorney general. “So far in this hearing, Attorney General Barr is still conducting himself more like the president’s attorney than a protector of the rule of law.” Later in the day, Harris tweeted, “What I just saw from the Attorney General is unacceptable. Barr must resign now.”

It promptly received tens of thousands of likes and retweets.

When Harris’ turn to question Barr finally came, she did not waste her moment. Neither did her campaign team.

The senator, a former prosecutor, opened with a crisp, simple question: “Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?”

It was one of the few times during his five-plus hours of testimony that Barr appeared to stumble. “Um, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t,” he began, before asking, “Could you repeat that question?”

Harris also succeeded in getting the attorney general to acknowledge that neither he nor his deputies reviewed the underlying evidence that Mueller’s team reviewed to compile their report.

The Democratic Twittersphere erupted in praise for Harris’ pointed questioning. “The Harris questioning was the only time Barr seemed genuinely flummoxed and on the defensive,” tweeted David Axelrod, former campaign strategist for President Barack Obama. Another former senior Obama aide, Dan Pfeiffer, tweeted, “Kamala Harris should ask all the questions at all the hearings.”

Harris campaign aides promptly retweeted dozens of those comments, as well as the clips of Harris’ question that left Barr struggling to respond.

The senator did not participate in a brief second round of questioning.

She will, however, be appearing on cable news program Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC Wednesday evening to discuss Barr’s testimony.

And less than an hour after the hearing wrapped up, her campaign was out with a fundraising ask.

“I just questioned Attorney General Barr,” the subject line of the email read. In her message to supporters, Harris reiterated her call for Barr to resign. “I’m running for president because the American people deserve truth and integrity from their elected leaders,” she concluded. “That’s not what we’re getting right now. If you’re with me in this fight, I need you now.”

Emily Cadei works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where she covers national politics and policy for McClatchy’s California readers. A native of Sacramento, she has spent more than a decade in D.C. reporting on U.S. elections, Congress and foreign affairs for publications including Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call.