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Full Interview: Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic V.P. Nominee, Talks With Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

you know it was just over two months ago that former vice president joe biden announced that his running mate his choice to fill the job that he himself held under president obama would be california senator kamala harris in the nine weeks since that announcement the it feels like the world has gone around the sun several times biden's polling advantage over the president has only grown larger the president and we now know his wife and his teenage son were both infected with the coronavirus the president was hospitalized for coronavirus the president pulled out of the second presidential debate after a disastrous performance in the first presidential debate senator harris and vice president pence held a debate in which a persistent housefly that appeared to be trying to nest in mr pence's hair earned more headlines than any one clash between the vice presidential candidates also over the course of these nine weeks no small thing at least 12.7 million americans according to nbc news took time to already cast their ballots for who they want in the white house these nine weeks and senator kamala harris was announced as joe biden's running mate have been an era unto themselves in that time though while all that has happened i haven't yet had a chance to speak with senator kamala harris since she has been the democratic party's vice presidential nominee until tonight senator harris will be joining us live tonight for the first time as the vice presidential nominee of her party she's joining us live tonight from washington d.c senator it's such an honor to have you here tonight i know you have a choice to be anywhere you want to be thanks for being here thank you rachel it's great to be back with you thank you um i want to jump right in with some news that we just learned today today the first lady announced in a written statement um that her and the president's teenage son baron also tested positive for covid in the wake of her and the president's own diagnoses uh baron according to the first lady has thankfully recovered he's since tested negative it's it's such a dramatic piece of news to learn and of course we're all grateful about his recovery but i just have to ask your reaction to the fact that the white house itself really does appear to be a significantly sized covid cluster of its own including infecting the whole first family now well if i wish the best for for the first lady for her son and and for the president i you know i i know too many people i think we all do who have contracted the virus horrible stories of people who have of lost family members and i i don't wish it on anybody um the suffering that people are experiencing is really quite significant um but i will say that you know it's what i've been saying rachel the president and this administration have been the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country you know you just go back to what they knew and when they knew it and let's start with january 28th when the president the vice president were informed that this thing was deadly that it could hurt children that it was five times more deadly than the flu that it was airborne and they covered up that information they didn't share it with the american people and you know when i look at the over i think it's seven and a half million people that have contracted the virus with as we now know um serious potentially serious lifelong um consequences in terms of lung scarring and things of that nature when we look at the over 215 000 people that have died in just the last several months and they have families and friends and and they had life to live um and and you put that in the context of the president's failure to tell the american people what was going on so they could protect themselves and their families much less so that we could have a president and leadership in our country who had a plan to deal with it and now look where we are um it has been a a a failure of a magnitude that is causing millions and millions of people to suffer because of the public health consequences and because of the economic consequences and frankly that is why we need a new president in the white house who will embrace science who will be guided by fact and truth and speak truth to the american people and have a plan because this administration still has no plan rachel they still have no plan you contrast that with joe biden who's saying we're going to have a national plan for testing and for treatment and for vaccines which will be free contact tracing this is this was avoidable to the extent that the american people have now suffered they didn't need to suffer like people have been suffering if there had been leadership guided by science and guided by truth if you win and you and joe biden would be taking over control the federal government in late january the university of washington's current projection is that we could be close to 400 000 americans dead by that point by the end of january and i know as you say that you and joe biden have a plan to tackle kovid that is much different than what the current administration has been doing but particularly because it has been so bad because of the criticism that you are levying i think rightly about the president's approach to this particularly because what we have recently learned from the white house that they are approaching this now with this sort of fringe half-baked herd immunity idea which basically means they want as many americans as possible to get infected and somehow will still protect the elderly and other vulnerable people from dying from it do you do you worry that this might be so bad by the time you take over if you win in late january that it will almost be too far gone to turn around i i despair at how bad this is and how many americans have died i am overwhelmed by the prospect about what you are going to be trying to turn around by late january if we stay on the trajectory that we're on now i mean let me start by saying that i i pray i i i and that we will have a vaccine as soon as possible and that it will be safe and that we can distribute it to everyone who needs it as quickly as possible but you're right rachel i mean when we look at the trajectory based on just where we've been in the last weeks much less months we know more people are going to die we know many more people are going to contract this virus and it doesn't help when there's a president of the united states who is also the commander-in-chief who still is playing around with people playing around with facts with bravado taking a stage and suggesting that he is now immune and and and and saying to people who have contracted the virus or those who may that you know yet again he's going back to a theme he's he's he's been pushing from the beginning which is to suggest people shouldn't take this thing seriously and thank god that we have an election coming up right now because can you imagine if we had to deal with two more years of him um and so we have an election and the american people have a clear contrast on the one hand there is joe biden who since march has been saying that the plan that he has had in mind should be implemented joe biden who has been modeling the right behavior in terms of wearing a mask meanwhile donald trump took the debate stage and and made fun of him and then later of course we know what happened um so i think about where we are now and i think at the very least the american people have a have light at the end of the tunnel and there is a plan that they are aware of that can be implemented and the way that it will be implemented is if over the next 20 days people vote they vote early i invite people to go to joebiden.com go to iwillvote.com and make sure that you know where your polling place is and if you can vote early um it is within our power to change the trajectory of this and um and i am fully confident that people will do that senator one of the things that i have also been troubled by and even when i consider the prospect that you and and vice president biden are going to win and have the chance to take the country in a different direction on this i worry about the long-standing impact of what we've already been through and that's about the cdc um during the pandemic we have seen a number of episodes where the cdc has changed or withheld its scientific guidance in response to political pressure from the white house the cdc director appears to have repeatedly caved to pressure from the white house which has caused not only damage to the public's confidence in the cdc it's also caused significant damage to morale among career scientists at the cdc what is the first thing that you would do to try to start restoring the integrity of the cdc and our ability as a public to trust in what they do to trust those career people who are the public health experts who are the scientists who you know there's so many people in the cdc and nih who have dedicated their lives to to working on you know research and and developing those things that will alleviate pain and improve the human condition and you know personal story my mother who i talk about often um she was a scientist rachel i you know she i grew up going to the lab with her after school and on weekends and my mother was actually an advisor at nih i remember you know this kid growing up in california i would hear about this place called bethesda i always knew mommy was going to bedesta and and i so this is perhaps personal for me in addition to being professional which is we must trust the scientists these are people who have dedicated their lives to this work they could care less about who voted for who in the last election they just want to focus on what is necessary to save lives and and to help people and be relieved of pain and so the first step is to trust them and to let them know we trust them and to leave them to do their work leave them to guide our decisions and our policies when it comes to things like a pandemic and and joe and i feel strongly about it remember joe even after um the presidency that when he was in his vice president with president barack obama started this whole effort um he referred to as as the moon shot right he joe cares deeply about science i've i've sat in briefings with joe with worldwide experts on these issues and he is knowledgeable he is fascinated he is interested he is engaged in what science can do and must do to help the american people how does it feel to be out there right now yourself campaigning in these circumstances obviously there's never been a presidential campaign logistically like this one let alone politically um but do do you feel safe campaigning during covid well we've been very safe and um you know again the president um has made fun of us but we wear masks we um we you know social distancing and um and so you know the events are you know it's it's you know we're you know joe and i'd like to hug people you don't hug people these days that's not an option you can't shake hands but but you can look people in the eye and you can listen and you can be there um and so for example i'm going to be in north carolina and ohio and pennsylvania and i think texas over the next three days and um and and that's important i think it's important to be where the people are but to do it in a way that does not cause them to be at any risk in terms of their safety and so we're working it out it's definitely a different kind of campaign than anything that we've done before but we're making the best of it and people are are engaged and they're engaged online they're you know we've done i don't know countless zooms and i think we're all in our personal and professional lives um figuring out ways to stay engaged and connected um with the people that we need to talk with and and the people we need to hear from one of the other things of course that's changed and changed sort of unexpectedly and very late in the game is the debate situation um the next debate between president trump and vice president biden was supposed to be tomorrow uh president trump backed out um after it was changed by the debate commission into a remote debate because of his covet diagnosis do you and uh and your campaign expect that there actually will be a final presidential debate next week or do you expect that the president's going to back out of that one too who you know i mean he just changes his mind every day who knows what he's going to say but joe's been clear he's keeping his promise and early in the summer they worked out a schedule um with the commission and joe sticking to his word and so joe will be keeping the october 15th date he has never backed out from it and he'll be talking to the american people and listening from the american people and he's prepared to do that again on i think it's october 22nd so joe's consistent donald trump is never consistent and i don't have any reason to believe he will be on this subject are you as mad as everybody else is that nbc is doing a town hall with president trump tomorrow instead of the debate at the same time that vice president biden's going to be on abc i'm not touching that [Laughter] that is that is full let me let me ask you let me ask you a different angle yeah yeah should the networks refuse to give the president other opportunities for airtime if he's the one who refuses the chance to debate i you know i'm not going to tell the networks what to do but i'll tell you i know who i'm going to be watching so there you go well well done well done your job is safe here yeah um let me ask you about something's going on in your home state and mine in california the california state republican party has been caught putting up fake ballot drop boxes presumably to trick voters into depositing their ballots there it's almost like a like a like a college republican's prank but they're doing it for real out in the wild the state party has been issued a cease and desist order by the state by the secretary of state and the attorney general they say this is a felony you're the former attorney general in california what do you make of this do you think there should be legal ramifications for the party here i think there are and i think that both the secretary of state padilla and um and the current attorney general becerra have made clear that they are monitoring it and they're prepared to take action where enforcement is necessary the point that that i will make and um and i think it is an important one 20 days before the election is that there in every state many states are obstacles that are purposely um being thrown at voters because there are certain people that are afraid that if people vote um that they're gonna lose and you know for some of us you know we just celebrated in the last month or so the passage of the 19th amendment right honoring those suffragettes who fought for the right for women to vote also remembering black women can vote until 1965. but this is not new in america they gutted the voting rights act in 2013 and we've seen you know almost two that two dozen states set up laws that have been designed to suppress the vote these tactics are not new but what i'm seeing rachel in this election in 2020 is the voters will not be deterred and people are voting by mail they are voting early you see the lines in places like texas and georgia where people are prepared to stand in line they are doing it with joy and they're doing it with a commitment knowing that their voice matters and that their voice can determine the outcome of this election through their vote to that end at a very very serious level i think one of the things that we could see coming from a great distance um when president trump was first elected and we saw the way that he was approaching um gaining power is that i i think for a lot of us there was worry very early on that he would become the kind of leader that america previously thought we didn't have or would never have again after nixon who would use the powers of the state use the powers of government to try to ensure his continued hold on power and as you talk about voters not being deterred here for some key pillars of the government that the president might use to try to subvert the election and stay in power we are seeing some contingency plans come into view and i mean specifically there's a legal group now that includes former heads of the american bar association that is telling justice department personnel they will defend and support them uh if they whistleblower resign or refuse orders on election interference as as prosecutors and justice department officials experts in military law are also offering um free counsel to service members who question the legality of trump's orders regarding using the use of the military against protests or related to the election these contingency plans from within the profession within the legal profession within the military law expert profession trying to backstop people who may be asked to do very undemocratic things by a president who's has an authoritarian cast when it approaches this election have there been those kinds of contingency plan discussions within the campaign i know that you've said that there will be a peaceful transfer of power and that the best way that we can assure that is for there to be an overwhelming vote against this president but are you working on those kind of contingency plans and in the case of a worst-case scenario we are but i also to your point i have faith in the american people and in our democracy and there's no question rachel that many of us believe that donald trump has been a threat to our democracy and the integrity of our democratic institutions i don't think there's any question about that not to mention his complicity with foreign actors trying to interfere in our election in 2020 as they did in 2016. but i will say this our democracy is always going to be as strong as the american people's willingness to fight for our democracy and so it is strong if you look at what people are doing as we speak again standing in line prepare to engage in litigation litigation if necessary but registering people to vote talking with their friends and neighbors about what's at stake we and we have always had to fight to to get closer to the ideals that we hold dear and part of that has been over the course of our history to fight for the integrity of our elections and what i am seeing every day in this election and i've seen for a long time is the american people are willing to fight for the integrity of our electoral process in spite of those that might attempt to discredit or tamper with it and ultimately i think we we prevail when we don't let anybody mess with our vote and we we stand firm in knowing that our vote has meaning and it has purpose and actually can determine an outcome of an election senator harris we're going to take a quick break here if you don't mind i have a lot more to ask you about including about the confirmation battle over amy baird is a potential supreme court justice if you'd stick with us we'll be right back in just a moment okay do you accept that clovid19 is infectious um i i think yes i do accept that covet 19 is infectious that that's something of which i feel like you know we could say you take judicial notice of it's an obvious fact yes do you accept that smoking causes cancer i'm not sure exactly where you're going with this but you know the the notice that smoking causes the question is what it is you can answer it if you believe um yes or no senator harris yes every package of cigarettes warns that smoking causes cancer and do you believe that climate change is happening and it's threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink um senator again i was wondering where you were going with that um you have asked me a series of questions like that are completely uncontroversial like whether 19 is infectious whether smoking causes cancer and then trying to analogize that to eliciting an opinion on me that is a very contentious matter opinion from me that is on a very contentious matter of public debate and i will not do that i will not express a view on a matter of public policy especially one that is politically controversial because that's inconsistent with the judicial role as i have explained thank you thank you judge barrett and and you've made your point clear that you believe it's a debatable point back with us once again is senator kamala harris the democratic nominee for vice president she of course is on the judiciary committee she questioned the president's supreme court nominee today senator harris thank you again um for being with us because of what supreme court nomination hearings are like now it is not uh categorically a surprise that judge barrett is refusing to answer questions about how she might rule on cases affecting abortion rights or the affordable care act or climate but i have to say it has been surprising to me as a lay observer to see her reluctant to answer questions about black letter law she has refused to say whether the constitution allows the president to postpone the election it clearly doesn't whether voter intimidation is illegal it clearly is what is your read on what's going on there i i rachel i think that um that she and the republic the senate the republican leaders of the senate have probably decided that they've got the votes and she doesn't have to answer questions you know i think that it is um the fact that she can't she can't admit what justice roberts admitted which is that discrimination that voter discrimination exists justice roberts could talk about that justice roberts who is the chief justice of the united states supreme court republican appointed i think is has created a standard that she should actually admire which is being candid with the american people about just certain facts and um and not debatable facts these are facts but that's not what we got from this nominee and the tragedy of it all is that this has been i think a process that has violated what the american people want and what they should expect which is that when we are in the midst of an election which will be over in 20 days it started it's going to be over in 20 days 14 million americans rachel have voted and that they are ramming through this nominee while the american people are voting on who will be their next president is unconscionable joe and i have been very clear let the american people decide who will fill that seat in the white house and then fill the seat in the united states supreme court anything less than that is really contrary to i think the best principles about what we do in a democracy as you just articulated there you have also in the past called this process around judge barrett illegitimate you just described there why you believe this is an illegitimate process given that and in light of judge barrett's refusal to answer any substantive questions at all in this confirmation process do you think it was a mistake for democrats to actually show up and participate in these hearings at all which arguably grants them some sheen of legitimacy would it have been better to just sit this process out describe it as a legitimate say we don't have the power to stop it but we're not going to grant our imprimatur of legitimacy to this to this process well i have to say that i believe that the democratic senators have been very consistent and unified in pointing out the um the the sham of this process and um and and the illegitimacy of it and also pointing out to the american people what's at stake uh in terms of for example the affordable care act which i know from traveling the country is the number one topic on people's minds and that in the issue that keeps them up at night which is the access to affordable health care and i think really what we need to do right now is hold these republican centers accountable for what they're doing which is forcing upon the american people this process while not rachel while not dealing with relief for the tens of millions of people who have found themselves unemployed for the the renters almost half of renters in america right now are worried they're not going to be able to make rent next month the the one in five mothers who's describing her children under the age of 12 as being hungry the thousands and thousands of people that are in food lines every day in america because we're not talking about it but we're in the midst of a hunger crisis and these republican senators instead want to ram through this justice this nomination without giving american people the relief that they so desperately need right now it is unconscionable what they are doing and they should be held accountable because this is again a distraction from the failures of this administration which is covid and all that it has caused in terms of harm and it is an example of of an agenda that is purely about politics and their their weird obsession with getting rid of anything barack obama and joe biden created which is all about their politics and not about what we should be doing to relieve the pain and the suffering of the american people right now as you intimated though there is a sort of feta complete aspect of the barrett nomination i mean barring something changing in an unforeseen way in the few days it's likely that the republicans will be able to confirm her with zero democratic support and as you and your colleagues have highlighted her record her statements particularly her her her lifelong activism on issues like abortion um suggests that her confirmation really could be the undoing of health insurance very quickly for tens of millions of americans while we're in the middle of a pandemic it could also mean the undoing of same-sex marriage rights the undoing of reproductive rights at a grand scale not just roe but also i mean today she questioned she raised questions about rulings that protect even married couples access to contraception fertility doctors have come out in an unprecedented way and essentially anti-endorsed her called for her not to be confirmed to the court because of her participation with groups in the past that want in vitro fertilization treated as manslaughter and people locked up for that given that record and given that if she's confirmed it'll essentially be a 6-3 court with her on the six the side of six what do you say tonight to americans who are who are scared about that who don't think of this as a abstract issue or a political issue who aren't gaming this out but who are worried about their rights and their families um when she's confirmed no you're right rachel and i actually talked about that in today in the hearing people are scared you're right civil rights are on the line workers rights are on the line consumer rights are on the line health care is on the line these all of these things are at stake you are absolutely right and the only point that i can make to hopefully relieve some of that righteous um fear is we have an election coming up and it's not only about the white house it's about the senate and you know i've been in the united states senate now for three and a half years and i'm going to tell you something i've been serving on this judiciary committee for a little while the senate makes decisions about who will be in these lifetime positions on these courts and it is there that these decisions will be ultimately made about our civil rights about our right to love who we love and marry them about our right to have equality and equal justice under law about whether we protect collective bargaining and the rights of workers whether we agree that access to health care should be a right and not just a privilege of those who can afford it that's where those decisions are made in the united states senate has a lot to do with it and when we take back the senate and have the majority we will have a lot to do with whether or not we are one step closer to those ideals we hold dear right now we don't have the majority in the senate and so what have we seen with donald trump and this senate we have seen nominations because i've been there i've witnessed it on the judiciary committee i mentioned this in the debate rachel 50 nominations and confirmations to the united states courts of appeal court of appeals for lifetime lifetime appointments do you know of the 50 not one person is black i've been watching where they bring in these nominees who are unwilling to agree that brown v board of education is precedent it's crazy and i mean you know to use it a term so there is one thing we can do among the many things well let's not stop protesting let's not stop being active let's not stop speaking up and shouting when necessary and let's vote and let's vote guys let's vote senator one last question for you and it is along these these same lines um there has been a lot of talk from the right that there is an anti-catholic bias against jaime coney barrett even though i think she would be the sixth catholic on the court out of nine if she is confirmed um and although despite the fact that her her faith hasn't been a matter of discussion during the confirmation process from democratic senators whatsoever i'm struck by that criticism from the right at the same time president trump and other republicans supporting him including speakers at the republican convention have routinely and aggressively question joe biden's faith uh the president accusing joe biden of being against god and and vice president biden being called catholic in name only i wonder if if you have talked to the vice president about those attacks on his faith um and if if you know how he feels about them and how you two handle that as part of the campaign listen i am a person of faith joe biden as a person of faith and and the one thing i will you know i talk to joe all the time i first of all i love joe biden he's such a good person and he is he he's an incredible leader and he is so deep of faith and an incredible optimist in the midst of all that we are seeing and you know and i and i i'm gonna say i i think it it's hurtful to joe to be honest um he goes to mass every sunday he he for him his his faith is it's a part of him um i think many people contrary to what the president and these political people are trying to play are very excited about the fact that we have the potential to elect the second catholic practicing catholic ever to be president of the united states and um and you know i think that that joe feels the way most people do which is that their relationship with god and and their relationship with their faith is something that cannot be tarnished by other people's perceptions of who they are and i think joe's very strong that way senator i know i said that was the last question but i lied right right before we had that discussion about god which is a very bad way to do it um but i just realized that i would kick myself if i didn't just ask you uh before i let you go if you noticed the fly on vice president pence's head at the time during the day all right or if that was something that only could we could see it at home could you see it sitting next to him did you have feelings about like did you have the instinct to you know rachel i just you know i think that it's important that we kind of um find a way all of us to move on and you know kind of fly away from this subject onto something else yeah senator harris you are very kind and let's just spare a thought right now for the people who have to write closed captions for this portion of the interview and for those who have to transcribe it because they're going to have no idea how to convey what we just communicated senator harris thank you so much for taking this much time i know it's an exhausting time incredibly incredibly important time for our country and for history thank you for being here thank you rachel thank you very much for all that you do thank you