Takeaways from Kamala Harris' CNN town hall

Harris among five candidates featured Monday

By Maeve Reston and Eric Bradner, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

Sen. Kamala Harris

Manshester, N.H. - Sen. Kamala Harris recaptured the spotlight in the Democratic presidential race -- if only for a moment -- on Monday night by arguing that "Congress should take the steps towards impeachment."

Harris, in a CNN town hall Monday night, also rolled out a new plank of her policy to address gun violence with a slate of steps she'd take with executive action. She also said for the first time that she would support all student loans being repaid at 3.5% interest, and responded to some of the criticism that she did not go far enough earlier in her career advancing progressive criminal justice revisions.

Here are three takeaways from the town hall in New Hampshire:

 

Harris backs impeachment

 

Harris delivered her clearest answer yet on how Democrats should proceed after special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia probe was revealed.

"I believe Congress should take the steps towards impeachment," she said.

Harris said Mueller's investigation had produced evidence that Trump and his administration have "engaged in obstruction of justice."

The California Democrat added that she is a "realist" who has watched Senate Republicans defend Trump, and said Democrats must be "realistic about what might be the end result. But that doesn't mean the process shouldn't take place."

It was the clearest answer yet on impeachment from Harris, who has previously said her focus was on getting Mueller to testify before Congress. She joins fellow Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in calling for impeachment proceedings to go forward.

 

A 100-day promise on guns

 

One of the most frequent topics that young voters broach with Harris on the campaign trail is what she would do to halt mass shootings and get a better handle on the seemingly intractable problem of gun violence in this country.

Like all the Democratic candidates, she has called for passing sensible gun measures, but at CNN's town hall on Monday night, she outlined a series of executive actions she would take on gun control if Congress did not act within her first 100 days in office.

"Upon being elected, I will give the United States Congress a hundred days to get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws," Harris said. "If they fail to do it, then I will take executive action."

The former California attorney general, who supports renewing the assault weapons ban, said she would require "near-universal background checks" by mandating that anyone who sells five or more guns per year run a full background check on all gun sales. Harris would revoke the licenses of gun manufacturers and dealers who didn't follow the law. Her executive actions would also include broadening a federal law that bars gun sales to anyone who has been convicted of domestic abuse to include partners who are dating (currently the law affects only married partners).

The senator said she would also reverse a Trump administration action that she says made it easier for fugitives to buy guns: "Part of what happened under the current administration is they took fugitives off the list of prohibited people," she said Monday night. "I put them back on the list, meaning that fugitives from justice should not be able to purchase a handgun or any kind of weapon."

 

'We should have that conversation'

 

Voters listening to Harris' CNN town hall in New Hampshire might have noticed a go-to phrase for everything that falls into her "maybe" basket: "Let's have that conversation" or "I believe we should have that conversation."

Harris gave that answer Monday night to questions about whether she'd give the vote to the most heinous criminals, like the Boston Marathon bomber, who are incarcerated. And whether she'd like to see 16-year-olds get the right to vote. Oh, and also reparations.

Harris said she supports Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's bill to study reparations. But then she was pressed by CNN anchor Don Lemon: "Senator, yes or no, do you support financial reparations?"

"I support that we study that," she replied. "We should study it and see." In other words, let's have that conversation.

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