Presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said President Donald Trump and his campaign will “engage in lies” and “deception” after he floated a new conspiracy last week about her eligibility to serve as vice president and president.
“They’re going to engage in an attempt to distract from the real issues that are impacting the American people. And I expect that they will engage in dirty tactics. And this is going to be a knockdown, drag-out. And we’re ready,” Harris told media outlet TheGrio in an interview released Sunday, when asked how Trump promoting birther conspiracies signals the tactics his campaign will use.
It’s her second interview since former Vice President Joe Biden selected her as his running mate. If elected, Harris would be the first Black and South Asian American vice president.
On Saturday, Trump, who has pushed similar conspiracies about former President Barack Obama, said that he would not be “pursuing” questions about Harris’ eligibility, but did not dismiss the conspiracy theories as false.
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“I know nothing about it, but it’s not something that bothers me,” the President said during a news conference at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. “I just don’t know about it but it’s not something we will be pursuing.”
Trump on Thursday would not definitively say whether Harris met the requirements to serve as president or vice president, saying he heard on “social media” that Harris could be ineligible. Harris was born in Oakland, California, making her eligible to be vice president.
“I heard today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Trump said, referring to John Eastman, the lawyer and Chapman University professor who raised the issue in a Newsweek op-ed, as “very highly qualified.” On Saturday, Trump called him a “brilliant lawyer.”
Eastman received resounding criticism and accusations of racism after his op-ed questioned her eligibility because she was born to Jamaican and Indian immigrant parents — despite the fact that she’s a natural born citizen.
Newsweek editors have since apologized, writing, “This op-Ed is being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia. We apologize.” They said they are keeping it online for transparency.
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Harris is no stranger to accusations about her race. During the Democratic presidential primary, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., retweeted then deleted a critic who said, “Kamala Harris is *not* an American Black. She is half Indian and half Jamaica.” Harris’ campaign slammed the false attacks at the time, saying the same tactics were used against Obama.
“It didn’t work then and it won’t work now,” Harris’ campaign communications director told CNN in June 2019.
In a March 2019 interview with The Breakfast Club, Harris was asked about similar attacks. “So I was born in Oakland, and raised in the United States except for the years that I was in high school in Montreal, Canada,” Harris responded with a laugh. “And look, this is the same thing they did to Barack (Obama). This is not new to us and so I think that we know what they are trying to do.”
Speaking to TheGrio in an interview taped Saturday, Harris said, “I’m very clear-eyed about the fact that they are going to engage, as you said, in what they have done throughout his administration, which is, let’s just be very candid and straightforward: They’re going to engage in lies. They’re going to engage in deception.”
“Nothing that we have ever achieved that has been about progress has come without a fight,” she later added.
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Harris echoed the same sentiment during a virtual interview with Essence released Sunday, saying she is ready to help implement change.
“There’s no question that we need immediate change and drastic change and that’s so much of what the Biden-Harris platform and what the Biden-Harris administration will be about,” Harris said. “It’s about saying, we need to immediately address a number of issues that demand priority and immediate attention. And that relates to getting people back to work. It means investing in infrastructure and creating millions of new jobs. It means fighting for healthcare for all people.”
Harris also defended her criminal justice record to TheGrio, when asked if she understands the criticism that’s been levied against her. During her presidential run, advocates and progressive activists questioned her prosecutorial record, including her decision to appeal a federal judge’s ruling, which she called “flawed,” that the state’s implementation of the death penalty was unconstitutional. She was the state’s first Black woman attorney general at the time. It became a flashpoint in the second Democratic primary debate.
“There are some who just say, ‘Look, but you were prosecutor, period.’ And the inference there or the assumption there is, I was part of the system that harmed the communities, the community from which I come,” Harris told TheGrio. “And I think that we need to really distinguish that point from the plane of we can’t only be on the outside of these systems that we need to change. It also requires that we go inside.”
Harris added that she is proud of the work she accomplished. She told Essence that her administration would work to do more for criminal justice reform.
“I have seen too many cases of not only unarmed Black folks being killed, but women,” she said, adding, “And we need to speak their name and understand that we have to have justice.”