Washington Free Beacon
With Monday marking the ninth anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, first-term Rep. Gil Cisneros (D., Calif.) called on Congress to support campaign finance reform, despite his campaign benefitting from Democratic super PACs, special interest groups, and tens of thousands of dollars from the financial services industry.
Cisneros, who won $266 million from the Mega Millions lottery jackpot in 2010, urged his fellow lawmakers to support the For The People Act, also known as HR 1, which focuses on election laws and campaign finance.
"Citizens United was decided 9 years ago today," Cisneros tweeted. "It's time to end corruption in our government & why I've cosponsored #HR1, the #ForThePeople Act – our plan for transparency, voter empowerment, election protection & campaign finance reform."
Citizens United was decided 9 years ago today. It's time to end corruption in our government & why I've cosponsored #HR1, the #ForThePeople Act – our plan for transparency, voter empowerment, election protection & campaign finance reform.
— RepGilCisneros (@RepGilCisneros) January 21, 2019
The Citizens United decision loosened campaign finance restrictions on unions and corporations.
Despite Cisneros' tweet, the congressman received tens of thousands of dollars from Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital, Microsoft, and other corporations during his 2018 campaign, in addition to more than $236,000 from liberal groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
His campaign also benefitted from millions of dollars in spending from Democratic super PACs, including the House Majority PAC and Priorities USA Action. The House Majority PAC, which is tied to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), spent $2,808,221 against Cisneros' Republican opponent, Young Kim, and Priorities USA Action, a major Democratic super PAC that spent over $44 million helping Democrats in 2018, spent $107, 141 against Kim, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Cisneros' race in California’s 39th Congressional District was the most expensive non-special House election in history.
Cisneros tweeted last January that he "refuse[s] to take PAC or special interest money and support[s] a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United," although his campaign benefitted from multiple special interest groups, including J Street, the Latino Victory Fund, and NextGen Climate Action.
J Street, a left-wing advocacy group with a reputation for being hostile to Israel that was one of the most vocal supporters of the Iran nuclear deal, donated $26,047 to Cisneros, and the Latino Victory fund, a progressive latino group funded by billionaires like George Soros, spent $15,000 on behalf of Cisneros and $20,000 against Kim. NextGen Climate Action, which was founded by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, also spent $144,299 on behalf of Cisneros.
Cisneros, a Hispanic American, recently attended a winter retreat hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' BOLD PAC in San Juan, Puerto Rico earlier this month. Approximately 30 Democrats, including Cisneros, mingled with dozens of lobbyists and corporate executives, according to footage obtained by Fox News.
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Joe Biden served as vice president under Barack Obama, but he did not sound an optimistic note on Monday when talking about the country's health-care system, which was overhauled during the Obama administration.
Obamacare is considered the Obama administration's signature domestic policy achievement, and it has withstood Republicans' repeated attempts at a legislative repeal. The legislation did not deliver the results that Obama promised, however, and at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event with the National Action Network, Biden expressed concern about the ineffectiveness of the health-care system to help the working class.
"How do we fulfill the promise of working people who still go to bed like my dad used to, staring at the ceiling, thinking, ‘God, if I get prostate cancer, or if my wife gets breast cancer, we lose everything'—the single biggest reason for bankruptcy," Biden said. "How can we stand by? Guaranteeing that every single American can get affordable health care and medications, because your health should not depend on the color of his skin or your zip code, but it does."
Despite Biden's comment about bankruptcy, research suggests that lack of health insurance is the cause of only a tiny fraction of bankruptcies, possibly as low as 4 percent, although Democrats have long said it is as high as 50 percent.
Biden had gotten started on the topic by discussing systematic racism, which he said white Americans must admit is occurring.
"The bottom line is we have a lot to root out, but most of all there is systematic racism that most of us whites do not like to acknowledge even exists," he said. "We do not even consciously acknowledge it, but it has been built into every aspect of our system."
Biden cited substandard schools and economic hardships for poverty rates among African Americans, using an illustration of Obama's about some black job applicants being discriminated against based on their names.
"Barack says if your name is Jamaal and your name is Jim, and you have the same qualifications and Jim gets the job," Biden said. "There is something we have to admit—not you, we. White America has to admit there is still systematic racism."
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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) has been more than willing to denounce her past positions on guns and immigration as wrong and hurtful in a series of interviews.
The 2020 presidential candidate is one of the most liberal members of the Senate, but she's called herself "wrong," "callous," "embarrassed," and "ashamed" over her past views when she was a more moderate member of Congress.
Gillibrand represented an upstate New York district in the U.S. House from 2007 to 2009, and, as a member of the Blue Dog Democrats, held heretical views to the modern Democratic Party on illegal immigration and guns.
She sported an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, an organization she now denounces and proudly holds an "F" rating from, and she opposed amnesty and driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, called for increased funding for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement—she now calls for ICE's abolishment—and supported English being the country's official language
CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Gillibrand Sunday if President Donald Trump is racist, was she racist back then for holding views so similar to his on immigration?
"They certainly weren't empathetic, and they were not kind, and I did not think about suffering in other people's lives," Gillibrand said.
"I was not fighting for other people's kids the same way I was fighting for my own," she added.
On "The Rachel Maddow Show" last week, Gillibrand said she was "callous to the suffering of families who want to be with their loved ones" and regretted she "didn't look beyond" her district.
On "60 Minutes" last year, she assigned some blame to her "98 percent white" district for not having more progressives views on immigration.
"I didn't take the time to understand why these issues mattered because it wasn't right in front of me," Gillibrand said. "And that was my fault. It was something that I'm embarrassed about and I'm ashamed of."
On guns, she told the CBS program she "couldn't have been more wrong" in the past.
"After I got appointed, I went down to Brooklyn to meet with families who had suffered from gun violence in their communities," she said. "And you immediately experience the feeling that I couldn't have been more wrong. I only had the lens of upstate New York."
Gillibrand, in an interview on NY1 last year, blasted the NRA as a "corrosive organization" that engaged in scare tactics to stymy gun control efforts. Errol Louis asked her if the NRA was engaged in such nefariousness when she had an "A" rating from it.
"They sure were, and now I have an F rating," she said.
In a press conference the day after she announced her formation of a presidential exploratory committee, she was challenged by a reporter to explain her transformations to a suspicious voter.
"I think it's important to know when you're wrong, and to do what's right," she said.
Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) still has a lot to uncover in regards to the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
"That is news to me. And that is big news," exclaimed Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, about the revelation that then-candidate Donald Trump might have in negotiations with Russian officials on a possible Trump Tower in Moscow until October or November 2016.
"It was news to us on the Senate Intelligence Committee as well," Warner revealed when he was asked about Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort sharing polling data with a Ukrainian official with ties to Russia.
Warner and his colleagues on the intelligence committee have investigated Russia's interference in the 2016 election. They interviewed numerous witnesses, including Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son. In July 2018, the committee released a report indicating agreement with the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered to help Trump win. Since then, the committee's investigation has been mostly dormant.
This has not stopped Warner from appearing on cable news to share what he just learned from watching the news or to answer "I don't know" to reporters' questions.
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Senators Cory Booker (D, N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.) are spending the Martin Luther King Day holiday in South Carolina, the state that would hold the fourth caucus or primary in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Both are assumed to be in the process of deciding to run for president, or have already decided but simply haven't announced.
In 2016, Sanders surprised rival Hillary Clinton and political watchers with his showing in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, but then got trounced in South Carolina by a 73-26 spread.
"[South Carolina is] important because it's the first state that these candidates will get an opportunity to vet their message with a population that reflects the heart of the Democratic Party, which is African-Americans and specifically African-American women," former state Democratic chair Jamie Harrison was quoted as saying in Politico.
If Sanders does launch a presidential run, most political observers and pundits agree it would be absolutely essential for him to perform better in the state next year.
"Several South Carolina Democrats said they've taken calls from Booker and Harris in recent weeks, and some have met with the potential candidates during recent stops to the state," the Politico report noted. "Booker will hold private meetings with local activists and leaders again on Monday."
Earlier on Monday, California Senator Kamala Harris announced her presidential candidacy on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Meanwhile, former vice president Joe Biden spent part of the MLK holiday in New York with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg who is also considering a run. Both attended a breakfast hosted by Al Sharpton's civil rights group, the National Action Network.
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In 2019, the Wyoming state House will weigh whether or not their state should become the 21st to end capital punishment.
A bill introduced by State Rep. Jared Olsen (R.) would abolish the death penalty in the state and replace it with a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported. Olsen told the Tribune Eagle that his decision was partially motivated by a concern for cost—death penalty trials costs can run into the millions, a bill footed by the taxpayer.
"I think when members looked at how much we spent, I think that sells a lot of people really quickly," Olsen said.
State legislators have tried to repeal capital punishment in Wyoming every year since 2013, the Casper Star Tribune reported. But past bills were generally minority efforts from Democrats in the legislature's lower chamber. Olsen's bill, by contrast, has the backing of Republican leadership, including House Speaker Steve Harshman, House Majority Leader Eric Barlow, and House Majority Whip Rep. Tyler Lindholm.
It also has the support of a bevy of abolitionist groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Cheyenne, and the Wyoming League of Women Voters.
Although capital punishment is a live issue in the state legislature, Wyoming barely uses the death penalty to begin with. Just one person—Mark Hopkinson, convicted of the bombing death of a family of three and the murder of a fourth 15-year-old girl—has been executed in the state since the death penalty was reinstated nationwide in 1977.
In 2014, a federal judge vacated the sentence of Wyoming's last capital offender, Dale Eaton, leaving Wyoming's death row totally vacant. The state's low homicide rate—there were just 15 murders there last year—means it is likely to remain so.
Still, repeal has an uncertain road ahead of it. Olsen's bill has the support of four Senate minority Democrats, including their leader, but will still need to pass the Senate and garner the support of newly elected Governor Mark Gordon (R.), who has not publicly commented on the proposal.
If abolition does pick up these supporters, however, it will mean Wyoming is the second state in a matter of months to end capital punishment. Specifically, it will follow Washington, where the state supreme court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in October. (That ruling, notably, applies only to the death penalty as currently enacted, meaning capital punishment may still return to the Evergreen state.)
An MSNBC guest claiming to be a witness at the viral dust-up involving a group of Kentucky high school teenagers and a Native American elder admitted Monday she missed a crucial portion of it and repeated unproven claims that the teens chanted "build that wall" and "surrounded" Phillips.
A group of Covington Catholic high schoolers, many of them wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, were filmed seeming to taunt Nathan Phillips, a Native American and veteran, near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Friday. However, additional video and reporting over the weekend created a far more complex picture.
Tribal rights lawyer Tara Houska was an organizer of the Indigenous People's March and said she was there Friday with members of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I., Vt.) office to film a video about the plights facing indigenous women.
"I saw the elder that was there, Nathan Phillips, and the people around him, but I didn't realize what would end up happening, which was them surrounding him, chanting ‘build the wall,' and a youth standing directly in his face, in a very leering, aggressive manner," she said.
She then acknowledged she saw none of this firsthand.
"You had walked away prior to that point happening," MSNBC host Hallie Jackson said.
"I personally kind of felt unsafe," Houska said, saying she felt the "energy in the air change" and had asked a man to escort her away.
There has been no video showing anyone chanting "build the wall," and Phillips by his own admission walked into the crowd of students, who were waiting to be bussed away. The students were in town for the annual "March For Life" against abortion.
Houska said she rejected high school junior Nick Sandmann claim's he was trying to defuse the situation and said he was "clearly mocking" Phillips. The image of Sandmann smiling as Phillips beat his drums inches from his face went viral along with the video itself. Phillips said he felt threatened and blocked from moving, while Sandmann said he was trying to calm things down.
"Clearly those students have no idea who Native American people are, to surround an indigenous elder and chant ‘build the wall,' kind of exposes that it really has nothing to do with border security," Houska said. "It seems like it's an issue of race and white supremacy."
Although she admitted earlier in the interview she didn't personally witness the standoff between Phillips and Sandmann, she said "I was there" and "I witnessed something that was very aggressive and something that was very frightening."
"To see that kind of level of antagonism and hate, you know, you can't fake that," she said.
Jackson alluded to conservatives having a different take on events based on other videos, but she never pushed back on the fact that there has been no video of any students chanting "build that wall" at Phillips.
Phillips' story changed over the weekend. His initial claim to the Washington Post was that he saw the teens beginning to taunt the indigenous peoples near the Lincoln Memorial and tried to walk towards the monument before being blocked:
Phillips, who was singing the American Indian Movement song that serves as a ceremony to send the spirits home, said he noticed tensions beginning to escalate when the teens and other apparent participants from the nearby March for Life rally began taunting the dispersing indigenous crowd.
Phillips said a few people in the March for Life crowd began to chant, "Build that wall, build that wall," though such chants are not audible on video.
"It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’ " Phillips recalled. "I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way, and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat."
Much of the initial social media outrage centered around the notion that the crowd of teenagers, mostly white, had surrounded, intimidated and mocked Phillips. However, other video shows Phillips approaching the crowd while beating on his drum and then stopping directly in front of Sandmann, as opposed to the idea the teens all mobbed around Phillips.
Sandmann released a statement saying he was confused at being approached by Phillips and denied any racist intent or actions by him or his classmates. He also said he and his friends were engaging in school cheers before Phillips approached, in response to the expletive-laden taunts being thrown at them by a nearby group of extremists known as Black Hebrew Israelites, which is on video.
Phillips' story changed on Sunday, with him telling the Detroit Free Press that he purposely stepped into the crowd to defuse tensions between the Covington Catholic students and the Black Hebrew Israelites. Either the Washington Post didn't mention that in its report or Phillips left that out of his initial description of events:
"They were in the process of attacking these four black individuals," Phillip said. "I was there and I was witnessing all of this … As this kept on going on and escalating, it just got to a point where you do something or you walk away, you know? You see something that is wrong and you're faced with that choice of right or wrong. "
Phillips said some of the members of the Black Hebrew group were also acting up, "saying some harsh things" and that one member spit in the direction of the Catholic students. "So I put myself in between that, between a rock and hard place," he said.
But then, the crowd of mostly male students turned their anger towards Phillips.
"There was that moment when I realized I've put myself between beast and prey," Phillips said. "These young men were beastly and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that."
While there is no video of the students chanting "build the wall," some of them could be seen doing the "tomahawk chop." One member of Phillips' entourage could be heard telling the high schoolers they stole their land and should return to Europe.
Multiple commentators and writers acknowledged rushing to judgment based on the initial video and reports on the situation.
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) January 21, 2019
There are two sides to every story. I made a snap judgment based on a photograph & I know better than to judge a book by its cover. I wasn’t there. I shouldn’t have commented. I’m glad there wasn’t violence. I hope theses two men can meet and find common ground as can WE ALL! pic.twitter.com/R20v9ot2Ey
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) January 21, 2019
Hey guys. Seeing all the additional videos now, and I 100% regret reacting too quickly to the Covington story. I wish I’d had the fuller picture before weighing in, and I’m truly sorry.
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) January 21, 2019
Yesterday I had one impression of the maga kids from Kentucky. Now after seeing more videos I have a different more complicated impression. Makes all the hot takes seem silly.
— David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) January 20, 2019
I apologize to the Covington Catholic boys. What Rod Dreher says of himself goes double for me. I jumped the gun and that was stupid and unjust. It is I, not the boys, who needs to take a lesson from this.
— Robert P. George (@McCormickProf) January 20, 2019
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By Angus McDowall and Dan Williams
BEIRUT/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel struck in Syria early on Monday, the latest salvo in its increasingly open assault on Iran's presence there, shaking the night sky over Damascus with an hour of loud explosions in a second consecutive night of military action.
Damascus did not say what damage or casualties resulted from the strikes. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said 11 people were killed. Syria's ally Russia said four Syrian soldiers had died and six were wounded.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the air raid had mostly targeted Iranian forces, but also hit Syrians helping them. "We will strike at anyone who tries to harm us," he said.
The threat of direct confrontation between arch-enemies Israel and Iran has long simmered in Syria, where the Iranian military built a presence early in the nearly eight year civil war to help President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Israel, regarding Iran as its biggest threat, has repeatedly attacked Iranian targets in Syria and those of allied militia, including Lebanon's Hezbollah.
With an election approaching, Israel's government has begun discussing its strikes more openly, and has also taken a tougher stance towards Hezbollah on the border with Lebanon. It said a rocket attack on Sunday was Iran's work.
The Israeli shift comes a month after U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced a sudden plan to pull the 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, a move long sought by Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies. Trump's decision shocked American allies in the region and was opposed by top U.S. officials including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who quit in response.
The Israeli military said its fighter jets had attacked Iranian "Quds Force" targets early on Monday, including munition stores, a position in the Damascus International Airport, an intelligence site and a military training camp. Its jets then targeted Syrian defense batteries after coming under fire.
It followed a previous night of cross-border fire, which Israel said began when Iranian troops fired an Iranian-made surface-to-surface missile from an area near Damascus at a ski resort in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Syria said it was Israel that had attacked and its air defenses had repelled the assault. Syria had endured "intense attack through consecutive waves of guided missiles", but had destroyed most "hostile targets", state media quoted a military source as saying.
The Russian defense ministry said Syrian air defenses, supplied by Russia, had destroyed more than 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs, according to RIA news agency.
In Tehran, airforce chief Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh said Iran was "fully ready and impatient to confront the Zionist regime and eliminate it from the earth", according to the Young Journalist Club, a website supervised by state television.
Assad has said Iranian forces are welcome to stay in Syria after years of military victories that have brought most of the country back under his control. Just two big enclaves are still outside Assad's grip, including the area Trump plans to exit.
Netanyahu, who is hoping to win a fifth term in the April 9 election, last week told his cabinet Israel has carried out "hundreds" of attacks over recent years.
"We have a permanent policy, to strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us," he said on Sunday.
"EVERY LAST BOOT"
The Israeli military distributed footage of what it said were missiles hitting the Syrian defense batteries, as well as satellite images showing the location of the alleged Iranian targets. Syrian state media showed footage of explosions.
In a highly publicized operation last month, the Israeli military uncovered and destroyed cross-border tunnels from Lebanon it said were dug by Hezbollah to launch future attacks.
Israel last fought a war with Hezbollah, on Lebanese soil, in 2006. It fears Hezbollah has used its own role fighting alongside Iran and Assad in Syria to bolster its military capabilities, including an arsenal of rockets aimed at Israel.
Tensions have also risen with Israel's construction of a frontier barrier that Lebanon says passes through its territory.
Washington has sought to reassure allies it still aims to eject Iran from Syria despite pulling its own troops out. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited the region this month, has vowed to expel "every last Iranian boot" from Syria.
Israel has sought reassurances from Moscow that Iranian forces in Syria would not be a threat. Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said the missile fired at the ski resort was launched from "an area we were promised the Iranians would not be present in".
(The story was refiled to fix ‘tried' to ‘tries' in paragraph 3)
(Reporting by Ellen Francis in Beirut, Ari Rabinovitch and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Nick Macfie and Raissa Kasolowsky)
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Washington Free Beacon senior writer Elizabeth Harrington said Monday BuzzFeed News' story accusing the president of suborning perjury is a disgrace to journalism.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office released a statement disputing the report that President Donald Trump told his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. The media widely reported BuzzFeed’s "bombshell" Friday before Mueller disputed it, and media figures expressed frustration that the story hadn’t been a successful blow against Trump.
On Fox News’ "America’s Newsroom," Harrington agreed with Trump’s contention that BuzzFeed’s story and the media reaction were disgraceful.
"It is a disgrace, and the fact is that journalistic standards and ethics were thrown out on November 9, 2016," she said. "They run with anything. The new standard is ‘get Trump.'"
She drew attention to the way media organizations speculated without confirming BuzzFeed’s reporting.
"It was not just BuzzFeed—which has done this before, no matter how flimsy it is," she said. "Every other media outlet ran with the story and said, ‘Let's speculate. Let’s call for the president's impeachment over something that turns out to not be true.’"
She said a conservative outlet would be chastised for such shoddy reporting.
"Imagine if a conservative outlet did this and ran with a story this flimsy and the Special Counsel’s Office came out and said ‘Actually this is not accurate.’ Would they be allowed to go on CNN and be asked ‘How does it make you feel?’ They wouldn’t; they would be condemned and they would be done," she said.
BuzzFeed has stood by its reporting, which relied on "two sources" involved in the investigation, despite Mueller's office shooting it down. The special counsel's statement said "BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the Special Counsel's Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen's Congressional testimony are not accurate."
Some Democrats have said the report matters even after Mueller's action.
"The report is highly concerning," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) said Sunday. "It just shows more evidence that perhaps this president did obstruct justice."
An MSNBC panel quickly dismissed as unimportant Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D., Calif.) endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden for president in 2020.
The assessment came during a discussion about Sen. Kamala Harris' (D., Calif.) entry into the presidential race and the early Democratic primary states.
"As we were talking about, I mean, [in] Iowa, [Harris] probably needs to place in sort of the top five just to keep the momentum going. It's about to get to South Carolina after that. But also the California primary has been moved up. It's March 1st, and the California primary requires a lot of money and a lot of name recognition. And she will probably find the money, I'm thinking, but she will already have that name recognition in California," Shawna Thomas, Vice News‘ D.C. bureau chief, said.
"Does it matter that her senior senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, has said Biden is my guy?" anchor Hallie Jackson asked.
The panelists collectively responded that it did not matter.
"She's out of step with the Democratic party base, especially heading into 2020, Axios politics reporter Alexi McCammond said.
"And the progressive base as well. Let's not forget her reelection recently," MSNBC political analyst Karine Jean-Pierre added.
Earlier this month, Feinstein said Biden "brings a level of experience and seniority which I think is really important." When asked about Harris' possible candidacy, she responded, "I love Kamala. But this is a different kind of thing."
In 2003, Feinstein endorsed Harris' run for district attorney, and in 2008 she administered the oath of office after Harris was reelected to the post. Feinstein also supported Harris' run for attorney general in 2010 and her Senate campaign in 2016.
Harris supported Feinstein last year when she faced a Democratic challenger in her Senate race.