Two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee attempted to silence Sen. Kamala Harris June 7 as she grilled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as to whether he would allow special counsel Robert Mueller to freely investigate President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia during the 2016 election cycle.
The Indian American politician asked Rosenstein whether he would be willing to provide a letter stating that Mueller could conduct the investigation independently, without fear of reprisal from the Trump administration.
As Rosenstein attempted to skirt around the question, the junior senator from California, who began her first term in January, cut in. “Can you give me a yes or no answer?”
The deputy attorney general said there was no short answer. Harris replied: “Yes there is. Either you are willing to do that or you’re not.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, then joined the fray, asking Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, to intervene and let Rosenstein speak. The deputy attorney general again dodged the question of providing a written letter, saying Mueller’s integrity and his own would be sufficient to establish independence in the investigation.
As Harris continued to grill Rosenstein on putting his statement into writing, Burr cautioned Harris to be ‘courteous’ to Rosenstein.
"Will the senator suspend? The committee is on notice to provide the witnesses the courtesy of answering, which has not been extended all the way across," he said, effectively shutting Harris down.
The California senator later sent out a fundraising email to campaign supporters, with the subject line: “They told me to be courteous.”
“Earlier today I asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to assure the American people that special counsel Bob Mueller has the independence and ability to investigate Donald Trump and his campaign’s ties to the Russian government.
“Rosenstein dodged my question again and again—and as I pressed him to assure the American people, the Republicans tried to shut me down, saying I needed to be more ‘courteous,’” said Harris, noting: “This is hardly the first time the GOP has done this.”
She referenced a Feb. 7 incident in which senators tried to shut down Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, while she tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King opposing the nomination of Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearings.
“I will not be silenced. We will not be silenced. The American people, who deserve the truth, will not be silenced. Not when the faith and integrity of our democracy is at stake,” said Harris, offering supporters a free “Courage, Not Courtesy” sticker.
Warren immediately took to social media to defend her female colleague and scold male senators. “Silencing @SenKamalaHarris for not being ‘courteous’ enough is just unbelievable. Keep fighting, Kamala,” tweeted Warren.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat from New Hampshire, also supported Harris. “The women of the Senate will not be silenced. Thank you, @SenKamalaHarris, for continuing to pursue the truth,” she tweeted.
The senator displayed her prosecutorial muscles the following day at a much-watched hearing hosted by the Senate Intelligence Committee, in which former FBI director James Comey testified on what he knew about Trump and his campaign staff’s purported ties to Russia during the 2016 election. She hammered down on whether Trump had asked Comey to drop the investigation against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for his purported ties to Russia, and whether Attorney General Sessions had truly dropped out of the Trump investigation after he recused himself.