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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Team Trump assails ‘Phony Kamala’ while privately acknowledging her appeal


Minutes after Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate Tuesday, President Donald Trump and his allies rolled out the attack playbook they’ve used on every potential Democratic vice presidential candidate: She’s too extreme for America.

In texts, tweets and interviews, they accused Harris of supporting trillions in new taxes, establishing sanctuary cities, cutting police funding and promoting what they called a “radical health care scheme” that would eliminate all private insurance plans.

“She is also known, from what I understand, as being just about the most liberal person in the U.S. Senate,” Trump said at a news conference at the White House. “And I would have thought Biden would have tried to stay away from that a little bit.”

The Republican National Committee, which compiled information on all possible candidates, released a lengthy research document titled “Radical Kamala Harris Gives Democrats The Most Extreme Ticket In History.”

“She is extreme,” said Sean Spicer, Trump’s first White House press secretary who remains close to the White House. “She could alienate anybody that’s not on the far left.”

Republicans criticized Harris for supporting the “Green New Deal” climate change plan and voting against the vast majority of Trump’s judicial nominees, including his Supreme Court picks. Tea Party Patriots Action called her “a reliable vote for higher taxes, bigger government, and less freedom for individuals.”



“This has completed the leftist takeover of the party and of their radical agenda,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said on a call with reporters. “Kamala Harris will be the most liberal leftist nominee for VP that our country has ever seen.”

Trump on Tuesday described Harris as his No. 1 choice for Biden’s running mate, weeks after saying “I think she’d be a fine choice.”

But he and his aides focused their line of attack through the same lens they’ve used on other potential running mates, perhaps indicating after months of research on Harris they don’t have much else to criticize.

Many in Trump’s orbit had hoped Biden would tap Susan Rice, a former ambassador to the United Nations, who they had thought could fire up his MAGA base. Despite their eagerness for her, Rice being selected likely wouldn’t have helped Trump attract the independent voters his team has been trying to win over for years.

With less than three months until the election, Trump is lagging behind Biden in most national polls and battleground states. His standing has even fallen in traditionally red states as the coronavirus pandemic has dragged on.

Republicans, who have found little success in tarnishing Biden, will now try to damage Harris by describing her as a failed presidential candidate who didn’t generate excitement in her own party. Most of Trump’s attention on Harris during the Democratic primary was about her performance in the race, and he returned to that theme Tuesday at the White House to recall her poor showing in the campaign.

Privately, some Republicans acknowledged that Harris, the first Black candidate on a major party ticket and daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, would help Biden win over women and people of color. She will be the first woman, first Black and first Asian American vice president if elected.

In a video to supporters and text messages to donors, the campaign nicknamed Harris “phony Kamala” for criticizing Biden for his record on school integration during the Democratic primary but then agreeing to join his ticket. “Biden picked Phony Kamala for VP: He isn’t smart enough to see her lies,” the campaign wrote in the text.


In addition to attacking her for being liberal, Republicans highlighted her record as a prosecutor — which now appears out of step with the Democratic Party after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police — though that could contradict their message that she’s too soft on crime. Harris joined Black Lives Matter demonstrations this summer.

“She is now trying to bury her egregious record as a prosecutor in order to appease the anti-police extremists that are now controlling the radicalized Democrat party,” Trump 2020 senior adviser Katrina Pierson told reporters Tuesday.

At a campaign event in Mesa, Ariz., on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence welcomed Harris to the race to a round of boos.

"As you all know, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have been overtaken by the radical left,” he said. “So given their promises of higher taxes, open borders, socialized medicine, and abortion on demand, it's no surprise that he chose Senator Harris.”

Republicans are split on how Pence would fare against Harris in the vice presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 7. at the University of Utah. Some say Harris would be tough to debate because of her prosecutor background — which she deployed regularly for pointed questioning during Senate hearings — but others say Pence would come across as more relatable.

“She is a fierce questioner...and is certainly an energetic candidate,” a Republican Capitol Hill staffer said. “It will make a tough contrast in debates against Pence for the Trump Team.”

Trump donated twice to Harris for a total of $6,000 in 2011 and 2013. Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser to her father, also gave Harris $2,000 just six years ago.

When asked about the donations Tuesday, Pierson said they should prove once and for all that Trump is not racist.

“I will note that Kamala Harris is a black woman and he donated to her campaign so I hope we can squash this racism argument now,” she said.



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