Two Republican senators did their best to hush up Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, at Wednesday’s Senate Intelligence hearing, as the first-term senator from California tried to get a straight answer out of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Harris pressed Rosenstein, whose memo about former FBI DIrector James Comey the White House has used as justification to fire Comey, about whether he’d give Robert Mueller, the special counsel tapped to investigate Trump, independence from Rosenstein’s potentially biasing influence. In a yes-or-no question, Harris asked if Rosenstein would write a letter conferring independence to Mueller.
“Senator, I’m very sensitive about time and I'd like to have a very lengthy conversation and explain that all to you,” Rosenstein said.
“Could you give me a yes or no answer, please?” Harris asked.
“Well, it’s not a short answer,” Rosenstein said.
“It is. Either you are willing to do that or not,” Harris said.
Then, Sen. John McCain interrupted Harris, asking committee Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, to stop Harris from continuing her questioning. Rosenstein went on stalling. When Harris pressed him again, Burr interrupted, telling Harris to give Rosenstein “the courtesy” to answer or not answer her question as he saw fit.
Rosenstein refused to either accept or reject Harris’s demand. “I am confident, Senator, that Director Mueller, Mr. McCabe, and I … will protect the integrity of that investigation,” Rosenstein said. “That’s my commitment to you and that’s the guarantee that you and the American people have.”
“So, is that a no?” Harris asked. Rosenstein just sipped his water.
Progressives on Twitter noted that two long-serving white male legislators working together to stop a new female senator of color from getting an answer to a simple question was not a good look. Burr has been applauded by people from all across the political spectrum just for doing his job by holding hearings that may expose wrongdoing within his own party. Today, he undermined the substance of those hearings by silencing a persistent legislator.
The last time a Republican did that, it ended up being an early Christmas present for the Democratic Party. When Mitch McConnell blocked Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter from Coretta Scott King during Senate debates over Jeff Sessions’ nomination, “nevertheless, she persisted”—McConnell’s disparaging description of what Warren did—became an instant feminist catchphrase. The Democratic National Committee used the quote on fundraising materials and currently sells it on an enamel pin. Chelsea Clinton stole the phrase for the title of her children’s book about “American women who changed the world.” There’s no obvious quote for reclamation in the similar silencing of Harris. But “So, is that a no?” will make a great GIF.