California Sen. Kamala Harris aggressively questioned a witness at a high-profile hearing Wednesday, prompting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr to silence the Democrat. But Harris refused to remain quiet.
The senator was asking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein whether he planned to sign a letter allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller complete independence from the Justice Department in his investigation of the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia. Rosenstein found himself on the hot seat as Harris demanded a straightforward response.
“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 to Harris.
“Can you give me a ‘yes or no’ answer?” Harris replied.
“It’s not a short answer, Senator,” Rosenstein said.
“It is,” she responded, cutting him off. “Either you are willing to do that or you are not.”
It was at this point that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) jumped in to mediate.
“Mr. Chairman, they should be allowed to answer the question,” McCain said. But Harris wouldn’t stand down, quizzing Rosenstein moments later.
“Are you willing or are you not willing to give him the authority to be fully independent of your ability, statutorily or legally, to fire him?
“He has the…” Rosenstein started.
“Yes or no, sir,” Harris pressed. “Are you willing to do …”
“Will the Senator suspend?” Burr interrupted. “The chair is going to exercise its right to allow the witnesses to answer the question, and the committee is on notice to provide the witnesses the courtesy, which has not been extended all the way across, extend the courtesy for questions to get answered.”
“Mr. Chairman, respectfully, I would point out that this witness has joked, as we all have, his ability to filibuster,” Harris argued, before Burr stopped her again, ordering the Senator to suspend once again.
“Thank you, Senator, I’m not joking,” Rosenstein said. “The truth is I have a lot of experience with these issues and I could speak to you for a very long time about it.”
He went on to give a lengthy explanation, but Harris once again was not satisfied with the answer.
“So, is that a no?” she said. Rosenstein remained silent, and the conversation finally shifted to another round of questions for a different senator.
The back-and-forth prompted Elizabeth Warren, who was cut off from speaking on the Senate floor earlier this year, to tweet out a message of support for Harris.
“Silencing @SenKamalaHarris for not being “courteous” enough is just unbelievable. Keep fighting, Kamala! #NeverthelessShePersisted” Warren tweeted.