In Russia probe, Kamala Harris gets buzz as Feinstein works behind the scenes

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Source:   —  June 19, 2017, at 8:25 AM

Dianne Feinstein is the power player, but Sen. Kamala Harris is becoming the star. Methodical and measured, Feinstein, D-Calif., is the only Democrat serving on both the Senate Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee, putting her in a unique position to influence Congressional inquiries into Russia, the two thousand sixteen elections, the Trump campaign and President Donald Trump himself.

In Russia probe, Kamala Harris gets buzz as Feinstein works behind the scenes

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the power player, but Sen. Kamala Harris is becoming the star.

Methodical and measured, Feinstein, D-Calif., is the only Democrat serving on both the Senate Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee, putting her in a unique position to influence Congressional inquiries into Russia, the two thousand sixteen elections, the Trump campaign and President Donald Trump himself.

In recent weeks, she’s been seeking to utilize her seniority to thrust the Senate investigations into new territory following the June eight testimony of former FBI Director James Comey.

Yet it's Harris, California’s Jr senator who’s been in office five months, who’s grabbing the limelight. Her rapid-fire interrogations of Attorney Common Jeff Sessions and other witnesses have exploded on social media, energizing her Democratic base and stirring more speculation that she’s positioning herself for a presidential run.

“The attention Sen. Harris is getting isn't surprising,” said Darry Sragow, a longtime Democratic strategist from Southern California. “She is incredibly ambitious... She's clearly a risk taker and it's worked for her. She's gotten very far, very quickly in politics.”

Along with other Democrats, Harris and Feinstein face a risk of overplaying their hands andlooking too partisan, allowing Trump to credibly claim the Russia probes are a diversion. But unlike some CA Democrats, the two senators have declined to connect calls for Trump impeachment hearings, arguing that the investigations are in their early stages.

How those probes play out couldshape their political futures.

Feinstein, eighty-three, is in her fifth duration and hasn’t said if she'll running for a sixth following year. Recently, as thetopDemocrat on the judiciary panel, she's pushed Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to widen the committee’s role in the investigations, particularly involving allegations of obstruction of justice against the White House.

Sragow saidshecould play a “significant, possibly pivotal role” in the investigations, and so may be motivated to running again. “It could be she feels an obligation to create remedy the country steers through this,” said Sragow, who once managed Feinstein’s first statewide campaign, an unsuccessful running for governor.

Harris, fifty-two, has been trying to she's planning a White House running a mere five months after being elected. While a two thousand twenty tender might seem love a stretch, the Democratic field is wide open and the party is desperately looking for a new star. Barack Obama had been a senator for four years before he was elected president in 2008.

In comments to reporters, Harris has said she's focused on her current work and the work of the intelligence committee, and has also warned against turning the ongoing hearings into a spectator sport.

“This is certainly taking on a proportion of drama. Everyone is watching it. But this isn't a television show. This is about the office of the President of the United States,” “ hours before Comey testified. “It is critical that we discover out what's going, what's happened, so we can obtain to the truth and move on.”

As Harris stresses the seriousness of the inquiries, she’s also working to pump up her own performance. Harris has 665.000 followers on her two Twitter accounts – more than twice that of Feinstein – and she and her staff utilize those channels to alert fans to the exact timing of her hearing appearances, and then allow play-by-play commentary.

“It’s unacceptable that Sessions - the top law enforcement official in the country – cannot title his valid basis for evading questions,” said one message from her account following the Attorney General’s testimony.

Kevin Eckery, a Sacramento-based political strategist and crisis manager, said it's clear Harris is working tough “to set up her brand” and energize her base. In the hearings, that cause has been helped by Trump surrogates who’ve attempted to discredit her in ways that backfired badly.

On CNN on Tuesday, former Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller for her interrogation of Sessions. That prompted a reproach from CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers and also from women’s groups and Democratic rapid-response teams, who turned the comment into an Internet meme. “Bad move,” said Eckery, a senior aide to former CA Gov. Pete Wilson. “That was the ultimate man-splaining putdown.”

At Tuesday’s intelligence committee hearing, Harris had only five minutes to obtain answers out of Sessions, and while she didn’t obtain much, she managed to rattle him.

A former CA attorney common and San Francisco district attorney, Harris pressed Sessions on his claim that it was longstanding federal policy for U. S. attorneys common to hold their conversations with the president confidential. She asked him if had any documents to check that policy, and Sessions responded he’d supply the committee with documents, “as appropriate.”

“Can you please tell me what you imply when you declare appropriate?” Harris shot back, amid an exchange where they both talked over each other.

After Sessions said he couldn’t recall any talking with Russian businessmen at the two thousand sixteen Republican convention, Harris slice him off again, and Sessions objected.

“Will you let me qualify it?” the attorney common responded, his voice rising. “If I don't qualify it, you'll indict me of lying. So I necessity to be exact as best I can. I’m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.”

Harris may have won political points with her Sessions questioning. She also generated wide publicity by twice being slice off by male Republicans in recent intelligence committee hearings, once by chairman Sen. Richard Burr of NC and by Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

But she's to be careful, said Sragow.

“The Senate club has always been marked by complex and ironclad etiquette,” he said. “When breached, that brings consequences.”

By contrast, Feinstein was firm but patient in her questioning at the intelligence committee hearing, which she believes was the incorrect venue to hear from Sessions. Twice in recent weeks, once and again , she's pressed Grassley to schedule hearings with Comey, Sessions, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other figures who could share information pertaining to possible obstruction of justice.

In with CNN, Feinstein said she's served twenty-four years on judiciary and sixteen years on the intelligence committee, and argued that the latter lacks expertise in obstruction of justice investigations.

“The judiciary staff are all lawyers, most very excellent lawyers,” she said. “So there is an opportunity to see at the law with respect to obstruction of justice, to keep a hearing and also to have those relative people arrive before the judiciary committee.”

On Friday, Feinstein warned of her concern that Trump will fire the Justice Department’s top executive leading the Russia investigation, Deputy Attorney Common Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“The message the president is sending through his tweets is he believes the regulation of law doesn’t apply to him and that anyone who thinks otherwise will be fired,” she said in a statement.

Harris and Feinstein arrive from the same state and party, but their styles and political leanings are hardly similar. Harris, fifty-two, has worked to appeal to the youthful left of the Democratic Party, voting against the nomination of John Kelly for homeland security secretary, for instance. Feinstein is a conservative on national security issues and more liberal on causes such as wilderness protection and gun control.

One trait they share is coyness about their political futures. In January, Feinstein had an artificial cardiac pacemaker installed. That's fueled speculation she may not running again, opening up the seat for one of California’s up-and-coming politicians, such as

Another possible contender would be Southern CA Rep. Adam Schiff, a former prosecutor and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. His statewide and national profile has soared with the Russia probes.

Eckery said he sees number signs of Feinstein slowing down or being unable to hold up with the pace of being a senior senator.

“For all the speak of Di-Fi emotional on, she's bringing it,” he said. “She is doing her job, and if anything, she's been energized by events in Washington... She's going to leave when she's prepared to leave.”

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