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Trump attacks Kamala Harris over Kavanaugh hearings in first remarks since she was named Biden's running mate

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 8/11/2020 Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Tuesday attacked Sen. Kamala Harris over her questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings in his first public remarks since she was named Joe Biden's running mate. 

Harris, a former prosecutor, grilled the judge over sexual misconduct allegations against him during the contentious 2018 confirmation hearings. 

"And the horrible way she treated Justice Kavanaugh, that was a horrible event. I thought it was terrible for her, I thought it was terrible for our nation," Trump told reporters during a White House briefing. "I thought she was the meanest, the most horrible most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate."

Kamala Harris smiling for the camera: In this June 27, 2019, file photo, then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens to questions after the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art in Miami. © Provided by USA TODAY In this June 27, 2019, file photo, then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listens to questions after the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art in Miami.

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Trump saved his remarks on Harris for the scheduled briefing. But minutes after the announcement, Trump tweeted a new campaign attack ad on Harris, a vocal critic of the president. The ad accuses Biden of "handing over the reins to Kamala while they jointly embrace the radical left." 

Biden picks Kamala Harris: Presidential nominee Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his VP running mate

"She is also known, from what I understand, as being just about the most liberal person in the U.S. Senate and I would have thought Biden would have tried to stay away from that a little bit," Trump said. 

Biden announced Harris, one of his former Democratic primary challengers, as his No. 2 pick after weeks of speculation in the lead-up to next week's Democratic convention. She will become the first Black woman and first Asian American person on a major party's presidential ticket.

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Following the announcement, the Trump campaign seized on a feisty exchange between Harris and Biden during a June 2019 Democratic debate, when the California senator was still in the race. Harris challenged Biden over his remarks about working with segregationist senators and criticized him for his previous opposition to federal busing mandates – a moment that hobbled his campaign and led to her brief surge in national polls.

"Not long ago, Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist and asked for an apology she never received. Clearly, Phony Kamala will abandon her own morals, as well as try to bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat Party," Trump senior adviser Katrina Pierson said in a statement Tuesday.

"She is proof that Joe Biden is an empty shell being filled with the extreme agenda of the radicals on the left," Pierson added.

Harris has never called Biden a racist but said she thought it was "hurtful" to hear him talk about finding common ground with senators who built their careers on segregation. Biden later apologized for those comments.

More: 'Let's win this, together': Biden, Harris spouses gear up for campaign trail over Twitter

"She was probably nastier than even Pocahontas to Joe Biden," Trump said of the Harris and Biden clash, referring to his nickname for Elizabeth Warren. "She was very disrespectful to Joe Biden. And it's hard to pick somebody that's that disrespectful."

Harris, however, has labeled Trump a racist. 

"When you talk about him calling African countries s-hole countries, when you talk about him referring to immigrants as rapists and murderers, I don’t think you can reach any other conclusion," she told The Root in an interview last year.

As a private citizen, Trump twice donated to Harris while she was a candidate for California attorney general in 2011 and 2013 for a combined total of $6,000, according to state records. Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and senior adviser, donated $2,000 to her re-election campaign for attorney general in 2014.

A spokesman for the Harris campaign told the Sacramento Bee that Harris donated the $6,000 she received from Trump to a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of Central Americans. The newspaper reported, however, that Harris didn't make that donation until 2015, one year after she won reelection as attorney general.

Asked about donations that both Trump and Ivanka Trump made to Harris during her campaign for attorney general in California, Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said later Tuesday that Trump, "as a private businessman donated to candidates" on both sides of the aisle.

"I will note that Kamala Harris is a Black woman and he donated to her campaign, so I hope we can quash this racism argument now," she added.

Vice President Mike Pence also weighed in during a campaign event in Mesa, Arizona, telling the crowd he wanted to "welcome her to the race."

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

More: Vice President Mike Pence takes jab at Kamala Harris during Arizona visit

Harris had long been a top contender for Biden's running mate after she dropped out of the presidential race. In May, Biden vowed to choose a woman as his running mate. It's only the third time in U.S. history that a woman will be a vice presidential nominee on a major party's ticket. 

"I was a little surprised that he picked her. I've been watching her for a long time," Trump said. "​​​​She did very poorly in the primaries and now she's chosen, so we'll see how that all works out."

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump said Biden "roped himself" into selecting a woman as his running mate, musing that "some people would say that men are insulted by that." 

Other contenders for Biden's No. 2 included Susan Rice, former national security adviser to President Barack Obama, Rep. Karen Bass of California, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Rep. Val Demings of Florida, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. 

The president has previously weighed in on Harris' candidacy, telling reporters on July 29 he thought she'd be a "fine choice."

Contributing: John Fritze and David Jackson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump attacks Kamala Harris over Kavanaugh hearings in first remarks since she was named Biden's running mate

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