Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks to media at Gibson's Bookstore & Cafe, Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Harris: Facts unfolding in probe of alleged Smollett attack

February 18, 2019 - 11:37 pm

Sen. Kamala Harris says she won't comment again on the investigation into a reported attack on "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett until it's completed.

Speaking Monday to reporters in Concord, New Hampshire, during her first presidential campaign trip to the state, the U.S. senator from California says that "the facts are still unfolding" and that while she is "very concerned" about Smollett's initial allegation and it should be taken seriously, "there should be an investigation."

Harris previously tweeted that the alleged attack was "an attempted modern day lynching." Police in Chicago say their investigation into the report that the actor was attacked by two men yelling slurs has "shifted" after two brothers were questioned and released. Smollett's lawyers say the actor feels "victimized" by reports that he played a role in the assault.

The Presidents Day holiday weekend brought Harris and other Democratic presidential candidates to New Hampshire, the state with the first-in-the-nation primary in 2020. Also campaigning in the Granite State were Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was back in Iowa, the leadoff caucus state. Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, who also is running for president, campaigned in Iowa as well.

Highlights from the trail:

KAMALA HARRIS

Harris let voters in New Hampshire know that she does not consider herself a democratic socialist — a not-so-veiled distinction setting her apart from New Hampshire voters' favorite 2016 primary candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Sanders, a potential rival for the party's 2020 nomination, has described himself as a democratic socialist, and the Vermont independent didn't abandon the politically fraught label for his previous campaign.

Harris was asked by a reporter whether she would have to tilt her politics leftward — in the direction of democratic socialism — to win the state's primary. Sanders handily defeated Hillary Clinton when they competed for the state's delegates three years ago.

"The people of New Hampshire will tell me what's required to compete in New Hampshire, but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist," Harris said in response to the question, posed as she toured Gibson's Bookstore in Concord ahead of a Portsmouth town hall.

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ELIZABETH WARREN

Warren is planning to unveil a universal child care plan that would guarantee American families access to child care.

The U.S. senator from Massachusetts would use part of the revenue from her proposed tax on the ultra-wealthy to fund her child care plan. A person familiar with the plan outlined it ahead of its release Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

Warren's plan would set up a federal program to guarantee child care from birth until children's entry into school. Families with income less than 200 percent of the poverty line would get free access. Other families would pay no more than 7 percent of their income.

Her plan would guarantee compensation for child care program workers at rates comparable to public school teachers in their areas.

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KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

Gillibrand says it would be an "inappropriate" use of the U.S. military to intervene in Venezuela, a response to President Donald Trump's warning in a speech in Miami.

Visiting a popular bar near the University of Iowa campus, the New York Democratic senator is weighing a 2020 presidential campaign.

Trump warned Venezuela's military that if it continues to stand with President Nicolas Maduro's government it "would find no safe harbor" and that "all options are open." Critics say Maduro's re-election last year was fraudulent, making his second term illegal.

"We should be using diplomatic and political support for the new government and we should consider sanctions against Maduro, but military action is inappropriate in this case," Gillibrand said.

Earlier, during a visit to Cedar Rapids, Gillibrand stopped short of agreeing with fellow New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's comments celebrating Amazon's plans to cancel building a second headquarters in the state.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., hailed the cancellation as a day "dedicated, everyday New Yorkers and their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed."

Gillibrand said she thinks Ocasio-Cortez's point is that subsidies given to Amazon were outrageous, not that she didn't want the jobs in New York. The senator told reporters that taxpayers were going to be "left holding the bag" and that shows the deal was outrageous.

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AMY KLOBUCHAR

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar says that she comes at gun safety legislation from the perspective: "Would this hurt my Uncle Dick in the deer stand?"

Appearing Monday night at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said her state values the outdoors as well as hunting and fishing.

She said banning assault weapons wouldn't hurt her Uncle Dick in the deer stand, nor would background checks.

Her voice broke as she recalled the mother of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim describing how her little boy died in the arms of his school aide.

"We should join the majority of Americans and actually many gun owners in having the courage to pass commonsense gun safety legislation," she said.

Klobuchar referenced the late singer Prince in saying that doctors need to change the prescribing habits of opioids in the United States. Her state still hasn't gotten over the 2016 death of Prince, she said. One of Minnesota's most famous residents, he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose.

Klobuchar said the U.S. should pay for addiction treatment by taking money from the drug companies who are selling the opioids.

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Associated Press writers Elana Schor in Washington, Juana Summers in Concord, New Hampshire, and Thomas Beaumont in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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