Live

Watch CBSN Live

Kamala Harris to push back on criticism of her record as prosecutor

Kamala Harris will be putting the focus on her career as a prosecutor and how that experience has prepared the former California attorney general to take on President Trump in 2020 in a speech Saturday evening.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and California senator is traveling to South Carolina for the state's NAACP Freedom Fund Celebration and heads to Iowa afterward for a speech at the Iowa Democratic Hall of Fame. In Iowa, she hopes to set herself apart from the other 18 candidates also appearing at the event by focusing on her law enforcement career in California — experience she believes that no one else can match.

She aims to define her career "in her terms," a senior campaign official told CBS News.

Harris has faced criticism that her record as a prosecutor is not as progressive as she claims. A recent New York Times op-ed accused her of either staying silent or opposing criminal justice reforms favored by progressives throughout her career.

As San Francisco district attorney — the first black woman elected to the post — Harris introduced a "Back on Track" program to help low-level drug offenders reenter society. She also defended climate change initiatives and LGBTQ rights.

In her autobiography, "The Truths We Hold," Harris described her fight against for-profit colleges while serving as attorney general of California, including winning a $1.2 billion judgment against now-defunct Corinthian Colleges over its advertising and lending practices. She also defended climate change initiatives and LGBTQ rights.

Many of these efforts have been questioned, with some critics arguing that her efforts against truancy unfairly targeted poorer communities. In some cases, parents could be fined up to $2,000 and spend up to one year in jail over their child's school absenses. Harris later expressed regret over the policy.

Other critics have pointed to her tenure as San Francisco district attorney, when Harris' office was implicated in violating the rights of various defendants by not sharing damaging information about a police drug lab technician who allegedly stole cocaine from the lab.

Harris drew the American Civil Liberty Union's ire when she did not support legislation to investigate fatal police-related shootings and opted not to further investigate some potential wrongful conviction cases. California Gov. Gavin Newsom took recent action on one such case, ordering advanced DNA testing for Kevin Cooper, a death row inmate who maintains his innocence and whose cause many celebrities — including Kim Kardashian West — have championed.

In her South Carolina speech, Harris is expected to talk about why she became a prosecutor and dispel the criticism of her record as well as explain how she will be able to hold President Trump accountable.

View CBS News In