Kamala Harris takes page from Obama's political playbook

Amid scrutiny over former FBI Director James Comey's testimony to Senate lawmakers on Thursday, Democratic Senator Kamala Harris appears to be strengthening her position as a potential top contender for the 2020 presidential race.

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Harris' questions and comments to Comey on Thursday drew both praise and criticism. But her outspokenness—about the Russia investigation, illegal immigration, and members of Trump's administration—has raised her profile as a potential future presidential candidate.

In fact, her rapid political ascent has been compared to that of former President Obama, with political consultant Robert Salazar quoted by the media outlet as saying, "You saw it with Obama. It is a very rare mixture of passion and professionalism that is hard to come across in politics."

During Comey's testimony on Thursday, after Harris was given the floor, she began by thanking Comey and then notably stating, in part, "You and I are both former prosecutors...I just want to make a statement that in my experience of prosecuting cases when a robber held a gun to somebody's head and said 'I hope you will give me your wallet,' the word 'hope' was not the operative word at that moment."

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Harris was likely making a pointed reference to a part of a written statement Comey had submitted earlier which indicates that President Trump was referring to the FBI's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn when he allegedly told Comey, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go."

Harris also made headlines on Wednesday after she was admonished by Republican Senators John McCain and Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee—for continuing to ask Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he would agree to officially give Special Counsel Robert Mueller autonomy from the Justice Department in investigating Trump associates' ties with Russia.

Rosenstein ultimately refrained from answering the question with a "yes" or "no," at one point telling her, "It's not a short answer, senator."

Despite the buzz, when the Los Angeles Times' Patt Morrison asked her about running for the nation's top job a few months ago, Harris deflected the question, saying, "I don't know why my name is in that context. I'm focused on being the junior senator from California and very proud to be representing our beautiful state."