Vice President Kamala Harris has been in Africa visiting several different nations this week and was asked during a press conference on Friday for her reaction to the news that a Manhattan grand jury had voted to criminally indict former President Donald Trump.
The vice president refused to provide an answer to that question, but her host, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, was more than willing to state his opinion on the matter, Fox News reported.
In what many Americans view as a legally dubious and politically motivated prosecution effort by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Trump is believed to have been criminally charged in relation to the 2016 payment of $130,000 in "hush money" to former porn actress Stormy Daniels for her silence about an alleged 2006 affair.
During a joint press conference Friday in Zambia, following the conclusion of prepared remarks, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked the U.S. vice president for her comment on the Trump indictment and the Zambian president about what the Trump indictment means with regard to "the example that the United States sets in terms of rule of law?"
VP Harris simply replied, "I am not going to comment on an ongoing criminal case as it relates to the former President."
If she had hoped that her host would similarly refrain from sharing his thoughts on the matter, though, she was quite mistaken, as he had plenty to say in that regard.
"The indictment of President Trump -- what does that mean to rule of law? I think let’s remove names from your question," President Hichilema said.
"Let’s put what we decided we will do to govern ourselves in an orderly manner," he explained. "First, our constitutions, bedrock law. Then, secondary laws, other regulations create a platform or framework around which we agreed, either as Americans or as Zambians, to govern ourselves. And so, to live within those confines."
"And when there’s transgression against law, it does not matter who is involved. I think that is what the rule of law means," the president continued. "So, I take out a name. I put in place of a name what we citizens of our countries, citizens of the global community, must do to -- as we exercise our rights and freedoms. And where our rights and freedoms end, other people’s rights and freedoms commence. This is universal, certainly for Zambia. This is the way it is."
"And here, Vice President, we have a scenario now when we fight against corruption, which is taking away resources from children and the sick, sometimes names are thrown into it and perceptions are created that are totally inappropriate because transgressions against the law, if you take what belongs to the public, you have offended the law. And the name does not matter. That is my answer. Thank you," Hichilema added.
The refusal of Vice President Harris to provide any sort of comment on the indictment of former President Trump looks to be in line with an apparent White House strategy to avoid commenting on the matter, as that is exactly what both President Joe Biden and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also did on Friday.
Early that morning, in remarks to reporters prior to boarding Marine One ahead of a trip down to Mississippi, Biden was asked repeatedly about the indictment of his predecessor, but said three times that he had "no comment" about Trump and said in response to one question, "No, I -- I’m not going to talk about Trump’s indictment."
Just a couple of hours later, during a press gaggle aboard Air Force One, Jean-Pierre also fended off several questions about the Trump indictment, and in response to the very first of those queries, said, "Look, we’re just not going to comment on any ongoing case. And I’ll just leave it there."
She offered up a variation of that response to other questions, but did see fit to comment that Biden had not received a "heads up" about the indictment and learned of it "through media reports," while at another point she said that she wouldn't speculate about the potential for "civil unrest" but did note that "Clearly, we are always prepared. This administration is -- and this government is always prepared."