Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) took aim at President Donald Trump, calling him "gutless" during the first event of her book tour, which will lead right into her announcement later this month that she will run to unseat him in 2020.
It wasn't until the second half of Harris's conversation with Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post that Trump entered the conversation. But asked toward the end of the event how her "gut instincts" differ from the president's, she questioned whether he has a "gut."
"I would actually say that that assumes facts, not evidence that he has a gut," Harris said. "I think there's a thing about leadership, which is that you have to have the courage to do things in the best interest of the people you lead even if it's not in your personal best interest."
"You can't be gutless when it comes to making those decisions, you have to put the needs of the people before your personal needs," she said.
The sold out event at George Washington University was the first on a four-stop book tour by Harris, who will travel to New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in coming days. She is reportedly set to formally announce her run for president later this month in Oakland.
The conversation focused on the biographical parts of The Truths We Hold, which was released Tuesday.
The hundreds of attendees were asked to write questions for Harris and put them in in a box before the event, but Capehart only elected to ask one, about how "being half Indian-American" has shaped her "identity."
Harris was asked to directly address the current immigration showdown between Trump and congressional Democrats. She urged her colleagues to hold strong on their refusal to provide funding for a border wall, which she called "wrong from a moral perspective."
She said Trump's national address Tuesday night was a "blatant" attempt at "inserting race in a way that was intended to create fear and division."
"We've had enough of these powerful voices that are trying to sow hate and division among us," Harris said.
Attendees of the event said they were hoping to hear more discussion about policy and less on the anecdotes in the book.
"It felt a little scripted, it was better when she got off the book," said Madeleine, a 23- year-old who works for a polling company in D.C. "I can read the book, I want to hear about the policies."
She added, however, that Harris came off as "young and upbeat, like a female Obama."
Other attendees were also noncommittal about supporting Harris in her run for president, but said they came away from the event with a more positive view of her.
"The talk gave me a very positive sense about her as a person," said Sharon, who, like Harris, is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. "I would strongly consider supporting her. It's still early, but she's a sorority sister of mine, so there's a special interest in her."
Harris wasn't asked about any of the other potential candidates in the Democratic field and declined to answer whether she will run for president when asked by Capehart.