Behind the Scenes of the Zoom Call That Changed Kamala Harris' Life: When Biden Asked Her to Be VP

"It was very, honestly, emotional," the California senator tells PEOPLE

It didn't take long for one of the most important calls in Kamala Harris' life to turn into a family affair.

While the California senator was initially alone when she Zoomed with former Vice President Joe Biden on the afternoon of Aug. 11, soon the history-making news of their conversation — that she was going to be his running mate and the first Black woman and person of Asian descent on a major party ticket — had to be shared with their spouses.

"When the vice president called, I was in the room on the Zoom and Doug was in the other room, just waiting," Harris, 55, told PEOPLE in her first joint interview with Biden, for this week's issue.

Video released by the campaign shows what happened next: "Hi, hi, hi, hi, sorry to keep you," Harris told Biden, 77, who was calling from a laptop on his desk.

"No, that's alright," Biden replied. "You ready to go to work?"

Harris paused. Then she said: "Oh my God. I am so ready to go to work."

Speaking with PEOPLE three days later, Harris remembered her end of their chat.

"The intercom system in my family growing up is the same one we use now, which is just to shout loudly from one room to the other. The vice president had his cell phone [at the Zoom] because Jill was at an event. Then they asked for Doug," Harris says, "and I just shouted, 'Dougie, come!' "

In he came. And the foursome — Harris and her attorney husband, Doug Emhoff; and Biden and former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden — "just had an incredible conversation," Harris says.

"We're gonna have fun," Dr. Biden told them.

Emhoff said: "Jill, we're ready to go to work." (He and Dr. Biden "already were buddies," the vice president tells PEOPLE, with Harris adding: "Yeah, they were — because they were on the trail together.")

• For more from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' first joint interview, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

joe biden and kamala harris
From left: Sen. Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden photographed for PEOPLE on Aug. 15 outside Wilmington, Delaware. Gioncarlo Valentine
8/31/2020 cover of people featuring brandy
Brandy on the cover of PEOPLE.

"It was very, honestly, emotional," Harris tells PEOPLE. "Because I think we all know that this is a commitment for a real and very important partnership."

"The next day Doug and I came [to Delaware] to visit with the Vice President and Jill at their home, and we just hung out with homemade chocolate chip cookies," Harris says.

On their Zoom last week, Biden called it "a team effort."

Whether their pairing will be months- or years-long depends on the outcome of the next three months of campaigning during a deadly pandemic before the Nov. 3 election against President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Biden and Harris are accepting the Democratic Party's official nomination this week at the virtual Democratic National Convention, where both are speaking from Wilmington, Delaware.

Glowingly received by her fellow Democrats and many supporters, Harris has faced the usual scrutiny of a new running mate: The left faulted her record as a prosecutor as too soft on police misconduct and overzealous on suspects. Republicans said, conversely, that she was "radical."

And those with memories of the Democratic primary race last year noted Harris as tough on parts of Biden's early record, even as her own campaign sputtered by the end of the year despite early bursts of enthusiasm from voters.

Biden doesn't dwell on any of that.

He credited Harris, a former California attorney general, as a "fearless fighter" in announcing her as his vice-presidential pick. In his PEOPLE interview with Harris, he turned to her at one point: "You're so damn smart, you've been so deeply involved."

"I just think it's really, really, really important to have someone with this intellectual capacity, educational background, backbone and stature," Biden tells PEOPLE.

"One of the best things to ever happen is when you're surrounded and you're raised by women who are smarter than you," he says — pointing to his mother and sister and wife and daughter.

"What you realize is, it's so stupid not to give people images that they can aspire to be," he says. "I believe there are millions of young girls that woke up [after Harris was chosen] with a different view about themselves."

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