The White House has engaged in damage control in seeking to push back against reports of dysfunction within the office of Vice President Kamala Harris, according to five individuals who spoke with CNN.
Two people close to Harris’ team said some individuals inside the vice president’s office are frustrated with what they see as a dysfunctional operation that has been at times waylaid by internal conflict. Some of that ire is directed squarely at Harris’ chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, those people said. Another source close to the staff said there were “challenges and struggles” and heard complaints about Flournoy from staff, but denied it amounted to dysfunction or that the tensions were directly Flournoy’s fault.
Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary to the vice president, told CNN in a statement that Harris’ focus remains on her work.
“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,” a person with direct knowledge of the situation in the vice president’s office told Politico. “It’s not a healthy environment and people often feel mistreated. It’s not a place where people feel supported but a place where people feel treated like s***.”
“The dysfunction in the VP’s ranks threatens to complicate the White House’s carefully crafted image as a place staffed by a close-knit group of professionals working in concert to advance the president’s agenda. It’s pronounced enough that members of the president’s own team have taken notice and are concerned about the way Harris’ staffers are treated,” the outlet added.
CNN reported that President Joe Biden’s administration is “trying to stop a drama-filled narrative from taking hold, according to five people who spoke to CNN about the dynamics within Harris’ office.” The outlet then proceeded to publish statements from the administration.
CNN noted, however, that “help from the West Wing is a sign that the spiraling narrative could start to affect Harris, who is considered the next in line to lead the Democratic Party — with a potential for a presidential run coming as soon as 2024 if President Joe Biden decides not to seek reelection.”
Biden previously has said he would seek re-election in 2024.
Numerous others publicly spoke out to defend Harris from the allegations, but some of these efforts have backfired and solidified Politico’s reporting to some extent. White House senior adviser Anita Dunn, for example, told Politico the complaints about Harris’ office were “not anywhere near what you are describing” but acknowledged there could be “people whose feelings were a little hurt on her staff” because many weren’t told about her last-minute trip to the southern border.
Harris flew to El Paso, Texas, a blue county where the border crisis isn’t as harrowing. As The Daily Wire previously reported, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) called out Harris for going to El Paso instead of the Rio Grande Valley Sector.
“I’m sure her planners told her that if you’re going to go down to the border, go to a, something that’s safer to go to that is politically safer. If you go down to the lower Rio Grande with the high activity and you’re there with kids and families, prosecutorial discretion, where people are being released, high numbers of people crossing the border, you know, politically that’s — it’s harder to do that, I know that,” Cuellar said.
The Daily Wire previously reported:
Her campaign for president died in the primary after she let go of most of her staff in an effort to rebuild her floundering operation. At the time, similar to now, most of the blame was placed on her then-campaign manager Juan Rodriguez.
Days before Harris announced the end to her presidential run in December 2019, one of her senior staff members, Iowa operations director Kelly Mehlenbacher, wrote a scathing resignation letter trashing Harris’ campaign.
“This is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly,” Mehlenbacher wrote at the time. “While I still believe that Senator Harris is the strongest candidate to win in the General Election in 2020, I no longer have confidence in our campaign or its leadership.”