Kamala Harris, as vice president, has been tasked with handling President Joe Biden’s southern border crisis, pushing the Democrats’ elections agenda into law, and much more, with little success to date.
But now multiple allegations have surfaced that not only is she ineffective, but her office staffers claim they are treated poorly and forced to work in a “blame culture.”
As Politico reports, “There is dysfunction inside the VP’s office, aides and administration officials say. And it’s emanating from the top.”
The report explains that Harris’ decision to visit the Mexican border – more than three months after she was given the responsibility for the crisis by President Biden – left her office staff members “blindsided.”
“For days, aides and outside allies had been calling and texting with each other about the political fallout that a potential trip would entail. But when it became known that she was going to El Paso, it left many scrambling, including officials who were responsible for making travel arrangements and others outside the VP’s office charged with crafting the messaging across the administration,” the report said.
But that was only one bit of recent chaos in the vice president’s office.
“Harris’ team is experiencing low morale, porous lines of communication and diminished trust among aides and senior officials. Much of the frustration internally is directed at Tina Flournoy, Harris’ chief of staff, a veteran of Democratic politics who began working for her earlier this year,” the report said, explaining that was based on interviews with 22 current and former aides, officials and associates.
“While much of the ire is aimed at Harris’ chief, two administration officials said the VP herself also bears responsibility for the way her office is run,” Politico found.
“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,” one of Politico’s interviewees said. “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 report documented that even the president’s own team is noticing the issues that are developing, but Symone Sanders, a senior adviser, told Politico the concerns were being raised by “cowards.”
“We are not making rainbows and bunnies all day. What I hear is that people have hard jobs and I’m like ‘welcome to the club.’ We have created a culture where people, if there is anything anyone would like to raise, there are avenues for them to do so. Whoever has something they would like to raise, they should raise it directly,” she said.
Politico explained its sources suggest this is a pattern with Harris, as she’s a politician “who has churned through several iterations of staff on her rise and took office with a team almost entirely new to her.”
The report explained two top staffers, Karly Satkowiak and Gabrielle DeFranceschi, recently left Harris employ, saying their moves were long-planned. But Politico said it was “a point disputed by two other people familiar with the matter.”
Senior Biden adviser Anita Dunn told Politico the level of dissension is “not anywhere near what you are describing.”
Flournoy previously worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and on his re-election effort, as well as Al Gore’s failed 2000 campaign.
A CNBC report suggested Flournoy was agitating allies and big donors by curtailing access to Harris but Politico explained her reputation is one of taking that to extremes, based on her performance while working for Clinton.
“People who Clinton knew for decades all of a sudden couldn’t get through to him because Tina choked off contact,” Politico said one of its sources reported. “Because Clinton didn’t use email”—he only used his BlackBerry to communicate with family, close friends and a handful of aides—”she was able to keep many FOBs [friends of Bill] out.”
The report said “aides and allies are concerned Harris is being ill-served by stepping too far back and letting her political apparatus atrophy. Flournoy has summarily rejected the idea of Harris spending more time tending to her past relationships or capitalizing on her new post to create new ones, a move that people in the VP’s orbit view as short-sighted.”
The report explained recently, a friend of Harris reached out to Flournoy on behalf of a top party donor and was ignored.
“This is someone who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars—millions, even—for your boss and you’re just blowing them off?” the Harris friend asked, according to the report. “Next time Kamala wants [them] for something, it’s like, ‘Hey, I couldn’t even get a call-back from your chief of staff!’”
But the report found the issues “nothing new” with Harris, who has been described in the past as working under “managed chaos.”
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