WASHINGTON — The White House spin damage control on Friday amid reports this week of infighting in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office.
In a story first published by Politico, some individuals inside the vice president’s office are growing frustrated with what they call a “dysfunctional operation” that has led to internal conflict. The article names Harris’ chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, as the main reason that some in Harris’ office are growing frustrated.
Politico says they conducted 22 interview with current and former vice presidential aides, administration officials and associates of Harris and Biden. All reportedly described the office atmosphere as “tense”.
“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,” said a source 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—.”
This rumored behavior is not the first time Harris has been linked to staff infighting and low morale. This type of behavior has been reported from her time in the Senate office to her presidential campaign and now to the vice presidency.
Friday saw the White House go on the record to defend Harris. The spin from the White House is a sign this narrative could start to affect Harris, who is widely seen as the next in line to lead the Democratic Party. She could run as soon as 2024 if President Joe Biden decides not to seek re-election but Biden has publicly said he intends to run for a second term.
Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain released a statement on Thursday, defending Harris and say she and the President work well together in front of the cameras and behind closed doors.
Vice President Harris and her team are off to the fastest and strongest start of any Vice President I have seen,” he said. “She’s Delivering for the American people on immigration, small business, voting rights, and economic growth. The President’s trust and confidence in her is obvious when you see them in the Oval Office together.”
“The results speak for themselves: a decline of border arrivals from the Northern Triangle, improved vaccine equity, and increased economic opportunities for women. Anyone who has the honor of working closely with the Vice President knows how her talents and determination have made a huge difference in this Administration already,” Klain’s statement added.
Axios reported on Thursday White House officials have been frustrated with Harris’ missteps, most notably, the NBC News interview with Lester Holt where she got defensive after he asked why she had not been to the border yet.
“I, and I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t — I don’t understand the point that you’re making,” Harris told Holt with a laugh.
According to the report from Axios, Democrats, including some in the current administration are concerned Harris could not beat the nominee from the Republican Party in 2024 or 2028, even former President Donald Trump.
“‘Oh, no, our heir apparent is f***ing up, what are we gonna do?’ It’s more that people think, ‘Oh, she’s f***ing up, maybe she shouldn’t be the heir apparent,” a Democratic source told Axios.
Harris’ senior adviser, Symone Sanders, defended Harris in a statement to the outlet. She made sure to note the reports are false and Biden has entrusted her with key issues, which she has taken on.
“People are not fighting every day,” Sanders said. “There’s not consternation among aides. That is not true. I hear that there are critics. Those who talk often do not know and those who know usually are not the ones talking.”
And at Friday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the rumors, “I will say that the vice president is an incredibly important partner to the President of the United States. She has a challenging job, a hard job, and she has a great supportive team of people around her. But other than that, I’m not going to have any more comments on those reports.”