scorecardBiden administration officials privately describe VP Kamala Harris' office as a 's---show,' report says
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Biden administration officials privately describe VP Kamala Harris' office as a 's---show,' report says

Grace Panetta   

Biden administration officials privately describe VP Kamala Harris' office as a 's---show,' report says
PoliticsPolitics2 min read
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to the Generation Equality Forum in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus, Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Washington.     Alex Brandon/AP
  • Administration officials are privately calling Kamala Harris' office "a s---show," Axios reports.
  • Top Biden officials are circling the wagons around Harris' operation as internal discord boils over.
  • Recent reports in Politico and CNBC detailed unhappiness from Harris staffers, allies, and donors.

Top White House officials are publicly circling the wagons around Vice President Kamala Harris' operation while privately describing the chaos in her office as a "s---show," Axios reported on Friday.

Long-simmering unhappiness in Harris' office and tensions between her staff and President Joe Biden's boiled over in a recent report from Politico. The outlet spoke with 22 sources, including current and former Harris staffers, who described poor morale and communication breakdowns within the vice president's office.

"People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it's an abusive environment," one 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---."

Some key aides and staffers were left in the dark when it came to the planning of Harris' trip to the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, Politico reported. Two advance staffers also recently departed from Harris' office.

Read more: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's former staffers detail a 'demoralizing' office environment where they were afraid to 'mess up in any way' while working for the Arizona Democrat

Politico and CNBC also reported on complaints that Harris' chief of staff, the seasoned Democratic power player Tina Flournoy, tightly guarded access to Harris, including not returning calls and outreach attempts from Harris' longtime political allies, friends, and donors.

"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,'" Harris' chief spokeswoman, Symone Sanders, told Politico in response, defending Flournoy as having "an open door policy" and calling her anonymous critics "cowards."

In a statement to CNBC, former President Bill Clinton described Flournoy as "an extraordinary person" with "a unique ability to focus on the big picture and adapt to changing conditions." Flournoy was known to closely guard access to Clinton as his chief of staff in his postpresidential life; some Democrats have said that's a necessary aspect of staffing a figure like a president or vice president.

Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, and Cedric Richmond, a senior advisor, defended Harris and her office's operation to Axios, with Richmond charging that Harris was the victim of "a whisper campaign designed to sabotage her."

The discord in Harris' office described in the reports highlights the sharp divergence between the vice president's office and the nearly leakproof operation that Biden runs.

The reports of dysfunction and of Flournoy's iron grip over Harris' political operation echo some of the breakdowns that befell her 2020 presidential campaign. Axios said it was causing some Democrats to question whether Harris could run a successful presidential campaign in 2024 if Biden, who's 78, decides to retire.

Axios reported that some Democrats within and outside the White House were "increasingly concerned about Harris's handling of high-profile issues and political tone deafness," including her missteps around immigration.

"'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,'" one Democratic source told Axios.