Politics

Kamala’s Office Is Self-Destructing

When Vice President Kamala Harris finally made the decision to visit the Mexico border last week, people inside her own office were blindsided by the news.

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 handling of the border visit was the latest chaotic moment for a staff that’s quickly become mired in them. 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.

In interviews, 22 current and former vice presidential aides, administration officials and associates of Harris and Biden described a tense and at times dour office atmosphere. Aides and allies said Flournoy, in an apparent effort to protect Harris, has instead created an insular environment where ideas are ignored or met with harsh dismissals and decisions are dragged out. Often, they said, she refuses to take responsibility for delicate issues and blames staffers for the negative results that ensue.

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. “It all starts at the top,” said one of the administration officials, who like others requested anonymity to be able to speak candidly about a sensitive matter.

“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,” said another person with direct knowledge of how Harris’ office is run. “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.

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson for Harris, pushed back against the complaints and defended Flournoy saying she has an “open door policy” and that “Black women like me would not have the opportunity to work in politics without Tina.” Of the chief of staff’s anonymous critics, she added: “People are cowards to do this this way.” Read more…

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