Vice President Kamala Harris reportedly runs an “abusive office” where morale is low, staff concerns and ideas are ignored, and aides are often surprised with hastily made decisions, like Harris’ recent visit to El Paso, Texas.
The morale of the vice president’s team is apparently sagging and the office has had to handle several high-level departures less than six months into the term. The vice president’s plans are often only known to her and a close group of staff and advisers, and senior members of the office often do not communicate important details down the chain, or shift blame when something goes wrong, according to 22 former staff members, administration officials, and associates of the vice president interviewed by Politico.
“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,” said one person with direct knowledge of how the vice president’s 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 state of Harris’ office has allegedly caught the eye of President Joe Biden, raising concerns on his team. As Politico reported:
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.
Much of the blame from Harris’ staff falls on Chief of Staff Tina Flournoy, a veteran Democratic politico who worked closely with former President Bill Clinton before joining Harris’ team. Flournoy reportedly keeps tight control over Harris’ schedule and often blocks long-time acquaintances and even powerful donors from talking to the vice president. Flournoy’s alleged gatekeeping is also blocking the vice president from tending to her own political future by building relationships with other influential people.
One former long-time Harris aide said that nothing is happening in Harris’ office that the vice president is unaware of, however.
“She’s been in public life for 30 years. F***. You don’t just all of a sudden go radio silent,” the former aide said.
“She is the most perceptive person on the planet,” they continued. “She might not have first-hand knowledge, but it’s hard to imagine she doesn’t have a sense of what’s going on.”
Harris senior adviser Simone Sanders rejected the allegations that Harris’ office is poorly run, uncommunicative, and in chaos.
“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,’” Sanders said. “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.”
Harris has a history of overseeing dysfunctional teams. 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.”