Even more staffers are considering leaving Vice President Kamala Harris’ office after four aides announced their exit in two weeks
Kamala Harris could lose even more staffers, a Saturday report revealed, after four of her aides departed in the matter for just two weeks amid rumors of turmoil in the West Wing.
People familiar with the conversations told Politico that even more ‘key members of Harris’ orbit’ are ‘eyeing the exits’ and have expressed interest in leaving less than a year into her vice presidency.
Among the four staffers departing Harris’ office are Symone Sanders, who as senior adviser and chief spokesperson is one of the vice president’s closest aides. Ashley Etienne, the office’s communications director, is also leaving.
Officials maintain Sanders and Etienne’s departures were long-planned and not evidence of the reported turmoil.
Peter Velz, director of press operations, and Vince Evans, deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, have both told others in the vice president’s office that they are also leaving, administration officials told the Washington Post.
Both are expected to remain in the administration or take jobs in close coordination with the White House.
Some Democratic allies have urged Harris to embrace the concept of a reset after a rocky first year as vice president, which has been riddled with project failures – like addressing the southern border crisis – and reports of tensions between her team and the president’s.
Harris’ staff are leaving because they’re burned out, there are better opportunities elsewhere and they don’t want to be permanently branded a ‘Harris person,’ according to Axios.
After the already announced departure of Harris’ communications director Ashley Etienne, Politico reported Wednesday that chief spokesperson Symone Sanders is expected to leave by the end of the year.
Axios noted that Sanders is getting married next year and was never able to go on a proper tour to sell her book, No, You Shut Up, which was published in May 2020.
Symone Sanders (left), Harris’ senior adviser and chief spokesperson, will leave the White House by the end of the this month. Her departure comes after Ashley Etienne (right), Harris’ former communications director, left last month
Two more staffers, Peter Velz (left) and Vince Evans (right), are reportedly eying exits, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday
Harris tamped down rumors of tension as she addressed Sanders’ departure during a gaggle on her trip to North Carolina Thursday.
‘I love Symone,’ the vice president said. ‘And I mean that sincerely.’
‘I can’t wait to see what she will do next. I know that it’s been three years jumping on and off planes, going around the country …’ Harris continued.
Sanders joined President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2019.
Harris declined to answer further questions on the wave of departures.
‘Well, I told you how I feel about Symone,’ Harris said.
During the trip, Harris’ personal aide, Opal Vadhan, posted a photo of the VP’s team all smiling as they celebrated the birthday of Deputy Director of Advance, Juan Ortega.
‘A favorite tradition in the @VP’s office is celebrating staff birthdays with cupcakes! Happy Birthday, @JuanoBano!’ she wrote.
Harris was in Charlotte, North Carolina to tour a public transit facility and give a speech on the bipartisan infrastructure bill alongside Pete Buttigieg, her rumored competition.
She hugged the Transportation secretary before they both boarded Air Force Two. Buttigieg then took questions from a gaggle of reporters on the plane alone.
When Harris and Buttigieg arrived at Charlotte Area Transit System Bus and Light Rail Garage, Harris sat down in the drivers’ seat of an electric bus, pretending to drive the vehicle and honking the horn.
‘The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round,’ Harris said, chortling as Buttigieg looked on.
Amid poll numbers in the high 20s, some Democrats are pushing for Buttigieg to replace Harris at the top of the ticket in 2024, should Biden choose not to run for a second term.
Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured an electric bus at Charlotte Area Transit System Bus and Light Rail Garage. Amid poll numbers in the high 20s, some Democrats are pushing for Buttigieg to replace Harris at the top of the ticket in 2024, should Biden choose not to run for a second term
The White House insists Biden plans to run again, but he will be 82 in 2024.
Harris, during remarks in Charlotte, thanked GOP North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis for voting for the Infrastructure and Jobs Act.
‘Because of their work – because of our work together – America is moving again.’
The vice president also pushed for passage of the Build Back Better act, what she called ‘part two’ of the Biden-Harris agenda.
‘It is not right that seniors are going into debt to pay for their medication. It is not right that because they can’t afford their prescription, they cut pills to try and extend it.’
‘It’s just not right parents are being forced to quit jobs to care for members of their family. It’s not right that families have to choose to buy groceries, or pay forth health care. To fill up their tank or pay their rent.’
Last month, Harris hit back at claims she is being misused as vice president, saying she doesn’t feel like she’s being under utilized by Biden and dismissed her low approval ratings which plummeted to 28% in a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll of registered voters earlier this month.
‘Polls, they go up, they go down,’ Harris said. ‘But I think what is most important is that we remain consistent with what we need to do to deal with the issues that we’re presented with at this moment.’
No announcement has been made on whether Sanders has lined up another job, sparking questions over the circumstances surrounding her departure.
Her announced departure follows that of Harris’ communications director Ashley Etienne, who is also leaving this month ‘to pursue other opportunities,’ according to the White House.
Harris in recent weeks has battled mounting reports that her office is in disarray, and that her team is frustrated at being handed ‘no-win’ tasks that don’t suit her skillset, such as tackling the ‘root causes’ of migration behind the recent border crisis.
Asked Thursday if the staff departures were prompted by bad headlines for Harris, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that working in the first year of an administration is ‘grueling and exhausting.’
‘It’s natural for staffers who’ve thrown their heart and soul into a job to be ready to move on after a few years,’ she said.
Praising Sanders’ work in the administration, Psaki said the spokeswoman ‘has charisma coming out of her eyeballs.’
Sanders traveled frequently with Harris and as a senior adviser helped her juggle a daunting portfolio including the migrant issue and push for a sweeping federal overhaul of election laws.
Harris has suffered plunging approval ratings since taking office, threatening what would normally be an easy path to the Democratic presidential nomination in 2028, or 2024 if Biden decides not to seek re-election at age 81.
Amid the turbulence, Sanders has been Harris’ top bulldog defender, batting back at claims of internal disarray and tension with the West Wing.
Last month, Sanders was the first to respond to a detailed CNN report in which Harris aides complained that she has been set up to fail, and handed a portfolio that is not commensurate with her historic status as the first woman, and first woman of color, to hold the vice president’s office.
‘They’re consistently sending her out there on losing issues in the wrong situations for her skill set,’ said a former high-level Harris aide in the bombshell report.
Sanders fired back in a statement: ‘It is unfortunate that after a productive trip to France in which we reaffirmed our relationship with America’s oldest ally and demonstrated U.S. leadership on the world stage, and following passage of a historic, bipartisan infrastructure bill that will create jobs and strengthen our communities, some in the media are focused on gossip – not on the results that the President and the Vice President have delivered.’
Amid the turbulence, Sanders (right) has been Harris’ top bulldog defender, batting back at claims of internal disarray and tension with the West Wing
An official in the vice president’s office pointed out to Politico that Sanders, a former Biden campaign aide, had been working for the administration in some capacity for three years, and said that Biden and Harris had known of her departure ‘for a while’.
Etienne’s plan to leave was confirmed on November 18.
‘Ashley is valued member of the Vice President’s team, who has worked tirelessly to advance the goals of this administration. She is leaving the office in December to pursue other opportunities,’ a White House official told DailyMail.com at the time.
Both Harris and Biden have vehemently denied that there is any tension between them, denying reports that are mostly based on the accounts of anonymous staffers.
The White House went full throat with their defense of her after a CNN report claimed Biden was distancing himself from Harris because of her sliding poll numbers, while the vice president is said to have felt isolated and frustrated with being given some of the most difficult issues for the administration in her portfolio.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain tweeted Harris is an ‘incredible leader’ and Psaki argued Harris receives more criticism because of her status as a woman of color.
Harris is the country’s first female vice president and the first vice president of color.
The president has publicly said he intends to run again, although pundits say that announcing he intends to step down after a single term would turn him into a lame duck leader.
But there has been anonymous chatter among Democrats that, if he does, he should consider replacing Harris.
There’s additional speculation that if he doesn’t run again, Harris would not be the strongest contender to replace him. Some have suggested Buttigieg would be a better candidate for the nomination.
A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll showed the transportation secretary with a higher favorability rating than both Biden and Harris – whom he led by 12 points.