Two more staffers are distancing themselves from the turmoil of Kamala Harris‘ office, but the vice president is attempting an unfazed look as she carries on with public outings and photo ops, even bringing back her signature nervous cackle.
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 leaving, two administration officials told the Washington Post.
Both are expected to take jobs in or close to the administration.
The news of their departure came just after Politico reported Symone Sanders, Harris’ senior advisor and chief spokesperson, will leave the White House by the end of the this month.
The staffers flee amid swirling rumors of internal tensions and alleged frustration that President Joe Biden is not positioning her well for a presidential run.
Meanwhile, Harris left for 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 the pair 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 Buttigieg toured an electric bus at Charlotte Area Transit System Bus and Light Rail Garage
‘The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round,’ Harris said, cackling 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
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
The White House insists Biden plans to run again, but he will be 82 in 2024.
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.
Two more staffers are distancing themselves from the turmoil of Vice President Kamala Harris’ office
Symone Sanders, Harris’ senior advisor and chief spokesperson, will leave the White House by the end of the this month, after Ashley Etienne, former communications director, did so weeks ago
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
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 advisor 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 White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued Harris receives more criticism because of her status as a woman of color. Harris is the country’s first female and first black vice president.
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 drain what enthusiasm remains for his ailing regime. 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 Transportation Secretary Pete 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.
It has led to rumors of a mounting feud between Buttigieg and Harris, which the two hope to quash with a joint appearance scheduled for Thursday in Charlotte, North Carolina.