The office of Vice President Kamala Harris has been rocked by claims that staffers are ‘treated like sh**’ and that Chief of Staff Tina Flournoy has created ‘blame culture.’
Tensions started to boil over after Harris finally decided to visit the border last week, blindsiding staffers, according to a Politico report based on interviews with 22 current and former vice presidential aides, officials and associates.
Sources described a tense atmosphere with low morale and trust, as well as bad communication, according to the outlet.
Flournoy has allegedly created an environment where ‘ideas are ignored or met with harsh dismissals and decisions are dragged out,’ the outlet reported. She allegedly ‘refuses to take responsibility’ and blames staffers for negative results.
Some of the sources told Politico that Harris also is responsible for how her office is run, claiming that the toxic environment ‘all starts at the top.’
‘People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,’ said one source.
‘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**t.’
The sources claimed that even President Joe Biden’s office is concerned about the treatment of staff.
Biden, on the day he was inaugurated, warned presidential appointees while swearing them in that he would fire them ‘on the spot’ if he were to hear that they have shown ‘disrespect’ others.
‘I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect or talk down to someone, I promise you, I will fire you on the spot — on the spot. No ifs ands or buts,’ Biden said at the time.
The office of Vice President Kamala Harris has been rocked by claims that staffers are ‘treated like sh**’ and that chief of staff Tina Flournoy has created ‘blame culture’
Tensions started to boil over after Harris finally decided to visit the border last week, blindsiding staffers
Tina Flournoy, pictured, has allegedly created an environment where ‘ideas are ignored or met with harsh dismissals and decisions are dragged out’
Harris aides are reportedly already looking to leave the administration while some already have – like staffers Karly Satkowiak and Gabrielle DeFranceschi, who oversaw the vice president’s travel.
Satkowiak and DeFranceschi left under what had been described as ‘long-planned departures’ but sources contested that characterization to Politico.
DeFranceschi, who previously worked in the Obama administration, reportedly left over a ‘difference in opinion on how things should run.’
Biden, on the day he was inaugurated, warned presidential appointees while swearing them in that he would fire them ‘on the spot’ if he were to hear that they have shown ‘disrespect’ others
‘If you have an opinion about how things should run and it’s not listened to, that can be frustrating,’ the source told Politico.
Harris’ chief spokesperson Symone Sanders, pushed back against the claims and called those who made them ‘cowards,’ according to Politico.
‘People are cowards to do this this way,’ Sanders said.
She added: ‘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.’
‘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.’
Sanders also said that Harris ‘is focused on the work’ and ‘not the chatter at the water cooler.’
Harris tours the El Paso Border Patrol Station on June 25 in El Paso, Texas
Harris speaks with El Paso Border Patrol Chief agent Gloria Chavez as she tour the US Customs and Border Protection Central Processing Center
The chief spokesperson also defended Flournoy and said she has an ‘open door policy’ and that ‘black women like me would not have the opportunity to work in politics without Tina.’
Others who spoke to Politico to defend Harris and Flournoy said that black women are held to standards that others in politics are not – and that a ‘demanding office environment’ would be seen as a virtue for other leaders.
‘Look, [Tina’s] strong, she’s intelligent, she’s driven, and she expects strong, intelligent, driven people around her,’ said Leah Daughtry.
‘But some people may find strong, driven, smart people intimidating, but I think that’s more projection than reality because that’s just not Tina’s intent or style. And nothing in her experience would lead you to think that she’s an intimidating person.’
Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to the president, also defended Flournoy.
Dunn said keeping the border trip news private to a small group of people was made because Harris’ office didn’t want it to leak or ‘turn it into a spectacle,’ Politico reported.
‘It was closely held and there may be people whose feelings were a little hurt on her staff that they weren’t brought into the discussion,’ Dunn said.
‘But any suggestion that it was mishandled or kept a secret from people who needed to know about the arrangements or needed to know about it is absolutely not true.’
When Politico asked Dunn about complaints in the office, Dunn said complaints were ‘not anywhere near what you are describing.’
Flournoy previously worked in the White House under President Bill Clinton and then worked on his reelection campaign, as well as then-Vice President Al Gore’s campaign for president in 2000.
She was working as Clinton’s post-presidential chief of staff before she was tapped to work for Harris.
One source told Politico: ‘People who Clinton knew for decades all of a sudden couldn’t get through to him because Tina choked off contact.’
‘Because Clinton didn’t use email, she was able to keep many [friends of Bill] out,’ the source said.
The source added: ‘You can’t just flat out ignore people and not get back to them.’
A friend of Harris’ recently tried to reach Flournoy on behalf of a top Democratic donor but was also ignored, the outlet reported.
Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a roundtable discussion with faith and community leaders and local service providers, during a visit to the Paso del Norte Port of Entry on June 25
Vice President Kamala Harris visits the Paso del Norte Port of Entry on June 25 in El Paso, Texas
When they were ignored, the donor then contact Harris’ office directly and did not hear back for works until they were told Harris was too busy to meet with them.
The friend told Politico: ‘This is someone who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars—millions, even—for your boss and you’re just blowing them off?’
‘Next time Kamala wants [them] for something, it’s like, “Hey, I couldn’t even get a call-back from your chief of staff!”,’ the friend said.
Some Harris allies explained to Politico that the vice president has ‘gone out of her way not to engage in politicking’ to prove her loyalty to Biden as it remains unclear if he will run for reelection in 2024.
Other allies explained Harris’ apparent strategy of not raising her own profile as ‘foolish’ for someone who has ‘been in public life for 30 years.’
‘You don’t just all of a sudden go radio silent,’ said one former aide.
That former aide indicated that Harris is likely aware of the purported problems in her office.
‘She is the most perceptive person on the planet. She might not have first-hand knowledge, but it’s hard to imagine she doesn’t have a sense of what’s going on,’ the person said.
The sources who spoke to Politico blamed some of the low morale in Harris’ office on the issues she has been tasked with tackling for the Biden administration which made her an early target for conservatives – such as slowing the flow of migrants.
Instead of flying to the border, Harris had flown to the countries where the migrants had come from or traveled through on their way to the United States.
Harris finally visited the border weeks later as her aides insisted she did not make the trek because of criticism she faced. But others claimed she inadvertently seemed to affirm conservative criticism against her with the seemingly impromptu trip.