President Joe Biden has seen relatively few leaks during his first year — however among the most visible cracks in his White House have been reports that Kamala Harris’ staffers are unhappy with their treatment and the vice president’s lengthy portfolio of issues
President Joe Biden threatened to fire White House staff who were found to have leaked negative information about Vice President Kamala Harris after her gaffe-riddled trip to Guatemala, reports from a new book claimed on Tuesday.
The first year of the Biden-Harris administration saw relatively few media leaks, an early morning Politico Playbook report noted, especially when compared to their Republican predecessors.
But a forthcoming book from two New York Times journalists appears to uncover resentment and frustration between Biden and Harris’ teams that forced even the president himself to get involved.
Among the chief gripes Harris staffers had during their first year in office was a reportedly ‘impossible’ portfolio.
The president has on multiple occasions been accused of punting critical but over-broad tasks to his deputy, notably including solving the southwestern border crisis, voting rights, leading a pro-union task force and chairing the National Space Council.
But Biden communications director Kate Bedingfield privately blamed Harris herself for failing to meet the bar set for her, according to This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future by the Times’ Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns.
‘In private, Bedingfeld had taken to noting that the vice presidency was not the first time in Harris’s political career that she had fallen short of sky-high expectations: Her Senate office had been messy and her presidential campaign had been a fiasco,’ the journalists write.
‘Perhaps, she suggested, the problem was not the vice president’s staff.’
Biden and Harris experience a ‘friendly but not close’ relationship, the book’s authors write, describing their regular lunches as lacking ‘real depth of personal and political intimacy’
The 10 staffers who have left or are leaving Harris’ office since June
Nancy McEldowney, National Security Adviser
Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary
Kate Childs Graham, head speechwriter
Symone Sanders, senior adviser and chief spokesperson
Ashley Etienne, communications director
Peter Velz, director of press operations
Vince Evans, senior aide
Karly Satkowiak, director of advance
Gabrielle DeFranceschi, deputy director of advance
Rajan Kaur, director of digital strategies
The Biden aide criticized the reporting in a statement to Politico: ‘The fact that no one working on this book bothered to call to fact check this unattributed claim tells you what you need to know. Vice President Harris is a force in this administration and I have the utmost respect for the work she does every day to move the country forward.’
The president reportedly hauled staffers into the Oval Office in after a story emerged in the outlet in June painting Harris’ office as an ‘abusive environment.’
Biden warned senior staff that if ‘he found that any of them was stirring up negative stories about the vice president’ then ‘they would quickly be former staff.’
The book describes the pair’s relationship as ‘friendly but not close.’
‘Their weekly lunches lacked a real depth of personal and political intimacy,’ the authors wrote — a notable departure from the president’s characteristic warmth.
The forthcoming account of Biden’s White House also depicts Harris herself as ‘frustrated’ with her current spot.
Martin and Burns write that a ‘senator close to’ Harris categorized her ‘frustration level as “up in the stratosphere”.’
The unnamed lawmaker compared the vice president’s ‘political decline’ to a ‘slow-rolling Greek tragedy.’
‘Her approval numbers were even lower than Biden’s, and other Democrats were already eyeing the 2024 race if Biden declined to run,’ the authors wrote.
It was after reports of dysfunction and an ‘abusive environment’ emerged in Harris office in late June, after her trip to Guatemala, that Biden warned staff they would be ‘former’ staff if the damaging leaks persisted
Harris lost her tenth staffer on Monday with the departure of national security adviser Nancy McEldowney.
It comes after news broke last week of Harris’ deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh’s departure from the administration.
During her years as a freshman senator from California, Harris had been lauded for her prosecutorial skills that were on display during Congressional hearings.
In that first term Harris cast herself into the 2020 presidential race. Initial enthusiasm surrounding her candidacy quickly fizzled out amid a crowded Democratic primary field, and she dropped out in December 2019 citing a lack of funds.
New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns even quote Biden’s communications director as blaming Harris herself for the dysfunction
And once Biden took office, Harris’ trailblazing status as the first black, Asian and female vice president was quickly overshadowed by both her and the president’s low poll numbers and a number of public gaffes.
During her trip to Guatemala in June, Harris invoked outrage among immigration activists when she told people there during a speech, ‘Do not come’ to the US.
Later that month, Politico quoted a Harris aide describing her office, ‘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—.’
She was ridiculed on Monday for a seemingly meandering speech where she mentioned the ‘passage of time’ four times during an event promoting high speed internet in Louisiana.
‘The Governor and I and we were all doing a tour of the library here and talking about the significance of the passage of time. Right? The significance of the passage of time,’ she said.
‘So, when you think about it, there is great significance to the passage of time in terms of what we need to do to lay these wires, what we need to do to create these jobs,’ Harris continued.
She went on: ‘And there is such great significance to the passage of time when we think about a day in the life of our children and what that means to the future of our nation, depending on whether or not they have the resources they need to achieve their God-given talent.’