Kamala Harris’ office call anonymous critics ‘cowards’ after leaks emerge of abusive work environment

·3 min read
Kamala Harris watches on closely in the background as Joe Biden makes presidential announcements (Getty Images)
Kamala Harris watches on closely in the background as Joe Biden makes presidential announcements (Getty Images)

The response from the office of Kamala Harris to reports that her office was a mess of dysfunction and distrust is to say the anonymous critics are "cowards".

An incendiary story in Politico based on leaks from within and around the vice president’s orbit describes her office as chaotic, tense, dour, abusive, and an unhealthy work environment where "people feel treated like s***".

The report quotes 22 current and former vice presidential aides, administration officials and associates of both Ms Harris and Joe Biden to paint a picture of a toxic and incompetent operation from the top-down, with particular ire aimed at the VP’s chief of staff Tina Flournoy.

“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,” said a person with direct knowledge of how Ms Harris runs her office.

The report claims Ms Flournoy created an insular environment where ideas are ignored and she refuses to take responsibility for delicate issues and blames staffers for negative results that follow, like the bungled trip to the Mexico border that blindsided members of the vice president’s own office.

In response to Politico, Ms Harris’ chief spokeswoman said people criticizing Ms Flournoy "are cowards to do this this way".

“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,’” Ms 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.”

Despite Joe Biden’s day one promise as president to fire anyone who treats colleagues badly "on the spot", Ms Flournoy remains in the employ of his administration while several of the vice president’s office have quit in recent weeks and more are looking for new jobs.

Two travel office officials, Karly Satkowiak and Gabrielle DeFranceschi, parted ways in what two anonymous leakers told Politico were over "differences of opinion" and not long-planned departures as claimed. Rajan Kaur, from the digital team, left after not wanting to relocate to Washington DC.

Establishment colleagues rushed to the defence of Ms Flournoy, a longtime Democrat operative who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and his successful reelection campaign, as being successful in her job as gatekeeper to the vice president.

Mr Clinton said in a statement to CNBC that he is forever grateful to have her run his post-presidential office for eight years.

"She made it easier, not harder, for me to advance my philanthropic work and my post-presidential activities, and keep in touch with my friends,” the statement said.

“She has a unique ability to focus on the big picture and adapt to changing conditions. And she does it all with a great sense of humour and an unwavering belief that we all have an ability and an obligation to make a difference."

But former colleagues of Ms Flournoy who worked with her while serving Mr Clinton confirmed to CNBC the sentiment reflected in Politico’s report, saying there were times she yelled at longtime allies of the former president.

“It was shocking,” a person who Ms Flournoy yelled at told the outlet. “It was shocking because I said to myself, ‘I’m an adult. I’ve known these people for a really long time, and I don’t work for you.’ You can’t call up and yell at me.”

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