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Symone Sanders, VP Kamala Harris' chief spokesperson, to leave White House amid staff shake-up

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WASHINGTON – Symone Sanders, Vice President Kamala Harris' chief spokesperson and senior adviser, is leaving the White House at the end of the year, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the announcement.

The announcement follows a string of media reports of turmoil within the vice president's office and tension between Harris and the West Wing. White House officials and Harris have disputed those claims but Sanders' exit marks the second departure from the vice president's office within weeks.

Ashley Etienne, Harris' communications director, announced last month she would leave her role to "pursue other opportunities."

After an event in Charlotte, N.C., where Harris appeared alongside Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the vice president told reporters: "I love Symone."

“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," she said, "and I mean that sincerely.”

Asked Thursday about Harris' staffing shake-up, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the first year in a White House is "exciting and rewarding but it's also grueling and exhausting."

Psaki dismissed the idea that Sanders' departure was result of Harris' dissatisfaction with her staff and noted Sanders had been part of the Biden team for a few years, including her time on the campaign.

"It's natural for staffers who have thrown their heart and soul into a job to be ready to move on to a new challenge after a few years," she said. "She'll always be a part of this Biden-Harris family."

Harris, the first female vice president and the first Black and South Asian American person to hold the office, has been a frequent target of criticism for her role overseeing intractable issues like addressing the root causes of immigration, voting rights and access to abortion.

Her poll numbers reflect the political challenge. A USA TODAY/Suffolk poll released last month shows 28% of Americans approve of job performance, a 10% difference from Biden's 38% in job approval rating.

Asked during a "Good Morning America" interview last month whether she felt "misused or underused" in her role, Harris dismissed the idea.

"No, I don't. I'm very, very excited about the work that we have accomplished but I am also absolutely, absolutely clear-eyed that there is a lot more to do and we're going to get it done," she said.

Sanders, 31, has been one of Harris' most vocal aides and fiercest defenders. She served as a spokesperson for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT., during the 2016 presidential campaign before joining the Biden campaign as an adviser for his 2020 bid.

Sanders did not immediately return a call for comment on news of her departure.

More: Progressives saw Kamala Harris as a unique champion. Lately, they're disappointed.

Symone D. Sanders senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to reporters on the issues of the vice president not having visited the border at Sofitel Hotel during her visit to Mexico City on June 8, 2021.
Symone D. Sanders senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to reporters on the issues of the vice president not having visited the border at Sofitel Hotel during her visit to Mexico City on June 8, 2021.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kamala Harris' top aide Symone Sanders to leave the White House

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