- Reports have swirled for months about Kamala Harris’ office environment and turnover.
- A former Harris staffer told The Washington Post that the vice president was a highly critical boss.
- “With Kamala you have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism,” they said.
A person who worked for Kamala Harris before she assumed the vice presidency told The Washington Post over the weekend that aides in her office had to endure a “constant amount of soul-destroying criticism.”
With last week’s announcement that Symone Sanders, Harris’ chief spokesperson, would soon depart, and with the expected exits of Peter Velz, the director of press operations, and Vince Evans, the deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, the turnover in the vice president’s office has some Democrats concerned about her potential as a presidential nominee.
What was originally inside-the-Beltway chatter about Harris’ office has spilled into view, threatening to chip away at Democratic morale when the vice president is faced with tackling some of the Biden administration’s most challenging issues, including immigration and voting rights.
Several former staffers told The Post of concerns they found while working for Harris years ago. Harris’ office did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Some said Harris would refuse to analyze briefing materials set forth by employees but then scold them if she appeared unprepared.
“It’s clear that you’re not working with somebody who is willing to do the prep and the work,” one former staffer told the newspaper. “With Kamala you have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism and also her own lack of confidence. So you’re constantly sort of propping up a bully and it’s not really clear why.”
Gil Duran, who worked in Harris’ office in 2013, when she was California’s attorney general, told The Post that the turnover in the vice president’s office pointed back to her.
“One of the things we’ve said in our little text groups among each other is what is the common denominator through all this and it’s her,” Duran, who left Harris’ office after five months in his role, told the newspaper.
“Who are the next talented people you’re going to bring in and burn through and then have (them) pretend they’re retiring for positive reasons,” he continued.
In a recent column, Duran, now the editorial-page editor for The San Francisco Examiner, wrote that it was “sad to see her repeat the same old destructive patterns.”
However, Harris allies see the criticism as a consequence of her groundbreaking profile as the first woman, first Black American, and first Indian American to hold the vice presidency — as well as her potential to be a Democratic standard-bearer. Many also feel as though there’s a heavy dose of sexism mixed in with some of the reports about her office.
Sean Clegg, a partner at the political consultancy Bearstar Strategies, told The Post that Harris had a firm disposition but was not abusive.
“She has put me personally in the position of feeling like Jeff Sessions,” he said, referring to Harris’ tough questioning in 2017 of the attorney general over Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
But Clegg added that he never felt as though Harris treated him unreasonably.
“People personalize these things,” he told The Post. “I’ve never had an experience in my long history with Kamala where I felt like she was unfair.
“Has she called bullshit? Yes. And does that make people uncomfortable sometimes? Yes. But if she were a man with her management style, she would have a TV show called ‘The Apprentice,'” he added, alluding to former President Donald Trump.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, who has previously dismissed reports of dysfunction in Harris’ office, said at a press briefing on Thursday that departures a year or so into an administration were normal.
“In my experience, and if you look at past precedent, 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. “And that is applicable to many of these individuals. It’s also an opportunity, as it is in any White House, to bring in new faces, new voices and new perspectives.”