After 15 tumultuous months, Vice President Kamala Harris’ office lost its most senior staffer.
According to a forthcoming book, Tina Flournoy was instrumental in establishing a connection between President Joe Biden’s West Wing and Harris, where the latter was deemed “essential” and “stable.”
BREAKING: Kamala Harris’ chief of staff Tina Flournoy is leaving her position after 15 months.
— 1776 Julia 🇺🇸 (@Jules31415) April 21, 2022
Instability And Annoyance
When staffers began to leave Harris’s team last year, amid early instability, a few in the vice president’s office laid the blame squarely on Flournoy. However, Biden’s advisers had a different perspective on the matter.
According to Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of the New York Times, “the reality was that Biden’s team saw Harris’s chief of staff as a vital stabilizing force.”
Rather than that, Biden’s director of communications, Kate Bedingfield, attempted to put the focus on Harris.
— New York Post (@nypost) April 21, 2022
Bedingfield was far from alone in her annoyance.
After learning that Democratic Representative Kathy Manning was not added to portions of Harris’ tour to the former’s North Carolina district, Biden’s director of staff, Ron Klain, a Harris loyalist, was enraged.
In the book’s recounting of the encounter, Klain states, “That makes me want to puke.”
Even the POTUS lost patience as tensions within Harris’s office became public.
Biden then met with his top staff in the Oval Office and told them if he found out they leaked anything, “they would quickly become former employees.”
The book, which is scheduled to be published on May 3, details Harris’s struggle to carve out a significant agenda as vice president, noting disagreements with Biden’s senior staffers and with the president himself about her “political function and place in [his] insular administration.”
Harris’s connection with Biden is described in the book as “warm, but not close,” with the writers noting, while the two frequently meet for lunch, their encounters “lack a genuine depth of political and personal familiarity.”
It seems to be a source of annoyance for both sides. Harris is fighting skepticism from some people in Biden’s close circle, and the president is trying to define her job.
Biden and Harris
The trust gap arises in part from the campaign when Harris took a swipe at Biden on the political stage over his past forced busing to unify public schools and how her campaign was handled.
Concerned about Harris’s “dysfunctional entourage,” Biden’s aides took the matter into their own hands, handpicking Harris’s team before declaring her candidacy.
Martin and Burns noted the decision was made “to put the running mate on a tight political leash.”
It was not an impenetrable scheme. Martin and Burns stated Harris “very immediately” replaced the head of staff Biden’s team had chosen for her during the campaign, Karine Jean-Pierre.
Harris is not the only vice president who has had a lot of people leave so soon after taking office.