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Kamala Harris braces for loss of another top aide

WashingtonExaminer
WashingtonExaminer
 2021-12-02

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T he top adviser and chief spokeswoman for Vice President Kamala Harris, Symone Sanders, is set to resign from her position by the end of the year, a White House official confirmed late Wednesday. She is one of several top aides to leave the office less than a year into the Biden administration.

“Symone has served honorably for 3 years. First as a valuable member of the President’s 2020 presidential campaign, then as a member of his transition team and now deputy assistant to the President and senior advisor/chief spokesperson to the Vice President,” the official told the Washington Examiner in a statement. “Grateful to have her working through the end of the year.”

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Word of Sanders's exit comes amid reports of turmoil between the West Wing, Harris’s office, and some of the vice president’s advisers.

Peter Velz, the vice president's director of press operations, is also leaving Harris's office "in the coming weeks," along with Vince Evans, deputy director of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs, according to the Washington Post .

The vice president’s office has faced notable turnover in recent months.

Harris’s communications director, Ashley Etienne, a former top adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Obama administration official, resigned in November, while several advance staffers headed for the exit over the summer. A CNN report last month said Harris’s chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, had struggled to recruit new staff.

Few of Harris's presidential campaign staff followed her to the White House, likewise from her Senate office to the campaign, and before that, from her California Attorney General's office to Washington. Former advisers have said that Harris is tough on her staff.

One former Harris adviser who remains close to the vice president told the Washington Examiner that Sanders’s departure was “not the least bit surprising” and cited her prominent public profile. “I’m not a fan of the ‘celebrity staffer,’ and I can’t imagine Kamala is either," the ex-adviser said.

This person added, “She needs people who bring down the collective blood pressure.”

Sanders is well regarded by Democratic operatives. One former Harris presidential campaign staffer praised her as a “f***ing genius” communications adviser.

In a letter to staff late Wednesday that was reported by Politico , Sanders wrote, “Shortly, Politico, CNN and lord know whoever else is going to report that I am leaving the office at the end of December. It’s true and I’m sorry you all found out like this."

She added: “I’m so grateful to the VP for her vote of confidence from the very beginning ... I am immensely grateful and will miss working for her and with all of you,” she added. “We are fighters. Our President and VP are fighters and I will continue to be on the team, fighting for them.”

Sanders did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A prominent Democratic campaign operative before joining Harris’s team, Sanders advised Biden and served as a cable television surrogate for the now-president during the 2020 campaign. She was a rumored prospect for White House press secretary before the role went to Jen Psaki. Earlier, Sanders was the national press secretary for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the race to lead the 2016 Democratic Party ticket.

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Harris and Biden both face low approval ratings amid concerns over rising inflation, gas and grocery prices, and issues surrounding the handling of COVID-19, issues that are prompting new scrutiny as Democrats begin looking toward the 2022 elections.

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