Top White House officials are mobilizing to defend Vice President Kamala Harris amid a gusher of leaks about dysfunction and infighting in her office.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told Axios in a statement: "The President's trust and confidence in her is obvious when you see them in the Oval Office together." Biden senior adviser Cedric Richmond said in an interview late Thursday night: "It’s a whisper campaign designed to sabotage her."
Their responses came after Axios approached the White House with new reporting about growing tensions between West Wing officials and the Harris team, including chief of staff Tina Flournoy.
Some White House officials have been frustrated by a series of missteps from Harris and increasingly public bickering in her orbit, which spilled out in a Politico story on Wednesday. Flournoy's old boss, former President Bill Clinton, came to her defense with a statement calling her "an extraordinary person."
Why it matters: 2024 is the elephant in the room. While Biden aides overwhelmingly believe he'll be the Democratic nominee, they also know he'd be 81 when seeking re-election.
An operation sometimes visibly out of sync with Biden's — and missteps during a recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, following a scrutinized interview with NBC's Lester Holt — have reignited questions from Harris' 2020 primary bid.
Harris would be the presumptive nominee if Biden didn't run. Administration sources believe it would be nearly impossible to unseat the first Black woman vice president.
Yet many Democrats, including some current senior administration officials, are concerned she could not defeat whomever the Republican Party puts up — even if it were Donald Trump.
One Democratic operative tells Axios' Alayna Treene that most Democrats aren't saying, "'Oh, no, our heir apparent is f***ing up, what are we gonna do?’ It's more that people think, 'Oh, she’s f***ing up, maybe she shouldn't be the heir apparent.'"
Some Democrats close to the White House are increasingly concerned about Harris’s handling of high-profile issues and political tone deafness, and question her ability to maintain the coalition that Biden rode to the White House, sources tell Axios' Hans Nichols.
What we're hearing: Relations between the West Wing and the Vice President's office are tense.
Several administration officials used "shitshow" when describing Harris' office, and contrast her operation with disciplined, virtually leakproof Biden aides.
Some Biden officials view the Harris operation as poorly-managed and staffed with people who don't have long-term relationships with her. They feel she's gotten bad advice from her press and communications shop and think it's telling that she's already lost two advance aides and a digital director.