Flournoy led the vice president’s operations from the start of the administration, overseeing all staff and setting the strategic direction for a historic, high-level vice president. That makes her the highest-ranking of a sizable group of senior officials who recently left Harris’ office, including his deputy chief of staff, national security adviser and speechwriter.
Flournoy is leaving for personal reasons, a White House official said Thursday.
Until Flournoy’s exit, Harris’ most visible departure was senior Harris adviser Symone Sanders, who left late last year. and soon after signed a deal with MSNBC. Jamal Simmons, a longtime Democratic operative, joined Harris’s staff as director of communications soon after as part of a complete overhaul of the communications team.
“Tina has been a valued advisor and confidant to me and a tremendous leader for the office,” Harris said in a statement. “From day one, she led our team through a historic first year as we moved forward in rebuilding our economy here at home and our alliances around the world. Tina is an accomplished public servant and I will continue to count. on his advice, guidance and friendship.”
Flournoy’s departure is likely to rekindle long-standing questions about Harris’ management style and the high turnover of staff in his offices and on his campaigns. The move comes at a critical time as the upcoming midterm elections — particularly if Democrats suffer losses as expected — could clarify whether President Biden will seek re-election and spark renewed focus on Harris as an alternative.
Harris aides say the departures are routine and unrelated to internal disputes in the vice president’s operations. Some also suggest she faces disproportionate – and sometimes unfair – criticism for her role as a powerful woman of color.
“Tina has been a vital member of the White House team since day one, working with the President and Vice President to make their partnership effective and help the administration address critical priorities,” said Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, in a statement. . “His experience, wisdom and hard work contributed to our success on many issues.”
Yet the high turnover rate in Harris’ office contrasts sharply with the West Wing, where Biden’s inner circle has remained in place throughout his presidency — and much of his decades-long career.
Harris staff exodus raises questions about his future
Before joining the White House, Flournoy had a long career in Democratic politics. She served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and held high-profile positions on the Democratic National Committee and during Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.
Harris, the first black and Asian woman to serve as vice president, has often attracted more attention than others who have held her position, including reporters tasked with chronicling her movements and following her survey results. She sometimes found it difficult to navigate her role as she took on a large and challenging portfolio, including voting rights, root causes of migration from Central America, maternal health care and space policy. .
Harris aides seek to change course
After a number of missteps in the beginning, Harris recently tackled several high-profile issues in a way that seemed to enhance his stature.
She represented the United States at a major conference on global security in Germany as Europe was preparing for the start of the war in Ukraine. In several meetings, it was flanked by Flournoy. She traveled to Poland and Romania to reassure allies that the United States remains committed to supporting Ukraine and backing NATO.
Harris presided this month the Senate confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson, who should be the first black woman to the Supreme Court. As chairman of the National Space Council, Harris announced that the United States no longer would conduct destructive testing of satellites, calling on other nations to follow suit.
The unlikely link Harris and Marty Walsh
In a more personal vote of confidence, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is getting married next month, said she chose Harris to officiate at the ceremony.
Democrats now look to November’s midterm elections, where many analysts from both parties expect them to suffer significant losses, potentially relinquishing control of one or both houses of Congress. Biden is expected to signal more clearly after the midterms whether he plans to run again, and a tough result could make it harder for the 79-year-old president to pursue re-election.
If Biden does not show up, Harris, who is running for the presidency in 2020, would probably top the list of potential Democratic candidates, and review its strengths and weaknesses policies would increase significantly.