White House defends Harris as ‘key partner’ to Biden amid reports of dysfunction
Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

White House defends Harris as ‘key partner’ to Biden amid reports of dysfunction

The White House on Monday defended Vice President Kamala Harris as a “key partner” to President Joe Biden following CNN reporting that key West Wing aides are exasperated by what they see as entrenched dysfunction and lack of focus from Harris and her staff, while many in the vice president’s circle believe Harris is being sidelined.

“The President selected the vice president because — to serve as his running mate — because he felt she was exactly the person he wanted to have by his side to govern the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.

Psaki continued: “She is a key partner, she’s a bold leader, and she is somebody who has taken on incredibly important assignments, whether it is addressing the root causes of migration at the Northern Triangle or taking on a core cause of democracy in voting rights.”

“There’s been a lot of reports out there and they don’t reflect his view or our experience with the vice president,” Psaki said.

CNN reported on Sunday that key West Wing aides have largely thrown up their hands at Harris and her staff — deciding there simply isn’t time to deal with them right now, especially at a moment when Biden faces quickly multiplying legislative and political concerns. At the same time, many in the vice president’s circle are fuming that Harris is not being adequately prepared or positioned, and the vice president herself has told several confidants she feels constrained in what she’s able to do politically.

Psaki declined to weigh in on a possible future run from Harris for the Democratic nomination. Harris could be just a year away from launching a presidential campaign, given doubts throughout the political world that Biden will actually go through with a reelection bid in 2024, something he’s pledged to do publicly and privately.

“I know that the President relies on the vice president for her advice for her counsel. She’s somebody who is not only taking on issues that are challenging; she’s not looking for a cushy role here,” Psaki said, without denying CNN’s reporting or answering directly when asked whether she’s heard unhappiness among the vice president or key members of her staff.

Psaki added that the President is looking forward to seeing Harris on the road this week, touting the bipartisan Infrastructure bill that Biden is set to sign Monday.

Harris’ supporters have bemoaned her lack of visibility and opportunity for her to tout the administration’s successes.

“She is a wonderful messenger. But it has to be clear, concise and consistent,” Donna Brazile, a frequent outside adviser to Harris, previously told CNN. “Don’t make her a creature of the Beltway. Let her out.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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