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Kamala Harris responds to questions about West Wing frustration
01:34 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday offered praise for her departing senior adviser, Symone Sanders, while brushing off a question about a larger staff shake up in her office.

“I love Symone, and I can’t wait to see what she will do next, and I know that it’s been a, you know, it’s been three years of a lot of jumping on and off planes and going around the country, and she works very hard, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next, and I mean that sincerely,” Harris told reporters traveling with her in Charlotte.

When pressed on whether Sanders’ departure was part of a larger staff shakeup within her office, Harris declined to say more, saying, “Well, I’ve told you how I feel about Symone. Next question.”

Sanders, who joined the White House fresh off of President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, told staff in the vice president’s office she’d be departing the White House at the end of the year in a letter Wednesday evening. The senior adviser’s departure is the second high-profile staffer to announce their departure from the vice president’s office in the last few weeks. Last month, CNN reported communications director Ashley Etienne, a veteran communications professional who’s worked previously for then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and then-President Barack Obama, was leaving to pursue “other opportunities.”

“I’m so grateful to the VP for her vote of confidence from the very beginning and the opportunity to see what can be unburdened by what has been,” Sanders wrote in a letter to her colleagues that was obtained by CNN, in which she thanked Harris chief of staff Tina Flournoy. “I’m grateful for Tina and her leadership and her confidence as well. Every day, I arrived to the White House complex knowing our work made a tangible difference for Americans. I am immensely grateful and will miss working for her and with all of you.”

Sanders and Etienne are leaving as CNN has reported significant tension between West Wing aides and the vice president’s office.

Last month, CNN reported that several people on the vice president’s staff had started to reach out to contacts to say they’re looking to leave, according to sources who’ve gotten calls, while many in the vice president’s orbit have expressed frustration that Harris has not being adequately prepared or positioned by the White House and instead is being sidelined.

One target of frustration for Harris’ allies includes Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who some have floated as a possible 2024 presidential candidate if Biden chooses to forego a reelection bid.

Buttigieg, who traveled to Charlotte with Harris on Thursday to tout the administration’s recenty passed infrastructure package, sought to quell discussion of any rancor with Harris’ office, telling reporters traveling on Air Force Two, “It’s 2021. The whole point of campaigns and elections is when they go well you get to govern. We are squarely focused on the task at hand.”

“As Transportation Secretary I get to be the face of a lot of the investments that we’re doing, but we would not be here without the leadership of the vice president,” the President and others, Buttigieg added