Kamala Harris Hit by Staffing Exodus as Symone Sanders Becomes Latest High Profile Exit

Vice President Kamala Harris is set to lose another high profile member of her staff by the end of the year as her chief spokesperson and senior adviser Symone Sanders steps down.

Sanders is the second major staffer to leave the vice president's office following the news last month that Harris' communications director Ashley Etienne would depart the administration in December to pursue "other opportunities."

Harris appears to be facing an exodus of staff amid reports that her director of press operations Peter Velz and deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs Vince Evans will also leave her office.

The departures have come following reports of a rift between Harris and President Joe Biden, a number of apparent errors in the vice president's messaging and rumors of dysfunction in her office.

Sanders sent a note to staff on Wednesday about her departure, according to Reuters, saying: "From my first days on the President's campaign to traveling with the VP when she joined the ticket, to witnessing the historic swearing in of the President and Vice President. It's been an honor."

A White House official told CNN that Sanders had served "honorably."

"The President and vice president are grateful for Symone's service and advocacy for this White House. She is a valued member, a team player, and she will be missed. We are grateful to have her working through the end of the year," the official said.

Etienne's decision to leave the administration came last month after the White House had attempted to tamp down rumors of a rift between Harris and Biden amid reports of dysfunction in the vice president's office.

Velz and Evans have reportedly said they will leave, according to two sources who spoke to The Washington Post, and they are expected to take up other roles in or close to the administration.

CNN reported in November - citing around three dozen sources including some on the vice president's staff - that Harris felt constrained and sidelined over the first 10 months of the new administration, while she has also suffered a number of apparent communications blunders.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sought to tackle the rumors in remarks on November 15.

"The president selected the vice president because - to serve as his running mate because he felt she was exactly the person you wanted to have by his side to govern the country," Psaki said.

"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," Psaki said.

Those difficult assignments, in particular migration relating to the southern border, have made Harris the subject of strong criticism. Her dismissive answer to a question in June about why she hadn't yet visited the border became a particular focus of her messaging missteps.

She also angered Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) - a key Democratic vote in the Senate - with a TV appearance in West Virginia in January to promote the American Rescue Plan, while Harris' office was reportedly left frustrated with ABC's The View after two hosts tested positive for COVID just before she was due to appear on the show.

Harris' office hired two experienced communications aides in September - former Hillary Clinton and Al Gore strategist Lorraine Voles and former Barack Obama speechwriter Adam Frankel.

Kamala Harris Delivers Remarks
Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks to the National Congress of American Indians 78th Annual Convention, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on October 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Two high profile staff are leaving Harris' office amid rumors of dysfunction in her office. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images