White House rallies around Kamala Harris after reports of dysfunction in West Wing

WASHINGTON – The White House rallied around Vice President Kamala Harris Monday after news media reports of discord between her office and that of President Joe Biden.

"The president relies on the vice president for her advice, for her counsel," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked if Biden has confidence in Harris' leadership, adding that Harris is tackling "challenging" issues and "not looking for a cushy role" as vice president.

Psaki's comments come after a series of reports airing concerns over Harris' leadership and political future. A Sunday CNN report quoted anonymous sources describing "exasperation and dysfunction" in the vice president's office. That report drew intensive pushback from the administration.

A Friday Washington Post report contrasted Harris with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, noting that the two leaders face increased scrutiny as high-profile potential successors to Biden's legacy.

A Sunday Politico story highlighted early jockeying to replace Biden as the Democratic nominee for president in 2024 or 2028 and noted that Democrats outside the White House are still gearing up for a potentially competitive primary despite Harris' status as Biden's second-in-command and presumed heir.

More: Vice President Kamala Harris to visit Ohio on Friday to tout infrastructure deal

"They don't reflect his view or our experience with the vice president," Psaki said of the various reports detailing conflicts between Harris' staff, political allies and the broader administration.

Psaki added that Harris, as a confidant and top surrogate for the president, will also be "out in the country promoting the infrastructure bill," Biden's signature bipartisan achievement, alongside other senior administration officials in the coming weeks.

On Sunday, Psaki and other officials wrote tweets in support of Harris and her staff, disputing the notion that there are divides in the White House or that Biden is not confident in her leadership.

More: Progressives saw Kamala Harris as a unique champion. Lately, they're disappointed.

Since taking office, the White House has taken steps to highlight Harris' role as Biden's closest adviser, with aides often referring to the "Biden-Harris administration" in official documentation and public statements.

As vice president, Harris would become a clear frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination if Biden decides not to seek reelection in 2024. If he runs and is reelected, she'd be seen as the top contender for the nomination in 2028.

Harris is facing political headwinds lately. A November USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll found Harris had a 28% approval rating, a historically low rating that trails Biden's 38% in the same poll.

Recent news media reports have zeroed in on anxieties felt within the vice president's inner circle and public dissatisfaction with Harris. Activists involved in some issues in the vice president's portfolio have also expressed concern over a lack of progress while political allies worry she is not being set up for success.

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Harris' political allies were quick to push back on the coverage as well, claiming some stories featured sexist or lazy stereotypes.

"I have a larger issue with the tone and tenor by which Kamala Harris is covered, and I think we saw that in this article," Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina state representative and surrogate for Harris during her unsuccessful presidential bid, said Monday on CNN's "New Day."

"When you have these articles come out, it puts a lot of us in a defensive posture, because we see that a lot of people are treating Kamala Harris the same way they treated Hillary Clinton, which is attempting to end her political career in a death by a million cuts," Sellers said.

Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: White House pushes back on Kamala Harris stories detailing concerns