Kamala Harris‘s incoming communications director Jamal Simmons once ridiculed a ‘dazed and confused’ Joe Biden for conflating multiple stories while describing a trip to Afghanistan and criticized Donald Trump for pushing a ‘janky science vaccine’, it emerged on Friday.
Simmons has been brought during an overhaul of the vice president’s office, with her approval rating at a dire 32 percent and with seven staffers quitting since her disastrous border trip on June 25.
The veteran Democratic aide and TV commentator mocked Biden in 2019 for the gaffe during an episode of his politics show for The Hill called ‘Why You Should Care.’
‘We do this story about once a week!’ he quipped. ‘It’s what you get with Uncle Joe.’
The segment began with a headline that said ‘Dazed and Confused,’ as he broke down the latest stumble by the former vice president, who had called himself a ‘gaffe machine.’
Simmons made the comments at a time when the Democratic nomination was wide open – and long before he would be brought on to try to right Harris’ struggling communications operation.
He told of how Biden at a town hall had ‘conflated’ multiple stories from a trip to Afghanistan. It turned out Biden got the timing wrong, the province wrong, along with key details – the story was about an Army soldier, not a Navy captain.
‘This is the God’s truth, he says. “My word as a Biden.” Turns out, it wasn’t God’s truth,’ Simmons says to the camera.
Jamal Simmons has been involved in national politics since the Clinton administration, and formerly served as deputy communications director for Al Gore’s presidential campaign. He did a segment on a ‘Dazed and Confused’ Joe Biden as a media commentator in 2019
Simmons also critiqued Harris’ run for president after she suspended her campaign, saying she ‘pulled back in these very key moments.
He said she ‘never quite got comfortable getting out of the pre-planned moments,’ and criticized how she failed to capitalize on her early bussing attack on Biden, in another clip unearthed by Fox News. He said she also botched her handling of the fraught issue of Medicare for All during the primary.
Kamala Harris compares January 6 to Pearl Harbor and 9/11
‘Certain dates echo throughout history, including dates that instantly remind all who have lived through them where they were and what they were doing, when our democracy came under assault,’ Harris began. ‘December 7, 1941, September 11, 2001 and January 6, 2021.’
Harris alluded to civil rights fights of the past century.
‘What the extremists who roamed these halls targeted was not only the lives of elected leaders … what they were assaulting were the institutions, the values, the ideals that generations of Americans have marched, picketed and shed blood to establish and defend.’
‘We cannot let our future be decided by those bent on silencing our voices, overturning our votes, and peddling lies and misinformation by some radical faction that may be newly resurgent, but whose roots run old and deep.’
Harris then called the U.S. the ‘oldest and greatest democracy in the world.’
‘I wonder, how will January 6 be come to be remembered?’ Harris said. ‘Will it be remembered as a moment that accelerated the unraveling of the oldest and greatest democracy in the world? Or a moment when we decided to secure and strengthen our democracy for generations to come?’
Democracy was coined by the Greeks in 430 B.C., means ‘for the people’ and many communities such as Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the UK’s Isle of Man, San Marino and Switzerland have had so-called democracies dating back to the ninth and tenth centuries.
Simmons also went after former President Donald Trump on his coronavirus response – even calling life-saving vaccines under development ‘janky.’
‘Trump’s fatally ill-managed Coronavirus response seems to have turned voters off to him the way Katrina destroyed Bush’s political reputation, but pushing a janky science vaccine into the public for political purposes would turn incompetent culpability into intentional harm, he tweeted.
Urging people to get vaccinated has become a cornerstone of Biden’s coronavirus response.
Harris is bringing Simmons into her press shop to replace one of seven staffer’s she’s lost over the past six months amid her own communications challenges.
Simmons will join the team after communications director Ashley Etienne and chief spokesperson took their leave in November and December.
An official announcement was expected from the White House later on Thursday, sources told The Hill.
Simmons is said to be widely respected in Democratic circles, and his entrance will come as the vice president’s office is looking for a reset amid low poll numbers and headlines reporting dysfunction and bitter tension within the office.
Simmons has been involved in national politics since the Clinton administration, and formerly served as deputy communications director for Al Gore’s presidential campaign.
A source familiar with the move told The Hill Simmons is expected to ‘really change things up.’
Simmons also worked as an aide to former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark and was chief of staff former Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-Mich.
He’s also worked in media and frequents the cable news circuit.
Harris has now lost at least seven aides since her disastrous southern border trip on June 25 after her director of press operations Peter Velz confirmed Wednesday he is leaving his role with the White House.
Velz’s announcement comes in the midst of a staff exodus following reports the vice president is a ‘bully’ who facilitates a toxic work environment and other reports indicate tensions between the president’s staff and Harris’.
‘Today is my last day at the White House, and it truly has been an honor,’ Velz tweeted on Wednesday. ‘I will be forever grateful to Vice President Harris, the incredible Team @VP, and I’m so proud of our work this past year supporting this historic Administration.’
‘The White House is an amazing place to work — you’re surrounded by the most selfless, smart, hard-working people everyday doing their best to serve the American people. And it has has been an absolute joy,’ he added.
Velz’s next job will start later this month at the State Department’s Protocol team where Velz says he will still support President Joe Biden and Harris in their meetings with foreign leaders, delegations and international travel.
His announcement comes the day after fellow staffer Vince Evans confirmed his departure from the vice president’s office to replace Kyle Anderson as executive director with the Congressional Black Caucus.
Velz (left) made his announcement the day after Vince Evans (right) confirmed his departure from Harris’ team
Velz confirmed his departure in a Wednesday tweet after reports emerged toward the end of 2021 that he was eyeing the exits in the midst of a staff exodus from the vice president’s office
Velz will work with the State Department on the protocol team starting later in January
He posted a throw back image of hi at the press briefing room podium from 2021 and a more current image in the same pose
Evans and Velz’s departures exhibit the reports of a staff exodus coming to fruition amid reports of turmoil in the vice president’s office.
At the end of December, Harris’ chief spokesperson Symone Sanders left her post.
Peter Velz confirmed Wednesday he is leaving Vice President Kamala Harris’ team – making him the seventh staffer to depart since June
It followed the departure of Ashley Etienne, Harris’ former communications director, who left in November.
In the aftermath of Harris’ botched Central America and border trip, reports emerged that two other aides were eyeing the exits. Harris’ former director of advance Karly Satkowiak and deputy director of advance Gabrielle DeFranceschi departed shortly after the trip in June.
Staffers on the VP’s advance team are responsible for planning all of her trips, surveying venues for her to visit and working with local officials to prepare venues for media coverage.
At the time of Satkowiak’s and DeFranceschi’s departure from Harris’ team it was not clear why they were leaving – but it did fuel further rumors of workplace tensions.
Rajan Kaur who was Harris’ director of digital strategies left her staff in July after opting not to relocate to Washington D.C. from Brooklyn.
Harris’ job approval rating is at 32 per cent, according to a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Tuesday. While that is a terrible rating, it is a 4 per cent increase from the November poll where her approval was at only 28 per cent.
Evans, in moving on from the vice president’s office, will work closely with CBC Chairwoman Representative Joyce Beatty from Ohio.
‘I started my career in Washington working for a member of the CBC, so I know firsthand the tremendous leadership and impact this caucus has in Congress and across the country,’ Evans said in a statement. ‘As we write the next chapter of the CBC story, I am excited for the opportunity to lend my experience and passion for supporting the collective vision of this storied caucus.’
Evans (right) said he is leaving Vice President Kamala Harris’ (left) office to become executive director with the Congressional Black Caucus
Velz tweeted his congratulations to Evans on Tuesday
Velz wrote in a tweet Tuesday of Evans’ new position: ‘Congrats to the absolute KING and MVP of Team VP! Adore this man — one of the best colleagues and friends you can ask for.’
‘I’m so happy to see you continue fighting the good fight and go do great things with the Congressional Black Caucus. Love you, [Vince Evans]!’ he added along with a picture of them together.
Reports revealed that Velz, currently director of press operations for Harris, has also told those in the vice president’s office that he plans to leave.
As Evans joins the CBC, there are already seven members of the 56-member caucus who have said they will not run for reelection in this year’s midterms. This includes veteran members and Democratic Representatives Brenda Lawrence from Michigan and Bobby Rush from Illinois, the only lawmaker to ever beat Barack Obama in a political election.
Other CBC members seeking other offices include Representatives Karen Bass from California, Anthony Brown from Maryland and Val Demings from Florida – all Democrats.
As of Wednesday morning, 25 House Democrats announced they will not seek reelection this year as the party tries to hold onto their razor thin majorities in both chambers.
Evans, in his new role with CBC, will function as a chief of staff for one of Congress’ most influential caucuses. His duties will include overseeing daily activities and working with members and their top aides to coordinate and implement priorities and legislative agenda.
A Florida native, Evans began his political career as an aide to a Tallahassee city commissioner, was a staffer in the Florida state Senate and served on the senior staff of Florida Representative Al Lawson.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Evans was Southern political director for Joe Biden and was political director for Harris when she became the vice presidential nominee.
Symone Sanders (left), Harris’ senior adviser and chief spokesperson, left the White House at the end of 2021. It came after Ashley Etienne (right), Harris’ former communications director, left in November
Officials maintain that Sanders and Etienne’s departures were long-planned and not evidence of the reported turmoil.
Further, reports note that Sanders is getting married next year and was never able to go on a proper tour to sell her book, No, You Shut Up, which was published in May 2020.
Sanders, 32, defended her former boss in an interview published Monday in her hometown newspaper Omaha World-Herald, claiming it was the ‘honor of her life’ to serve Vice President Harris.
‘She is someone who I watch every single day bring her full self to work,’ Sanders said. ‘I watch her challenge her teams, I watch her push us all to be better.
She added: ‘I watch her raise issues and perspectives and topics and policy that other people — other folks just weren’t thinking about.’
Sanders called the reports and rumors of dysfunction in Harris’ office just ‘salacious gossip.’
When announcing her departure last year, many took Sanders’ exit as further evidence that Harris’s office was in disarray, amid headlines of a toxic work environment and an exodus of key personnel.
Some stories, however, pointed the finger at Sanders.
Two unidentified sources told The Hill that the spokeswoman was seen as a rival to Harris’s communications director, and that she was the ‘voice in numerous blind quotes about friction in the office.’
The Washington Post published a damaging expose in December branding Harris a ‘bully’ who inflicted ‘constant-soul destroying criticism’ on her office staff.
The piece – a result of interviews with 18 people connected to the VP – alleges that Harris failed to read briefings they’d prepared, only to turn on them if she was subsequently criticized for being unprepared.
The claims from staff who worked for Harris were published amid confirmed departures of two high level staffers, with two others who are said to be heading for the door too.
‘It’s clear that you’re not working with somebody who is willing to do the prep and the work,’ a former colleague told the Washington Post.
‘With Kamala you have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism and also her own lack of confidence.
Meanwhile, Gil Duran, who worked with Harris for just five months in 2013 before quitting, said the vice president was ‘repeating the same old destructive patterns.’
Writing in his San Francisco Examiner column, he said: ‘One of the things we’ve said in our little text groups among each other is what is the common denominator through all this and it’s her.’
‘One of the things we’ve said in our little text groups among each other is what is the common denominator through all this and it’s her,’ Duran told the Post. ‘Who are the next talented people you’re going to bring in and burn through and then have (them) pretend they’re retiring for positive reasons.’
People familiar with the conversations told Politico that even more ‘key members of Harris’ orbit’ are ‘eyeing the exits’ and have expressed interest in leaving less than a year into her vice presidency.
Some Democratic allies have urged Harris to embrace the concept of a reset after a rocky first year as vice president, which has been riddled with project failures – like addressing the southern border crisis – and reports of tensions between her team and the president’s.
Her poll ratings have tanked, with top Democrats said to be appalled at the idea of her running for president in 2024 should Joe Biden decide not to seek a second term.
Harris’ staff are leaving because they’re burned out, there are better opportunities elsewhere and they don’t want to be permanently branded a ‘Harris person,’ according to Axios.
Harris tamped down rumors of tension as she addressed Sanders’ departure during a gaggle on her trip to North Carolina last month.
‘I love Symone,’ the vice president said. ‘And I mean that sincerely.’
‘I can’t wait to see what she will do next. I know that it’s been three years jumping on and off planes, going around the country …’ Harris continued.
Sanders joined President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2019.
Harris declined to answer further questions on the wave of departures.
‘Well, I told you how I feel about Symone,’ Harris said.
During the trip, Harris’ personal aide, Opal Vadhan, posted a photo of the VP’s team all smiling as they celebrated the birthday of Deputy Director of Advance, Juan Ortega.
‘A favorite tradition in the @VP’s office is celebrating staff birthdays with cupcakes! Happy Birthday, @JuanoBano!’ she wrote.
Harris was in Charlotte, North Carolina to tour a public transit facility and give a speech on the bipartisan infrastructure bill alongside Pete Buttigieg, her rumored competition.
She hugged the Transportation secretary before they both boarded Air Force Two. Buttigieg then took questions from a gaggle of reporters on the plane alone.
Amid poll numbers in the high 20s, some Democrats are pushing for Buttigieg to replace Harris at the top of the ticket in 2024, should Biden choose not to run for a second term.
The White House insists Biden plans to run again, but he will be 82 in 2024.
In November, Harris hit back at claims she is being misused as vice president, saying she doesn’t feel like she’s being under utilized by Biden and dismissed her low approval ratings which plummeted to 28 per cent in a USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll of registered voters earlier this month.
‘Polls, they go up, they go down,’ Harris said. ‘But I think what is most important is that we remain consistent with what we need to do to deal with the issues that we’re presented with at this moment.’
No announcement has been made on whether Sanders has lined up another job, sparking questions over the circumstances surrounding her departure.
Harris in recent weeks has battled mounting reports that her office is in disarray, and that her team is frustrated at being handed ‘no-win’ tasks that don’t suit her skillset, such as tackling the ‘root causes’ of migration behind the recent border crisis.
Asked if the staff departures were prompted by bad headlines for Harris, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that working in the first year of an administration is ‘grueling and exhausting.’
‘It’s natural for staffers who’ve thrown their heart and soul into a job to be ready to move on after a few years,’ she said.
Praising Sanders’ work in the administration, Psaki said the spokeswoman ‘has charisma coming out of her eyeballs.’
‘It’s natural for staffers who have thrown their heart and soul into a job to be ready to move on to a new challenge after a few years,’ Psaki said.
Sanders traveled frequently with Harris and as a senior adviser helped her juggle a daunting portfolio including the migrant issue and push for a sweeping federal overhaul of election laws.
Harris has suffered plunging approval ratings since taking office, threatening what would normally be an easy path to the Democratic presidential nomination in 2028, or 2024 if Biden decides not to seek re-election at age 81.
Amid the turbulence, Sanders has been Harris’ top bulldog defender, batting back at claims of internal disarray and tension with the West Wing.
Last month, Sanders was the first to respond to a detailed CNN report in which Harris aides complained that she has been set up to fail, and handed a portfolio that is not commensurate with her historic status as the first woman, and first woman of color, to hold the vice president’s office.
‘They’re consistently sending her out there on losing issues in the wrong situations for her skill set,’ said a former high-level Harris aide in the bombshell report.
Sanders fired back in a statement: ‘It is unfortunate that after a productive trip to France in which we reaffirmed our relationship with America’s oldest ally and demonstrated U.S. leadership on the world stage, and following passage of a historic, bipartisan infrastructure bill that will create jobs and strengthen our communities, some in the media are focused on gossip – not on the results that the President and the Vice President have delivered.’
Amid the turbulence, Sanders (right) has been Harris’ top bulldog defender, batting back at claims of internal disarray and tension with the West Wing
An official in the vice president’s office pointed out to Politico that Sanders, a former Biden campaign aide, had been working for the administration in some capacity for three years, and said that Biden and Harris had known of her departure ‘for a while’.
Etienne’s plan to leave was confirmed on November 18.
‘Ashley is valued member of the Vice President’s team, who has worked tirelessly to advance the goals of this administration. She is leaving the office in December to pursue other opportunities,’ a White House official told DailyMail.com at the time.
Both Harris and Biden have vehemently denied that there is any tension between them, denying reports that are mostly based on the accounts of anonymous staffers.
The White House went full throat with their defense of her after a CNN report claimed Biden was distancing himself from Harris because of her sliding poll numbers, while the vice president is said to have felt isolated and frustrated with being given some of the most difficult issues for the administration in her portfolio.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain tweeted Harris is an ‘incredible leader’ and Psaki argued Harris receives more criticism because of her status as a woman of color.
Harris is the country’s first female vice president and the first vice president of color.
The president has publicly said he intends to run again, although pundits say that announcing he intends to step down after a single term would turn him into a lame duck leader.
But there has been anonymous chatter among Democrats that, if he does, he should consider replacing Harris.
There’s additional speculation that if he doesn’t run again, Harris would not be the strongest contender to replace him. Some have suggested Buttigieg would be a better candidate for the nomination.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll at the end of 2021 showed the transportation secretary with a higher favorability rating than both Biden and Harris – whom he led by 12 points.