Kamala Harris assembles White House staff as she builds her vice presidential

The staffers, all of whom are women and two of whom are people of color — highlight the incoming administration’s commitment to diversity.

“Tina brings a strong commitment to serving the American people, and her leadership will be critical as we work to overcome the unprecedented challenges facing our nation,” Harris said in a statement.

Rohini Kosoglu, a longtime Harris aide who currently serves as senior adviser to Harris on the transition team and held chief of staff titles in both the incoming vice president’s Senate office and past presidential campaign, will be her domestic policy adviser. And Ambassador Nancy McEldowney will be Harris’ national security adviser. McEldowney has an extensive career in foreign service including serving as the US ambassador to Bulgaria during the George W. Bush administration.

“Together with the rest of my team, today’s appointees will work to get this virus under control, open our economy responsibly and make sure it lifts up all Americans, and restore and advance our country’s leadership around the world,” Harris said.

The all-women, majority of color trio will join at least two other women of color holding senior roles in Harris’ office, in the latest high-profile appointments for an administration that has pledged to have its ranks reflect the diversity in America. That includes Symone Sanders, an incoming senior adviser and chief spokesperson for the vice president-elect, and Ashley Etienne, who will serve as communications director for Harris.

The official announcement, first shared with CNN, is an early look at who Harris is surrounding herself with at the start of her new role, as she begins to build out her portfolio.

Building out her team

Harris has known Flournoy for a number of months, but it is a relatively new relationship, a source close to Harris told CNN. The vice president-elect spoke to Flournoy soon after she was selected by President-elect Joe Biden in August, during a series of phone calls to various leaders and Democratic operatives.

Biden faces increasing pressure to diversify his Cabinet

At the time, Harris, 56, leaned on her for advice, telling Flournoy, “I hope that you will help me find good staff people, including yourself,” according to the source.

Harris interviewed numerous leaders virtually, both men and women, in what those familiar called a “rigorous process.” She both identified individuals who she wanted to interview for the job and interviewed some provided to her by the transition team.

“She did not start out saying, ‘I want a Black woman.’ She started out saying, ‘I want the best person qualified for this job. And that person just happens to be Black,” Minyon Moore, a veteran political operative and current transition adviser tapped to help build out the vice president-elect’s staff, told CNN in an interview.

And in the end, Harris chose Flournoy, a well-respected Black woman and Democratic operative with decades of experience in Washington, DC, and an aligning vision that reflected the priorities of the administration and values Harris is looking to bring to her office.

Flournoy is part of the “Colored Girls,” a crew that stormed presidential politics in the late 1980’s, that includes Donna Brazile, Moore, Leah Daughtry and Yolanda Caraway.
“When they start speaking, everybody shuts the hell up,” said a source close to the campaign told CNN earlier this year.

Before her current role with Clinton, Flournoy, a graduate of Georgetown Law, served in several roles in the Democratic Party, including senior adviser to then-Democratic National Convention Chairman Howard Dean in 2005. She was the traveling chief of staff to 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Lieberman, finance director for then-Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and deputy campaign manager in the 1992 Clinton and Gore Presidential Transition Office and served in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, according to her Georgetown University biography.

Kosoglu, who will be Harris’ domestic policy adviser, has played a crucial part in her national political career, serving as a senior adviser since 2017 and sowing deep connections with her boss. A Sri Lankan-American, she became the first South Asian American woman to serve as chief of staff in the US Senate — working for Harris, the first South Asian-American senator. Kosolglu was a spring 2020 Harvard University Institute of Politics fellow and before joining Harris’ campaign, held senior leadership positions with Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

As the primary campaign’s chief of staff, Kosoglu was instrumental in filling the team so it intentionally included a diverse group and shaped policy, a source familiar with campaign matters told CNN. During the general election, Kosoglu often traveled with the then-vice presidential nominee.

In her statement, Harris nodded to Kosoglu’s vital role calling her, “an expert on some of the most important issues facing the American people, but also one of my closest and most…

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