Then-Biden aide Susan Rice reportedly privately criticized fellow cabinet member Xavier Becerra, calling him a “bh a…” and an “idiot” over the migrant crisis – yet another sign of a White House in turmoil, according to a report Monday.
Rice insulted the Secretary of Health and Human Services and clashed with Vice President Kamala Harris, Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall and other officials as she coordinated the state’s response. border administration as domestic policy advisor to President Biden from January 2021 to May 2023, Axios reported.
Sources told the outlet that Rice’s anger at Becerra stemmed from her failure to secure additional shelter space for migrant children — and that at one point she warned Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas , not to “save” the HHS secretary from Biden’s wrath during a meeting.
Rice further disparaged Harris for not taking charge of immigration policy as Biden’s border czar. In private conversations, she also questioned whether Harris dashed Rice’s chances of being the president’s running mate in 2020 by releasing opposition research that resulted in unflattering coverage.
Additionally, some Harris aides have mocked Rice, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under Obama, as just a “staffer,” according to sources.
A former political adviser to Rice and Harris disputed the sources in comments to Axios.
“As a former staffer for Vice President Harris and Ambassador Rice, I know first-hand that they and their teams worked hand-in-hand to resolve the complex issues of migration,” said Carmel Martin to the media.
A spokesperson for Rice told Axios that she “categorically denies” the reported exchanges.
President Biden, 81, also exploded in anger at his aides during the border crisis last year, demanding obscure immigration data and getting upset when they couldn’t produce it immediately – underscoring how tense the issue was becoming within the administration, the outlet said.
Participants in the volatile meeting aboard Air Force One in late January 2023 later said Biden’s frustrations on the issue had made it increasingly difficult to make decisions about the border, Axios said.
“There are definite incentives… not to be the person with a scary problem without a solution,” one source said.
“If you’re the person who briefs the president, you can piss him off every day,” the source said.
Added to this debacle is the fact that Harris missed “an opportunity” to demonstrate leadership during the crisis, according to sources.
“She has been ineffective at best, and at worst sporadically engaged and not seeing that it was her responsibility,” a former senior Biden administration official told the outlet. “It’s an opportunity for her, and she hasn’t filled the gap.”
The White House told Axios that the previously unreported meeting — which included then-deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon and Sherwood-Randall — was “productive” and claimed that “several direct participants in the meeting refute this description of the tone and outcome” of a conversation about “the specifics of this complex issue.”
Some Biden officials believe the State Department dragged its feet for years before setting up regional processing centers to allow more migrants to seek protection in the United States before the border, the outlet said . A ministry representative rejected the claim.
Various ideologies among Democratic leaders also appear to have slowed decision-making, according to the report.
Sherwood-Randall – who reportedly requested a memo at the start of her term explaining the difference between refugees and asylum seekers – has advocated for stricter enforcement of migration policies than others, who have pushed for reform and expanding legal avenues for migrants to remain in the country. United States.
Internal indecision and constant turnover on the White House immigration team have led to contradictory steps taken by the Biden team as it struggles to manage the thousands of asylum seekers flooding the border, according to sources.
The administration’s uncertainty on this hot-button issue was evident when the Biden administration halted former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program but maintained Title 42, which allows for the rapid deportation of immigrants .
“Remain in Mexico” involves an arrangement where asylum seekers remain in Mexico while their trials proceed in the United States.
Biden then also extended temporary protections for Venezuelans in the United States — weeks before announcing plans to expel Venezuelan migrants for the first time in years.
When a makeshift camp was erected along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande in September 2021 — the start of what would become thousands of migrant refugees at the border — employees knew it was “a time when people were going to be hurt,” a former administration official told the media.
That day, which two former administration officials called the worst day of their jobs, led former ICE official Jason Houser to make several rude calls to the White House and DHS officials , sources said.
It has also led to the Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan parole programs, which allow undocumented individuals “outside the United States” to apply for parole in the United States based on “urgent humanitarian or humanitarian reasons.” ‘important public interest’.
The program, approved last year, has sent increasing numbers of undocumented migrants to Florida.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates told Axios that Biden is proud of his team’s work to resolve the “unprecedented challenges” accompanying the border crisis.
“President Biden is proud that his team has worked well together as they work to resolve unprecedented challenges and as Congressional Republicans continue to choose politics over securing our border,” Bates said.
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