CNN: Biden Admin Officials "Quietly Perplexed" About Kamala Harris's Interview With Lester Holt
JOHN BERMAN, CNN: Vice President Kamala Harris back in the United States this morning after a trip to Guatemala and Mexico, her first foreign trip as vice president. This morning, we're told, that some of what she said on the trip, her answers to questions, maybe even obvious questions, those answers have White House insiders perplexed.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond live in Mexico City. Jeremy, you covered this trip. You've been part of it. You asked some of those questions. What have you learned?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, John, the vice president saw this trip as an opportunity to burnish her foreign policy credentials after entering office with very little foreign policy experience.
And she also hoped to make progress on the root causes of migration from Central America. Now, there certainly was progress, but there are now concerns that some of that progress may have been overshadowed by her answers to some of these questions that her team knew that she would be facing. And all of this has left some administration officials perplexed and the vice president's team frustrated.
DIAMOND (voice-over): A diplomatic test turned political quicksand. On her first foreign trip, Vice President Harris drawing fire from the right and the left as she undertook her mission to address the root causes of migration from Central America.
LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR: Do you have any plans to visit the border?
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At some point -- you know, we are going to the border. We've been to the border. So this whole -- this whole thing about the border, we've been to the border. We've been to the border.
HOLT: You haven't been to the boarder.
HARRIS: And I haven't been to Europe. I mean, I don't understand the point that you're making. I'm not discounting the importance of the border.
DIAMOND: The No. 2 House Republican tweeting, "This is a crisis we're talking about, not a vacation."
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): We don't have an Australian border crisis. We don't have a border crisis in Europe. We have a border crisis on the southern border.
DIAMOND: For weeks, Harris and her team have fought the perception that she is the administration's border czar, insisting she is narrowly focused on the root causes of migration, but after the issue became a distraction, a change of tune.
(on camera): Can you commit right now that you will visit the U.S./Mexico border, and you will do it soon?
HARRIS: Jeremy, let me tell you something. Yes, I will, and I have before.
DIAMON (voice-over): Harris spent most of her trip tackling that issue, announcing a new task force to root out corruption in Guatemala. Nearly $90 million to boost economic opportunity and an agreement with Mexico to boost agriculture and youth programs in Central America.
But it was a stern warning to would-be migrants in Guatemala that caught her flack on the left.
HARRIS: I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States/Mexico border, do not come. Do not come.
DIAMOND: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling that message disappointing to see.
(on camera): Why did you feel it was important to relay that message while in Guatemala?
HARRIS: It is -- it can be a very treacherous and dangerous trek, and I don't take that lightly. I don't take that lightly.
DIAMOND: Harris's warning underscoring the U.S.'s balancing act in the region at a time when the U.S. is facing record numbers of migrants at the southern border, some of whom say they believe the Biden administration's policies are more welcoming. The other side of that coin, a message of hope to a region in short supply.
HARRIS: I know our capacity to give people hope in that region, in particular, those three countries in Central America. And I have no question in my mind that the work that we have done is going to have a very positive impact. It may not be evidenced overnight, but it will have a positive impact.
DIAMOND: And John, some administration officials are quietly perplexed about the vice president's answers to some of those questions, in particular, that initial question she got from Lester Holt about the border, where she equated it with Europe.
There was the hope inside the White House that this trip would be a success, and by the end of it, there was concern that it was perhaps overshadowed by her answers to some of those questions.
As for the vice president and his team, they are simply frustrated that these questions have continued to dog her, amid Republican attacks and attempts to conflate her position, dealing with the root causes of migration as being some kind of border czar.
But it was clear to the vice president -- to the vice president and her team by the end of this trip that this was becoming a distraction, and that's why we saw that change of tune when I asked her would she indeed commit to going to the border. No date, however, has been set yet for that trip.