Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Sought to Undermine Sanders
By Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service
Democratic Party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz repeatedly mocked Bernie Sanders and his staff in private while another top official floated using religion and hit pieces to undermine his campaign, emails published by WikiLeaks revealed Friday.
Released as part one of Hillary Leaks series, the trove includes 19,252 emails from the accounts of seven top officials in the party.
Guccifer 2.0, whose handle is a spinoff of recently imprisoned Romanian hacker Marcel Lehel Lazar, has taken credit for making the emails public.
The communications, released a day after Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president, could complicate Democratic hopes for unity as the party gears up to declare Hillary Clinton its choice next week in Philadelphia.
California had not yet voted when Wasserman Schultz privately declared the race over, in a May 21 email.
Reacting to CNN’s article “Sanders: If I’m elected, DNC leader would be out,” Wasserman Schultz told her communications director Luis Miranda, “This is a silly story. He isn’t going to be president.”
The Sanders campaign had long accused the chairwoman of stacking the deck in Clinton’s favor through public statements, the presidential debate schedule and cutting off their access to a crucial voter database before primaries began.
In April, Politico reported the senator’s opinion that the Democrats had been unfair to him, and the party’s national spokesman Mark Paustenbach passed on a quotation from Sanders vowing to fight on through California.
“Spoken like someone who has never been a member of the Democratic Party and has no understanding of what we do,” Wasserman Schultz reacted in an email dated April 24.
That email came a little less than a week after the New York primary.
Early the next month, the party’s chief financial officer Brad Marshall proposed that the party “get someone to ask” a question about religion before the Kentucky and West Virginia primaries.
The May 5 email, bearing the subject line “No Shit,” does not mention Sanders by name but alludes to his heritage.
“Does he believe in a God?” the message asks. “He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”
Two weeks later, Wasserman Schultz told other party officials she was troubled by the Sanders platform on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The Israel stuff is disturbing,” she wrote on May 19.
Though the email does not criticize any particular aspect of that platform, Sanders shattered a political taboo by criticizing Israel’s conduct in its war on Gaza during the New York debate.
“I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people,” he said at the time.
Wasserman Schultz appeared more outraged than disturbed by MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski’s remarks that the chairwoman “should step down” because she “has been unfair” to Sanders.
“This is the LAST straw,” Wasserman Schultz told Miranda.
Asking her deputy to get the program on the phone, the chairwoman said: “This is outrageous. She needs to apologize,” referring to “Morning Mika.”
The chairwoman exploded at Sanders campaign chair Jeff Weaver for his defiant statement calling claims that the senators’ supporters turned violent at the Nevada convention “nonsense,” and going on CNN to criticize the state party.
“Damn liar,” Wasserman Schultz called Weaver two days after the convention. “Particularly scummy that he barely acknowledges the violent and threatening behavior that occurred.”
On May 21, Sanders formally backed the chairwoman’s primary challenger, Tim Canova, in the race for her congressional seat in Florida, and Wasserman Schultz insisted that the endorsement would not affect her neutrality.
The same day, however, Paustenbach, the party’s national spokesman, sent her deputy Miranda an email mulling a “good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess.”
According to an email from Paustenbach, the crux of the story would show: “It’s not a DNC conspiracy, it’s because they never had their act together.”
Turning down the idea, Miranda replied, “True, but the chair has been advised not to engage. So we’ll have to leave it alone.”
The Sanders campaign, the chairwoman and the other party officials named in this story did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment Friday afternoon.
To Learn More:
It Pays for Lawmakers to Criticize Their Colleagues (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Primary Process Is No Exercise in Democracy (by Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times)
More Americans Support Bernie Sanders than Donald Trump, but Trump Gets 23 Times as much TV Coverage (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)
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