The head of the Democratic National Committee will not speak at the party’s convention this week, a decision reached by party officials Saturday after emails surfaced that raised questions about the committee’s impartiality during the Democratic primary.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose stewardship of the DNC has been under fire through most of the presidential primary process, will not have a major speaking role in an effort “to keep the peace” in the party, a Democrat familiar with the decision said. The revelation comes following the release of nearly 20,000 emails.
One email appears to show DNC staffers asking how they can reference Bernie Sanders’ faith to weaken him in the eyes of Southern voters. Another seems to depict an attorney advising the committee on how to defend Hillary Clinton against an accusation by the Sanders campaign of not living up to a joint fundraising agreement.
Wasserman Schultz is expected to gavel the convention in and out, but not speak in the wake of the controversy surrounding the leaked emails, a top Democrat said.
“She’s been quarantined,” another top Democrat said, following a meeting Saturday night.
This is seen as a concession to Sanders, who has been furious at Wasserman Schultz for what he believed was favoritism to Clinton.
The Democrat familiar with the decision said it was done in hopes of preventing chaos on the convention floor among Sanders supporters.
The decision was blessed by Clinton and Sanders officials, this Democrat said.
Sanders on Sunday told CNN’s Jake Tapper the release of DNC emails that show its staffers working against him underscore the position he’s held for months: Party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz needs to go.
“I don’t think she is qualified to be the chair of the DNC not only for these awful emails, which revealed the prejudice of the DNC, but also because we need a party that reaches out to working people and young people, and I don’t think her leadership style is doing that,” Sanders told Tapper on “State of the Union,” on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
“I am not an atheist,” he said. “But aside from all of that, it is an outrage and sad that you would have people in important positions in the DNC trying to undermine my campaign. It goes without saying, the function of the DNC is to represent all of the candidates — to be fair and even-minded.”
He added: “But again, we discussed this many, many months ago, on this show, so what is revealed now is not a shock to me.”
Emails leaked from seven DNC officials
The leaks, from January 2015 to May 2016, feature Democratic staffers debating everything from how to deal with challenging media requests to coordinating the committee’s message with other powerful interests in Washington.
The emails were leaked from the accounts of seven DNC officials, Wikileaks said. CNN has not independently established the emails’ authenticity.
One email features DNC staffers appearing to ponder ways to undercut Sanders, an insurgent Democrat who had a bitter relationship with party leadership. Sanders supporters charged that the DNC was biased toward Clinton, and Sanders late in the primary endorsed Wassserman Schultz’s primary opponent in her Florida congressional race.
On May 5, a DNC employee asked colleagues to “get someone to ask his belief” in God and suggested that it could make a difference in Kentucky and West Virginia. Sanders’ name is not mentioned in the note.
“This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist,” DNC chief financial officer Brad Marshall wrote.
Marshall did not respond to a request for comment. But Baltimore mayor and DNC Secretary Stephanie Rawlings-Blake denied any suggestion that Clinton’s camp was treated more favorably by the committee.
“My expectation is beyond your opinion about a candidate, that you act evenly. All of the officers took a pledge of neutrality and I honored that, and I take that very seriously,” Rawlings-Blake told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. She added, “I know that the chair will hold those employees accountable if they’re found to have acted outside of that neutrality and even-handedness.”
Republican nominee Donald Trump, however, said the emails were proof of the Democrats’ “rigged” system, resurfacing an attack he’s leveled against the party before.
“Leaked e-mails of DNC show plans to destroy Bernie Sanders. Mock his heritage and much more. On-line from Wikileaks, really vicious. RIGGED,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.
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SOURCE: CNN – Theodore Schleifer, Eugene Scott and Jeff Zeleny