Wasserman Schultz steps down as DNC chair
Marc Caputo, Daniel Strauss, Jeremy Herb, Daniel Lippman, Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer, Gabe Debenedetti, Politico, Jul 24 2016
The embattled chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, announced she would resign at the end of her party’s convention this week, a victim of her toxic relationship with peers and a trove of embarrassing internal emails. The Florida Congress crittur said Sunday in a written statement:
Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention. As Party Chair, this week I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Pindosis.
Donna Brazile, a Democrat stalwart and long-time Clinton family friend and political ally, is slated to run the DNC through the election. Brazile, who briefly served as chair in 2011, will temporarily suspend her role as a CNN contributor while she serves as DNC interim chair. And she’s still subject to a party vote this week in Philadelphia. Clinton and Obama paid tribute to Wasserman Schultz in separate statements. Clinton also made Wasserman Schultz an honorary chair for her presidential campaign. But no amount of new titles or praise could overcome the spectacle of party disunity and drama after WikiLeaks released emails Friday in which Wasserman Schultz, who was long accused of using the party apparatus to help Clinton against primary challenger Bernie Sanders, made sharply disparaging remarks about Sanders and his campaign manager. Wasserman Schultz’s abrupt fall from grace was a bitter and ironic twist for the once-powerful chairwoman who just last week gleefully needled her Thug counterpart when the GOP convention briefly erupted in chaos. Wasserman Schultz tweeted to RNC Chair Reince Priebus:
I’m in Cleveland if you need another chair to help keep your convention in order.
But Wasserman Schultz became fatally damaged goods in her own party after the WikiLeaks release showed Wasserman Schultz referring to Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver as a “damn liar” and an “ASS” and said:
(Bernie has) never been a member of the Democrat Party and has no understanding of what we do.
The emails fed the criticism from progressives and Sanders supporters that Wasserman Schultz and her team were hostile to his campaign from the start and had done their best to help Clinton win the Democrat nomination at the Vermont senator’s expense. Before the tussle with Sanders, Wasserman Schultz clashed with fellow Democrats in Congress, the White House and even a top party donor in Florida called John Morgan. Throughout, Wasserman Schultz resisted repeated calls to resign. Morgan, a long-time Clinton supporter who became a Wasserman Schultz foe after she trashed his Florida ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana:
This is so humiliating. Even though she said she’s quitting at the end of the convention, if she speaks, she’s going to be booed. The Sanders people have a right to be angry, because these emails confirm their worst suspicions: that Wasserman Schultz is for Democrat dirty tricks what Richard Nixon was for Thug dirty tricks.
Wasserman Schultz spent Sunday afternoon hiding from reporters, sources said, huddling with advisers and Democrats connected to Clinton who urged her to quit. She was nowhere to be found in Philadelphia, where delegates were gathering for this week’s convention. She cancelled a speech before the DNC credentialling committee. Democrats had been discussing lowering Wasserman Schultz’s profile at the convention for weeks, fearing boos and blowback from Sanders supporters. But the situation escalated rapidly in the last week, especially after Sanders himself renewed his call for her to resign Sunday. DNC vice chair R T Rybak, the former Minneapolis mayor who was considered for the top job in 2012:
The emails included some disturbing information that required the DNC to take immediate action. I think the chair made a good move for the sake of the party. Now it’s essential for all of us to unify behind Hillary Clinton.
This final blow to her reputation caps a long, slow-motion fall from grace for Wasserman Schultz, who now faces her first Democrat primary opponent in 24 years, Tim Canova, who searched his name in the WikiLeaks database and saw that he was mentioned in about 70 emails. He said it appeared that DNC staff was acting like an arm of Wasserman Schultz’s reelection effort, and might have violated campaign finance laws. Canova told Politico:
We think there might have been a violation of the law and we’re checking with lawyers. I might file an FEC.
Canova remarked that one of Wasserman Schultz’s emails, in which she asked the DNC finance chair to help her obtain seven tickets to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” for herself and her college roommates underscores just how out of touch and deceptive she has been with the race for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District. Canova said:
She said she has no time to debate me because she’s busy trying to score tickets to Hamilton. Well now she’s in quarantine by the party, and it’s time for her to come back to the district.
Morgan also singled out her effort to obtain the “Hamilton” tickets by saying it was evidence of her “grotesque self-dealing.” The volume of criticism directed at Wasserman Schultz stood in marked contrast to the muted defense of her earlier in the day. One long-time friend of hers who would only speak to Politico on background, said:
She has lots of friends, but the problem is she has enemies who are just louder.
Wasserman Schultz is scheduled to speak Monday at a Florida delegation breakfast, where she’s likely to receive a warm welcome. After Wasserman Schultz’s resignation, Clinton issued a statement of support:
I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democrat Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership. There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Thugs than Debbie.
Obama praised her as well, saying:
For the last eight years, Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had my back. This afternoon, I called her to let her know that I am grateful.
Obama has also endorsed Wasserman Schultz in her Florida primary, as has Biden, who later issued another statement of support and is scheduled to have an Aug 5 fundraiser for her in the Miami area. Earlier in the day, in multiple Sunday-show appearances, Sanders went on the war path against Wasserman Schultz. Sanders said on ABC This Week:
I think she should resign, period. And I think we need a new chair who is going to lead us in a very different direction. I’m not shocked by the leaked emails. I’m disappointed, and that’s the way it is.
On CNN State of the Union, Sanders was asked about emails from DNC boxtops questioning his religion and proposing using his faith against him in the primary and replied:
It is an outrage, and it’s sad that you would have people in important positions in the DNC trying to undermine my campaign.
A top staffer at the DNC, CFO Brad Marshall, apologized Saturday for those emails. Marshall wrote on Facebook:
I deeply regret that my insensitive, emotional emails would cause embarrassment to the DNC, the Chairwoman, and all of the staffers who worked hard to make the primary a fair and open process. The comments expressed do not reflect my beliefs, nor do they reflect the beliefs of the DNC and its employees. I apologize to those I offended.
Many want Marshall to resign as well. In Philadelphia, Rep Marcia Fudge of Ohio will serve as chair of the Democratic convention, a move that was ratified by the convention’s Rules Committee on Saturday night. Privately, some Democrats were surprised at how WikiLeaks toppled Wasserman Schultz. After all, the email trail indicates she and her staff made catty or inappropriate statements about Sanders and his allies in response to criticism from Sanders’ camp. None clearly showed Wasserman Schultz was rigging the system or being partial. One top Democrat said via email:
She was fastidiously neutral during the primary. Dutifully as an officer. And we wouldn’t be even talking about Donna if the Putin/Trump WikiLeak thing had emails on her.
Robby Mook had suggested earlier Sunday that the email dump was an effort by the Russian government to help Trump, who has sought to drive a wedge between Clinton and Sanders by suggesting that Sanders’ supporters should back him instead. Trump tweeted Friday:
Leaked e-mails of DNC show plans to destroy Bernie Sanders. Mock his heritage and much more. On-line from Wikileakes, really vicious. RIGGED.
A day later,
he was at it again, tweeting he tweeted:
The WikiLeaks e-mail release today was so bad to Sanders that it will make it impossible for him to support her, unless he is a fraud!
On Sunday, he
mocked Wasserman Schultz tweeted:
Today proves what I have always known, that @Reince Priebus is the tough one and the smart one.
Priebus told a news conference in Philadelphia:
I know first-hand how hard it is being chair of a national party. (Debbie’s behaviour made) this kind of outcome inevitable. I think obviously the end has come, and I don’t think there was any other outcome that was foreseeable.
The leaked emails have also created a sense of tension among rank-and-file Democrats on the eve of the Philadelphia nominating convention. During the Rules Committee meeting here on Saturday, protesters outside of the committee ballroom chanted:
Shame, shame on DNC! We don’t see no unity!
But Sanders was pleased. He said in a statement Sunday afternoon:
Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party. While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people. The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.