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The Anti-Sanders Emails That Led Wasserman Schultz to Resign as DNC Chair

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Author: Andrew Gripp
Created: 25 July, 2016
Updated: 21 November, 2022
5 min read

On July 22, Wikileaks released nearly 20,000 e-mails among DNC staffers, a number of which suggest bias against the Sanders campaign during the Democratic primary. Some e-mails show high-level DNC members trying to undermine the Sanders campaign, and others reveal the attitude of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz toward Sanders and his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver.

In light of these leaks, Wasserman Schultz has stated that she will resign as the head of the DNC after the national convention in Philadelphia, which ends on July 28.

One e-mail by the DNC's chief financial officer, Brad Marshall, suggested that the party get someone to ask an unnamed individual – presumably Sanders – about his faith prior to the primaries in Kentucky in West Virginia.

"It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage," the e-mail reads. "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."

Following the leak, Marshall claimed that he was not referring to Sanders, though the description does largely correspond to Sanders and his views on religion. Marshall says he was likely referring to a surrogate, though one he could not identify specifically.

Another e-mail from May shows DNC communications official Mark Paustenbach pitching a story that would frame the Sanders campaign as being in disarray.

“Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess,” Paustenbach wrote to Luis Miranda, the DNC's communications director.

Miranda quashed the idea, however. "The Chair has been advised to not engage," he wrote. "So we’ll have to leave it alone.”

Miranda's response suggests that Wasserman Schultz was, as she has consistently claimed, unbiased toward the candidates during the primaries, but other e-mails reflect an acrimonious and dismissive attitude toward the Sanders campaign.

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One e-mail from late April, for instance, shows the DNC preparing remarks for Wasserman Schultz announcing the end of the Sanders campaign and thanking him for his candidacy.

Moreover, one e-mail from May shows Wasserman Schultz calling Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, "an ASS" for pledging to take the campaign to the national convention, and another shows her calling Weaver a "damn liar" for his characterization of events at the contentious party convention in Nevada.

Wasserman Schultz also scoffed at Sanders' remark that if he were elected president, she would not be reappointed as the head of the DNC. When one staffer asked how to respond to Sanders' statement, Wasserman Schultz replied, "This is a silly story. He isn't going to be president."

Other e-mails show the DNC killing the effort to organize a debate between Sanders and Clinton prior to the primary in California. As of May 2, Clinton had said she would have participated in a debate so long as it were sanctioned by the DNC.

Yet after the vice president of Fox News reached out to the DNC chair to discuss plans to host the debate, Wasserman Schultz wrote to Miranda on May 13 explaining her opposition to the proposal. “I don’t really think this makes sense," she wrote. "The RNC would never do an MSNBC debate for the same reason that we shouldn’t do this one."

Days later, after Sanders had agreed to participate in the Fox News debate, the DNC publicly stated that it was still planning the event. Internally, one member asked where the Clinton campaign was, playfully joking, "Assume they're in no rush?" to which Miranda replied, "lol."

When one journalist followed up, asking whether the debate would happen, Miranda wrote, "There's just no update. Ultimately it depends on the candidates." On May 23, the Clinton campaign backed out of the debate.

In responding to the leak on CNN, Sanders expressed his indignation. "It is an outrage and sad that you would have people in important positions in the DNC trying to undermine my campaign," he said.

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Yet Sanderrs also said he was not surprised by the revelations. "We discussed this many, many months ago," he said. "So what is revealed now is not a shock to me."

The hacker Gufficer 2.0 claimed responsibility for the leaks, the same hacker who published DNC e-mails on his own blog in June.

E-mails in that leak have been cited in a lawsuit filed against the DNC and Wasserman Schultz in federal court. The class action suit, joined by more than 100 Sanders supporters, alleges that the committee and its chair violated the DNC's bylaws, which mandate neutrality and impartiality toward Democratic candidates during the primary.

The complaint in that suit refers to one memo sent by an anonymous source to the DNC that outlines a strategy for how to "frame the Republican field and the eventual nominee early and to provide a contrast between the GOP field and HRC." The memo also advises surrogates to "muddy the waters" around Clinton's ethical controversies and not to leave "fingerprints" as they "utilize reporters" to drive their message.

Other leaked documents suggest favoritism toward the Clinton campaign. One so-called "Hillary Clinton Master Doc" contains more than 100 pages of information regarding Clinton's perceived weaknesses and proposes counterarguments to criticisms on a variety of issues. Others offer guidance on how to respond to criticisms of the Clinton Foundation and Clinton's e-mail scandal.

DNC member Donna Brazile will serve as the interim chair of the national committee once Wasserman Schultz steps down.

She too was mentioned in the leaked communications. In one e-mail, Brazile said she would not comment for a story about the battle within the party over the attempt of the Sanders campaign to achieve "adequate representation" on the platform committee and other committees in the run-up to the convention.

"I have no intentions of touching this," she wrote. "Why? Because I will cuss out the Sanders camp!"

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