Democrats struggling to rebuild their party after their stunning 2016 presidential defeat were dealt another blow on Thursday: Donna Brazile’s acknowledgement that the Democratic National Committee tipped the scales in favor of during last year’s primary.
In a surprising excerpt from her upcoming book, Brazile, who took over the DNC on an interim basis last year after Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (R-Fla.) stepped down as chair, criticized the agreement between Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the DNC meant to keep the party financially viable.
The arrangement, she wrote in a book excerpt published in Politico, was “not illegal, but it sure looked unethical.”
ADVERTISEMENT“If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before voters had decided which one they wanted to lead,” Brazile wrote. “This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.”
Democratic circles were abuzz on Thursday after Brazile’s piece was published because, as one former Clinton aide put it, “it poured buckets of salt on the wounds” of the party.
“It‘s another episode of the 2016 soap opera everyone wishes was over, that’s for damn sure,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic consultant who served as a surrogate to the Clinton campaign during the 2016 race.
Democrats appearing on cable television on Thursday were asked about Brazile’s revelations, and entered the unending fight.
Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper if the Democratic Party was indeed rigged for Clinton, Sen. (D-Mass.) offered a simple “Yes.”
Sanders aides and supporters said Brazile’s admission proved that they were right all along when they said the DNC was tipping the scales in favor of Clinton.
Jeff Weaver, who served as Sanders’s former campaign manager, called the DNC actions “egregious” and “undemocratic” in an interview with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
“It can’t be allowed to happen again,” Weaver said.
“Let me tell this to the elites who today still control much of the Democratic Party apparatus: If you do not open up the party, if you do not allow the people in, if you do not advocate for the types of reforms that we need, you will be destroying the opportunity we have to take on ,” Weaver cautioned.
In the interview, Weaver hinted that the DNC’s behavior could have prevented Sanders from ultimately vying against Donald Trump.
“There is no doubt that he would have defeated Donald Trump,” he said.
A Clinton spokesman did not return a request for comment.
Wasserman Schultz ducked reporters in the Capitol on Thursday, stepping into an elevator and referring questions to her office. Her office issued a brief statement, attributed to the congresswoman, that ignored all of the charges lodged by Brazile. “It was a tremendous honor to be asked by President Obama to serve as chair of the DNC. I am proud of the work our team did to support Democrats up and down the ballot in the 2016 election and to re-elect the President in 2012,” the statement read. “With Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats must stay focused on enacting a progressive agenda to protect our citizens, our values and our democracy and remain united towards our goal of electing Democratic congressional majorities in 2018.”The Brazile excerpt comes as tensions between the Clinton and Sanders camps linger.
Multiple Democrats have talked to The Hill about how those tensions complicate the party’s efforts to rebuild.
In her new book, Clinton accused Sanders of inflicting damage on her campaign. And Clinton supporters were miffed when Sanders was asked to speak at a women’s event in Detroit last month.
“The problem is, some Hillary people still can’t accept the reality that she was a flawed candidate, so they’re trying to blame it on anybody else just like she did in her book,” Bill Press, a Sanders surrogate and radio talk show host, said in an email to The Hill. (Press a regular columnist for The Hill.)
Sanders aides appearing Thursday generally sought to take the high road.
Weaver in his interview with Baldwin repeatedly said it was important for Democrats to move on and unify in opposition to Trump‘s policies.
Press argued that that Sanders is “doing the right thing” by refusing to “get drawn into Hillary bullshit, while criss-crossing the country in support of progressive candidates and helping rebuild the Democratic Party.”
But when it comes to putting the pieces back together, Democrats say they’re concerned about how the party will unify.
“I think it’s a problem. It really is,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist. “It’s going to make it that much harder to come together. And now that there’s confirmation that this actually went on, it makes it increasingly difficult to incorporate the Bernie people.”
“And I don’t blame them either,” Bannon added. “Now there’s confirmation of it, and they have every right to be angry about it because they knew it all along.”
This story was updated at 8:54 a.m. to include a statement from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
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