Clinton vs. Sanders: Leaked emails raise questions about DNC's impartiality

A Russian hacker leaks email between top Democratic National Committee members indicating that they saw Sanders as an obstacle for Clinton and not an asset to the party.

Mike Groll/AP
FILE - In this June 24, 2016, file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks in Albany, N.Y. Sanders plans to meet with 1,900 of his delegates right before the start of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, part of a series of meetings aimed at providing direction to his undecided supporters after he endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Emails allegedly taken from top officials in the Democratic National Committee (DNC), released by Wikileaks this Friday, reveal a bias against Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary election from within his own party. The email release comes just days before the start of the Democratic National Convention, causing concern that it may undermine support for Hillary Clinton, especially among supporters of Senator Sanders.

“[The  DNC]  wanted to start the convention in a completely positive, unified, upbeat way and they certainly didn’t want to be scandal ridden,” Jennifer Lawless, professor of government at American University,  tells The Christian Science Monitor. “And it is bad for Clinton in particular because this yet one more scandal that opponents can associate with her.”

The recent leak contains nearly 20,000 emails, reportedly from a handful of leaders in the Democratic Party including Communications Director Luis Miranda and Finance Chief of Staff Scott Comer and are available through a search tool on Wikileaks.

The leak was anonymous, but the DNC says that it was the work of the same Russian hacker, going by the name Guccifer 2.0, who breached the  DNC server in June and took opposition research on Republican nominee Donald Trump and compiled a dossier of Hillary Clinton-related documents.

The emails, if authentic, reveal a pointed attempt by the DNC to derail the Sanders campaign, seeing him only as a threat to Mrs. Clinton rather than a potential asset for the party.

For example, Mark Paustenbach, a committee communications official, wrote to Luis Miranda, the communications director for the committee: “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.” This comment came after Sanders’ supporters, unbeknown to him, accessed the DNC server and got ahold of Clinton’s voter data in May,  

Making Sanders’ campaign look unorganized and impractical was a running theme in the leaked emails.

In another email exchange, concerning Sanders’ comment that he would remove DNC committee chairwoman Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz as soon as he was in office, Luis Miranda, the communications director for the committee emailed Wasserman Schultz to ask if they should call CNN to complain about their coverage of Sanders’ comment.

“Do you all think it’s worth highlighting for CNN that her term ends the day after the inauguration, when a new D.N.C. Chair is elected anyway?” Mr. Miranda asked. Ms. Wasserman Schultz responded by dismissing the senator’s chances.

Her response: “This is a silly story. He isn’t going to be president.”

Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the committee, Paustenbach and Amy Dacey, the committee’s chief executive, discussed how to force Sanders to talk about his religion in states where it would put him at a disadvantage.

“It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God,” wrote Mr. Marshall. “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.”

To which Dacey responded, “AMEN.”

These emails support the many claims Sanders made throughout the primaries that the Democratic Party leadership was biased and was not supporting him. Although he clearly had come to terms with the disadvantages he faced by the time he endorsed Clinton, his supporters my have a more difficult time being as accepting.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was quick to highlight the contentious issue. 

Still some analysts aren't certain this will be a big problem or sow much discontent at the Democratic National Convention this coming week.

“It depends on how Bernie Sanders and the Clinton campaign decide if they want to acknowledge or not acknowledge what happened,” says Professor Lawless. “If Bernie Sanders chooses not to make a big deal about it and Hillary Clinton is gracious in accepting the nomination also in recognizing the importance of the Sanders campaign through the primaries – they can do quite a bit of damage control.”

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