Senator Elizabeth Warren added fuel to the controversy over Donna Brazile’s claim on Thursday that the Democratic National Committee operated in an “unethical” manner by striking a deal with Hillary Clinton in August 2015, long before she was the party’s official nominee. In a pair of interviews, the Massachusetts senator said the primary was “rigged” in favor of Clinton — the candidate she herself endorsed over Senator Bernie Sanders.
Brazile, the former interim DNC chairperson, revealed in an essay for Politico that in August 2015, the cash-strapped DNC struck a deal with the Clinton campaign:
The agreement … specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.
It’s normal for presidential candidates to begin exerting control over their party once it’s clear that they are going to be the nominee. While for years, it was widely assumed that Clinton would be the Democrats’ nominee, she did not officially clinch the spot until June 2016.
Brazile, who is promoting a book, also expressed shock and dismay at other ways the process favored Clinton, though they have been known for some time, and she herself was caught giving Clinton a preview of questions she would likely face at Democratic primary debates.
When asked about Brazile’s piece on CNN, Warren called the situation “a real problem” and said the moment is a test for DNC Chair Tom Perez, who must restore confidence in the Democratic Party.
“Either he’s going to succeed by bringing Bernie Sanders and Bernie Sanders representatives into this process and they’re going to say, ‘It’s fair, it works, we all believe it.’ Or, he’s going to fail, and I very much hope he succeeds,” Warren said. “I hope for Democrats everywhere, I hope for Bernie and for all of Bernie’s supporters that he’s going to succeed.”
“Very quickly, senator, do you agree with the notion that it was rigged?” asked Jake Tapper.
“Yes,” Warren said, emphatically.
Later on PBS NewsHour, Judy Woodruff asked Warren, “Do you think that what we’re learning from Donna Brazile’s book suggests that the campaign, that what the Democratic National Committee did, meant this election was rigged?”
“I think it was,” Warren said. “That’s a pretty powerful charge,” Woodruff noted. Warren said Democrats need to recognize that “the process was rigged,” and focus on reforming the system to restore confidence that the next nominee is “the candidate chosen by the people.”
Brazile shed more light on the DNC’s fairly obvious bias toward Clinton, which left many on the left disillusioned with the party. However, as New York’s Eric Levitz explained, Sanders didn’t lose solely due to the DNC’s scheming:
The notion that Sanders would have won the primary had the DNC not favored Clinton’s campaign remains unsupportable. It’s almost a confusion of cause and effect. Clinton was able to secure control of the DNC because she had effectively been running for the party’s nomination for eight years, and cementing relationships with the party’s Establishment and major donor networks for decades. Sanders launched his presidential bid late, and started campaigning as a contender (rather than a protest candidate) even later.
But unsurprisingly, when President Trump weighed in on Thursday night, he declared that the nomination was not only “rigged,” but “illegally” stolen from Sanders:
It’s fair to accuse the Hillary Victory Fund — which was composed of Clinton’s campaign, the DNC, and 32 state party committees — of dishonesty. While ostensibly the money Clinton was collecting from top donors was being dispersed to benefit the party at all levels, Politico reported in May 2016 that money was being passed to the state committees, but then they would transfer identical sums to the DNC. Less than one percent of the $61 million raised at that point remained with the state committees.
Joint fundraising committees are a loophole in campaign finance laws, and critics alleged that Clinton and the DNC were pushing the boundaries of what they can do. But luckily for Trump, he’s wrong about them being illegal:
Now, the JFCs aren’t loved by campaign finance or good-government experts, but they’re not entirely out of the ordinary. Before his grassroots fundraising juggernaut took off, for instance, Sanders also had an agreement for a joint fundraising committee with the DNC. Donald Trump has a joint fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee. They’re effective ways to tap donors who can give much more than $2,700.
Individuals are allowed to give nearly to $450,000 to Trump’s two joint fundraising committees. In the third quarter of 2017, Trump’s campaign and his the joint fundraising committees took in $11.6 million combined.