Wasserman Schultz backs down, won't open convention

Wasserman Schultz backs down, won't open convention
© Greg Nash

PHILADELPHIA — Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will not open the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. 

Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel that she had abandoned plans to do so to ensure that the convention opens without controversy.

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"I have decided that, in the interest of making sure that we can start the Democratic convention on a high note, that I am not going to gavel in the convention," she said.

“I stepped down the other day because I wanted to make sure that having brought us to this momentous day, and to Philadelphia, and planned the convention that is going to be the best one that we’ve ever had in our party’s history, that this needs to be all about making sure that everyone knows that Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonObama and Trump haven’t talked since inauguration Perez, Ellison start multistate ‘turnaround tour’ for Dems Watergate reporter on Russia: 'I’ve been saying for a while there’s a coverup going on' MORE would make the best president.”

She also told the newspaper that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the party's secretary, will gavel the convention into order in her place.

Wasserman Schultz, a House member from Florida, announced Sunday that she would resign as DNC chair at the end of the convention. 

Emails released Friday by WikiLeaks suggested top DNC aides had worked to help Clinton win the Democratic presidential nomination against Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHealthcare fight pits Trump against Club for Growth Perez, Ellison start multistate ‘turnaround tour’ for Dems Overnight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate MORE (I-Vt.) during the primary race. 

The emails reopened the controversy surrounding Wasserman Schultz's leadership and led to renewed calls for her resignation. 

As of Monday morning, the DNC chair still had plans to open the convention and to speak to delegates, but it appears those plans changed after she was repeatedly booed and interrupted at a breakfast meeting held by her own state's delegation. 

One source said Wasserman Schultz "began to have a change of heart" late Sunday and into early Monday morning, after the Florida delegation breakfast.

Democrats had feared the optics of opening the convention with the party's chairwoman taking to the stage to a flurry of boos. 

Ed Rendell, a Clinton surrogate and a former DNC chairman himself, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday morning that plans to have Wasserman Schultz still speak were "wrong" for both her and the party. The show's host, former Republican lawmaker Joe Scarborough, called it "political malpractice" for Democrats to send her onto the convention stage considering the animosity.
 
Despite growing pressure from Democrats to step aside, a Clinton campaign aide insisted that Wasserman Schultz’s decision was hers and hers alone.

"I think in retrospect today, she decided she needed to take this added step, and I think it's just a tribute to her willingness to do whatever it takes to have a distraction-free convention here," Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said on CNN. 

One Clinton ally said the congresswoman knew she was becoming a "distraction." 

"She read the headlines, saw the distraction and started hearing a growing chorus of people that were basically telling her to make the right decision. She's a savvy politician. She knew she was becoming a distraction."

— Jesse Byrnes and Amie Parnes contributed. Updated at 3:06 p.m.