Dem committee chairwoman will resign after convention
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), will resign when the convention closes at the end of the week.
The move is the culmination of months of accusations that the chairwoman had put her thumb on the scales for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, and comes less than two days after a hacker leaked emails lending credence to that theory.
The Florida Democrat wrote in a statement Sunday afternoon that her “first priority” is serving her constituents in Congress and will continue to be a surrogate for Clinton’s efforts in her home state, a key swing state.
“Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention,” she said.
“We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had.”
Wasserman Schultz added that she’d still open and close the convention, as well as address delegates “about the stakes involved in this election.”
CNN reported that her remarks to the delegates — expected to last just a few minutes — may come on Monday, a scenario the network says the Clinton and Sanders campaigns have tentatively agreed to.
But convention organizers are worried about the idea of Wasserman Schultz appearing on stage, The New York Times reported. They said they fear that the intricately choreographed convention would be marred by Sanders’ supporters booing or heckling her.
Former party spokeswoman Maria Cardona said on CNN that Wasserman Schultz’s statement is just the starting point, and that her role in Philadelphia could be minimized further to avoid an awkward scene at the convention.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) will serve as chairwoman of the convention. Donna Brazile, the DNC’s vice chairwoman, will step in as interim chairwoman, DNC communications director Luis Miranda tweeted. Brazile is a longtime party insider who previously ran Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and is a regular on cable news.
“With news of Donna Brazile stepping in as interim chair for the Democratic National Committee, CNN and Brazile have mutually agreed to temporarily suspend her contract as a contributor for the network effective immediately,” a CNN spokesperson said. “As a valued voice and commentator, CNN will revisit the contract once Brazile concludes her role.”
While Sanders and allies have been calling for her to resign for months, the development comes in response to the email leaks, which have thrown the DNC into crisis mode just ahead of the party’s convention.
Sanders and his top aides hit the Sunday talk show circuit to reiterate their demands that Wasserman Schultz resign.
Later Sunday afternoon, he praised her choice to step down, while taking the opportunity to admonish her for not remaining impartial in the presidential election.
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party. While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people,” Sanders said.
The White House and the Clinton campaign released statements shortly after the news broke.
“For the last eight years, Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had my back,” President Obama said. “This afternoon, I called her to let her know that I am grateful. Her leadership of the DNC has meant that we had someone who brought Democrats together not just for my re-election campaign, but for accomplishing the shared goals we have had for our country.”
“I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership,” Clinton said in a statement.
“There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie–which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states. I look forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid.”
Republican nominee Donald Trump, who had been focused on the DNC controversy Sunday, tweeted about Wasserman Schultz’s resignation. (Though he was immediately teased for misspelling her last name, his second tweet got it right.)
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2016
I always said that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was overrated. The Dems Convention is cracking up and Bernie is exhausted, no energy left!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2016
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi praised Wasserman Schultz for “rightly” deciding to “put party unity first.”
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) July 24, 2016
The spat between Wasserman Schultz and Sanders became a major clash in the Democratic primary campaign. Sanders had repeatedly accused her of favoritism and went as far as endorsing her primary opponent back in Florida.
In May, The Hill reported that Democratic Senators had huddled on the floor to discuss the idea of pushing her out, questioning whether the spat made it impossible for her to be seen as objective. But other Democrats had pushed back, lauding Wasserman Schultz for her work.
Wasserman Schultz had sought to mollify the Sanders campaign by giving him an outsized role on the party’s platform drafting committee, a move reflected in the platform’s inclusion of a handful of Sanders’ top priorities.
Updated 6:29 p.m. Jonathan Easley contributed.