The Memo: Trump tries to deepen Dem divisions

The Memo: Trump tries to deepen Dem divisions
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE is trying to foment tensions in the Democratic Party, after new revelations about last year’s primary campaign emerged from Donna Brazile, who served as interim head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

But Democrats in both the pro-Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Democrats fret over Trump cash machine MORE and pro-Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries The hidden connection between immigration and health care: Our long-term care crisis Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE wings of the party insist that Trump’s interjections will only bring them together. 

“Nothing unites the Democratic Party like Trump,” said Tad Devine, who was a senior advisor to Sanders during last year’s primary but was speaking to The Hill in a personal capacity. “If he gets in the middle, it brings us together. If he had a little more patience, he would have let the thing go for a day or two — but he can’t help himself.”

Karen Finney, who was a senior advisor to Clinton during the campaign and is also a former communications director of the DNC, agreed. 

“When Trump does that, it serves to refocus and remind people of what is at stake and what is really important,” Finney said.

The saga began with publication of an excerpt from Brazile’s forthcoming book in Politico. In it, she outlined an agreement between a former CEO of the DNC, Amy Dacey, and Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook. 

According to Brazile, the deal set out how “in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised.” 

In Brazile’s account, that deal was struck in August 2015, well before the first votes had been cast in the party’s primary process.

Many Sanders supporters view the deal as yet more proof that the national party tilted the pitch in Clinton’s favor. 

That belief has been commonplace on the Sanders wing of the party virtually since the campaign began. But it was strengthened even further when Wikileaks made hacked DNC emails public last year around the time of the Democratic National Convention.

Those emails led to the resignation of then-DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and the appointment of Brazile as an interim replacement. 

Trump seized on the controversy on Friday before departing on a trip to Asia, firing off no fewer than eight tweets on the matter.  

Trump characterized Brazile as writing that Clinton had “paid for and stole” the Democratic primary. He also picked up on comments by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris tops Biden in California 2020 poll The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Democrats fret over Trump cash machine MORE (D-Mass.) who, when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday whether she accepted the primary was rigged, replied, “Yes.”

Trump, who calls Warren “Pocahontas” in mocking reference to her claims of Native American ancestry, wrote, “Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats, lead by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets go FBI & Justice Dept.” 

Both Brazile and Warren hit back at Trump. 

Warren accused him of feeling “desperation to change the subject” from the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.  

“You might think your tweets are cute, @realDonaldTrump, but they won’t stop Mueller's investigation or keep your people out of jail,” Warren wrote on Twitter. 

On Monday, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manfort and an associate, Richard Gates, were indicted as part of the Mueller probe, and it emerged that another former campaign advisor had struck a plea deal. 

Brazile accused Trump of misquoting her and asked the president to stop “trolling” her. 

For all the Democratic pushback against Trump, however, there is no denying that there are continuing tensions between erstwhile supporters of Clinton and Sanders, as well as among other factions within the party.

Those divisions have been seen in everything from the battle over who should chair the DNC to controversy over an invite to Sanders to headline a women’s conference in Detroit late last month. (He ultimately went to visit storm-ravaged Puerto Rico instead.)

Brazile’s revelations will add further fuel to that fire, even if Trump’s attacks might encourage Democrats to show a unified public face.

During last year’s campaign, Trump tried to appeal to disaffected Sanders supporters after the Democratic primary ended.  

He drew attention to some policy areas where he and the Vermont left-winger have common ground — notably their shared opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He also sought to capitalize on the enmity that some Sanders backers had for Clinton. 

At least one study, made public this summer, suggested that Trump enjoyed modest success that would have been significant in an election result as close as last year’s. 

The Cooperative Congressional Election Study found that 12 percent of people who voted for Sanders in the Democratic primary backed Trump in the general election.

For her part, Clinton accuses Sanders of doing her campaign “lasting damage” and “paving the way” for Trump’s attacks on her as “Crooked Hillary,” in her recently published book, What Happened.

Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist who supported Clinton in the primary, told The Hill that Trump was simply trying to sow discord.

“I don’t think anyone is fooled by Donald Trump appealing to Bernie voters,” she said. “I think it is entirely about trying to disrupt the party and disrupt our unity.”

Rosen added, “If we fall for it, shame on us.”

But the challenge for some Democrats will be to press for changes they think are necessary without giving succor to Trump. 

Devine, the former Sanders advisor, argues that the party’s nomination process needs reform, implying that the party establishment plays an outsize role in determining the eventual party standard-bearer.

Referring to the firestorm ignited by Brazile’s book, he said, “We didn’t light the fuse over here. But now that it’s happened, we have spoken up honestly. We are saying it is not the right time for Democrats to fight. But it is the right time for Democrats to recognize we have problems in our nominations process.”  

Trump may well unite the Democrats for now. But it is clear that some deep fault-lines remain.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency. 

-Updated 7:09 a.m.