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Brazile’s new role? Clean up DNC mess

Brazile’s new role? Clean up DNC mess

PHILADELPHIA — Donna Brazile is trying to clean up the mess at the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The veteran party operative was brought in to lead the beleaguered committee on the opening day of the Democratic National Convention amid a major leaked-emails scandal and lingering divisions between Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLate night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study 10 steps toward better presidential debating Continuity is (mostly) on the menu for government contracting in the next administration MORE loyalists and supporters of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (I-Vt.).

Her job this week: try to unite the fractured party and heal primary-election wounds that were reopened last weekend after WikiLeaks released a trove of internal committee emails showing DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other top party officials tilting the primary in favor of Clinton, who is now the party's presumptive presidential nominee.

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Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, announced late Sunday night that she was resigning over fallout from the DNC email leaks. After her disastrous speech before her home-state delegation Monday morning, it was announced that Wasserman Schultz would have no speaking role at the four-day Democratic convention, which she had been planning for the past year and a half.

Democratic insiders said Brazile was a no-brainer to replace the embattled chairwoman, who officially will step down at the end of the convention on Thursday.

The 56-year-old Louisiana native, who until Monday had been a CNN and ABC News contributor, is a talented communicator, experienced campaign strategist, and one of a handful of DNC vice chairs, giving her deep knowledge of the internal workings of the organization. She worked on a number of presidential campaigns throughout the past several decades — Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, Michael Dukakis and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonLate night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study A closing argument: Why voters cannot trust Trump on healthcare On India, the US must think bigger MORE.

But in the 2000 election, Brazile got her big break. Vice President Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreFox News president warns of calling winner too soon on election night: 2000 still 'lingers over everyone' Older voters helped put Trump in office; they will help take him out Debate is Harris's turn at bat, but will she score? MORE hired her to lead his presidential campaign, making her the first African-American to lead the presidential campaign of a major-party nominee.

Brazile’s new interim appointment — approved by President Obama, Hillary Clinton's campaign and top DNC officials — puts three African-American women in charge of this week’s gathering, with Leah Daughtry serving as convention CEO and Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeOfficials urge social media groups to weed out election disinformation targeting minority voters Letter from Trump taking credit for aid now mandated in government food boxes: report This week: House returns for pre-election sprint MORE (D-Ohio) as the new convention chairwoman.

Brazile’s “a longtime Democrat, a woman of color who served on the DNC Credentials and Rules committees,” former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a convention co-chair and longtime friend of Brazile’s, told The Hill on the convention floor. “She’s magnanimous. She brings people together. She’s a prominent figure. She’s someone who goes way back with the Clintons and also is close with Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJacobin Editor-at-Large: Valerie Jarrett's support for Citigroup executive's mayoral campaign 'microcosm' of Democrats' relationship with Wall Street Obama to stump for Biden in Philadelphia On India, the US must think bigger MORE.

“She’s going to be an adult and has said, ‘Yes, there were maybe some bad things that happened, but now let’s move on,’ ” Solis said.

“She’s smart and forthright and doesn’t take s--- from anybody,” said a House Democratic lawmaker who knows Brazile.

Added New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is close to her: “Donna has devoted her life to serving the Democratic Party with honor and integrity. She is a common-sense voice and a fighter for our values.”

Early in Monday night’s program, Sanders supporters booed every mention of Clinton and her new running mate, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats have no case against Amy Coney Barrett — but that won't stop them Pence-Harris debate draws more than 50M viewers, up 26 percent from 2016 Five takeaways from the vice presidential debate MORE (D-Va.), exposing the intraparty fissures that still remain weeks after the former secretary of State wrapped up the nomination.

But even some of the most devoted Sanders fans view Brazile as a unifying figure at this critical moment in the general election. Louisiana delegate Kyle Green Jr., a Sanders backer who grew up in the same New Orleans area parish as Brazile, said she would be able to steady the ship during a rocky start to the Democratic convention.

“From what I’ve seen in my life, she’s done great things for the Democratic Party,” said Green, noting that Brazile worked on Gore’s 2000 campaign and Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuBottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face MORE's (D-La.) successful reelection bid in 2002. “I think that she provides a steady hand. She’s seen as someone who is nonbiased, not attached to any particular camp.”

The DNC email leak “doesn’t help the cause,” Green said, “but hopefully we can unite as one big family and keep our eye on the prize and win the election in the fall.”

Matt Killen, one of the Sanders delegates who booed Wasserman Schultz at the Florida delegation breakfast Monday morning, said he’d like to see Clinton name Sanders the next DNC chairman if she wins in November.

But he knows that’s unlikely to happen and praised Brazile as a “good” choice that will help the DNC move past the email scandal.

“If Bernie says supporting Hillary is what he wants us to do, that’s what I’m gonna do,” Killen said. “Supporting Hillary is still 100 million times better than Trump.”

This is Brazile’s second stint atop the DNC. She briefly served in the same interim chairwoman role in 2011 after Kaine, then the DNC chairman, stepped down to run for Senate. He is now the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee.

For her part, Brazile said she’s doing all she can to bring the two camps together. She’s been huddling for the past 24 hours with both Clinton and Sanders backers. And in television interviews, she apologized to Sanders for the DNC emails while also projecting a message of unity.

“We talked about how we protect the sanctity of this floor. ...” Brazile told CNN, her former employer. “But again, these are Democrats. They’re not going to sit there and be silent. At the end of the night you’ll see more joyful noises than [we saw] from the activists today.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said he’s certain his House colleague, Wasserman Schultz, would have been booed off the main stage Monday night if she had insisted on carrying out her ceremonial role.

“I thought it was appropriate that she resign and that she didn’t appear at the convention,” Cohen told The Hill in the convention’s Facebook hub.

As for Brazile, Cohen said: “I think the world of her. She’s personable. She’s smart. She’s sincere. She understands the whole panoply of issues and the diversity of America, and she’s a helluva cook.”

“What’s her specialty?” a reporter asked.

“Gumbo,” Cohen replied with a smile.