The Democratic National Committee announced a new round of hires on Tuesday — including several former campaign staffers for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMeghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' Hill: Trump reelection would spur 'one constitutional crisis after another' Trump defends indicted GOP congressman MORE — as it builds out a “war room” to do political battle with President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE.
The DNC is beefing up its communications and opposition research shop under interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile, who said that the new staff’s priorities will be to “support an independent and bipartisan congressional investigation of Russia’s unprecedented interference in the 2016 election, take on the incoming Trump administration, and protect President Obama’s legacy.”
Leading that effort as interim communications director will be John Neffinger, a veteran Democratic strategist who will take a leave of absence from the nonprofit liberal strategy firm Franklin Forum for his new role.
Beneath Neffinger will be two veterans of Clinton’s campaign.
Clinton’s former rapid response director, Zac Petkanas, will act as senior adviser to the DNC and will run the war room. Petkanas previously handled communications for Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.).
Former Clinton campaign spokeswoman Adrienne Watson will be the DNC's national press secretary. Watson has also worked as communications director for Correct the Record, a Clinton-aligned super PAC.
The DNC also announced on Tuesday that it had promoted Tessa Simonds to digital director for the war room.
During the 2016 campaign, those operatives focused heavily on digging up and driving negative storylines about Trump — a skill Brazile said will serve the DNC well as it works to “hold Donald Trump’s feet to the fire as he forms his new government.”
Among the war room’s priorities will be to champion a congressional investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election, which many Democrats blame for Clinton’s defeat.
They’ll also be fighting the GOP’s attempts to repeal ObamaCare and looking to dig up dirt on Trump’s “egregious and unethical self-dealing, as well as his appointment of nominees whose extreme policies would actively undermine the missions that their respective agencies are responsible for pursuing.”
The DNC's plan to comb through Trump's past for material to use against the incoming president echoes other efforts in the party. In December, the American Bridge super PAC announced its own operation to review old footage of Trump, as well as his business dealings, charitable foundation, and personal life.
The hires come during a contentious campaign to elect the next DNC chairperson.
Like the Democratic primary between Clinton and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats Democrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan MORE (I-Vt.), the DNC chair race is lining up as a proxy war between progressives, who support Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and centrist Democrats — including some in the White House — who back President Obama’s Labor secretary, Tom Perez.
There is still roiling anger in some quarters of the left over the DNC’s handling of the Democratic primary. Sanders supporters have seethed over what they view as DNC scheming that sought to undermine Sanders's insurgent campaign in an attempt to pave the way for a Clinton nomination.
When WikiLeaks published internal DNC emails that appeared to give credence to those suspicions, the revelations forced then-DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step down, as well as the departure of several of her top aides.
Brazile then stepped into the interim chair role.
Brazile is beloved by many Democrats but has been singed by controversy herself, thanks to one email exposed by WikiLeaks that appeared to show her giving Clinton's campaign an early look at a question Clinton would receive at a forum with Sanders.
Some liberals are pushing for a wholesale gutting of the DNC and could question the timing of bringing on former Clinton staffers before the election for chair.
But in her statement, Brazile indicated that she didn’t believe Democrats could wait until the late February election to mount a sustained political assault against Trump.
“In this critical lead up to the election of our next chair, the DNC will be leveraging our resources, our unparalleled research operation, and our experienced team to assist with an independent and bipartisan Congressional investigation of Russia’s interference in the election, hold Donald Trump’s feet to the fire as he forms his new government, and lead the charge in defending the achievements made under the Obama administration,” Brazile said in a statement.