DNC interim chairwoman passed debate questions along to Clinton campaign
Interim Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile is coming under fire after a newly released WikiLeaks email indicated she gave Hillary Clinton’s team an explicit heads-up about debate questions last spring.
In one exchange, released in Monday’s batch of emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s account, Brazile apparently wrote to Podesta ahead of the March 6 Democratic debate in Flint, Mich.
“One of the questions directed to HRC tomorrow is from a woman with a rash,” the subject line of the email read. It continued: “Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl [sic] of Flint.”And in a March 12 email to Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri, Brazile wrote: “From time to time I get the questions in advance.”
The email included the text of what looked like a question about the death penalty, presumably for a CNN town hall Clinton was doing the following day. “I’ll send a few more,” Brazile said.
In a statement, CNN denied providing Brazile with any advance debate questions or preparation material and noted that she had officially resigned as a CNN contributor as of Oct. 14.
“We are completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor,” CNN’s statement read.
Brazile responded to the news Monday with a tweet directing reporters to her statement from earlier in October, in which she said she supported “all of our candidates for president” and denounced Russia for its alleged role in hacking and releasing these emails in the first place.
“As a longtime political activist with deep ties to our party, I supported all of our candidates for president,” she said. “I often shared my thoughts with each and every campaign, and any suggestions that indicate otherwise are simply untrue. As it pertains to the CNN Debates, I never had access to questions and would never have shared them with the candidates if I did.”
Brazile stepped in as the interim head of the DNC this summer, after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned from the position because of a scandal surrounding hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. Those leaked emails fed the perception that the DNC had been biased against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary.
One Sanders’ staff defended Brazile in the wake of the email’s release, separating her from the DNC officials implicated in this summer’s hack.
“I can’t speak to what she did or didn’t send to Clinton people. All I can speak to is the relationship our camp had with her,” Symone Sanders, a former Sanders campaign press secretary, wrote to Politico Monday. “During the primary, Donna regular reached out for messaging guidance from us and was very helpful. She was even handed and we all had a great working relationship with her.”
Meanwhile, the White House is defending Brazile and her performance as DNC chairwoman.
“The president believes that she’s done a fine job stepping in in a very difficult situation to lead the Democratic Party,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “Those of us who’ve known Donna a long time, know that she is a person of integrity and a person of high character.”