PHILADELPHIA (CBSNewYork/AP) — Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she will step down at the end of this week’s convention in Philadelphia.
Wasserman Schultz’s announcement Sunday follows a firestorm over hacked emails suggesting the Democratic National Committee favored Clinton during the primary, despite pledging neutrality. The leaked emails prompted primary runner-up Bernie Sanders to call for Wasserman Schultz’s immediate resignation.
In a statement, Wasserman Schultz said she will step down at the end of the four-day convention. She said she plans to formally open and close the convention, as well as address delegates.
“Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention,” Wasserman said in a statement Sunday. “As Party Chair, this week I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans.”
DNC communications director Luis Miranda said DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile will serve as interim chair through the election.
The move comes after more than 19,000 emails from Democratic party officials were leaked earlier this week.
The correspondence allegedly shows officials favoring Clinton over Sanders in the primary. They also allegedly mock Sanders and his supporters. In one leaked email, a DNC official wondered whether Sanders’ religious beliefs could be used against him, questioning whether the candidate may be an atheist.
In televised interviews Sunday, the Vermont senator said the emails proved what he knew was true: The DNC planned to support former Secretary of State Clinton from the start.
“I’m not shocked, but I’m disappointed” by the exchanges in the emails, Sanders told ABC’s “This Week.”
Sanders pressed for Wasserman Schultz to quit as chairwoman immediately. He also suggested that Clinton’s choice of running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, was a disappointment and that he would have preferred Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of liberals.
“His political views are not my political views. He is more conservative than I am. Would I have preferred to see somebody like an Elizabeth Warren selected by Secretary Clinton? Yes, I would have,” Sanders told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
President Barack Obama said he is “grateful” for Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s leadership at the DNC.
He said she played a critical role in supporting the nation’s economic recovery and his effort to overhaul the nation’s health care system. He added that no one works harder for their constituents.
In a statement, Clinton thanked Wasserman Schultz for her leadership.
“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. “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.”
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee added she looks forward to campaigning with Wasserman Schultz in Florida “and helping her re-election bid.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond that she doesn’t think Wasserman Schultz should have resigned.
“Well, I think she’s been a good chairman. I don’t even want to engage in that conversation. I mean there are some who don’t agree with her, I agree with them,” Pelosi said.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer the controversy will blow over.
“I think it’s unfortunate, but it’s not going to split the party,” Jackson said.
Wassermal Schultz has weathered several controversies during her tenure as party chair, including trying to get the DNC to foot the bill for the clothing she wore at the party convention in Charlotte four years ago.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called Wasserman Schultz “overrated.”
“I always said that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was overrated. The Dems Convention is cracking up and Bernie is exhausted, no energy left!” Trump tweeted.
The Democratic National Committee’s rules panel has decided that Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio will preside over convention sessions beginning Monday. A DNC rules committee member says she was voted as convention chairwoman as part of standard procedures. That makes clear that Wasserman Schultz will not act in that capacity; under party rules, the DNC head acts as temporary chair until a new one is voted in.
Still in question is what role Wasserman Schultz might play during this week’s Democratic convention.
Some party loyalists say the DNC can’t ignore the emails.
Dan O’Neal, 68, is a retired school teacher and delegate from Arizona, said Wasserman Schultz has to be censured.
“We knew they were stacking the deck against Bernie from the get-go, but this type of stuff coming out is outrageous,” he said. “It proves our point that they’ve tried to marginalize him and make it as difficult as possible.”
Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, agreed, saying Sanders’ supporters “have a lot to complain about.”
“The emails have proven the system was rigged from the start,” Manafort told “Fox News Sunday.”
Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, tried to shift blame away from DNC officials to “Russian state actors” who, he said, may have hacked into DNC computers “for the purpose of helping Donald Trump,” the Republican presidential nominee.
How the emails were stolen hasn’t been confirmed.
“It was concerning last week that Donald Trump changed the Republican platform to become what some experts would regard as pro-Russian,” Mook said.
Clinton is within days of her long-held ambition to become the party’s official presidential nominee and in a race that could very well be decided by independent voters, she received the endorsement of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He will speak Wednesday night, the same night as Obama.
“As the nation’s leading independent and a pragmatic business leader, he will make a strong case that the clear choice in this election is Hillary Clinton,” Bloomberg spokesman Howard Wolfson said.
As for the New York delegates, they will be sitting front-and-center of the podium, however, the New Jersey delegates got the nosebleed seats.
After the DNC released a slightly trimmed list of superdelegates — those are the party officials who can back any candidate — it now takes 2,382 delegates to formally clinch the nomination. Clinton has 2,814 when including superdelegates, according to an Associated Press count. Sanders has 1,893.
Sanders has endorsed Clinton, but his delegates are pushing for a state-by-state tally. The state-by-state roll call is scheduled for Tuesday.
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