Democrats stagger to convention in crisis

A hack of the Democratic National Committee and leak of over 20,000 e-mails has already taken the scalp of the party’s chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who resigned on Sunday.

A delegate holds a Bernie Sanders sign during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US July 25, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A delegate holds a Bernie Sanders sign during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US July 25, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PHILADELPHIA – The Democratic Party converged in Pennsylvania on Monday stunned by a massive data breach on its national leadership, and with their presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, trailing GOP rival Donald Trump in polls for the first time.
A hack of the Democratic National Committee and leak of over 20,000 emails has already claimed the scalp of the party’s chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who was compelled to resign on Sunday. The leak revealed bias among top DNC brass toward Clinton during her primary fight against Sen.
Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Appearing with Florida’s delegates to the convention, Wasserman Schultz was met on Monday with praise from several of her allies, but their expressions of support were overwhelmed by boos and cries of “shame” from Sanders supporters. The spectacle was enough for her to withdraw from her plans to gavel in the start of the convention with brief remarks – a small consolation prize she had fought for before stepping down the day before.
Sanders also appeared before his own delegates on Monday, declaring victory for waging a “political revolution” against the Washington establishment.
The crowd broke into applause when he mentioned Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.
The Democratic Party, according to rival Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, “embraces an approach to politics which has stacked the deck against Bernie Sanders and secretly aided Hillary Clinton.”
Wasserman Schultz’s interim replacement, Donna Brazile, is already warning that more revelations are likely to drip out in the weeks ahead leading up to Election Day – a frightening prospect for the Clinton campaign, which has already measured a calculable loss of support for their candidate over an e-mail scandal all her own. The prospect of additional leaks – perhaps of correspondence by the candidate herself – may be enough to tilt the election in favor of the GOP nominee, whom the Democratic leadership considers less a political opponent than a threat to national security and American democracy.
Several national polls released on Monday – all conducted after Donald Trump formally accepted the Republican presidential nomination in Ohio last week – showed a bump in support for the New York business tycoon. A CNN/ORC poll found Trump leading Clinton for the first time, 48-45, after the same poll reported a 7-point Clinton lead over Trump earlier this month.
Another poll released on Monday by CBS found Trump winning by 1 point.
Between anger from Sanders’s supporters over the e-mail leak and Trump’s bump in the polls, Clinton is facing assault from both sides of the political aisle. Her team hopes that an all-star lineup of speakers at the convention will change that dynamic.
Sanders, US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and husband and former president Bill Clinton will all advocate for Clinton in primetime this week.
Her aides on Sunday accused “Russian state actors” of coordinating the hacking attack in an effort to boost the candidacy of Trump, whom the Kremlin sees as either friendly to Russian interests, destabilizing for the West, or both.
Lending credence to the charge, the FBI on Monday announced it was opening an investigation into the hack.
A White House official told The Jerusalem Post that the Obama administration is aware of the matter “and speculation about the perpetrators.” Asked whether evidence of Russian involvement amounted merely to speculation, the official replied: “We have not publicly attributed this incident.”
The DNC first reported in June that its systems had been hacked, and called in an independent firm, CrowdStrike, to investigate the incident. The cybersecurity firm found traces of the material passing through Russian computers, as well as markers of coding that have previously been identified with Russian intelligence cyber operations.
Trump responded on Monday by calling the connection “a joke,” while his campaign manager, Paul Manafort – a former aide to Viktor Yanukovych, the former pro-Kremlin president of Ukraine who fled power in 2014 – said it was “absurd.”
But Clinton aides point to the obvious benefits Russian President Vladimir Putin would reap with a Trump presidency: The candidate opposes the NATO alliance, has deep business investments in Moscow, and has often expressed admiration for the Russian leader.