(Update 5:30 PM: Make it "Four things you should know." Debbie Wasserman Schultz is resigning as DNC chair after the convention in Philadelphia.)
On July 22, Wikileaks released roughly 20,000 emails from seven members of the Democratic National Committee, which had been stolen by a hacker known as "Guccifer 2.0," aka Russia. Welcome to 2016. Let's break it down and include some fun .gifs along the way.
1) Bernie supporters feel vindicated by emails showing DNC bias towards Clinton.
All through the primary, Sen. Sanders and his supporters alleged that the DNC was collaborating with Sec. Clinton. For months, this induced eye-rolling, but now vindication is at hand. The blowback is arriving here first, most dramatically by forcing DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to
skip the convention in Philly step down as DNC chair after the convention. Here's why:
- DNC Deputy Communications Director Mark Paustenbach sent this email after the DNC was criticized for shutting off the Sanders campaign's access to voter information: “Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess.”
- When the Clinton campaign was accused of doing down-ballot fundraising, only to have the DNC funnel money back to her, it was an email from Clinton's lawyer Marc E. Elias that helped define the response, "Just as the RNC pushes back directly on Trump over 'rigged system,' the DNC should push back DIRECTLY at Sanders and say that what he is saying is false and harmful (to) the Democratic party."
- Communications Director Luis Miranda instructed his subordinate, Western Regional Comm. Dir. Walter Garcia, to spread an article by Jon Ralston describing Bernie supporters in Nevada as an angry, chair-throwing mob. Ralston had come under fire when his details turned out to be untrue (Ralston himself said the reporting was second-hand, and even left-wing outlets agree it was an honest mistake). Miranda ordered the discredited story be circulated "without attribution."
- Most damning of all, DNC Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall wanted someone to publicly ask Sanders about his faith before the primaries in Kentucky and West Virginia. "This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist." Marshall has since apologized. It's unclear whether his peeps have accepted it.
- Other odds and ends: a Super PAC paid young voters to argue with Sanders supporters online, a DNC staffer was sent an advance copy of a story about Clinton's sketchy down-ballot fundraising, and a letter Sanders had sent the DNC expressing concerns over rules was forwarded to the press.
2) Republicans feel vindicated by emails between the DNC and the media (although the GOP probably does it, too).
If the DNC collaboration with Clinton was catnip for Berniebusters, emails between Democrats and news organizations are crack cocaine for Republicans. Unfortunately for scandal addicts, it's harder to prove. People who are in the news often email reporters, and it's part of a reporter's job to rebuff this constant attempt at influence. Nevertheless, where there's smoke...
- CNN's Jake Tapper's scandal is perhaps the lightest, so let's start there. Tapper's employee Jason Seher emailed a DNC staffer to set up an interview with the DNC's Luis Miranda. Seher wrote, "Thanks for facilitating Luis coming on today, and bearing with us through a meelee [sic] of GOP nonsense and cancellations and all that. Any particular points he’ll want to make? We’re gonna stay Dem focused."
Some interpreted "Dem focused" to mean "Dem-positive."
Then, that DNC staffer sent an internal email to their colleagues, writing "Need to know asap if we want to offer Jake Tapper questions to ask us." Further emails discussed "hits" they could pass on. This was seen as proof that Tapper's entire interview process was scripted by Democrats (the interview itself was quite boring).
Tapper has since responded, saying people are reading too much into this. "Dem focused," he said, means the segment would focus on Hillary vs Bernie, and that wanted to avoid the predictability of asking a DNC spokesperson to discuss the GOP. As for asking what points Miranda wanted to make, Tapper wrote, that "is a fairly standard question – producers and reporters ask it all the time of Democrats, Republicans, everyone, to make sure we don’t miss out on news-making opportunities."
- As the host of Meet The Press and the Political Director of NBC's newsroom, Chuck Todd is the natural top target for people who hate the mainstream media. After Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski called for Debbie Wasserman Schultz's resignation due to the debacle of the Nevada primary (see the Jon Ralston article above), Wasserman Schultz sent Todd a long email titled "Chuck, this must stop."
In the email, Wasserman Schultz quotes a Breitbart version of Brzezinksi's comments (by the way, Debbie, reading Breitbart as the DNC chair seems like a recipe for a headache) and angrily refutes the facts of the story.
She then requests a call be set up between Brzezinski and herself to clear up misperceptions (or, others would argue, to push back on the accusation that she was undermining Sanders).
Todd, in his role as Political Director, discussed the wisdom of such a call with Luis Miranda, but the two decided to greenlight it since it was unlikely Brzezinski's opinion of Wasserman Schultz could get any worse.
Chuck Todd has also responded, telling Mediaite, “I think it’s clear what it was. Someone complaining about coverage. Something that happens daily from every campaign we interact with.”
3. National security experts are freaking out because Russia is playing with our election.
Wait, what?! Security experts consider Guccifer 2.o, the "hacker" behind this leak, to have been made up by Russian intelligence when they were caught stealing from the DNC the first time a month ago. (If "breaking into DNC files to rig an election" sounds familiar, that's because you're thinking of Watergate.) Here are some more ways Russia has come bizarrely close to the 2016 election:
- This leak was probably timed to break right before the Democratic National Convention, but it also comes right after Donald Trump openly said, repeatedly, that he would not defend NATO allies—an alliance built to deter Russia—unless they were fully paid on their bills (most aren't).
- The Republicans, at the behest of Trump's campaign, softened language in their party platform pledging to defend Ukraine's territorial integrity (from Russia). Said a non-Trump delegate who tried to stop the change, "“I said, ‘What is your problem with a country that wants to remain free?’ It seems like a simple thing.”
- The RNC's first-night speaker (and VP candidate) Mike Flynn, reportedly disgruntled after being let go as the head of Defense Intelligence, now works as an analyst for Russia's English-language propaganda channel RT.
- Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort has a history with Putin-friendly strongmen. For a decade, he was an advisor and lobbyist to Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych, even when American ambassadors told him he was harming American interests. Eventually, Yanukovych was thrown out by a revolution, and Putin would be forced to take part of Ukraine militarily to retain his buffer zone (a buffer zone the Republican platform no longer objects to).
IS ANYTHING GOOD? Yes. The emails also revealed that the White House barred Ariana Grande from performing there after her 2015 donut-licking scandal. At least someone is doing their job.