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Democratic chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz steps down on eve of convention

Ahead of their convention, the Democratic Party chair is under fire.

  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she’s resigning effective at the end of the convention
  • Hillary Clinton has all kinds of policy positions, and that’s the problem
  • In their first rally as running mates, Clinton and Tim Kaine assail Donald Trump as unfit to lead
  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich continues feud with Trump, suggesting he can’t win the must-carry state
  • Florida, the backdrop this weekend for the newly minted Democratic ticket, is also critical this fall
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Feeling the Bern at 95 degrees in Philadelphia

The drugstores in downtown Philly might want to stockpile more aspirin and deodorant.

If I have any prediction for how the Democratic National Convention will go when it starts tomorrow, all I can tell you is that it’s going to be in the upper 90s all week and the Berniecrats plan to be out in force on the streets of Philly, protesting the party and agitating for a miracle.

It’s 95 degrees right now, and I’ve already seen more protesters this morning in Philadelphia than I saw all last week in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention.

In fact, I’ve been wandering through a crowd of at least several hundred demonstrators who gathered around Philadelphia’s city hall for a climate activist rally, and I still have yet to see a single Hillary Clinton sign, button or T-shirt.

What I’ve seen instead, aside from the anti-fracking and anti-climate-change signs: Sanders shirts. Sanders buttons. A few Green Party shirts. A guy dressed in a rat suit and a sign that says “DemocRATS give rats a bad name,” holding a giant pencil with its own small sign that says, “Write in Bernie.”

A reporter’s diary from the streets outside the Democratic National Convention.

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For Wasserman Schultz, #DNCLeaks was the last straw

Debbie Wasserman Schultz had endured any number of turbulent moments during her five-plus years at the helm of the Democratic National Committee. In the end the timing of the so-called DNC-leaks proved to be too much for her to overcome.

On Friday, internal emails newly disclosed by the website WikiLeaks revived long-running suspicions on the part of Sanders supporters that the Florida congresswoman had tilted the scales in favor of Clinton throughout the primary process.

Nearly 20,000 emails from a 17-month span were posted on the site, obtained by someone who hacked into the accounts of seven top party officials. It was the first part of a forthcoming “Hillary Leaks” series, the site said.

One email, in particular, caught the attention of Sanders loyalists. In it, the party’s chief financial officer — an ally of Wasserman Schultz — indicated interest in raising questions about Sanders’ lack of active involvement with his Jewish heritage.

Clinton’s campaign said Sunday that the hack may have been the work of Russian operatives seeking to boost Trump’s campaign. The Democratic National Committee had reported last month that its computer system had been hacked and that the cyber-security firm hired to investigate the breach had traced it to two groups tied to Russian intelligence organizations.

Much of the newly revealed correspondence was routine in nature, showing the typical internal machinations of a major political organization. The main exception was the email from Brad Marshall, the finance chief, which asserted that Sanders had “skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage,” but may actually be an atheist. If so, that revelation could cost Sanders support among Southern Baptists, the email said.

Although there’s no evidence that Wasserman Schultz or other party officials acted on Marshall’s suggestion, the mere existence of the email was enough to threaten to reopen the rift with the Sanders campaign that Clinton and her allies had spent the past month mending.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, speaking to reporters Sunday evening in Philadelphia, said he knew firsthand “how hard it is being chair of a national party.”

“But when you rig a system... I think this kind of outcome is inevitable,” he said.

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, rebuffed the Clinton campaign’s contention that the hack may have been the work of Russian operatives seeking to boost the Republican nominee.

“They are pretty desperate pretty quickly,” he said. “It is a far reach. To lead their convention with that tells me they really are trying to move away from what the issues are in this campaign.”

Evan Halper and Chris Megerian contributed to this report.

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Donald Trump has ‘got a right’ to talk about conspiracies, Republican Party chairman says

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus defended Donald Trump’s decision to revisit a discredited conspiracy theory about Sen. Ted Cruz’s father’s involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“He’s got a right to talk about whatever he wants to talk about,” Priebus told reporters during a news conference in Philadelphia on the eve of the Democratic convention.

Cruz, one of Trump’s rivals in the Republican primary, said Trump’s decision to raise the issue during the campaign was one of the reasons he did not endorse him at the party’s convention in Cleveland last week.

Trump said on Friday that he was only pointing out a National Enquirer photo that appeared to show Cruz’s father with assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

“It had nothing to do with me, except I might have pointed it out,” Trump said.

Priebus suggested Trump wouldn’t be talking about the issue any more.

“I don’t think he was ever saying this was some sort of factual piece of information,” Priebus said. “It was something he referred to, he’s talked about it and gotten off of it. As far as I’m concerned, we can move on.”

Priebus’ news conference, at which he was joined by Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, was the first in a series of Republican events that will be held in Philadelphia to coincide with the Democratic gathering.

They outlined plans to draw attention to a series of scandalous allegations that have dogged Clinton throughout her career.

“Hillary Clinton is the epitome of the establishment,” Manafort said. “Donald Trump is the outsider committed to change.”

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Tim Kaine addresses whether he’d be the third wheel with both Clintons in the White House

Sitting for their first interview together, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine answered the awkward question of whether Kaine runs the risk of being a third wheel in a White House where the first gentleman is a former president.

The question had lingered in the background as Clinton made her way through the vice presidential vetting process. Nobody expects Bill Clinton to fade into the background should his wife win. And when he was president, Hillary Clinton’s deep involvement in governing was known to cause tension with the office of Vice President Al Gore, who was competing for attention to his own agenda.

“It’s an embarrassment of riches,” Kaine said in the interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday, putting the best possible spin on the situation. Then, Clinton jumped in, assuring that all will be harmonious and that Bill Clinton is nothing other than a huge asset.

“It does happen to be a historical fact that my husband served as president for eight years,” she said. “And there’s a lot that happened which helped the American people during those eight years.”

The interview later gave Kaine an opportunity to expound on his own resume, and why he is as prepared to jump in and do the job of president should the need arise. “As much as any human being would be ready, I’d be ready,” he said. “You know what? You know, missionary, civil rights lawyer, local official, state official, federal official, like, I’ve — I’ve climbed, and I haven’t missed a rung on the ladder. And if it were to come that way, I could do it.”

After a Republican convention in which delegates expressed their distaste for Clinton with angry chants of “lock her up,” both Clinton and Kaine said they will not be responding in kind this week in Philadelphia.

“I don’t know what their convention was about, other than criticizing me,” said Clinton adding that she didn’t feel threatened but was saddened by the aggressive chanting. “I seem to be the only unifying theme that they had. There was no positive agenda. It was a very dark, divisive campaign. And the people who were speaking were painting a picture of our country that I did not recognize.”

Kaine, embracing a running-mate role that traditionally involves more in attacking the opposition as the nominee tries to keep above the fray, offered a slightly different view. But for Kaine, who has never had much of a reputation as a street fighter, pulling the gloves off seems a bit of a struggle.

“She’s done a good job of letting the, you know, water go off her back on this,” he said of Clinton. “That’s not the way I feel. When I see this, you know, ‘Crooked Hillary,’ or I see the ‘lock her up,’ it’s just ridiculous. It is ridiculous.”

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GOP chief comments on Democratic chief’s resignation

“I know firsthand how hard it is being chair of a national party....But when you rig a system ... I think this kind of outcome is inevitable.

Reince Priebus, Republican National Chairman

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Hillary Clinton plans to hit the road after convention

Hillary Clinton is borrowing a page from her husband’s campaign playbook, planning to launch a three-day bus tour to Ohio the day after she accepts the Democratic presidential nomination.

The trip is scheduled to begin with a rally in Philadelphia on Friday. Then her vice presidential running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, will join her for stops that are expected to include Harrisburg and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and Youngstown and Columbus in Ohio.

Clinton’s plan shows her focus on two crucial swing states that have been targeted by Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has tried to capitalize on the economic anxieties of white voters suffering from the loss of manufacturing jobs.

Clinton’s husband, Bill, set off on a similar bus tour the day after his convention in 1992. His six-day trip departed from New York and included eight states before ending in St. Louis.

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On eve of convention, embattled DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she’ll step down

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, long under fire for the appearance of partiality toward Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries, will step down as the party’s national chairwoman at the end of its convention this week, she announced Sunday.

The announcement came after internal emails newly disclosed by Wikileaks revived the long-running suspicions of supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that the Florida congresswoman had tilted the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Wasserman Schultz’s role at the convention had already been reduced, with a speaking role and later even the simple task of gaveling the convention in and out of session stripped from her.

“We arrived here in Philadelphia with the most inclusive and progressive platform the party has ever proposed and a unified recommendation from the Rules Committee on our path forward as Democrats. I am proud of my role in leading these efforts,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Noting her other roles as a mother and a member of Congress representing parts of south Florida — she faces a primary challenge next month from a Sanders supporter — Wasserman Schultz said the best way to help serve her constituents and ensure Clinton carries her home state, a key battleground, was to step down from her Democratic National Committee leadership role.

“We have planned a great and unified convention this week, and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had,” she said.

“I’ve been proud to serve as the first woman nominated by a sitting president as chair of the Democratic National Committee and I am confident that the strong team in place will lead our party effectively through this election to elect Hillary Clinton as our 45th president.”

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Head of the Democratic National Committee says she’ll resign at the end of the convention

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Vice presidential pick Tim Kaine spends his Sunday singing, and praying

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, center, walks to church with his wife, Anne Holton, and fellow parishioner Berhane Desta in Richmond, Va.
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, center, walks to church with his wife, Anne Holton, and fellow parishioner Berhane Desta in Richmond, Va.
(P. Kevin Morley / Richmond Times-Dispatch )

For the newly minted Democratic pick for vice president, it was a typical Sunday, but for the extra attention.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine attended Sunday Mass at his local Catholic church in Richmond before the attentive eyes of the media that will now be tracking the public movements of the low-key and formerly low-profile lawmaker.

Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, at times grew emotional during the service as the priest and congregation at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Richmond offered prayers for the couple and their family as they face a year of change.

Kaine braved the pulpit at one point for a solo performance during the communion hymn. It was notable, as pool reporter Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post diplomatically described, for a politician “who for good reason is better known for his work on the harmonica.”

“I called the Lord, he answered me,” Kaine sang. “Of all my trouble, he set me free.”

Holton was invited to make brief remarks to the parish, saying she and her husband were embarking on “quite an adventure.”

“This parish has meant so much,” she said. “We are starting a new chapter now. … We will really need your prayers.”

The parish is a heavily-African American one, one Holton said she and her husband found almost by accident. They were married there more than 30 years ago, before Kaine began a career in public service.

“This was our neighborhood and, really, the center of our lives here,” Kaine said. “We needed some prayers today, and we got some prayers, and we got some support, and it really feels good.”

Kaine, if elected, would be the nation’s second Catholic vice president. The first is Joe Biden, who, like Kaine, followed his public introduction as a vice president candidate by attending services with his family at their local parish church in Wilmington, Del.

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Obama offers a preview of his campaign tactics, saying Trump’s approach on NATO and Islamic State is dangerous

(Associated Press)

As Hillary Clinton’s campaign looks to President Obama to take a leading role in helping it win the White House, he offered a preview Sunday of his themes on the stump.

Obama warned on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Donald Trump’s approach to fighting Islamic State would only strengthen the extremist organization and divide Americans. He said the GOP nominee’s warnings that America may not continue to be a reliable partner in NATO are dangerous. And he framed Clinton’s email troubles as a mistake, but one that should be forgivable.

The president’s comments were on point with the theme Democrats are promoting at their convention in Philadelphia this week: that they are looking to unite the country, while Trump’s plan would divide it.

“The kinds of rhetoric that we’ve heard too often, from Mr. Trump and others, is ultimately helping do ISIL’s work for us,” Obama said, using an alternate acronym for Islamic State. In addition to the GOP nominee’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country, Obama said Trump’s posturing on NATO was further “indication of the lack of preparedness that he has been displaying when it comes to foreign policy.”

Obama said the U.S. has a “solemn commitment to protect those same allies who stood with us after 9/11.”

On the issue of race relations in the country, Obama rejected the premise that they are deteriorating.

“Ironically, I think precisely because things have gotten better, what I’ve heard from younger African Americans is more shock about the images and the videos from Minnesota or Baton Rouge,” he said. “And what I’ve had to say to them is that, you know, these issues are not new. They’ve been there and come up periodically for quite some time. What’s new is smartphones and videos. And this actually gives us a greater opportunity to try to tackle these problems.”

And Obama offered Clinton advice on navigating the fallout from the FBI probe into her email.

“She would acknowledge she made a mistake,” he said. “But what I also think is true is that if you’ve been in the public eye for decades at the highest levels of scrutiny, folks are going to find some mistakes you make. I’ve made mistakes. I don’t know any president or public official at her level who aren’t going to look back and say, ‘I should have done something like that differently.’”

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Trump doubles down on NATO pullback, slaps at GOP Senate Leader McConnell for second-guessing him

Donald Trump reiterated his call for the U.S. to pull back from its commitment to NATO and said the Republican leader of the Senate was wrong to ascribe the proposal to “a rookie mistake.”

“He’s 100% wrong. OK?” Trump said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He’s 100% wrong if he said that.”

Trump shocked many in the country’s defense and foreign policy establishment when he said Wednesday in a New York Times story that, as commander in chief, he would not automatically come to the defense of America’s NATO allies if they were attacked.

The assurance of such all-for-one assistance is a fundamental underpinning of the defense pact between the U.S and key allies.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who had given a less-than-rousing speech in support of Trump’s nomination at the Republican National Convention, responded by suggesting the remark showed the political neophyte’s inexperience and the need for guidance from more seasoned lawmakers.

“Frankly it’s sad,” Trump said. “We have NATO, and we have many countries that aren’t paying for what they’re supposed to be paying, which is already too little, but they’re not paying anyway. And we’re giving them a free ride or giving them a ride where they owe us tremendous amounts of money. “

Trump defended a portion of his convention speech in which he painted an unsparingly bleak portrait of the country and suggested he alone could fix it.

He said he was simply comparing himself to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“We know Hillary and we look at her record,” Trump said. “Her record has been a disaster. And I am running against Hillary. It’s not like I’m running against the rest of the world.”

“I know people that are very, very capable that could do a very good job,” Trump added, “but they could never get elected.”

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Hillary Clinton campaign raises questions about Russian involvement in email leak

Russians may have hacked internal Democratic Party emails to help Republican nominee Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said on Sunday morning.

The emails, which showed party officials discussing ways to help Clinton during the primary rather than remain neutral, were released by Wikileaks last week.

“Some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump,” Mook said on ABC’s “This Week.”

He said experts have said “Russian state actors broke into the [Democratic National Committee], took all these emails, and now are leaking them.”

Mook’s comments seized on speculation about ties between Trump and Russia. Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and suggested the United States should back away from its commitments to NATO, considered a bulwark against Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe.

Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked as a consultant for a pro-Russian government in Ukraine, and Trump supporters removed from the Republican Party’s official platform a proposal to provide Ukraine with weapons to defend itself against Russian-backed forces.

Manafort swatted back concerns from Republicans and Democrats that Trump’s campaign is too closely linked to Putin.

“It’s absurd,” Manafort said on ABC. “There’s no basis for it.”

Manafort dismissed conservative commentator Bill Kristol’s suggestion that congressional Republicans launch an investigation to determine whether Putin is interfering with the presidential election. He also said Clinton’s team was using the claim as a smokescreen to avoid addressing the controversy over the Democratic Party’s emails.

“It’s pure obfuscation on the part of the Clinton campaign,” Manafort said. “What they don’t want to talk about is what’s in those emails. What’s in those email show it was a clearly rigged system. Bernie Sanders never had a chance.”

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Bernie Sanders wants the head of Democratic Party to resign over leaked emails

Bernie Sanders expressed anger and disappointment on Sunday with internal emails that showed Democratic officials looking for ways to help Hillary Clinton in the primary, rather than remain neutral.

The emails, released by Wikileaks, have caused friction among Democrats, whose leaders are seeking a unified front at the party’s national convention that begins Monday.

For Sanders and his supporters, the emails confirmed their concerns that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, handled the primary unfairly.

“She should resign, period,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think we need a new chair who is going to lead us in a very different direction.”

He continued his criticisms in an interview on CNN.

“We need a party that reaches out to working people and young people, and I don’t think her leadership style is doing that,” Sanders said.

Wasserman Schultz’s role at the convention is being minimized to help “keep the peace,” CNN reported.

Sanders also complimented Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, whom Clinton announced as her running mate on Friday. Some liberal groups have expressed reservations with Clinton’s choice, fearing it represents a more centrist approach for her campaign.

“Tim is an extremely bright guy. An extremely nice guy,” Sanders said, although he added that Kaine is “more conservative than I.”

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Sander said he would have preferred if Clinton had chosen Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite among liberal Democrats, as her running mate.

But he left no doubt about his support for Clinton, calling her “a superior candidate” to Trump “in every way.”

Trump, he said, was “the worst Republican candidate I’ve seen in my lifetime.”

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Hillary Clinton has all kinds of policies — and that’s the problem as she seeks a coherent message

The convention the Republicans just wrapped up in Cleveland, with its prime-time plagiarism, back-stabbing rivals and missing dignitaries, may not be a tough act to follow, but Democrats are nonetheless in a state of high anxiety as the spotlight shifts their way this week.

The party will take the stage for its own presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia at a time Hillary Clinton would be breaking records for unlikability were she not outdone by Donald Trump. In addition to distrusting her, too many voters are not clear about what she stands for and question whether she can bring about the change they crave.

The convention is a crucial opportunity for Clinton to shift the narrative and define herself as something beyond the anti-Trump.

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Opinion: Republicans love their Daddy Trump and despise ‘Crooked Hillary’

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