Donna Brazile's shocking revelations about how the Clinton campaign rigged the 2016 primary to favor Hillary and disadvantage the insurgent press of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders have exposed a divide in the Democratic Party that is manifesting itself in the stark difference in tone between establishment figures, who've crticized Brazile and sought to rebut her claims, and members of the party's progressive wing, who've offered messages of support.
Nowhere is this contrast more evident than in the responses from Tom Perez, who took over from Brazile as permanent DNC Chairman late last year, and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who had challenged Perez's bid for the chairmanship of the party.
As USA Today pointed out, at issue are the joint funding agreements signed by the presidential campaigns for Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, which allowed whoever won the nomination to take control of the party. Perez explained in a statement that the joint fundraising agreements were the same for both Clinton and Sanders.
While both men pledged to reform the party in the wake of revelations that Obama left it in debt and that it was financially ill-prepared for the 2016 race,
"Our understanding was that the DNC offered all of the presidential campaigns the opportunity to set up a JFA and work with the DNC to coordinate on how those funds were used to best prepare for the general election," Perez said.
Here's a note Tom Perez sent out to DNC members. Says agreement was same for both Clinton and Sanders campaigns pic.twitter.com/9VfHjuLHto
— Scott Detrow (@scottdetrow) November 3, 2017
Meanwhile, Ellison, who was handed the party vice-chairmanship as a sop following his surprisingly strong challenge against Perez, said in a statement published by the Washington Post that Brazile's allegatins shouldn't be ignored.
"We must heed the call for our party to enact real reforms that ensure a fair, open and impartial nominating process in elections to come," he said in a statement published Friday by The Washington Post.
"I'm committed to working with Chairman Perez to make the DNC more transparent and accountable to the American people, whether that's by ensuring that debates are scheduled far ahead of time or by guaranteeing that the terms of joint fundraising agreements give no candidate undue control or influence over the party."
Still, both Perez and Ellison emphasized that they would work with the DNC's Unity Reform Commission on reforms for the party.
Meanwhile, Perez appeared on NBC's State of the Union to push back against Brazile's claims about Clinton's health.
"She was tireless she was a workhorse what saddens me more than anything is that after people read that….they’ll start wondering about other claims in the book."
In an interview, former Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said that the JFA, by its nature, benefited the candidate who could set up high-dollar fundraisers, and that the DNC did not help Sanders organize large donors.
“Who are the wealthy people Bernie was going to bring to a fundraiser?” Weaver asked. “They never set up a single event.”
Zerlina Maxwell, formerly the director of progressive media for the Clinton campaign, took to CBS to respond to Brazile's claims. The aide's tone was critical, but during the interview, she appeared to corroborate what Brazile said.
“She is correct that under Obama the DNC languished and that DWS didn’t do a good enough job. The committee was broke when the 2016 election came around.
Maxwell added that relitigating the 2016 race doesn't help the party move forward.
“As a party, relitigating 2016 doesn’t get us anywhere.”
She also made the absurd claim that the party was too broke and incompetent to rig the primary.
"The Democratic party was broke; they didn’t have the capacity to rig the election against Bernie. I think the timing couldn’t be worse in terms of where the party needs to go going forward. We need space for us to be more transparent as a party and focus on what the opposition is, which is the Trump administration, and the policies they’re putting forward."
Overall, some of her rebuttals echoed those listed in an open letter to Brazile signed by more than 100 Clinton campaign staffers.
Most notably, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the party needs to change its procedures for selecting candidates, and if changes aren't made the party will have "a real problem."
"My reaction to it is the conversation I had with Tom Perez...I said look Tom your number one job is to bring in Bernie and Bernie supporters and the people in this country who don't have confidence in the Democratic Party and its process...you need to ensure that the Democratic party works for the people...not the other way around."
Warren added that Perez is "being tested" and that there are negotiations going on to possibly change the rules surrounding the selection of the next nominee, and that the rules going forward "are rules that are fair for everyone."
The DNC will meet next month to hear recommendations from a “unity commission” that has met four times, in four cities, to research problems with the primary process and debate reforms. Multiple state Democratic chairs are lobbying specifically for new language in the party bylaws about JFAs, an issue that might be forced at a later meeting.