News leaks web site Wikileaks published a massive cache of 20,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) e-mails on 22 July 2016, just days before the start of the Democratic National Convention.
Interested parties immediately began sorting through the mountain of communications between DNC staffers and contacts such as news media personnel and lawmakers. In the first few hours after the dump occurred, several documents were flagged as particularly noteworthy, primarily because the DNC outwardly maintained they favored neither of the leading Democratic candidates (i.e., Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders) and had attended to both equally.
In a 26 April 2016 e-mail written for attribution to DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the committee drafted an announcement that Sen. Bernie Sanders had dropped out of contention for the Democratic nomination (even though Sanders did not drop out of the race and remained an active candidate as of 22 July 2016):
Hi all — We are starting to plan ahead with messaging to our supporters for the end of the primary and transition to the general.
Below are a handful of emails and graphic copy for the initial few days of that change, arranged below in the order in which we’ll send them as we’ve laid out in a memo to Amy:
* Emails from DWS thanking Bernie (similar to what we did when MOM dropped out)
* Copy for unity-themed graphics
* Hillary emails from Amy (our first Hillary-focused emails)
* Hillary graphic copy
* Emails from POTUS for when he endorses
Sender: Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Subject: Friend … I want to thank Bernie Sanders for bringing them to the forefront of his campaign and putting these Democratic values we share into the spotlight. I want to thank him for his unwavering commitment to equality for all and his dedication to improving the lives of Americans everywhere. For his insistence that we can do better. Because I agree — we can do better, and we must do better, for the sake of every parent who wants their kids’ lives to be a little brighter, for every student who wants to reach higher and go further, and for every person who sees this country as a place with opportunity for all. NAME, as a presidential candidate and as a member of Congress for more than two decades, Bernie Sanders has excited the people of this country, and I know he’ll continue to, no matter what he does next. So as he ends his campaign today, add your name to mine to thank him for everything[.]
A second version from the same April 2016 chain of e-mails read:
Today, as he suspends his presidential campaign, I want to thank Bernie Sanders for his everything he has brought to this race — and I want you to join me … Thanks … now onward to November and victory! Debbie
Despite the DNC’s repeated discussion of Clinton’s presumptive win, a 6 May 2016 DNC e-mail labeled media allegations that the committee was planning on a Clinton nomination as “#bernieclickbait.” In another message, DNC operatives discussed a Politico item about Clinton that was provided to the DNC for review before publication. That e-mail included National Press Secretary and Deputy Communications Director Mark Paustenbach, whose fingerprints appeared on more than a few of the controversial communications.
Another message involved what appeared to be a competing “narrative” regarding a controversial claim over chairs supposedly thrown by Sanders supporters at a Nevada caucus that was debunked on 19 May 2016. On 21 May 2016, Paustenbach pitched an idea to fellow DNC member Luis Miranda for a planted story maligning the Sanders campaign:
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.
Specifically, DWS had to call Bernie directly in order to get the campaign to do things because they’d either ignored or forgotten to something critical.
She had to call Bernie after the data breach to make his staff to respond to our concerns. Even then they didn’t get back to us, which is why we had to shut off their access in order to get them to finally let us know exactly how they snooped around HFA’s data.
Same was true with the standing committee appointments. They never got back to us with their names (HFA and even O’Malley got there’s in six weeks earlier) for the committees. So, again, the chair had to call Bernie personally for his staff to finally get us critical information. So, they gave us an awful list just a few days before we had to make the announcements.
It’s not a DNC conspiracy, it’s because they never had their act together.
Miranda responded by saying that:
True, but the Chair has been advised to not engage.
So we’ll have to leave it alone.
Miranda and Paustenbach were also copied in on a particularly troublesome 5 May 2016 message during which staffer Brad Marshall appeared to suggest finding a reporter to highlight Sanders’ Jewish heritage and question his faith:
It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.
Staffer Amy K. Dacey responded to that message with: “AMEN.”
A 19 May 2016 e-mail raised questions about the proper handling of funds by the DNC and the Clinton campaign, in which one staffer appeared to admonish another staffer for leaving a paper record of potentially prohibited funds transfers. In another message sent ahead of the Rhode Island primary, staffers discussed “getting out ahead” of anticipated outcry over insufficient polling places to support presumptive Sanders voters (he led by four points in that state) even though the state’s governor was “one of ours.”
On 11 May 2016, Miranda told a Wall Street Journal reporter that the inclusion of Sanders’ delegates in standing committees was a courtesy performed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In a follow-up message, Miranda affirmatively employed the “no fingerprints” strategy of press engagement, nudging and winking about their information exchange having been made in “in good faith“:
Wikileaks themselves highlighted several specific e-mails via Twitter:
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 22, 2016
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 22, 2016
A searchable archive of the leaked messages is hosted here.