PHILADELPHIA – Donald Trump’s campaign wasted no time Sunday stoking tensions inside the Democratic ranks over Hillary Clinton’s choice of running mate and the leak of party files suggesting some officials worked against Bernie Sanders – with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort saying, “the fix was in from the beginning.”
With the Democratic National Convention set to kick off Monday in Philadelphia, Manafort denied that the Trump campaign was actively prodding Sanders supporters to disrupt the convention.
“We don’t have to egg them, they have a lot to be complaining about,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”
However, he went on to blast the Democratic National Committee over the leaked emails suggesting a pro-Clinton bias, something Sanders backers have charged from the outset.
“Their emails have proven the system was rigged against them from the start,” Manafort said. “The only reason they’re not the nominee is because the superdelegates, who are the … elected officials in the Democratic Party. The fix was in from the beginning.”
Clinton chief strategist Joel Benenson, on the same program, defended the fairness of the primary elections and said the DNC would conduct a full review of the emails. He said people should wait for the review to be completed and not jump to conclusions.
“The issue is these primaries are largely fought out on the ground with voters. The DNC’s impact in these things is minimal compared to the results. What candidates and campaigns spend and do on the ground, talking to voters day in and day out, that’s what determines who wins,” he said.
The leaks, which include emails from January 2015 to May 2016, purportedly came from the accounts of seven DNC officials. In one email, DNC staffers were looking for ways to blunt Sanders’ popularity with Democrats. In a May 5 email, a DNC employee asked a colleague to collect information on his religious beliefs – claiming it might sway voters in West Virginia and Kentucky. In that particular email, Sanders name was not mentioned, but he was the only other candidate in the race at that time against Clinton.
DNC chief financial officer Brad Marshall wrote, “This would make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”
The emails fueled tensions in Saturday’s session of the party’s so-called Rules Committee, where the role of superdelegates was a major sticking point. There, the Sanders and Clinton campaigns worked out an agreement to form a “unity commission” to revisit the role of superdelegates -- party insiders and officials free to support whichever candidate they want, and who largely went for Clinton in the 2016 primary. The same committee, though, angered Sanders supporters by defeating a push to abolish superdelegates entirely.
Meanwhile, liberal groups and pro-Sanders delegates and activists are unhappy over Clinton’s selection of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as running mate, a choice blasted on the left as too moderate.
Sanders himself also told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would have preferred to see Clinton pick Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren over Kaine.
Trump ribbed Clinton over the pick on Twitter, writing: “The Bernie Sanders supporters are furious with the choice of Tim Kaine, who represents the opposite of what Bernie stands for. Philly fight?”
Manafort said the Democratic ticket represents the “establishment” and the “status quo.”
“He’s been mayor, governor, senator, he has no idea how to create jobs, nor does Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Benenson defended the Kaine choice, and also said that Kaine, who once supported the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, is now in line with Clinton in wanting to seek changes.
“[Trade deals] have to protect American workers, protect jobs, make sure that they don’t reduce wages, they raise wages in America, and protect our national security. She is confident that Tim Kaine is in line with her in making sure that any trade deal that this administration engages in will meet those criteria,” he said.