Report

Suspected Russian Hack Claims First Democratic Scalp, as DNC Chair Resigns

Just before the Democratic convention, a likely Russian-orchestrated hack of DNC emails whacks Wasserman Schultz and sows havoc in an already divided party.

GettyImages-DWS

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, announced her resignation on Sunday afternoon, just hours before she was set to bang the gavel to open the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

The Florida congresswoman, who is close to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, became the first, but likely not the last, casualty of the leak of 20,000 DNC emails on Friday afternoon. Russian hackers are believed to be behind it all.

The leaked emails appear to show the DNC plotting against Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, who launched a spirited primary battle to wrest from Clinton leadership of a party he had for years refused to join, until late last year, when he did in order to run for president. The mails show the DNC planning attacks on Sanders’s Jewish faith — which he shares with Wasserman Schultz — which will likely inflame ongoing tensions with Sanders supporters, who have vowed to protest Clinton in Philadelphia, and who have promised to withhold their vote in November.

The leak doesn’t help Clinton’s struggle with perceptions of untrustworthiness, either, stemming in large part from her use of a private email server as secretary of state. Following an exhaustive investigation, FBI Director James Comey recommended no charges, but called Clinton’s handling of email “extremely careless.”

Wasserman Schultz will step down this week after a few ceremonial duties, including opening and closing the convention, and stressed her desire to see Clinton elected president despite the controversies, infighting, and turmoil.

“Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as party chair at the end of this convention,” she said.

Sanders, who will take center stage on the first night of the convention on Monday, said she’d “made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party.”

In the wake of the WikiLeaks data dump, DNC officials and independent analysts have confirmed that the emails were accessed by hackers with support from Moscow. But they have tried to keep their crosshairs on a much bigger Russian threat, namely the deep business ties Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his top campaign officials have with state-owned Russian companies and with many entities in the orbit of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s campaign has been friendly toward Moscow, from the nominee’s own admiration of Putin’s strongman tactics, to campaign chief Paul Manafort’s extensive lobbying and business ties to Kremlin cronies. At the same time, other Trump advisers are knee-deep in other Kremlin business interests, especially Gazprom, the oil and gas giant that is at the sharp end of Putin’s attempts at geopolitics in Europe and in Asia. The National Review, a conservative magazine, concluded that Trump was “the Kremlin’s candidate” months ago.

Trump gave Putin a fist bump with his latest interview in the New York Times where he said that, as president, he might not defend Baltic NATO countries if they came under attack from Russia.

On Sunday, Clinton’s new vice-presidential pick, Sen. Tim Kaine, said the Republican has given “an open invitation to Vladimir Putin to roll on in,” Kaine said. “Even a lot of Republicans say that’s dangerous.”

Trump’s camp struck back just ahead of the Democratic convention. Paul Manafort, who has worked in the past for Angolan strongmen and for Kremlin puppets in Kiev, had some thoughts on the Democrats’ computer security habits.

“Wasserman Schultz’s emails only put the Democratic Party at risk, but Hillary Clinton’s emails put all of America at risk,” Manafort said.

Photo credit: BILL CLARK/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Molly O’Toole is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, covering immigration, refugees, and national security. She was FP’s sole 2016 presidential campaign reporter, on the trail from New Hampshire to Nevada. Previously, she covered the politics of national security for Atlantic Media’s Defense One, where she reported from Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department. Before that, she was a news editor at the Huffington Post. Molly has also reported on national and international politics for Reuters, the Nation, The Associated Press, and Newsweek International, among others, from Washington, New York, Mexico City, and London. She received her dual master’s degree in journalism and international relations from New York University and her bachelor’s from Cornell University and in 2016 was a grant recipient of the International Women’s Media Foundation. She will always be a Californian. @mollymotoole

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola