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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) — Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced she is stepping down as Democratic Party chairwoman at the end of this week’s convention.
The Florida congresswoman has been under fire following the publication of hacked emails suggesting the Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton in the presidential primaries.
That prompted runner-up Bernie Sanders to call Sunday for Wasserman Schultz’s immediate resignation.
In a statement, Wasserman Schultz says she still plans to fulfill her duties formally opening and closing the convention in Philadelphia. She also says she will speak at the four-day gathering.
Sanders stepped up his demands that the party’s chairwoman step down after 19,000 emails were published on the website Wikileaks that suggested the Democratic National Committee played favorites during the primary, when Sanders fell short against Hillary Clinton.
In one leaked email, a DNC official wondered whether Sanders’ religious beliefs could be used against him, questioning whether the candidate may be an atheist.
Another showed the depths the party allegedly went to in order to capture a growing community of Americans.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 24, 2016
In televised interviews Sunday, the Vermont senator said the emails proved what he knew was true: The DNC planned to support former Secretary of State Clinton from the start.
“I’m not shocked, but I’m disappointed” by the exchanges in the emails, Sanders told ABC’s “This Week.”
“The role of the party chair is to be 100 percent neutral, 100 percent objective,” said political analyst Fernand Amandi. “And I think the email suggested that, in the case of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC, they weren’t. And that’s she won’t be the DNC chair going into the election in November.”
Sanders pressed for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., to quit as chairwoman immediately and suggested that Clinton’s choice of running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, was a disappointment and that he would have preferred Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of liberals.
“His political views are not my political views. He is more conservative than I am. Would I have preferred to see somebody like an Elizabeth Warren selected by Secretary Clinton? Yes, I would have,” Sanders told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 23, 2016
The Clinton team worked to portray their party’s convention in a different light from the just concluded Republican gathering in Cleveland, where Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination but party divisions flared when his chief rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, refused to endorse the billionaire businessman.
Following the resignation, Clinton thanked Wasserman Schultz for her leadership and added that she would serve as honorary chair of the Clinton campaign’s 50-state program “to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country,” including serving as “a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states.”
Clinton said she’d also be supporting her re-election bid for Congress.
Others argue Wasserman Schultz’s political career is in jeopardy.
“I think for Florida it’s a big setback because, as party chair, Florida had extra consideration with Debbie Wasserman Schultz representing them,” added Amandi. “But now the task for Schultz is to make sure she can hold onto her seat and contain the damage. Because she may be out of a job come September 1st.”
Tim Canova, who’s challenging Wasserman Schultz in the Florida Democratic Party’s primary election on August 30th, said there’s a lot of fence-mending that has to take place in Philadelphia in the aftermath of what’s happened.
“We’re facing more stress and drama at the convention than we should be,” said the District 23 candidate. “This should be a time when the party unites behind a leader. And instead we’re talking about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her failed leadership in the DNC.”
Trump cast himself as the law-and-order candidate in a nation suffering under crime and hobbled by immigration, as the GOP convention stuck to a gloom-and-doom theme. Democrats said they wanted to convey a message of optimism and improving the lives of all Americans.
But party disunity also seems to be a factor in Philadelphia, given Sanders’ demands for a new leader and general unhappiness among his many supporters about how the nomination process unfolded.
Norman Solomon, a delegate who supports Bernie Sanders, says there is talk among Sanders’ delegates of walking out during Kaine’s acceptance speech or turning their backs as a show of protest.
Solomon said he believes a “vast majority” of Sanders delegates support these kinds of protests to express their dismay. Sanders’ supporters say they are concerned that Kaine is not progressive enough.
Dan O’Neal, 68, is a retired school teacher and delegate from Arizona, said Wasserman Schultz has to be censured.
“We knew they were stacking the deck against Bernie from the get-go, but this type of stuff coming out is outrageous,” he said. “It proves our point that they’ve tried to marginalize him and make it as difficult as possible.”
Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, agreed, saying Sanders’ supporters “have a lot to complain about.”
“The emails have proven the system was rigged from the start,” Manafort told “Fox News Sunday.”
Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, tried to shift blame away from DNC officials to “Russian state actors” who, he said, may have hacked into DNC computers “for the purpose of helping Donald Trump,” the Republican presidential nominee.
How the emails were stolen hasn’t been confirmed.
“It was concerning last week that Donald Trump changed the Republican platform to become what some experts would regard as pro-Russian,” Mook said.
Clinton is within just days of her long-held ambition to become the party’s official presidential nominee.
After the DNC released a slightly trimmed list of superdelegates — those are the party officials who can back any candidate — it now takes 2,382 delegates to formally clinch the nomination. Clinton has 2,814 when including superdelegates, according to an Associated Press count. Sanders has 1,893.
Sanders has endorsed Clinton, but his delegates are pushing for a state-by-state tally. The state-by-state roll call is scheduled for Tuesday.
Also Sunday, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, were back at their longtime church in Richmond, Virginia, a day after he made his campaign debut with Clinton.
Kaine, a former choir member at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, sang a solo during Communion. He later told reporters outside the church: “We needed some prayers today and we got some prayers, and we got some support and it really feels good.”
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)