DNC Kicks Off With Protest & Controversy

     
     (CN) — Democrats opening their national convention in Philadelphia on Monday hoped to present themselves as united, progressive party in marked contrast to the fractious GOP on display in Cleveland last week, but an email scandal, leadership shuffle and thousands of protesters in the streets promises to make this a far more interesting week indeed.
     The resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee on Sunday followed the publication of 19,000 hacked emails which appear to confirm that the national party conspired against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to ensure that Hillary Clinton was the party’s nominee.
     As the controversy over the emails raged over the weekend, Clinton campaign managers claimed the email leak was an effort by Russia to help Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
     “What’s disturbing to us is that experts are telling us Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump,” Mook said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
     “I don’t think it’s coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention,” Mook said.
           Mook offered no hard evidence to back these assertions, however, and when pressed by the show’s host, Jake Tapper, for details, offered only, “I think we need to get to the bottom of these facts. But that’s what the experts are telling us. Experts are telling us it is, in fact, the Russians who hacked these emails.”
     In a sign that the controversy continues unabated, Wasserman Schultz was heckled at a breakfast of Florida delegates, with opponents shouting, “Shame!”
     She told the crowd during a raucous scene that “we have to make sure that we move together in a unified way.”
     But supporters of Bernie Sanders shouted at her during her brief remarks to the breakfast.
     As for Sanders, Wasserman Schultz’s departure was just part of a process that he’s long maintained must occur for the sake of the party.
     “The party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people,” Sanders said.
     Wasserman Schultz reportedly resisted stepping aside until the end finally relenting after receiving a call from President Barack Obama.
     Her departure was undoubtedly an effort to keep the Democrats’ gathering from devolving into the tumult that marred last week’s Republican National Convention, when runner-up Ted Cruz pointedly and publicly refused to endorse nominee Donald Trump.
     Despite the blow up over the emails, Sanders continued to insist over the weekend that he wants to see Clinton win the White House.
     “I’m going to do everything I can to defeat him, to elect Hillary Clinton and to keep focusing, keep focusing on the real issues facing the American people,” Sanders said on CNN.
     Sanders endorsed Clinton two weeks ago after pressing for the party platform to include a $15-an-hour minimum wage, debt-free college and an expansion of access to health care.
     Liberal Sanders supporters pushed for changes to the party nominating process at a meeting of the convention rules committee Saturday. They did not succeed in passing an amendment abolishing superdelegates, but they did win a compromise deal with the Clinton camp — a “unity commission” that will review the overall procedures and will seek to limit the role of superdelegates in future elections.
     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.
     Wasserman Schultz will preside over the convention this week. After it ends, DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile, a veteran Democratic strategist and a familiar face from television, will lead the party on an interim basis.
     Trump, as his custom, took to Twitter this weekend to gloat over the Democratic chaos.
     “The Dems Convention is cracking up,” he tweeted.
     Meanwhile, his top advisor, Paul Manafort, called on Clinton to drop out of the race altogether.
     Sanders will address the convention Monday night, and Obama will speak on Wednesday night. Other high-profile speakers include first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.
     While the Wasserman Schultz’s fate was being hashed out behind closed doors on Sunday, thousands of demonstrators walked Philadelphia’s sweltering streets, marching down the city’s famed Broad Street, cheering, chanting and beating drums — and chanting, “Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary”
     “Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Hillary’s orchestrated collusion cheated thousands of honest Americans, who have invested enormous amounts of money and personal time for real change,” said one of the marchers, Dan Haggerty, 54, an electrician from California, told the Associated Press.
     The demostrations in advance of the Democratic National Convention have so far been much bigger demonstrations than the Republican convention, despite the oppressive heat wave that has enveloped the Northeast.
     The heat wave is not going away anytime soon. It will hit a peak Monday with temperatures in the city possibly reaching 100 degrees but feeling like 108, according to the National Weather Service.
     In one of the largest rallies planned for Monday, a huge contingent of pro-Bernie Sanders group is expected to walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge, which connects Camden, New Jersey, with Philadelphia.
     The demonstrations, largely driven by Sanders supporters, have been peaceful so far.
     On Sunday, throngs of people marched along a main thoroughfare of the city, chanting “Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary” and “This is what democracy looks like.”
     City officials said volunteers will be handing out water to demonstrators all week.
     photo caption:
     Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., march during a protest in downtown on Sunday, July 24, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Democratic National Convention starts Monday in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
     Photo caption 2:
     Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., march during a protest in downtown on Sunday, July 24, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Democratic National Convention starts Monday in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
     
     Democrats are opening their national convention in Philadelphia eager to show off a forward-looking party united behind Hillary Clinton, but they face lingering bitterness among supporters of defeated rival Bernie Sanders and a fresh political mess of the party’s own making.

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