Senior officials at the Democratic National Committee actively plotted to sink Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, saying in private emails the Vermont senator was "not going to be president," and pushing a narrative to tell voters that Sanders is "an atheist" instead of "a Jew."
That's according to a trove of 20,000 emails released on July 22 by WikiLeaks, taken from the DNC's servers by a hacker who goes by the handle "Guccifer 2.0." The trove is the first of what WikiLeaks calls the "Hillary Leaks," a reported series of leaked documents that the group said it plans to release in segments as the Democrats prepare for their national convention on July 25 in Cleveland.
Without mentioning Sanders by name, Brad Marshall, the DNC's chief financial officer, floated the idea of enlisting reporters to question Sanders' religion.
“It might [make] no difference, but for [Kentucky and West Virginia] can we get someone to ask his belief," Marshall wrote. "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."
"AMEN," Amy Dacey, another senior DNC official, wrote in response to Marshall's suggestion.
Marshall told The Hill he doesn't remember the email, and denied he was talking about Sanders. Marshall said he was talking about "a surrogate," but did not respond to questions about the "surrogate" when contact by a reporter from The Intercept. As The Intercept noted, Sanders was the only Jewish candidate from either major party in the 2016 primaries.
Other emails show the DNC pressuring media outlets to soften coverage of Hillary Clinton's campaign and change stories that suggested the DNC was working against Sanders, according to excerpts published by The Hill.
"This headline needs to be changed," DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz wrote to staffers, referring to a Real Clear Politics story that included references to the DNC interfering in the controversial Nevada primary.
In that primary, the Sanders campaign cried foul, accusing state party leaders of rigging the process and disqualifying delegates who supported Sanders. After a series of email exchanges in which Wasserman-Schultz instructed a staffer to contact Real Clear Politics and have the story changed, the staffer replied: "Done. Article has been updated."
In another email, Wasserman-Schultz complained to NBC anchor Chuck Todd, saying she was unhappy with stories reporting that the Sanders campaign was accusing the DNC of bias.
"Chuck, this must stop," Wasserman-Schultz wrote.
The party chairwoman also complained that Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," had been critical of her. Brzezinski's critcism was the "LAST straw," Wasserman-Schultz wrote, telling her communications director, Luis Miranda, to call the network and demand an apology.
When the network offered to connect Wasserman-Schultz with Brzezinski so she could speak directly to the host, Wasserman-Schultz said she didn't trust Brzezinski, and questioned whether "she even matters."
Media personalities and journalists weren't the only targets of Wasserman-Schultz's wrath, emails reprinted by The Intercept show. When Sanders campaign chairman Jeff Weaver appeared on several cable TV news shows to refute claims that Sanders supporters had turned violent during the Nevada primary, Wasserman-Schultz seethed in an email exchange with staffers.
“Damn liar," she wrote. "Particularly scummy that he barely acknowledges the violent and threatening behavior that occurred.”
Sanders himself had not publicly responded to the leaked emails as of late afternoon on July 22, hours after the trove was released by WikiLeaks.