PHILADELPHIA – Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was sidelined from her party convention just hours before the Monday start of the Philadelphia gathering, after leaked emails indicating an anti-Bernie Sanders bias in her operation inflamed the left flank of the party.
The controversial party boss will no longer preside over the convention, and reportedly does not have a speaking role.
The fallout was swift, as even more emails surfaced Sunday showing Schultz personally blasting the Vermont independent senator’s insurgent primary presidential bid against Hillary Clinton.
In one, she practically laughed off Sanders after he vowed to replace her as DNC chairwoman if elected.
“This is a silly story. He isn't going to be president,” she wrote in the May 21 email.
Following the release of this and numerous other emails in a WikiLeaks document dump, Fox News confirmed Sunday that Wasserman Schultz will not preside over the Democratic convention. The decision was reached amid pressure from the White House and Hillary Clinton campaign.
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Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, the former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, will instead preside over the Democratic proceedings as convention chairwoman.
The rapid-fire set of developments ahead of the Philadelphia convention kick-off indicate a party in crisis management mode as officials try to prevent anger over the email leak controversy and other issues from disrupting proceedings. The emails only bolstered claims from Sanders – and Republican nominee Donald Trump – that the system was rigged against the Vermont senator.
Sanders himself blasted the DNC and Wasserman Schultz in interviews Sunday, demanding her resignation as party chairwoman to boot.
“I think [Wasserman Schultz] should resign. Period. And I think we need a new chair who is going the lead us in a very different direction,” Sanders told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
Sanders said “these emails reiterate that reason why she should not be chair.”
Sanders is himself set to speak on the opening night of the Democratic convention, securing an A-list position after a hard-fought, ideological primary battle with Clinton.
But he hasn’t forgiven Wasserman Schultz for an alleged pro-Clinton stance during the campaign. He repeated those claims in the wake of WikiLeaks’ release of roughly 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails.
The leaks, which include emails from January 2015 to May 2016, purportedly came from the accounts of seven DNC officials. 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.”
Others from Wasserman Schultz herself contained very strong language, raising questions about her status as an ostensibly neutral party official.
Responding to Sanders’ complaints the party hasn’t been fair to him, she wrote to a staffer in an April email: “Spoken like someone who has never been a member of the Democratic Party and has no understanding of what we do.”
Responding to the same staffer a month later regarding Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver blaming the Nevada state party for a raucous convention, she wrote, “Damn liar. Particularly scummy that he barely acknowledges the violent and threatening behavior that occurred.”
Sanders will be joined Monday night on stage at the Wells Fargo Center by first lady Michelle Obama and several other speakers, according to the Democratic National Committee.
CNN reported that Wasserman Schultz, however, would not have a speaking role in Philadelphia. Wasserman Schultz is not on the list of speakers released by the DNC.
A Democratic source told the network that she had been "quarantined."
By contrast, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus delivered an address on the closing night of the GOP convention in Cleveland.
The Democratic National Committee and Wasserman Schultz already were facing internal unrest over party rules, but the email leak aggravated pro-Sanders Democrats even more.
Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, had argued all along that Washington Democrats favored Clinton. Among other decisions, he pointed to Wasserman Schultz’s decision to limit the number of primary debates, which he argued was meant to protect Clinton.
Sanders -- who railed against what he called a “rigged” system throughout his campaign -- has since endorsed Wasserman Schultz’s primary rival in her re-election bid, in another sign of the acrimony between them.
Clinton chief strategist Joel Benenson, on "Fox News Sunday," defended the fairness of the primary elections and said the DNC would conduct a full review of the emails. He said people should not jump to conclusions.
"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.
That Sanders gets a prime-time speaking spot is also significant, considering the rival campaigns for weeks negotiated his primary exit strategy, with Sanders insisting that at least some of his progressive agenda -- including free college education, better international trade deals and more social and economic equality -- be included in the party platform.
He ultimately endorsed Clinton a few weeks ago.
Fox News' Chad Pergram, Garrett Tenney and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.
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