Morning Joe Grills Brazile, Joe Insists DNC-Clinton 'Rigged' Primaries 'From Day One'

On Wednesday’s Morning Joe, the panel brought on former DNC chair Donna Brazile to discuss her explosive new book alleging that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee unethically colluded to merge their operations in 2015 before the Democratic presidential primaries had even started. Although the hosts repeatedly pressed Brazile to affirm that the primaries were “rigged,” Brazile denied this. Nevertheless, she still reserved seriously harsh criticism for her party, describing the Clinton-DNC deal as “cancerous” and labeling the Clinton campaign an impenetrable “cult.”

 

 

The interview began with a discussion of the recent Democratic successes in state and local elections across the country, which the liberal panelists were quite happy about. However, the conversation quickly moved on to the meat of the segment, which was Brazile’s book (and the Politico article that drew attention to it):

WILLIE GEIST: We got a lot of people want to ask you questions about the book. I'll go first. Let me just ask you how this all started, with last week with the Politico piece that exploded online and got picked up all across the country. In it you wrote, in part: “I had promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton's team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested...I needed to have solid proof...By September 7... I had found my proof and it broke my heart.” [above emphasis from MJ] You -- and that’s our emphasis by the way on the graphic with the bold. You’ve said since that you never said that the process was rigged. But if you read that, the premise is that you went out to look and see if it was rigged.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

GEIST: And then later in that paragraph you say: I “found my proof.”

DONNA BRAZILE: [interjecting] Cancer.

GEIST: Did you not find your proof that the process was rigged?

Although Brazile’s brief interjection clearly showed the first indication of how she would later characterize the DNC-Clinton deal, the rest of her immediate response to Geist avoided giving a direct answer to his question for a long time. When Geist stepped in to get a more on-point response from Brazile, the exchange between them got pretty heated:

GEIST: [interjecting] But in the -- Donna-.

BRAZILE: But it's a cancer. We were -- the process was not rigged. I had to make it clear to him I found the cancer. You know what Bernie did after we talked about it? Bernie said: Madam chair, what do you think about the polls? I said: Honey, you know I don't trust no polls. And I said: I am afraid that there's no enthusiasm. So the rig -- yeah, go ahead.

GEIST: [interrupting] So, Donna, in the Politico piece, did -- do you regret using the word "rigged" then? It's a very loaded term-

BRAZILE: It’s a loaded -- yeah.

GEIST: -and it suggests that the process was, was weighted toward one candidate over the other.

BRAZILE: [talking over Willie] Because if read an excerpt, if you read the excerpt without the context -- I learned the hard way, ‘cause you know I had to go out there on Twitter and I had to put: I did not say the process was rigged. I said: I went to find out if it was rigged.

GEIST: [interrupting] But then you said you came back and called Bernie after you “found your proof,” proof of-

BRAZILE: Cancer, that there was cancer.

GEIST: But you said proof of it being rigged in the piece, no?

BRAZILE: I said -- no. I -- you -- Willie, I got to show you -- you know, I got little Saint Anthony here, honey. And I said: “I would get to the bottom of whether” or not “Hillary's [...] team had rigged the” party process in her favor. And so -- and then I went back and I said: “By September 7,” I found, “the day I” was making this call to “Bernie, I had found my proof and” what I had found “broke my heart.” I thought the party I had given so much of my life to was better than this. I asked God to, you know-.

GEIST: [interrupting] So what did you, what did you find your proof of? Proof- [makes quizzical facial expression].

BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] I [inaudible] about this.

BRAZILE: The cancer. The cancer was that the DNC had signed the -- the staff of the DNC, not an officer, Debbie was a off- -- the staff had signed a memorandum with the staff of the Clinton campaign to take over certain departments in exchange for bailing us out. And also I end up saying in the book that Hillary bailed us -- she bailed us out. I mean, she put us on a starvation diet, that's Hillary, but she bailed the party out.

GEIST: But so then, this agreement was -- okay, let's say, let’s say it wasn't rigged.

BRAZILE: [interrupting] I found it to be a can- -- it was cancerous.

GEIST: [talking under Brazile] This agreement put in place by the Clinton campaign was a cancer.

BRZEZINSKI: [tries to talk over Geist] Which is a bad [inaudible].

BRAZILE: [cuts in over Geist and Brzezinski] Because it stopped me from doing my job. It stopped me from doing my job as chair.

GEIST: Right.

BRAZILE: Willie, when you're the chair of the party, just like when you own anything, you own a house, you get in there, you got the key, you know, you got the checkbook–I didn't have the key or the checkbook.

Evidently, Brazile preferred to emphasize that she thought the deal was bad because it prevented her from being able to do her job effectively, but Geist’s questions pressing her to directly address her words from the Politico piece were very justified. Brazile’s language on its face seemed quite clear in saying that she had found some “proof” of “rigging,” notwithstanding her insistence to the contrary. Still, Brazile’s characterization of the deal as a “cancer” within the party apparatus didn’t exactly make Democrats look good either, so her semantic hedging wasn’t that significant.

Later in the interview, frequent Morning Joe guest Mike Barnicle had a pointed question for Brazile:

Why is it that you and several other people, who I respect greatly, could not get to the Clinton campaign two, three weeks out before the election with the fact that they were incompetent, that they were depending on algorithms rather than common sense, that they had no sense of scheduling going to industrial states like Wisconsin, Ohio? Why is it that so many people either were mute, reluctant, or unable to crash into that inner circle and tell ‘em: You're gonna lose the election?

Brazile’s revealing response highlighted how she felt mistreated by a campaign that was indeed, as Barnicle suggested, something of a cultish “inner circle”:

Let me, you know, Mike, everybody knows, I, you know, I, Mika, forgive me, but you know I'm a little Catholic girl. You know, I cuss and I go to church every Saturday or Sunday, say: bless me, father, I have sinned. I try, okay? They had a maniacal focus on 270. It was their strategy. It was their plan. And I said to them: I understand. But I'm going to Colorado. I'm going to Florida. I'm in Pennsylvania. I'm in North Caro- -- I’m in these states. I wasn't just sitting in Washington, D.C.. But I couldn’t -- you could not crack them. And if I went back and said: I need some pollsters. I need -- people are calling me in Little Haiti. They want some radio spots. Madam chair, it's okay. It was so condescending. And Mika, you know what I did last week, ‘cause you know I'm this kind of girl, I went over and told Robby: My book is coming out. I text people. I call them. I'm not scared. And I say: The book is coming out; it's gonna be a little controversial, gonna be a little hot, ‘cause, you know, it's dripping with a little hot sauce. And you know what they did? The same thing they did to me last year. Which really made me mad. They did this [makes dismissive hand wave gesture].

Brazile went on to boost her credentials as someone who truly “wanted Hillary to win” (which did appear genuine). Brazile also emphasized that, in regard to Clinton’s chances of victory: “We never had a chance because [Hillary] didn't compete in places where people didn't get the message.” This was in reference to the Clinton campaign’s systematic failure to reach out to rust-belt states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that ultimately went for Trump.

Scarborough picked up on this point a few minutes later and added to it by driving home the argument that Clinton’s campaign acted in this way because they did not listen to any criticism of their strategy:

[I]t wasn’t just people on TV talking about how Hillary Clinton's team wasn't getting it. You had Bill Clinton being concerned, you know, we found out later, warning ‘em in August. Joe Biden warning anybody who would listen. They’re gonna, you know, you're gonna lose Pennsylvania if you guys don't start figuring out how to run there more effectively. We had Ed Rendell on during the DNC basically saying: Hillary was gonna lose Pennsylvania. And I'm just wondering, how did that bubble, Donna, how did they encase themself [sic] in that bubble in Brooklyn that stopped them from listening to people like Ed Rendell, Bill Clinton, you? Democrats who had a track record of winning, instead saying: oh, you know, we're just doing analytics. We don't need polls. No we're gonna go to Iowa. We don't need to go up to Michigan. No, we're not gonna lose Wisconsin. She doesn't need to travel there. A year later, Donald Trump is president, I still believe, not because of Donald Trump, but because of mistakes that the Clinton campaign made, as well as James Comey, as well as the Russians. I'll put it all in there. But it should have never been a close race.

Brazile concurred: “That’s your gumbo. I agree with you on that, Joe.”

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Scarborough pushed onwards from his long setup to the question that he really wanted to ask Brazile, and her response was pretty damning for Clinton and her close advisers:

SCARBOROUGH: So bottom line it for us. Bottom line it for us, why did they lose? Was it, at the end of the day, arrogance?

BRAZILE: Yes, Joe. I-- it was a cult. I felt like it was a cult. You could not penetrate them. I mean, I -- look, you can -- I'm a grassroot [sic] organizer. I know street politics better than I know sweet politics. I know how to touch people where they live, work, play, and pray. But I cannot do any- -- I cannot help a candidate, Joe, if I don't have the resources, if I cannot spend the resources that the party is raising [...].

Brazile went on to proclaim that the future of the Democratic Party would be “coming from the bottom up. It’s not coming from the top-down anymore.” She also maintained that her primary motivation was to “mak[e] much-needed changes and reform inside the party,” not destroy it.

To close out the interview, Scarborough passionately expressed his frustrations with Democrats refusing to admit their part in fixing the Democratic primaries and made an unequivocal declaration that those contests were “rigged” “from day one”:

SCARBOROUGH: And, Mika, we can talk about this agreement all we want to until, as we used to say, ‘till the cows come home.

BRZEZINSKI:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH: But you remember the Iowa caucuses? Do you remember the Democratic leader out in Iowa who was a Clinton supporter rushing out to call the election against Bernie Sanders for Hillary Clinton?

BRZEZINSKI: Yes.

SCARBOROUGH: Do you remember when the debates were scheduled up against NFL games? Do you remember every decision, large and small,-

BRZEZINSKI: Meetings on a Saturday, with [trails off].

SCARBOROUGH: -it was meant -- meeting, yeah. It was always meant to rig the process against Bernie Sanders.

BRZEZINSKI: [turning to Brazile] Our word, not yours.

SCARBOROUGH: And you know what? We can go and we can have all of these legal arguments, we can have all these semantic arguments, we can go through all these machinations, but, you know what? The Democrats need to stop pretending this didn't happen with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz every step of the way. And if they do that and if they face that reality, then they'll face 2018 a little bit stronger. But, man, it was rigged in ways large and small from day one.

Some liberals have already taken extreme exception to the idea of Morning Joe even having Brazile on to discuss her book. For example, Peter Daou, former 2008 Clinton campaign advisor, said: “Is #MorningJoe REALLY pushing the "rigged DNC" storyline the morning after Dems had sweeping victories? What a joke. An obvious agenda to undercut Dems.”

A partial transcript of the interview follows below:

7:29 AM EST

WILLIE GEIST: We got a lot of people want to ask you questions about the book. I'll go first. Let me just ask you how this all started, with last week with the Politico piece that exploded online and got picked up all across the country. In it you wrote, in part: “I had promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton's team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested...I needed to have solid proof...By September 7... I had found my proof and it broke my heart.” [above emphasis from MJ] You -- and that’s our emphasis by the way on the graphic with the bold. You’ve said since that you never said that the process was rigged. But if you read that, the premise is that you went out to look and see if it was rigged.
                                    
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

GEIST: And then later in that paragraph you say: I “found my proof.”

DONNA BRAZILE: [interjecting] Cancer.

GEIST: Did you not find your proof that the process was rigged?

BRAZILE: My, my -- what I found and what I said in the book–and I stand by what I wrote in the book–I found out, because -- look, it started with August 19th. That was the night that Donald Trump said: what the hell do you all have to lose?

BRZEZINSKI: Right.

BRAZILE: I was so angry. First of all, he was coming at the black vote. He was coming at the Democratic Party and I wanted to fight back. And, All I could do was write a column. I say: What the hell, I need to do more than write a column. And so, I say: I need to spend some money. Donald Trump is trying to reach those voters that we need to win on election day. And when I was told that there was no money, I'm like: Wait a minute, I'm the chair; I'm raising money. And that's when I found this joint fund-raising agreement. But the addendum -- and that, that disturbed me. It disturbed me because I am an officer of the Democratic Party. I'm no longer an officer, I know y'all are happy. I got the dance party going on. But I found this and it disturbed me. And it made me mad because I didn't know. I was an officer. I had no idea there was a separate memorandum. And so, I felt obligated to go back to Bernie because I had promised Bernie and his supporters -- remember, the day I became chair, I was on my apology tour, which I’m still on, I guess I’m still on an apology tour. But I went back and I said: Bernie, I found, I found what you wanted me to find.

GEIST: [interjecting] But in the -- Donna-.

BRAZILE: But it's a cancer. We were -- the process was not rigged. I had to make it clear to him I found the cancer. You know what Bernie did after we talked about it? Bernie said: Madam chair, what do you think about the polls? I said: Honey, you know I don't trust no polls. And I said: I am afraid that there's no enthusiasm. So the rig -- yeah, go ahead.

GEIST: [interrupting] So, Donna, in the Politico piece, did -- do you regret using the word "rigged" then? It's a very loaded term-

BRAZILE: It’s a loaded -- yeah.

GEIST: -and it suggests that the process was, was weighted toward one candidate over the other.

BRAZILE: [talking over Willie] Because if read an excerpt, if you read the excerpt without the context -- I learned the hard way, ‘cause you know I had to go out there on Twitter and I had to put: I did not say the process was rigged. I said: I went to find out if it was rigged.

GEIST: [interrupting] But then you said you came back and called Bernie after you “found your proof,” proof of-

BRAZILE: Cancer, that there was cancer.

GEIST: But you said proof of it being rigged in the piece, no?

BRAZILE: I said -- no. I -- you -- Willie, I got to show you -- you know, I got little Saint Anthony here, honey. And I said: “I would get to the bottom of whether” or not “Hillary's [...] team had rigged the” party process in her favor. And so -- and then I went back and I said: “By September 7,” I found, “the day I” was making this call to “Bernie, I had found my proof and” what I had found “broke my heart.” I thought the party I had given so much of my life to was better than this. I asked God to, you know-.

GEIST: [interrupting] So what did you, what did you find your proof of? Proof- [makes quizzical facial expression].

BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] I [inaudible] about this.

BRAZILE: The cancer. The cancer was that the DNC had signed the -- the staff of the DNC, not an officer, Debbie was a off- -- the staff had signed a memorandum with the staff of the Clinton campaign to take over certain departments in exchange for bailing us out. And also I end up saying in the book that Hillary bailed us -- she bailed us out. I mean, she put us on a starvation diet, that's Hillary, but she bailed the party out.

GEIST: But so then, this agreement was -- okay, let's say, let’s say it wasn't rigged.

BRAZILE: [interrupting] I found it to be a can- -- it was cancerous.

GEIST: [talking under Brazile] This agreement put in place by the Clinton campaign was a cancer.

BRZEZINSKI: [tries to talk over Geist] Which is a bad [inaudible].

BRAZILE: [cuts in over Geist and Brzezinski] Because it stopped me from doing my job. It stopped me from doing my job as chair.

GEIST: Right.

BRAZILE: Willie, when you're the chair of the party, just like when you own anything, you own a house, you get in there, you got the key, you know, you got the checkbook–I didn't have the key or the checkbook. And meanwhile, we were being hacked, we were being hacked by the Russians. They were comin’ after us like you know what. And all I needed was the ability to raise money and to fight because I wanted Hillary to win. I wanted Democrats across the country to win. I wanted to motivate and energize this party, but I had no, I had -- you know what they told me? Madam chair, we'll give you two million. I said: I need eight. Two. Eight. Two. Eig- -- I want my money. ‘Cause I wanted to fight.

(...)

7:36 AM

MIKE BARNICLE: Why is it that you and several other people, who I respect greatly, could not get to the Clinton campaign two, three weeks out before the election with the fact that they were incompetent, that they were depending on algorithms rather than common sense, that they had no sense of scheduling going to industrial states like Wisconsin, Ohio? Why is it that so many people either were mute, reluctant, or unable to crash into that inner circle and tell ‘em: You're gonna lose the election?

BRAZILE: Let me, you know, Mike, everybody knows, I, you know, I, Mika, forgive me, but you know I'm a little Catholic girl. You know, I cuss and I go to church every Saturday or Sunday, say: bless me, father, I have sinned. I try, okay? They had a maniacal focus on 270. It was their strategy. It was their plan. And I said to them: I understand. But I'm going to Colorado. I'm going to Florida. I'm in Pennsylvania. I'm in North Caro- -- I’m in these states. I wasn't just sitting in Washington, D.C.. But I couldn’t -- you could not crack them. And if I went back and said: I need some pollsters. I need -- people are calling me in Little Haiti. They want some radio spots. Madam chair, it's okay. It was so condescending. And Mika, you know what I did last week, ‘cause you know I'm this kind of girl, I went over and told Robby: My book is coming out.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, right.

BRAZILE: I text people. I call them. I'm not scared. And I say: The book is coming out; it's gonna be a little controversial, gonna be a little hot, ‘cause, you know, it's dripping with a little hot sauce. And you know what they did? The same thing they did to me last year. Which really made me mad. They did this [makes dismissive hand wave gesture]. So, I wanted Hillary to win. I still -- I mean, one year ago, I'm sitting here, somewhere in Manhattan, in the Ballroom, and I'm hearing from people in Durham, North Carolina. They're in line. The polls are not open. The machines are down. I'm calling up to the high command. Guess what guys? We got a problem. We got a problem. Oh, we gonna fix it. The night of the election, I'm still on the phone in Detroit. Turnout is low. I'm still trying to get people to turn out. I'm still trying to get people in Flint. Now don't make me cry ‘cause it's too early to cry, ‘cause I ain't got nothing that this man has in his cup [referring to John Heilemann’s coffee], but let me tell you what made me so mad. We never had a chance because they didn't compete in places where people didn't get the message. If they would have heard from the campaign, if somebody would have said: Mika, I need your help -- I gotta say one last thing. Don't underestimate the Russians and what they did. You see, I can tell that story, ‘cause they corrupted our entire data. They corrupted our data bank. They corrupted our files. They were in our files until October 21st. And they were mean. They took stuff -- they took more than our emails. They wiped out our files. And I had to make a decision.

(...)

7:40 AM

GEIST: Was it [the primaries] a fair fight, yes or no?

BRAZILE: I believe it was a fair fight because ultimately the voters decided.

GEIST: Between Bernie and Hillary, it was a fair fight?

BRZEZINSKI: No, it was not.

BRAZILE: Well, I mean-.

BRZEZINSKI: I was saying that in real time.

BRAZILE: Okay, you see, you see,-

SCARBOROUGH: Come on.

BRAZILE: -you know, was it fair? How -- what do you mean?

GEIST: Well, you’ve suggested the financial agreement gave her an advantage. So was it a fair fight?

BRAZILE: [starts talking over Geist] The caucus? But what -- it gave, it gave, it gave her a strategic advantage on starting the general election internally in terms of putting resources into, what, investigating Donald Trump, you know, doing research on Donald Trump. That's what I found.

(...)

7:41 AM

JOE SCARBOROUGH: And you saw it time and time again. And it wasn't just, you know, it wasn’t just people on TV talking about how Hillary Clinton's team wasn't getting it. You had Bill Clinton being concerned, you know, we found out later, warning ‘em in August. Joe Biden warning anybody who would listen. They’re gonna, you know, you're gonna lose Pennsylvania if you guys don't start figuring out how to run there more effectively. We had Ed Rendell on during the DNC basically saying: Hillary was gonna lose Pennsylvania. And I'm just wondering, how did that bubble, Donna, how did they encase themself [sic] in that bubble in Brooklyn that stopped them from listening to people like Ed Rendell, Bill Clinton, you? Democrats who had a track record of winning, instead saying: oh, you know, we're just doing analytics. We don't need polls. No we're gonna go to Iowa. We don't need to go up to Michigan. No, we're not gonna lose Wisconsin. She doesn't need to travel there. A year later, Donald Trump is president, I still believe, not because of Donald Trump, but because of mistakes that the Clinton campaign made, as well as James Comey, as well as the Russians. I'll put it all in there. But it should have never been a close race.

BRAZILE: [talking under Joe] That’s your gumbo. I agree with you on that, Joe.

[Barnicle chuckling]

SCARBOROUGH: So bottom line it for us. Bottom line it for us, why did they lose? Was it, at the end of the day, arrogance?

BRAZILE: Yes, Joe. I-- it was a cult. I felt like it was a cult. You could not penetrate them. I mean, I -- look, you can -- I'm a grassroot [sic] organizer. I know street politics better than I know sweet politics. I know how to touch people where they live, work, play, and pray. But I cannot do any- -- I cannot help a candidate, Joe, if I don't have the resources, if I cannot spend the resources that the party is raising because there's a blind agreement between-

BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] Exactly.

BRAZILE: -a campaign [trails off].

BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] Unspoken even.

BRAZILE: Yeah, and, and, and -- again, I want my party to come back from this stronger. I like what Tom Perez is doing. I know he said this is not about my book. Baby, I know it's not about my book.

[Joe laughing]

BRAZILE: But it's about making much-needed changes and reform inside the party.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

BRAZILE: I have sat at the table. I want to make room for others to sit at the table. But you gotta come into the room knowing that you gotta change the recipe.

SCARBOROUGH: [tries to cut in] But -- and -- you know.

BRAZILE: Yesterday was a wake-up call for the Democrats too, because, you know what? It's coming from the bottom up. It's not coming from the top-down anymore. It's bottom-up politics now.

MIKA: [agreeing] M-hm.

SCARBOROUGH: And, and we could -- bottom-up politics. And, Mika, we can talk about this agreement all we want to until, as we used to say, ‘till the cows come home.

BRZEZINSKI:  Right.

SCARBOROUGH: But you remember the Iowa caucuses? Do you remember the Democratic leader out in Iowa who was a Clinton supporter rushing out to call the election against Bernie Sanders for Hillary Clinton?

BRZEZINSKI: Yes.

SCARBOROUGH: Do you remember when the debates were scheduled up against NFL games? Do you remember every decision, large and small,-

BRZEZINSKI: Meetings on a Saturday, with [trails off].

SCARBOROUGH: -it was meant -- meeting, yeah. It was always meant to rig the process against Bernie Sanders.

BRZEZINSKI: [turning to Brazile] Our word, not yours.

SCARBOROUGH: And you know what? We can go and we can have all of these legal arguments, we can have all these semantic arguments, we can go through all these machinations, but, you know what? The Democrats need to stop pretending this didn't happen with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz every step of the way. And if they do that and if they face that reality, then they'll face 2018 a little bit stronger. But, man, it was rigged in ways large and small from day one.

(...)


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