Donna Brazile’s new book is called “Hacks” and is billed as the “inside story of the break-ins and breakdowns that put Donald Trump in the White House.” The former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee said the whole reason she wrote the book was to draw more attention to the Russian hacking of the organization.
But so far, no one is really talking about those parts of her book. And that is frustrating her.
“You probably skipped that whole part ― the part that was the hardest for me to write was the Hacker House,” she said, referring to a chapter about the cybersecurity task force she recruited to address the DNC hacking.
“In reading what people are focusing on, I’m like, ‘Hm. Why didn’t they focus on what kept me up at night? The hacking. But that’s OK,’” she added in an interview with HuffPost on Tuesday.
What people are focusing on is Brazile’s revelation that Hillary Clinton’s campaign signed a memorandum with the DNC in August 2015, agreeing to infuse it with some much-needed cash in return for increased say in the party’s operations.
“The funding arrangement with HFA [the Clinton campaign] and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical,” Brazile wrote in her book. “If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.”
Part of the reason it’s getting so much attention is that her book’s excerpt in Politico last week ― which was its first preview ― focused on this aspect.
“I know,” she said, when HuffPost pointed that out. “They went to chapter 10 when they should’ve started on chapter 11. I had no control over that.”
The other reason it’s getting noticed is because, frankly, it seemed like a blockbuster revelation. It was evidence to many that the DNC had indeed tipped the scales for Clinton in the primary over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
But the picture isn’t as clear as Brazile’s book makes it seem. The agreement Brazile referred to, which NBC News detailed after the Politico excerpt, did say the DNC agreed to hire a communications director from “one of two candidates previously identified as acceptable to HFA” by Sept. 11, 2015. It also said the organization was to choose “between candidates acceptable to HFA” for certain other senior positions.
The memorandum also pertained to the general election and did not preclude the DNC from entering into a similar arrangement with Sanders’ campaign.
Brazile has backed off slightly from the hard-and-fast language in her book, clarifying in subsequent interviews that she does not believe the primary process was rigged to nominate Clinton.
“I found no evidence that any of the resources raised [from joint agreement] for the technology used or the staff hired impacted the nominating process at all,” she said Tuesday. “Where I took strong disagreement with them was that I wanted to bring all of the resources back within the party, so that the party could make those decisions, the party could raise its own money.”
But the Clinton campaign didn’t even have the control over the hiring that it ultimately wanted. The DNC did finally hire a new communications director in September 2015, a month after it signed the agreement with the Clinton team. It was long overdue ― the party had been operating without someone in that crucial position for months.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was then DNC chair, chose Luis Miranda for the job. Miranda was not who the Clinton campaign wanted, as The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein reported this week. The move showed that the Clinton campaign, despite the agreement, perhaps didn’t have control over what happened in Wasserman Schultz’s organization.
When asked why the DNC was able to hire Miranda, despite the agreement, Brazile punted and said she didn’t know because she wasn’t involved.
“You’ll have to ask Debbie. I was not the chair. I was not involved in any of that decision-making,” she said. (Brazile replaced Wasserman-Schultz in late July of last year.)
“The (DNC) officers were not informed of that memorandum,” she added. “So I had no idea about that memorandum until I kept digging to find out how come I couldn’t spend my money, or how come I couldn’t bring in staff people. When I learned what happened, then my job was to ask HFA to release the DNC from that obligation so that we could manage our own operations.”
Brazile’s book came out at a delicate time for the Democratic Party ― on Election Day, with Democrats nervously waiting to see if they can pull out a win in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. She’s faced a significant amount of backlash from some folks who wonder why she had to unveil the book now, unhappy with the fact that it was reopening intra-party wounds from 2016.
“Folks are pissed. Pissed at the timing,” said a former DNC staffer. “Pissed that she released this particular excerpt instead of something about Russia attacking our democracy. Pissed that she did not include context that Bernie was offered a JFA [joint fundraising agreement] and just didn’t do anything to help the party.”
In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Brazile shot back against her critics: “If I released it next year, they would say, Donna, you’re impacting our 2018 [prospects]. ... For those who are telling me to shut up, they told Hillary that a couple of months ago. You know what I tell them, go to hell. I’m going to tell my story.”
“What seems to be lost in talking about my book is the fact that the Democratic National Committee was the victim of a crime,” Brazile concluded in her interview. “And all throughout last year when I was out there trying to warn everybody, trying to say as much as I could say, nobody believed us. Even in doing interviews over the last 24 hours, I’m still sad that nobody still believes that the hacking that took place was serious.”