The Current

'The Russians tried to destroy our country,' says former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee

Former Democratic National Committee interim chair Donna Brazile says she walked into a "huge mess" during the 2016 campaign and believes the Russians "took active measures to destabilize" U.S. democracy.

Donna Brazile gives an insider account into the U.S election in her book, Hacks

'The Russians tried to destroy our country and they took active measures to destabilize our democracy and to make Hillary lose,' says former Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile, who gives an insider account of the 2016 election campaign in her book, Hacks. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)
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Originally published on November 21, 2017.

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Former Democratic National Committee interim chair Donna Brazile says she walked into a "huge mess" during the 2016 campaign and believes the Russians "took active measures to destabilize" U.S. democracy

All I'm trying to do is to open up this wound to clean it out — to dress it — so that we can move forward in 2018 and beyond.- Donna Brazile

In her book Hacks, Brazile gives an insider account of the WikiLeaks email hack and the missteps by the Democratic camp that helped propel Donald Trump into the presidency.

"All I'm trying to do is to open up this wound to clean it out — to dress it — so that we can move forward in 2018 and beyond," Brazile tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

The DNC email hack

After the release of DNC hacked emails, chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned ahead of the 2016 national convention, and Brazile stepped in.

"Staff morale was very, very low … There was an active campaign by the Russians to discredit us, discredit the nominee, destroy the Democratic Party, to alter and to destroy our data, and to harass our staff. So I walked into a huge mess."

The media's spotlight on the WikiLeaks hacked DNC emails became the driving narrative, and made it difficult for Hillary Clinton's message to be heard, according to Brazile. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

After her briefing with the FBI about the hack, Brazile says she was frightened.

"I didn't want to go back to the DNC … We're under attack. We're at war. We can't fight the Russians. The Democratic National Committee — we barely can pay our bills."

'The Russians tried to destroy our country'

They (the Russians) took active measures to destabilize our democracy and to make Hillary lose.- Donna Brazile

The media's spotlight on the hacked emails became the driving narrative, and made it difficult for Hillary Clinton's message to be heard, according to Brazile.

"This propaganda information disinformation campaign was to sow discord and create chaos," says Brazile.

"The Russians tried to destroy our country and they took active measures to destabilize our democracy and to make Hillary lose."

When Donna Brazile stepped in to helm the DNC, she says she didn't know about the committee's finance problems. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

DNC debt and Clinton campaign

The Clinton campaign also had its own missteps, according to the former DNC chair.

While I found no evidence of rigging — and I've said that over and over repeatedly — what I did find was something that really disappointed me.- Donna Brazile

When Brazile stepped in to helm the DNC, she says she didn't know about the committee's finance problems — it was about $23 million US in debt.

She says she had promised the Bernie Sanders campaign that she would conduct an investigation into claims of favouritism within the party following the outcome of the 2016 Democratic primary.

"While I found no evidence of rigging — and I've said that over and over repeatedly — what I did find was something that really disappointed me."

Brazile claims the Clinton campaign, in exchange for rescuing the DNC from financial debt, had control over key aspects of the committee.

Brazile claims the Clinton campaign, in exchange for rescuing the DNC from financial debt, had control over key aspects of the committee. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

"What I found was that the Clinton campaign, in exchange again for helping us reduce our deficit, had begun to utilize those resources to pay vendors to set up operations that had no impact whatsoever on the primary," says Brazile.

She reiterates that Clinton "won fair and square," but "it still broke my heart to see that they were utilizing the DNC in such a way before the primary ended to run the general election campaign."

What's next for the Democrats?

Looking ahead, she doesn't have a candidate in mind for the Democrats, but says she has hope.

"Young people are getting more engaged. They're getting involved. They're running for office," says Brazile.

"I am sure that 2018 is going to be a great year for Democrats."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.

This segment was produced by the Current's Howard Goldenthal.

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