Memo: Clinton Campaign Looked to Oust Wasserman Schultz Last Year

Bureaucratic hurdles prompted ideas for replacing or sidelining former DNC chair

Hillary Clinton,Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Hillary Clinton with Debbie Wasserman Schultz / AP
October 28, 2016

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was looking for ways to replace or sideline former Democratic Party leader Debbie Wasserman Schultz months before she was forced to resign in July, according to a hacked internal memo released on Friday.

According to the December 2015 memo, shared by campaign chief of staff Heather Stone, the Clinton campaign had "reached a working arrangement" with the Democratic National Committee, but bureaucratic hang-ups were preventing effective collaboration.

"Our dealings with Party leadership have been marked by challenges, often requiring multiple meetings and phone calls to resolve relatively simple matters," the memo explained. "We are frequently caught in the middle of poor communication and a difficult relationship between the Chairwoman and the Executive Director."

Stone's email containing the memo was one of thousands released by the group WikiLeaks after hackers believed to be acting in concert with the Russian government breached campaign chairman John Podesta's email account.

The campaign recommended keeping Wasserman Schultz on board at the DNC through the Democratic convention in late July. Once Clinton had the nomination sewed up, it proposed either replacing the chairwoman or bringing on new staff that would "manage operations on a daily basis."

Wasserman Schultz did not make it to the convention. In the days before, hacked DNC emails revealed that she and her staff had secretly worked to tip the nominating contest in Clinton's favor at the expense of primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.

According to the campaign memo, the DNC at the time was assisting Clinton's team with "GOP opposition research, communications, and discrete data and analytics projects."

Wasserman Schultz's resignation as chairwoman spared the campaign from having to decide on one of the three options it had floated the previous December.

One of those options was to simply replace her as chairwoman.

"Under this scenario, the convention would represent Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz's final responsibility to the DNC, and we would use the convention as a clean break between chairs," the memo explained.

"At the convention we would honor the Chairwoman's leadership and service to the Party and introduce the new Chair for the final phase of the campaign," it added.

The other two options involved bringing on a new staff member at the party who would take over most or all of the party's nuts-and-bolts political operations.

In one scenario, the DNC would hire a chief of staff "to run the Committee." Wasserman Schultz's role "would be largely ceremonial" and the campaign "would not expect her to be involved in the day-to-day operations or programmatic decisions."

As an alternative, the memo said, the DNC could bring on a "general election chair" to "work with the Chief of Staff as our primary programmatic connection to the committee."

The campaign floated former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as a potential candidate for both the chief of staff and general election chair positions.

Though Granholm is a prominent Clinton surrogate, Wasserman Schultz was eventually replaced by another Clinton supporter, veteran Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

Neither the Clinton campaign nor Wasserman Schultz's office returned requests for comment on the memo.