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Donna Brazile: Bailing out DNC gave Clinton campaign control, ‘made my job impossible’

Donna Brazile, a veteran political consultant who became the DNC’s interim chair during the 2016 campaign, had a front-row seat to what happened and offers her take in a new book, "Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House." Brazile joins Judy Woodruff for a conversation about Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama and more.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now a new look at the 2016 presidential campaign from a central player.

    Donna Brazile was tapped to be the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee the day before the convention in Philadelphia last summer. That was last summer.

    She offers her take in a new book, "Hacks- The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House."

    She is getting pushback from many in the Clinton campaign for her analysis of went wrong for Democrats.

  • Donna Brazile:

    What I have said to my friends and former colleagues is that something happened in 2016 that we need to get to the bottom of.

    It's not about Hillary Clinton. It's about the hacking of our democracy. It's about a foreign country, a hostile foreign country, trying to destroy her. And, yes, it's about the Democratic Party fighting through this and also fighting to be relevant at a time when the party was being taken over by one campaign.

    I was the chair of Democratic Party. My focus was on winning not just the Oval Office, but every race in between, all the way down to school board races. And the decision by the Clinton campaign to help bail out the DNC gave them control over three important departments.

    They made my job impossible as chair. If you're the chair of the party and you cannot spend your own resources to get out the vote to persuade voters, then it's very tough to do my job.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You say the primary process wasn't rigged, but it sounds like you're saying it was a foregone conclusion, what was going on at the DNC.

  • Donna Brazile:

    They began to hire vendors, pay for consultants using money being raised under the name of the Democratic National Committee at a time when our primary process was still under way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But the effect of this book, though, overall is to hurt Hillary Clinton. She comes out of this looking very bad. Her campaign comes out looking very bad.

    Was that your intention?

  • Donna Brazile:

    My intention was to write about the DNC. And I think that book really illustrated how Hillary Clinton faced a huge what I call a headwind in 2016.

    Not only was her party under attack, but her campaign was under constant attack. I became the chair of the party because of a hacking that took place.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Donna Brazile:

    And I volunteered my time to elect Hillary Clinton. I spent every day working to elect Hillary Clinton and eliminating the debt.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But do you worry about having burned all these bridges with all these people you have worked with for years?

  • Donna Brazile:

    Oh, Judy, look, let me just say this.

    As a woman who has been active in the Democratic Party since the age of 9, I have been involved in 11 presidential campaigns, seven as a campaign staffer, 21 seasons in the Democratic Party. We had a very competitive primary in 2016.

    I believe it's important to learn the lessons of the 2016 race, so that we will not make those mistakes again. I believe that Hillary Clinton ran the strongest possible campaign, given the odds that were against her, not only the Russians and the hacking and the interference and the meddling, but we had a media that was obsessed on covering Donald Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Of course, one of the episodes in the middle of this campaign was when you were accused — and you later acknowledged it had happened — of giving — you were a commentator for CNN.

  • Donna Brazile:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you were accused of giving the Hillary Clinton campaign one of the questions that was going to come up in a primary debate.

    You said later this was something you would always regret.

  • Donna Brazile:

    No question.

    Judy, look, I regret that. But what my job was, was to expand the number of debates and forums. And CNN benefited from that, because I was also a CNN commentator, along with being the vice chair at the DNC.

    But, at the same time, I wanted to give the candidates heads-up that, in expanding the debates and forums, we would include some difficult questions that the minority community wanted answered. And I wanted to give both campaigns a heads-up.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, in retrospect, you're saying that was a mistake?

  • Donna Brazile:

    Oh, absolutely. It's been blown out of proportion.

    CNN has never shared anything with me regarding debate topics.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I was struck that you wrote early in the book that you thought of yourself — and I'm quoting here — "as an actress" in some ways playing the part that producers wanted you to play.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You said either the part of the — I'm not going to say it here — "B-word who stands up to the GOP talking points, or they might ask me to be cool, calm Donna, the voice of reason. "

    I think some people would listen to that, read that, and say, that's troubling.

  • Donna Brazile:

    In 2008, people were upset with me because they said I'm black, I wasn't supporting Barack Obama. I'm a female, I'm not supporting Hillary Clinton.

    And I kept saying, why should I have to support either one? I can support both of them.

    Look, my job as a commentator is to give my point of view.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Just two other quick things.

    One, you mentioned President Obama.

  • Donna Brazile:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You're — again, you're critical of what he did to the Democratic Party. You say that he and others have basically stripped the party bare. You said he didn't pay enough attention. He didn't raise money for the party.

    Was he good or bad for the country, and was he good for the African-American community?

  • Donna Brazile:

    He was fantastic for the country. That's another reason why I stepped up to become chair of the Democratic Party.

    But, Judy, when you lose 900 legislative seats — I'm not blaming him for all 932 legislative seats, all 60 some-odd House and Senate seats, 11 gubernatorial races.

    But this happened under his watch. It is the responsibility of the president, when he's a Democrat, to help the Democratic Party.

    President Obama, Michelle Obama, we all miss them in the White House. But we have to rebuild the Democratic Party. And that's what I hope to do as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last question is about President Clinton.

    In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein, the — Roy Moore and the other accusations, Al Franken, that are out there, questions are being raised now anew about President Clinton and what he was accused of doing in the whole Monica Lewinsky episode.

    Do you think, in retrospect, that he should have stepped down from office after that, as some are saying he should have?

  • Donna Brazile:

    We should focus on what is happening now, which is that we have a lot of women who are coming forward with their stories. We should believe them. We should encourage them.

    But I think, you know, to try to go back and relitigate the 1990s, I haven't had much time to do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think the women who were accusing Bill Clinton should have been believed?

  • Donna Brazile:

    It was toxic at the time, when people thought that these women were politically motivated. And that's one of the reasons why I think we're having this conversation again.

    But we shouldn't take our eyes off of what's happening in Alabama, a race that is on — that is scheduled for December 12, a candidate who has been accused of being a pedophile, who was banned from the mall because of his activities.

    So, I think we should focus on what we're discussing today, and let historians write about whether or not what happened in the 1990s should be relitigated.

    Look, we can also go back and relitigate Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. There's so many episodes that we can go back and relitigate. But, right now, this is before us, and we should encourage these women who are speaking up and tell them we believe them, so that they can tell their truth.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Donna Brazile, the book, as you say, is "Hacks."

    Thank you very much.

  • Donna Brazile:

    Thank you.

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