Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will step down as controversy rages over her tenure just as the party is set to nominate Hillary Clinton under a banner of unity.
Wasserman Schultz issued a statement on Sunday saying that the best way to go forward was for her to resign at the end of this week’s convention. The proceedings will be gaveled to order on Monday.
Her role had been reduced over the weekend with pressure mounting for Democrats to take decisive action in response to an uproar over purported DNC efforts to discredit Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
She was due to leave the job next year.
“I’ve been proud to serve as the first woman nominated by a sitting president as chair of the Democratic National Committee,” she said not mentioning the party divisions that brought her down after five not-so-smooth years.
Wasserman Schultz long been a target of criticism from Sanders, who mounted a tough challenge to Clinton in the Democratic primaries.
He complained for months that the DNC was favoring Clinton, and a bombshell revelation last week seemed to give that grievance more steam heading into the Philadelphia convention.
Wikileaks released some 20,000 DNC emails. Some of them showed committee staffers plotted against and disregarded Sanders’ campaign.
Earlier in the day, Sanders called for her to quit.
“I think she should resign. Period,” Sanders told ABC’s “This Week.”
“I told you a long time ago that the DNC was not running a fair operation, that they were supporting Secretary Clinton,” Sanders said. “So what I suggested to be true six months ago turns out to be. I’m not shocked but I am disappointed.”
Later, he said she’d made the right decision for the party that “needs new leadership.” He also referred to his chief problem with her.
“The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race,” he said.
Wasserman Schultz’s term at the DNC was to expire next year and she’s still running for re-election to her House seat in Florida.
DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile will step into the leadership role though the election.
The DNC saga mushroomed into a big distraction at a time when Democrats were working carefully to mend differences around Sanders’ candidacy and move forward as unified as possible. The latest episode now clouds the party confab before it’s officially begun and Sanders’ is again at the center of it all.
Clinton issued a statement thanking “my longtime friend” for her service.
I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership,” Clinton said.
President Barack Obama issued a similarly glowing statement.
Republican nominee Donald Trump jumped on the news, saying that the development was damaging for his rival.
“I always said that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was overrated. The Dems Convention is cracking up and Bernie is exhausted, no energy left!” he tweeted.
Wasserman Schultz’s tenure has been bumpy. Numerous reports in recnet years have cited Democratic unhappiness with her leadership. That included the White House under Obama, who brought her into the position. He liked her toughness and tenacity.