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Timeline: How the DNC Manipulated 2016 Presidential Race 

Photograph Source: Nathania Johnson – CC BY 2.0

December 16, 2014: President Obama signs into law omnibus spending bill that increases maximum possible individual political contributions from $129,600 annually to $777,600, substantially increasing the amount of money flowing through party committees. (Congressional Research Services)

April 7, 2015: A Clinton campaign memo to the DNC articulates “Pied Piper” strategy to elevate the most extreme Republican candidates: “Our hope is that the goal of a potential HRC campaign and the DNC would be one-in-the-same: to make whomever the Republicans nominate unpalatable to a majority of the electorate. We have outlined three strategies to obtain our goal: 1) Force all Republican candidates to lock themselves into extreme conservative positions that will hurt them in a general election; 2) Undermine any credibility/trust Republican presidential candidates have to make inroads to our coalition or independents; 3) Muddy the waters on any potential attack lodged against HRC.” (Salon)

May 26, 2015: An updated confidential Clinton campaign memo to the DNC is circulated, including new language (as disclosed by “Guccifer 2.0” on 6/15/16): “3) Use specific hits to muddy the waters around ethics, transparency and campaign finance attacks on HRC… Working through the DNC and others, we should use background briefings, prep with reporters for interviews with GOP candidates, off-the-record conversations and oppo pitches to help pitch stories with no fingerprints and utilize reporters to drive a message.”

August 27, 2015: DNC announces “Hillary Victory Fund” joint fundraising agreement with Hillary Clinton’s campaign with a maximum possible individual contribution of $356,100 ($2,700 to Hillary for America, $33,400 to the DNC, and $10,000 to 32 of the state parties).

November 13, 2015: Associated Press releases a widely-cited survey of superdelegates’ public support: 359 for Clinton, 8 for Bernie Sanders, 2 for Martin O’Malley, and 210 uncommitted.

February 21, 2016: New York Times publishes front-page story proclaiming Sanders faces “steep climb” in delegates, despite trailing Clinton by only one pledged delegate following the Nevada caucus. Clinton’s “inevitability” narrative was largely based on the implicit assumption that her institutional support — including public commitments by superdelegates — would be too powerful for Sanders’ insurgency to overcome.

March 5, 2016: DNC vice-chair Donna Brazile provides Clinton with a debate question on the Flint water crisis the day prior (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 10/11/16).

March 12, 2016: Brazile shares question with Clinton on the death penalty the day before a CNN town hall (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 10/11/16). (Washington Post)

April 19, 2016: More than 117,000 Brooklyn voters are unable to cast their New York primary vote due to illegal “voter purges” by the New York City Board of Elections. (New York Times)

April 26, 2016: DNC staffer shares messaging preparing for when Sanders ends his campaign (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 7/22/16). (The Intercept)

May 2, 2016: Politico reports bombshell on how the Hillary Victory Fund was being utilized to circumvent campaign contribution limits by the Clinton campaign and DNC.

May 5, 2016: DNC officials conspire “atheist” smear against Sanders: “It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist,” said DNC CFO Brad Marshall (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 7/22/16). (Washington Post)

May 14, 2016: The Nevada Democratic convention unfolds chaotically: Chairwoman Roberta Lange passes a motion to arbitrate unverified voice votes. 56 Sanders delegates were denied voting status for administrative reasons, swinging the at-large and party leaders pool to Clinton. Lange rejected a voice vote to reconsider the delegates’ rejection and abruptly adjourned the convention to the dismay of Sanders’ supporters. Despite no evidence suggesting violence, major outlets uncritically repeat the myth of “pro-Sanders violence and chair throwing.“

May 17, 2016: DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz calls Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver a “damn liar” in DNC internal emails (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 7/22/16).

May 18, 2016: Wasserman-Schultz promotes “pro-Sanders violence at Nevada convention” myth on MSNBC.

May 21, 2016: DNC national press secretary pitches an anti-Sanders story to DNC comms director: “Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess,” (as disclosed by Wikileaks on 7/22/16). (The Intercept)

June 6, 2016: On eve of the second biggest primary day (California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, and South Dakota), Associated Press publishes major story calling the primary for Clinton: “Clinton has delegates to win Democratic nomination.” This count includes public superdelegate commitments who will not vote until July 25.

June 15, 2016: “Guccifer 2.0” releases documents stolen from the DNC server including opposition research on Donald Trump, Clinton donor information, and the 5/26/15 strategy memo.

June 28, 2016: Donors to Sanders file a class action lawsuit against the DNC and Wasserman Schultz alleging fraud, specifically that they violated Article 5, Section 4 of the Charter of the Democratic Party: “…the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process.”

July 22, 2016: Wikileaks releases first batch of DNC emails three days before the Democratic National Convention, demonstrating anti-Sanders bias from senior DNC officials.

July 24, 2016: DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resigns on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. (Reuters)

July 26, 2016: Sen. Nina Turner, a prominent Sanders surrogate, is prohibited from joining Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for Sanders’ nominating speech. Following the roll call vote nominating Clinton as the Democratic presidential candidate, hundreds of Sanders delegates stage a “No Voice No Unity” walkout protest off the convention floor.

October 11, 2016: Wikileaks releases “The Podesta Emails Part 3,” revealing collusion between Donna Brazile and Clinton.

April 25, 2017: In class action lawsuit alleging DNC fraud, DNC attorney argues the party has the right to ignore primary voters: “The party has the freedom of association to decide how it’s gonna select its representatives to the convention and to the state party. Even to define what constitutes evenhandedness and impartiality really would already drag the court well into a political question and a question of how the party runs its own affairs. The party could have favored a candidate. I’ll put it that way… We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.’”(See Newsweek: “Was the Election Rigged Against Bernie Sanders? Dnc Lawsuit Demands Repayment for Campaign Donors.”)

August 25, 2017: Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit on lack of standing: “Not one of them alleges that they ever read the DNC’s charter or heard the statements they now claim are false before making their donations. And not one of them alleges that they took action in reliance on the DNC’s charter or the statements identified in the First Amended Complaint. Absent such allegations, these Plaintiffs lack standing.” (Washington Post)

November 2, 2017: Brazile reveals Hillary Victory Fund agreement “specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised… [Clinton’s] campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.” (Vox)

Michael Brennan is a graduate student in public policy at the University of Maryland and a past intern at the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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