President Donald Trump on Friday urged the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate his political rivals after allegations that Hillary Clinton's campaign effectively controlled the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential primary race, which the party was supposed to impartially referee.
The president seized on an account by Donna Brazile, the former interim DNC chair, that appears in her new book and was excerpted in Politico of a fundraising deal that she says allowed Clinton’s campaign to influence the party's finances before she won the nomination.
"The real story on Collusion is in Donna B's new book. Crooked Hillary bought the DNC & then stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!,” the president tweeted Friday morning.
"Pocahontas just stated that the Democrats, lead by the legendary Crooked Hillary Clinton, rigged the Primaries! Lets go FBI & Justice Dept.,” he added, using a racially-charged epithet for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Brazile, in her excerpt, described the DNC's deal with the Clinton campaign as a "cancer."
"I had tried to search out any other evidence of internal corruption that would show that the DNC was rigging the system to throw the primary to Hillary, but I could not find any," she wrote, saying she had undertaken the review in response to concerns from Clinton's insurgent primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. "Then I found this agreement."
The victory fund agreement was reached by the DNC under the leadership of Brazile's predecessor as chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, dozens of state parties and Clinton’s campaign to divide money among the state parties and the campaign. According to Brazile, the agreement was signed in August 2015, four months after Clinton announced her candidacy and a year before she won the nomination.
“The funding arrangement ... was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical,”� Brazile said in her excerpt.
Brazile was careful not to claim that the primary was “rigged,” though she did feel it was unfair. But there was little room for nuance among many Sanders supporters who felt vindication after more than year of complaining about the DNC’s handling of the process.
News reports published during the election outlined the agreement, such as a May 2016 report in Politico that revealed "less than 1 percent of the $61 million raised” by Clinton went to state parties. Politico also reported in July 2016 on the DNC's attempts to conceal the agreement.
"I think this just validates what many of us already knew about what was happening," Jeff Weaver, Sanders' former campaign manager, said on MSNBC Friday. "I think in many states, the outcome would’ve been different. ... If Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic nomination, he would be in the White House right now and Donald Trump would not.”
Rep. Keith Ellison of Minn., now the DNC's deputy chair, said in a statement that Brazile's account cannot be dismissed and many in the party "still feel hurt and betrayed" by the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.
"We must heed the call for our party to enact real reforms that ensure a fair, open and impartial nominating process in elections to come," he said.
Tom Perez, the current DNC chair, also said he wants a "culture change" in the committee, noting in a letter to DNC members this week after Brazile's story was published that "even a perception of impropriety — whether real or not— is detrimental to the DNC as an institution."
A spokesman for Clinton, Nick Merrill, said on Twitter that it was “simply not true” that the fundraising agreement gave Clinton an advantage not afforded to Sanders.
He noted that Sanders’ campaign was offered, and eventually signed, a similar agreement, which the campaign chose not to use.
Charlie Baker, the chief administrative officer for the Clinton campaign, also called Hillary for America, pushed back on claims that the fundraising agreement was nefarious, noting that past presidential campaigns had made similar deals with the DNC. He said that despite its agreement with the DNC, the Sanders campaign "raised little to no money."
"That is not an insult, it is just a fact," Baker said. "As a result, Hillary for America was keeping the party afloat."
Trump's cries of collusion between Clinton and the DNC came just days after two former top aides were charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe investigating his campaign's ties to Russia. Another former campaign adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
"Bernie Sanders supporters have every right to be apoplectic of the complete theft of the Dem primary by Crooked Hillary!,” the president, who signed a joint fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee two months before he was officially selected as the nominee, tweeted. "I always felt I would be running and winning against Bernie Sanders, not Crooked H, without cheating, I was right.”
Warren responded to Trump in a series of tweets calling the president's remarks desperate.
"I understand your desperation to change the subject,@realDonaldTrump. Your campaign mgr was just indicted for conspiracy against the US.," she wrote. "The DNC shouldn't play favorites. But that's a whole lot different from illegally conspiring with Russia. The FBI knows the difference."
Brazile also pushed back against Trump's interpretation of her excerpt.
"Mr President, please—go back to attacking me," Brazile tweeted. "It’s better than having my own words scrambled and spewed out by you."