WikiLeaks: Donna Brazile Fed Team Hillary Debate Questions
Then-CNN commentator tipped off Clinton camp on expected audience questions at Flint debate
An email released Monday by WikiLeaks shows then-CNN commentator Donna Brazile alerted Hillary Clinton’s campaign team about a possible audience question the candidates would field at the Democratic primary debate in Flint, Michigan.
Hillary Clinton apparently did not just get to see forum questions from CNN in advance thanks to Brazile — her campaign was also notified on questions to be asked by regular citizens.
“Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint.”
Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, the once and future Democratic National Committee chairwoman who was working as a CNN analyst during the primary campaign, tipped off the Clinton campaign to a question the former secretary of state could expect from an audience member at the March debate against Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Brazile has been under fire since WikiLeaks released an email indicating that she gave the Clinton campaign a warning in advance about a potentially tricky question that would be asked at a CNN-hosted town hall forum a week after the Flint debate. On Monday, WikiLeaks released an email from Brazile telling campaign Chairman John Podesta the day before the Flint debate about a question to expect from a woman with a rash.
“Her family has lead poison [sic] and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl [sic] of Flint,” she wrote. “Folks, I did a service project today. It’s so tragic. And what’s worse, some homes have not been tested and it’s important to encourage seniors to also get tested.”
It appears that Brazile was referring to Lee-Anne Walters, one of the first people to report problems with the water in Flint. Here was her question:
"After my family, the city of Flint, and the children in D.C. were poisoned by lead, will you make a personal promise to me right now that, as president, in your first 100 days in office, you will make it a requirement that all public water systems must remove all lead service lines throughout the entire United States, and notification made to the — the citizens that have said service lines?"
Sanders answered first and essentially made the promise that Walters was looking for.
"Well, I agree completely," Clinton said when it was her turn to speak.
Clinton did a lot of agreeing with Sanders that evening. She had a big delegate lead at that point in the race and was eager to avoid any appearance that she was not as far left as Sanders was. Clinton said, in fact, that she wanted to go further on the water issue.
"So, I want to do exactly what you said," she told Walters. "We will commit to a priority to change the water systems, and we will commit within five years to remove lead from everywhere."
It probably did not take a secret tip to anticipate that a Democratic debate in Flint — ground zero for a lead poisoning tragedy — would include questions about water quality. But it was a serious breach of journalism ethics for Brazile to assist one of the campaigns, and CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper has criticized her for it.
Brazile, herself, has avoided culpability. She told Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly during a testy interview that she would not be "persecuted." She said the WikiLeaks emails have not been verified — though there seems little doubt that they are authentic.
WikiLeaks on Monday also released more of the exchange between Brazile and Clinton campaign Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri about the CNN forum.
"I'll send a few more. Though some questions Roland submitted," she wrote, an apparent reference to Roland Martin, who moderated the forum.