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Democratic convention starts in shadow of leaks, resignation

world Updated: Jul 26, 2016 01:18 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
US presidential election

Protesters gather in Camden on Monday in Philadelphia. The Democratic National Convention starts on Monday. (AP)

The Democratic convention to crown Hillary Clinton as nominee started on Monday under the shadow of leaked organisational emails that caused the resignation of the party’s chair.

The party moved swiftly to contain damage from the leaks that showed party officials sided with Clinton in the primaries against her major, and then the only, rival Bernie Sanders.

Russia’s intelligence agencies were accused of obtaining the emails by hacking into the Democratic party’s computer network, and releasing them to WikiLeaks.

Clinton campaign manager Roby Mook cited “experts” to allege in multiple TV interviews that “this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping (Republican candidate) Donald Trump".

The Trump campaign pushed back, calling the allegations “absurd”, and tried to goad Sanders and his supporters into retaliating, which seemed unlikely to happen.

Sanders, set to speak at the convention on Monday, said in a television interview he was not surprised as he had long known the party machinery was working against him.

He said he had demanded the resignation of party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz a long time ago for the reason. And with her resignation, the issue stood resolved, he added.

“To my mind, what is most important now is the defeating of the worst candidate for president that I have seen in my lifetime, Donald Trump,” he told ABC.

Republicans hoped Sanders will do a Ted Cruz, whose refusal to endorse Trump at his convention in Cleveland last week exposed continuing fissures in the party over Trump.

But Sanders is not planning to oblige, as he has already indicated. His, however, will be the most widely followed and observed speech. Will he point to remaining differences?

Sanders has appeared satisfied with issues his campaign forced the Democratic party, and Clinton, to adopt, such as higher daily wages, free college education and opposition to trade deals.

Some of his supporters, however, who have been gathering in Philadelphia to march in solidarity with him, continue to oppose Clinton. One group chanted “Lock her up”on Sunday.

That’s a slogan from the Republican convention last week in Cleveland, where delegates chanted those three words demanding Clinton be arrested for a range of transgressions.

Trump has tried to reach out to Sanders supporters, calling for their backing, but a recent PEW poll has shown 85% of them are going to vote for Clinton and only 9% are going to back him.

But Trump is not giving up, and has continued to goad and taunt Sanders into retaliating — “Crooked Hillary knew the fix was in, B (Bernie) never had a chance!” he tweeted.

Also on stage on Monday will be Michelle Obama, who ended up dominating some of the coverage of the Republican convention because of her speech being plagiarised by Melania Trump.

President Barack Obama will speak on Wednesday, the night before Clinton accepts the nomination, officially becoming the first woman ever fielded by a major party to run for president.