The head of the Democratic Party, Deborah Wasserman Schultz, on Sunday announced her intention to resign after this week's Democratic convention amid a furor over embarrassing leaked emails, as the Clinton team hopes to head off a growing rebellion by Bernie Sanders supporters on the eve of the convention to nominate Hillary Clinton for the White House.
Lingering bitterness from their heated primary campaign erupted after more than 19,000 Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails, leaked on Friday, seemed to confirm Sanders' frequent charge that the party played favourites in the race.
The cache of emails leaked by the WikiLeaks website revealed DNC officials explored ways to undermine Sanders' insurgent presidential campaign. This included raising questions about whether Sanders, who is Jewish, was really an atheist, so as to undermine him and his campaign in highly religious states.
Wasserman Schultz will be replaced by interim chair Donna Brazile, a Democratic stategist and television commentator who has openly criticised the Sanders campaign.
In a statement, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the best way for the party to accomplish its goal of putting Clinton in the White House was for her to step down. Sanders had demanded earlier in the day that Wasserman Schultz resign. Shortly after Wasserman Schultz did indeed make this announcement, Clinton named her honorary chair of the Clinton campaign team.
The furor was a blow to a party keen on projecting stability in contrast to the volatility of Republican candidate Donald Trump, who was formally nominated at a raucous convention last week, and overshadowed preparations in Philadelphia for Clinton's coronation as the nominee to face Trump in the November 8, US presidential election.
Sanders said Wasserman Schultz, a member of Congress from Florida, had made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party. "The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race," he said.
The emails angered many Sanders supporters who were already dismayed by Clinton's choice on Friday of low-key US Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her vice presidential running mate. Kaine, who could appeal to independents and moderates, has never been aligned with party liberals. Kaine is a vocal proponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an enormous free trade deal involving 12 countries, including those from South America, Asia and North America.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of downtown Philadelphia, livid over the treatment Bernie Sanders received from the DNC and were happy to hear Wasserman Schultz had resigned from her post.
"I'm exited that Debbie Wasserman Shultz has resigned, I think there's hope for Bernie, it's not over yet," Bruce Eichbauer told Reuters.
A Sanders campaign worker said Wasserman Shultz needs to apologise.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook blamed Moscow for hacking into the party's email, then sending the stolen messages to Wikileaks so as to advance the Trump campaign. As he said live on CNN:
"What is disturbing to us is that experts are telling us that Russians broke into the DNC, stole these emails and other experts are now saying that the Russians are now releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump. I don't think it's coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention here and that's disturbing."
Sanders, who has endorsed Clinton and will speak on her behalf to the convention on Monday, waged a heated months-long battle for the nomination. Branding himself a democratic socialist, Sanders galvanised young and liberal voters with his calls to rein in Wall Street and eradicate income inequality.
Earlier Sunday the hashtag #BernieMustDisavow was trending, as Sanders supporters were urging him to pull away from the Democratic party altogether, believing the Democratic party is too rigged against Sanders and that it's best for him to join Dr Jill Stein, the leader of the Green Party.
For good measure, Donald Trump posted a tweet about Wasserman Schultz, who is Jewish, which was seen by many as anti-Semitic:
The four-day Democratic convention will open on Monday.
(WION with inputs from AFP and Reuters)