Ex-DNC chief Brazile in Atlanta: Answers still needed about 2016 election

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Former Democratic party chief Donna Brazile said Sunday she “totally agrees” with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s assertion that we need to “get to the bottom of what happened” in the 2016 election.

“She’s absolutely right that we have to take a backstep and get a full accounting of what happened with the hacking of our voting systems, with the hacking of our voter registration lists and, of course, now that we know the role that social media played,” Brazile told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview before a talk and signing for her new book at ZuCot Gallery in Castleberry Hill. “I don’t know if it would change the results, but we need to have a spotlight, just like what happened after the 2000 presidential election.”

But it’s not like she and Clinton have compared notes recently. Brazile, 57, told her audience it was only this past February that Clinton called her for the first time after unexpectedly losing the presidency to Republican Donald Trump last Nov. 8. And Clinton hasn’t ever called again.

“That’s OK, she’s busy, she had to write her book,” Brazile, who’d taken over as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee just four months before the election, said to appreciative chuckles from the crowd of some 160 people who packed the elegant gallery located near Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “She wrote her book, I wrote my book.”

Did she ever. Titled “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House,” the book is a pull-no-punches account of that time and has generated enormous controversy since being released two weeks ago. Among those Brazile takes direct aim at in the book, which debuted at No. 6 on this week’s New York Times bestseller list, are “three titanic egos” — Clinton, former President Barack Obama and the woman she replaced at the helm of the debt-ridden DNC, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.

And she wasn’t about to start apologizing for it on Sunday.

Related video: Fast Facts about Donna Brazile

“There was an agony inside of me, an untold story about 2016,” said Brazile, who disclosed she’d been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the election. “I know there’s a lot of shade. I know a lot of people don’t like the fact when someone like me says I’m going to write my book and tell my story. They’re uncomfortable. But I’m going to tell my story.”

That story includes her claim that the Clinton campaign gained control over key aspects and decision-making of the DNC in exchange for rescuing it from financial trouble. What some have interpreted as evidence the primary nominating process was “rigged” for Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Brazile writes made it “difficult, if not impossible” for her to do her job.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

“I was fighting for the integrity of the DNC,” Brazile said during Sunday’s talk, which was moderated by Atlanta attorney and former radio talk show host Mo Ivory and lasted for some 50 highly frank and entertaining minutes. “Because of the agreement that was made between the previous chair and staff and the Clinton campaign, I had two options … I didn’t blow it up, I sucked it up. I said, ‘I will take it now, because I’m not going to hurt her, the way y’all are hurting her. But please give me some yard sign money!’ ”

Brazile also raised eyebrows by writing that she considered starting the process of replacing Clinton with Joe Biden as the party’s nominee when she fainted on Sept. 11, 2016 (Clinton turned out to have pneumonia). Asked by Ivory if “things would have been different” if Sanders had been the vice-presidential candidate or even the presidential nominee, Brazile admitted she didn’t know.

"I don't pretend to know a lot about 'what ifs,'" she said. "I think things would've been a lot different if the Russians had not interfered in our system and paid rubles for these divisive campaign ads. I know that. I don't know what other scenario would've worked."

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

But she’s still got the political bug. The Louisiana native arrived at ZuCot crowing over (and carrying the local newspaper attesting to) Saturday’s election of LaToya Cantrell as New Orleans’s first female mayor. Brazile told the AJC she didn’t know Keisha Lance Bottoms or Mary Norwood, the two women vying in Atlanta’s Dec. 5 mayoral runoff, but that she’d “sent a check” to Democrat Bottoms’ campaign.

“I clearly would prefer the Democrat to win,” Brazile said. “But Atlanta, which has already elected a female mayor years ago, will once again have another female mayor.”

She later told the crowd she’d made a donation to Democrat Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign.

Brazile told the AJC she’s not surprised by the furor over “Hacks.” She just hopes it does some good.

“I would hope that if there’s anything that comes out of the book, it’s that the American people are outraged enough to call upon Donald Trump to acknowledge that the hacking had a severe impact on our democracy,” she said. “And ask, ‘What are the prudent steps we’re going to take in 2018 and beyond to ensure that this never happens again?’”