MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Now, it's been a rough few days for Democrats, too. They are trying to rebuild and win elections, including two gubernatorial races next week. And yet the 2016 Democratic primary is a wound that just can't seem to heal. Donna Brazile, who served last year as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, dropped a bombshell this week. She says the DNC was effectively under control of the Clinton campaign, and lots of Democrats are angry about what this might have meant to last year's primary. Here's a taste of that. This is CNN's Jake Tapper questioning Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JAKE TAPPER: Very quickly, Senator, do you agree with the notion that it was rigged?
ELIZABETH WARREN: Yes.
KELLY: NPR congressional reporter Scott Detrow is here in the studio. And Scott, what exactly is Donna Brazile claiming happened here?
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: This all comes from an excerpt from a new book. Remember; Brazile took over the party last summer after Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced out as DNC chair. Brazile says shortly after she took over, she found a formal agreement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign.
The long and short of it was that the Clinton campaign would raise a lot of money for both the campaign and the DNC and help pay off the commission's debt. But in exchange, the Clinton campaign would have a say in DNC staffing decisions, communications and party strategy. And what's key is that this document was signed in 2015 before Clinton became the party's nominee, in fact before any primary votes were ever cast.
KELLY: What's the DNC saying? Are they pushing back on this?
DETROW: A little but not quite. It's a word parsing exercise here. DNC chairman Tom Perez says the DNC had joint fundraising agreements with the Clinton campaign, with the Sanders campaign as well and that the language was exact in both and that these agreements were not made.
I have tracked down that fundraising agreement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign. It does not in fact include any of these agreements about staffing and policy and big decisions like that. But two senior Democratic officials have now told me that what Brazile is talking about is in fact a totally separate agreement with the Clinton campaign Aside from these joint fundraising agreements.
KELLY: All right, that sounds like something we haven't heard before about this whole situation.
DETROW: Yeah. This is new. And there was a lot of uncertainty about what exactly Brazile was talking about here. But this is a separate document between the DNC and the Clinton campaign signed on August 26, 2015. What's interesting there, among many other things, is that this was before Vice President Joe Biden decided whether or not he was going to run for the Democratic nomination.
KELLY: All right - so lots of details, lots of questions here. But do I hear you right that we now essentially have everybody from Elizabeth Warren to President Trump saying this is proof the whole thing was rigged? I mean, these are two names you never thought you'd heard agree about anything (laughter).
DETROW: Well, it's not quite that boiled down. It's not quite that simple. I mean, remember; Hillary Clinton did win the Democratic primary. She won it with a wide margin both in raw votes and with pledged delegates. And nobody has ever indicated the voting process was affected in any way. And we've known the general picture here for a long time.
Remember those WikiLeaks emails that came out right at the beginning of the the Democratic Convention. Of course we now know that the - that U.S. intelligence says that was part of a deliberate effort by Russia to meddle in the election. But there were lots of staff emails, lots of clear signs that the DNC did favor Clinton in spirit if not in any sort of scale pushing or anything like that.
KELLY: But what does this mean for the Democratic Party? I mean, is this party ever going to be able to move on from 2016?
DETROW: (Laughter) It often seems like that's not the case. The DNC wants to move on. They need Bernie Sanders' supporters to move forward and win elections like next week's elections. But feelings are still raw. And every time something like this happens, they all come back to the surface. And that mistrust is still there.
KELLY: NPR's Scott Detrow. Scott, thanks very much.
DETROW: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.