Democrats in disarray on eve of Clinton's coronation
The head of the Democratic Party resigned last night amid a furore over embarrassing leaked emails, hoping 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 the heated primary campaign erupted at the weekend. 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.
Democratic National Convention chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the best way for the party to accomplish its goal of putting Mrs Clinton in the White House was for her to step down. Mr Sanders had demanded earlier in the day that Wasserman Schultz resign.
The furore 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 Mr Trump in the November 8 US presidential election.
The four-day Democratic convention will open today. In some good news for Mrs Clinton, 'The New York Times' reported that businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will endorse her in a prime-time speech today, saying she will be the best choice for moderate voters in 2016.
The cache of emails, leaked on Friday by the WikiLeaks website, revealed DNC officials explored ways to undermine Mr Sanders' insurgent presidential campaign, including raising questions about whether Mr Sanders, who is Jewish, was really an atheist.
Mr Sanders said Ms 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 Clinton camp questioned whether Russians may have had a hand in the hack attack on the party's emails and were interested in helping Mr Trump, who has exchanged words of praise with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"What's disturbing to us is that experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails and other experts are now saying that Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of helping Donald Trump," Clinton campaign chairman Robby Mook said.
Mrs Clinton (68), a former secretary of state, and Mr Sanders (74), an independent US senator from Vermont who ran for president as a Democrat, waged a heated months-long battle for the nomination.
Mr Sanders repeatedly voiced frustration with party establishment that he felt was stacked against him, and the resentment from Mr Sanders and his supporters threatened to disrupt the convention.
"I'm not shocked but I'm disappointed," Mr Sanders said of the emails.
The emails showed DNC officials pondering various ways to undercut Mr Sanders. Brad Marshall, the DNC's chief financial officer, apologised on Facebook on Saturday for an email in which he discussed how some voters in upcoming nominating contests in Kentucky and West Virginia would reject an atheist.
"He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage," Mr Marshall wrote in a May 5 email to three top DNC officials. No names were mentioned, but Mr Sanders was the only Jewish candidate.
"I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist."