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Editor’s note: On Tuesday, October 11, we published the following story citing a source who said Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile did not leak a question to Hillary Clinton in advance of a CNN town hall.
The Democratic official told us that a question Brazile forwarded Clinton’s team was not in relation to the CNN town hall, but a panel she was set to appear on.
However, a new email obtained by Politico and published Wednesday appears to contradict Brazile and our source’s claims.
The new email suggests Brazile did in fact provide Clinton’s campaign a question in advance of the CNN town hall.
We followed up with our source and the DNC seeking clarification. Both declined to answer follow up questions and referred us to Brazile’s Tuesday statement, despite new evidence.
We regret making this error.
Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile did not, as a series of media outlets reported, leak questions to Hillary Clinton before a CNN town hall in March, a top Democratic official said on Tuesday.
The reports emerged on Tuesday when some observers digging through the recent WikiLeaks release of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s leaked emails noticed similarities between a private email sent from the then-CNN contributor and DNC vice chair to Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri saying that she ” gets questions in advance” a day before a CNN town hall debate.
In the email to Palmieri, Brazile flagged a question she received from CNN about the death penalty in the body of an email to Palmieri titled “from time to time I get the questions in advance.”
“Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have banned the death penalty. Thirty-one states, including Ohio, still have the death penalty. According to the National Coalition To Abolish The Death Penalty, since 1973, 156 people have been executed on death row and later set free. Since 1976, 1,414 people have been executed in the US. That’s 11% of Americans who were sentenced to die, but later exonerated and freed. Ohio and 30 other states should join the current list and abolish the death penalty.”
Palmieri appeared to take Brazile’s email as a request for talking points, saying that “not everyone likes her answer, but I can share it,” CCing a staffer asking to send over Clinton’s previous answer on death penalty questions.
At a town hall event a day later, exonerated death row inmate Ricky Johnson posed a question for Clinton about her stance on the death penalty.
“I came perilously close to my own execution, and in light of that, what I have just shared with you and in light of the fact that there are documented cases of innocent people who have been executed in our country, I would like to know how can you still take your stance on the death penalty in light of what we know right now.
Multiple news outlets, including Politico, BuzzFeed, and Mediaite reported that the exchange signaled that Brazile had knowledge of the March 13 town hall question in advance, tipping off the Clinton campaign.
However, according to a top Democratic Party source familiar with the exchange, Brazile’s emails were not referencing a question at the town hall. Instead, the question Brazile forwarded on to Palmieri was a topic for conversation on a panel that Brazile was to set to appear on.
The source also said that Brazile was in regular contact throughout the primary with both Democratic primary campaigns, communicating with former Sen. Bernie Sanders senior strategist Tad Devine, who worked with Brazile on the Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 campaign.
CNN also confirmed that it never reveals town hall questions in advance.
“We have never, ever given a town hall question to anyone beforehand,” CNN vice president of communications Barbara Levin said in an email on Tuesday.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Brazile also denied leaking questions.
“I often shared my thoughts with each and every campaign, and any suggestions that indicate otherwise are completely untrue,” Brazile said. ” Inever had access to questions and would never have shared them with the candidates if I did.”
The latest round of Wikileaks emails are the result of what the Obama administration has deemed hacks by Russian-aligned groups attempting to sew further chaos in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Released in August, the first batch of DNC emails showed some top-level staffers complaining internally about Sanders, resulting in a leadership shakeup that resulted in Brazile’s appointment following former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.