Wasserman Schultz to Step Down as Democratic National Committee Chair

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- On the eve of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced she would resign as Democratic National Committee chair at the end of the convention.

In a statement laying out the goals of this election cycle she wrote: "The best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention. As Party Chair, this week I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans."

Her announcement comes amid the release of internal DNC emails by Wikileaks that appear to show the inner workings of the Democratic Party and what seems to be party officials attempting to aid the Hillary Clinton campaign during the primaries.

Several of the emails released indicated that the officials, including Wasserman Schultz, grew increasingly agitated with Clinton's rival, Bernie Sanders, and his campaign as the primary season advanced, in one instance even floating bringing up Sanders' religion to try and minimize his support.

During the primary battle, Sanders and his supporters accused both the party and Wasserman Schultz of putting their thumb on the scale for Clinton and these emails may indicate support for those allegations. Sanders called for Wasserman Schultz to step down.

But as recently as Saturday, Wasserman Schultz campaigned with Clinton in Florida, speaking at Clinton's Miami event with her new running mate Sen. Tim Kaine, himself a former DNC chair.

In a statement on Sunday, Clinton called Wasserman Schultz a "longtime friend."

"I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year's historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week's events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership," Clinton said. "There's simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie."

She said Wasserman Schultz has agreed to serve as honorary chair of her campaign's "50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states."

President Obama also released a statement praising the departing chairwoman.

"For the last eight years, Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had my back. This afternoon, I called her to let her know that I am grateful. Her leadership of the DNC has meant that we had someone who brought Democrats together not just for my re-election campaign, but for accomplishing the shared goals we have had for our country," he said.

Obama added: "We know she will continue to serve our country as a member of Congress from Florida and she will always be our dear friend."

Republican nominee Donald Trump responded with a tweet Sunday: "Today proves what I have always known, that @Reince Priebus is the tough one and the smart one, not Debbie Wasserman Shultz"

Democratic National Committee communications director Luis Miranda tweeted that Donna Brazile will service as interim chair "through the election."

Brazile is an ABC News contributor.

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Michael Bloomberg to Endorse Hillary Clinton in DNC Speech

Monica Schipper/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Michael Bloomberg will endorse Hillary Clinton in a prime time address at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday, two Bloomberg advisers tell ABC News.

Longtime Bloomberg adviser Stu Loeser tells ABC News the former New York City mayor will speak Wednesday in Philadelphia and endorse the former secretary of state.

Another senior adviser to Bloomberg Howard Wolfson said in a statement: "As the nation's leading independent and a pragmatic business leader Mike (Bloomberg) has supported candidates from both sides of the aisle. This week in Philadelphia he will make a strong case that the clear choice in this election is Hillary Clinton."

Loeser said the endorsement is a sign of Bloomberg's dismay with Republican nominee and fellow billionaire Donald Trump. While Bloomberg and Clinton are not particularly close, Bloomberg has made no secret he would like to see Trump lose the election.

The endorsement comes as a surprise. Bloomberg is a former Democrat, but was elected mayor of New York City as a Republican in 2001 and later became Independent. Bloomberg was considering his own run for the presidency this cycle and has been critical of Trump during this campaign, but decided in March that mounting an independent run could help Trump's path to the White House. He has been especially critical of Trump's immigration and Muslim ban policies.

Wednesday is the same night President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to speak. Bloomberg served as New York City’s mayor for 12 years and endorsed Obama’s re-election in 2012.

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Dem VP Candidate Tim Kaine Heads to Church, Sings in Choir

Michael Davidson for Hillary for America(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Less than 24 hours after making his first appearance as Hillary Clinton's running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine walked through the doors of the Richmond church he's been part of for more than 30 years to applause so loud it could be heard from outside.

It was his first time at church since Clinton announced that he was her vice presidential pick.

"You saw what a special community that is," said Kaine as he left mass Sunday with his wife, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton. "Anne found it in the summer of 1984 and we were married here in November of 1984. And this and our neighborhood are really the center of our lives here. We needed some prayers today and we got some prayers and we got support and it really feels good."

Parishioners of the diverse St. Elizabeth Catholic Church hugged Kaine and his wife. Sitting in the 10th row of pews, Kaine and his wife sang and clapped along to the choir. During communion, Kaine joined the choir and took the lead singing a solo. He sang the solo parts of a song called "Taste and See."

The choir director admitted to the parish that she'd asked Kaine to sing only hours before he'd arrived at the church. Kaine has been part of the men's chorus for years, though his time serving as a senator in Washington makes it tough to make practice.

"You can sing with us any time you want," she told Kaine.

The big news in Kaine's life, that he may end up the next vice president of the United States, was never mentioned directly, though a prayer subtly referencing the news was offered by the church goers.

"For all our public servants, especially we pray for Tim Kaine and Anne Holton. Let us pray to the Lord," said a parishioner during the prayers of the faithful.

The mostly African American church is where Kaine has baptized all his children. When it was time to shake hands and say "Peace Be With You" after the recitation of the "Our Father" prayer, Kaine worked his way through the entire church hugging and shaking people's hands. Holton stood at the end of mass and thanked the parish, saying they had been a part of every chapter of their lives and said, "We will really need your prayers."

She described what's happened as "quite an adventure" especially for their kids. She again asked for prayers for their Marine son, Nat, who will deploy to Europe this week.

"Tim and I found our way to this parish almost by accident," Holton said. "But the fact that this parish has meant so much to us the last 33 years is no accident."

She said that they would carry St. Elizabeth with them wherever they went so that the world would "benefit a little from the light of St. Elizabeth."

"We will all have a big party at the end, no matter what happens," Holton said, hinting at the campaign that is ahead of them.

While Kaine prayed among those he has known for decades, there were new faces at the church, too. At least five people stood up to say they were inspired to come to the church after seeing Kaine speak Saturday at a Miami rally where he appeared with Clinton for the first time as her vice presidential pick. One of them was a woman whose son was deploying to Iraq in August. Another was a family originally from Zimbabwe.

As members of the church filed out after the mass wrapped, parishioner Alvin Strother came out wearing a Clinton-Kaine button. He said that his wife had made the buttons Saturday night to bring to mass. He'd personally given them to the senator and his wife. Strother has known Kaine since he began attending St. Elizabeth in the 1980s and described him as both a friend and mentor.

"Tim is a public person but he’s a personable person," Strother said. "I think that anybody that's lived in Richmond, whether he was mayor or senator, he's been the same person all the way through."

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Clinton Campaign Chief Suggests Russians May Be Trying to Help Trump Win

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- Hillary Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook said Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was pushing for a “pro-Russian” platform and cited experts who say that Russian state actors were behind the recent leak of Democratic National Committee emails in an attempt to help Trump win.

"Experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, took all these emails, and now are leaking them out through these websites,” Mook told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. "It's troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.”

Mook also suggested that the GOP nominee altered the Republican party platform to make it more attractive to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

"It was concerning last week that Donald Trump changed the Republican platform to become what some experts would regard as pro-Russian," Mook said.

Mook’s comments come in response to questions about WikiLeaks’ release of Democratic National Committee emails that appear to show DNC officials strategizing how to draw support away from Bernie Sanders in his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Several of the emails released seem to indicate that the officials, including DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, grew increasingly agitated with Sanders and his campaign as the primary season advanced.

Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort responded to Mook’s allegation of collusion between the campaign and Russia, calling it absurd.

“It’s pure obfuscation on the part of the Clinton campaign,” Manafort told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “What they don’t want to talk about is what’s in those emails. And what’s in those emails shows that it was a clearly rigged system and that Bernie Sanders never had a chance.”

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Trump Campaign Chair Manafort: 'Obama Should Be Ashamed at What is Going on in the World'

ABC/ Ida Mae Astute(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump campaign chairman and chief strategist Paul Manafort fired back at President Obama after he said the New York billionaire's comments about Islam are "ultimately helping do ISIL's work."

"He should be ashamed of what's going on in the world," Manafort said of the president. "The world is an unsafe place because of his failed leadership."

Manafort also defended Trump's comments about NATO. Last week in an interview, Trump suggested the United States should withhold military support for NATO countries that do not meet the military spending requirements if they were invaded by Russia.

"He was talking about the members of NATO have a shared responsibility," Manafort told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, saying the comment "wasn’t a mistake... Mr. Trump is saying it's a two-way obligation everyone needs to carry their own weight."

The comments were met by widespread outcry, including from prominent Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Some, like conservative writer Bill Kristol, even suggested that there may be ties between the Trump campaign and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Manafort called the charge "absurd... There's no basis to it."

In the days after the Republican convention, Trump has also been under fire for the tone of his big speech there that painted a picture of an America gripped by violent crime, terrorism, and international chaos. But Manafort defended his candidate and argued his message is ultimately one of hope.

"It was actually a very optimistic speech... All too often in the past Washington and special interests and Hillary Clinton as part of that establishment have tried to say, 'Oh, well things are going to get better -- just trust us,'" Manafort said. "After 25 years, the American people have said enough ... and he talked about his solutions."

Ahead of the Democratic National Convention this week, Manafort also tried to turn the tables and argue the Democrats are the divided party. Newly leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee show staffers and leaders disparaging Sen. Bernie Sanders's campaign during the primaries and apparently working against it.

Manafort was quick to pounce on them to try to draw a connection between Sanders' and Trump's campaigns.

"WikiLeaks clearly uncovered what Sanders has been saying and what Donald Trump has been saying, which is that once again the establishment and the special interests picked their candidate, Hillary Clinton," he said. "It was a clearly rigged system. Bernie Sanders never had a chance, and frankly I think you’re going to see some of that resentment boiling over this week in Philadelphia.”

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Republican National Committee Plans Opposition Efforts for Philadelphia

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- While their convention may have wrapped up in Cleveland, the Republicans are now setting their sights on the Democratic National Convention.

All told, they’re expecting to spend more than $350,000 on their efforts at the DNC, a senior Republican National Committee official told ABC News.

The RNC is sending about 36 staffers and about the same number of volunteers to get their message out against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia this coming week.

"I think it's important for the RNC to be in Philadelphia ... so that we can have a rapid response set up," national spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told ABC said.

Walters said that much like the Republican convention in Cleveland, which had different messaging themes per day, their opposition efforts will be categorized by different ways in which they believe Americans have had "enough."

In order, the four days of the DNC will be broken into messaging days focused around Clinton's economic policies, foreign policy, her vice presidential pick in Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, and the "lies and scandals" respectively.

"The message that we are going to be driving home this week is that America has had enough of the status quo," Walters said.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has several events scheduled in Philadelphia throughout the week, and they are also going to rely on the help of other high-profile surrogates to deliver their message.

Actress Stacey Dash, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee will all be on hand, the senior RNC official said.

Two other surrogates who are slated to attend have specific areas of Clinton’s past that they will plan to attack: one is Benghazi survivor Mark Geist and the other is Gary Byrne, a former Secret Service agent who recently published a book blasting the Clintons.

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Inside the Texas-Sized Split Over Ted Cruz’s Non-Endorsement of Donald Trump

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Emotions ran high following Ted Cruz’s speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night. The Texas senator defiantly refused to endorse Donald Trump for president, drawing jeers and shouts from the audience, especially the New York delegation.

But Cruz faced perhaps even harsher criticism from his own delegation the morning after his speech Wednesday.

On this week’s episode of “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl was there for all the action at the Texas delegation’s breakfast event Thursday. Cruz was heckled by delegates from his home state, some of whom disagreed with his decision to reject the Republican presidential nominee.

“He will never be president. All he’s doing is helping Hillary Clinton,” said one member. Another shouted, “He’s a liar!”, evoking Trump’s popular campaign epithet, “Lyin’ Ted.”

Meanwhile, one woman at the Texas delegation breakfast spoke on behalf of Cruz. “He was asked to come. He admitted it was personal. It was personal to me because of what Donald Trump did to Ted’s family and Ted’s father,” she said.

During the primary, Trump tweeted an unflattering photograph of Cruz's wife, Heidi and also suggested a link between Cruz's father and Lee Harvey Oswald.

“People talked about my family and I didn’t cry about it. I grew up,” another member shot back.

“He can forgive, but he does not have to endorse,” the woman replied. “He did the right thing. He congratulated the nominee. He told the people to vote their conscience. I am a Christian first before I am a Republican,” she added.

Another man said that he thinks that what Cruz did "is wrong."

"I think he’s making a political mistake,” another man chimed in. “Right now, there is a binary choice between two parties. One that supports life and one that doesn’t.”

Yet, as Karl noted, that binary choice “doesn’t exactly seem like a rallying cry” needed to unite the party. But exchanges like these illustrate the “entirely real, raw emotion” at the convention this year.

“Conservatism has been replaced by Trumpism. You can’t look for ideology in this, it’s personality,” ABC News Political Director Rick Klein added.

John Santucci, an ABC News reporter who has been following the Trump campaign for more than a year, also weighed in on the “Powerhouse Politics” podcast with Karl and Klein.

“It’s never boring,” he laughed. “That’s the whole thing covering the Trump campaign. There is not one dull moment.”

Santucci spoke about the “electric energy” of Trump’s rallies on the campaign trail, where supporters were decked out “head-to-toe” in Trump attire.

Yet, the energy at the GOP convention “here [in Cleveland] is so much more subdued,” Santucci noted, with the exception of Cruz being booed by the New York delegation Wednesday night.

That was when Santucci said he finally saw “fire” in the crowd.

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Clinton, Kaine Ticket Debuts in Miami Ahead of DNC

Michael Davidson for Hillary for America(MIAMI) --  Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton took the stage with running mate Sen. Tim Kaine for the first time since announcing him as her vice presidential pick telling a Miami crowd that he is "everything Donald Trump and Mike Pence are not."

The two walked arm and arm onto the stage at Florida International University before a crowd of more than 5,000, making it one of the largest during Clinton's 2016 campaign.

Clinton took the microphone first, explaining the factors that drove her to pick the Virginia senator. She announced him as her running mate via tweet Friday night.

"As I have said, the most important qualification when you are trying to make this really big choice is, 'can this person step up to be president?' Well, at every stage of Tim's career, the people that know him best have voted to give him a promotion," Clinton said.

Clinton picked Kaine after evaluating 24 contenders, according to a campaign official. He was the only one of the contenders who met with Clinton twice. Clinton considered several potential candidates from different parts of the Democratic party including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

 In Clinton's final meeting with Kaine, she invited him and his wife, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, to her Chappaqua home to have lunch with her, former President Bill Clinton, daughter Chelsea Clinton and Chelsea Clinton's husband, Marc, according to a campaign aide.

Clinton called Kaine at 7:32 pm Friday night to offer him the position. Kaine was at a fundraiser in Newport, Rhode Island. Shortly after he got the call, Kaine left the fundraiser. His former staffers and friends began celebrating in Richmond as the news was revealed.

A Clinton campaign official said that during her decision-making process, Clinton kept reiterating her belief that Kaine could do the job of vice president. At the rally Saturday at Florida International University, Clinton made the same point.

He is "a leader who cares more about making a difference than making headlines," Clinton said.

She also described Kaine as a fighter.

"Make no mistake. Behind that smile, Tim also has a backbone of steel. Just ask the NRA," said Clinton in reference to Kaine's fights against the gun-lobbying group

Kaine showed some of his fighting spirit in his criticism of Donald Trump in the speech.

"Do you want a 'you're fired' president or a 'you're hired' president?" Kaine said to the crowd.

He was citing the 'you're fired' line from Trump's former reality show, "The Apprentice," but Kaine referred in his speech Saturday to Trump's business bankruptcies.

Clinton, said Kaine, would be a 'you're hired' president, such as through policies to build public infrastructure projects and raise the minimum wage.

Kaine also introduced himself to the crowd by telling a little of his biography.

"Vice president was never a job I thought about growing up in Kansas," he said in a speech interspersed with Spanish, in which he is fluent.

Kaine also touched on some the Clinton's major talking points: "We are going to make the American economy work for everyone, not just those at the top," he said.

The senator and former Virginia governor was long viewed by pundits as one of the most qualified of the contenders on Clinton's list of VP candidates. While he endorsed President Obama in 2008, he was an early supporter of Clinton's 2016 presidential bid.

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DNC Rules Committee Passes 'Unity' Resolution Calling for Commission on Super Delegates and Caucuses

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- The Democratic National Convention's Rules Committee passed a resolution Saturday night establishing a "unity reform commission," a compromise from the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns that would establish a commission next year to review the election and role of super delegates and caucuses.

The resolution was presented to the full committee after a marathon 7-hour-plus meeting that broke twice for recesses and regrouping.

The commission will be co-chaired by Clinton and Sanders representatives, and will be comprised of nine Clinton appointees, seven Sanders appointees and three DNC appointees.

It will make recommendations to ensure caucuses are "protected," "less burdensome" and "more transparent"; make recommendations to encourage same-day registration; and make recommendations and revisions to delegate selection rules on super delegates.

The commission will have until January 1, 2018, to complete its business.

Regarding super delegates, which was the most contentious issue of the day, the commission will make specific recommendations on how to change the rules so some super delegates, such as members of Congress and governors, maintain their status, but others be required to cast their votes at the convention "in proportion to the vote received for each candidate in their state."

That is to say, all super delegates (party leaders) would still get to come to the convention and serve as delegates, but the commission would find a way to seriously reduce which ones actually remain unpledged.

The Sanders campaign is calling this commission "a victory," though some Sanders delegates were clearly disappointed.

The rules are expected to be formally adopted this week during the convention in Philadelphia.

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Clinton Camp's Secret Plan to Announce Tim Kaine as Vice President

Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America.(NEW YORK) -- Unlike Donald Trump's announcement of his running mate, Mike Pence, Hillary Clinton's search for a running mate was a closely guarded secret.

Only a small team of aides were involved in the process and Clinton herself did not make her final decision about Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine until Friday morning -- the same day she made the announcement.

Once Clinton decided on Kaine, the campaign continued to go to great lengths -- concocting a secret plan that included riding in freight elevators and hiding in cars -- in order to keep the news from leaking.

Here is how the final hours of the mission played out early Friday evening, according to campaign aides.

Campaign chairman John Podesta, along with two others aides and a speechwriter, snuck out of their headquarters in Brooklyn using a freight elevator to avoid being seen as they traveled to Newport, Rhode Island, where Kaine was holding a nighttime fundraiser.

As Kaine spoke at his event, still unaware that he had been selected, Podesta waited in a parking lot of a nearby beach.

Meanwhile, around 7:05 p.m., Clinton had just finished a rally in Tampa and both she and Podesta began making calls to contenders who did not get the job.

Kaine and his aides had a hunch that a call from Clinton would be coming that evening and had hoped to return to their hotel first, but the swarm of reporters outside the fundraiser -- which was held at an old shipping yard -- prevented them from leaving. They scrambled to find a messy office space that was crowded with ropes and shipping equipment.

It was there that Kaine took the call from Clinton asking him to be her running mate

The two spoke for 15 to 20 minutes, during which Kaine learned of the campaign's plan and was instructed to meet Podesta at the Viking Hotel.

The problem? Aides were concerned about how they could sneak Kaine out of the shipping yard without reporters seeing.

They briefly contemplated leaving on a boat, but nixed the idea. Ultimately Kaine was simply driven out in an unassuming Volvo.

Around this time -- at 8:11 p.m. -- the campaign made the official announcement on Twitter that Clinton had chosen Kaine.

Back at the hotel, Kaine's wife, Anne, was waiting for him, along with Podesta, who gave him a briefing and handed over a copy of his speech for the campaign rally with Clinton he would appear at on Saturday in Miami.

Kaine decided not to return home to Richmond that night and instead flew directly to Miami. He had packed an extra outfit, thinking he would be fundraising the next day in Nantucket.

Around 10:45 p.m., before taking off, Kaine received a phone call from President Obama.

Once in flight, Kaine and his team popped some champagne to celebrate. Kaine also worked on his speech.

The next morning, the Virginia senator received a policy briefing from senior campaign aides and then met privately with Clinton.

The reason, aides say, the two were over an hour late to their Miami rally was because the newly-minted running mates couldn't stop chatting.

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