SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE, MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE, UNITED STATES - 2015/12/19: Congresswoman and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at the third Democratic presidential debate. (Photo by Luke William Pasley/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

MICHAEL D. SHEAR and MATTHEW ROSENBERG
Mark Landler contributed reporting.

Top officials at the Democratic National Committee criticized and mocked Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont during the primary campaign, even though the organization publicly insisted that it was neutral in the race, according to committee emails made public by WikiLeaks Friday.

WikiLeaks posted almost 20,000 emails sent or received by a handful of top committee officials and provided an online tool to search through them. While WikiLeaks did not reveal the source of the leak, the committee said last month that Russian hackers had penetrated its computer system.

Among the emails released Friday were several embarrassing messages that suggest the committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, and other officials favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders — a claim the senator made repeatedly during the primary.

In one of the emails, dated May 21, Mark Paustenbach, a committee communications official, wrote to a colleague about the possibility of urging reporters to write that Sanders’ campaign was “a mess” after a glitch on the committee’s servers gave it access to Clinton voter data.

“Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess,” Paustenbach wrote to Luis Miranda, the communications director for the committee.

Miranda wrote back: “True, but the Chair has been advised to not engage. So we’ll have to leave it alone.”

In another email exchange, Miranda asked Wasserman Schultz whether they should call CNN to complain about a segment the network aired in which Sanders said he would oust the chairwoman if he was elected.

“Do you all think it’s worth highlighting for CNN that her term ends the day after the inauguration, when a new DNC Chair is elected anyway?” Miranda asked. Wasserman Schultz responded by dismissing the senator’s chances. “This is a silly story,” she wrote. “He isn’t going to be president.”

The emails appear to bolster Sanders’ claims that the committee, and in particular Wasserman Schultz, did not treat him fairly. His campaign accused the committee of scheduling debates on weekends so fewer people would see them. And in May, Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, said on CNN that “we could have a long conversation just about Debbie Wasserman Schultz and how she’s been throwing shade at the Sanders campaign since the very beginning.”

In an email exchange that month, another committee official wrote to both Paustenbach and Amy Dacey, the committee’s chief executive, to suggest finding a way to bring attention to the religious beliefs of an unnamed person, apparently Sanders.

“It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God,” wrote Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the committee. “He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps.”

Marshall added in a second email: “It’s these Jesus thing.” Dacey wrote back, in capital letters: “AMEN.”

Marshall did not respond to an email asking for comment Friday. But The Intercept, a news website, quoted Marshall as saying: “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.”

In addition to criticism of Sanders, the emails reveal blunt talk about the committee’s fundraising and public relations efforts.

© 2016 New York Times News Service

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