PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bernie Sanders said he is “proud to stand with” Hillary Clinton, while Michelle Obama said Clinton has “the guts and grace” to be president, as Democrats strove to appear unified at their national convention in the face of a political firestorm over hacked emails.
Democrats looked to defuse tensions by announcing that outgoing party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz would not take the stage. She has long been a focus of criticism from Sanders and his backers for her apparent bias in Clinton’s favor.
Many of Sanders’ supporters weren’t appeased, and they jeered as speakers lauded Clinton.
Here are the top takeaways from Monday’s opening day of the Democratic National Convention:
SANDERS URGES UNITY
Seeking to avoid a nationally televised display of disunity, Sanders urged his supporters to back Clinton.
The Vermont senator tried to settle roiling tensions between his ardent, left-leaning supporters and the party’s rank-and-file that back Clinton. He spoke directly to supporters, sent them texts and made an appeal as the final speaker Monday.
He told the convention that “Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.”
“If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country,” he said.
Some of Sanders’ strongest supporters were not ready to give up the fight against Clinton.
Melissa Arab, 44 of Shelby Township, Michigan, said she “wouldn’t vote for her for dog catcher.”
FIRST LADY STEALS SHOW
Not even Sanders could quiet the shouts of his die-hard supporters — but Michelle Obama did. She delivered a sharp attack on Trump — without ever mentioning his name.
She said she wants to see elected “someone who understands that the issues a president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.”
That was a clear reference to Trump, the tireless tweeter.
She lauded Clinton as a woman with a heart and as a future president who never “buckles under pressure” or takes the easy way out.
Other big names on the first night included Elizabeth Warren, who delivered the keynote address. The Massachusetts senator is a favorite of liberals.
“I’m with Hillary. This choice is personal. It’s about who we are as a people,” she said.
Warren called Clinton “one of the smartest, toughest, most tenacious people on this planet,” contrasting her decades-long record of public service with Trump, whom she described as “a man who has never sacrificed anything for anyone.”
There were also big names from the entertainment world, including comedian Sarah Silverman, and musicians Demi Lovato and Paul Simon.
THAT EMAIL CONTROVERSY
Democratic leaders long knew they would have a tough time unifying the party at the convention after a tough primary campaign. The hacked emails made it that much harder.
The 19,000 Democratic National Committee emails, posted by Wikileaks over the weekend, showed that top officials at the supposedly neutral DNC favored Clinton over Sanders in the primaries.
The FBI announced Monday it was investigating how the hack occurred.
Clinton’s campaign, citing a cybersecurity firm hired to investigate the leak, blamed Russia and suggested the goal was to benefit Trump’s campaign. Trump dismissed that suggestion in a tweet: “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails.”
Whatever the origins, Wasserman Schultz bore the brunt of the political fallout. Long a controversial figure, she announced on Sunday afternoon she would resign.
On Monday, the DNC released a statement apologizing “for the inexcusable remarks made over email.”
The statement was signed by DNC leaders, though Wasserman Schultz’s name was notably absent.
Sanders celebrated the ouster and said the party chief’s departure “opens up the possibility of new leaders at the top of the Democratic Party that will stand with working people.”
Republicans who suffered through a gaffe-plagued convention in Cleveland last week watched the Democratic drama with delight.
Trump said in a tweet: “Wow, the Republican Convention went so smoothly compared to the Dems total mess. But fear not, the dishonest media will find a good spinnnn!”
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