Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez wasted no time jumping into the political fray, suggesting the day after he was tabbed to lead the party out of power that President Trump “rigged” the general election with the help of the Russians.
“Frankly, what we need to be looking at is whether this election was rigged by Donald Trump and his buddy, [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Perez said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Mr. Perez, the former Obama administration labor secretary, called for an “independent investigation” to determine the extent of Moscow’s meddling in the presidential race.
“We need an independent investigation, because that is a serious, serious issue,” he continued. “And the American people need to understand whether the Russians, in cahoots with the Trump folks and others, rigged the election.”
While U.S. intelligence agencies are convinced that Russia hacked the email accounts of the DNC and liberal insider John Podesta, there is no evidence the Kremlin compromised the vote process in any way except by releasing information that embarrassed Hillary Clinton and accordingly influenced American voters.
President Obama had sarcastically dismissed in October any notion that hacking the U.S. election was even technically feasible and told Mr. Trump “to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”
Mr. Perez’s groundless insinuation of foul play came just hours after Mr. Trump levied his own accusation of election-rigging at the Democratic Party.
Tweeting early Sunday morning, the president compared the race to lead the DNC to the presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont. In both contests, he said the establishment candidate had the inside track.
“The race for the DNC Chairman was, of course, totally ‘rigged,’” Mr. Trump tweeted. “Bernie’s guy, like Bernie himself, never had a chance. Clinton demanded Perez!”
Former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down last year after emails surfaced appearing to show that the committee, which is supposed to be neutral and which Mrs. Wasserman Schultz insisted was being neutral, has conspired to aid Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.
The election to determine her successor came down to Mr. Perez and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota.
Mr. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, was backed by Mr. Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and other luminaries in the party’s progressive wing.
Several high-ranking members of the Obama administration, including former Vice President Biden and White House aides Valerie Jarrett and David Simas, reportedly made calls to undecided voters to sway them toward Mr. Perez.
Mr. Perez emerged as successful on Saturday after the tilt went to a second ballot. Mr. Ellison was named deputy chair.
Mr. Sanders pushed back against Mr. Trump on Sunday — somewhat. While he emphatically denounced the notion that the DNC race was “rigged,” he likened Mr. Ellison to the road team in a sports contest.
“Keith ran a great campaign,” Mr. Sanders said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He took on, in essence, Democratic insiders, and yet he came close to winning. That was a very impressive effort when you realize he was playing inside of the establishment’s house.”