Brazile ultimately disputed the emails' authenticity, but her initial answers were evasive and even bizarre at times.
First, there was this exchange:
KELLY: How did you get that question, Donna?BRAZILE: Well, Kelly, since I play straight up and I play straight up with you, I did not receive any questions from CNN. Let's just be very clear.KELLY: Where did you get it? Where did you get it?BRAZILE: First of all, what information are you providing to me that will allow me to see what — what you're talking about? Everybody.(CROSSTALK)KELLY: You've got the WikiLeaks released on March 12.
“I did not receive any questions from CNN” is a terrible response. It leaves open the possibility that Brazile got the question from another source. If you're going to deny receiving the question, just say you never received it. Period.
And why would Brazile act as if she has no idea where Kelly got her information? Kelly was obviously referring to the WikiLeaks disclosure from last week, which Brazile knows about.
Moments later, the interview took a weird turn when Brazile went biblical on Kelly.
“You know, as a Christian woman, I understand persecution, but I will not sit here and be persecuted because your information is totally false,” Brazile said.
“Podesta's emails were stolen,” she added, referring to the chairman of Clinton's campaign. “You're so interested in talking about stolen material. You're like — you're like a thief that want to bring into the night the things that you found that was in this data.”
Having to answer legitimate questions from a journalist hardly qualifies as persecution. And while it is true that someone (probably the Russian government, according to U.S. intelligence officials) stole emails from the account of John Podesta, Kelly is not a “thief” simply because she wants to discuss the emails' contents.
The strange back-and-forth made it look as if Brazile had something to hide. Admitting to sharing the question (if, in fact, she did) would not have looked nearly as bad. She could have acknowledged the impropriety but pointed out that it involved a single question in a town hall — not even a head-to-head debate — and had nothing to do with Trump. Instead, she made a mildly bad situation worse.
Trump loved it, tweeting out a video clip from the interview.
Perhaps emboldened by Brazile's weak defense of her alleged question-sharing, Trump sent another tweet Thursday morning that appeared to suggest that Clinton had received questions ahead of the previous night's debate, too.
Later in the day at an Ohio rally, he repeated the charge, adding that Brazile should be fired. There is no evidence that Clinton knew the questions before any debate, but this is what Trump does. He takes a small scrap of truth (or possible truth) and presents it as something much bigger.
Brazile can't be blamed for Trump's hyperbolic habit, of course. But in this case, she made his job easier.