Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the chair of the Democratic National Committee, on Friday defended the party’s decision to suspend Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential campaign from the DNC’s voter file after one or more campaign staffers viewed confidential information stored by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Wasserman Schultz told MSNBC that by temporarily suspending the Sanders campaign, the DNC is just following an agreement they have with each campaign.
“They are prohibited from accessing another campaign’s proprietary information, and we have the ability to suspend that campaign’s access to the voter file in order to make sure that we can preserve the integrity of the voter file and ensure that there is confidence in it,” she said.
During a brief breach on the software managing the DNC’s voter files on Wednesday, campaigns were able to view voter files stored by other campaigns. Typically, firewalls prevent campaigns from seeing each others’ information stored by the DNC. But for a brief period on Wednesday, NGP VAN, the vendor that manages the DNC’s voter files, had an issue with a new piece of the software that temporarily made the information available to other campaigns.
During that period, at least one Sanders staffer viewed the voter files of Clinton’s campaign, and Sander’s national data director Josh Uretsky was fired.
Supporters of the Sanders campaign and the liberal group MoveOn.org balked at the DNC’s decision to suspend the Sanders campaign on Friday. A MoveOn petition says, “Withholding access to this critical information at such a critical time for the campaign is equivalent to sabotage.”
When asked about this on MSNBC, Wasserman Schultz said that she believes Sanders supporters would have expected the DNC to suspend the Clinton campaign if Sanders’ files had been accessed.
“I am exploring what options are available to us, but until I am fully advised by independent experts how best to approach this, as quickly as possible, the only available remedy for us is to make sure that we cannot have the information manipulated,” she said. “And the only way to do that is to temporarily suspend access to the voter file.”
Uretsky said on Friday that he did not seek out the Clinton campaign’s data intentionally, but viewed it when checking to see how much of Sanders’ data was available to other campaigns. He said he didn’t believe that the campaign saved any of the Clinton data.
But on MSNBC, Wasserman Schultz indicated that the campaign may have downloaded data.
“Staff on the sanders campaign not only viewed the Clinton campaign’s proprietary data, but from what we’re being told, downloaded it, exported it and downloaded it,” she said.
NGP VAN said in a statement on Friday that only one campaign inappropriately accessed another’s on Wednesday. NGP VAN said it was unaware of any similar previous breaches, despite claims from the Sanders campaign that this has happened before.