The Democratic infighting over access to voter data that was expected to rile up both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton turned into a tempered apology during Saturday’s debate. The issue began on Friday with the DNC blocking the Sanders campaign from accessing available voter data after a staffer accessed Clinton’s private information. The drama heightened when Sanders filed a lawsuit but came to an anticlimactic end on Saturday morning with the DNC giving his campaign back its regular access.
Right from the start on Saturday night, moderator David Muir asked really the only pertinent question in the low-stakes debate—just what exactly went on with the Sanders camp’s alleged unauthorized access to voter data belonging to Hillary.
Sanders responded by saying that there were “two occasions” previously that he was aware of in which there had been breaches of voter data in the DNC database. In those instances, his staffers who “found information on their computers from the Clinton campaign,” alerted the vendors of the problem immediately, resolving the situation.
In the third instance—the one that created a stir this weekend—Sanders admitted that his staff did something wrong by looking at the information instead of going right to the vendors and alerting them to the issue. “Our staff did the wrong thing,” Sanders said before apologizing to Clinton on Saturday night. He added “I am not convinced that information from our campaign did not end up in her campaign.”
While this response was significantly less fiery than anticipated, Sanders did take issue with the DNC response calling it “an egregious act” to cut off his campaign from viewing any of the available data. He called for an independent investigation that would assess whether there were any other breaches on his end or Clinton’s.
Hillary accepted the apology so as to avoid discussing the matter further.
“Obviously we were distressed when we learned of it, because we’ve worked very hard,” Hillary said. “And so now that I think that we’ve resolved your data, agreed on an independent inquiry, we should move on. Because I don’t think the American people care all that much.”
This runs counter to the aggressive tactics Hillary’s campaign promised to employ before Saturday’s debate.
Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary for America’s Communications Director, released a list of four questions “Bernie Sanders needs to answer” prior to Saturday’s event in New Hampshire. These included the still unanswered questions about why Sanders’ campaign initially claimed the incident was an accident (Palmieri notes that the access would require some degree of legwork). The Clinton campaign did not respond when asked for comment about why these questions were not raised by the candidate.
Additionally, Sanders was not asked why the fired staffer, Josh Uretsky, was referred to as being on the junior level when he calls himself the National Data Director for the campaign on his LinkedIn page.
It is unclear whether those questions will be addressed during the remainder of the debate.
Martin O’Malley was also present.