Campaign staff for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders regained access voter data provided by the Democratic National Committee today after being blocked from using the database over allegations staffers accessed information from Hillary Clinton's campaign.
The allegations over the data breach were expected to be a main topic of tonight's Democratic debate as Sanders and Clinton staffers exchanged in a back-and-forth over what happened when a firewall separating the campaigns from each other's data went down briefly earlier this week. In a statement issued late Friday, the DNC said Sanders' campaign had complied with the DNC request to provide information amid its investigation.
“Based on this information, we are restoring the Sanders campaign’s access to the voter file but will continue to investigate to ensure that the data that was inappropriately accessed has been deleted and is no longer in possession of the Sanders campaign," the statement said. "The Sanders campaign has agreed to fully cooperate with the continuing DNC investigation of this breach.”
"We are glad that all parties are moving forward," the statement continued, "and that the candidates and the party can refocus on engaging voters on the issues that matter to them: building on the President’s legacy of creating jobs, growing the economy, and a robust discussion on how we can keep Americans safe.”
Michael Briggs, a spokesperson for the Sanders campaign, later told ABC News staffers were able to see voter files Saturday morning.
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement: “We are pleased that the Sanders campaign has agreed to submit to an independent audit to determine the full extent of the intrusion its staff carried out earlier this week, and also to ensure that Sanders' voter file no longer contains any of the proprietary data that was taken from us. We believe this audit should proceed immediately, and, pending its findings, we expect further disciplinary action to be taken as appropriate.”
Prior to the DNC revoking the suspension, the Sanders campaign filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the DNC after it blocked the campaign's access to voter data, leaving the candidate's team "hamstrung" and losing "critical fundraising and publicity opportunities," according to legal documents.
The database includes information such as demographic and geographic data for registered voters and voter history and is vital to the Sanders campaign because it "has been financed primarily with contributions from individual donors rather than Political Action Committees," the suit says.
The DNC temporarily suspended the campaign's use of the database after Sanders staffers accessed data from the Clinton camp during a breakdown of the firewall in the system.
In a news conference outside Sanders' campaign headquarters Friday in Washington, D.C., Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, blamed the incident on the DNC and its software vendor.
Josh Uretsky, a Sanders campaign staffer who was fired Wednesday after viewing Clinton campaign data, told ABC News he was trying to investigate the data issue to see what information was vulnerable on their end so he could adequately report it to the software company. He said his team did not export any data and that he intentionally left a record of what he was doing in the system and did not try to hide his actions.
“The breach was in no way our fault,” said Uretsky. “I saw it and attempted to investigate and attempted to do it in a transparent manner.”
“To my knowledge, we did not take anything out of the system it was in and did not gain anything out of it. We saw a security breach and we tried to assess it and understand it, Uretsky continued.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairwoman, said Friday she was troubled by the Sanders campaign taking advantage of the software glitch to access the Clinton campaign’s voter data.
“It was a temporary glitch through a software patch that opened this window. The troubling thing is that one campaign took advantage of the opening of that window, and accessed the information of the other,” she said.
Shushannah Walshe, Paola Chavez, and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.