Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign threatened to sue the Democratic National Committee Friday for shutting off its access to the national voter database.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, admitted at a press conference that staffers had improperly accessed confidential voter information gathered by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign but insisted that the information was made available because of a software glitch and was therefore the DNC was at fault.
Weaver went on to accuse the DNC of using the incident to "undermine" and "sabotage" the independent Vermont senator’s presidential campaign so that Hillary Clinton will win the party’s nomination next year.
"The leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign," Weaver stated. "This is unacceptable. Individual leaders of the DNC can support Hillary Clinton in anyway they want, but they are not going to sabotage our campaign, one of the strongest grassroot campaigns in modern history."
"If the DNC continues to hold our data hostage, and continues to try to attack the heart and soul of our grassroots campaign, we will be in federal court this afternoon seeking immediate relief," Weaver continued.
The campaign manager also called for an independent audit of the DNC’s mishandling of the data. He claimed that the Sanders campaign had notified the party of a similar firewall "failure" in October, which was not corrected.
The Washington Post first reported Friday that the DNC had penalized the Sanders campaign for improperly reviewing voter data gathered by the Clinton campaign. Sanders campaign staffers were able to view the information because of a software error by NGP VAN, a political data technology company working for the DNC. Weaver confirmed that the information had been improperly accessed and that the staffer who did so had been fired.
"Some of our staffers irresponsibly accessed some of the data from another campaign. That behavior is unacceptable to the Sanders campaign and we fired the staffer immediately and made certain that any information obtained was not utilized," Weaver said. "We are now speaking to others who might have been involved and further disciplinary action may follow."
He said that the DNC’s decision to suspend the campaign’s access to the data would not make it impossible for Sanders to beat Clinton out for the nomination.
"I think people across this country–we are beginning to see it now already online–are outraged by this conduct by the DNC, which is clearly a heavy-handed attempt to undermine this campaign," Weaver told reporters.
The DNC has said that it will not grant Sanders’ staffers access to the information until the campaign gives an explanation for the incident and shows that all Clinton data has been destroyed.
Jim Webb, a former 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who dropped out of the race earlier this year, cheered Sanders’ campaign for threatening legal action.
"Good for Bernie. The DNC is nothing more than an arm for the Clinton campaign," Webb wrote on Twitter Friday afternoon.