Backers of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign who are suing ex-Democratic National Committee (DNC) head Debbie Wasserman Schultz for allegedly tampering with the primary process filed a legal document Thursday alleging that one of her staffers improperly tried to get information from opposing lawyers, using voice-disguising software to hide their identity.
Caller ID tied the caller to the Florida congresswoman’s district office, but her staffers say they didn’t make the call, and that she must have been the victim of a technological attack.
If the Bernie-backing Democrats’ claims are true, it is the second time in as many weeks that Wasserman Schultz has been accused of improperly interfering into a legal proceeding that could reflect poorly on her.
If her response is accurate, it would be the third time in a year that she has been the victim of a technological incident.
The alleged phone number “spoofing,” apparently to frame her, has been referred to the U.S. Capitol Police. Wasserman Schultz recently threatened the Capitol Police with “consequences” for seizing evidence related to suspected network security violations by her top IT staffer.
Attorneys representing the Bernie-backers say it’s against the rules for a party in a lawsuit to go around lawyers and try to get information from the other party directly. “What just occurred is highly irregular,” they wrote in a court filing Thursday.
“At 4:54 p.m. today, an individual called our law office from ‘305-936-5724.’ The caller refused to identify himself/herself, but asked my secretary about the Wilding et al. v. DNC et al. lawsuit. My secretary stated that it sounded like the caller was using a voice changer, because the voice sounded robotic and genderless — along the lines of the voice changers used when television show interviews are kept anonymous.
“The caller concluded with ‘Okey dokey,’ after my secretary gave the caller public information about the case. After the call ended, a simple Google search of the phone number ‘305-936-5724′ shows that it is the phone number for Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ Aventura office,” an email in the court filing read.
Lawyers representing the DNC replied Friday that office was closed for repairs at the time, and that staffers said they made no such call.
“Defense counsel contacted a client representative, who has inquired and confirmed that no one on Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s staff, including the Congresswoman herself, has any knowledge of any such call being made, nor was any such call authorized.
“Further, it is highly unlikely that the call did in fact originate with that office, as no one is currently working in the office associated with the subject number—nor has anyone been working there for several months—due to ongoing repairs,” they wrote.
“Defendants are very concerned that this was a ‘spoofing’ incident, whereby a caller unaffiliated with the Congresswoman or her office, used one of any number of means to place a call that would appear, on the recipient’s caller ID, to be coming from that office. Given that the matter involves congressional phone lines, the incident has been reported to Capitol Police.”
The class action lawsuit against the DNC and its former chairwoman was brought in federal court in Florida — because Wasserman Schultz lives there — by Democrats who donated to the DNC but feel that their contributions were misused because rules require the DNC chair to “exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns.”
Based in part on hacked DNC emails, they say that Wasserman Schultz and her deputies showed favoritism to Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.
One such email showed DNC official Donna Brazile tipping off the campaign to debate questions in advance. Wasserman Schultz resigned from the DNC and took a position with the Clinton campaign.
The class-action plaintiffs also say they are owned money because they were harmed by negligent computer security.
“Defendants knew they inadequately safeguarded this information on the DNC computer systems and that sophisticated hackers routinely attempted to access this valuable data without authorization,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants breached the duties they owed to the DNC Donor Class Plaintiffs and members of the DNC Donor Class by failing to exercise reasonable care and implement adequate security protocols.”
Wasserman Schultz separately told House authorities discussing information security May 17 that she was “happy to admit” that she uses Dropbox in violation of policy and has “for years and years,” and questioned whether House administrators took security seriously since they hadn’t stopped her. She asked how members’ network use was monitored.
Capitol Police revealed in February that Imran Awan — Wasserman Schultz’s IT guy since 2005 — is the lead suspect in an ongoing criminal probe into theft and data security breaches. Equipment used by Awan was later seized by the Capitol Police as evidence, but Wasserman Schultz demanded it be released, saying it belongs to her.
House IT personnel administer email accounts and phone lines, and the hacked emails show that DNC staffers contacted Imran when they needed the password to Wasserman Schultz’s iPad.
While other members employing Awan swiftly fired him, she has kept him on staff. His family members have billed $4 million to taxpayers for Congressional IT work since 2010.
Her spokesman, David Damron, did not respond to questions, including how her treatment of Awan squares with a commitment to stopping future cyber-attacks.
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