- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sen. Bernard Sanders’ bizarre spat with the Democratic National Committee stretched into a fourth day Sunday, with the grass-roots contender for the 2016 nomination tempering apologies for staff who breached his rival’s campaign files with new swipes at the party’s leaders, saying they’ve treated him unfairly.

For the most, Democrats say they’ve put last week’s embarrassing internal fight behind them, after Mr. Sanders agreed to an investigation into how his campaign staffers accessed some of Hillary Clinton’s private campaign data stored in DNC files.

Mr. Sanders apologized to Mrs. Clinton in Saturday night’s debate, and they and fellow candidate Martin O’Malley all said they thought voters are more interested in hearing about their policies than in the bickering that led to Mr. Sanders suing the DNC, and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign accusing Mr. Sanders‘ staffers of criminal behavior.

“I think that Sen. Sanders is a good guy and I think that his campaign is a little bit not serving him well in this instance,” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Sanders toggled Sunday between contrition and disgust with how the DNC handled the incident, saying the organization leaked some information to the press and the Clinton camp before briefing him on what had gone wrong. He also blasted the “incompetence” the DNC’s Web vendor, saying it had dropped Clinton data into his campaign’s lap more than once.

The first time it occurred, he said his staff did the right thing and reported the problem to the DNC.

SEE ALSO: Bernie Sanders calls Donald Trump a ‘pathological liar,’ toggles between apology and gripes over DNC

“The second time a staffer or more — we don’t know yet, we’re doing that investigation — screwed up and we have fired that person,” he said. “Point is that the DNC then proposed, because of the initial screwup on their part, to take away our access to our own information, which significantly hampers our campaign.”

The Clinton campaign said it had been victimized, not the other way around, and that Sanders campaign aides conducted deliberate searches and at one point tried — apparently unsuccessfully — to download data into a spreadsheet for storage and use later.

“I liked his apology last night a lot better than what I heard this morning. I think this was an egregious breach,” Mr. Podesta said.

The strange saga threatened to be an embarrassing black eye for both Mr. Sanders and the DNC, with the party accusing Mr. Sanders of playing dirty, and the candidate saying the DNC is trying to undermine his campaign in order to help Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Sanders had bought access to the party’s massive voter file, which contains information on tens of millions of voters’ party registration, voting history and any other data the DNC has been able to buy from corporate sources. The files help candidates decide whom to target with their messages.

But the DNC says Mr. Sanders‘ employees used a glitch in the system to get access to the data Mrs. Clinton had bought, and seeing what she was looking at allowed them to get a sense for her campaign strategy.

The party suspended Mr. Sanders‘ access Thursday afternoon, setting off a feverish back-and-forth that roped in the federal courts on Friday, with Mr. Sanders‘ campaign arguing its contract with the DNC required a 10-day notice before cutting it off.

Faced with that, and with growing pressure from liberal activists, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz relented — but only after she said Mr. Sanders agreed to an independent investigation to determine what had actually happened.

Mrs. Clinton maintains a wide lead in national polls and is ahead in Iowa, but Mr. Sanders tops her in polling in New Hampshire.

Computer-related problems have plagued Democrats all year. Mrs. Clinton had her push for the White House dented after it was revealed she rejected use of an official email account during her four years at the State Department, instead using an account on a server she kept at her home in New York.

The arrangement went against department policy, and the emails are now being released on a rolling monthly basis in accordance with a federal court order.

In that situation, it was Republicans demanding Mrs. Clinton submit her server to an independent monitor — a demand she rejected. Mrs. Clinton eventually had to turn the server over to the FBI, which is investigating the arrangement.

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