Late last week, the law firm for the suit’s plaintiffs filed a notice with the the court that it had received an anonymous call from someone using an electronic voice-disguising gadget, seeking information about the class action lawsuit alleging fraud against the DNC and its former chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The bizarre caller was given nothing but publicly available information. But the kicker was that the caller ID apparently matched that of Schultz’ own district office in Aventura, Florida.
Because of the possibility the call actually came from Schultz or someone in her office, attorneys for the plaintiff were ethically obligated to notify the court. Lawyers are bound by professional ethics to avoid direct contact with other parties represented by counsel. In the event of any accidental contact (such as individuals contacting opposing counsel by phone without their attorney) it’s the responsibility of the lawyers receiving the contact to document it and give notice to demonstrate they were not deliberately engaging in improper communications.
So the law firm of Beck and Lee dutifully advised the court and the attorneys defending the DNC of this possible “unsolicited direct contact by your client Debbie Wasserman Schultz.” The DNC’s attorneys responded by denying the call was made from Wasserman Schultz’ office. They mentioned in their notice that the district office for Wasserman Schultz in Aventura office has been undergoing repairs, indicating that it is not in use at this time.
Who would make such a peculiar call, and for what reason? Did it really come from Wasserman Schultz’ district office, or was the incoming phone number “spoofed” as the DNC’s lawyers appear to be suggesting? Either way, what would be the purpose of such a bizarre stunt?
We don’t know the identity of the caller or the content of the call, except that they signed off with “okey dokey.” The caller might have inquired about something as mundane as a case number. On the other hand, they could have been trying to gain confidential information. Maybe the caller was hoping to trap the law firm in an ethical snare by getting it to willfully engage in unsolicited talk with a represented party. Or maybe the caller’s aim was to ratchet up tension using a disguised voice like the crazed killers do on television. Beck and Lee have been vocal on social media about their concerns regarding apparently threats made to other lawyers involved in the case. Perhaps the weird call was an admittedly childish attempt to rattle them. We just don’t know.
But we do know that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has a history of weird behavior in this case. She appeared to be trying to avoid service of process when the suit was first filed—conduct more associated with deadbeat dads and crooked car dealers than with public officials.
Schultz has also seemed curiously out of control in videos circulating regarding custody of her laptop which was confiscated in an investigation of former members of her information technology (IT) team. One of the videos shows a red-faced Wasserman Schultz at a budgetary hearing threatening “consequences” ostensibly to U.S. Capitol Police if a particular laptop isn’t returned immediately. There is a similar video where Wasserman Schultz is oddly agitated about protocol regarding the use of Dropbox.
The matter of the investigation in her IT team is an unfolding story unto itself we’ll save for another day. Wasserman Schultz is not accused of having anything to do with the criminal conduct being investigated. But her overwrought behavior surrounding the disposition of the laptop is nothing short of bizarre. What kind of pressure is Schultz feeling that’s causing her to act out in this way? How might it be affecting her staff?
Given this state of affairs, perhaps the simplest explanation for “weird anonymous phone calls showing Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ number on caller ID” is not what we might normally think—some kid screwing around with call spoofing software and a voice disguising gadget for kicks.
Maybe DWS or someone in her office has reached the end of their metaphorical rope and just got weird, desperate, or silly. The DNC’s report that the Aventura office is closed for repairs doesn’t really cut against this. What better place for (a silly person) to try a stunt like this than from a landline in a darkened office with no one around.
The call could have come from a renegade overachiever, or it could have been someone who was asked to turn up the pressure on Beck and Lee, or simply find out how they talk about the case to the public. Regardless of motive, it’s actually exactly the stupid kind of move politicos make when they’re backed up against a wall. As we have seen more and more in recent months and years, public officials are not necessarily the people with most mature or sophisticated mindsets. They get scared and desperate like everyone else, and are capable of all kinds of nonsense under stress.
Of course the call might have originated from a third party—either someone with an agenda, or a just a plain old crank caller with some fairly easy to obtain spoofing abilities and electronic gear. Who would go to the trouble? Naturally, it would be someone with a keen interest in the case. The people who are most invested in this case are party loyalists who imagine (rightfully) that it presents an existential threat the establishment, and supporters of Bernie Sanders who would like to see the party and our political process reformed. Of the two the first has much more to gain.
But then again, you have to go pretty far around the bend to make a third-party scenario stack up. The mainstream press is barely interested in the DNC fraud lawsuit to begin with, so it’s not like legions of creative teens are out there in the chatrooms, scheming ways to mess with civil attorneys working on a bit of Democratic infighting grinding along in South Florida. There’s just not enough profile outside of the people and parties involved. A crank caller would be going to a lot of trouble for a couple of questionable lulz.
Plus, remember the caller ended with “okey dokey.” Would a 4-chan troll use “okey dokey” as a verbal tic? Full disclosure, as a middle-aged person I use “okey dokey” as a verbal tic and feel perfectly fine about. It’s something I picked up from doing phone work. I’m inclined to use the tic when I’m mildly embarrassed for having to make a stupid call. Like when your boss makes you triple-check something, and you get the answer you expect, you say, “okey dokey (glad that’s over with).” It’s a way to communicate that you’re (happily, quickly) transitioning the call to end.
Isn’t such a stunt incredibly childish and stupid?
Sure, but hang around political circles long enough and you’ll learn that you can’t overestimate the stupidity of people under pressure. People who are elected to office, along with the staff who serve them, reflect a very specific sociology. They’re not necessary the best and brightest. They’re the people who like to win. The ‘best and the brightest,’ and ‘those who like to win’ have very different ideas about how to get on in the world. A bright person wouldn’t make this call. Someone who wants to win at all costs might. Or better yet, have someone make it for them.
One thing is for sure—the attorneys for the plaintiffs are not amused by all the telephonic tomfoolery, some of which has apparently been much darker. Elizabeth Beck relayed a story on social media of a threatening call to their co-counsel Cullin O’Brien in which the person on the other end made reference to Beranton Whisenant, the dead district attorney who washed-up on the beach recently. They also reportedly mentioned O’Brien’s family, giving the whole encounter a sinister overtone.
So what’s going on here, and why does anyone care enough to be messing with threats and robot voices?
Despite the apparent lack of big-time media interest, a lot is at stake in the DNC fraud lawsuit, for a lot of powerful people, in terms of the future of the Democratic Party, and the DNC. And then there is the money. As I reported in Part 2 of the DNC Fraud Lawsuit series, whole economies could be run on the money that was raised in 2015-2016 Presidential election cycle through joint fundraising agreements between Hillary Clinton, state parties, and the DNC.
Perhaps the specter of a court of law dissecting all the ways that money was collected, funneled, and distributed has someone rattled enough to pick up a phone in a darkened, closed office in Aventura to try something as dumb and as desperate as calling a lawyer’s office in a robot voice, hoping to find a way out.