As Iowa precinct chairs scrambled to report results from the Democratic caucuses Monday, clogging phone lines at party headquarters, pro-Trump pranksters made the problem worse by inundating the hotline with frivolous calls, the Iowa Democratic Party said Thursday.
“The unexplained, and at times hostile, calls contributed to the delay in the Iowa Democratic Party’s collection of results, but in no way affected the integrity of information gathered or the accuracy of data sets reported,” said IDP communications director Mandy McClure.
The problem appears to have started when phone number for the IDP was posted on 4Chan, NBC News reports:
“They have to call in the results now. Very long hold times being reported. Phone line being clogged,” one user posted at about 11 p.m. ET on Monday, two hours after the caucuses began.
“Uh oh how unfortunate it would be for a bunch of mischief makers to start clogging the lines,” responded another anonymous user, sarcastically.
As the prank calls started coming in, they took several forms. Some taciturn mischief-makers hung up as soon as they connected with a human. Some professed their love for Donald Trump. Others railed against the Democratic Party. “All the Trump people from around the country started calling and tearing everybody a new one,” IDP treasurer Ken Sager told party insiders in a call Wednesday.
Those answering phones for the IDP began to block the numbers from repeat callers, but even with 85 phone lines, the combination of legitimate and illegitimate calls was more than the party could handle.
As annoying as the pro-Trump calls no doubt were, the IDP can’t shift the blame away from itself for Monday’s debacle. The primary problem was a smartphone app that wasn’t ready for prime time. The party also wasn’t prepared for plan B, having precinct workers call in results. According to the Times, those calls took twice as long as expected, increasing wait times and delaying results. On top of it all, amid the mounting confusion of the evening, caucusgoers began calling in for more information about what happened at their caucus site.
The Trump campaign denied any knowledge of the skullduggery. “We don’t know anything about this, but perhaps Democrats should consider using an app that works. It’s laughable that they would try to blame Trump for their own incompetence,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump reelection campaign.