Bernie Has Message for Putin After Revelation on Meddling

Briefed 'about a month ago' on interference to help him, Sanders says, 'Stay out of American elections'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2020 6:00 AM CST
Sanders: I Was Told Russia's Trying to Help Me, Too
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is seen during a campaign stop Sunday in Denver.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

First the Washington Post and New York Times reported Russia is interfering to help President Trump win reelection, per US intel. Now the papers are adding a new scoop: that Russia is similarly trying to help Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. Sanders told reporters Friday that he received a briefing on this assistance "about a month ago," and that he didn't publicly acknowledge the briefing until now because "I go to many intelligence briefings [that] I don't reveal to the public." Unlike Trump, however, who called reports of meddling to help his own bid a "misinformation campaign," Sanders acknowledged the intel warning, and issued his own warning. "I don't care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president," he said in a statement. "My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do."

Sanders did take issue with the timing of the briefing's revelation, insinuating it was purposely leaked right before the Nevada caucuses. His campaign also speculates Trump's new acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, whom Sanders has slammed in the past, may have played a role, per the Daily Beast. Sources tell the Times that both current and ex-officials are wary Sanders was chosen by Russia due to a "hidden affinity" for it. Instead, they suspect it's because Russia wants Trump to win reelection and thinks Sanders would be the weakest candidate against him. Russia leaned toward Sanders and Trump in its 2016 meddling as well: The Times recalls special counsel Robert Mueller's report, which noted operatives at a Russian intel-backed troll factory were told to "use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest except for Sanders and Trump—we support them." (Read more Bernie Sanders stories.)

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