Bernie Sanders responds to report that Russia is intervening to boost his campaign
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) urged Russia to stay out of the upcoming 2020 election in response to a new Washington Post article, which reported Friday that the Democratic frontrunner has been briefed by U.S. officials that the foreign government is trying to boost his candidacy.
“I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president,” Sanders 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."
He also said:
Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend. He is an autocratic thug who is attempting to destroy democracy and crush dissent in Russia. Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts, and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election.
The news comes following an uproar between President Donald Trump and the former director of national intelligence. Joseph Maguire, who had until this week been the DNI, resigned from the government on Friday according to CNN. He's being replaced by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who has no background in intelligence but is a fervent Trump loyalist.
According to multiple outlets, including CNN, Trump recently became angry at Maguire when he learned that one of his subordinates had briefed members of Congress on the finding that Russia was intervening to help Trump win re-election. Trump "complained that Democrats would use it against him," the New York Times reported.
But the finding that Russia is intervening in 2016 and throwing support behind both Sanders and Trump wouldn't be surprising. As the Post noted, federal prosecutors said that the Internet Research Agency — funded by Russia to interfere in 2016 — told its paid online trolls to "use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them)." This fit with the broader goal of feeding discord in the United States in an attempt to weaken the country. But the intelligence community also reported that President Vladimir Putin and his government "developed a clear preference for" Trump during the campaign.
And though they're potential competitors, there's no contradiction in Russia supporting both Sanders and Trump. The Kremlin could hope to see Sanders win the Democratic nomination and for Trump to win in the general. However, the news reports about the intelligence findings are far from sufficient to draw conclusions about Russia's true intentions.