New Democratic presidential 2020 frontrunner Bernie Sanders said on Friday that he knew one month ago that the government of Russia was attempting to help his campaign with a new election interference effort. Sanders was responding to a Washington Post report revealing the Russian interference efforts.
But though the Post story said that the specific nature of the Russian efforts remained unclear, Sanders claimed that online attacks by his supporters against Nevada’s Culinary Union, and other critics of his campaign, may actually be Russians hiding behind false online identities, according to a report by The Guardian.
“Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters,” Sanders said in a statement, after acknowledging that the 2016 “Russian propaganda” campaign designed to “sow division” in the United States was now underway again in the 2020 campaign.
According to the Guardian report, however, no evidence has connected the pro-Sanders Russian operation to his campaign’s conflict with the Culinary Union.
The one-month timeline would indicate that Sanders was aware of the Russian interference to aid his campaign at least one week prior to the Iowa caucuses, and the subsequent New Hampshire primary, but said nothing publicly. But as seen in the video below, Sanders appeared to blame The Washington Post for publishing the Russian interference news one day prior to the Nevada caucus vote.
Bernie Sanders, who has known for a month that Russians were trying to interfere to help his campaign, blames rival Democrats for the leading the news on Nevada caucus eve. pic.twitter.com/fJvItg006s
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) February 21, 2020
“Washington Post? Good friends,” Sanders said with clear sarcasm, as seen in the video.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, in the report of his two-year investigation, and in congressional testimony, said that Russia interfered in the 2016 election campaign in a “sweeping and systematic” fashion, with the objective of benefiting Donald Trump.
But in his report, Mueller also said that Russian interference in 2016 promoted the campaign of one other candidate — Sanders.
While in his statement on Friday, Sanders unequivocally stated that he rejected Russian interference and would take steps as president to prevent it from happening again, Trump has consistently denied that the Russian election interference is real at all.
Trump was reportedly so enraged that Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire authorized a congressional briefing on 2020 Russian interference that on Thursday he fired Maguire and ordered him replaced with U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, a longtime Trump loyalist.
And in a post to his Twitter account on Friday, as quoted by The New York Times, Trump described the intelligence findings indicating the ongoing Russian interference campaign as a “hoax.”
Trump said that the reports of ongoing Russian efforts were part of a “misinformation campaign” that had been “launched by Democrats in Congress.”