Speaking to reporters in Bakersfield, California on Friday afternoon, Sanders confirmed that his campaign was informed about the Kremlin’s efforts about a month ago and condemned Russia’s attempts to interfere in the U.S. election.
“It was not clear what role they would play. We were told that Russia, perhaps other countries, will be involved in this campaign, and look, here’s the message for Russia: to stay out of the American election,” Sanders said.
“And what they’re doing, by the way, the bad thing they’re doing, and I’ve seen some of their tweets and things, is that they’re trying to divide us. It’s what they did in 2016 and it’s the worst thing they’re doing – they’re trying to cause chaos, they are trying to cause hatred in America. “
The Vermont senator speculated that the news broke out on Friday afternoon to have an impact on Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, of which he is a leading candidate.
Two of Sanders’ main democratic rivals caught the news, with Michael Bloomberg’s campaign calling Russian support for Sanders a “no-brainer” for Moscow.
Former Vice President Joe Biden told Arlette Saenz of CNN in Las Vegas that the report indicates that Putin does not want him elected.
Trump was briefed on Russia’s effort to help Sanders, a White House official said. The timing of the briefing was unclear.
At a rally in Las Vegas before the Post’s report broke, Trump suggested that Moscow would prefer Sanders to win, not him, without mentioning the fact that he had been briefed on the matter.
At Wednesday night’s debate, Sanders was questioned about the online assault by some of his supporters. Without mentioning the intelligence briefing, he replied: “We all remember 2016, and what we remember are the efforts of the Russians and others to try to interfere in our elections and divide us. I’m not saying it’s happening, but I’m not saying it it would amaze me. “
Asked on Friday by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” because the Sanders campaign did not reveal Russia’s involvement, Ro Khanna, a national co-president of the campaign, said the Senator from Vermont did not want to disclose sensitive information publicly. As for why Moscow would like to boost Sanders, Khanna said he had “no idea what motivates Vladimir Putin.”
Russia’s longstanding effort to interfere in the US election
Since 2016, U.S. intelligence officials have continued to consistently warn about Russia’s continuing efforts to interfere in the American election, detecting threats both in the mid-term of 2018 and in the 2020 presidential race.
On Thursday, CNN and other outlets reported that the intelligence community’s chief electoral security officer gave a briefing to lawmakers last week warning them that the intelligence community believes that Russia is already taking steps to interfere in the elections. 2020 to help Trump.
US intelligence officials, however, continued to consistently warn about Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere in the American election.
Last month, FBI director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Russia continued to “engage in malicious foreign influence” online with the aim of sowing division and discord “and generating controversy, to generate distrust in our democratic institutions in our election processes. “
This story is breaking and will be updated.
CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Jim Acosta, Zachary Cohen, Dana Bash and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.