Sanders warns Putin: ‘ Stay away from American elections ‘

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders condemned Russia for her reported attempts to help his campaign, saying that she should “stay out of American elections.”

Mr. Sanders said on Friday that Russian attempts to support his campaign had been confirmed to him by US officials last month.

Mr. Sanders, speaking in Bakersfield, California, said it wasn’t clear how Russia intended to interfere.

But the 78-year-old Vermont senator said he firmly opposed any efforts to do so. 

He denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin as an “autocratic thug” whose government “used internet propaganda in our country to seed division.”

“Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us up and I stand firmly against their efforts and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election, unlike the current president,” Mr. Sanders said.

Mr. Sanders, a self-styled socialist, is currently considered the front-runner in the race to win the Democrats ‘ presidential nomination. 

Facebook said no evidence of Russian assistance to Mr. Sanders ‘ campaign has been seen. Senior intelligence officials also believe that Russia sought to interfere in the November election to help win President Trump.

File photo: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in 2017

During a closed-door briefing on 13 February, members of the House Intelligence Committee were told that Russia favored Mr. Trump. 

President Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in Nevada on Friday, suggested the Russian meddling briefing was a Democrats-initiated “rumor.”

“I see these phonies, the Democrats do-nothing, they’ve said today that Putin wants to make sure Trump gets elected. We’re going there again,” Trump said.

What’s the controversy around Trump-Russia?

In 2016, US intelligence agencies reported that Russia implemented a cyber-attack strategy and fake news stories to manipulate the election against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

In 2019, Mr. Mueller submitted a 448-page report that did not establish the campaign the president had conspired with Russia during the election, but it did suggest that Mr. Trump had obstructed the inquiry.

Mr. Trump called the investigation a’ political witch hunt’ and Russian President Vladimir Putin denied collusion.

The Kremlin refuted election meddling claims Friday. Reuters reported that spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that they were “paranoid announcements” which had “nothing to do with the truth.”

The Russian statement runs counter to what the acting National Intelligence Director (DNI), Joseph Maguire, told Congress in last week’s classified briefing with US lawmakers. 

Mr. Trump lambasted Mr. Maguire for sharing the intelligence with Democratic legislators and sacking him one week after the briefing.

Mr. Maguire, the Washington Post reported, was a favorite to be nominated for the permanent DNI post.

Nevertheless, the paper said that when he found out about the briefing and what he called his staff’s “disloyalty,” the President changed his mind.

This week the president announced that Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany and a Trump loyalist will replace Mr. Maguire.

Richard Grenell

Two officials at the Trump administration told the New York Times that Mr. Maguire’s replacement was a coincidence, so soon after the contentious briefing.

Democrats blamed the president for nominating Mr. Grenell, who in the last election had previously played down the scale of Russian interference, and welcomed the rise of far-right politicians in Europe.

The president tweeted on Friday that they were considering “four great candidates” for the permanent DNI role. 

A day earlier, he told reporters that Congressman Doug Collins-who was Mr. Trump’s outspoken defender during the impeachment inquiry-was among the potential nominees.

Nevertheless, the Georgia Republican has said he does not want the message. 

“It’s not a job that concerns me, it’s not one I’d consider at this time because I’m running a Senate race down here in Georgia,” Mr Collins told Fox Business Network.

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