Stay out of US elections, Sanders warns Putin

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Bernie Sanders has suspended his 2020 presidential campaign
Bernie Sanders has suspended his 2020 presidential campaign

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has condemned Russia for its reported attempts to help his campaign, telling it to “stay out of American elections”.

Mr Sanders said on Friday that US officials had told him last month about Russian efforts to aid his campaign.

Speaking in Bakersfield, California, Mr Sanders said it was not clear how Russia intended to interfere.

But the Vermont senator, 78, said he strongly opposed any attempts to do so.

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

“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,” Mr Sanders said.

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

Facebook said it has not seen any evidence of Russian assistance to Mr Sanders’ campaign.

On Friday, The Washington Post said US President Donald Trump and other US lawmakers had been informed of reported Russian efforts to assist Mr Sanders.

Senior intelligence officials also believe Russia has been seeking to interfere in November’s election with a view to helping President Trump win.

President Trump was reportedly angry about the election security briefing
President Trump was reportedly angry about the election security briefing

Members of the House Intelligence Committee were told that Russia favoured Mr Trump at a closed-door briefing on 13 February.

President Trump, speaking at a Nevada campaign rally Friday, suggested the Russian meddling briefing was a “rumour” started by the Democrats.

“I see these phonies, the do-nothing Democrats, they said today that Putin wants to be sure that Trump gets elected. Here we go again,” Mr Trump said.

What is the Trump-Russia controversy about?

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia used a strategy of cyber-attacks and fake news stories in an effort to skew the election against the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

In 2017, former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to lead a US justice department inquiry into whether Trump aides had colluded with Kremlin agents.

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

Mr Trump called the inquiry a “political witch hunt” and Russian President Vladimir Putin denied collusion.

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