It was The Washington Post that first reported that Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination had been informed it was receiving the help of the Kremlin. Soon after, President Donald Trump told reporters that he hadn’t been notified of the development and pinned the blame for the so-called “leak” on Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Now, he’s doubling down. At a press conference in India on Tuesday, Trump again said that he thinks Schiff leaked the news of Russia’s alleged election interference.
“I think it was leaks from the Intelligence Committee,” Trump told reporters, according to the Daily Caller. “I think probably Schiff leaked it but some people leaked it — Schiff leaked it, in my opinion. And he shouldn’t be leaking things like that.”
“They never told me anything”
In addition to leaking the news to the media, Schiff’s Intelligence panel failed to share the news with the White House, Trump reiterated Tuesday.
“They never told me anything about that, and it was sort of a strange thing that they went to Bernie,” he said. “And we have a couple people here that would know very well.”
The president also said initial reports on the allegations were “highly exaggerated,” according to the Daily Caller.
“This is what they do”
Trump and Schiff have long had a contentious relationship. The president has accused the congressman of lying in the past, and those claims have often been proven true; for instance, Schiff told MSNBC in September that he had not been in contact with the so-called “whistleblower” whose complaint sparked the House’s impeachment inquiry, but a subsequent New York Times report revealed otherwise.
What’s more, Trump seemed skeptical Tuesday that Russia is really the major force behind the rise of Sanders. He suggested instead that elites within the Democratic Party are stoking rumors as a way to discredit the Vermont senator, whose campaign has seen significant growth in recent months.
“Bernie is probably winning and looks like he is winning, and he’s got a head of steam, and they maybe don’t want him for obvious reasons,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday.
“They don’t want him, so they put out a thing that Russia is backing him,” he added. “This is what they do.”
A message to Putin
For his part, Sanders has disavowed any assistance from Russia, according to Fox News, saying: “I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear: stay out of American elections, and as president, I will make sure that you do.”
When a reporter asked Trump Tuesday if he would accept help from a foreign power, the president was curt in his reply.
“First of all, I want no help from any country,” he said, according to the Daily Caller. “And I haven’t been given help from any country.”