WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday warned Russia to stay out of American elections after a newspaper reported U.S. officials had told him Moscow was trying to help his campaign.
Sanders said in a statement he did not care who Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to be U.S. president.
“My message to Putin is clear: stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do,” said Sanders, a senator from Vermont.
The Washington Post, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, said U.S. officials had told Sanders about the Russian effort and had also informed Republican President Donald Trump and other U.S. lawmakers.
It was not clear what form the Russian assistance had taken, the paper added.
In Bakersfield, California, Sanders told reporters “the intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign, right now, in 2020.”
A congressional source confirmed that intelligence officials have told lawmakers that Russia appears to be engaging in disinformation and propaganda campaigns to boost the 2020 campaigns of both Sanders and Trump.
The source, however, cautioned that the findings are very tentative.
The Kremlin earlier on Friday denied Russia was interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign to boost Trump’s re-election chances following reports that American intelligence officials had warned Congress about the election threat.
U.S. intelligence officials told members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee in a classified briefing last week that Russia was again interfering in American politics ahead of November’s election, as it did in 2016, a person familiar with the discussion told Reuters on Thursday.
Since that briefing, Trump has ousted the acting intelligence chief, replacing him this week with a political loyalist in an abrupt move as Democrats and former U.S. officials raised the alarm over national security concerns.
Additional reporting by Anastasia Teterevleva and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow, Makini Brice, Amanda Becker and Jonathan Landay in Washington; and Steve Holland in Las Vegas; Editing by Andrew Osborn, Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis