Bernie Sanders, who was attacked for the alleged support his campaign received from “Kremlin trolls,” is now accused of supporting a false story about how his campaign worked with that of Hillary Clinton against those trolls.
The Mueller investigation’s indictment of 13 Russians, who are accused of using false identities and failing to register as foreign agents while running a clickbait operation in the US, mentions that part of their efforts were aimed at drumming up support for Sanders. Consequently, the Vermont senator found himself on the defensive, as the US media questioned how much his campaign for the Democrat nomination benefited from the alleged “Russian trolls” and whether he was aware of that help.
Last week, Sanders released a lengthy statement condemning alleged Kremlin meddling in the US election and expressing support for his rival Hillary Clinton, who “had to run against not only Donald Trump, but also the Russian government.”
He and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, also gave a number of interviews, denying any Russia connection and trying to shift the blame onto Clinton.
“The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about alleged Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,” Sanders told Vermont Public Radio.
In an interview with Politico, the senator said his team had shared information with the Clinton campaign about suspected troll activity on a Sanders campaign Facebook page.
Weaver told the news outlet Sanders was referring to a story run by NBC News on February 16 about a warning form a Sanders supporter from San Diego, who spotted a big spike of Facebook subscriptions by apparent bot accounts.
In a follow-up, Politico accused Sanders of promoting a false story. The reason for the accusation was that the supporter in question, John Mattes, was a volunteer, not a campaign staffer, and that the warning he sent was directed to a pro-Clinton PAC rather than her campaign management. “Bernie Sanders is taking credit for action to combat the Russian incursion into the 2016 election that he didn’t have anything to do with – and didn’t actually happen,” the Politico story states.
Sanders’ primary campaign received widespread grassroots support in the US, but he ultimately lost the nomination to Clinton. In the aftermath of the 2015 campaign it was revealed that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was basically run by the Clinton campaign and reportedly rigged the primaries against Sanders, which gave grounds to his supporters to file a lawsuit against the organization. Nevertheless Sanders endorsed Clinton and called on his supporters to vote for her.
Another presidential candidate, Jill Stein, was similarly accused by some US media of being a Russian government pawn in the 2016 election. Stein won some of the votes in swing states, which could otherwise have gone to Clinton and secured her victory in the election, according to the reasoning of these accusations. There is apparently no evidence to support this hypothesis, and Stein herself ridiculed the accusations in an MSNBC interview.