BURLINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday released the following statement on Russian government interference in U.S. elections:
“It is now clear to everyone that agents of the Russian government were, in a disgusting and dangerous manner, actively interfering in the 2016 elections in an effort to defeat Secretary Hillary Clinton. Based on media reports they intend to interfere in the mid-term elections of 2018. There has also been extensive reporting on the Russian government’s interference in European elections.
“All of this conduct taken together is a direct assault on the free democratic systems that stand in contrast to the autocratic, nationalistic kleptocracy of Vladimir Putin and his backers in the Russian oligarchy. Sadly, despite all this evidence, the only person who seems to be unconcerned about the subversion of democracy is our own president Donald Trump. Russian interference in both the 2016 primary and general election is unacceptable and everything possible must be done to ensure it does not happen again. No candidate, whether Secretary Clinton or anyone else, should have to wage an electoral contest in the face of foreign government intervention. The same is true of other kinds of interference the Russians engaged in, including posing as supporters of the social justice movement Black Lives Matter or members of the American Muslim community.
“Let there be no confusion about my view. What the Russians did in the 2016 election cycle deserves unconditional condemnation. That includes all of their conduct — whether it was active support of any candidate or active opposition to any candidate or the decision to not go after a candidate as a way of hurting or helping another campaign. This is true of any of the 2016 campaigns, including those of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or my own. As someone who campaigned hard for Secretary Clinton from one end of this country to another, it is an outrage that she had to run against not only Donald Trump but also the Russian government. All Americans rightly expected and deserved a fair election free of foreign governmental intervention. The key issues now are two: how we prevent the unwitting manipulation of the electoral and political system of our country by foreign governments; and exposing who was actively consorting with the Russian government’s attack on our democracy.”
On background from an aide to Sanders: Based on public reporting, especially a Huffington Post piece from March of 2017 — months after the 2016 general election was over — volunteer administrators of pro-Bernie Facebook pages detected an influx of anti-Hillary Clinton trolls in the April – May 2016 timeframe. One of the people featured in the stories about the Russian interference is a volunteer administrator John Mattes of San Diego. In a February 16, 2018 story, NBC 7 San Diego reported that Mattes claims he took whatever information he had to Hillary for America in August and the Obama Administration in September of 2016. Speaking on Vermont Public Radio on2/21/2018, Senator Sanders alluded to the San Diego NBC affiliate’s reporting when he said that someone from the campaign had informed Hillary for America about the influx of anti-Hillary Clinton trolling that was occurring on pro-Bernie 2016 Facebook pages. In doing so, he was using the word “campaign” expansively to include not only the formal, institutional campaign, but also the broader network of volunteers and supporters of Bernie 2016 across the country.