- White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said it’s „no surprise“ that Russian operatives are likely working to elect Vermont Sen. and Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders.
- But O’Brien, who made the comments on ABC’s „This Week,“ said he didn’t believe reports that Russia is trying to help President Donald Trump’s bid for re-election.
- „I have not seen that and I get pretty good access…to our intelligence,“ O’Brien said despite a briefing to lawmakers last week warning about Russia interference in the 2020 presidential election in support of Trump.
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White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Sunday denied reports that Russia was working to help President Donald Trump’s campaign for re-election, but repeated reports that the country was working to help Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ White House bid.
„There are these reports that they want Bernie Sanders to get elected president – that’s no surprise,“ O’Brien said about the newly cemented Democratic frontrunner who won big in the Nevada caucus the night before. „He honeymooned in Moscow.“
„The president,“ he added, „has rebuilt the American military to an extent we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan, so I don’t think it’s any surprise that Russia, or China, or Iran would want somebody other than President Trump.“
O’Brien said that Trump was going to continue to strengthen US foreign and defense policy, which would be good for US allies but bad for adversaries. He made the comments to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s „This Week.“
Last week, The New York Times reported that Shelby Pierson, a national intelligence aide, delivered a briefing before lawmakers that said the intelligence community had information that Russia was working to help re-elect the president in November, drawing the ire of Republicans and Trump.
Stephanopoulos pressed O’Brien on reports that – among efforts to help Sanders win the Democratic primary -Russia is also working to re-elect President Trump. When asked if he’d reviewed reports on pro-Trump support from Russia, O’Brien said, „I have not seen that and I get pretty good access.“
„I haven’t seen any intelligence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get President Trump elected,“ he continued. „I think this is the same old story we’ve heard before. I’ve seen the reports from that briefing on the intel committee. I wasn’t there, but I’ve seen no intelligence that suggests that.“
As The Washington Post previously reported, US intelligence officials also told the Sanders campaign that intelligence suggests Russia is reportedly working to help Sanders secure the Democratic Party’s nomination, though the scope of that operation is still unclear.
„Let’s be clear, the Russians want to undermine American democracy by dividing us and, unlike the current president, I stand firmly against their efforts, and any other foreign power that wants to interfere in our election,“ Sanders said in a statement following the report from Washington Post.
Sanders also claimed that some of the „ugly stuff“ on social media that have been attributed to Sanders‘ supporters was actually the result of Russian involvement. He has often received criticism for his more-passionate supporters, sometimes called „Bernie Bros.“ Recently, the Vermont senator faced criticism over reports his followers attacked members of The Culinary Union, a large union in Nevada, after it criticized his Medicare-for-All platform.
The president, meanwhile, replaced acting director of national intelligence Joseph Macguire following his authorization for an aide to deliver the Russian meddling report to a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Trump had reportedly been particularly angry because Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, was present during the briefing. Schiff led Trump’s impeachment in the House last year.
MacGuire was replaced by Richard Grenell, ambassador to Germany, who has been an outspoken Trump supporter.
As NPR reported, the president on Sunday congratulated the Vermont lawmaker on his Saturday night winning of the Nevada caucus.
„Bernie is looking more and more like he’ll be the nominee unless they cheat him out of it,“ the president said as he was leaving the White House for a two-day trip to India.
Though Marc Short, Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff, said on NBC’s „Meet the Press“ Trump would be „comfortable“ with any of his Democratic nominees in the general election, and he was not rooting for Sanders.