(WASHINGTON) — After a week of reports that President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders are being pumped up by Russia through a misinformation campaign on social media, the president said he has “not been briefed at all” about Russian interference in the Democratic presidential primary.
“I read where Russia’s helping Bernie Sanders. Nobody said it to me at all. Nobody briefed me about that at all,” Trump said as he departed the White House on Sunday morning for his two-day trip to India. “I have not been briefed on that at all. Nobody told me about it.”
National security adviser Robert O’Brien separately told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week that he hadn’t seen any intelligence that Russia was doing anything to attempt to get Trump elected. He said it amounted to “a non-story.”
“I think it’s the same old story we’ve heard before,” O’Brien said, adding, “Our message to the Russians is stay out of the U.S. elections. We’ve been very tough on Russia and we’ve been great on election security.”
ABC News correspondent David Wright asked Trump on Sunday whether he believes Russia is trying to interfere to help Sanders, but the president deflected the question to the Democratic front-runner.
“You’ll have to ask Bernie Sanders that. I mean he’d know better than me. I have not been briefed to that effect, but you’ll have to ask Bernie Sanders about that,” Trump said.
Pressed whether he is concerned about Russian interference, Trump did not seize the opportunity to again urge Russian President Vladimir Putin not to meddle in the upcoming election.
“I think what it could be is, you know, the Democrats are treating Bernie Sanders very unfairly and it sounds to me like a leak from (Rep.) Adam Schiff because they don’t want Bernie Sanders to represent them,” Trump said. “It sounds like it’s ’16 all over again for Bernie Sanders. And he won. He had a great victory yesterday but you know what’s happening. You can see the handwriting on the wall. And I watched last time with respect to him, and they might have tried to do it with me, but I was able to catch him. That’ll be a terrible thing if that were the case.”
The president claimed that Democrats “leaked” the intelligence community’s discovery that Russia is working to help him and said Schiff, the House intelligence chairman, should be investigated.
“They ought to investigate Adam Schiff for leaking that information. He should not be leaking information out of intelligence. They ought to investigate Adam Schiff,” Trump said.
The president repeatedly offered congratulations to Sanders, calling his victory in the Nevada caucus on Saturday “a great win.”
“I think it was a great win for Bernie Sanders. We’ll see how it all turns out. They’ve got a lot of winning to do. I hope they treat him fairly,” Trump said. “Frankly, I don’t care who I run against. I just hope they treat him fairly. I hope it’s not going to be a rigged deal because there’s a lot of bad things going on.”
“But I congratulate Bernie Sanders, and if it’s going to be him, he certainly has a substantial lead. We’ll see what happens,” he continued.
Trump said he thinks Sanders will be the Democratic nominee unless the party’s establishment “cheat” the Vermont senator from the nomination.
“I think so, unless they cheat him out of it. I think so. I think Bernie is looking more and more like he’ll be the nominee, unless they cheat him out of it,” he repeated. “A lot of people thought he was going to be the nominee last time and that didn’t work out. I think they’re watching it very closely. I would imagine so.”
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