Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to "stay out of American elections" following a report that the Russian government was attempting to support his presidential campaign.
According to the Washington Post, U.S. officials have told Sanders that the Russians were seeking to bolster his campaign as part of a broader effort to interfere with the 2020 election. The story did not describe how the Russian government was doing so.
Calling Putin "an autocratic thug who is attempting to destroy democracy and crush dissent in Russia," Sanders said he stood "firmly against their efforts."
“I don't care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president," he said in the written statement. "My message to Putin is clear: stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do."
During his 2016 presidential campaign, according to former special counsel Robert Mueller, the Russian government used social media to support Sanders and President Donald Trump. In Friday's statement, Sanders suggested that the Russians were using similar tactics in this election. "Some of the ugly stuff on the internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters," he said, echoing a similar sentiment he voiced at Wednesday's Democratic debate in Las Vegas.
On Thursday, the New York Times reported that intelligence officials had told members of the U.S. House that Russia was seeking to bolster Trump's reelection in part by meddling in the Democratic primary.