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Sen. Bernie Sanders On Russia: 'We Knew What We Knew, When We Knew It'

Sen. Bernie Sanders is seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 6 election. Eight challengers, including seven independents, are also on the ballot.
Emily Alfin Johnson
Sen. Bernie Sanders in the studio with Vermont Edition host Jane Lindholm Wednesday.

In an interview Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he was unaware that Russian interference was promoting his 2016 presidential campaign.

During a live interview on Vermont Edition, host Jane Lindholm raised the effort by foreign bodies, specifically Russia to convince American citizens "to believe something other than what they might otherwise believe."

Sanders: Absolutely

Lindholm: We've seen it in the Mueller indictments, we've seen the Russian government according to these indictments working to undermine Hillary Clinton—

Sanders: Absolutely

Lindholm: in many ways, including by supporting your campaign—

Sanders: Well, ha 'Supporting my campaign?' No," Sanders replied, "they were attacking Hillary Clinton's campaign using my supporters against them."

He then questioned how it was possible for President Donald Trump to ignore reporting from his own intelligence agencies:

Sanders alluded to being aware something was going on even during the primary campaign, but wasn't clear about exactly when his campaign began to suspect what turned out to be alleged interference by Russians in the 2016 campaign.

"In April and May," Sanders said Wednesday, "it appeared that there were lots of strange things happening attacking Hillary Clinton."

During the interview, Lindholm asked Sanders why he did not go to his supporters and warn them about the suspicious activity.

In response, Sanders said a campaign staffer named John Mattes noticed in late September 2016, hundreds of people popping up on pro-Sanders Facebook pages to disparage then-Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Listen to our full conversation with Sen. Bernie Sanders, here.

Around the same time, Sanders was out on the campaign trail campaigning for Clinton.

According to Sanders, Mattes went to the Clinton campaign and said “I think these guys are Russians.”

But Sanders stressed that he “did not know Russian bots were promoting my campaign."

The Russians were trying to promote division among the American people, Sanders said.

“The real question is what was the Clinton campaign," Sanders went on to say. "They had more information about this than we did.”

"We knew what we knew, when we knew it,” he concluded.

Listen to our full conversation with Sen. Bernie Sanders, here(this exchange starts at 11:31 in the full audio)

Update 6:19 p.m.: Sanders' campaign released the following statement Wednesday night.

The statement released by Sanders' campaign Wednesday night.

Emily Alfin Johnson was a senior producer for Vermont Public Radio.
Tabitha was the spring 2018 newsroom intern at VPR.
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