Sen. Bernie Sanders is taking heat from liberals after suggesting Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign could have done more to prevent or thwart Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"I did not know that Russian bots were promoting my campaign," the Vermont independent told a Vermont Public Radio station Wednesday. "I would say that the real question to be asked is: What was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference] — they had more information about this than we had"
"They were supporting my campaign?" he added. "No. They were attacking Hillary Clinton’s campaign and using my supporters against Hillary Clinton."
Throughout the interview, Sanders made it clear that he was opposed to Russia's actions and social media campaigns. He also discussed the importance of improving the security of the nation's voting systems. But on social media, the damage was already done.
Both the comments by Sanders and the subsequent fallout seemed to magnify the deep divides among the political left, reminiscent of the 2016 primaries. The two sides have hardly been able to see eye-to-eye and have essentially opposite opinions as to why the election resulted in the rise of Donald Trump. Between both Sanders and Clinton personally, there's little bad blood, but the two are ideologically very different. And the supporters of each camp have often made the war only about the two candidates.
Sanders released a statement after the interview that reaffirmed condemnation of Russian actions during the election.
"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 statement said. "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."
It continued: "Let there be no confusion about my view. What the Russians did in the 2016 election cycle deserves unconditional condemnation." He continued on Twitter as well.
The most recent indictment of 13 Russians from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the probe into Russian election interference and President Donald Trump's alleged ties to the Russian government, has not been received well by Sanders' critics. This is because the 37-page indictment said Russia helped bolster the Sanders campaign, the magnitude of which is still unclear.
"They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump," the indictment said.
Sanders said his campaign notified Clinton's, but his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, walked that back and said the senator never knew about it at the time that it happened. Weaver added that Sanders had been referring to a story in which a social media organizer for his campaign noticed possible Russian trolling activity after the senator had already lost the primary, Politico noted.
A former Clinton campaign staffer denied Sanders' claim that his campaign informed Clinton's of suspected Russian trolls. "No one from the Sanders campaign ever contacted us about this," the former staffer told Politico.