Addressing the media on his meeting with PM Modi, US President Donald Trump, on Tuesday said that intelligence officials had briefed his opponent Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders of potential Russian interference in 2020 US Presidential elections. Calling the Russian interference as highly 'exaggerated' and disgraceful, he re-iterated that the intelligence officials have not briefed him on any Russian meddling. Trump is scheduled to leave for the US tonight after the President's banquet.
"What I am reading is that they went to Bernie and told him about it. They want Bernie to win. Intelligence never told me about it. It was strange that they went to Bernie. Now I find that highly exaggerated and it's disgraceful," he said at the New Delhi press meet.
On Friday, US news reports stated that House Intelligence Committee officials had told Sanders a month ago that Russia was attempting to meddle in their 2020 campaign. While Russia has denied these reports, the 78-year-old frontrunner was attacked by Trump who claimed that 'Russia wanted Bernie to win'. He angrily tweeted,"Why didn’t somebody tell me this?".
In response to alleged Russian interference, Sanders said,"We were told that Russia, maybe other countries, are going to get involved in this campaign. Look, here is the message to Russia- stay out of American elections. That is what they did in 2016 and that is the ugliest thing they are doing, is they are trying to cause chaos, they are trying to cause hatred in America," he said to US reporters.
Soon on Saturday, US reports quoted US intelligence officials stating the Russian interference in the 2020 election was overstated. Officials have claimed that the House members either misheard or misinterpreted a key part of the briefing. While they do believe that Russia is intervening in the election, officials are now stating that it may not be 'explicitly to help President Trump'.
Trump was recently impeached by US Congress and then acquitted by the Senate for soliciting a foreign power - Ukraine's - help in his 2020 re-election bid by withholding military aid to Ukraine unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a public announcement of a probe into former Vice-president Joe Biden. He will face the Democratic presidential nominee in November. Currently, Sanders leads the pack with winning the popular vote in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada Democratic primary elections.