Trump, Schiff spar ahead of Nevada caucuses over claim Russians trying to help Bernie Sanders

President Trump and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff tangled on Twitter ahead of the Nevada caucuses on Saturday over the reports U.S. officials believe Russia is attempting to interfere in the Democratic presidential primary by helping Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The back-and-forth also follows the president’s recent dismissal of reports that the U.S. intelligence community believes Russia wants Trump to win re-election. He has portrayed those reports as nothing more than evidence of a continued vendetta from Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who played a starring role in the impeachment effort against him.

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“Democrats in the Great State of Nevada (Which, because of the Economy, Jobs, the Military & Vets, I will win in November), be careful of Russia, Russia, Russia,” the president tweeted Saturday. “According to Corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, they are pushing for Crazy Bernie Sanders to win. Vote!”

Responding on Twitter, Schiff of California accused Trump of not adequately standing up against foreign election interference.

“Mr. President, I didn’t say that,” Schiff said. “But if you wish to quote me, quote this: ‘The only thing Americans despise more than foreign actors trying to affect the vote is a president unwilling to do anything to stop it.’ Americans decide American elections.”

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that U.S. officials have determined Moscow is attempting to interfere in the Democratic primary race on Sanders’ behalf. Sanders responded by disavowing the alleged Russian efforts.

“I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.”

According to the Post, officials have told the Sanders campaign that Russia is working to boost the socialist as part of an effort to meddle in the Democratic presidential primary. The story, citing people familiar with the matter, said Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also been informed of the Russian attempts.

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On Thursday, The New York Times reported that intelligence officials told lawmakers in a classified briefing last week that Russia is meddling with the hope of getting Trump reelected. But Trump has pushed back against the reports, claiming Democrats were pushing a “misinformation campaign” in the hope of politically damaging him.

On Friday, Trump’s campaign spokesman, Tim Murtaugh, tweeted: “We condemn and reject foreign interference in American elections in any form.”

Sanders, though, accused the Trump administration of not standing against Russia’s efforts.

“Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend,” Sanders said. “He is an autocratic thug who is attempting to destroy democracy and crush dissent in Russia.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that the newest allegations are “paranoid reports that, unfortunately, there will be more and more of as we get closer to the elections [in the U.S.]. Of course, they have nothing to do with the truth.”

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U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia interfered in the 2016 election through social media campaigns and by stealing and distributing emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Intelligence officials say Russia was trying to boost Trump’s campaign and show chaos within the American political process.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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