Bernie Sanders promoted false story on reporting Russian trolls

POLITICS

Bernie Sanders is taking credit for action to combat the Russian incursion into the 2016 election that he didn’t have anything to do with — and didn’t actually happen.

Twice this week, in response to questions about whether he benefited from the Russian effort, as prosecutors allege, or did enough to stop it, Sanders said a staffer passed information to Hillary Clinton’s aides about a suspected Russian troll operation.

It turns out that the purported Sanders’ staffer who said he tried to sound the alarm was a campaign volunteer who acted on his own, without any contact or direction from the Vermont senator or his staff. When the volunteer, John Mattes of San Diego, said he communicated with the Clinton campaign in local press accounts, he was confusing it for a super PAC supportive of Clinton.

He also doesn’t know why Sanders is taking all the credit. “I’m going to send him a bill for my back pay,” Mattes joked.

“He could have called me,” Mattes added. “He maybe doesn’t have my phone number.”

Mattes’ claims, made in two phone interviews with POLITICO, came after Sanders and staffers offered numerous and conflicting answers in the span of a few hours on Wednesday about what he did about Russian meddling. Sanders and his top aide were at turns defiant and defensive during and after his interview with a Vermont radio station, even initially disputing special counsel Robert Mueller’s finding in his indictment last week that the Russians backed his campaign.

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