President Trump said at a Nevada campaign rally Friday that Democrats are trying to start a “rumor” about Russia interfering in the 2020 presidential election on his behalf, calling them “sick” and “crazy.”
Trump also suggested that Moscow would prefer to see Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the leading contender for the Democratic nomination, in the White House, noting that he “honeymooned” in the Soviet Union.
“After three years of ridiculous witch hunts and partisan Democrat crusades — by the way, I think they’re starting another one,” Trump told a crowd of supporters at an afternoon rally in Las Vegas.
“Did you see that? I see these phonies, the do-nothing Democrats, they said today that Putin wants to be sure that Trump gets elected. Here we go again.”
Trump blamed House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for recent reports about Russian meddling to help his reelection, without naming Schiff specifically but referring to him as “pencil neck” – a nickname the president and his allies have used to mock the California congressman.
“I was told a week ago. They said, you know, they’re trying to start a rumor. It’s disinformation. that’s the only thing they’re good at. They’re not good at anything else. They get nothing done,” Trump said, referring to Democrats.
The president’s remarks expanded on a tweet he sent earlier Friday.
The New York Times and Washington Post reported Thursday that U.S. intelligence officials informed House lawmakers in a closed briefing last week that Russia was meddling in the 2020 election in order to help Trump get reelected.
The details of the briefing were reportedly relayed to the president — a detail he seemed to confirm in his rally remarks Friday — and caused him to lash out at acting intelligence chief Joseph Maguire.
Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in order to help Trump, according to the U.S. intelligence community, though he has repeatedly cast doubt on that judgment despite it being confirmed by both congressional and executive branch investigations.
The 2016 developments precipitated a two-year investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference and the Trump campaign’s ties to Moscow, a probe that dogged a considerable portion of the president’s first term and that he repeatedly decries as a “witch hunt" to this day.
Trump on Friday ridiculed the idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin would want him to remain in the White House.
“Doesn’t he want to see who the Democrat is going to be?” Trump asked the crowd. “Wouldn’t he rather have Bernie, who honeymooned in Moscow? These people are crazy.”
Trump then noted that he wants to “get along” with Russia and other countries.
“Who the hell needs to have conflicts?” he asked.
Trump has often spoke positively about Putin and welcomed better relations with Moscow, but tensions between Washington and Moscow have persisted over issues ranging from election meddling to arms control.
Mueller concluded his investigation last spring, finding no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow, a result the president has cheered while continuing to attack the investigation as motivated by bias.