Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment detailing the Russian social media campaign to aid Donald Trump, undermine Hillary Clinton and sow distrust in American politics describes behavior that aides to Bernie Sanders witnessed firsthand in the waning weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, the senator said Tuesday. In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Sanders described how an aide handling his social media accounts noticed an uptick in “horrific and ugly things” directed at Clinton beginning around September 2016 — long after the Democratic nomination had been decided, and while Sanders himself was traveling the country campaigning on her behalf. “In many respects, what Mueller’s report tells us is not new to us,” Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, said. “We knew that they were trying to sow division within the American people. In my case, it was to tell Bernie supporters that Hillary Clinton is a criminal, that Hillary Clinton is crazy, that Hillary Clinton is sick — terrible, terrible ugly stuff — and to have Bernie Sanders supporters either vote for Trump or Jill Stein or not vote at all.”
Sanders, who ran for president as a Democrat in 2016, described the situation in response to a question about his impression of the indictment released Friday by Mueller, the special counsel investing Russian election meddling and possible collusion with aides to President Donald Trump.
The indictment details a raft of activities by a Russian organization known as the Internet Research Agency to inflame political divisions, spread lies about the presidential race and encourage confrontations among Americans, largely on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
On Tuesday, Sanders described one spike in anti-Clinton sentiment that he attributed to the Russian campaign. In September 2016, an aide noticed hundreds of “new names” appearing on pro-Sanders Facebook pages to denigrate Clinton and her candidacy — despite the fact Sanders himself was campaigning on her behalf during that same period.