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Joe Biden claimed in an interview televised Sunday that Russians had spent a “lot of money” on bots to go on Facebook and claim that “Biden is a bad guy” — before later acknowledging that the information came not from the intelligence community, but secondhand from his own staff.
The former vice president’s assertion came amid heightened concerns over potential Russian interference in the White House race, following recent reports that intelligence officials told Sen. Bernie Sanders how Russia may have wanted to help his campaign. The information has sparked confusion, especially after CNN urged caution on previous reports claiming the Russians aimed to help President Trump’s reelection campaign.
“I’m the person most likely to beat Trump,” Biden told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” anchor Margaret Brennan.”The Russians don’t want me to be the nominee. They spent a lot of money on bots on Facebook and they’ve been taken down, saying Biden is a bad guy. They don’t want Biden running. They’re not — no one’s helping me to try to get the nomination. They have good reason.”
Pressed on the matter, Biden replied, “I have not spoken to the intelligence community, but I think the intelligence community should inform the rest of us who are running what they told Senator Sanders. .. I was told that there are a lot of bots on Facebook, and they’ve been all taken down. … Fake accounts, yes, and they’re taken down, but I — I don’t know who — I didn’t get a call from Facebook, but I was told by my — my staff that’s what happened.”
“I didn’t get a call from Facebook, but I was told by my — my staff that’s what happened.”
Biden went on to suggest, seemingly as conjecture, that “the people that occupied my [campaign] office … maybe they were Russians. I don’t know, but they — they said they were Bernie supporters.”
Separately in the interview, Biden defended the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s 2016 election interference, even though the bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee faulted Obama’s actions earlier this year.
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“Not at all,” Biden told Brennan when asked whether he agreed with the report’s conclusions. “Look, we went out and went to the committee, went to the Republican leadership and said, ‘Look, this is what we have.’ I didn’t, but the intelligence community did. ‘This is what we have. Why don’t you join us in condemning what’s happening?’ And, the Republican leader of Senate said, ‘No, I want no part of it- joining in what is happening.’ And, everything that came up subsequently to that reinforced what we were saying was going on.”
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The bipartisan Senate report found that the Obama White House “was not well postured” to handle the matter, and “atypically” restricted discussions on the interference to a small cadre of aides.
“The committee found that the decisions to limit and delay the information flow regarding the 2016 Russian active measures campaign, while understandable, inadvertently constrained the administration’s ability to respond,” the report read.
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., told NPR: “I think the Obama administration, with the benefit of hindsight, should have acted more aggressively.”
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Asked whether there were lessons for the Trump administration in the report, Biden responded curtly, “Look, this administration is incapable of learning elections.”
Meanwhile, Biden also said he “feels good” about his 2020 election chances, even though he has fallen well behind Sanders in the race for the presidential nomination.
“I don’t know,” Biden said, when asked if he could stop Sanders. “It’s not about who I stop. It’s why I’m running, why I’m telling the people that I should be the next president and why I’m the best guy to beat Trump.”
The Feb. 29 South Carolina primary would afford Biden the chance to stage a comeback, given his strong — but apparently declining — support among black voters there.
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Biden has finished a disappointing fourth in the Iowa caucuses and fifth in the New Hampshire primary, but buoyed by support from black voters, claimed a second-place finish in Saturday’s Nevada Caucuses.
Less than two-thirds of precincts had reported results, however. According to the incomplete figures as of early Sunday afternoon, Sanders’ 46 percent of the vote towered over Biden’s 19.6 percent, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s 15.3 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 10.1 percent.
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