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Although Sanders later denounced the Kremlin’s efforts and campaigned for Clinton, some Democrats believe he could have done more to smooth over tensions and encourage his supporters to support his onetime opponent. A former senior Clinton campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid publicly criticizing Sanders ahead of the 2020 primaries, said that there remains bitterness over the way Sanders repeatedly said the system was tilted against him.
Sanders said in May 2016 that party rules enabling Clinton to collect “superdelegates” did not meet the definition of “rigged,” but he called it a “dumb process which certainly has disadvantaged our campaign.”
The effort to promote Sanders as a way to influence the U.S. election began shortly after he declared his candidacy in spring 2015, according to Mueller’s indictment of the Russians. Russia’s aim was to defeat or weaken Clinton, who had angered Russian President Vladimir Putin when she had been secretary of state.