Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has warned Russia to stay out of 2020 White House elections after US officials told him Moscow was trying to aid his campaign.
"The intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign, right now, in 2020. And what I say to Mr. Putin, if elected president, trust me you are not going to be interfering in American elections," Sanders told reporters in Bakersfield, California.
Sanders, 78, a democratic socialist US senator from Vermont, is considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and is favoured to win the Nevada caucuses on Saturday.
The Washington Post on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter, said US officials had told Sanders about the Russian effort and had also informed Republican President Donald Trump and US lawmakers.
It was not clear what form the Russian assistance took, the paper said.
A congressional source confirmed intelligence officials have told lawmakers Russia appears to be engaging in disinformation and propaganda campaigns to boost the 2020 campaigns of both Sanders and Trump.
The source, however, cautioned that the findings are very tentative.
Sanders said he was briefed about a month ago.
"We were told that Russia, maybe other countries, are going to get involved in this campaign," he told reporters. "Look, here is the message: To Russia, stay out of American elections."
"What they are doing, by the way, the ugly thing that they are doing - and I've seen some of their tweets and stuff - is they try to divide us up," he said. "They are trying to cause chaos. They're trying to cause hatred in America."
The Kremlin on Friday denied Russia was interfering in the US presidential campaign to boost Trump's re-election chances, following reports that American intelligence officials warned Congress about the election threat last week.
Australian Associated Press