Rallying supporters in the battleground state of Nevada, President Donald Trump mocked almost every one of his Democratic opponents and rejected a new intelligence community assessment that Russia is again seeking to interfere in the 2020 race. (Feb. 21)
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump left for India on Sunday by seeking to drive a wedge between the Democratic Party and primary front-runner Bernie Sanders over new allegations regarding Russia.
Claiming – without evidence – that Democrats are leaking information that Russia wants to interfere in Democratic primaries to benefit Sanders, Trump told reporters that the Democrats “don’t want Bernie Sanders to represent them.”
Sanders and aides, confirming that they were briefed about Russian election efforts, cited evidence that President Vladimir Putin and his government favored Trump in the 2016 election and plan to do so again this year.
“I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president,” Sanders told reporters Friday. “My message to Putin is clear: stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.”
Sanders won the Nevada caucuses this weekend and enjoys the early lead in the Democratic nomination process.
In a wide-ranging Q-and-A with reporters Sunday at the White House, Trump also:
- Said he was looking forward to his whirlwind trip to India.
- Pledged to sign a new peace agreement with the Taliban and Afghanistan if the two sides can work out a deal.
- “Nineteen years, that’s a long time,” he said of the Afghanistan war.
- Again said he is considering a pardon for former political adviser Roger Stone, who faces 40 months in prison for a perjury conviction. Stone has appealed his conviction, claiming an unfair trial, and Trump said he wants to see how that process plays out before he makes a decision.
Keeping the focus on politics, Trump congratulated Sanders on his Nevada win and again sought to sow divisions among his opponents by claiming the Democrats would work to deny him the nomination.
“I hope they treat him fairly,” Trump said.
Trump and campaign aides have indicated they would prefer to run against Sanders in the fall, seeing him as the easiest to beat.
Trump has repeatedly accused the Democratic Party of rigging the system against Sanders in his 2016 race against Hillary Clinton. In some cases, Trump cited evidence hacked by Russians.
In claiming his victory in Nevada, Sanders said his growing coalition of young people and progressives will sweep him and the Democrats to victory in November.
“We are building an unprecedented grassroots movement, and together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish” he tweeted.
Trump spoke ahead of a two-day diplomatic display in India aimed at easing trade frictions between the two countries.
He will kick off the high-profile visit with a rally at the world’s largest cricket stadium in the western city of Ahmedabad in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
More than 100,000 people are expected to attend “Namaste Trump,” which will mirror the “Howdy Modi” rally in Houston held in honor of Modi last fall. Modi has promised Trump a spectacle in which the president has boasted about for days.
“He told me we’ll have 7 million people between the airport and the event,” Trump told reporters at the White House Tuesday before increasing that number to 10 million at a Thursday night rally.
An enthusiastic welcome was already underway in Ahmedabad, where huge posters lined the streets ahead of Trump’s arrival. India is one just six countries where majority of those polled approved of his foreign policies, according to the Pew Research Center.
The president will then fly to Agra, where he’ll join First Lady Melania Trump for a sunset tour of the iconic Taj Mahal.
On Tuesday Trump will participate in ceremonial events, including laying a wreath at the memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, and meet with government officials and Indian business leaders.
Trump will join Modi and other Indian officials for a dinner at the presidential palace before a late-night flight back to Washington.
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The nearly 36-hour trip is the shortest a U.S. president to has taken to India since President Richard Nixon’s 22-hour stay in 1969.
Trump will become the seventh president to make the trip to India.
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