(CNN)The Washington Post reported late Friday that intelligence officials told Sen. Bernie Sanders, the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, that Russians are actively trying to help him in an effort to split the party. They’re also meddling generally on behalf of President Donald Trump, although we knew that already. Officials notified Sanders about a month ago.
A version of this story appeared in CNN What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
This is a breaking story. Keep track here.
Sanders appeared furious about the report when asked about it.
“What I say to Mr. Putin, if elected president, trust me, you are not going to be interfering in American elections,” he said. He also added a dig at The Washington Post for reporting it. “Good friends,” he called the paper, sarcastically.
If it feels like you’ve seen this story before, it’s because you have.
But unlike a spy movie sequel, no one’s even changing out any of the characters. There is also no hero, although surely Trump sees himself that way.
The whole storyline, however, is straight out of a thriller: heated secret meetings on Capitol Hill, the President finding out about them from an allied congressman, then blowing up at and dislodging his spy chief, just as he undertakes a purge at the White House.
And another Russian interference effort intended to shake American faith in the grand democratic project. It raises real questions about what the President and the US government will do to protect the American election.
This is real and it’s scary. Unlike 2016, the news is unfolding almost in real time, and now we know enough to recognize what we are seeing.
In short, as my colleague Stephen Collinson wrote Friday, America’s Russia nightmare is back — and it’s worse this time.
Trump didn’t even find out about the intelligence briefing that set him off from his intel chief. CNN previously reported that he found out from Rep. Devin Nunes, a Californian who’s the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.
Maybe that’s why, a day later, on Valentine’s Day, he exploded at the nation’s top spy, who has since resigned.
Joseph Maguire had already been embarrassed by his short-lived effort, on behalf of the White House, to keep the whistleblower complaint from Congress.
Trump wasn’t mad about the meddling, mind you, but rather that his nemesis on Capitol Hill, the top impeachment inquisitor Adam Schiff, had been given the information.
Let’s set the scene:
… On the same day the President’s friend and political adviser Roger Stone was sentenced to prison (joining Trump’s former campaign manager and former lawyer), for lying about his efforts to coordinate with the Russians through WikiLeaks …
… The New York Times reported that Trump ousted his acting director of national intelligence …
… For telling Congress about Russian efforts to again interfere in the election. Again …
… Trump is mad not at the interference, but that the admission might be used against him by Democrats, namely Schiff …
… Out goes the intelligence chief. Trump then picks a political ally with no intelligence experience to oversee the intelligence community when the general election campaign kicks off …
… The spy chief shake-up comes just as Trump brings several former aides — Hope Hicks and John McEntee — back to the Oval Office …
… McEntee, who couldn’t previously get a security clearance, is now in charge of what from the outside seems like a purge at the National Security Council and he’s apparently telling aides to be on the lookout for disloyalty.
“Aren’t people bored?” Trump asked supporters at a rally in Las Vegas earlier on Friday. While the intelligence community he oversees has warned of Russian interference, the President accused Democrats of ginning up a new witch hunt.
Trump said he had been informed about “disinformation” by “Democrats” a week ago.
“I was told a week ago, they said, you know, they’re trying to start a rumor. It’s disinformation. That’s the only thing they’re good at. They’re not good at anything else. They get nothing done. Do-nothing Democrats. That Putin wants to make sure I get electe