WASHINGTON - U.S. national security adviser Robert O'Brien said Sunday that he has not seen "any evidence" that Russia is doing anything to help President Donald Trump get re-elected, but acknowledged he has not sought out intelligence reports that allege Moscow is interfering in the 2020 election.
Reports surfaced last week that U.S. intelligence officials had told the Democratic-controlled House Intelligence Committee that Russia was working to help Trump win a second term in the White House after previously meddling to aid him in the 2016 election.
But O'Brien told ABC News' "This Week" show, "I would doubt it. It just doesn't make common sense. Why would they want him re-elected?" He contended that Trump had strengthened the NATO alliance against Russian military might by pushing European countries to boost their defense spending.
O'Brien called reports of the information passed on to the Intelligence panel "a non-story."
"I've seen zero intelligence that Russia is trying to help President Trump get re-elected," O'Brien said.
"I haven't seen the intel, and I haven't seen that analysis," he said.
"I want to get whatever analysis they've got, and I want to make sure that the analysis is solid," he said. "From what I've heard — again — this is only what I've seen in the press, it doesn't make any sense."
O'Brien concluded, "If there's someone from the intel community that has something different, I'd be happy to take a look at it. I just haven't seen it."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, currently the leading contender to face Trump in November's national election, has been briefed by U.S. intelligence officials that Russia is also meddling to try to help him win the Democratic presidential nomination, possibly on the theory that as a self-declared democratic socialist Sanders would be Trump's weakest opponent.
"That's no surprise, he honeymooned in Moscow," O'Brien said of the Russian interest in Sanders's candidacy.
Trump and Sanders have reacted differently to reports of Russian interference on their behalf.
As he left for a trip to India, Trump blamed Congressman Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who led the prosecution of Trump at his Senate impeachment trial when he was acquitted, for leaking the information about Russian interference.
On board Air Force One, Trump said on Twitter, "Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam 'Shifty' Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media. Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!"
Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media. Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 23, 2020
Trump mockingly said if any Democrats are "blaming Russia, Russia, Russia for the Bernie Sanders win in Nevada," they need to call for a new investigation by former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Are any Democrat operatives, the DNC, or Crooked Hillary Clinton, blaming Russia, Russia, Russia for the Bernie Sanders win in Nevada. If so I suggest calling Bob Mueller & the 13 Angry Democrats to do a new Mueller Report, Democrat Edition. Bob will get to the bottom of it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 23, 2020
Mueller's lengthy review of the 2016 election concluded that Trump's campaign did not collude with Russia, but did not exonerate Trump on charges that he obstructed the investigation. Several prominent figures in Trump's orbit have been convicted and imprisoned on various charges that stemmed from Mueller's investigation.
At a campaign rally in Nevada on Friday, Trump said, "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."
Sanders said, “The American people, whether you’re Republican, Democrats, independents, are sick and tired of seeing Russia and other countries interfering in our election."
He told The Washington Post, “I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear: stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.”