Bernie Sanders announced his 2020 campaign with a blistering attack on President Trump.
“You know as well as I do that we are living in a pivotal and dangerous moment in American history,” the Vermont senator wrote in an email to supporters announcing his candidacy. “We are running against a president who is a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he believes Sanders “missed his time.”
But Trump also said he likes Sanders on a personal level, and that the two actually agree on certain issues, such as trade.
“I wish Bernie well,” Trump said. “It will be interesting to see how he does.”
Trump himself did not initially react to Sanders’s announcement publicly. His campaign’s newly announced national press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, issued a statement that doubled as a critique of the entire Democratic field.
“Bernie Sanders has already won the debate in the Democrat primary, because every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism,” McEnany said. “But the American people will reject an agenda of sky-high tax rates, government-run health care and coddling dictators like those in Venezuela. Only President Trump will keep America free, prosperous and safe.”
But Trump has had plenty to say about Sanders, who lost to Hillary Clinton in the hard-fought 2016 Democratic primary.
On Twitter, Trump has frequently referred to the self-described democratic socialist as “Crazy Bernie.”
In late 2015, Trump dismissed Sanders’ ideological label.
“Bernie Sanders is a socialist and he’s trying to soften it by saying a Democrat and a socialist — but he’s really a socialist,” Trump said. “Some people think he’s even worse than that. He’s the next step.”
Trump, though, seemed to relish Sanders’s attacks on Clinton during the primary — specifically, his questioning of her judgment and the assertion in April 2016 that she was not qualified to be president.
I don't want to hit Crazy Bernie Sanders too hard yet because I love watching what he is doing to Crooked Hillary. His time will come!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 11, 2016
Later in the campaign, Trump accused Clinton and the Democratic National Committee of rigging the primary her favor and stealing the nomination from Sanders.
“Hillary Clinton colluded with the Democratic Party in order to beat Crazy Bernie Sanders,” he tweeted in June 2016. “Is she allowed to so collude? Unfair to Bernie!”
At a rally in Las Vegas the same month, Trump, by then the presumptive Republican nominee, urged Sanders to stay in the race.
“Crazy Bernie, he’s crazy as a bed bug, but, you know, he doesn’t quit,” Trump said. “And I think Bernie should continue to go forward, folks. He should fight to the last end.”
Trump suggested Sanders was waiting for the FBI to conclude its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state before conceding the race.
“He’s waiting for the FBI to do what everybody thinks they’re going to do,” Trump said. “I think he’s sort of saying, ‘Look, let’s hang in there, because ultimately it’s called the FBI convention, and then we’ll be the only people and we’ll have done something like Trump did. I want to be like Trump.’”
Then in July 2016, Trump repeatedly blasted Sanders for conceding the nomination and endorsing Clinton.
“Bernie Sanders endorsing Crooked Hillary Clinton is like Occupy Wall Street endorsing Goldman Sachs,” Trump tweeted.
Trump even openly courted his supporters.
Sad to watch Bernie Sanders abandon his revolution. We welcome all voters who want to fix our rigged system and bring back our jobs.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2016
As president, Trump has not targeted Sanders personally. But in his State of the Union address last month, Trump took aim at socialism in general.
“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” the president said.
Sanders, who was in the audience, did not look pleased.
And in a live-streamed response to Trump’s speech address, Sanders pushed back against Trump’s remarks.
“Trump said tonight, ’We are born free, and we will stay free,’” Sanders said. “I say to Trump: People are not truly free when they can’t afford health care, prescription drugs, or a place to live. People are not free when they cannot retire with dignity or feed their families.”
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