Does Bernie Sanders want to hear more about Hillary Clinton’s “damn emails” after all?
That’s the implication in a new Wall Street Journal interview published late Wednesday night in which Sanders appears to want another crack at Clinton’s private email server – even after he dismissed the controversy in the first Democratic debate.
In the interview, Sanders said there are “valid questions” questions about her email usage, and seemed to walk back his comments at the debate. “You get 12 seconds to say these things,” he said of the debate. “There’s an investigation going on right now. I did not say, ‘End the investigation.’”
The tone of the interview, including a mention of Clinton’s “character,” drew immediate attention — including from the Clinton campaign — as a potential major shift for Sanders, who has said he would not attack Clinton personally. “It’s disappointing Senator Sanders and his campaign strategists have chosen to change direction and engage in the type of personal attacks that they previously said he wouldn’t do,” said Clinton spokesperson Josh Schwerin, pointing to Sanders’ comment on Clinton’s character.
But a Sanders campaign aide says that stance on the emails “not new,” pointing to a CNN interview Sanders conducted shortly after the debate in which he said the investigation into her server should “play itself out.” Indeed, he made a similar comment to NBC News at the time.
Still, Sanders seems to be making at least a tonal shift on the email controversy, and it comes as he seems to be getting rougher with Clinton in general. Also in the interview, he suggested Clinton’s changes on policy issues “does speak to the character of a person” — after previously saying he would focus on policy only when knocking Clinton’s flip flops.
In the debate, he was not asked to respond to Clinton’s emails, but instead interrupted to defend Clinton. During debate prep, Sanders and his team prepared for a moment like this in which he could jump into the fray, aides said later. And his campaign then raised at least $1.4 million off a fundraising email that went out during the debate touting his magnanimity.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Tuesday if he had any regrets about giving Clinton a pass on emails, he once again tried to strike a tricky balance, saying “No. I am not sorry at all” — before also adding “There’s a process going on. Let it go on.”
When asked about Sanders’ mention of Clinton’s character, his campaign spokesperson Symone Sanders said it was not a personal attack. “Bernie Sanders has always said in this campaign that voters deserve to hear about candidate’s position on issues. The decision about how that reflects on an individual candidate and their character … we are going to let voters make that decision,” she said. “He has never launched a personal attack, he does not do that, Bernie believes campaigns are about issues and the positions candidates take on those issues. He will continue to talk about that. “
This story has been updated with Sanders’ statement.