Donald Trump named Bernie Sanders on Tuesday as the biggest loser of the FBI’s decision to not recommend charges be brought against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email system as secretary of state.
“Who is the most angry about this? I think the one with the most to lose is Bernie Sanders,” Trump said in North Carolina. “Because honestly, he was waiting for the FBI primary. And guess what? He just lost today. He lost the FBI primary. Bernie, my poor Bernie. I feel so bad for Bernie.”
“But you know what? A lot of Bernie Sanders supporters will be voting for Trump. Because he was right about the system being rigged, and he was right about trade.”
During much of his presidential campaign, Sanders dismissed questions about his thoughts on Clinton’s use of a private email server, though some high-profile supporters essentially cheered on the FBI to indict Clinton.
Sanders’ reticence to critique Clinton on the issue didn’t stop Trump, who speculated on Tuesday about Sanders’ personal feelings about Clinton, claiming that the senator was unhappy with the FBI’s ruling.
“He’s not happy tonight folks. Because it looks like it’s over for Bernie. I have a feeling that they’ll have a lot of people marching on Philadelphia,” Trump said, referring to the location of the Democratic National Convention later this month.
Over the past several months, sympathizing with Sanders has become a signature part of Trump’s stump speech. The real-estate magnate frequently draws parallels with Sanders over their skepticism of international trade deals.
In an interview earlier this year, Trump noted he would refashion some of the senator’s rhetorical barbs at Clinton.
“Bernie Sanders has a message that’s interesting,” Trump said. “I’m going to be taking a lot of the things that Bernie said and using them.”
He added: “I can reread some of his speeches and I can get some very good material.”
It’s less clear whether Trump will actually persuade many Sanders supporters.
In a Washington Post/ABC poll released last month, only 8% of former Sanders primary supporters responded that they would support the presumptive Republican presidential nominee over Clinton in the general election. That number was down from May, when 20% of Sanders supporters said they would back Trump over Clinton.
For his part, Sanders frequently dismisses Trump’s claims about his relationship with Clinton.
In an interview last month, Sanders skewered Trump for saying that Sanders “hates” Clinton.
“He has read my mind! What a man, what a genius!” Sanders joked when asked about Trump’s comments by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
“No, the answer is, of course, you know Trump is lying, as he always does. No, I do not hate Secretary Clinton. I’ve known her for 25 years, I have a lot of respect for her. We’ve worked together. We have disagreements on issues, but to say that I hate her is absolutely untrue.”