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Bernie Sanders’ evolution: Democratic socialist rises from party gadfly to front-runner

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Bernie Sanders' evolution: Democratic socialist rises from party gadfly to front-runner

Sen. Bernie Sanders is on a tear.

The independent senator from Vermont burst out of the gates on Feb. 19, as he launched his second straight bid for the Democratic presidential nomination — and he hasn’t slowed down yet.

WATCH THE BERNIE SANDERS TOWN HALL ON FOX NEWS CHANNEL ON MONDAY AT 6:30 PM ET. 

The self-proclaimed ‘democratic socialist’ is drawing huge crowds on the campaign trail and racking up big bucks. He hauled in $18.2 million in fundraising in the first 41 days of his campaign, becoming the overwhelming leader of the pack in the fundraising race among the large roster of White House hopefuls.

The senator consistently registers in second place — in double digits — in 2020 polling, trailing only former Vice President Joe Biden. But until Biden officially jumps in, as is widely expected, Sanders for now is the front-runner among declared candidates. This status marks an incredible ascension from the start of the last cycle.

“We have come a long way in the last four years,” Sanders said recently on the campaign trail.

He’s not kidding.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT BERNIE SANDERS

When the senator first launched his 2016 White House bid, he was considered a far-left fringe candidate who would be a longshot against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to capture the Democratic presidential nomination. He was barely taken seriously as he made multiple trips to the early voting states in 2014 and the first half of 2015.

But Sanders caught lightning in a bottle in the summer of 2015, after officially declaring his candidacy. Along with Republican Donald Trump, he tapped into the anger among the electorate with a system that many felt was failing them. And he launched his White House bid at a time when the Democratic Party was moving further to the left.

Whether Sanders sensed this and rode the wave, or whether he is largely responsible for the party’s shift since that time, remains to be seen. But the 77-year-old politician is seemingly in the right place at the right time — at last, after decades in the political wilderness. Today, policies he espouses are virtual litmus tests for the field. Even his presidential primary rivals scrambled to co-sponsor his latest “Medicare for All” bill last week.

Veteran political scientist Dante Scala says that since President George W. Bush’s administration, more and more Democrats “have been willing to identify themselves as liberal.”

HOW DID BERNIE SANDERS MAKE HIS MONEY?

“What we’ve seen over the past decade or so is this decline in moderate and conservative Democrats. A lot more Democrats are willing to say to survey researchers and pollsters that ‘I’m liberal and I’m proud.’ In some way, Sanders was able to capitalize on a trend that was occurring with the Democratic Party,” explained Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.

“Sanders capitalized – in 2016 in particular – with a growing sense among both young voters, white working-class voters, that the system was broken and that radical change was necessary to fix it. And I think a lot of that comes out of the great recession,” Scala added. “They wanted a politician who would go big and Bernie was happy to oblige on that.”

Sanders’ crushing defeat of Clinton in 2016 in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary launched a political juggernaut, sending him into a marathon battle with the eventual nominee that didn’t end until after the primary and caucus calendar.

As he runs a second time, the stridently liberal candidate doesn’t appear to have a problem standing out from the rest of the pack and resonating with younger voters – even with rivals that are four decades younger. And he’s changed the conversation, with many of his fellow White House hopefuls pushing the same proposals that Sanders highlighted on the presidential campaign trail four years earlier.

But Democrats not feeling the ‘Bern’ argue that Sanders was expected to start strong, thanks to his strong name recognition and the extensive nation-wide organization that he built in 2016 and maintained in the ensuing years.

“He starts with a leg up because of running previously but I don’t think it’s an insurmountable advantage by any means,” longtime Democratic strategist Judy Reardon said.

But Scala says Sanders will be successful again because he’s “kind of married liberalism and populism.”

“I think that’s what makes him such a danger to the other 2020 candidates in that he could be what Trump was in 2016. That is, it could be the case that a strong minority bloc of voters who are married to Bernie and they’re not interested in dating,” he said.

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Trump’s written — at times snarky — answers to Mueller’s questions revealed

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Why the Mueller report could turn into a never-ending story on the Hill

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump communicated directly at one point during the long-running investigation into Russian election interference, when the president’s legal team submitted written testimony in response to Mueller’s questions on a variety of topics in November 2018.

And in some cases, Trump and his attorneys brought the sass.

One of Mueller’s questions referred to a July 2016 campaign rally, when Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

That was a reference to the slew of documents deleted from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server — one that prompted numerous accusations that Trump was improperly sending a signal to Russian hackers. Mueller’s report noted that hours after Trump’s remarks, a Russian-led attempt to access some Clinton-linked email accounts was launched, although there was no evidence Trump or his team directed or coordinated with that effort.

“Why did you make that request of Russia, as opposed to any other country, entity or individual?” Mueller’s prosecutors asked.

Mueller’s report noted that after Trump’s statement, future National Security Adviser Flynn contacted operatives in hopes of uncovering the documents, and another GOP consultant started a company to look for the emails.

“I made the statement quoted in Question II (d) in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer,” Trump’s attorneys shot back. “The context of the statement is evident in the full reading or viewing of the July 27, 2016, press conference, and I refer you to the publicly available transcript and video of that press conference.”

Separately, Mueller asked Trump why he previewed a speech in June 2016 by promising to discuss “all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” and what specifically he’d planned to talk about.

Trump didn’t hold back.

“In general, l expected to give a speech referencing the publicly available, negative information about the Clintons, including, for example, Mrs. Clinton’s failed policies, the Clintons’ use of the State Department to further their interests and the interests of the Clinton Foundation, Mrs. Clinton’s improper use of a private server for State Department business, the destruction of 33,000 emails on that server, and Mrs. Clinton’s temperamental unsuitability for the office of the president,” Trump responded.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE ‘BOMBSHELLS’ THAT FIZZLED? BUZZFEED’S COHEN TESTIMONY SCOOP, THE GOP PLATFORM SWITCH, ETC?

After discussing other events, Trump concluded his reply: “I continued to speak about Mrs. Clinton’s failings throughout the campaign, using the information prepared for inclusion in the speech to which I referred on June 7, 2016.”

In all, Mueller’s 448-page report included 23 unredacted pages of Mueller’s written questions and Trump’s written responses. The special counsel’s team wrote that it tried to interview the president for more than a year before relenting and permitting the written responses alone.

An introductory note included in the report said the special counsel’s office found the responses indicative of “the inadequacy of the written format,” especially given the office’s inability to ask follow-up questions.

Click here for the full exchange between Mueller’s team and Trump.

Citing dozens of answers that Mueller’s team considered incomplete, imprecise or not provided because of the president’s lack of recollection — for instance, the president gave no response at all to the final set of questions — the special counsel’s office again sought an in-person interview with Trump, and he once again declined.

Mueller’s team said it considered seeking a subpoena to compel Trump’s in-person testimony, but decided the legally aggressive move would only serve to delay the investigation.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Mueller report has held America ‘hostage’ for 2 years, Federalist editor says

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Mueller report has held America 'hostage' for 2 years, Federalist editor says

While many analysts are advising Democrats to move on from Mueller report and the issue of collusion, The Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway said Thursday it will be hard for America to move on because it’s been “held hostage” by the idea of President Trump colluding with Russia.

“The country was basically held hostage by a collusion theory, a theory that the president of the United States was a foreign agent. This undermined the administration of our government. It totally sidelined the Department of Justice, it hampered our ability to do foreign policy. It was a very negative thing,” Hemingway told “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

MUELLER REPORT SHOWS PROBE DID NOT FIND COLLUSION EVIDENCE, REVEALS TRUMP EFFORTS TO SIDELINE KEY PLAYERS

“There needs to be accountability. We are being given indications there will be accountability for this.”

After two years, a redacted version of Mueller’s report was released Thursday showing investigators did not find proof of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia but revealed an array of controversial actions by the president that were examined as part of the investigation’s obstruction probe.

Democrats criticized Barr and demanded an unredacted version of the report while Republicans demanded an investigation into how the Russia collusion narrative began.

RUDY GIULIANI ON THE RELEASE OF THE MUELLER REPORT: ‘THIS PRESIDENT HAS BEEN TREATED TOTALLY UNFAIRLY’

Hemingway said the idea that people would just “move on” was “absurd.”

“The American people tolerated this investigation because they were told there was reason to believe the president was a traitor. The idea that we are just going to quickly move on from this like ‘OK, I guess it was our bad, there was no collusion,’ but now we’re trying to go on obstruction is patently absurd,” Hemingway said.

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James Comey tweets he has 'so many answers' after release of Mueller report

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Former FBI Director James Comey had “so many answers” on Thursday following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, after he initially tweeted he had “so many questions.”

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