Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has changed his tune on Hillary Clinton’s email problem.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Sanders said questions about Clinton’s use of a private email account while serving as Secretary of State are “valid.”
Sanders’ comments appear to reverse the stance he took last month during the first Democratic presidential debate. In one the event’s biggest moments, Sanders turned to Clinton and said voters are “sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!”
The line drew lengthy applause and prompted a handshake of gratitude from Clinton, whose candidacy had been weighed down by questions about the personal email server she used while acting as the country’s top diplomat.
Clinton went on to rack up several wins after the inaugural debate, including coming out on top at the end of an 11-hour appearance before the House Select Committee on Benghazi and receiving endorsements from a slew of congressional lawmakers and major unions, including AFSCME.
New polls show she is making up ground she lost to Sanders last summer in the key early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire as the email controversy appears to be fading into the background.
The string of developments has some wondering if Sanders misplayed the moment at the debate and if he should have taken a more confrontational tone, one that would have kept the topic alive in the weeks after.
The Vermont lawmaker didn’t say he regretted his remarks. “You get 12 seconds to say these things,” he told the newspaper.
Sanders noted that the FBI, which is currently in possession of Clinton’s server, is conducting an investigation into any possible harm to national security resulting from Clinton’s private email setup.
“There’s an investigation going on right now. I did not say, ‘End the investigation.’ That’s silly … Let the investigation proceed unimpeded,” said Sanders.
Trying to rekindle doubts about Clinton’s transparency is the latest attempt by Sanders -- who vowed not to run a negative campaign against his Democratic rivals -- to blunt the resurgent Clinton.
In the Journal interview, he revived two lines of attack he used recently at Iowa’s iconic Jefferson-Jackson dinner: his long-standing opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and his vote in 2002 against authorizing the war in Iraq.
Consistency on issues “does speak to the character of a person,” he said.
Sanders remains convinced he can topple Clinton next year.
“We had to fight very hard in the last six months to get my name out there, to get my ideas out there,” he said. “We still have a long way to go with the African-American community, with the Latino community … But we’re working hard, and I think at the end of the day we are going to pull off one of the major political upsets in American history.”