Did Donald Trump and Russia rig the Michigan Democratic Primary for Bernie Sanders without his knowledge?

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Bernie Sanders colluded with Russia during the election. But now that we know the Donald Trump campaign was actively trying to conspire with Russia to rig the election against Hillary Clinton dating back to at least June 2016, and that Trump’s shocking wins in Michigan and two other states were probably engineered with help from Russia, we also need to take a close look at the one moment that changed the course of the entire election: the Michigan Democratic Primary.

Apart from the stunning general election swing state victories for Donald Trump, the only other truly shocking result in the entire 2016 presidential elect cycle was when Bernie Sanders won Michigan. It was the only other time in which the polls, and the pundits, ended up being wildly and inexplicably wrong. Hillary finished eighteen points worse than she was supposed to – and those kinds of things just don’t happen in presidential races. For reference, wasn’t a single other state in the Democratic Primary where the polls were off by more than a few points. And that Michigan primary changed everything. Bernie generally won the states he was expected to win, by the expected margins. Hillary generally won the states she was expected to win, by the expected margins. Then there was Michigan, one of the most insane outliers in election history.

When Bernie shockingly won the Michigan primary, it breathed new life into his campaign after he had just gotten blown out on Super Tuesday. Even though Michigan didn’t come close to putting him back into contention (he also got blown out in Mississippi that same day, for instance), the momentum from the upset meant he was able to stay in the race for much longer. If he had lost Michigan as expected, his donations would have dried up much sooner, and he’d probably have had to drop out at least two months earlier than he did.

Those two months prevented the Democratic Party from being able to formally unite behind Hillary during Donald Trump’s most vulnerable stretch. And as the Democratic primary dragged on into May and June, it created bitterness for all involved. Let’s say Bernie had dropped out in April instead, made his compromises with Hillary then and there, and endorsed her early on. Maybe the general election would have had a different outcome. Maybe he’d have even been her running mate. That’s how big of a big of a deal it was that Bernie pulled off the seemingly impossible upset in Michigan, causing the primary race to drag out to the bitter end. So what does this have to do with the Russians?

If the Trump campaign and Russia truly wanted to sabotage Hillary Clinton during the primary season, then in hindsight their single best shot would have been rigging the Michigan Democratic primary against her. And again, no one ever finishes eighteen points worse than their poll numbers in a presidential primary. If we’re examining whether Trump and Russia rigged Michigan in the general election, we’ve also got to consider the possibility that they rigged Michigan in the Democratic primary race.

Again, Trump and Russia could have rigged the Michigan primary for Bernie Sanders without his involvement or knowledge, simply by targeting the state using the same collusive methods they used in Michigan in the general election. Come to think of it, why was the Trump Tower email server only communicating with Russia and a Betsy DeVos-controlled company in Michigan? Here’s the real question: just how early on did the Trump campaign and Russia begin conspiring to rig the election, and did it date all the way back to the primary season?

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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report