Donald Trump Says He Has "Great Respect" for Bernie, Claims Sanders Was "Gamed" During Primary Season (UPDATE)

"[I have] great respect for what he's done," Trump said of Sanders, adding that he thinks Bernie was "gamed" by the DNC during primary season.

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Complex Original

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During an interview with "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, which aired Sunday on NBC, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said that former Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) was "gamed" by the Democratic establishment during the presidential primary season.

The interview reaffirmed Trump's long-held belief that the senator's presidential bid was thwarted by biased Democratic officials. 

"[I have] great respect for what he's done. He is being taken advantage of, and frankly, the system was rigged, and I'm the first one to say it was rigged against him," Trump said, according to a transcript of the interview, though he acknowledged that he is "not a fan" of Sanders.  "He has been gamed. He has been, it's a rigged system against him. And what happened with the choice of Tim Kaine was a slap in the face to Bernie Sanders and everybody. I was shocked." 

It's not the first time Trump has argued that the Democratic party has "rigged" its primary system to favor Hillary Clinton. 

The statements also come in the wake of an announcement that Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will step down from her role after the Democratic National Conference, which runs June 25-28 in Philadelphia, after WikiLeaks published a trove of nearly 20,000 emails that hinted at attempts by party officials to use Sanders' religion against him during the primary season. Earlier reports indicated that Wasserman Schultz will no longer have a "major speaking role" during the Democratic National Conference. 

The WikiLeaks emails also revealed that Wasserman Schultz demanded a meeting with Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, after MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski publicly called for Wasserman Schultz to resign in mid-May.

In a separate interview with Chuck Todd that also aired Sunday afternoon, Sanders responded to the WikiLeaks dump by saying that the findings "[do] not come as a shock to me or my supporters."

"There is no question but the DNC was on Secretary Clinton's side from day one. We all know that. And I think, as I have said a long time ago, that the time is now for Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step aside, not only for these issues," Sanders said. 

Wasserman Schultz was also criticized for her decision to host only six Democratic debates during the primary season, which opponents called an effort to limit exposure to lesser-known candidates like Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, and Martin O'Malley.

Spokespeople for Donald Trump and Debbie Wasserman Schultz did not immediately return a request for comment. 

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