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Bernie Sanders warned Hillary Clinton against picking a moderate Democrat as vice president

Sanders wouldn't comment on running with Clinton, saying he's still trying to win the nomination

Washington CNN —  

Bernie Sanders is warning Hillary Clinton against picking a moderate Democrat as her running mate.

But he’s staying away from criticizing his rival over her private email use during her tenure as secretary of state, continuing to downplay an issue that Republicans have used heavily against Clinton.

Still locked in a heated primary battle against Clinton, Sanders said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she should find a vice-presidential pick who doesn’t have a cozy relationship with corporations.

“I would hope, if I am not the nominee, that the vice-presidential candidate will not be from Wall Street, will be somebody who has a history of standing up and fighting for working families, taking on the drug companies whose greed is doing so much harm, taking on Wall Street, taking on corporate America, and fighting for a government that works for all of us, not just the 1%,” Sanders said.

The Vermont senator’s vice-presidential prerequisites look like a list of his campaign’s top talking points. But his comments also served to lay out terms for Sanders embracing Clinton if she secures the Democratic nomination at the party’s convention in Philadelphia in July.

Host Chuck Todd asked Sanders specifically whether he’d support Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, for the vice-presidential nod.

Sanders wouldn’t answer directly, saying: “I think we are once again into a little bit of speculation. I have known Tim Kaine for years. I really like him very much.”

Asked whether he’d join Clinton as her running mate on a party unity ticket, Sanders said he’s still “knocking my brains out to win the Democratic nomination.”

“That’s where I am right now. What happens afterwards, we will see,” Sanders said. “But right now, my focus is on winning the nomination.”

The final major set of primary contests, headlined by California, is coming up June 7.

But Sanders has focused much of his attention on Donald Trump in recent days – hammering the presumptive Republican nominee while largely ignoring Clinton.

On Sunday, days after a State Department inspector general’s report harshly criticized Clinton for her use of a private email server, Sanders again let the issue slide.

He’d sent a signal that he could be ready to hit Clinton over her email on Bill Maher’s HBO show Friday, saying “it has” when asked if the story had “moved a little bit” from his initial refusal to criticize her on it, starting in last year’s debates.

But on “Meet the Press,” asked about the report, Sanders said that “these are areas that I have stayed away from. There is a process, people will draw their conclusions from the inspector general report. But again, you know, I think the American people are tired of that type of politics. And I think the media and the candidates have got to talk about why the middle class is in decline and why we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality.”

On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sanders went just a step further, saying Clinton’s email issue merits a “hard look” but still stopping short of criticizing her for it.

“Now, you’re right – the inspector general just came out with a report; it was not a good report for Secretary Clinton. That is something that the American people, Democrats and delegates are going to have to take a hard look at,” he said. “But for me right now, I continue to focus on how we can rebuild a disappearing middle class, deal with poverty, guarantee health care to all of our people as a right.”