Secret sources claim socialist Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders met in December 2018 to discuss their competing presidential campaigns, and Sanders told Warren a woman won’t win.

Sanders confirmed the encounter but denied the “ludicrous” comment. On Monday, Warren put out a statement to fan the flames, and some are beginning to wonder if the whole stunt is a set-up to drag down her surging rival.

“Wow. I’m deeply disappointed in #ElizabethWarren, someone I’ve praised repeatedly during this election,” liberal author Peter Daou posted to Twitter. “Doing this as #Bernie surges weeks before Iowa doesn’t feel right.”

Anonymous sources leaked the story to CNN just days ahead of the final Democratic debate – as Sanders surges and Warren lags in Iowa – and it’s hard for some to believe it’s a simple coincidence.

“Since this will come up at the #DemDebate, I want to explain her attack on #Bernie,” Daou wrote. “When CNN leaked the story, Warren could have said: ‘We’re friends and he was referring to the challenges women candidates face. I won’t grace these leaks.’ Instead …

“Warren’s campaign put out a statement that effectively calls #Bernie sexist and then claims to want to move on. The net effect is to try to damage the leading progressive in the race, which gives a big boost to the establishment wing,” he wrote. “Now why on earth would she do that?”

Daou contends “this isn’t about sexism. It’s about the incredibly questionable timing of lobbing this out there as #Bernie surges.”

In a statement about the December 2018 conversation, Warren contends the two spoke for two hours about their common goals and mutual interest in stripping the rich, as well as gender politics.

“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate,” Warren wrote. “I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.”

Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir told CNN “it is a lie.”

“Our response is that it is a lie,” he said. “You have four anonymous sources, as I read on CNN, none of them has went on record.”

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“Bernie Sanders has always fought and stood for women and women’s rights. You go back to 1988, when he was urging women to run for president. He believed a woman could be and would be president of the United States,” Shakir said.

“You can go back to 2015, when he was urging none other than Elizabeth Warren herself to run for president. Now you have, three weeks before the Iowa caucus, you have some anonymous sources out there who want to throw bombs and suggest Bernie Sanders is someone he isn’t,” he continued.

“We get it, it’s politics,” Shakir said. “People want to come at us. Everyone is coming at us right now. It’s fine, but don’t spread lies about Bernie Sanders because we know who he is.”

“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” Sanders said in a statement to CNN. “What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

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The Real Clear Politics average for Iowa Democratic primary polls over the last two weeks put former vice president Joe Biden and Sanders at the top, with just over 20 percent support. They’re followed by former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg at 18.7 percent and Warren at 16 percent.

The most recent poll from Monmouth University, conducted between January 9 to 12, suggests Sanders is surging in the Buckeye State, while Warren has slipped since the last poll in November, though there is a 4.9 percent margin of error.

“Compared with Monmouth’s November poll, Biden has gained 5 points (up from 19%) and Sanders has gained 5 points (up from 13%), while Buttigieg has lost 5 points (down from 22%) and Warren has declined by 3 points (down from 18%).  Klobuchar is knocking on the door of the top tier with 8% support in the current poll (up from 5% in November),” Monmouth reports.

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