The war of words between Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Hillary Clinton reached a fever pitch a couple of weeks ago when Clinton accused the 2020 Democratic contender of being “groomed” by Russians to act as a spoiler against the eventual nominee.
In an interview with podcaster David Plouffe, Clinton – without using Gabbard’s name specifically – left little doubt as to who she was targeting with her conspiracy-laden attack.
“I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said in the interview. “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. And, that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset. I mean, totally.”
Asked a day later if Clinton was talking about Gabbard, her spokesman said: “If the nesting doll fits.”
Clinton’s accusation drew a harsh series of replies from Gabbard, who said that the Democratic Party needs to be rescued from the awful foreign policy mistakes made by Hillary Clinton’s State Department. But this week, the Hawaiian lawmaker took things a step further, issuing Clinton a legal letter demanding an official retraction.
“In making the statement, you knew it was false. Congresswoman Gabbard is not a Russian asset and is not being groomed by Russia,” the lawmaker’s campaign said in the letter. “Besides your statement, no law enforcement or intelligence agencies have claimed, much less presented any evidence, that Congresswoman Gabbard is a Russian asset. This fabricated story is so facially improbable that it is actionable as defamation.”
In subsequent remarks to the media, Clinton’s representatives have claimed that she was referring to Republicans, not Russians, when she said that Gabbard was being groomed for a third-party run. But Gabbard’s lawyers dismiss this after-the-fact explanation as “spin” meant to avoid legal liability for her defamatory statements.
“This Republicans-not-Russians spin developed only after you realized the defamatory nature of your statement, and therefore your legal liability, as well as the full extent of the public backlash against your statement,” the letter said. “Moreover, the Republicans-not-Russians spin cannot explain away your statement that Congresswoman Gabbard is ‘a Russian asset.’ That is, of course, because your Republicans-not-Russians spin is rubbish.”
Gabbard’s counsel is demanding that Clinton post an official retraction on her Twitter page, send out an apology to the major media, and hold a press conference denouncing her earlier remarks. Time will tell if Clinton rises to the occasion, but if we were the betting sort, we’re pretty sure we’d save our money.