Lawyers for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign on Monday sent a letter to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding Clinton retract her previous comments suggesting Gabbard is a “Russian asset.”
The letter accuses Clinton of defamation, saying she knew her statements about Gabbard were blatantly false, Fox News reported.
“In making the statement, you knew it was false. Congresswoman Gabbard is not a Russian asset and is not being groomed by Russia,” the letter said. “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.”
Last month, Clinton said Russia was actively grooming one of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, although she didn't come out and directly say Gabbard's name.
“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. She’s the favorite of the Russians," Clinton said during an interview on the Campaign HQ podcast. "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.”
When Clinton's spokesperson was asked, point blank, if the statement was about Gabbard, the response inferred it was. “If the nesting doll fits,” the spokesperson said at the time.
Gabbard fought back against the claims, saying she has no intent to make a third party run.
"I'm running for the Democratic nomination in this country, to take back our Democratic Party away from this warmongering, corrupt establishment and return it to the hands of the people so that our party can truly be the party of, by, and for the people," Gabbard said. "[We are] fighting every single day for peace [and] for the well being of our people, and to protect our planet."
Clinton's team attempted to spin the story, saying she was actually referring to Republicans, not Gabbard. The presidential candidate's team saw through the publicity stunt and called her out on it in their letter.
"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 campaign drafted a proposed statement for Clinton, which said she “was wrong,” made a “grave mistake and error and judgment” and that she "support[s]" and "admire[s]" Gabbard’s work. The Congresswoman's counsel demanded Clinton post the statement on Twitter, send it to all major news outlets and that she held a press conference making a verbal retraction.
It's unclear whether or not Gabbard's campaign intends to sue for defamation if Clinton doesn't meet their demands.