Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) sued Hillary Clinton for $50 million Wednesday, claiming that Clinton’s allusion to Gabbard as a “Russian asset” caused the Presidential hopeful “anguish and damage to her reputation.”
The complaint, filed in the Southern District of New York, is peppered with insults, referring to Clinton as a “cutthroat politician by any account,” a candidate who “lost in surprise upsets” and someone known to hold “long-time grudges.”
Gabbard, on the other hand, is painted as a beacon of service and selflessness. “As a child, Tulsi’s parents would enlist her and her siblings in ‘service days,’ where the family would pick up litter from beaches or prepare food for homeless families,” it notes.
The root of Gabbard’s complaint is a comment Clinton made on the podcast Campaign HQ With David Plouffe in October. Clinton referred obliquely to somebody in the primary being “groomed” for a third-party run.
“She’s the favorite of the Russians,” Clinton said. “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. She’s a Russian asset, I mean, totally. They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate.”
Afterwards, Clinton’s spokesman Nick Merrill made a Pulitzer-worthy quip in response to a reporter asking if Gabbard was the candidate in question.
“If the nesting doll fits,” he said.
Gabbard has said multiple times that she does not plan to launch a third-party bid for the White House.
Gabbard seized on Clinton’s remark, immediately blasting out fundraising emails based on the quotes, pledging that “rich and powerful” in the party “will not silence us.” She also sent a flurry of tweets and did a live shot from a parking lot outside her Iowa rally to discuss Clinton on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” while her supporters waited for over an hour inside.
Clinton did receive her share of criticism for firing off the allegation without proof. But the kerfuffle directed attention toward some of the more bizarre dynamics surrounding Gabbard’s bid.
Her campaign has been heavily featured in Russian outlets like RT since she announced. A legion of bots boost her on social media, and users on sites like 4chan used to flood instant online polls just after the debates to proclaim Gabbard the winner (she hasn’t qualified for the debate stage since November).
She’s never hesitated to distance herself from her party, whether it be joining with Republicans to demand former President Barack Obama use the phrase “radical Islam” or scheduling a Trump Tower meeting with President-elect Donald Trump just after the 2016 election.
In early 2016, she very publicly resigned her vice chairmanship at the DNC in early 2016 and endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) over Clinton, a move which she now says inflamed Clinton’s lingering animosity.
She has also refused time and time again to condemn Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad for the crimes he perpetrated against his own people, meeting with him in person in 2017. She used her weird position on the issue to attack Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) during the October debate, demanding that the senator adopt her position on what she calls a “regime-change war.”
During the same debate, she attacked hosts from CNN and the New York Times for calling her a “Russian asset” — neither did; the outlets merely pointed out the resonance her candidacy was having in Russian propaganda circles.
Gabbard is essentially a non-factor in the Democratic primary at this point. According to Real Clear Politics, she’s polling around 1 percent and has failed to qualify for multiple debates. However, she has previously pledged that she will see her run all the way to the convention, even if she lacks the delegates to win.
And as she has now declined to run for her House seat again, she’ll have some time on her hands — plenty to bring her “political rival” Hillary Clinton to justice, once and for all.