Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that the Russians are attempting to undermine the 2020 election by backing Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) as a third-party candidate, stating, “she’s the favorite of the Russians.”
Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Clinton made a number of claims regarding Russian meddling in U.S. elections, including that Gabbard’s substantial social-media support relies on Russian bots. Gabbard was the most-searched candidate after the first and second Democratic debates.
“I think they’ve got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said on the podcast. “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”
Although Clinton did not explicitly mention Gabbard’s name, when asked if the accusation was leveled at the Hawaii Congresswoman, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said, “If the nesting doll fits.” After backlash, Merrill claimed that Clinton was referring to Republicans, not Russians, with the “grooming” comment.
Clinton’s comments come after Gabbard called the coverage of her campaign by The New York Times and CNN “completely despicable” during the fourth Democratic debate Tuesday night.
“The New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling to an end to this regime-change war,” Gabbard told the crowd in Ohio. “Just two days ago, the New York Times put out an article saying I am a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears. This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia.”
In August, Gabbard also told CNN that she would not run as a third-party candidate if she does not win the Democratic nomination.
Clinton also labelled Green Party candidate Jill Stein a “Russian asset” and suggested on the podcast that Gabbard is playing a similar role in this election.
“They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate . . . I will guarantee you they will have a vigorous third-party challenge in the key states that they most needed,” Clinton declared.
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, the Clinton campaign followed Jill Stein’s demands for a recount in Wisconsin, which ultimately gave Trump 131 more votes.
“Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides,” campaign lawyer Marc Elias said at the time.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to note that a Clinton spokesman claims that Clinton’s “grooming” comment referred to Republicans, not Russians.