Tulsi Gabbard sued Hillary Clinton on Wednesday for defamation over the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate’s claim that the Hawaii congresswoman was a “Russian asset.”
“With this action, Tulsi seeks to hold Clinton, and the political elites who enable her, accountable for distorting the truth in the middle of a critical Presidential election,” the suit explains. The move appears to be the next step after Gabbard’s lawyers demanded a retraction of Clinton’s “defamatory” comments in a November letter.
Clinton made headlines in October after she called Gabbard “the favorite of the Russians” in an appearance on former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, and suggested she was being groomed as a potential third party candidate, despite Gabbard stating publicly she would not run a third-party campaign.
While Clinton did not explicitly mention Gabbard’s name, her spokesman Nick Merrill said “if the nesting doll fits” when asked if the accusation was leveled at the Hawaii Congresswoman. After backlash, Merrill claimed that Clinton was referring to Republicans, not Russians, with the “grooming” comment.
“Clinton had no basis for making her false assertions about Tulsi — and indeed, there is no factual basis for Clinton’s conspiracy theory. Clinton’s peddling of this theory has harmed Tulsi, has harmed American voters, and has harmed American democracy,” the lawsuit states.
Following Clinton’s initial comments, Gabbard responded on Twitter by calling the former secretary of state “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long,” and challenged her to join the primary.
Most of Gabbard’s fellow running mates were muted in defending her from the comments, while Gabbard-ally Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) voiced his support for her by calling Clinton’s remarks “outrageous.”
In an interview released Tuesday detailing Clinton’s comments on Sanders ahead of an upcoming documentary, Clinton slammed the Vermont senator, calling him a “career politician” and claiming “nobody likes him.”