Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a podcast interview that Russia sees Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard as a potential third-party candidate who could spoil the 2020 presidential election for Democrats.
Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, made the comments on the podcast hosted by David Plouffe, who managed former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Clinton said that one tool Russians could use to interfere in the 2020 presidential election and aid President Donald Trump is boosting a third-party “spoiler.” While Clinton did not mention Gabbard by name, but she made a clear reference to the Hawaii congresswoman.
Clinton also mentioned Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee in 2016, as another American politician favored by Russia.
“I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and they’re grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said in an interview for Plouffe’s Campaign HQ podcast. “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 because she’s also a Russian asset.”
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill confirmed that the former secretary of state was referring to Gabbard. Gabbard, who has previously said she would not run as a third-party candidate, fired back on Twitter.
"Thank you @HillaryClinton," Gabbard tweeted. "You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain. From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. Now we know — it was always you, through your proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose."
"It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me," Gabbard continued. "Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly."
Gabbard is frequently mentioned in Russian propaganda and media, including by RT, the news agency backed by the Kremlin, and she has been criticized for foreign policy views that some say are aligned too closely with Russia and other foreign adversaries of the United States — especially her views on Syria and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Gabbard has struggled to gain traction and polling and fundraising in the Democratic presidential primary. Most polls have shown her in single digits, and she raised $3 million in the most recent fundraising quarter, far behind the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination.
But Gabbard has participated in three Democratic debates and maintained a presence as a favorite among some liberal activists.