Politics

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sues Hillary Clinton for alleged 'Russian asset' smear in 2020 Democratic presidential contest, claiming $50 million in damages

Key Points
  • Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sued former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for allegedly defaming her by suggesting the congresswoman from Hawaii is a "Russian asset."
  • "Clinton's false assertions were made in a deliberate attempt to derail Tulsi's campaign," said the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
  • Clinton, who was the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, had said in an interview that an unnamed Democratic presidential candidate was "the favorite of the Russians." She did not mention Gabbard by name.
Democratic presidential hopeful US Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district Tulsi Gabbard (L) and former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sued former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday for allegedly defaming her by suggesting the Hawaii congresswoman is a "Russian asset."

"Clinton's false assertions were made in a deliberate attempt to derail Tulsi's campaign," said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The suit claims that Gabbard has suffered "actual damages" of "$50 million — and counting" from Clinton's comments. But the suit does not cite a specific amount of damages it is seeking.

Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee who previously was a senator from New York, said in an October interview that an unnamed Democratic presidential candidate was "the favorite of the Russians."

Clinton did not mention Gabbard, a four-term congresswoman, by name in that interview with the podcast "Campaign HQ With David Plouffe."

But Clinton's spokesman, Nick Merrill, said after the interview that "If the nesting doll fits," when asked if she had been referring to Gabbard, who is also a major in the Army National Guard and a combat veteran of Iraq.

Merrill later said in a tweet that Clinton was referring to the Republican Party grooming Gabbard. But it is Russians, not the GOP, who are known for making nesting, or Matryoshka dolls.

Clinton, wife of President Bill Clinton, lost the 2016 election to Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The report by special counsel Robert Mueller as well as a probe by the Senate Intelligence Committee have both found that Russian agents tried to damage Clinton's candidacy, and that they tried to promote the third-party candidacy of Green Party nominee Jill Stein in order to harm Clinton's chances of winning the White House.

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When asked about the suit, Merrill told NBC News on Wednesday, "That's ridiculous."

The suit suggests that Clinton smeared Gabbard with a false accusation in "retribution" for Gabbard's endorsement of Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in his 2016 candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Clinton — a cutthroat politician by any account — has never forgotten this perceived slight," said Gabbard's suit, which also names the congresswoman's presidential campaign committee as a plaintiff.

Clinton "lied about her perceived rival" for reasons that could include "personal animus, political enmity, or fear of real change within a political party Clinton and her allies have long dominated."

Clinton "did so publicly, unambiguously, and with obvious malicious intent," the suit claimed.