Rep. Tulsi Gabbard received support from a handful of her fellow Democratic presidential candidates this weekend after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she thought the Hawaii congresswoman was being groomed as a Russian asset.
“Tulsi is not being groomed by anyone. She is her own person,” said former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas. “Obviously has served this country, continues to serve this country in uniform, in Congress, as a candidate for presidency, so I think those facts speak for themselves.”
The Hawaii Democrat also received kind words on social media from both author Marianne Williamson and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.
“Tulsi Gabbard deserves much more respect and thanks than this. She literally just got back from serving our country abroad,” Mr. Yang said, while Ms. Williamson warned “the Democratic establishment” against “smearing women it finds inconvenient! … Stay strong @TulsiGabbard. You deserve respect and you have mine.”
Last week, in a podcast interview, Mrs. Clinton said of Ms. Gabbard, who serves in the National Guard, that the Russians have “got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate” who will tip the 2020 presidential election to Donald Trump, just as Green Party nominee Jill Stein, whom she said is “also a Russian asset,” supposedly did in 2016.
Ms. Gabbard shot back on Twitter at the “queen of warmongers,” accusing the former secretary of state of orchestrating a “concerted campaign to destroy my reputation.”
Others in the 2020 Democratic field have avoided getting into the Twitter feud.
Pete Buttigieg said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that he wasn’t comfortable with Mrs. Clinton’s comment but also didn’t want to get in the middle of their fight.
“I don’t know what the basis is for that,” said the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, adding of Mrs. Clinton’s charges that “statements like that ought to be backed by evidence.”
He said the main focus should be on Russia’s attempts to insert themselves in the 2020 elections.
“Russia is working to interfere with our elections right now. We know a big part of how they’re going to do it is exploiting divisions,” he said.
Sens. Kamala D. Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota reportedly brushed off questions about the exchange, and Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey reacted by retweeting Ms. Gabbard’s “queen of warmongers” response with a gif of his stunned face at the first Democratic primary debate.
In an interview with NBC News, in which the network cited reports that a large number of Russian bot accounts supporting her, Ms. Gabbard said the Russian reaction to her platform is out of her control.
“I don’t control what anyone says or does. All I can do is focus on the message that I am bringing to this campaign,” she said.
She also has repeatedly said that if she does not win the Democratic presidential nomination, she will not run the independent or third-party race for which, according to Mrs. Clinton, the Russians are grooming her.
Her campaign has since challenged Mrs. Clinton to enter the Democratic primary and engaged in fundraising over the attacks.
“Hillary Clinton accused Tulsi Gabbard — a combat veteran, soldier and Major in the Army National Guard — of being ‘groomed’ to be a ‘Russian asset,’ ” Ms. Gabbard’s campaign said in a fundraising email Saturday. “Tulsi fights back and demands Hillary join the race and face her directly.”
Ms. Gabbard also won support from the other side of the aisle, specifically Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a conservative Republican who left the party over Mr. Trump and what he called his “impeachable conduct” and the GOP’s continuing support for him.
“The thing we know for sure is that Hillary Clinton is a Donald Trump asset,” Mr. Amash tweeted. “Hillary does — and did — drive many people into the arms of Donald Trump. Her attack on Tulsi does likewise.”
“When I heard Hillary’s remarks, I knew exactly what the right would say: The left smears anyone they don’t like. To my Dem friends: Recognize that this plays right into Trump’s hands; that it diminishes the legitimate inquiry into Russia; that it bolsters Trump’s ‘hoax’ nonsense,” he warned.
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