Tulsi Gabbard was informed that the 29th Brigade Combat Team was preparing to be deployed to Iraq. While she was not on the mandatory roster, she left behind her 2004 campaign for reelection to the State House to volunteer for deployment. She is a veteran of the 29th Brigade Combat Team turned Hawaiian Representative who is currently a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard. She considers herself a true patriot, inspired to serve her country due following the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers.
Yet, in an interview with David Plouffe on October 17, Secretary Hillary Cilnton claimed that Congresswoman Gabbard is a “favorite of the Russians” who is being “groomed” to run as a third party candidate, comparing her to Jill Stein as a Russian ploy to steal votes from the democratic nominee. Tulsi Gabbard defended herself against numerous claims doubting her loyalty to the United States, emphasizing her patriotism and promising that she would never run as an independent. However, many still question if she could be unwittingly being used by the Russian government.
While The New York Times initially reported that Clinton claimed she was a Russian “agent,” the newspaper later revised its statement to “asset.” Unlike an agent that would be consciously working for the Russian government, an asset would be used unknowingly. Thus, implying that Gabbard was being somehow utilized without her knowledge to sabotage the Democratic Party. Naveed Jamali, from Newsweek, also repeated such claims, stating that “Tulsi Gabbard is a perfect Russian asset—and would be a perfect Republican agent” as she has been open in her criticism of other Democratic candidates and has appeared on Fox News.
Bernie Sanders came out defending Gabbard on Twitter, calling the suggestions “outrageous.” Gabbard had previously endorsed Senator Sanders in the 2016 election and stepped down from her role as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee to do so. Thus, the support seems mutual.
Clinton is representative of the establishment Democratic Party, which candidates like Gabbard challenge. She has openly criticized Kamala Harris regarding the flaws in her prison “reform” and has also previously presented her own disapproval of Clinton herself. Moreover, her foreign policy and desire to avoid “regime change wars,” which she views as harmful from her own military experience, dissents from the general democratic consensus. She has been outspoken in her criticism of aspects of the Iran Nuclear Deal. These policies have garnered her some favor with Republicans, and she has appeared on Fox News to discuss the accusations of Russian interference and the connection they have with her policies. She spoke to Tucker Carlson, saying that “the reason why [Hillary Clinton’s] doing this is because ultimately, she knows that she can’t control me. I stand against everything that she represents. And, that if I’m elected president…she won’t be able to control me.” She went on to condemn the war in Iraq that Clinton had supported, (but now regrets supporting) saying that the blood of her brothers and sisters in uniform on the battlefield “is on [Hillary Clinton’s] hands.” Carlson listed others who have championed the same claim about Gabbard, including staff at CNN and MSNBC. Gabbard further striked back at Clinton’s attack in a new political ad, saying, “If they can falsely portray me as a traitor, then they can do it to anyone,” and citing her endorsement of Bernie Sanders as the moment when Clinton and others would end her “political career.”
Congresswoman Gabbard appeared on The View on November 6 to further dissipate the rumors about her. Particularly, she confronted Joy Behar for accusations of Gabbard being “a traitor to [her] country, a Russian asset, a trojan horse.” She took control of her appearance, announcing, “I want to let your viewers know exactly who I am, set the record straight. I am a patriot. I love our country. I am a strong and intelligent woman of color and I have dedicated almost my entire adult life to protecting the safety, security, and freedom of all Americans in this country.” Joy Behar then went on to list numerous names of conservatives and white nationalists who have supported Gabbard as evidence to the possible harm she could cause the Democratic party and criticized her for appearing on the “Tucker Carlson Show” on Fox News. Gabbard explained why she sees these claims as offensive and demeaning to her service to the country. More, she doubled down on her description of Clinton as a warmonger for supporting the war in Iraq and being the “world’s police.” Gabbard continued her criticism of Clinton and others perpetuating these accusations: “Rather than actually debate me on the issues, she and others are resorting to these smear tactic campaigns…sending a message to anyone who dissents, toe the line or you too will be smeared.”
In an attempt to make Secretary Clinton retract her “defamatory” statement, on November 11th, Gabbard’s lawyer demanded in a letter that Clinton hold a press conference to verbally retract the comments, as well as publish a “full and fair retraction” on her Twitter, subsequently distributing it to specified media companies.
While Gabbard has more than sufficiently defended herself and responded to these claims, the reasoning for accusing presidential candidate of Russian collusion is still unclear. After U.S intelligence agencies confirmed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, it seemed as though the Russian suspicion once again swept the country, nearly rising to the extreme extent of the Cold War. Further, President Trump was repeatedly accused of being a Russian asset, as was Jill Stein. At some point, the term “Russian asset” became interchangeable with “damaging to the Democratic party.” When Congresswoman Gabbard publicly criticized the Democratic frontrunners and Secretary Clinton herself, she was labeled a threat to them and, as such, a Russian asset.