Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, alleging Clinton's remarks about her being a "Russian asset" were "false assertions [that] were made in a deliberate attempt to derail Tulsi’s presidential campaign."
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, stems from an October 2019 comment, where Clinton accused Gabbard of being "the favorite of the Russians" for the 2020 race. The remark was made during an interview on David Plouffe's podcast, Campaign HQ.
“I'm not making any predictions, but I think [the Republicans] got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic Party,” Clinton said. "They're grooming her to be the third-party candidate. The favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and ways of courting her so far, and that's assuming Jill Stein will give it up, because she's a Russian asset. Yeah, she's a Russian asset. Totally.”
Though Clinton did not directly name Gabbard at the time, when her team was later asked about it, Clinton's spokesperson Nick Merril said, "“If the nesting doll fits."
The lawsuit, which was shared on Gabbard's campaign website, says that, "Tulsi has been harmed by Clinton's lies — and American democracy has suffered as well."
"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 reads.
In the lawsuit, Gabbard claims Clinton has a grudge against her because of Gabbard's endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election.
After the endorsement, Clinton staffers allegedly emailed Gabbard to say they “no longer trust[s] [Tulsi’s] judgment" and would not help her in any campaigns going forward.
"Clinton reserves a special hatred and animosity for Tulsi—who never endorsed Clinton, did not campaign for her, and to top it off, gave the nomination speech for Senator Sanders at the 2016 Democratic National Convention," the lawsuit states.
As a result of Clinton's "Russian asset" comments, Gabbard claims she "suffered significant actual damages, personally and professionally, that are estimated to exceed $50 million."
"Tulsi is not a Russian asset. No one — Russia or anyone else — controls her or her
presidential campaign," it states. "Instead, Tulsi is a loyal American servant, declaring her allegiance to the United States of America both as a soldier and as a member of Congress."
In a comment on the lawsuit to NBC News, Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill said, "That's ridiculous." He did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Brian Dunne, an attorney for Gabbard, said in a statement that Gabbard had "her candidacy intentionally damaged by Clinton’s malicious and demonstrably false remarks."
"One would expect someone of Mrs. Clinton’s political background to act with a greater level of maturity and dignity, but her personal hostility toward Rep. Gabbard apparently clouded Mrs. Clinton’s reason and blinded her to U.S. defamation laws," Dunne said. "She resorted to a damaging whisper campaign founded on lies, and when presented with the opportunity to retract her damaging remarks, she refused."