Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) lashed out Monday at critics of fellow 2020 presidential hopeful Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) including Hillary Clinton, after Clinton and others suggested that Gabbard is a “foreign asset” for Russia amid reports that Moscow’s online bots and trolls are supporting her campaign.
In a tweet, the Vermont senator and runner-up for the 2016 Democratic nomination called such accusations “outrageous,” pointing Gabbard’s background as a military veteran.
Tulsi Gabbard has put her life on the line to defend this country. People can disagree on issues, but it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 21, 2019
Sanders’s comments come after Clinton said during a podcast on Thursday that she believes Moscow is “grooming” a candidate, clearly referring to Gabbard, to run as a third-party candidate and split the Democratic vote in 2020.
“I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said.
Asked later by reporters if Clinton was referring to Gabbard, her spokesman responded: “If the nesting doll fits.”
Gabbard later responded with her own fiery tweets, accusing Clinton of being corrupt and attempting to exert control over the Democratic Party.
“Great! Thank you @HillaryClinton. 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,” the Hawaii congresswoman tweeted.
“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,” she added.
“It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me,” Gabbard also challenged Clinton. “Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly.”
Other 2020 Democratic candidates, including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and businessman Andrew Yang, have voiced support of Gabbard following Clinton’s attacks.