18:59 GMT05 December 2020
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    Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic presidential candidate, is suing Clinton over unfounded claims that she is working for Russians – something Gabbard called a “deliberate attempt to derail” her campaign.

    Hillary Clinton has made the case against the defamation lawsuit brought by Tulsi Gabbard citing her right to free speech under the First Amendment.

    In a 21-page paper filed in a New York federal district court, Clinton argues that the lawsuit is “an effort by Rep. Gabbard to silence her political critics while making political headlines”.

    Clinton also insists that the suit “reflects a disregard for the First Amendment’s protection for free debate on matters of public concern.”

    She says that the lawsuit should be dismissed because her claims regarding Gabbard are “statements of opinion on matters of public concern and are not provably false”, so they don’t qualify as slander.

    What is the lawsuit about?

    Tulsi Gabbard in January sued Clinton for at least $100 million in damages, alleging that the former secretary of state had made “defamatory statements” in a “deliberate attempt to derail” her presidential campaign.

    The legal action stems from an October podcast on the 2020 presidential election, on which Clinton floated a conspiracy theory that an unnamed female Democratic hopeful was being “groomed” to be a third-party spoiler candidate.

    “She’s the favourite of the Russians,” Clinton added. “They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. And that’s assuming [2016 Green Party candidate] Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset.”

    Clinton did not mention Gabbard by name, but her spokesman replied, “If the nesting doll fits,” when asked if she was speaking of the Hawaii congresswoman. He also clarified that Clinton meant it was the Republican Party that was allegedly “grooming” Gabbard – although nesting dolls are famously made in Russia.

    Gabbard denied being supported by Russia and responded by lambasting Clinton as the “queen of warmongers” and the “personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.”

    Several of 2020 Democratic primary contenders defended Gabbard, including Bernie Sanders who said “it was outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.” The Green Party in turn described Clinton as “an asset of Wall Street, the police state and war”.

    Four years of bad blood

    Hillary Clinton has long blamed Russia’s alleged nefarious influence on her shock 2016 defeat by Donald Trump and accused him of conspiring with Russia to win the election. Both Trump and Russia repeatedly dismissed those claims, and a two-year FBI investigation concluded there had been no conspiracy between them.

    Gabbard has been feuding with Clinton since the 2016 primaries, when she became the first congresswoman to back Bernie Sanders. She had to resign as DNC vice-chair first to issue the endorsement.

    She is currently one of three remaining candidates in the Democratic presidential race, trailing far behind Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. She has not won a single primary contest so far and has got just 2 pledged delegates to the party’s national convention, compared with Biden’s 898 and Sanders’s 745.

    Tags:
    election interference, Russia, US, Bernie Sanders, defamation, lawsuit, Hillary Clinton, Tulsi Gabbard
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