Topline: Tulsi Gabbard sued Hillary Clinton for defamation (and $50 million) Wednesday morning over Clinton’s comments about a “Russian asset” in the 2020 race, and the suit is filled with charged language accusing Clinton and “political elites” of harming democracy. 

  • The 16-page lawsuit includes lengthy descriptions of Gabbard’s call to public service, her childhood spent cleaning litter from beaches in Hawaii, the importance of 9/11 in her life, and her National Guard service, which she mentions 13 times. 
  • During an October 19 guest appearance on the Campaign HQ with David Plouffe political podcast, Clinton made comments about a potential third-party presidential candidate being allegedly used as a “Russian asset” to create interference in the 2020 election but did not mention Gabbard by name.
  • The suit opens with a rousing accusation: “In October 2019—whether out of personal animus, political enmity, or fear of real change within a political party Clinton and her allies have long dominated—Clinton lied about her perceived rival Tulsi Gabbard. She did so publicly, unambiguously, and with obvious malicious intent.”
  • According to the suit, Clinton “reserves a special animosity and hatred” towards Gabbard over her support of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election: “Clinton—a cutthroat politician by any account—has never forgotten this perceived slight. And in October 2019, she sought retribution by lying, publicly and loudly, about Tulsi Gabbard.”
  • The lawsuit argues that “Clinton got exactly what she wanted by lying about Tulsi—she harmed her political and personal rival’s reputation and ongoing Presidential campaign, and started a damaging whisper campaign based on baseless, but vicious, untruths.
  • Clinton’s spokesperson, Nick Merrill, told NBC News that the lawsuit is “ridiculous.”
  • Gabbard is seeking $50 million in damages along with additional financial compensation to be determined if the case goes to trial. 

Tangent: Gabbard sued Google in July 2015, also for $50 million.

Key background: The day after Clinton’s podcast appearance Merrill was asked by a CNN reporter if Clinton’s remarks were referring to Gabbard, to which he responded “if the nesting doll fits,” referencing Russia’s traditional matryoshka dolls. Merrill later tweeted that Clinton’s podcast comments were being misinterpreted and referred to the Republican Party, not Gabbard. In response, Gabbard accused Clinton of being the “queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.” Representatives for Gabbard and Clinton did not respond to requests for comment.