Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested in a new interview this week that the Russians are currently “grooming” a Democrat running in the presidential primary to run as a third-party candidate and champion their interests, reports CNN.
During a podcast appearance on Campaign HQ with David Plouffe on Thursday, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee did not mention the Hawaii congresswoman by name, but said she believes the Russians have “got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third party candidate.”
In an apparent reference to the Hawaii congresswoman, Clinton said: “They’re also going to do third party again, and 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. She’s the favorite of the Russians.”
“They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far,” Clinton added.
“If the nesting doll fits,” Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said when asked by CNN if the former secretary of state was referring to Gabbard.
“This is not some outlandish claim. This is reality,” Merrill said. “If the Russian propaganda machine, both their state media and their bot and troll operations, is backing a candidate aligned with their interests, that is just a reality, it is not speculation.”
Clinton also noted that 2016 candidate Jill Stein was also in the election due to Russian involvement.
“That’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not, because she’s also a Russian asset,” Clinton said. “She’s a Russian asset, totally. They know they can’t win without a third party candidate, and I don’t know who it’s going to be, but I will guarantee that they will have a vigorous third party candidate in the key states that they most need it.”
Stein has denied receiving any support from the Russian government in 2017.
Clinton also commented on Russian activity in the election and insisted that Russian interference is ongoing.
“We know from Trump officials, Dan Coats, who used to be the director of National Intelligence, being the most prominent, who literally went to the briefing room of the White House and said, ‘The Russians are still in our election system,'” Clinton noted. “We know there still are contacts with the Russians. We know these things. We have to assume, since it worked for them, why would they quit? Donald Trump is Vladimir Putin’s dream.”
During Tuesday’s presidential debate, Gabbard lashed out against a New York Times article that noted she was frequently mentioned on Russian state media.