The Volokh Conspiracy

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Gabbard v. Clinton

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is filing a defamation suit against Hillary Clinton


Last fall, former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton suggested that current Presidential candidate Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) was a "russian asset." Rep. Gabbard called upon Clinton to retract the statement, but no retraction or apology was forthcoming.

Not to be outdone by other litigious members of Congress, Rep. Gabbard has now filed a defamation suit against Clinton. From Gabbard's press release:

Tulsi Gabbard, a United States Congresswoman, Army National Guard Major, and 2020 presidential candidate, today filed a defamation lawsuit against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Gabbard, a U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district, asserts in her complaint that Clinton deliberately and maliciously made false statements in an attempt to derail Rep. Gabbard's campaign, by alleging that Gabbard is a "Russian asset." The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by Brian Dunne and Dan Terzian, Rep. Gabbard's legal counsel and partners at Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP.

Clinton was the 2016 Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States, United States Secretary of State from 2009 until 2013, a United States Senator for the State of New York from 2001 to 2009, and the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001. On October 17, 2019, she publicly stated in an interview that "somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary … [is a] favorite of the Russians… Yeah, she's a Russian asset." The press extensively republished and disseminated these statements, which were interpreted widely as Clinton asserting that Gabbard is a Russian asset.

The complaint seeks compensatory damages and an injunction prohibiting the further publication of Clinton's defamatory statements.

It's often said that when one files a defamation suit, one is only asking for more attention, and given her low standing in the polls, perhaps that is precisely what Gabbard has in mind. We'll see whether the suit gets anywhere on the merits. (I'm quite skeptical.)

A copy of the complaint will be downloaded here.