WASHINGTON — Don’t worry, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard says, she’s still a Democrat and has no intention of running for president as a third party candidate.
Gabbard made the assertion in front of an audience of about 400 women, many of them business leaders and CEOs, who were gathered in downtown Washington, D.C., on Tuesday for Fortune’s annual Most Powerful Women Summit.
The Hawaii congresswoman was a featured guest at the event and fielded a series of questions from Kristen Bellstrom, an editor for Fortune Magazine, who asked Gabbard about weighty topics ranging from the ongoing conflict in Syria and her 2017 visit with Bashar al-Assad, to the ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
Bellstrom also pressed Gabbard about her recent spat with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who implied in an interview last week that the Hawaii congresswoman was a Russian asset who was being groomed by the GOP as a third-party candidate to spoil Democrats’ chance at the White House in next year’s election.
“Is there any scenario in which you would run as a third party candidate in 2020?” Bellstrom asked.
“No,” Gabbard responded before repeating herself. “No.”
“OK,” Bellstrom said. “Pretty clear.”
Gabbard and her campaign, which has been struggling to gain traction, was thrust into the spotlight last week after Clinton made her comments during an episode of the Campaign HQ with David Plouffe podcast.
Clinton did not provide any evidence to back up her assertions about Russia or a potential third-party candidacy.
“She’s the favorite of the Russians,” Clinton said. “They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”
Clinton’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Gabbard, who said that the former secretary of state was operating in secret to undermine the congresswoman’s presidential campaign. Like Clinton, Gabbard did not provide any evidence backing up her assertions.
“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,” Gabbard said in statements posted to social media.
On Tuesday, Gabbard struck a more measured tone but still used the opportunity to criticize Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, a favorite foil for the congresswoman.
Gabbard resigned from the DNC in 2016 to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont over Clinton for the Democratic nomination. In her own bid for president, Gabbard has repeatedly attacked the DNC over the polling qualifications it uses to select candidates for the national debates.
Gabbard, who is struggling in the polls, missed out on the DNC’s September debate and — despite making the stage this month — is likely to be left out in November as well.
“I am calling out my own party and I am calling out what I have seen as a corrupted influence in our party that’s taken it away from the party of the people that it needs to be,” Gabbard said during Tuesday’s event.
“I’m not going to run as a third party candidate. I’m running for the Democratic nomination to lead the Democratic Party and take it back from those who have been advocating for waging more regime change wars and serving interests other than the interests of the people.”
She said if anything, Clinton’s recent comments only highlighted her campaign’s main talking point, which is the need to end endless wars meant to topple dictators and to use that money instead to fund domestic needs, such as education and healthcare.
“Here’s the big difference,” Gabbard said, “I’m calling for an end to being the world’s police.”
When Gabbard was asked if she was concerned about Russian interference in the 2020 elections, she said she was concerned about any foreign actors trying to manipulate U.S. democracy and that it’s important to secure the country’s election systems.
On the impeachment inquiry into Trump, Gabbard said that the Democrats in control of the House need to be careful about the appearance of partisanship and the lack of transparency.
“I’m calling for an end to being the world’s police.” — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
She said too many meetings are taking place behind closed doors, which means both lawmakers and their constituents are left in the dark.
“I think that has the potential to undermine the integrity of what should be a nonpartisan investigation,” she said.
Gabbard attended Tuesday’s event despite a number of high profile speakers, including Clinton, backing out in protest of Kirstjen Nielson’s participation.
Nielson is the former director of Homeland Security under Trump who oversaw and defended the policy of separating children from their parents at the border.
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