MANHATTAN (CN) — Former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard dropped her federal defamation complaint Wednesday over Hillary Clinton calling her a “Russian asset.”
Gabbard, who has represented the 2nd District of Hawaii in Congress for four terms, cited the coronavirus pandemic in explanation of the move.
“While they remain certain of the action’s legal merit, they are just as certain that this new Covid and post-Covid world require them to focus their time and attention on other priorities, including defeating Donald Trump in 2020, rather than righting the wrongs here,” Dan Terzian, a lawyer for Gabbard with the Los Angeles firm Warren Terzian, said in a notice of voluntary dismissal.
The lawyer did not return a request for comment, nor did his New York co-counsel, Janice Roven. Clinton’s attorneys also did not reply to requests for comment.
“This was a publicity stunt through and through, and this filing makes that clear,” Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton, told CNN Wednesday.
Gabbard had brought the suit in New York on Jan. 22, about a week before the Iowa caucuses. Estimating actual damages of $50 million, the congresswoman took aim at an interview that former Secretary Clinton had given podcast host David Plouffe three months earlier.
“She’s the favorite of the Russians,” Clinton said on Oct. 17, 2019. “They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far. And, that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset.”
Clinton’s attorneys at the Washington firm Williams & Connolly had moved to dismiss in March, calling the lawsuit “an effort by Rep. Gabbard to silence her political critics while making political headlines.”
“First, the allegedly defamatory statements cannot support a claim for defamation because they are statements of opinion on matters of public concern and are not provably false,” Clinton’s team wrote in support of the motion last month. “As such, they are entitled to full constitutional protection.”
Gabbard was among the last candidates to drop out of the presidential race, finally endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden’s bid in March.
She alleged that Clinton held a grudge against her because for having endorsed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary.