Hawaii congresswoman and Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard dared Hillary Clinton not to "hide behind your proxies" and "join the race directly," after Clinton accused her of being a Russian asset specifically groomed to run as a third-party candidate in 2020.
"Great! Thank you @HillaryClinton. 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 wrote in a scathing three-part tweet on Friday afternoon. "From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation."
Gabbard has faced criticism from several of her Democratic opponents, who have accused her of being a "puppet for the Russian government." The former Army National Guard major, who served in Iraq, has repeatedly defended her antiwar, anti-interventionist beliefs, which have led to some comparisons between her and President Trump.
At Tuesday's fourth Democratic debate, Gabbard relentlessly slammed CNN, who was broadcasting the event live, and The New York Times, calling them "completely despicable" for news coverage that has raised questions about whether she is a "Russian asset and an Assad apologist."
"We wondered who was behind it and why," Gabbard continued in her tweeted answer to Clinton. "Now we know — it was always you, through your proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose. It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me.
"Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly" she said in a taunt squarely aimed at Dems' 2016 standard-bearer.
Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill responded to Gabbard with a cheeky remark: "Assad day for your candidacy,"-- a reference to Gabbard's controversial meeting with the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2017.
Clinton has recently been courting the spotlight to promote a book co-authored by her daughter, Chelsea.
Although she didn't name Gabbard specifically, Clinton tolda onetime aide to President Barack Obama,David Plouffe, host of the podcast “Campaign HQ," that she thought Trump and the Russians have "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 said, seemingly alluding to Gabbard.
Clinton also singled out former 2016 Democratic candidate Jill Stein, accusing her of being a Russian asset.
"That’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset," Clinton said.
Fox News' Alex Pappas contributed to this report.