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WATCH: Buttigieg Pivots When Asked About Hillary Clinton’s ‘Russian Asset’ Remark
Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during the 2020 Public Service Forum hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at UNLV on August 3, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper.

During the segment, which touched on various topics, Tapper asked Buttigieg about the ongoing feud between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and fellow Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

On Wednesday, Clinton appeared on David Plouffe’s “Campaign HQ” podcast, and seemed to claim that Gabbard was a “Russian asset.”

Here are Clinton’s exact words:

I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on someone who’s currently in the Democratic primary, and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She’s a favorite of the Russians. 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.

A Clinton spokesperson later confirmed that the former secretary of state was indeed speaking about Gabbard, telling CNN, “If the nesting doll fits.”

Buttigieg pivoted away from actually condemning Clinton when pressed by Tapper:

TAPPER: We’re running out of time, so I do want to flip to a different topic, which is the last Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, appeared to suggest that one of your fellow campaign nominees or campaign hopefuls, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, is a Russian asset.

[Tapper then played the clip of Clinton on David Plouffe’s podcast.]

TAPPER: So, Clinton’s spokesman confirmed that she was talking about Tulsi Gabbard there. Gabbard fired back, calling Secretary Clinton the “queen of warmongers,” “embodiment of corruption.” It went on from there. I know you don’t want to get in the middle of these two politicians fighting. But is it helpful to have the 2016 nominee suggesting that a congresswoman is a Russian asset?

BUTTIGIEG: I’d prefer to have the conversation be about policy, about what we’re going to do, and about how American lives are going to be different. When it comes to any of my Democratic competitors, that’s my focus, making sure that we make very clear the differences – and there are very real differences among us – and making it clear to voters what their choices are. That’s where I’d like to focus to be.

TAPPER: Right. But do you think Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian asset?

BUTTIGIEG: I don’t know what the basis is for that.

TAPPER: Well, I don’t either.

BUTTIGIEG: I consider her to be a competitor, somebody who I respect her service. I also have very different views than she does, especially on foreign policy. And I would prefer to have that argument in terms of policy, which is what we do with debates and what we’re doing as we go forward.

TAPPER: So when Donald Trump smears people, Democrats all stand up and say, you’re smearing someone. Stop it. Why don’t Democrats do that, to say that about Tulsi Gabbard? It seems like an obvious smear. I don’t see any evidence she’s a Russian asset. It seems like a wild accusation.

BUTTIGIEG: Yes, I think statements like that ought to be backed by evidence.

Buttigieg then swiveled to “corruption,” the “mixing of domestic politics and foreign affairs,” and the White House.

After the Democratic candidate concluded, even Tapper highlighted the non-answer. “An agile pivot from Mayor Pete Buttigieg,” Tapper stated.

Following the brouhaha between Clinton and Gabbard, few Democratic presidential candidates have spoken out in support of Gabbard.

Andrew Yang tweeted: “Tulsi Gabbard deserves much more respect and thanks than this. She literally just got back from serving our country abroad.”

When asked on Saturday about the internecine fight, Beto O’Rourke said: “Tulsi is not being groomed by anyone. She is her own person, obviously has served this country, continues to serve this country in uniform, in Congress, as a candidate for presidency. So, I think those facts speak for themselves.”

Marianne Williamson also tweeted her support, calling the claim against Gabbard “character assassination.”

As of publication, Gabbard stands at 1.2% in the polls according to the RealClearPolitics national average of polling, while Yang, O’Rourke, and Williamson stand at 2.2%, 2.6%, and 0.6%, respectively.

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