Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Sanders 'disappointed' in House panel's vote on drug prices Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE (I-Vt.) lashed out Monday at critics of fellow 2020 presidential hopeful Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardProgressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal Hillicon Valley: US has made progress on cyber but more needed, report says | Democrat urges changes for 'problematic' crypto language in infrastructure bill | Facebook may be forced to unwind Giphy acquisition YouTube rival Rumble strikes deals with Tulsi Gabbard, Glenn Greenwald MORE (D-Hawaii) including Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAttorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports Paul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book MORE, after Clinton and others suggested that Gabbard is a "foreign asset" for Russia amid reports that Moscow's online bots and trolls are supporting her campaign.
In a tweet, the Vermont senator and runner-up for the 2016 Democratic nomination called such accusations "outrageous," pointing to Gabbard's background as a military veteran.
Tulsi Gabbard has put her life on the line to defend this country. People can disagree on issues, but it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 21, 2019
Sanders's comments come after Clinton said during a podcast on Thursday that she believes Moscow is "grooming" a candidate, clearly referring to Gabbard, to run as a third-party candidate and split the Democratic vote in 2020.
"I'm not making any predictions, but I think they've got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate," Clinton said.
Asked later by reporters if Clinton was referring to Gabbard, her spokesman responded: "If the nesting doll fits."
Gabbard later responded with her own fiery tweets, accusing Clinton of being corrupt and attempting to exert control over the Democratic Party.
"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," the Hawaii congresswoman tweeted.
"From the day I announced my candidacy, there has been a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation. We wondered who was behind it and why. 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," she added.
"It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me," Gabbard also challenged Clinton. "Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly."
Other 2020 Democratic candidates, including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegLGBT film festival to premiere documentary about Pete Buttigieg Pete and Chasten Buttigieg welcome twins Coalition urges Democrats to restore billion in transit funding MORE and businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangAndrew Yang planning to launch third party: report Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Kings launch voting rights effort honoring John Lewis MORE, have voiced support for Gabbard following Clinton's attacks.