CNN's Van Jones: Clinton playing 'dangerous game' with 'conspiracy theory' about Gabbard

CNN political commentator Van Jones said Friday that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Manafort sought to hurt Clinton 2016 campaign efforts in key states: NYT MORE was “playing a very dangerous game” by suggesting that Russia was grooming 2020 Democratic hopeful Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardThe Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine Outsider candidates outpoll insider candidates Krystal Ball: Tulsi Gabbard surges, is she the most electable? MORE (D-Hawaii) to launch a third-party presidential bid.

“If you’re concerned about disinformation … that is what just happened. Just throw out some information, disinformation, smear somebody,” Jones told CNN host Erin Burnett on Friday night while responding to the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee's remarks.

“She is Hillary Clinton. She’s a legend. She’s going to be in the history books. She’s a former nominee of our party, and she just came out against a sitting U.S. congresswoman, a decorated war veteran and somebody who’s running for the nomination of our party with just a complete smear and no facts,” he said.

"I do not want somebody of her stature to legitimate these attacks against anybody," Jones continued. "If you’ve got real evidence, come forward with it. But if you’re just going to smear people casually on podcasts, you are playing right into the Russians' hands." 

In a Friday interview on the podcast “Campaign HQ,” the former secretary of State warned that the Russian government was poised to once again meddle in the U.S. presidential election in 2020 through online disinformation efforts and by encouraging a third-party challenger to cause chaos in the contest.

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In an apparent reference to Gabbard, Clinton said, “She’s the 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.”

Later Friday, Gabbard fired back, attacking Clinton as the “queen of warmongers” and “personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.”

"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," she said, challenging Clinton to join the 2020 Democratic primary instead of "cowardly hid[ing] behind your proxies."

Some Democrats previously raised concerns that Gabbard, a member of the Hawaii National Guard and an Iraq War veteran, has been amplified online by what they believe to be bot activity, though the speculation has remained unfounded.