“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 the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.”

That’s 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, on this week’s episode of David Plouffe’s podcast Campaign HQ. And it sure sounds like she’s making predictions — specifically, that Russia will back a third-party or independent presidential run by Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who’s currently in the mix for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, has faced accusations of being a Russian stooge ever since she met with Bashar al-Assad in 2017. The congresswoman famously insisted that the Syrian dictator, who Russia supports, is “not the enemy of the United States.” During the Democratic presidential-primary debate this week, Gabbard repeatedly said the U.S. has backed a “regime-change war” in Syria, leading observers to criticize her for latching onto what is “literally a Russian talking point.”

Gabbard ripped Clinton on Twitter then went on Tucker Carlson’s show to respond further.

In the podcast, Clinton said that regardless of how much Russia interferes in the 2020 U.S. election, President Donald Trump will be a formidable candidate. She said that because the Trump campaign will have an unprecedented amount of money in its coffers, it’ll pour resources into states that are considered safely blue so that the Democrats have to respond and thus will have less money to put into the key swing states.

“Watch what happens in Oregon,” she said, noting that it’s a reliably Democratic state. “They are stirring up a lot of cultural antipathy of the Democratic Party there. I don’t think they’ll be successful, but they are going to spend a lot of money there and force [the Democrats] to spend a lot of money there.”

Clinton also said Gabbard might not be the only fringe presidential candidate in next year’s general election who’s in the race solely to siphon votes away from the Democratic nominee. She believes Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party candidate, might run again.

“Yeah, she’s a Russian asset,” Clinton said. “I mean, totally.”

The former U.S. secretary of state added:

“They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate. So I don’t know who it’s going to be, but I will guarantee you they will have a vigorous third-party challenge in the key states that they most need.”

Clinton added that she believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has something “personal and financial” on President Trump.

“Donald Trump,” she said, “is Vladimir Putin’s dream.”

— Douglas Perry

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