Former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is warning about legal action against Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann for accusing her of being a Russian operative who has committed treason.
Gabbard, who represented Hawaii in Congress for four terms, is an Army National Guard veteran and lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves.
She and her attorney, Harmeet K. Dhillon, announced Wednesday that they have sent cease-and-desist letters to Romney and Olbermann warning them to stop accusing her of treason and telling them to prepare for legal action.
“When powerful, influential people make baseless accusations of treason, a crime punishable by death, in order to intimidate, silence and censor those who speak the truth, it has a chilling effect on our democracy,” Gabbard tweeted on Wednesday. “This cannot go unchecked.”
Her news release specifically cited Romney’s March 13 tweet in which he said Gabbard was spreading “Russian propaganda” and that her “treasonous lies” would kill people.
“Your accusation that Representative Gabbard, a combat veteran and current military officer, has engaged in ‘treasonous’ activity is completely false, a fact of which you were well aware when you made your claim. And as explained below, your accusation that Representative Gabbard lied also has no basis in fact,” Dhillon wrote in her letter to Romney.
“Your allegation that Representative Gabbard spoke ‘treasonous lies’ is clear-cut defamation,” she continued.
Romney was referring to a video Gabbard made concerning biomedical research facilities in Ukraine. But Dhillon wrote that everything Gabbard said in the video is verifiable and true.
“In her video, Representative Gabbard made the factual claim that there were American-funded biological laboratories in Ukraine,” Dhillon said. “The existence of biological laboratories in Ukraine is beyond dispute.”
The former congresswoman had blasted Romney one day after his tweet, telling him to prove his treason accusation of “resign from the Senate.”
Gabbard’s cease-and-desist letter to Olbermann cited a March 14 tweet in which he recommended that the U.S. military arrest and imprison her for being a “Russian asset.”
In the letter, Dhillon said Olbermann “acted with actual malice when you defamed Representative Gabbard.”
“Representative Gabbard’s loyalty to the United States is beyond reproach, and you either knew your description of her as a ‘Russian Asset’ was false when you made it, or you acted in reckless disregard as to her allegiance to the United States,” the attorney wrote.
Gabbard “believes that free speech is a cornerstone of American democracy,” Dhillon said, but Olbermann’s assertion that she is a “Russian Asset” is “far outside of the bounds of free speech and civility. It is defamation.”
The letters demand that Romney and Olbermann “cease these false, defamatory, and malicious claims and that they retract/takedown all such statements made about Gabbard and destroy all copies of those statements.”
Dhillon also warned the two that they should preserve all evidence in the case to prepare for it to go to trial, but she said Gabbard would prefer to settle the matter out of court.
Romney and Olbermann were given one week to respond.
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