During an interview with CNN's Michael Smerconish, former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein responded to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's accusation that she was a "Russian asset."
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Johnny Rivers from 1966, "Secret Agent Man." It seemed appropriate. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. A political war of words has erupted into a full-blown public feud. It's playing itself out between two Democrats, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, current 2020 contender Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and neither are mincing words. The battle started when Clinton said this about Gabbard during a podcast.
HILLARY CLINTON, 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not making any predictions, but I think they've got their eye on somebody 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 and that's assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she's also a Russian asset.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Agent. Yes.
CLINTON: Yes. She's a Russian asset. I mean totally.
SMERCONISH: Gabbard didn't hold back in slamming Clinton, calling her "the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long." Clinton didn't name Gabbard, but when asked if she was in fact referring to the Hawaii congresswoman, her spokesman said, "If the nesting doll fits." Her spokesman then said the initial grooming comment referred to Republicans, not Russia. Gabbard again denied that she would launch a third-party run last night.
My next guest is the other person that Secretary Clinton mentioned in that interview calling her, quote-unquote, "totally a Russian asset," former Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein. Dr. Stein, I went to Merriam-Webster, looked up "asset" just to be sure. Here's what it says. "Something useful in an effort to foil or defeat an enemy, such as a piece of military equipment or a spy." Are you a Russian spy?
JILL STEIN, FORMER GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I am not a Russian spy. I think this is a completely unhinged conspiracy theory for which there is absolutely no basis. In fact, not for myself and not for Tulsi Gabbard. I think it's really outrageous that Hillary Clinton is trying to promote this crazy idea. You know, you can't just slander people. You have to present some basis and fact. Tulsi has said that she is dedicated to running as a Green -- as a Democrat and she has been for her whole life, so that's pretty believable.
I am not running for office. Somehow Hillary Clinton didn't do her Google research or she would know that I am not running. So it's preposterous to say if I will give it up. You know, this is just a -- it's a wild and insulting theory and I think it speaks to Hillary's need to try to explain, perhaps to herself, you know, why her campaign was not successful. People really wanted change and unfortunately believed Donald Trump's lies that he was going to bring change.
We need a voting system, you know, in which people can actually vote for what they want and if people are concerned that independent candidates and campaigns are Russian plots, there's a very simple solution.
Ranked-choice voting prevents any evil, foreign asset or anyone from splitting the vote. It lets you rank your choices. You never have to worry about your vote being, quote, "thrown away" or your vote not counting or spoiling the election. That doesn't happen under ranked- choice voting. If your first choice loses, your vote is automatically reassigned to your second choice. It's a win-win.
And, you know, that's the solution here. The solution is not to silence political dissent. You know, the basis of our democracy is supposed to be political dialogue and competition. We shouldn't be in the business of, you know, throwing just terrible accusations and calling tyranny and traitor for people who are standing up for very important values that the American people badly need to hear about.
You know, 70 percent, in a recent "Wall Street Journal" poll, 70 percent of Americans said they're not just fed up, they are fighting angry with a political establishment that's thrown them under the business. So we shouldn't be in the business ...
SMERCONISH: Do you ...
STEIN: ... of silencing diverse political choices.
[09:05:00] We need ranked-choice voting to make that OK and bring our values back into our vote.
SMERCONISH: Do you think that she's trying to draw a nefarious inference from that photograph we've all seen so many times of the dinner that you attended at which President Putin was present? I think that General Flynn was somebody else who was at the table. Is that what's driving her as far as you know?
STEIN: Well, let me just say there are many pictures, many more pictures, of Hillary Clinton having intimate conversations with Putin whispering in her ear and we actually know there was some real money exchanged, for example when her husband was paying something like $0.5 million to give a single speech to a Kremlin-connected Russian Bank associated with the sale of part of the U.S. uranium supply approved under Hillary Clinton's watch.
So that might be the kind of thing you'd want to investigate, but simply attending a dinner at a conference where I went to basically tell Russia they needed to stop bombing Syria and to advocate for a ceasefire in the Middle East, that's a good thing. I think we need more of that kind of dialogue. You have to talk with your adversaries ...
SMERCONISH: Dr. Stein ...
STEIN: ... as well as with your allies. Yes.
SMERCONISH: Do you think -- do you think that her comments were designed to intimidate the emergence of any third party candidate, whether it's Dr. Jill Stein, whether it's Congresswoman Gabbard or someone else who right now might be planning on getting into the race?
STEIN: Absolutely and I think, you know, she and the Democratic Party have been in that business for a long time. As I mentioned, ranked- choice voting solves this problem of, you know, worrying about is your vote going to have unintended consequences.
The state of Maine, the entire state, has adopted ranked-choice voting. It could be adopted in a heartbeat by legislatures across the country. It eliminates the hysteria about spoiled elections and it really liberates people to be able to vote for what you want instead of against what you fear.
STEIN: We know from polls ...
SMERCONISH: Well ...
STEIN: ... most people who voted for Donald Trump were not voting for him, they were voting against what they saw as his only opponent. We need that change to our voting system ...
SMERCONISH: Let me add something to this.
STEIN: ... and we could have it now.
SMERCONISH: Let me just add something to this if I might and I want -- I have a statistic drawn from the United States Elections Project which I think is relevant. I want to put it on the screen. In the 2016 cycle, there it is, 42 percent, this is key, of eligible Americans did not vote.
I don't know why the focus from Secretary Clinton and others, instead of training their sights on you or Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, isn't to say, wow, we need to get the 42 percent who didn't participate into the game instead of concentrating on those who earnestly get into the arena. You get the final word.
STEIN: Exactly. That's why we need more choices and more voices and where ranked-choice voting has been passed, as in the state of Maine, in fact that's what's happening. More people are coming in to vote because -- you know, because they have a greater variety of candidates that can speak to them, their need for jobs, for health care as a human right, to abolish student debt, make higher education free and to cut, you know, this bloated and dangerous war budget that's actually getting us into more wars. It's not making us safer.