- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Russian state TV pundits known as “Americanists” are floating a 2024 U.S. presidential bid by former President Donald Trump with former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard as his running mate.

Russian commentators Malek Dudakov and Dmitry Drobnitsky last week suggested that the Kremlin host a summit with Mr. Trump and Ms. Gabbard in contested eastern Ukraine.

“When things thaw out and the presidential race for 2024 is firmly on the agenda, there’ll be moments we can use,” Mr. Dudakov said during an appearance on “The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev,” according to the Daily Beast. “The most banal approach I can think of is to invite Trump — before he announces he’s running for president — to some future summit in liberated Mariupol.”

Mr. Drobnitsky added that Ms. Gabbard should receive an invite.

“Maybe Trump will take her as his vice president?” he said.

The remarks were prompted when TV host Evgeny Popov said that Russia needs “to again help our partner Trump to become president,” sparking a discussion on how Russia could influence the U.S. election.

“We’re trying to feel our way, figuring out the first steps,” Mr. Dudakov said. “What can we do in 2023, 2024?”

The Associated Press reported last week that U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use the U.S. response to the war in Ukraine as a pretext for a campaign to meddle in American politics.

U.S. officials have accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 and 2020 elections to help Mr. Trump.

In 2019, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, accused Ms. Gabbard of being “the favorite of the Russians.” The former secretary of state also accused Ms. Gabbard of lying about “her ties to Russia.”

Ms. Gabbard, who ran for president in 2020 on the Democratic ticket, later sued Mrs. Clinton for defamation over the remarks before eventually dropping the case.

More recently, the Hawaii Democrat has been accused of echoing Russian propaganda in her remarks about U.S.-funded bioweapons labs in Ukraine.

Last month in a Twitter video, Ms. Gabbard claimed that 25 to 30 U.S.-funded labs in Ukraine were researching deadly pathogens and called on the Biden administration to “immediately implement a cease-fire for all military action in the vicinity” of the labs “until they’re secured and these pathogens are destroyed.”

According to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, the Department of Defense maintains a Biological Threat Reduction Program in Ukraine aimed at consolidating and securing “pathogens and toxins of security concern and to continue to ensure Ukraine can detect and report outbreaks caused by dangerous pathogens before they pose security or stability threats.”

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has accused the U.S. of operating chemical and biological weapons development facilities in Ukraine, claims which Politifact has deemed to be “false.”

Tulsi Gabbard is parroting false Russian propaganda,” Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, tweeted last month. “Her treasonous lies may well cost lives.”

Mr. Dudakov stressed the importance of capitalizing on the growing political rift in the U.S. as key leverage in the Kremlin’s information war with the West and Russia’s quest to become a world-leading power.

“With Europe, economic wars should take priority. With America, we should be working to amplify the divisions and — in light of our limited abilities — to deepen the polarization of American society,” Mr. Dudakov said.

“There is a horrific polarization of society in the United States, very serious conflicts between the Democrats and Republicans that keep expanding,” he added. “You’ve already mentioned that America is a dying empire — and most empires weren’t conquered, they were destroyed from within. The same fate likely awaits America in the near decade. That’s why, when all the processes are thawed, Russia might get the chance to play on that.”

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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