Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent Sen. Mitt Romney a cease and desist letter after he accused her of ‘treasonous lies’ for peddling claims of U.S.-funded Ukrainian biolabs.
‘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. This cannot go unchecked,’ the Hawaii Democrat wrote on Twitter.
The letter accused Romney of ‘false and defamatory statements’ and called on the former congresswoman and presidential candidate to enter into a settlement before she takes him to court for defamation.
Gabbard said on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight that she wants Romney to say publicly that he ‘understands how serious this crime of treason is’ and apologize.
‘If Mitt Romney is serious, seriously believes that I have committed treason, why hasn’t he brought any evidence or brought charges? He clearly doesn’t care that there are any consequences or as I mentioned he’s just trying to intimidate and bully me and others into silence,’ Gabbard said.
Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent Sen. Mitt Romney a cease and desist letter after he accused her of ‘treasonous lies’ for peddling claims of U.S.-funded Ukrainian biolab
Gabbard said she had also sent a cease and desist order to commentator Keith Olbermann, who called Gabbard and Carlson ‘Russian assets.’ ‘There’s a case for detaining them militarily,’ he wrote on Twitter on March 14.
On March 13 Romney tweeted: ‘Tulsi Gabbard is parroting false Russian propaganda. Her treasonous lies may well cost lives.’
The Utah Republican did not specify what he was referring to, but his tweet came just after Gabbard about why the US funded labs in Ukraine that work with biological pathogens, some of which were once destined for Soviet-era bioweapons.
Gabbard claimed in a tweet that there are ’25 to 30 U.S. funded bio labs in Ukraine.’
‘According to the U.S government, these bio labs are conducting research on dangerous pathogens,’ she said in the video. ‘These pathogens know no borders, if they are inadvertently or purposely breached or compromised, they will quickly spread all throughout Europe, the United States and the rest of the world causing untold suffering and death.’
Gabbard said ‘these labs need to be shut down immediately and the pathogens that they hold need to be destroyed.’
Both the American and Ukrainian governments have denied the existence of bioweapons facilities in Ukraine. But the United States has for decades worked with scientists in Ukraine to transform their Soviet-era facilities, some of which were once used for bioweapons, into public health and research sites.
A Pentagon program meant to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction across 46 Ukrainian laboratories has helped fuel a propaganda war with the Kremlin accusing the US of funding bioweapons research – with some Russia proxies using the labs to justify the invasion of Ukraine.
Romney, a former Republican presidential nominee, has strongly criticized Gabbard for her remarks, which he saw as unpatriotic and supporting the Russian narrative
Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sought to clarify her comments, and said she is not convinced there are ‘biological weapons’ labs in Ukraine
State Department official Victoria Nuland testified last month that ‘Ukraine has biological research facilities which, in fact, we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to gain control of.’
‘So we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach,’ she said under questioning by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R).
She referred to Russia’s latest charges as the ‘classic Russian technique to blame the other guy what they’re planning to do themselves.’
The Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Ukraine ‘operates a little over a dozen’ biolabs for biodefence and public health response. She said the US has, at least in the past, ‘provided assistance’ to the labs ‘in the context of biosafety’.
‘Which is something we have done with a variety of different countries,’ she added.
She said the labs were not being used to develop weapons.
‘We do not assess that Ukraine is pursuing either biological weapons or nuclear weapons. This influence campaign is consistent with long-standing Russian efforts to accuse the United States of sponsoring bioweapons. … This is a classic move by the Russians.’
The Pentagon says it has invested $200 million in Ukraine since 2005 through its Biological Threat Reduction Program – an offshoot of the Nunn-Lugar program enacted after the end of the Cold War – and now works on research projects based on birds carrying viruses and the spread of swine flu.
The program has ‘improved Ukraine’s biological safety, security and surveillance for both human and animal health,’ according to the Pentagon, including by reducing the risk of the Soviet Union’s biological weapons program.
The relationship began as part of a U.S. effort to lock down unsecured biological materials after the fall of the Soviet Union, working directly with Russia and former republics. There is little known about the location of the labs, but reports in the past have suggested they have been equipped to work with deadly pathogens such as anthrax.
But the U.S. has been open about the labs and on March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that they too had advised Ukraine to destroy high-threat pathogens housed in the country’s public health laboratories to prevent ‘any potential spills’ that would spread disease among the population.
Russia already illegally took possession of two such labs in 2014 and ‘continues to deny Ukrainian access to these facilities,’ according to the Defense Department.
‘After Russia launched its unlawful invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Ministry of Health responsibly ordered the safe and secure disposal of samples,’ according to the fact sheet. ‘These actions limit the danger of an accidental release of pathogens should Russia’s military attack laboratories, a real concern since they have attacked Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and research facilities.’
A U.S. National Academy of Sciences report in 2012 stated that the Ukrainian facilities had been upgraded to work with some of the most dangerous substances in the world, including anthrax, which prompted the renewed fears of a spill.