A Democratic Congresswoman Just Met With Assad, Infuriating Republicans and Dems Alike

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: Jan 27, 2017 7:30 AM
A Democratic Congresswoman Just Met With Assad, Infuriating Republicans and Dems Alike

In case you missed it, Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard went on a secret trip to Syria earlier this month, during which she met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad, as you know, is a brutal dictator whose regime has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people—tens of thousands of which have been children.

Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran and a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, insists she did not plan to meet with Assad during her trip, but that when the opportunity presented itself, she took it.

“I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there’s a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering,” Gabbard said Wednesday in a statement.

But that decision has infuriated Democrats and Republicans alike.

Democratic congressional leadership did not know about Gabbard’s trip ahead of time and have been silent when pressed for comment about her meeting with Assad.

“I have no knowledge of the trip,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tersely told reporters on Wednesday. “I don't know any of the particulars of it. I don't know the basis of the invitation, I don't know the auspices under which she went.”

But according to Democratic sources The Hill spoke with, the reaction was one of disgust.

“There's a pretty unanimous feeling of shock and disgust,” said a Democratic aide who works on national security issues. “Everybody I've talked to on both sides of the aisle, I think people are just stunned.”

And they were even further enraged over the message she brought back, which they said sounded like propaganda.

“From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the U.S. has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS,” she said in her statement.

“The talking points she's using about how there is no moderate Syrian opposition, and that everyone the Assad regime has been carrying out this campaign of violence on, that they're all terrorists, I mean, that sounds like something you hear on [Russia Today],” the Democratic national security aide, told The Hill.

Republicans were more than willing to go on the record to slam her trip, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger, also an Iraq War veteran, taking to the House floor to do so.

"To say I’m disgusted would be an understatement. By meeting with the mass murderer of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Tulsi Gabbard has legitimized his dictatorship and in turn, legitimized his genocide against the Syrian people - the murdering of 50,000+ innocent children among the nearly half million total slaughtered by his regime. A whole generation of Syrian children that could have been police officers, teachers, or doctors, but whose lives were cut short by barrel bombs and airstrikes," he said.

"It is beyond reprehensible and cannot possibly be justified."

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was equally perturbed by the meeting.

“Assad has exterminated hundreds of thousands of Syrians,” a committee spokesman told The Hill. “This trip was not authorized by the committee, and it was just wrong.”

The second ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee defended Gabbard, however.

“Congress has an equal role in the conduct of American foreign policy even if Congress doesn't negotiate directly on behalf of the United States,” Rep. Brad Sherman told The Hill.

“Sometimes we have to hear from and meet with leaders that are detestable,” he continued. “I have my disagreements with Tulsi on Syria policy, but knowing Tulsi, I am confident she comported herself admirably on this trip.”

Gabbard went on the trip to parts of Syria and Lebanon with her husband, peace advocates, and former Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich. It was “led and sponsored” by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services, she said.

This post has been updated.