POLITICS
07/02/2019 4:51 AM AEDT

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Says Syrian Dictator Bashar Assad Isn't Enemy Of U.S.

The congresswoman and Democratic presidential contender was engaged in a tense discussion on "Morning Joe."

When Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was pushed Wednesday about whether she thinks Bashar Assad is an enemy of the United States, she said the Syrian dictator is not.

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” she was asked outright if Assad is a foe of America.

“Assad is not the enemy of the United States,” Gabbard replied, “because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States.”

Correspondent Kasie Hunt pressed the congresswoman, who recently announced she’s running for president in 2020, about her January 2017 meeting with Assad during a trip to Syria shortly after Syrian government forces retook the rebel-held city of Aleppo. Gabbard had told CNN’s Jake Tapper last month that she doesn’t regret the controversial meeting. She reinforced that sentiment with Hunt.

While noting that the American mission in Syria is to defeat ISIS, Gabbard said, “Many troops I hear from express frustration at the fact that our country continues to wage senseless, costly regime-change wars followed by nation-building missions leading to situations like we see in Afghanistan. So many examples of our troops being deployed, their lives put on the line, without understanding what the clear mission or objective is and how that mission actually serves the security of the American people and the United States.”

Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski then attempted to get Gabbard to clarify whether she thinks Assad is an “adversary” of the United States. The congresswoman evaded the question.

“We have to look to who poses a thread to the United States,” said Gabbard in one exchange with Scarborough, who argued that there are a lot of people who don’t pose a direct military threat to the U.S. but are still adversaries.

Gabbard shot back that “you can describe it however you want to describe it.”

“My point is that whether it is Syria or any of these other countries, we need to look at how their interests are counter to or aligned with ours,” she said.

A puzzled Hunt then brought up that Assad seems interested in the “slaughter of his own people” and chemical weapons, asking Gabbard what she thinks about that.

“It’s important to talk about how our military is being used, what it is costing them, what it is costing the American people and whether or not those missions, those objectives, serve the security of the United States and the American people,” Gabbard said.