Washington (CNN)Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not the enemy of the United States, standing by her opposition to US involvement in that country's civil war two years after she met personally with the accused war criminal.
Tulsi Gabbard: 'Assad is not the enemy of the United States'
"Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States," Gabbard said Wednesday morning on MSNBC.
Gabbard recently announced her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, and she has pledged to draw down US military efforts overseas. Her formal kickoff last weekend followed uncertainty about her campaign operations and staffing.
Gabbard met with Assad in Syria two years ago, saying at the time she "felt that it's important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we've got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we can achieve peace."
Gabbard's appearance on MSNBC Wednesday morning came after she brought a Syrian Kurdish leader to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday night. Gabbard said they discussed her meeting with Assad and stressed the importance of meeting "with adversaries or potential adversaries, not just our friends, if we are serious about the pursuit of peace."
Asked if she viewed Assad as an "adversary" of the US, Gabbard demurred and said it was important to look at who posed a threat to the US and how the interests of other nations compare to those of the US.
Pressed on the point, she said, "You can describe it however you want to describe it."
When asked later in the interview if she thought Assad was a good person, Gabbard said, "No, I don't," and asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin was an adversary to the US, she responded, "Yes."
Later Wednesday, Gabbard tweeted that "warmongers" were wrong to label her as a "'cozy' with evil regimes."
"We heard attacks from warmongers in politics/media before. Those opposed to Iraq/Libya/Syria regime change wars are called "dicatator-lovers" or "cozy" with evil regimes. Rather than defend their position, they resort to name-calling & smears. American people wont fall for this," read Gabbard's tweet.