The Democratic U.S. congresswoman from Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, was one of the first Democrats to support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and now she is one of the first Democrats to meet with President-elect Donald Trump.
Gabbard met with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Monday, Nov 21, morning, but Trump spokesman Jason Miller said it was “premature” to discuss Gabbard’s potential role in the Trump administration.
Gabbard is a noted critic of intervention in Syria, and does not support a no-fly zone or using U.S. resources to topple Syrian president Bashir al-Assad’s regime. She argues that fighting Assad makes it harder to resist ISIS and al-Qaeda.
“Where I disagree with President-elect Trump on issues, I will not hesitate to express that disagreement. However, I believe we can disagree, even strongly, but still come together on issues that matter to the American people and affect their daily lives,” Gabbard said in a statement after the meeting.
“President-elect Trump and I had a frank and positive conversation in which we discussed a variety of foreign policy issues in depth. I shared with him my grave concerns that escalating the war in Syria by implementing a so-called no fly/safe zone would be disastrous for the Syrian people, our country, and the world.”
Gabbard is a noted opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and was part of a rally on Capitol Hill on Saturday to protest the deal that is supported by Barack Obama.
Trump also opposes the TPP.
“I think they both understood the country very well,” Trump senior adviser and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said to pool reporters Monday afternoon. “Rep. Gabbard went against her party quite boldly early on. I think you are hearing people like Rep. Tim Ryan also raising concerns. So I think there’s a recognition that there’s a big country, a massive amount of voters that feel disaffected from their party, the Democrats.”
Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, reportedly likes Gabbard because of her stance on guns, refugees and Islamic extremism along with her ability to invoke strong anti-establishment populist sentiment on the left.
Gabbard did not join the majority of her Democratic colleagues in the House by co-sponsoring gun control legislation this summer. She was one of 47 Democrats who voted in favor of a Republican-sponsored bill that requires refugees from Iraq and Syria to receive background checks from the FBI.
Her district is geographically diverse and rural, it includes all of Hawaii except for Honolulu and some of its suburbs.
Last week, 169 Democrats signed a letter condemning Bannon’s appointment by Trump – but Gabbard was not among the signers.
Gabbard, who voted for Hillary Clinton, was a write-in candidate for vice president among dissenting backers of Sanders who refused to vote for Clinton or Trump.
The Democrat was elected to the Hawaii legislature at age 21 and stepped down from her post to serve two tours of duty in Iraq. Gabbard worked in local politics after leaving active duty and is in her second term in Congress. She is one of two female veterans to serve in Congress and is the first Hindu member.
Gabbard resigned from the Democratic National Committee in protest of Clinton’s foreign policy stance to support Sanders.
A request for comment from Gabbard’s Washington office was not immediately returned.
Trump also met with former Texas governor Rick Perry on Monday, among others. His transition team is not expected to name any new Cabinet picks today.
Read the entire text of Gabbard’s statement below:
“President-elect Trump asked me to meet with him about our current policies regarding Syria, our fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as other foreign policy challenges we face. I felt it important to take the opportunity to meet with the President-elect now before the drumbeats of war that neocons have been beating drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government—a war which has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives and forced millions of refugees to flee their homes in search of safety for themselves and their families.”
“While the rules of political expediency would say I should have refused to meet with President-elect Trump, I never have and never will play politics with American and Syrian lives.”
“Serving the people of Hawaiʻi and our nation is an honor and responsibility that I do not take lightly. Representing the aloha spirit and diversity of the people of Hawaiʻi, I will continue to seek common ground to deliver results that best serve all Americans, as I have tried to do during my time in Congress.”
“Where I disagree with President-elect Trump on issues, I will not hesitate to express that disagreement. However, I believe we can disagree, even strongly, but still come together on issues that matter to the American people and affect their daily lives. We cannot allow continued divisiveness to destroy our country.”
“President-elect Trump and I had a frank and positive conversation in which we discussed a variety of foreign policy issues in depth. I shared with him my grave concerns that escalating the war in Syria by implementing a so-called no fly/safe zone would be disastrous for the Syrian people, our country, and the world. It would lead to more death and suffering, exacerbate the refugee crisis, strengthen ISIS and al-Qaeda, and bring us into a direct conflict with Russia which could result in a nuclear war. We discussed my bill to end our country’s illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government, and the need to focus our precious resources on rebuilding our own country, and on defeating al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist groups who pose a threat to the American people.”
“For years, the issue of ending interventionist, regime change warfare has been one of my top priorities. This was the major reason I ran for Congress—I saw firsthand the cost of war, and the lives lost due to the interventionist warmongering policies our country has pursued for far too long.”
“Let me be clear, I will never allow partisanship to undermine our national security when the lives of countless people lay in the balance.”