Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard changes course on impeachment inquiry

Gabbard says not supporting impeachment inquiry may set a 'dangerous precedent."

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – previously a lone holdout among the crowded field of 2020 presidential hopefuls – says she has changed her mind about an impeachment inquiry after reading the transcript of President Donald Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urging the foreign leader to help with looking into claims against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

“Up to this point, I have been opposed to pursuing impeachment because it will further divide our already badly divided country," Gabbard said Friday in a press release from her campaign. "However, after looking carefully at the transcript of the conversation with Ukraine’s President, the whistleblower complaint, the Inspector General memo, and President Trump’s comments about the issue, unfortunately, I believe that if we do not proceed with the inquiry, it will set a very dangerous precedent."

Gabbard said she worries if she doesn't support the impeachment process, future presidents and other federal leaders may get the idea that its OK to abuse their position for personal gain without repercussion.

She is one of two millennials and the first female combat veteran to run for president. However, in recent days, the spotlight has focused less on her accomplishments and more on her divergent opinion on impeachment compared to other candidates amid the race for the White House.

But now, the tides have changed as she joins the growing list of lawmakers and presidential candidates in support of impeachment.

“If we allow the president to abuse his or her power, then our society will rot from top to bottom. We will turn into a banana republic, where people in positions of power—from the president all the way down to the traffic cop—will feel it's okay to abuse their power with no consequences," Gabbard said. “This is not the kind of country that any of us want to see."

Gabbard may have changed course in this impeachment process, but she continued to defend her argument against impeachment as a whole. She said the inquiry must be swift, thorough, and narrowly-focused and cannot be turned into "a long, protracted partisan circus" that would further divide the country and undermine democracy.

In the past, she said it should have been the American voters who decided at the ballot box to vote him out.

In June, after a visit to Homestead Detention Center in Homestead, Fla., Gabbard was asked about her appeal to voters. She talked to ABC News in an exclusive interview about how her approach was different from the then two dozen Democratic contenders in the race.

“I'm not talking about politics, as usual. I'm not just out there giving a stump speech. I'm out there laying out what's in my heart. And why I'm running for president not because I just want to be president, but actually why I'm running for president who I'm fighting for, and everything that's at stake.”

Gabbard, who is a major in the Hawaii National Guard added, “At no time Is this about me. It's about people who are gathering there, it's about people in this country and people who I'm asking for the privilege and trust to be able to serve.”

In recent days, Gabbard had been a relatively lonely voice taking a position that put her in direct odds with fellow 2020 candidate Tom Steyer. Steyer’s press secretary Alberto Lammers told ABC News on Monday, "anyone who doesn't come out for impeachment now is playing political games."

On Thursday, Andrew Yang one of the last 2020 candidates to come out in support of impeachment came to Gabbard’s defense. Yang told ABC News' Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer that her stance on impeachment shouldn’t disqualify her from running for office.

Yang said that after taking the Senate Republican majority into account, "it’s a reasonable stance to say this might not end up not being the right move.”

Gabbard held a packed town hall in Atlanta, with a few hours notice for her supporters on the last day in August. She had failed to make the debate stage for the third ABC News Debate, but that didn’t stop hundreds of her supporters for showing up to support her.

Wearing a red pant suit she took questions from the audience ranging from climate change to foreign policy.

She called on a man to ask a question. When pointed at him he looked nervously over his shoulder. He stood up and identified himself as one of her Republican supporters who voted for Trump in 2016.

Gabbard welcomed him by saying “But you're here now, buddy.”

"Yeah, I'm fixing it," he said.

The room erupted in applause.

That moment has stuck with Gabbard on the campaign trail where she has mentioned it several times in recent days. She stressed partisanship is what’s wrong with the political process now.

“At every one of our campaign events. We have Democrats, Republicans, independents, libertarians, almost everyone," Gabbard said.

Her campaign, Gabbard has said, isn’t speaking to just Democrats or Republicans. She’s speaking a “message of unity, of coming together of leaving no one behind.”

This week, Gabbard qualified for the upcoming fourth debate and surpassed the donor threshold weeks ago.

In recent days, at least two candidates – New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro – have admitted they don’t have the 165,000 donor threshold needed to make the debate stage in November.

Back in June, Gabbard told ABC News that she looked forward to letting people get to know her and her positions, even on positions that aren’t popular with the rest of the field of Democratic contenders.

"But you know," she told the gathering, "my mission is to always talk straight and let people know who I am, how I feel where I stand on the issues, and call it like it is."

ABC News' Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report.

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