— -- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, announced Wednesday that she has returned to Washington, D.C., after a weeklong “fact-finding” trip to Syria and Lebanon.
Gabbard’s office said in a press release that the Army veteran met specifically with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during her trip, as well as Lebanon’s newly elected President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, nonprofit workers and clergy.
“Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take 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 in a statement.
Her office provided photos and video of the congresswomen on her trip, but none of the alleged meeting with Assad.
During his tenure, President Barack Obama repeatedly called for Assad to step down, and his administration established a modest program to train and aid rebel groups fighting against him. Obama argued that Assad had lost all political legitimacy and was viewed by his citizens as a brutal dictator.
Gabbard, on the other hand, consistently criticized Obama for these policies and accused him and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of an “interventionist” foreign policy agenda.
She said Wednesday that her trip further convinced her that the U.S. should stop aiding any rebels fighting against Assad in the war-torn country. She called the rebel groups “terrorists.”
“The U.S. must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. The U.S. and other countries fueling this war must stop immediately. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war," she said in her statement.
“We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS,” her statement continued.
Several international, peace and rescue organizations estimate that over 400,000 people have been killed since the civil war in Syria began over five-and-a-half years ago and have accused the Assad’s regime of purposefully targeting and even gassing his own citizens.
President Donald Trump met with Gabbard to discuss foreign policy back in December and has said in the past that he would likely end any U.S. effort to back any opposition fighters in the country.