The Department of Defense (DOD) knew that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, would travel to Syria before she did so this week.
Rep. Gabbard met Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad while in Damascus. A Pentagon spokesman tells Breitbart News the DOD knew of the visit but did not organize any aspect of it.
“I can confirm that Department of Defense officials were aware of Rep. Gabbard’s travel, but played no role in organizing her trip,” U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a DOD spokesman, told Breitbart News.
Regarding whether the administration of President Donald Trump approves of her meeting with Assad, the Pentagon referred Breitbart News to the White House, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Her trip raises concern over a potential violation of the the Logan Act, a federal measure that prohibits individuals from holding discussions with a foreign government involved in a dispute with the United States. The United States has no diplomatic relations with Syria, which is officially listed as a state-sponsor of terrorism by the State Department.
The U.S. State Department also declined to comment.
Rep. Gabbard, a military combat veteran who continues her service in the U.S. military as a major in the Army National Guard, defended her “fact-finding” trip to Syria and meeting with dictator Assad, arguing that the dictator could help end the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and the five-year-old Syrian civil war.
“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,” she said in a statement.
Gabbard refers to Assad as a president, not a dictator. Assad won an election in 2014 with 89 percent of the vote, as the country was deep in its civil war. Critics complained the election was a “sham” that did not represent the will of the Syrian people.
“Whatever you think about President Assad, the fact is that he is the president of Syria. In order for any peace agreement, in order for any possibility of a viable peace agreement to occur, there has to be a conversation with him,” she told CNN. “The Syrian people will determine his outcome and what happens with their government and their future.”
Echoing comments by the Syrian leader that the United States is backing terrorists in the Middle East, Rep. Gabbard declared after her trip, “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.”
My visit to Syria has made it abundantly clear: Our counterproductive regime change war does not serve America’s interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people.
As I visited with people from across the country, and heard heartbreaking stories of how this war has devastated their lives, I was asked, “Why is the United States and its allies helping al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups try to take over Syria? Syria did not attack the United States. Al-Qaeda did.” I had no answer.
I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government.
Her office noted that her visit was approved by the House Ethics Committee, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and was sponsored by the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services.
Under ethics committee rules, lawmakers have a period of 15 days after a trip to publicly divulge their approval letter and financial disclosures linked to privately-funded travel.
According to her office, the congresswoman also met with: Lebanon’s newly-elected President Aoun and Prime Minister Hariri, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, Highest Islamic authority in Syria and Assad confidant Grand Mufti Hassoun, Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, humanitarian workers, students, small business owners, and more.
In November, the Hawaiian lawmaker met with then-President-elect Donald Trump to discuss foreign policy issues, including Obama’s “illegal” war against ISIS in Syria.