Politics

Gabbard Trip to Syria Attracts Criticism, Puzzlement

Kinzinger slams fellow Iraq War vet; Pelosi unaware of details

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger said it was inappropriate for a member of Congress to “visit a dictator.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

By LINDSEY MCPHERSON and REMA RAHMAN

PHILADELPHIA — Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s secret trip to Syria this month continues to attract criticism from fellow members of Congress, as well as a washing of the hands from her own caucus leader.

Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who, like Gabbard, is a veteran of the Iraq War, slammed his colleague for meeting with President Bashar Assad and called on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Speaker Paul D. Ryan to condemn the trip.

“In no way should any member of Congress, in no way should any government official ever travel to meet with a guy who has killed 500,000 people and 50,000 children,” Kinzinger said here at the GOP issues retreat. “It is sad and a shame and a disgrace.”

Kinzinger said Gabbard may have violated some rule but he didn’t know much about it. “I’m interested to see where the money came from for the trip,” he added.

Earlier this week, Gabbard wrote about her trip on Medium, describing it as something that filled her with resolve to find a way to end the conflict.

“Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take it,” she wrote. “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.”

Critics of Gabbard’s trip have noted that some of her statements about the visit are in line with those of the Russian government, namely, that rebels aligned against Assad are terrorists and that Assad provides stability and is a buffer against al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

At a media briefing on Wednesday morning in Washington, Pelosi said she had not spoken to Gabbard about the trip and had no details about it.

“I haven’t seen her. I don’t know. I have no knowledge of the trip,” the California Democrat said. “We have been very busy, I haven’t seen her.”

A follow-up request to Pelosi’s office for further comment went unanswered.

The minority leader, who often boasts about her decades-long experience working with intelligence, said Wednesday she was unaware of any details about a member of the caucus traveling to a country in which the State Department warns against all travel and strongly urges U.S. citizens inside the war-torn nation to “depart immediately.”

“I don’t know any particulars of it.  I don’t know the basis of the invitation,” Pelosi said when asked if she had an opinion on whether it was appropriate for Gabbard to take the trip without telling leadership. 

“I don’t know the auspices under which she went. I don’t know,” Pelosi said “When I know more about it, I’ll have something to say about it.”

Declining to say whether he would file an ethics complaint or call Gabbard’s actions treasonous, Kinzinger said, “It is wrong, absolutely wrong, for a member of Congress, a representative of the United States to visit a dictator.”

When contacted for comment, Gabbard’s office pointed to a statement the congresswoman’s office released on Wednesday, most of which echoed what she wrote on Medium: “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.”

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