Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat representing Hawaii’s congressional district, is running for president in 2020. She made the announcement during an interview with CNN’s Van Jones.
The clip was shared on social media on January 11. The full interview was slated to run Saturday, January 12. Rep. Gabbard said she would make a more formal announcement within the next few days.
Rep. Gabbard has already made history since being elected to Congress in 2013. She is the first American Samoan on Capitol Hill and the first practicing Hindu elected to Congress.
She has shown that she is not afraid to speak her mind and challenge the president. Gabbard made headlines in late 2018 when she referred to President Trump on Twitter as “Saudi Arabia’s bitch.” But on the flip side, Gabbard took heat from members of her own party in 2016, when she met with president-elect Trump to discuss foreign policy.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Tulsi Gabbard Called Trump ‘Saudi Arabia’s Bitch’ After He Issued a Statement Downplaying the Crown Prince’s Involvement in the Murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard attracted a lot of attention, both positive and negative, after she called out President Trump in the midst of the investigation into the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
On November 20, 2018, President Trump issued a statement in which he appeared to downplay Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Khashoggi’s death. Critics argued that the president indicated that it may not matter whether Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had ordered the murder. Trump’s exact words were:
“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!
That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”
Rep. Gabbard did not mince words in her reaction to this statement. She wrote on Twitter, “Hey @realdonaldtrump: being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not “America First.” President Trump never responded via social media to her message.
2. Tulsi Gabbard Does Not Support U.S. Involvement in Syria & is an Anti-Interventionist
Tulsi Gabbard and Donald Trump can agree on at least one thing: they’re both anti-interventionist. She has been abundantly clear in her position on the war in Syria: she believes the United States should not be involved.
She took a more cautious approach after President Trump announced the withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Syria. She wrote, “We need to get our troops out of Syria ASAP, but it must be done responsibly. Turkey will see this as an invitation to invade northern Syria, decimate our Kurdish allies, & strengthen jihadists like AQ/ISIS/etc, undermining our national security and causing more suffering.”
Rep. Gabbard has repeatedly referred to U.S. involvement in Syria as “illegal.” She said the U.S. should not push for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad because his removal would only strengthen terror groups. Her campaign website included the following language:
“The United States is now simultaneously involved in two contradictory wars in Syria. The first is the war to defeat ISIS–a war we must take seriously and must win. The second is the counterproductive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad–an illegal war that Congress has not authorized and which we must end.
Normally in war, the enemy of our enemy is our friend. But in these contradictory wars in Syria, the enemy of our enemy is our enemy. The absurdity is that the more we are successful in weakening Syrian government forces, the more our enemies like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other jihadists are strengthened. Every Syrian soldier we and our Saudi partners kill is one less soldier available to fight against ISIS.
There is no doubt that Assad is a brutal dictator, but common sense tells us that if we want to defeat ISIS and other Islamist extremist groups, we need to immediately end the illegal and counterproductive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad. We must focus our efforts one-pointedly on defeating ISIS, as well as al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) and other jihadist groups who have declared war on the United States.”
Rep. Gabbard has been previously called an “Assad apologist.” She was sharply criticized in early 2017 when she revealed that she had met with Assad during a visit to Syria; the meeting took place without the knowledge of Congress. She received bipartisan criticism for that meeting.
3. Rep. Gabbard Met With President-Elect Trump Shortly After the 2016 Election
Rep. Gabbard met with Donald Trump shortly after the 2016 election. NBC News reported at the time that the two discussed foreign policy, including Syria and the war on terrorism.
Hawaii newspaper the Star-Advertiser reported that there had been speculation that Trump was considering offering Gabbard a job in his administration. Gabbard’s office denied the rumors.
Gabbard acknowledged that the meeting was controversial from a political standpoint. She discussed it in an editorial for Medium.
“It would have been easier for me to refuse this meeting. The establishment and social media has been talking about this all day. But I never have and never will play politics with American and Syrian lives. In fact, like President Obama, I strongly believe that now is the time for us to put our country first, and come together, regardless of political party, and tackle the many challenges we face.
This was an opportunity to advocate for peace — and I felt it was important to take the opportunity to meet with the President-elect to counteract neocons’ steady drumbeats of war, which threaten to drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government…
… where I disagree with President-elect Trump on issues, I will not hesitate to express that disagreement. You didn’t send me to Washington to make friends with the political elite. You sent me to represent you, and I am committed to doing just that.
In short: I will never allow partisanship to undermine our national security when the lives of countless people lay in the balance. If that earns me enemies in Washington or at the State Department, then so be it.”
Gabbard also received some criticism for not joining her fellow Democrats in opposing Steve Bannon, who was named as chief White House strategist. 169 House Democrats signed a letter in November 2016 asking Trump not to include Bannon on his staff. Gabbard did not add her signature.
4. Gabbard Disagrees with Trump About the Need for a Wall on the Southern Border
Rep. Gabbard’s tweets leading up to the reveal that she would be running for president included posts indicating her campaign platform. She stands with the Democratic party in opposition to building a southern border wall.
Gabbard addressed the plight of asylum-seekers who have traveled from central America in the hopes of entering the United States. Gabbard wrote, “One of the main problems at the border is that not enough judicial resources have been dedicated to dealing with the large numbers of people, many women and children, seeking asylum. A wall will not fix this problem.”
5. Gabbard Disagrees With Trump’s Decisions to Roll Back Environmental Regulations
Rep. Gabbard disagrees with President Trump on climate change and on what the United States should be doing to combat it. A few hours before revealing she would be running for president, Gabbard posted several tweets that appeared to be laying the groundwork for her proposed environmental policy.
She called out President Trump for his decision to dismantle Obama-era regulations, writing, “In just two years, the Trump Administration has rolled back 78 environmental regulations, directly putting the health and safety of Americans at risk.”
She went on: “Millions of pounds of a pesticide Obama tried to ban have been applied to crops in southern California, sickening farm workers. A daycare in the migrant center is located near these pesticide spraying areas, leaving infants and toddlers at risk of exposure.”
Gabbard hinted at her presidential run by tweeting, “We need leadership in Washington that will protect our air, our water, and our health. Continuing down this path is unimaginable.”
On her congressional website, Rep. Gabbard promotes Hawaii for its commitment to caring for the environment. In 2017, she sponsored a bill called the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act. The goal is to replace 100 percent of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources by 2035.
This sharply contradicts President Trump’s views on energy; he has repeatedly praised coal. On the campaign trail, he vowed to put coal miners back to work. However, as CNN pointed out, more coal-fired power plants have shut down during the Trump administration than during Obama’s first term.