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Tulsi Gabbard says she has no regrets about meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) announced Jan. 11 that she will run for president in 2020. This is why some say she is problematic. (Video: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) said Sunday that she does not regret her 2017 meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of using chemical weapons to attack civilians in the country’s years-long civil war.

Gabbard, a 2020 presidential candidate, has previously drawn criticism for voicing skepticism that the Assad regime was behind the chemical weapons attacks.

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether she regrets the meeting, Gabbard said she did not, drawing a comparison between her sit-down with Assad and President Trump’s summit last year with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“I have seen this cost of war firsthand, which is why I fight so hard for peace,” said Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran. “And that’s the reality of the situation that we’re facing here. It’s why I have urged and continue to urge President Trump to meet with people like Kim Jong Un in North Korea because we understand what’s at stake here. The only alternative to having these kinds of conversations is more war.”

The United States, France and Britain last year fired more than 100 missiles at Syrian chemical weapons facilities, with Washington promising that further airstrikes would follow if Assad did not halt the use of chemical warfare. Syria’s government has dismissed the allegations.

Gabbard’s record on Syria is one of several issues that have put her on the defensive since she announced her presidential bid earlier this month. She has also released a videotaped apology for her past statements on LGBT rights and her opposition to civil unions for same-sex couples in the early 2000s.

Tapper asked Gabbard how she plans to convince LGBT activists that she’s now on their side.

“Through my actions,” she said. “I have spoken about my upbringing. I was raised in a very socially conservative household with views and beliefs I no longer hold today. Like most of the country, my views have evolved.”

Gabbard also weighed in on the negotiations to end the partial government shutdown, blaming Democrats and Republicans for refusing to sit down together or give ground on some of their priorities.

“Both sides have completely hardened their positions and are unwilling to come together and work out the differences, and that’s the problem here,” Gabbard said. “Our federal employees and contractors and their families have gone far too long suffering as a result of this intransigence.”

She declined to say whether she plans to seek reelection to her House seat if she doesn’t win the Democratic nomination for president, saying only, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”