Though they were supposed to be made public by Monday, Feb. 6, reporters didn’t get a look at the complete travel disclosure documents for U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard‘s January trip to Syria and Lebanon–which included a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad–until Wednesday, Feb. 8. Still, they were illuminating.
Gabbard has repeatedly described her trip as a “fact-finding” mission on the Syrian Civil War. “Rep. Gabbard serves on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, and in those capacities follows the developments in the conflict in Syria and its impact on neighboring countries,” states her Traveler Form, first made public yesterday.
“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,” Gabbard said in a press release her office sent out shortly after she returned on Jan. 22. “I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists—directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.”
Gabbard said in her post-trip press release that she “had no intention” of meeting with Assad, and her proposed trip itinerary, also first released on Wednesday, makes that clear. Gabbard’s proposed itinerary lists no scheduled meeting with Assad (or any Syrian government officials, for that matter). But the final list of meetings Gabbard held during her trip refers to two meetings with Assad–the first, which lasted 90 minutes on Jan. 16, took place a mere 45 minutes after she arrived Syria (she followed it up with an hour-long meeting with Asma al-Assad, the First Lady of Syria). Her second meeting with Assad took place two days later, and lasted 30 minutes.
“The final itinerary reflects changes due to the rapidly shifting environment in Syria and Lebanon and due to our desire to meet as many individuals and groups within Syria and Lebanon,” states Gabbard’s trip documents. Indeed, Gabbard’s proposed itinerary also listed two press conferences, in both Syria and Lebanon, “with local and international media outlets and journalists.” Neither appears on her final itinerary.
The final itinerary shows Gabbard spent a lot of time meeting with people fighting “ISIS & Al Qaeda” in Syria, but just 90 minutes with “Syrian political opposition leaders” (who exactly they were, and what they spoke of with Gabbard, is unknown).
Though Gabbard’s trip was originally paid for by the Cleveland-based organization Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS)–Ohio, Gabbard said she would pay for the trip out of her own pocket after various news reports (like this Daily Beast story) showed that AACCESS-Ohio may, in fact, have ties to the Syrian government.
Click here to see Gabbard’s Syria trip disclosure documents (warning: many of the PDF documents are very low quality).
Click here for my Feb. 1 story on why it wasn’t a good idea for Gabbard to have met with Assad.
Photo courtesy U.S. Congress