Gabbard: Assad 'is not the enemy of the United States'

Gabbard: Assad 'is not the enemy of the United States'
© Stefani Reynolds

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardThird-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart Poll: Almost half of voters say debates are best gauge of candidate's standing The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump seeks distance from Syria crisis MORE (D-Hawaii), a 2020 presidential candidate, said Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not an enemy of the U.S.

"Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States," she said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

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Gabbard has previously been criticized for meeting with Assad in 2017.

When pressed Wednesday over whether Assad is an adversary of the U.S., Gabbard said "you can describe it however you want to describe it.”

“My point is that whether it is Syria or any of these other countries, we need to look at how their interests are counter to or aligned with ours," she said.

Host Joe Scarborough and NBC News correspondent Kasie Hunt questioned whether Assad's interests are "aligned with ours." Hunt noted that Assad is interested in the “slaughter of his own people," while Scarborough pointed to Assad's use of chemical weapons.

Gabbard said it's important to "talk about all these things" but added that it's also "important to talk about how our military is being used."

"It's important to talk about how our military is being used, what it is costing them, what it is costing the American people and whether or not those missions, those objectives serve the security of the United States and the American people," she said.

Gabbard has previously defended her 2017 meeting with Assad, saying last month that it's "important for any leader in this country to be willing to meet with others, whether they be friends or adversaries or potential adversaries."