Gabbard declines to call Syria's Assad a war criminal

Gabbard declines to call Syria's Assad a war criminal
© Stefani Reynolds

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFive takeaways from new fundraising reports for 2020 Democrats Overnight Defense: GOP lawmaker takes unannounced trip to Syria | Taliban leader pens New York Times op-ed on peace talks | Cheney blasts paper for publishing op-ed GOP lawmaker makes unannounced trip to northeastern Syria MORE (D-Hawaii) said Sunday that she believed her past comments on Syrian President Bashar Assad have been misunderstood, declining to call the Syrian leader a war criminal.

Gabbard, a 2020 presidential candidate, was pressed during a CNN town hall on whether she believed Assad used chemical warfare against Syrian civilians.

"I want to correct that, because there has been some misunderstanding," Gabbard said.

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"There have been reports showing that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, both by the Syrian government as well as different terrorist groups on the ground in Syria," Gabbard told CNN host Dana Bash.

"The skepticism and the questions that I raised were very specific around incidents that the Trump administration was trying to use as an excuse to launch a U.S. military attack in Syria," she added.

Asked by Bash whether she believed Assad was a war criminal, Gabbard said she thought "evidence needs to be gathered."

“I think that the evidence needs to be gathered and, as I have said before, if there is evidence that he has committed war crimes, he shall be prosecuted as such,” Gabbard said.

“But you are not sure now?” Bash pressed in response.

“Everything that I have said requires that we take action based on evidence. [If] the evidence is there, there should be accountability,” Gabbard replied.

Gabbard has previously been criticized for meeting with Assad in 2017, and drew criticism for her comments last month when she said "Assad is not the enemy of the United States."

Gabbard has previously defended her 2017 meeting with Assad, saying in January 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."