Hawaii was Donald Trump’s single worst state (he got only 29 percent of the vote) and it’s by far the country’s most racially diverse, with whites making up about only one-quarter of the population.
But in a statement after the meeting, Gabbard, who has often challenged President Barack Obama on national security, said she held a “frank and positive” conversation with the President-elect, discussing Syria and other foreign policy issues.
Gabbard, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also said she and Trump discussed legislation that she is pushing that would end what she described as “our country’s illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government.”
Trump asked for the meeting, Gabbard said, to discuss Syria, the fight to defeat the Islamic State and al-Qaida, and other foreign policy issues. Aides to the president-elect said Trump wants to hear viewpoints from across the political spectrum.
A spokeswoman denied rumors last week that the congresswoman is being considered for a job in Trump’s administration.
While Gabbard acknowledged that the rules of “political expediency” dictate that she should have refused the meeting, she accepted over concern that a wing of the Republican Party known as the neocons will grow in influence once Trump takes office in January. She said that could push the U.S. more deeply into Syria, where the war now in its sixth year has killed as many as a half-million people.
“While the rules of political expediency would say I should have refused to meet with President-elect Trump, I never have and never will play politics with American and Syrian lives,” Gabbard continued. “Where I disagree with President-elect Trump on issues, I will not hesitate to express that disagreement.”
“I felt it important to take the opportunity to meet with the President-elect now before the drumbeats of war that neocons have been beating drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government,” wrote Gabbard, who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president.
The Obama administration has refrained from setting up a no-fly, or safe, zone for civilians in Syria partly because of the complexity in enforcing it and the potential for direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for a no-fly zone over parts of Syria during the campaign, as did Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president-elect. But Trump didn’t take a firm position.
Gabbard, 35, is an ambitious young Iraq War veteran who is considered a rising star in her party, though she broke publicly with it earlier this year. Gabbard abruptly resigned her spot as vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee in February to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, accusing party leaders of rigging the presidential primary process for its eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Sanders embraced Gabbard and she became an effective surrogate for his campaign, appearing in a Sanders ad that featured her surfing and discussing the cost of war.
But she doesn’t always hew to party orthodoxy, and proudly so, holding more conservative views on issues like gun control and the admittance of Syrian refugees.