Representative Tulsi Gabbard is traveling to Syria and Lebanon for what her office called a fact-finding trip—her latest controversial move that will likely frustrate her fellow Democrats.
A statement from her office declined to comment on who Gabbard will specifically meet in Syria, citing security concerns, but noted she would meet with “a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders.” It’s unclear if those government officials include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who will likely welcome the prospect of meeting an elected American lawmaker as he tightens his grip on power. News of her trip was first reported by Foreign Policy.
The Obama administration and its Western allies have called for Assad’s ouster, and have backed some rebels groups opposed to him in the more than five-year civil war that has spawned a humanitarian disaster. President-elect Trump says the U.S. should focus on the real enemy: ISIS, which is one of many groups fighting Assad. Gabbard holds that view, as well. She recently introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Act, which would make it unlawful for the U.S. government to support groups allied with and supporting terrorist organizations, some of which are fighting Assad. Still, her visit to Syria, in theory, may constitute a violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized individuals from contacting a foreign government that’s engaged in a dispute with the U.S. It’s worth pointing out, however, that no one has ever been prosecuted for alleged violations of the act.