U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s amended travel forms show that she spent one and a half hours with Syrian President Bashar Assad. But a second meeting came two days later.
The first meeting came just 45 minutes after Gabbard and her husband, Abraham Williams, arrived in Damascus Jan. 16 from Beirut, Lebanon.
The meeting with Assad was soon followed by a 60-minute visit with Asma Assad, the president’s wife.
Gabbard’s second meeting with the president, this one lasting 30 minutes, was held two days later. It followed an hourlong meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
The following day, on Jan. 19, Gabbard also met with Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations. She reported spending 90 minutes later that day with Syrian “political opposition leaders.”
Gabbard has been both vilified and commended for her trip.
But with heavy media scrutiny of the trip, she announced last week that she would reimburse AACCESS-Ohio for the trip.
She has also said little about what she and Assad talked about.
Gabbard’s filing shows her meeting with dozens of people in Syria and Lebanon.
They include representatives from government, military, business, academia and religious organizations.
For example, she met with Michel Naim Aoun, the president of Lebanon; Saad Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon; a former Lebanese president, Emile Lahoud; and Ibrahim Jaafari, Iraq’s foreign minister.
The congresswoman also met with humanitarian workers, people in a displaced persons camp, patients at a hospital and victims of terrorist attacks, according to the filing.
Gabbard has said that she did not originally intend to meet with Assad. A proposed itinerary does not show a scheduled meeting.
The preliminary itinerary also shows that Gabbard planned to hold a press conference “with local and international media outlets” in both Damascus and Beirut. But the events are not listed on the final itinerary.
“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 within Syrian and Lebanon,” Gabbard explains in her amended filing, which is dated Feb. 8. “The final itinerary reflects more meetings that the proposed itinerary.”
Gabbard said she accepted no gifts from foreign governments. She said she also spoke informally with Syrians in streets, markets and cafes.
In the section of the disclosure form that asks how the trip is connected to the traveler’s official duties, it states, “Rep. Gabbard serves on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, and in those capacities follows the developments on the conflict on Syria and its impact on neighboring countries.”
Several pages of the filings provide information about the group that paid for the trip, AACCESS-Ohio (the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services based in Cleveland).
But some of those pages are difficult to read, as the text is often faded or blurry.
Still, it appears that Bassam Khawam and his brother state that AACCESS-Ohio “does not employ or retain a registered federal lobbyist or foreign agent.”
The brothers also appear to state that they are not federal lobbyists or foreign agents.