U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has decided to personally pay for her trip to Syria, following new stories about her trip sponsor being a backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Gabbard issued a news release this evening, saying while she has met U.S. House ethics guidelines, the travel expenses for her trip in January have become a distraction from the important issue of whether the U.S. should support terrorists in overthrowing Assad.
“Contrary to baseless claims in the media, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is beholden to no one in the region, her views on the situation are her own, and her determination to seek peace is beyond question,” the news release from Gabbard’s office said.
Her announcement follows a story in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today, noting that her travel sponsor, Bassam Khawam, and his brother Elie had been members of a group called the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which according to news reports, has backed Assad and has links to terrorist activities.
The brothers said they were no longer a part of the organization.
Gabbard last week described the two men as “long-time peace advocates.”
Her office said she accompanied former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich on the trip, after receiving his invitation.
Gabbard wants Assad to remain in power and for the U.S. to withdraw support of rebel groups opposing Assad that she says have ties to terrorist groups.
Former President Barack Obama supported the ouster of Assad, who is accused of war crimes and human rights violations in the Syrian civil war. Assad also has received support from Soviet President Vladimir Putin.