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Tulsi Gabbard on why she wants to prioritize foreign policy

After serving two tours of duty in the Middle East, Tulsi Gabbard became one of the first female combat veterans elected to Congress when she won her bid to represent Hawaii in 2012. Now the representative is one of 23 Democrats competing for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination. She sits down with Judy Woodruff to discuss how she would approach foreign policy and the Mueller report.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    She is the first female combat veteran to run for president.

    Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard served two tours of duty in the Middle East before being elected to Congress in 2012.

    And she joins me now at the table.

    Welcome to the "NewsHour."

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii:

    Good afternoon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We should also say you are the second youngest person in this race, 38, only 38 years old.

    But what I want to ask you first is, in the last election, you were a big supporter of Bernie Sanders.

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    He's still running. He's running again in 2020, but now you're not supporting him. You're running on your own.

    Why now are you better qualified to be president than he is?

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    It's the expertise and the experience that I bring to this job. The most important job that a president has is to serve as commander in chief, to keep the American people and our country safe and secure.

    And so the experience that I bring of serving as a soldier for over 16 years, of deploying twice to the Middle East, and serving in Congress now for over six years on both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, have brought me that experience and understanding about the issues that face our country and our national security and the cost of war, so that I can walk in on day one to do that job, as president and commander in chief.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it's an international focus? I mean, you're stressing commander in chief, rather than the multiple duties of a president.

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    Yes.

    And there are many different issues that we face here domestically, and you will hear a lot of the other candidates talking about that. But what is often not addressed is the fact that our foreign policy, the cost of these continued wasteful regime change wars that we have been waging now for so long, has a direct connection to our domestic policy and our ability to invest the resources that we need to in things like health care, education, infrastructure, and so on.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me just quickly ask you about a couple things. Iran.

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right now, there is a lot of attention being paid to whether the Trump administration is edging closer to some sort of military confrontation with Iran.

    What would you be doing differently?

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    A number of things.

    I think, first, it's important to make sure the American people understand that a war with Iran would be far more costly and far more devastating than anything that we experienced in Iraq.

    What we would see is a devastating cost on our troops, my brothers and sisters in uniform, a cost on the civilians, people both in Iran and across the region, worst refugee crisis across Europe, as well as a strengthening of terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida, further undermining our national security.

    So, it would essentially make the war in Iraq look like a cakewalk, when we look at the cost of going to war with Iran.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, would you — you wouldn't have pulled out of the nuclear deal?

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    I would not have pulled out the nuclear deal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    I think Trump needs to recognize that his strategy thus far has been counterproductive and has been a failure.

    As president, I would reenter the Iran nuclear deal, negotiate with Iran separately on the other issues that we have, and find a diplomatic way to de-escalate these tensions that we have.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask you about Syria.

    You were criticized by a number of Democrats two years ago when you met with Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad. As you know, he's seen as a brutal dictator, overseeing the torture, the killing of hundreds of thousands of civilians in that country.

    If you are elected president, would you sit down with Bashar al-Assad again? What do you think it would accomplish?

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    I think it's important, for the sake of our country's national security, to keep the American people safe, and the pursuit of peace, for our president and commander in chief to have the courage to meet with leaders of other countries, whether they be adversaries or potential adversaries, in order to achieve that peace and security.

    I think it's important now for Trump to meet with the Iranian president, so that we don't face this situation, as we are now, where we are walking dangerously closer and closer to war with Iran. Unless we are serious and have the courage to hold these conversations and have these meetings, the only alternative is war.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Russia. Would you be tougher on Russia than this administration, or not?

    You have talked about the importance of avoiding any sort of nuclear confrontation with Russia, which obviously everybody wants, but what would you do differently?

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    Well, as we look at this threat of nuclear war and a nuclear catastrophe, nuclear strategists say we are closer to potential of a nuclear war now than ever before.

    So it's important for us to make sure that we are de-escalating tensions with nuclear-armed countries like Russia and China, and build those relationships that are based more on cooperation, rather than conflict.

    Deal with the issues that we have, but also recognize, in situations like North Korea, and our goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, it is in our best interests to be able to work with countries like Russia and China to achieve that goal.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Quickly, let me ask you about the Mueller report.

    You have said, in essence, that you think the Democrats need to move on, there was no collusion proven. And in terms of obstruction of justice, we're now learning that people representing President Trump, Congress, contacted Michael Flynn, who was advising the president, to try to affect his cooperation with investigators.

    Are you confident that there was no attempt at obstruction of justice by President Trump?

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    No, no, not at all. And I have never said that.

    My statements and my point has been, my support for the Mueller investigation was to investigate whether or not the president of our country colluded with Russia, colluded with a foreign country.

    The Mueller report came out and said that there was no evidence that that collusion took place. And I think it's important for us — Congress will exercise its oversight over the president and the administration…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But obstruction of justice…

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    … on obstruction and other issues that are being raised.

    But I will tell you, out on the road, as I'm meeting with people in different states and different communities, they're not talking about the Mueller report, or they're not talking about what's happening in Washington.

    What they're saying is, why aren't you guys focused on bringing us quality health care, on bringing us quality education, dealing with the crumbling infrastructure that's threatening so many people in this country?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And speaking of that, we looked today at your Web site, running for president, and you have been in this campaign since January.

    We — there is no place on your Web site that talks about the issues, that talks about your positions on the issues. Just curious about why that is.

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    There is a Web site, TulsiGabbard.org, that people can go and look at and see my history on a number of issues.

    And, in my presidential campaign, we're working on rolling out my vision for where I will take this country on a whole host of issues, both related to domestic and foreign policy that will be rolling out in the future.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But just quickly back again on the Mueller report, do you think Congress should drop its investigations, its attempts to learn more…

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    No.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … about what was in the Mueller?

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    No, I don't.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right. We will leave it there.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:

    Thank you. Aloha.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We appreciate it.

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