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Gabbard: My past Assad comments were misunderstood
02:27 - Source: CNN
Austin, Texas CNN  — 

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic presidential candidate, would not say Sunday whether she believes Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is a war criminal.

“I think that the evidence needs to be gathered and, as I have said before, if there is evidence that he has committed war crimes, he should be prosecuted as such,” Gabbard said at a CNN town hall Sunday.

Gabbard met with Assad in Syria two years ago, saying at the time that she “felt that it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we can achieve peace.”

Gabbard also said last month that Assad is “not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States.”

When moderator Dana Bash asked if Gabbard is unsure whether Assad is a war criminal now, she said: “Everything that I have said requires that we take action based on evidence. (If) the evidence is there, there should be accountability.”

Gabbard cited her experience serving in Iraq as informing her approach to Syria.

“I served in a war in Iraq, a war that was launched based on lies, and a war that was launched without evidence,” she said. “And so the American people were duped.

“So as a soldier, as an American, as a member of Congress, it is my duty and my responsibility to exercise skepticism any time anyone tries to send our service members into harm’s way or use our military to go in and start a new war,” she added.

Gabbard also would not say whether she would trust the American intelligence community as president.

“Like I said, we have, in our recent past, a situation where our own government told lies to the American people, and to the United Nations for that matter, to launch a war,” she said.