I was first exposed to Tulsi Gabbard when I read, along with everyone else, about her legitimizing visit to Assad in 2017, where she claimed she was already in the country when she received an opportunity to meet with him.
From the Guardian:
“Initially I hadn’t planned on meeting him,” Gabbard told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so, because I felt 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 could achieve peace. And that’s exactly what we talked about.”
The problem with that line is that her trip was paid for by AACCESS: the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services that since 2006 had reported no financial revenue to the government, and whose executive director, Bassam Khawam, traveled with Gabbard and has connections to the pro-Assad group, SSNP- the Syrian Social Nationalist party.
Her comments about the trip were chilling, and not in the way that one would imagine after seeing a country so devastated by war.
Adam Kinzinger, a fellow congressman, commented:
“She has the audacity to say that everywhere she went people supported Assad,” Kinzinger said. “Of course, when you have an Assad-led tour, he’s only going to take you to places where people like him”.
Josh Rogin, Washington Post reporter, wrote on Twitter:
In an article just a few months ago, Rogin continued:
In fact, what she did was tour Aleppo after it had been decimated by Assad and Russia, and declared it a victory for peace. She made videos that regurgitated Assad propaganda from Assad-friendly Syrians and blamed the United States and the rebels for the destruction Assad’s regime wrought. She helped a mass murderer whitewash mass atrocities.
Strangely, she has also allowed her 2017 trip to drive her narrative about Assad, rather than her 2015 trip that she took with a congressional delegation to the Turkey-Syrian border. There, the delegation met with opposition groups to Assad and met with survivors of the war. According to Rogin in that same article:
But Gabbard never talks about her other trip — to the Turkish-Syrian border with a group of lawmakers in June 2015, when she met with authentic opposition leaders, victims of Assad’s barrel bombs and members of the volunteer rescue brigade known as the White Helmets. Their stories, which don’t support Assad’s narrative, never make it into Gabbard’s speeches on the campaign trail.
For all of Gabbard’s talk about ending forever wars, she doesn’t seem to prioritize talking about the autocrats who instill them upon their countries. She blames the US for the destruction in Syria, and that Russian airstrikes on Syrian civilians are worthy of praise:
In an ad promoting her candidacy for President, she decried “regime change wars” (sound familiar?) and then used footage of Assad’s forces in Syria dropping barrel bombs on civilians. An article in the Daily Beast explains:
Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D‑HI) used footage of Syria’s Assad regime dropping barrel bombs on a Syrian city in a campaign ad blasting “regime change wars.” The ad features Gabbard telling viewers that “The cost of regime change wars have been carried out under the guise of humanitarian cause in countries like Syria” amid barrel bombs falling on the city of Daraya in February 2016. Human-rights groups have criticized the use of barrel bombs for their indiscriminate effect on civilians and Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad has denied using them. Gabbard has garnered criticism from Democrats for her friendly approach to the Assad regime. She expressed skepticism that the Syrian military used chemical weapons to kill civilians in 2017, as the UN subsequently confirmed and met with Assad during a delegation to the country in 2017.
That last sentence — which I bolded — is also what drew my attention to Gabbard. After the bruising 2016 election, in which some online acquaintances of mine voted Jill Stein because Clinton was a ‘warmonger’, I watched them parroting that crap about Assad not having been the one to have used chemical weapons on his own people. I pushed back and was accused of being a pro-Hillary warmonger myself (guess I didn’t go to all those anti-war rallies in 2003), and clearly blind to who was actually using the chemical weapons in Syria: the CIA, apparently.
As John Haltiwanger of Business Insider noted:
Tulsi Gabbard has repeatedly refused to call Assad a war criminal and after visiting the Syrian leader in 2017 expressed skepticism he used chemical weapons on his own citizens, despite substantial evidence. She’s since accepted that Assad used chemical weapons #DemocraticDebatehttps://t.co/ifBYrT2aiU— John Haltiwanger (@jchaltiwanger) October 16, 2019
That she came around on this topic is neither her or nor there; it was a talking point that she repeatedly used to garner online support from the fringes.
Bill Browder and observations on a smear campaign
When the accusation from Clinton landed like a megabomb in the campaign this weekend, Bill Browder — quite familiar with smear campaigns and Russian tactics posted his take:
So to recap:
- First, we find out that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya used Chris Cooper — the CEO of Potomac Square Group — to smear Bill Browder in his campaign to bring about the Matgnitsky Act.
- Second, a little digging reveals that Chris Cooper had also been retained by Gabbard as a consultant.
- Third, Gabbard’s legislative voting record on anti-Putin actions in the US House has been negative or absent. 2016 Magnitsky Act as part of the broader Defense Reauthorization Act? voted no, stating that she didn’t want to arm terrorists in Syria. In the House vote to call for justice in the unsolved killing of Putin’s political opponent Boris Nemtsov? Did not vote. In the vote to prevent US recognition of Putin’s annexation of Crimea? Didn’t vote.
Here’s more on Chris Cooper from the Hawaii Free Press:
Gabbard’s consultant, Chris Cooper of the Potomac Square Group, is no ordinary Russian agent. Cooper is allegedly one of seven identified as being at the center of illegal Russian lobbying efforts reaching into the Trump campaign and Congress.
In a 106-page document sent to the US Department of Justice and shared by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Browder writes:
I. Executive Summary
1. There is an ongoing lobbying campaign to repeal the Magnitsky Act (the“Campaign”) and rewrite the history of the Magnitsky story. This campaign has been conducted by the following entities
A. Prevezon Holdings Limited (“Prevezon”) — a Russian owned Cyprus registered company
B. The Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation (“HRAGIF”) ‑a Delaware NGO created on 18 February 2016.
2. To assist them in the Campaign, based on information and belief, the following people have been hired to lobby on their behalf:
A. Rinat Akhmetshin – Russian national living in Washington D.C.
B. Robert Arakelian
C. Chris Cooper – CEO Potomac Square Group D. Glenn Simpson — SNS Global and Fusion GPS
E. Mark Cymrot – Partner, Baker Hostetler
F. Ron Dellums — Former Republican Congressman
G. Howard Schweitzer – Managing Partner of Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies
Cooper’s role was, in part, to promote a Russian-made documentary titled, The Magnitsky Act, that was created by filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, to discount Browder’s story about what happened to Magnitsky and to exonerate Russian officials. The film, originally scheduled to be shown in the spring of 2016 to the European Parliament, had its screening canceled there because of its controversial content. By that time, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who we’d come to learn more about after Trump was elected, was involved with the promotion of the film. In the United States, Chris Cooper would secure a screening at the Newseum. The New York Times reported at the time,
In the United States, Mr. Nekrasov has retained the Potomac Square Group, a small public affairs and lobbying firm that has worked for Bahrain, Kuwait and Azerbaijan, among other foreign governments. It is run by Christopher Cooper, a former Wall Street Journal reporter. Mr. Cooper rented the theater in the Newseum and declined to say who was paying his company.
Members of Congress were invited to attend, although only a few sent staffers.
Chris Cooper is, apparently, a publicist hired to make unflattering stories go away. Christine Gralow, a writer who began publicizing a story about Gabbard’s history with the Kailua-based Science of Identity Foundation. I’m less interested in this aspect than I am about Cooper’s involvement. According to Gralow,
Then, Gabbard’s D.C. publicist, Chris Cooper of The Potomac Square Group, sent a rambling email to an editor at Honolulu Magazine about me. Cooper’s general M.O. is to use his status as a former Wall Street Journal reporter to rake in money from politicians who want stories buried. He is tied to Fusion GPS, which is also run by former Wall Street Journal reporters turned ethically challenged D.C. damage fixers. Per Politico, Cooper is also being investigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee around his 2016 work for Kremlin attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Gralow notes that she had to establish her own nonprofit news group and publish independently after experiencing cowardice from an editor, who was apparently swayed by Cooper’s email.
Cozying up to dictators
It’s not just Assad; it’s not just Putin. She also visited Sisi in Egypt with the Kremlin’s favorite congressman, Dana Rohrbacher.
If you want to know why Tulsi Gabbard is accused of being a supporter of murderous dictators who fit her ideology rather than a simple peacenik reminder she did a solidarity visit to Sisi after he massacred 800 protestors in one day. DonÃ¢ÂÂt think Egypt was facing Ã¢ÂÂregime changeÃ¢ÂÂ: pic.twitter.com/HhoyS2fNGd— Murtaza Mohammad Hussain (@MazMHussain) August 1, 2019
There is a lot more that journalists have dug up, but this is all I have time for today. Share your findings below, if you have them. The bots are out in force on Twitter to boost her campaign.
Wendy in FL Community (This content is not subject to review by Daily Kos staff prior to publication.)