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Trump meets with Hawaii's Gabbard as he looks to fill cabinet

Published: Nov. 21, 2016 at 10:12 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2016 at 5:08 AM HST
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NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard made political waves Monday by sitting down with President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team.

Sources told several media outlets that Gabbard, D-Hawaii, is being eyed for jobs at the Defense Department, State Department and the United Nations.

But Gabbard pushed back in response to news that she might be open to joining Trump's team.

In a tweet sent out Friday afternoon, Gabbard said she didn't sit down with Trump looking for a job, "nor did he offer me one."

In a statement issued earlier in the day, Gabbard said she had a "frank and positive conversation" with Trump during which "we discussed a variety of foreign policy issues in-depth."

"I felt it important to take the opportunity to meet with the president-elect now, before the drumbeats of war that neocons have been beating drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government," Gabbard said, in her statement.

"Where I disagree with President-elect Trump on issues, I will not hesitate to express that disagreement. However, I believe we can disagree, even strongly, but still come together on issues that matter to the American people and affect their daily lives. We cannot allow continued divisiveness to destroy our country."

Colin Moore, political science professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said while Gabbard's meeting with Trump certainly raised eyebrows, the prospect of the Hawaii Congresswoman joining the Trump administration isn't so far fetched.

"It really fits with how Representative Gabbard runs her own career," he said. "She's a maverick. She's never been afraid to compromise and work with Republicans."

Earlier this year, Gabbard stepped down from her post as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee to endorse U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president. She was a vocal critic of Hillary Clinton's policies, but said she voted for her in the general election.

A Trump spokesman on Monday declined to say whether Gabbard was being considered for a top spot, but told the Washington Post that she "obviously has a very distinguished track record."

Moore said Gabbard's meeting is likely to be seen as controversial by many of her colleagues.

"She's always prided herself on putting policy first and meeting with anyone. That being said, she's going to get a lot of pushback from Democrats who see Trump is a dangerous political figure," he said.

That pushback is already happening.

State Rep. Angus McKelvey sent a letter to Rep. Gabbard last week demanding to know why she didn't sign a joint letter from other Congressional Democrats opposing the hiring of Stephen Bannon as chief White House strategist. Bannon has been accused of being a racist and stoking white nationalist flames.

"The fact that there was a refusal on paper it looks like to sign the letter supporting our other Hawaii congressional delegation and our Democratic ideals that we fought so hard for tells me that there's a position at stake within the new Trump administration." McKelvey said.

Gabbard is the only Democrat who Trump was scheduled to meet with on Monday, but he did meet last week with education reformer Michelle Rhee, who is being considered for education secretary. Also Monday, Trump met with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

Gabbard's office did not respond to a request by Hawaii News Now for an on-camera interview.

Here's the full statement Gabbard issued after her meeting with Trump:

President-elect Trump asked me to meet with him about our current policies regarding Syria, our fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as other foreign policy challenges we face. I felt it important to take the opportunity to meet with the President-elect now before the drumbeats of war that neocons have been beating drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government—a war which has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives and forced millions of refugees to flee their homes in search of safety for themselves and their families.

While the rules of political expediency would say I should have refused to meet with President-elect Trump, I never have and never will play politics with American and Syrian lives.

Serving the people of Hawaii and our nation is an honor and responsibility that I do not take lightly.  Representing the aloha spirit and diversity of the people of Hawaii, I will continue to seek common ground to deliver results that best serve all Americans, as I have tried to do during my time in Congress.

Where I disagree with President-elect Trump on issues, I will not hesitate to express that disagreement.  However, I believe we can disagree, even strongly, but still come together on issues that matter to the American people and affect their daily lives. We cannot allow continued divisiveness to destroy our country.

President-elect Trump and I had a frank and positive conversation in which we discussed a variety of foreign policy issues in depth. I shared with him my grave concerns that escalating the war in Syria by implementing a so-called no fly/safe zone would be disastrous for the Syrian people, our country, and the world. It would lead to more death and suffering, exacerbate the refugee crisis, strengthen ISIS and al-Qaeda, and bring us into a direct conflict with Russia which could result in a nuclear war. We discussed my bill to end our country's illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government, and the need to focus our precious resources on rebuilding our own country, and on defeating al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist groups who pose a threat to the American people.

For years, the issue of ending interventionist, regime change warfare has been one of my top priorities. This was the major reason I ran for Congress—I saw firsthand the cost of war, and the lives lost due to the interventionist warmongering policies our country has pursued for far too long.

Let me be clear, I will never allow partisanship to undermine our national security when the lives of countless people lay in the balance.

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