Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) explains her criticism of President Trump after he announced U.S. support for Saudi Arabia after the nation's oil supply was attacked. In an interview with FNC's Neil Cavuto, Gabbard said she took an oath to the Constitution and to serve the American people, not to be a "servant" of the Saudi kingdom.
Transcript, via FNC:
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: All right, the president has already ordered increased sanctions following that attack that the Iranians were now apparently behind -- at least, our intelligence says that -- on Saudi Arabia.
Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, though, wonders whether the president is doing our country's bidding or Saudi Arabia's. It's hard to say.
Congresswoman, very good to have you.
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI), 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Neil. It's good to see you.
CAVUTO: What surprised folks is the degree to which you hammered that charge at the president, in which you said, “You are not our pimp.”
What did you mean by that?
GABBARD: Well, let's -- let's just make sure that we're on the same page here and recognize the context of what I was responding to that the president tweeted out.
And I just want to read you what he said in that tweet, saying that, quote, we're, “Waiting to hear from the kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed.”
Look, Neil, I'm a soldier. And I took an oath as a soldier, as well as -- as a member of Congress, to support and defend our Constitution of the United States, to serve the American people.
And to -- it's a huge disgrace to hear our commander in chief basically put us in a position -- put us, the American people, our men and women in uniform, our military assets -- in a position where we are servants of the Saudi Kingdom, standing by and awaiting their orders on how we should proceed.
This is an outrageous giving away of our sovereignty.
CAVUTO: But was he saying that? Was he saying that, Congresswoman, as much as trying -- I understand what you're saying.
But was he saying that, as much as, look, they're looking into this? They're not marching orders here. They're saying they're trying to ascertain who was behind that attack. And that is what I think he was waiting on.
GABBARD: Well, if Trump didn't mean what he said when he tweeted that out, that we have got to see under what terms we would proceed, then he needs to clarify what he said and actually say what he meant.
He's the president of the United States. He's the commander in chief of the strongest military in the world. And I think he really needs to be clear.
So far -- and this was said a couple of days ago.
GABBARD: He has not issued any kind of clarification.
And so all we can presume is that he said what he meant in that tweet.
CAVUTO: All right, he has not responded to your allegations or even tweeted a response.
But what you did say is, "I have never engaged in hateful rhetoric against you or your family. Never will. But your offering our military assets to the dictator of Saudi Arabia to use as he sees fit is a betrayal of my brother and sisters in uniform who are ready to give our lives for our country, not the Islamist dictator of Saudi Arabia."
The question I have for you, then, Congresswoman, if you become president of the United States, and Saudi Arabia were attacked, like it was here and apparently by Iran, would you not intervene?
GABBARD: I would do what's in the best interest of our country.
And as a soldier, I see these things very clearly. Seeing, what is our goal? What is our objective?
And as it relates to Iran, we have two primary objectives. Number one is to make sure that Iran is no longer moving forward towards increasing and building their nuclear weapons capability, as they currently are, since the Iran nuclear deal was torn up; and, number two, to prevent this all-out shooting war with Iran that it appears we are headed towards.
This is important for two -- two reasons. Number one is, obviously, we’ve got to make sure we're keeping the American people safe, keep that at the forefront. And we can accomplish these objectives by understanding and realizing that the current strategy has failed, it's not helping us achieve that objective.
And, therefore, we need to re-enter the Iran nuclear agreement and get rid of these crippling economic sanctions that are continuing to escalate this war against Iran.
CAVUTO: Well, Iran has been doing this kind of stuff with or without sanctions, right -- with or without a deal, right? So it doesn't seem to matter the occasion or the deal, right?
GABBARD: That's actually not true.
While the Iran --
CAVUTO: Their provocative behavior in the Strait of Hormuz and elsewhere, right?
GABBARD: While the Iran nuclear deal -- while the Iran nuclear deal was in place, Iran was found to be in compliance, both by our own intelligence agencies, the IAEA, other countries' intelligence agencies.
They were complying with that deal. And it was making it so that they were not moving forward towards building a nuclear weapon. Now that that deal has been thrown in the trash, Iran is continuing to move forward. Tensions are continuing to escalate.
CAVUTO: Well, the nuclear deal notwithstanding, they have always been provocative, right?
So I guess what I would ask you, would you, as president, then ignore that provocation, deal or no deal? Would you work on behalf -- with the Saudis? Do you like the Saudis more or less than Iran? What?
GABBARD: It's not about who you like or who you don't like.
It's about, once again, focusing on our objective of keeping the American people safe. What has just happened and transpired over the last few days here didn't just pop up out of nowhere.
So we can't look at this in isolation, away from what has been happening over the last several months that really was kicked off by President Trump walking away from and throwing that nuclear deal in the trash, increasing crippling economic sanctions that are really hurting the people of Iran most of all, designating their military as a terrorist organization, deploying more of our troops to the region.
So there's a number of things that have pushed us all, the world, to this point where we are today.
CAVUTO: So let me ask you, do you recognize Mohammed bin Salman as the leader of Saudi Arabia?
Now, I know he was behind -- a lot of signals point that he was behind the killing of that Washington Post journalist a little over a year ago. But he is still in charge. And others have said you can't pick and choose your leaders of countries you might not like. It is what it is.
Would you talk to him? Would you deal with him? Would you, on an attack like this, do something in concert with him?
GABBARD: I think it's important, under these and other circumstances, to be ready and to have the willingness to talk to leaders of other countries.
And yes, I would meet with the leader of Saudi Arabia, as I would meet with the leader of Iran, to de-escalate these tensions, and once again keeping at the forefront, what is in the best interest of the United States, and how can we best accomplish that objective, which is keeping the American people safe, doing what's in the best interest of our national security.
And by pursuing these diplomatic measures, we have the opportunity to then prevent that worst-case scenario, which is an all-out shooting conflict war that would cause a devastating cost to the American people, to our troops, countless lives, trillions more dollars, what to speak of the impact and the devastation that would be caused around the region and the world.
CAVUTO: All right, so the interpretation I have is that you want to bring back that Iran deal, get -- move back to that.
But it does give a signal here that you're no fan of the Saudi leadership -- and many are not, I get that -- but more of a fan of the leadership in Iran.
GABBARD: No, I'm a fan of the United States of America. I'm a fan of the American people.
And as president and commander in chief, I would put their interests above all else, putting the wellbeing of the American people --
CAVUTO: Is it in our interests for Saudi Arabia -- is it in our interests for Saudi Arabia to be protected or its kingdom to be protected? Or do you draw a distinction?
GABBARD: Well, let me tell you what is not in our interest, is this alliance that has been longstanding between the United States and Saudi Arabia, in spite of the fact that they are directly and indirectly supporting Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that attacked us on 9/11.
We just observed the 18th anniversary of that terrible attack on our country in 2001. They are continuing to spend billions of dollars every year propagating this extremist Wahhabi ideology that's fueling the growth of terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS and others around the world.
They are directly supporting those who pose a threat to our country and the United States, that threat that we need to defeat.
CAVUTO: Is that threat greater than Iran?
GABBARD: Yes, it is. Currently, Iran doesn't -- currently, Iran doesn't pose a direct threat to the United States.
CAVUTO: So Saudi Arabia is more of a problem for us than Iran is?
GABBARD: We have the opportunity to make sure that we prevent Iran from continuing to move forward towards developing a nuclear weapon.
That's where we need to be focused. If I were president right now, that's exactly what I’d be doing, getting back into that nuclear deal, getting rid of these crippling economic sanctions, and being able to make sure we can move forward in the interest of our national security.
CAVUTO: So a President Tulsi Gabbard would see Saudi Arabia as a bigger threat to our country than Iran?
GABBARD: What I would like to see is Saudi Arabia ending their support for Al Qaeda, terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, who pose a threat to the American people.
CAVUTO: I'm sorry. That's not what I asked. That's not what I asked.
Be -- things as they are now --
GABBARD: I know. You're turning my words around. You're turning my words around.
CAVUTO: No, no, no, no.
I want -- I want to just be very clear that -- but you -- you have a higher opinion of Iran than you do Saudi Arabia, as things stand now?
GABBARD: No. No, that's not at all what I'm saying.
CAVUTO: Then explain.
GABBARD: That's not what I'm saying.
I'm focused on how we can best keep the American people safe, on how we can make sure that we are -- we have our national security intact.
And so whatever actions that we take --
CAVUTO: And the Saudis are a bigger threat? And the Saudis are a bigger threat to that safety than Iran? I just want to be clear, Congresswoman.
GABBARD: The Saudis are directly supporting the very terrorist group that attacked us on 9/11 and that continue to pose a threat to the American people today.
CAVUTO: So if the president were to take action against Iran -- with or without Saudi intelligence or help -- that would be a bad move, in your eyes?
GABBARD: That would be a very bad move. It wouldn't serve the interests of the United States. It would cost thousands more of my brothers and sisters in uniform their lives. It would cost us, as taxpayers, trillions of dollars more.
It would make the Iraq War that I served in look like a picnic, compared to the cost and the consequence and the devastation that would come about as a result of that war, what -- to speak of the fact that it would be unconstitutional, given the president would do that without that authority coming from Congress.
CAVUTO: All right, Congresswoman, thank you very, very much.
GABBARD: Thanks, Neil.
CAVUTO: Tulsi Gabbard.