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Hawaii representative denies she was seeking, or offered, a job

November 22, 2016

LIHUE — A spokeswoman for a Hawaii congresswoman denied claims Monday her meeting with the president-elect was about an offer to join his administration.

“Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard did not meet with President-elect Trump seeking a job, nor did he offer her one,” Erika Tsuji said.

Tsuji said Gabbard “loves the job she has” and will continue to serve the people of Hawaii.

The Hawaii congresswoman said she met with Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York on Monday to discuss policies regarding Syria, the nation’s fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as other foreign policy challenges the country faces.

“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,” Gabbard said in a statement Monday.

“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,” Gabbard said.

Gabbard, who has criticized President Barack Obama on military issues, had resigned her position as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton.

“Where I disagree with President-elect Trump on issues, I will not hesitate to express that disagreement,” Gabbard said in the statement. “However, I believe we can disagree, even strongly, but still come together on issues that matter to the American people.”

Some Hawaii Democrats have questioned why Gabbard has not joined with other members of Hawaii’s all-Democrat congressional delegation in criticizing Trump’s recent appointment decisions, including Stephen Bannon as his chief of staff.

Bannon joined Trump’s campaign as CEO in August after serving as head of Breitbart News, a far-right outlet condemned by critics as racist, sexist and anti-Semitic. Jewish groups and a long list of Democratic leaders have denounced Bannon’s hiring and asked Trump to reconsider.

“Every member of our congressional delegation has spoken up on those issues when they came up,” said Shay Chan Hodges, a Democrat who ran against Gabbard in the primary election. “If she’s not going to disagree now, she’s certainly not going to disagree when she’s part of the administration,” Hodges added.

Democratic Hawaii state Rep. Angus McKelvey said he’s “morally outraged” that Gabbard did not publicly criticize Trump’s recent pick of Bannon.

“To be out there espousing what we all believed in and supporting Sanders and to turn around and do this ... it’s a slap in his face, it’s a slap in everybody’s face that really believes in this as more than words and hyperbole,” McKelvey said.

Tim Vandeveer, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said it’s too early to speculate on why Gabbard met with Trump, but he saw it as a positive move.

“It’s important that we take the opportunity,” Vandeveer said. “The reality is, President Trump is going to be in the Oval Office very soon, and that’s very troubling to many Democrats, but the reality is, we’ve still got to have a voice.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this article