Tulsi Gabbard Interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer

Tulsi Gabbard Speaks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer

Wolf: The expletive heard around the world. We've all heard it. The president's very, very ugly description of nations in Africa, also his unwillingness to accept immigrants from Haiti. Now the president says he didn't say that. Joining us now the Hawai`i congresswoman, the Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, she's a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. I quickly want to get your reaction to what is so widely reported about what the president said to the lawmakers yesterday.

TG: Growing up in Hawai`i we learn about and I believe in what's called the aloha spirit, and what that really means in a practical way is showing respect to others no matter their race, no matter their religion or what country they come from or how much money they have, the level of education they have or anything else. Unfortunately, President Trump's comments fly directly in the face of that aloha spirit and frankly the values that our country represents and stands on. So I think it's important for us as we look at this and we look at the path forward to actually remember that our nation has been, for generations has been that shining light on the hill for so many immigrants. People who have sought to come here sometimes risking their lives to seek that opportunity, to be in a country of freedom, of opportunity not only for themselves but for their families who have the true sense of appreciation of what that really means. Often coming from countries, they don't have those freedoms.

Wolf: The words were incredibly ugly, but do you believe the president of the United States is a racist?

TG: I think name calling is beside the point and doesn't actually accomplish anything. When we look at what's important for the American people, what they are concerned about right now is what do Donald Trump's policies mean to them? And so when you look at his quote-unquote merit-based immigration rules that he is advocating for, we've got to ask what do those merits mean? It appears that he is talking about only allowing people in this country who have a certain degree who maybe have a certain amount of money in the bank or who may be coming from countries that maybe they don't necessarily need to leave. As opposed to having a definition of merit that may not meet those material requirements, but really where we are talking about people who have that hunger, who have that drive and determination to come to this country, work hard for themselves and their families and that deep appreciation of what that freedom and opportunity means that this country represents around the world.

Wolf: If those rules were in place over the many years of our country's history, merit-based. only highly educated, only wealthy people who speak English, people come from certain countries, if only they were allowed in, most of us who were children of immigrants, we wouldn't be here right now.

TG: That's right, and I think that's the issue here. The very people that President Trump seeks to exclude from this country are those who have contributed so greatly to making our country the great strong country that it is.

Wolf: In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, I want to get to national security foreign policy issues, the president said this. I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. You are smiling. He wouldn't say whether or not he had actually ever spoken with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. someone in the past he likes to call rocket man. Do you have information to back that up that the president has, probably has a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un?

TG: Look, we have been given no information that there have been any direct talks, what to speak of between President Trump and Kim Jong-un or other members of his administration. This is something that I've been advocating for a long time, Wolf. You know you and I have talked about the threat that the people of Hawai`i feel from North Korea given we fall squarely within the range of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Hawai`i has recently started these nuclear alarm tests every month, so this is a very real threat. I have been calling for direct negotiations without preconditions between the United States and North Korea. Trump and Kim Jong-un, to begin to de-escalate and ultimately denuclearize the Korean peninsula because we don't have time to waste.

Wolf: The U.S. officials are telling us after the president said this that he probably has a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un they are not aware of any contact that the president may have had. There may be indirect contacts, emissaries, if you will, between the U.S. and North Korea, but certainly nothing direct between the president and Kim Jong-un. That's what you are hearing as well. In all the briefings you had over these years.

TG: I wish that he would.

Wolf: I know you are also very passionate about this FISA legislation which the House of Representatives passed yesterday. You opposed it, right?

TG: Yes, I did, and I supported the amendment that would not only allow Section 702 to continue because as a veteran, I know firsthand how important it is for our intelligence personnel and community to be able to access information and communications of foreign targets to prevent terrorist attacks. However, our incidental communications of American citizens that are swept up through that collection, and currently, law enforcement is able to access those Americans', those innocent Americans' communications without a warrant. Our amendment that we offered yesterday fixed that. It provided that solution of striking that balance.

Wolf: It was defeated.

TG: It unfortunately was. We got about over 180 votes in support of.

Wolf: You need 218.

TG: Absolutely. The underlying bill that passed and now goes to the Senate where I hope they'll address these issues, unfortunately, does not provide those reforms that maintain the protection of our security but also protect the civil liberties of Americans.