Democrat Tulsi Gabbard reveals she met Assad in Syria
The representative from Hawaii made the admission just after returning from a week-long trip to the war-torn country.
"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."
She added that her trip included stops in Aleppo and Damascus, and Lebanon's capital Beirut. During this time she met with refugees, opposition leaders, families of rebel fighters and Assad supporters.
Maintaining a distinctly pro-Assad line that conflicts with the views of many within her party, Gabbard blasted her country's role in supporting rebel groups, who she dismissed as "terrorists".
"My visit to Syria has made it abundantly clear," Gabbard said. "Our counterproductive regime change war does not serve America's interest, and it certainly isn’t in the interest of the Syrian people."
Gabbard's sudden trip to Syria raised alarms over a potential breach of the Logan act, which bars unauthorised individuals from conferring with a government at war with the US.
The congresswoman's office, however, say her visit was approved by the House ethics committee and was not paid for with tax dollars.
Under the committee's rules, members have a 15-day period following the completion of a trip in which they have to make public their approval letter and financial disclosures related to privately funded travel.
Gabbard's delegation also included her husband Abraham Williams and former Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich.