Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, on Tuesday slammed the Trump administration, claiming it defended the Saudi kingdom in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.
She also accused President Trump of failing to speak up for “for those families who just lost their loved ones.”
”This was a terrorist attack that took the lives of three American service members and injured eight others,” Gabbard said in an interview on Hill.TV's “Rising.” “We need to call it for what it is instead of what President Trump has done with his own remarks, with Secretary Pompeo basically putting out messages as though they are the spokespersons for the Saudi kingdom rather than standing up for our country’s national security and what’s in the best interest of our country.”
“Saudi Arabia is not our ally. As president, I will state that very clearly and they will continue to not be our ally as long as they are both directly and indirectly supporting terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and others,” Gabbard said.
Also Tuesday, the Pentagon suspended all 852 Saudi military students at NAS Pensacola after a gunman opened fire there last week, killing three military members and injuring eight others before being shot dead by police. The FBI later identified the shooter as 21-year-old Saudi Royal Air Force Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani. The attack has prompted a broader Defense Department review of all international training on U.S. military bases.
After the attack, President Trump tweeted that he had spoken with Saudi Arabia's King Salman.
“King Salman of Saudi Arabia just called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida....” Trump tweeted Friday. “The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter, and that this person in no way shape or form represents the feelings of the Saudi people who love the American people.”
In his initial reaction to the shooting, Trump said: “Just received a full briefing on the tragic shooting at NAS Pensacola in Florida, and spoke to @GovRonDeSantis. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time. We are continuing to monitor the situation as the investigation is ongoing.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also tweeted last week.
“I just spoke with Foreign Minister Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia who expressed his condolences and sadness at the loss of life in the horrific attack in Pensacola, Florida yesterday. The families and friends of those killed, and those wounded, will be in our thoughts and prayers,” Pompeo wrote.
Trump has faced backlash in the past over his support for the Saudi royal family in the wake of the slaying of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi, who was allegedly killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul last year.
On Monday, Gabbard – a vocal critic of the Saudi kingdom in the past -- announced she won’t be attending the Democrats’ next debate “regardless” of whether she qualifies for the Dec. 19 event in Los Angeles. She had met the donor requirement to qualify for the debate but had yet to meet a requirement that she earn 4-percent support in at least four national or early-state polls approved by the Democratic National Committee [DNC] -- or hit 6 percent in two approved early-state polls. The cutoff date is Wednesday.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson, Bradford Betz and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.