Hawaii congressional rep Tulsi Gabbard grabbed a big moment during the Wednesday Democratic debate in Detroit, Michigan. She lit into California Sen. Kamala Harris over Harris's criminal justice record as a prosecutor and state attorney general in California, wrongly claiming that Harris had "laughed about" jailing 1,500 marijuana users, according to Newsweek, and alleging that Harris "kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California."
California prosecutors had argued in a 2014 court case that releasing prisoners after an order to do so by the United States Supreme Court — which ruled that the state's prisons were unreasonably overcrowded — would deplete the pool of prison labor. But Harris quickly condemned that argument, saying "the idea that we incarcerate people to have indentured servitude is one of the worst possible perceptions," as quoted by Think Progress.
During the debate, Harris responded only that she was "proud" of her record "of significantly reforming the criminal justice system of a state of 40 million people," as quoted by Real Clear Politics.
But in an interview with CNN following the debate, Harris lashed back at Gabbard, dismissing her criticisms as coming from a candidate "at zero or one percent, or whatever she might be at," as quoted by Free Beacon.
Harris then ripped into Gabbard for her support of Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad, who since 2011 has waged a civil war against opposition forces in his country that has killed an estimated 400,000 of his own people according to CNN. Assad has also attacked Syrian civilians with chemical weapons, in one 2013 attack killing more than 1,400 of his own people, including 426 children.
Calling Assad a "war criminal," Harris, as seen in the CNN video below, slammed Gabbard as an "apologist for an individual, Assad, who has murdered people in his country like cockroaches. She has embraced and been an apologist for him. I can only take her criticisms so seriously."In 2017, Gabbard personally met with Assad — without informing any other Democrats in Congress — and denounced the opposition forces in Syria as "terrorists," according to The Guardian.
In an interview as recently as February of this year, Gabbard said that Assad "is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States," as quoted by Real Clear Politics. Pressed to be more specific on whether she saw Assad as a friend or enemy, Gabbard refused to answer, saying only, "you can describe it however you want to describe it."