Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference on Congressional Delegation on Protecting Tibetan Human Rights
Washington, D.C. – Today, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Members of the recent bipartisan Congressional delegation to India and Nepal to discuss support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and efforts to ensure Tibetan religion, culture, language, and human rights are protected.
Leader Pelosi’s Opening Remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, good morning! I’m very honored to be here with Members of our Congressional Delegation in the interest of our national security, our economic security and our values to India and Nepal, and on the way, we were in Germany meeting with high levels there. And then on the way back in Belgium with NATO and the EU leadership as well.
But we’re here this morning to talk about the purpose of this trip as it regards to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Now that we’re all assembled, I’m honored to be here.
Our trip was bipartisan and included a visit to the Dharamsala, it was wonderful. We were joined on the trip by Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner. Who joined us on the trip eight years ago when we went in 2008, almost nine years ago to India to visit his Holiness. So this was a return trip for Mr. Sensenbrenner and for me, and he spoke beautifully at the felicitation ceremony which we will tweet. It will be on twitter.
We were also joined by the Ranking Member, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, and we were joined by Co-Chair of the Human Rights Commission, the House of Representatives Bipartisan Committee [Representative] Jim McGovern, who I call the spiritual leader of our trip. Congresswoman Better McCollum who has been with us in Tibet and is a champion for human rights, Congressman Judy Chu of California, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty of Ohio and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.
We were particularly delighted to have a freshman Member [of the U.S. House of Representatives] to see the future of the Congress, in this case Congresswoman Jayapal was born in India. She’ll tell her story, but everyone was delighted to see the entire delegation, particularly delighted to see Congresswoman Jayapal.
So as I said last week, we went to Germany, Nepal, India and Belgium. Our delegation discussed a large number of bilateral issues and regional concerns with our partners and we were honored to be received by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
A chief concern of our delegation was brutal conduct of the Chinese government to erase the language, the culture and the religion of the Tibetan people, the challenges facing Tibetans facing in other countries. The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. China weighs more heavily on any country, corporation, person who speaks on behalf of the Tibetan people, it uses is economic status or any leverage to silence the voices of Tibet. But if we do not speak out against oppression in China and Tibet because of their economic power, we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights anywhere in the world.
In every meeting we emphasized the strong bipartisan support in Congress, bipartisan in the House, bipartisan in the Senate for the autonomy of Tibet for preserving the religion culture and language of the Tibetan people and for Tibetan populations in all nations. Our delegation provided us with the wonderful opportunity to see the aspirations of the Tibetan people firsthand, especially through the eyes of the Tibetan school children in Dharamsala.
To some in China, an authentic autonomous Tibet may seem inconceivable, the Chinese may think, ‘we’re never going to let this happen’ to us it is inevitable. We have to shorten the distance between the inconceivable to the Chinese government and the inevitable to the Tibetan people.
So with that, with great pride we were again received by his Holiness who we hold in great esteem. With that I’m pleased to yield to distinguished Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee Mr. Engel.
Leader Pelosi’s Closing Remarks
Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much, thank you to all of my colleagues for their dedication to American values as demonstrated in their leadership on this issue, their religious, culture and language of the Tibetan people. What I do want to say about our trip this is we were able to speak to so many people in leadership and government because of the caliber of the people on the trip and their standing on issues.
Because all of our visits to other countries about our national security, our economic security, jobs and about our values. Security of our integrity of our values. So when Mr. Sensenbrenner was there, of course he speaks from the Judiciary Committee but leadership on many issues. Mr. [Eliot] Engel is ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Committee spoke with authority relating to our international relationships and international security.
Congressman [Jim] McGovern, in addition to his human rights work, of course on the Rules Committee and Agriculture Committee, so he’s very interested in issues that related mutually in terms of agriculture. [Representative] Betty McCollum is on Appropriations and on the Defense Committee, as well as the Interior Committee – in our country Interior means natural resources and not internal security. She spoke to them about issues that relate to our mutual interest in global security, as well as climate issues.
Congresswoman Judy Chu is on Ways and Means Committee, needless to say her meetings with the business community and government leaders – they’re very curious what’s going to happen to the border tax, and she’s spoke with authority on that and other subjects as well.
Congresswoman [Joyce] Beatty is on the Financial Service Committee and they had issues of mutual concern in terms of the Financial Service Committee and speaking on the stand point of civil rights in America. So it was about income inequality, economic justice and the rest.
Congresswoman [Pramila] Jayapal of the Judiciary Committee and of course there was interest there in H-1B Visas and other issues that come before that committee.
So we had a full array of issues to discuss and because of their heft in terms of their standing on these issues we were able to get the attention of so many people that we could talk to, then also about human rights, so it was very important.
We did thank Prime Minister Modi for the hospitality and the Indian People, also the Dalai Lama and Tibetans there so again, we will tweet the felicitation ceremony where our members spoke. Mr. Sensenbrenner made us all very proud. With his comments, as well as we were inspired by his Holiness the Dalai Lama so tashi stet!
Any questions on this subject?
Q: What did you do aside from speaking out? Is there any legislation?
Congressman McGovern. I mentioned this legislation which has been introduced, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act which basically requires China to give access to our journalists, diplomats and tourists to travel freely in Tibet like they do here and if they don’t then we can impose that same sanction on them.
One of the challenges on the issue of Tibet is that for years Democrats and Republicans have kind of talked the talk but we haven’t walked the walk, there needs to be a consequence to the brutality that the Tibetan people face in China and this is a modest but appropriate action for Congress to take up I think it would send a signal to China that we’re really serious about human rights in Tibet and hopefully, it will give China pause to maybe reevaluate what they’re doing.
Again, as we all have learned, there is nothing threatening to China about His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his desire to return home or the desire for the Tibetans to return home. This is a man of peace and love. He is not talking about breaking China up, but he’s just talking about allowing his people to go home. And we support him in that effort, but passing this legislation, I think, is one thing we can do in Congress.
Leader Pelosi. One of the other issues when we were in Tibet was that we would like to have a consulate in Tibet. When we were there, the Tibetan officials said to us, ‘Well, we want more people to come to school here, to the Tibetan University, to see our culture,’ this and that. But we said to them: people are not going to send their children to school here unless there is a U.S. Consulate here because you are so far from Beijing. So, as China wants more consulates in the United States, we think in the spirit of reciprocity that Mr. McGovern has advanced, that we should be able to have a consulate and that should be a priority – a consulate in Tibet, as well. Any comments you would like to make, my colleagues?
The thing is, it’s really important to know: we have been on a path. And we said we were going to do certain things, welcome the Dalai Lama here – very proud that the Speaker had a luncheon for him last year, which was very gracious and lovely of him to do – bipartisan, bicameral luncheon. We said we would go to Tibet. We went to Tibet – saw for ourselves what was happening there, so tragically. We said we would visit His Holiness in Dharamsala. I think we’ve done seven for eight – we have to try to get the legislation.
But, as it has been said, it’s bipartisan and bicameral – the support of Tibet. And this is about our values – who we are. But again, all of our travels outside start first with the protection of the American people, the growth of our economy, as well as the caring of our values, or commitment to our values.
Congressman Engel. I’d like to just say a few words about the regime in Beijing. What happened in the 1950s, when the Dalai Lama fled, they claimed that he was trying to overthrow the government, which is preposterous. And even if it was preposterous then, it is certainly preposterous now. And the Dalai Lama has very clearly said that all he wants is autonomy for the people of Tibet. That should be a no-brainer. And I think that when we sit down with the Chinese officials at the highest level, from the president on down, we ought to make it clear that Tibet is a priority, and it’s certainly on the list of things we are looking out for. There is no reason for the Tibetan culture to be destroyed. There is no reason, as I and my colleagues have mentioned, for literally hundreds and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children to be smuggled in away from their parents.
All the people of Tibet are looking for is autonomy. And that poses no threat to the stability of the Beijing regime. So, again, I think, in the United States, we have high-level meetings – we ought to make that known and ought to make it a priority. And what I saw with my eyes only reaffirmed all of the things I’ve read all these many years.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much. Just to the point: the Chinese government, including when we did meet with the President of China when he was here last time – well, not last time, we weren’t at Mar-a-Lago – but when he was here at the Capitol last time, he said – Senator Feinstein and I made the point, she’s been a real champion on this issue about what is happening in Tibet – he said, ‘Go see for yourself.’ And we said, ‘Fine, give us a visa,’ because for 25 years I’ve been trying to get a visa to get into Tibet. Tibet is a harder place for reporters to get into, I believe, than North Korea. They really keep it blocked. But in any event, thank you for your question.
Q: To follow up on the, I guess, the topic of Mr. Trump’s comments to the Russians…
Leader Pelosi. My colleagues, you are welcome to stay and join the conversation, if you’d like as we proceed. But, thank you all for coming. We, again, feel very proud of the commitment – bipartisan commitment – and by the way, in terms of what Mr. Engel said about the State Department budget, I think, the opposition to it, the cuts in the State Department budget would be bipartisan. We will have strong bipartisan support to oppose a 30 percent cut in our diplomacy. Yes, sir.
Q: Just as you were coming out, President Trump’s National Security Advisor says that the information the president shared with the Russians last week was ‘wholly appropriate’ and based on open source reporting. Are you comforted by that assessment? And secondly, that squared with the information that you have received from your staff and others behind closed doors in briefings.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think that any of you who come to our meetings know that while you might suspect something in the public domain, something that may have been reported, I always say: I cannot confirm or deny that.
So, with all of the respect in the world for General McMaster, a patriotic, great leader in our country, with all of the respect in the world for him – for him to say [Trump] didn’t say anything that wasn’t in the public domain really recognizes that whether or not it’s in the public domain is not important. Whether he confirmed what it was was dangerous. And if the President of the United States, who has the legal authority to have these conversations, needs to do that for strategic reason, should follow the path of Ronald Reagan who did it upon consultation with advisors who knew just how and what and when and to whom he could say something that was classified to another government.
What the President did – this is the most highly classified information, code word ‘sourcing,’ highly classified material. In doing so, he perhaps jeopardized an operation, certainly endangered a source or a method and he undermined the trust that other countries will have in us, in terms of their sharing intelligence with us – very unfortunate. And I had a the privilege of meeting with a number of station chiefs on the trip – the security part of our trip – and we had a number of classified briefings as well, the entire delegation. The liaison relationships that we have, the intelligence relationships that we have with countries are very important to their and our global security. So, to undermine that was irresponsible for the president.
Again, I’ve been on this committee a long time, as top Democrat on the committee and ex-officio, as Leader and Speaker, but we never tried to have anything political. This is about the security of our country. But, this is outrageous. Yes, sir.
Q: Madam Leader, on that end, obviously, he sacked FBI Director James Comey last week – it’s your first time in front of the camera since that happened, and I’d like to hear your comments about that. But who do you think the Democrats would be comfortable with as successor to Mr. Comey – we’ve heard John Cornyn’s name mentioned, we’ve heard Merrick Garland’s name mentioned by Senator Lee, who in that quarter would be interesting to you?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don’t have a name to give you. But, I think we would all agree that we want someone who recognizes the independence of the FBI as a respected law enforcement agency of our government with important intelligence responsibilities, as well.
So, it isn’t about a person. It’s about the responsibilities that that person would have. I hope that the person would have the confidence of the President in a way that is, shall we say, professional, official and to be respected.
Q: Do you think that person is out there, who would be acceptable to President Trump, considering supposedly what he was expecting from Director Comey?
Leader Pelosi. Well, if it isn’t, that would be a sad testimony of President Trump. If he wouldn’t be comfortable with a person of integrity, independence, and law enforcement and intelligence standing. That would be, I don’t want to use the word incitement but it would be incitement on the President if he didn’t think that that would be the criteria, that instead it would be somebody that he had a connection to. I was very disappointed in the Rosenstein memo because the title of it was appalling: “Restoring the Reputation of the FBI.” Well, wait a minute, no. You’re supposed to be writing a report on Comey and we may not disagree on some of the factual statements it, the way it was written and presented was very inappropriate. So as we call for an independent prosecutor it has to be somebody not appointed by President Trump. We want to move on that.
Tomorrow, we will be putting forth a discharge petition on the outside commission. The polls have gone up to like seventy-five percent of the public in favor of an outside independent commission. This is important because we need to know what to the Russians have on the President politically, personally, financially? We need to have that investigation. Our election was jeopardized, was hijacked. There’s no question about that. They leaked information that they should not have and we have to know if there was collusion. You can only know that by obtaining the facts. What are the Republicans afraid of? Are they afraid of the truth? Why are they protecting President Trump when he’s admitting that he’s firing somebody who’s investigating Russia Trump connection because he’s just tired of it? So, my colleagues, any comments?
Congressman Engel. Yes, thank you, I just wanted to comment on Chad’s original question about the remarks that the President made to the Russians about alleged secret things. I just don’t understand what the President’s infatuation is with the Russians. If there is a country that he should be loath to give any kind of information to, given the swirling around of all the investigations in Washington over the ties of the Trump campaign to the Russians, it’s the Russians!
So here he meets with the top Russians and he blurts out things that are classified. It would be bad enough with any other country but the Russians? How many investigations are we going to have to have before this President understands that there is an appearance of impropriety here between the Trump campaign and the Russians? So if you’re going to invite the Russians to the White House be sure that you don’t tell them any kind of secrets. They are an adversary country. I’m sorry that they are, I think that if it wasn’t for Mr. Putin they wouldn’t be, but they are. And so I just don’t understand the President’s cavalier attitude thinking that somehow this is business as usual.
And as the Leader said, this has to end with an independent counsel or a special prosecutor. I don’t believe that the Congress can do an effective job anymore, there’s just too many questions, too much protection on the Republican side of the President. I don’t think anybody should be protecting anybody. I think we should all want to get at the truth and you only do that with an independent commission or something that’s out of the realm of the Congress.
Leader Pelosi. Just to say one thing. As I mentioned about our trip everything’s about security, our national security, our economic security, security of our democracy and what we believe in. And all three of those areas, what the Russians have done, has been an assault on that. And that’s why we need an investigation to find out why. And that’s why we need the release of the President’s tax returns to find out what difference his financial relationship is with the Russians and how that impacts his policy here.
Look. Look. One of the first things he did was the put Putin on a pedestal and say, question the use of sanctions against Russia and undermined NATO. That was not in the interest of our national security. And following up on that now he’s giving highly classified information to the Russians at a time when Putin was the head of the KGB. I mean does he think that he can’t figure out from something that he may have said that was not necessarily naming a name or an operation but Putin wouldn’t be able to figure that out? Why is he always trying to please the Russians? What is it that the Russians have on Donald Trump? Only an investigation will let us know the truth. Maybe it’s nothing, in which case he shouldn’t be afraid of that.
So it is, I mean gee, when we went on this trip we didn’t realize he was going to fire Trump last week and then we came back preparing to see you all this morning that he was going to spill, well I don’t know what the expression is, whatever he did. But every time the General says there was nothing wrong in the meeting, he didn’t say anything that wasn’t in the public domain, every time he uses that phrase or in, already publicly reported, you know that he confirmed something that he should not have. Or else he wouldn’t even say that, he would just say he hasn’t conveyed anything. Why qualify it in a way that for all of us who have been working in intelligence know that you are not able to confirm or deny? And you know that, you’ve heard that so many times here. Any other questions? If not, thank, oh you have one?
Q: Given the events of the last week and the AP is reporting this morning that based on the Post story from last night there are other U.S. partners who are weary to share anti-terror information with the White House for fear that he might leak it.
Leader Pelosi. Who’s reporting that?
Q: The AP.
Leader Pelosi. AP. I’m sorry I just didn’t hear what you said.
Q: And given all of that how much urgency is there to do this investigation and is that going to be quick enough to prevent what could be…
Leader Pelosi. Well it depends on the Republicans. As you’ve heard me say over and over public sentiment is everything. They’re not going to do it because they think it’s the right thing to do. They’re going to do it because of the public pressure to say let this happen. Now at the same time, so let’s hope that we can repair the damage that was done. He did what he did, that’s too bad.
But hopefully, in order to restore the confidence, because that is essential to the security of the American people, that we restore that confidence to global security, especially in this era of terrorism where we have, we don’t have a Russia, either way, Soviet Union-U.S. bipolar conflict or situation where we could easily track each other but this is very pervasive so we need all the intelligence that we can get to protect our people and people throughout the world. So we have to correct that situation and hopefully he understands that. But I hope he also understands that intelligence is intense. You have to be briefed all the time. You cannot connect the dots if you have one dot here and a dot here and don’t know anything about the root that some of the events have taken. And that is what he has to be, disciplined.
My wish would be that he would do three things: that he would spend time in the White House being inspired by those who have gone before him and served our country with such great patriotism and rise to their stature.
That he would be disciplined in his role as Commander-in-Chief, and no, have evidence based decision-making going on instead of, I felt like it in a meeting and I just got moved to say something without consultation and the rest.
And that he would, as I said to a group this morning, he would read the Old Testament. Solomon, Solomon when he was going to succeed David he prayed to God to give him wisdom. How can I, how can I follow David, the great King David to be the King of the Jews, the chosen people? And he kept praying to God for that and in the night God came to him and said Solomon, because you did not pray for great riches or longevity or vengeance against your enemies I will give you the greatest wisdom and you will be renowned for it. And that humility on the part of Solomon is what gave him the great wisdom. So we all should learn from that and have the humility to know that we have a lot to learn and I hope that the President would follow the wisdom of Solomon.
Q: Do you trust him to be humble and disciplined and to self-correct?
Leader Pelosi. Well I hope so because otherwise you have an unruly White House. It is unreliable in terms of what comes out of it and unsafe for the American people. Discipline is very important if you want to be President of the United States. Thank you, thank you all.