Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today


Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today.  Below is a transcript of the press conference.

Leader Pelosi.  I just got off a red eye from Arizona, where last night I was at my granddaughter’s graduation from high school.  So it’s morning to me.  Good day.  Good day.

Speaking of days, these past 10 days the American people have witnessed earth‑shaking revelations about the outrageous behavior of President Trump.

The appointment of former FBI Director Mueller as special prosecutor is a good first step.  The action shows the urgency of investigating Trump‑Russia possible collusion and interfering in our election.  It also recognizes the gravity of the President’s abuse of power in trying to shut down the FBI’s investigation.  Former Director Mueller is a respected public servant of the highest integrity.  Everyone respects him.  The Trump administration must give former Director Mueller’s investigation the resources and independence it needs.

I am concerned that Director Mueller will still be subject to the supervision of the Trump‑appointed leadership at the Justice Department.  We must remain vigilant to protect the integrity of a Mueller investigation.

A special prosecutor cannot take the place of a truly independent, outside commission that is completely free from the Trump administration’s meddling.  A commission is also necessary to address the broader vulnerability of our elections to foreign interference in the future.

The investigation that – what do we call him now? – Special Counsel Mueller is undertaking is about what has happened and is there wrongdoing.  We are saying we have got to prevent this from happening in the future.  That is one of the reasons we need an independent, outside commission.

The Justice Department has a role to play, and we respect that.  The Democrats will continue to fight for vigorous congressional review, investigation, as well.  The Senate is doing a bipartisan investigation.  The House is moving forward.  We have an important role to play.

But with investigations inside the Justice Department and investigations inside the Congress, it is necessary for us to have an outside, independent commission as well.  Yesterday, House Democrats filed a discharge petition to force a vote on bipartisan legislation launching that commission, H.R. 356, Protecting Our Democracy Act.  Already, more than 176 Members have signed.  We expect to have well over 190 by the time we have the vote later today.

If the President has nothing to hide, then he and the Republicans in Congress should welcome an independent investigation to remove all doubt of a cover-up.  The American people have a right to know the truth.  There is reason to believe that the President’s pandering to Russia is endangering our national security, our economy and our democracy.

In a few days, we will be marking the first four months of the Trump administration, the 20th of May.  Nothing.  There is nothing to show for it.  We haven’t seen any evidence of a jobs proposal.  The President loves to talk about the election, but the election was about jobs.  Show us the jobs.  Where is his initiative?  We were hoping to be working with him on an infrastructure bill right from the start.  No sign of one.

The President’s budget will be coming down.  Next week we will see the President’s budget proposal and all the broken promises to the American people that President Trump’s budget represents.  Instead of creating good‑paying jobs, investing in infrastructure, he is ransacking education and job training, cutting the Department of Transportation with a budget that has a specially cruel impact on rural communities.

Reports suggest the cruelty of Trumpcare, which some people are now calling the death panel bill, will be amplified by new cuts to NIH, Medicaid, Social Security, disability benefits, SNAP and other crucial social services.

The President is gutting the EPA and slashing funding for cleaning up hazardous substances and for cutting funds for clean air and clean water.

Why do people even think public policy is important?  As a mother, what do I need government to do for my children and my grandchildren?  Clean air, clean water.  That you can’t do for yourself.  Clean air, clean water, food safety.  Forget about it in the President’s budget.

The budget, as you have heard me say over and over, our national budget should be a statement of our values.  What is important to us as a country should be reflected in how we allocate our resources, our investments for the future.  President Trump has shown that he does not value the future of our children, our seniors and working families in our country.

With that, I will be pleased to take any questions.

Q:  Thank you, Madam Leader. The current political trajectory is not good for Republicans.  Do you anticipate a scenario where you will once again be Speaker of the House in 2 years? 

Leader Pelosi.  We don’t really talk politics around here that much.

Q:  Uh‑huh. 

Leader Pelosi.  But if you want to talk politics you can talk to our Chair of our DCCC, [Congressman] Ben Ray Lujan.

I will say this, going back to ’05 and ’06, when President Bush was re-elected President.  At that time, when we started our initiative to take back the House for the American people, President Bush was at 58 percent.  Everybody said you don’t have a chance because be ready for a permanent Republican majority.  Fifty‑eight.

By the time we made our contrast the next 6 months, by September the President was at 38 percent.  When you are at 38 percent, where you are well under 50 ‑‑ it doesn’t have to be in the 30s ‑‑ you get a very high caliber of candidate to run.  Others in his own party might say, “Maybe I’ll sit this one out.”

So I will be able to tell you more, that is to say, by like September?

Q:  Can I follow up, please?  A few of your Members, one notably took to the floor and talked about impeachment.  Do you support a move towards impeachment at this point?

Leader Pelosi.  Do you allow him to have a completely separate?  Is that a follow‑up?

[Laughter]

Q:  If he gets one we all get them too.  It’s been a while.  I’ve got some stored up. 

Leader Pelosi.  The issue of where we go from here with these investigations is to find the facts for the American people.  It is important because I think we are in very uncharted waters.  I know people harken back to Watergate or this or that.  But this is something that has foreign intrigue, it has issues that relate to undermining our democracy by interference in our election.  It’s about, “Show us your tax returns so we can see what public policy is regarding that, and do you have a Russian connection, Mr. President, in your dealings?”  And it’s very serious.

So in order for us to move forward in a way where we’re moving forward with the American people, it’s very important that we do it based on the facts.  There is reason to believe that the President was engaged in some very inappropriate, for the moment, activity.  But until you have the facts that you can present to the public in the public domain so the American people are moving with you at the same time, I don’t think that our democracy is well served.

Now, people are Representatives.  That’s your job title and that’s your job description.  So they will speak to express the representation that they have.  And I understand their enthusiasm.  But as Leader, I think we have to contain some of that in order to get the facts in a way that will be acceptable to the American people as we go forward.

Q:  I yield the floor. 

Leader Pelosi.  You yield back?

Q:  Madam Leader, thank you. 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, Chad?

Q:  The Republicans are expressing some concern because of this maelstrom with Trump and everything about trying to move items on their agenda.  Granted you don’t agree with their approach on healthcare and taxes and so on. 

Leader Pelosi.  Right, right, right.

Q:  But that said, does that in any political or legislative way buoy you with the idea that this could sideline some of the things which you view as anathema for what they’re trying to accomplish? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, they’ve had four months.  They haven’t done very much.  And the election was over six months ago.  So they could have come forward.

This would be the time of, as I’ve said before, the honeymoon, not a marriage, but the honeymoon, and that people would see:  What is the vision of our new President?  What does he know and what is his judgment on the choices he has to make?  What is his plan to go forward?  And usually, that results in a President getting very high ratings in the first months of his Presidency.  That has not happened.

And because of the questions that have arisen about integrity and honoring our Constitution, the Republicans have been complicit in what looks like a stone wall of not wanting the public to know the facts.

Well, I am saying to those who want to take drastic action in terms of the President, show us the facts.  We need to see the facts.  And I am saying to our Republican colleagues, what do you have to hide?  If you are so sure that nothing is there, you shouldn’t be afraid to prove the point by having the investigations that are necessary.

So we haven’t seen any bold initiatives come forward.  We’ve seen a terrible what people are calling death panel bill come forth, which can deprive up to seven million veterans of their tax credit, $43 billion cut from helping poor children, the worst health bill, one of the worst bills period for women in the history of the Congress as it increases costs, decreases benefits, has a harmful age tax, has 24 million people off coverage and undermines Medicare.  So very widely unpopular in the public.

Where is their jobs bill?  They could have introduced a jobs bill early on.  By four weeks into his administration, four weeks from the day of his inauguration, President Obama signed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

Q:  But it would seem like they’re not getting very far on any of those things.  And you, as trying to be this backstop on your side of the aisle to them trying to move their version of healthcare or their version of tax reform, this is going off the rails for them. 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I mean, that’s their problem.  But we have always said that we would work with them on simplification, fairness, review of the tax system in our country, that we would talk about lowering the corporate rate, closing special interest loopholes, having a tax bill that would create jobs, create growth, good‑paying jobs for America’s workers.  We look forward to that discussion.

But so far what we’ve seen is something that adds $5.5 trillion to the deficit as it gives tax breaks to the high end.  Trickle down has never worked.  But let’s go to the table with something.  But they can’t even come to agreement among themselves, whether it’s a border tax or one thing and another.  They can’t even come to agreement themselves.

So if they want to blame it on the fact that the President has acted in a way that gives people reason to believe that investigations are necessary, you will have to talk to them about that.  But they have had plenty of time to come up with something other than Making America Sick Again.

Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Leader Pelosi, given the concerns that you’ve expressed about President Trump’s judgment, should our foreign partners be nervous right now about sharing sensitive information with the U.S.? 

Leader Pelosi.  Wouldn’t you?  Wouldn’t you be nervous?  As a person who has been involved in intelligence for decades here, this is a discipline.  This is something that you have to be with on a regular, daily basis if you are President of the United States, and you have to understand that words weigh a ton.

So what the President did not only possibly jeopardized an individual and operation, but undermined the trust that foreign countries would have in sharing information with us.  He shared information that wasn’t ours to give.  He did so in a manner that said, “Well, I have the right to do it.”  But that’s not the point.  If you have a right to do something it doesn’t mean you have a right to do it wrong.  And this is very serious.

I’m not sure, I mean, I think if he would get his daily briefing.  What I would like him to do, come to the White House, live where former Presidents have lived, be inspired by the challenges they faced, be disciplined, learn what you are supposed to learn, and not brag that you know more because you had ‑‑ a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing when it comes to intelligence and in terms of not understanding your responsibility to total confidentiality.

So in terms of foreign countries, of course I just came back, I was in four different countries, and people want to work with the President, they want to work with America.  Liaison relationships in terms of intelligence are longstanding, go one President or another.  That’s the relationship that our countries and our people have with each other.

What he did was very damaging.  And so you have to ask those foreign governments what that means about how willing they might be to share intelligence with him.

Q:  What does it mean for national security if they don’t feel as comfortable sharing that intelligence? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, it’s not a strengthener, that’s for sure.

I mean, intelligence is one of the great preventers of armed conflict.  When I first started on Intelligence, early, mid‑’90s, it was about force protection.  How do we protect our forces if they have to go into harm’s way?

That’s still our overriding purpose, to avoid conflict, if possible, by intelligence, but if we have to go, to make sure that our military knows everything they need to know that is possible.

So then later it became overarching issues like the drug trade, terrorism, relationship between them, other issues along the way.

And now that was more in a bipolar world, Soviet Union, U.S., even though the wall had come down already in the ’90s.  Now we have asymmetric threats and you cannot be frivolous with that.  You are the President of the United States, leader of the free world.

And what can I say?  The place is unruly, undisciplined, unreliable, and unsafe.  They need some adult supervision.

Q:  Leader Pelosi, what do you make of Congressman Chaffetz stepping down early supposedly to go to FOX News?  And what do you think about if Trey Gowdy were to become Chairman, would that help alleviate some of the concerns Democrats have had about what they see as the lack of oversight of the Trump administration? 

Leader Pelosi.  I don’t really – I just got off a plane.  I don’t know about – last I heard he was running for Governor.  Last I heard he had a bad foot and couldn’t serve.  I mean, I don’t know what’s next.  I can’t keep up with that.

But I hope the Ethics Committee can, because when you negotiate a professional agreement, usually you announce that when you are on your way out the door, not six weeks later, that you are leaving six weeks later.  So I don’t know enough about it to address it.  And you have to ask Elijah Cummings what it means in the committee.

But I do know this, that we are very, very proud of Elijah Cummings and the work that he has done on the Gov Ops ‑‑ it was called the Gov Ops when I served on it, now it is Government Reform Committee ‑‑ and also of Adam Schiff and the work he is doing on the Intelligence Committee.

Q:  Leader Pelosi? 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Thank you.  I want to go back to the issue of impeachment.  Do you worry that Democrats who use the term “impeachment” are overplaying their hands and potentially playing into the President’s argument when he says things like, “This is the greatest witch hunt in American political history,” which he tweeted today? 

Leader Pelosi.  Honestly.  Honestly.  How did he spell witch hunt?  Because he had “councel” in one of his things.  I don’t know what exactly it meant.

I liked what Senator McCain, he said this morning, “No, no, I have been the subject of more” ‑‑ he didn’t say witch hunt.  But when he said ‑‑ what did he say yesterday, the President, something like, “Nobody’s been subjected to more criticism.”  Really?  You’re telling me that?

He doesn’t have thick skin.  Get some thick skin, okay?  We’re talking frivolous now here in terms of what he says about ‑‑ how he characterizes any legitimate question about his outrageous and potentially dangerous behavior to the American people.

I think that people are going to do what they do.  We don’t have unanimity often in our caucus.  That’s why we’re the Democratic Caucus and we take pride in our diversity.

It’s about timing.  Some people will be more enthusiastic about something at some time.  I hope some would curb their enthusiasm so we have all of the facts and have confidence that when the American people understand what is there, whether it’s grounds for impeachment or grounds for disappointment, then they’ll know.

Q:  Any concerns, though, that it could undercut Democrats politically, the talk of impeachment?

Leader Pelosi.  No, no, no, no.  Freedom of speech is never anything that undercuts anything.  Yes?

Q:  Leader Pelosi, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will be briefing the House tomorrow, I believe.  Given some of the concerns you have raised, will you be seeking specific commitments or assurances from him?  And also there has been some concern that with a special counsel maybe former FBI Director Comey should not testify publicly.  Do you still believe he should testify publicly? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I hope that he will testify publicly.  There are also some concerns that perhaps the Justice Department would say, “We’re not going to release the Comey memos.”  Eventually they’re going to have to.  They might as well know that, right?  You’re going to demand it.

But I believe Members will have questions about the integrity and the independence of this investigation.  It is within the Trump‑appointed Justice Department.  When we were asking for a special prosecutor, now counsel, we were saying it should be appointed by somebody not appointed by President Trump, the highest ranking non‑Trump‑appointed official there.

Rosenstein made the appointment.  I think he had ‑‑ he came in with a strong reputation.  The memo he wrote was bizarre.  And now maybe he said, “I’ll appoint a prosecutor and we’re back on track.”

But it does raise suspicions.  They can control the resources that are available.  They can control the scope of investigation.  And that may be okay for a special prosecutor because if that’s what the law is.  But it speaks very eloquently and strongly to the need for an independent outside commission.

So we’ll be ‑‑ I’m sure Members will be asking him, and if they don’t, I will, but I will have other opportunities to speak with him, so I usually allow it to be what the Members want to ask about.

The most important thing is:  What is the independence of this special counsel?  What is the discretion he will be allowed to have?  And what is the attitude of the Deputy Attorney General in that regard right from the start?  I’m concerned.  I’m concerned.

Yes, sir?

Q:  Do you have doubts about Director Mueller? 

Leader Pelosi.  No, not about him.  I don’t know that he would stand for any of this.  But nonetheless, he is a professional, and it’s about timing and how you deal with things and the rest.

No, I have the highest, as I said earlier, I have the highest regard for him, for his integrity, for his public service, and I think most people do.  I think most people do.

Okay.  Yes?

Q:  Can you speak to the President’s NAFTA letter?  I think other Democrats have already said it’s fairly meaningless.

Leader Pelosi.  Excuse me?  I’m so sorry.

Q:  The President’s letter on NAFTA, on restarting negotiations.  I mean, you’ve been kind of saying all year he could have started this on Inauguration Day if he was serious about it.  So do you view this, is this frivolous, what he is doing with NAFTA, or is this actually something that could result in changing? 

Leader Pelosi.  I think it’s weak.  I think it’s weak.  I mean, I’ve said that the President’s vague NAFTA letter is a stark contrast for the aggressive promises he made to hard‑working families during the campaign.  For all of his rhetoric, President Trump looks to be surely disappointing American workers on trade.

We’ve always said our trade agreements must be judged on how they produce good‑paying paychecks for hard‑working Americans.  But this is like, I don’t know, it’s weak.

But right now my colleagues ‑‑ where are they?  On the other side of this?  I didn’t know there was another side of this.  You know more than I about the Capitol.  On the other side of this, there is a NAFTA press conference led by Rosa DeLauro, and I am sure you’ll get some strong views there.

But it’s pretty sad because, look, it’s a 30‑year‑old agreement practically.  Everything needs to be subjected to scrutiny.  Everything.  Any bill we pass and the rest.  So it would be important to subject it to scrutiny, but not, “One day I’m doing it and the next day I’m not, and in the meantime I will issue this nothing 90‑day statement which doesn’t give much direction.”

So thank you all very much.  Again, there is nothing as exciting than a high school graduation.  It’s because they are onto college or jobs or careers or whatever it may be, and they are so young and optimistic and wonderful.  It’s pretty exciting.  So exciting that I’m going to have another one in Texas this weekend for my grandson.  One in Arizona, one in Texas.

Thank you all.

Q:  Congratulations.

Leader Pelosi.  Yeah.  Pretty exciting, I have to say.

Q:  How about those Warriors? 

Leader Pelosi.  I knew you were going to ask me, as I saw you earlier in the week when I was here, about Mother’s Day and what was the best Mother’s Day present.  Of course the joy of seeing my healthy grandchildren, my five kids and my nine grandkids.

But I have to say that they were very happy with the turnaround in the Warriors game.  I never had one doubt.  We kept texting each other, “Just hold on, they’re going to cut the lead.  Our second half is going to be like their first half.  We’re going to win.”  Wasn’t it great?

See, I’m now going for 12 straight.  We’re up to 10.  Up to 12 straight.  We’ll see.  It’s accidental, but since you asked.  Golden State Warriors.

Q:  And if they’re playing Cleveland? 

Leader Pelosi.  Hmm?

Q:  And if they are playing the Cavaliers in the final like last year? 

Leader Pelosi.  Oh, I think it’s going to be a different game.  I was there for that game.  That was terrible.  But I think it’s going to be a different story this year.  But let’s get through.  Don’t underestimate the Celtics.

Thank you.

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