Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference on Oversight Initiatives to Hold the Trump Administration Accountable
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined House Democrats to highlight House Republicans’ failure to investigate and conduct oversight of President Trump and his administration. The Leader and House Democrats announced an effort to force votes to get answers for the American people on Trump and his family’s ties to Russia, countless conflicts of interests and possible collusion with the Russian government to undermine the U.S. election system. Below are the Leaders remarks:
Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks
Leader Pelosi. Today, we learned a former Russian counterintelligence agent was also present at the [Donald] Trump [Jr.] meeting. Members of Congress take a sacred oath: “I do solemnly swear.” That is to uphold the Constitution of the United States is what our responsibility is. The President also takes that oath.
Speaker [Paul] Ryan has avoided any response by the Republicans, any positive action to uphold the Constitution of the United States in terms of our electoral system, our democracy.
Earlier this week I called upon him to give us a vote on an independent commission – outside, independent commission, to investigate the ties to Russia. What do the Russians have politically, financially or personally on Donald Trump that he fawns over Putin, questions sanctions, is reckless when it comes to Article V of NATO? The list goes on and on.
The American people have a right to know. Maybe they’ll clear the air. Maybe it will be exculpatory. Maybe it won’t. But we know one thing for sure, we have a responsibility, an oath of office, to make sure that Russia does not meddle in our elections again and that would be the purpose of such an investigation.
I mentioned calling upon the Speaker to give us a vote on an independent commission. I also call for the revoking of the security clearance for Jared Kushner. It’s absolutely ridiculous that he should have that clearance. It’s not justified in any way. The President could revoke it in a moment, and he should. But Congress should call – Republicans in Congress should stop hiding from the truth and stop hiding the truth from the American people.
I think in light of the actions this week, the emails that we saw related to Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russians, now we know a counter-intelligence person was in the meeting as well, that it is important that we see all electronic communication, whether it is direct messaging, twitter, email, text, whatever it happens to be, among members of the Trump family and within the Trump Administration. Did he convey the spirit of that message to the President. The American people have a right – have a right – to know.
And so here we are, House Democrats are not going to let House Republicans off hook for their complicity in this. Today, we announce a new coordinated effort to force votes to get answers for the American people. We will force Republicans to take votes on the record and to prevent them from hiding the facts from the American people. We will expose House Republicans’ inaction for their willful, shameful enabling. They have become enablers of the violation of our Constitution, the attack on the integrity of our elections, the security of our country.
The integrity of our democracy is at stake. House Republicans will have to answer for their actions and one of the questions they will have — some of the questions they will have to answer will be posed by our colleagues. I’m pleased to yield to distinguished top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California.
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Leader Pelosi. I’m sure our colleagues would be pleased to take any questions you may have. I just want to lead off this section this way, we talked about this earlier, when the President was a candidate for President he said, ‘I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and nobody would do much about it’ because he was held in such high regard by himself, for sure.
That is the attitude he and his family have brought to the White House. Arrogance about being above the law, that they are not accountable. That is why I thank the work of these Committees, these inquiries they have made to get to the facts. This weekend, today actually, our colleague [Congressman] Benny Thompson of Mississippi will be doing our response to the President, talking about elections, he is our top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.
Imagine this, that some of the information that should be available to the states about information that has been collected in terms of an assault on the integrity of our elections, they’ve told some of these Secretaries of State, you can’t get the information because you don’t have the proper clearance, oh no, we reserve that for Jared Kushner.
Any questions? Yes sir.
Q: In your opening remarks and also yesterday, you cited this meeting as cold hard evidence of collusion, the Trump campaign and the Russians. You heard from Congresswoman Waters saying that she has thought for long that President Trump should be impeached and then you have [Congressman] Brad Sherman and [Congressman] Al Green both introduced Articles of Impeachment this week.
Do all these inquiries that you’re talking about this morning, do they need to be answered and investigated before you’re ready to support impeachment or what’s it going to take for you to –
Leader Pelosi. Well the Republicans in Congress – I think the facts will be self-evident. Maybe they will be exculpatory of the President, maybe they will not, but there is evidence—clear evidence— that we need to know more and we should not close that path.
But let me just say what I did say yesterday because I think it’s really important for people to know, as my colleague Mr. [Congressman David] Cicilline [said] ‘we’ve gone into new territory this week with the Trump Jr. statement.’ Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and the Trump campaign, and then we’re finding out who else was in the room. This is a campaign violation. Soliciting, coordinating, or accepting something of value: opposition research, documents and information, from a foreign government or a foreign national. Plain and simple.
Criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, impeding the lawful administration of a federal election, or to make an offense against the United States, cybercrimes, hacking against US citizens, the Clinton campaign. Conspiracy with respect to espionage, depending on whether information was obtained through Russian spying and the level of their awareness of the spying. When I say their, I mean Trump, Kushner, Manafort, et cetera, the awareness of the spying to receive this information.
So we need to follow the facts and what did the rest of the family know, when did they know it? So this is – you know – I have always been reluctant because I think impeachment is something that really has an impact on the country. So when the facts are clear, the law is certainly clear, the facts are clear, then this Congress will make a decision in that regard. But I hope that the Republicans will not stand in the way of the American people getting the facts when the President has clearly stated that he can do whatever he wants, he’s not accountable. Any other questions?
Q: Leader Pelosi, are you saying that the people in that meeting violated those laws or may have violated those laws?
Leader Pelosi. Yes. Let me just say this because I hear the President saying things that are so, shall we say, groundless. He says, ‘Oh this is just politics.’ This is not just politics. You know the example of Tom Downey. Tom Downey received a packet of information that described what the Republicans, what the Bush campaign was going to do at the debates. He was participating in the debate preparation with Vice President Al Gore at the time.
The minute he received the information, opened the package, saw what it was, he gave it to the FBI. This is fruit from a forbidden tree. You don’t accept that. He turned it over to the FBI. The person who sent it to him went to jail for sending – an American, not a foreign government, an American – went to jail for sending it to him.
So this is about the law, but it’s also about a high ethical standard that you would think anyone who wanted to be President of the United States would aspire to, will strive for, not disregard. So on the strength of what they have now, there is very serious reason to believe that these people violated the law in being receptive to that information. They should have passed it out.
And this is not how politics works, our candidates know that if they got some ill-gotten gain in terms of negative – not a clue of did you know so and so didn’t go to that college – I’m talking about receiving an in-kind contribution of negative research from somebody, you turn it over to the FBI. Do any of my colleagues want to comment or anything? No? Yes.
Q: Thank you. With regards to the Russian sanctions bill you and other House Democrats have expressed support for, that measure, Congressman Castro you said that there were no procedural hold-ups but isn’t there a blue slip issue–
Leader Pelosi. No. That’s resolved. The blue slip issue is resolved.
Q: –with regards to House members not being allowed to bring up a resolution of disapproval should the President oppose sanctions. Is that still an issue or where did that stand?
Leader Pelosi. Well thank you very much for your question. As you know, the sanctions bill that was introduced by top Democrat on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Eliot Engel, which Mr. [Steny] Hoyer and I joined him in, was a bill that passed the Senate 98 to 2. Strong bipartisan support, the Russian sanctions, Iran sanctions legislation. It came over to the House, it had a blue slip problem, more process than you probably want to know.
But in that case, that was resolved. Now the remaining issue, weeks ago, before the break, was that in the legislation, they’re not respectful of the minority rights of the House, of the Democrats in the House. But I conveyed to the leadership at the time, I don’t like that, I want to protect the prerogatives of the minority in the House but weighing the equities, what was more important was passing the Russian-Iran sanctions bill.
So we are on board to just proceed. They didn’t bring it up. The blue slip problem has been solved and the only issue would be the House Democrats’ prerogatives in this, which as I say, are not as important as passing the bill. So that’s why the Ranking Member, Mr. [Eliot] Engel sent the bill, you make it clear: we are not holding up this bill, we have never been holding up this bill. If anyone is holding up the bill, it’s probably the White House and that is really where you should direct your inquiry, to the Republicans as to why a bill that passed in a bipartisan way, 98 to 2, sanctions on Russia is being held up in the House.
I thank the Ranking Member for introducing the bill and we all stand ready to support it. He could do it today practically by unanimous consent, but we certainly have to do it next week.
Thank you all very much.