Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks.
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, everyone. Welcome back. As I said, over the break, our country observed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Today in the Capitol, we will have an observance under the leadership of the Speaker, which I am honored to participate in.
I am reminded, in the course of the debate on the tax bill and on the budget, and now the so-called balanced budget amendment, of Reverend King’s words: ‘God never intended for any group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty.’ That seems to be a course that this tax bill, which gives 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent, which will tax the middle class to the tune of 86 million people in the lifetime of the bill, which increases the national debt by over $2 trillion, and that $2 trillion is the engineering of their undoing of Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security.
We have seen that in the President’s budget – the beginning of all that, and now in the so-called balanced budget amendment. The balanced budget amendment is in no way balanced in terms of values and how we invest in our future to keep America number one in every respect.
So the deficits of $1 trillion or more and now we have the Trump $1 trillion deficit, $1 trillion deficit. The CBO found that the GOP tax scam would add even more to the debt than they had originally projected. In fact, as Senator [Bob] Corker has said, Senator Corker of Tennessee, Republican of Tennessee, ‘If it ends up costing what has been laid out here, it could be one of the worst votes I have made… This Congress and this Administration likely will go down as one of the most fiscally irresponsible Administrations and Congresses we have ever had.’
The GOP – now it is my words, end of quote – the GOP tax scam mortgaged the future of our seniors and their families and our children in order to give even more money to Wall Street, pharmaceutical companies, big corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent. Now Republicans have the chutzpah to bring forth a balanced budget amendment, engineered – this is engineering, budget engineering – to force devastating cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Republicans want America’s seniors to give up one of the pillars of their health and economic security, retirement security, to pay for GOP giveaways to the wealthiest. So we will be having that debate on the Floor today. It is absolutely going nowhere. You know, it needs a two-thirds vote on the Floor today, which it will not get, and then it needs three-quarters of the states to ratify it, so I don’t even know – it won’t get two-thirds today.
So, again, what else is happening this week? And every minute it changes. We have seen the President dangerously escalate his threats against the Special Counsel. President Trump’s disparagement of Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation as, the President says, as ‘an attack on our country,’ is a new low, even for President Trump.
This investigation has made clear that the Russians perpetrated a strategic attack on the 2016 elections to support the Trump campaign. The Special Counsel has handed down multiple indictments and secured guilty pleas of Trump campaign officials in connection to Russia’s meddling. If the President fires Special Counsel Mueller, or Deputy Attorney General [Rod] Rosenstein, it will ignite a constitutional crisis. It would declare that President Trump believes that his Administration and his campaign are completely above the law.
House Judiciary Democrats, led by Ranking Member [Jerrold] Nadler, have introduced a companion to the bipartisan Senate legislation to protect the Special Counsel’s legislation. That is Nadler, Jackson-Lee and Cohen legislation in the House. The Special Counsel must be allowed to follow the facts unhindered.
Almost every week, we see new evidence of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence. At EPA, Administrator Scott Pruitt has displayed a staggering ethical blindness. President Trump must fire him. Pruitt’s abuses of office are representative of an Administration that uses a powerful position to enrich themselves and their friends. And in the case of Pruitt, who pays? His policies are about depriving our children of clean air, clean water, clean drinking water, food safety, just complete disregard for the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency, and there for the benefit of his rich friends.
As you know, multiple members of the Cabinet, of the Trump Cabinet, are under federal investigation for graft, corruption and sticking taxpayers with multimillion dollar bills for their extravagant and lavish lifestyles. Republicans in Congress must end their complicity in all of this, and finally take action to hold this administration accountable for its abuses.
You may know, you may not recall, but some may recall that in 2005, 2006, one of our mantras during the campaign was to drain the swamp, to end the Republican culture of cronyism, corruption and incompetence, and that is exactly what we did. The President has misappropriated that term of art ‘drain the swamp,’ and what does he do but have an Administration that is wallowing in it.
Any questions? Yes, ma’am.
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Q: On Bob Mueller and Rod Rosenstein, if President Trump makes news to fire either of them, would that be grounds for impeachment?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think it would be a constitutional crisis, but let’s hope that he does not. The three things that could happen, the President could let the investigation proceed, which Republicans in the Senate at least are encouraging him to do. We haven’t seen too much of that in the House.
Secondly, he could fire Mueller, or third, Rosenstein. I think they are synonymous, they are the same thing. The firing of Rosenstein should be viewed by the public as the curtailing of the investigation, effectively firing Mueller to do the job he is there to do.
It would be a constitutional – right now – well, as you probably are aware, since Christmas, we have been prepared for the President taking such an action, hoping that he would not, but prepared if he did, and we have hundreds of legal authorities, experts, judges, U.S. attorneys, academic experts on the subject of our Constitution standing ready to speak out should the President do that.
As you may know, 800 events are planned around the country by some of the outside groups should the President do that, but let’s hope that that gives us some leverage to say to the President you might want to think once, hopefully twice, about doing this. But it would be a constitutional crisis.
I mean, take it one step at a time. First, we don’t want him to do it. Then we have the bill that I mentioned, Nadler in the House, Grassley, maybe Feinstein in the Senate if they work out their legislation that says three things: one, that it restates the status of the Special Counsel. The Special Counsel cannot be fired without cause. If the Special Counsel is fired, he or she, this is as we go forward, he or she would have the 10 days review for judges to review what that call was, and if it was just; and then, third, preservation of the documents.
If they went down this path we want a preservation of all the documents that Mueller has. Hopefully, I said I believe they have bipartisanship in the Senate. We have a similar bill in the House.
If it happens that he would fire Rosenstein, for example, which seemed – there is a flirtation with it, if not a reality today, then I think it would be important for whoever takes his place and who would have say over the investigation to be someone who is confirmed by the Senate of the United States, so it is not just a lackey that the President puts in there to stop the investigation. But both, they are synonymous. It is a constitutional crisis either way.
Q: Well, will we see your party do anything specifically when and if that happens?
Leader Pelosi. Well, first of all, for the good of our country, we don’t want the President to do this, so our focus now is to make sure he understands the kind of opposition, not political, but the validation that would come from the establishment and the American people. When I say ‘establishment,’ legal scholars, judges, U.S. attorneys, former attorneys general, both nationally and in States, just an overwhelming response that this is not honoring the Constitution of the United States. We would take it one step at time.
Q: On the Senate side, we are seeing Republicans are more interested in supporting a bill to protect Mueller. Are you seeing anything from House Republicans that they are going through especially with the news that Speaker Ryan is retiring this year?
Leader Pelosi. Well, when we did, and I think I shared this with some of you before, but forgive me if it was a different group, when we were doing the omnibus bill, we proposed to the Speaker and to Leader McConnell that we put in it provisions that I just described about independence of the Special Counsel and how they cannot be fired – he or she cannot be fired without just cause, that there be judicial review of that firing, and then third, the preservation of the documents. They rejected that and just said, ‘this isn’t a big deal,’ this is really what the decent thing to do is.
They rejected that, but the impression that they attempted to give us is ‘we understand how serious this is.’ But I haven’t seen too much on the House side. We had one Republican that was – we were hoping would be able a sponsor of the Nadler bill, and then one thing and another, he is not, so hopefully there will be others though who will speak out.
And the American people have to speak out. This is about each person in our country. This President is saying to anybody who might have any encounter with the law, I am better than you are, I am above the law. You are not. That is just wrong. Yes, sir?
Q: On the subject of Speaker Ryan’s retirement, I am going to ask you to read the tea leaves, do you think, you know, it suggests anything or reveals anything about what is going to happen this November? Do you think Republicans are worried about holding on to their majority in the House?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, they should be, but I hope they are resting and not thinking about it that much. We have – we understand the challenge that is out there, the urgency, and the American people understand the urgency of winning this election.
They are willing to take responsibility to do it, in record numbers in terms of mobilizations and marches and the rest, and the courage to run for office. Women have marched, and now they are running, and so, the mobilization, the volunteerism, the candidates willing to run, we feel very confident.
When a President is below 50 percent one year before the election, that means he gets the retirements, we get the A-team. That this President one year before the election was under 40 really means it is going to be a very good year for us, but we put one good day in front of another, one good week in front of another, and just so you know, it is 28 Tuesdays until the election.
Q: Madam Leader, I wonder if House Speaker Ryan’s retirement affects Democrats’ strategy as you look to the campaign, do you think it will affect fund raising or messaging at all?
Leader Pelosi. No. No. I mean, we have our plan. We have a great chairman, Ben Ray Luján, Congressman, our Chairman from New Mexico. He has a plan. And from the start, he has guided us. We have a vision of victory. We have a vision, and we have a plan. We intend to win. A vision without a plan is a fantasy. A vision with a plan is a victory. And we have the three M’s, which hold up the platform. The three M’s: message, mobilization, money. The platform is the management of it all on which our candidates will step, and we are very, very proud of all of our candidates as they go forward.
So we are not watching their game, we are watching our game, and we believe that our candidates have their own purpose, each one of them has their why, why are they running, and universally they are running to make the future better for their constituents. And their purpose, their authenticity, their connection to their own constituents is what this is about. It is about the future. It is not about the internal workings of the Republican Caucus.
Staff. Last question.
Q: You discussed a little bit about preparations you are doing. What groundwork are you laying for in the event that you do take back the House of Representatives, to use the power of this body to hold the President accountable?
Leader Pelosi. Well, our first responsibility when we take back the House will be what it was when we took back the House in ’06, and that is to make the future better for the American people. That is our purpose.
Our Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future is our theme and our purpose. So that is what our focus is. That is what the election is about, the future. There are 28 Tuesdays between now and the election, much less.
Q: But a lot of your voters are demanding that you check the President. I mean, the base of the Democratic party is –
Leader Pelosi. No – well, the base is – but in the districts where we are running, there is concern. We have a responsibility, we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and that is our responsibility, and we honor it.
But the election is about the future and that is what our agenda will be about. The fact that Congress, the House at least and hopefully the Senate, will be in the hands of the Democrats, be a check on the President and his behavior and his attitude, his disrespect for the Constitution.
Hopefully so, but our purpose in winning is about the financial stability of America’s working families, and that is it. Thank you.
Q: On Syria – will you answer – on Syria, whether they need U.S. – do they need –
Leader Pelosi. Our members believe, as do I, that we need a new AUMF.
Q: That is what I wanted to ask you, please.
Leader Pelosi. We had a meeting yesterday on some of these subjects, and to quote the President, he says, ‘Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, I will let you know in 24 hours, 48 hours.’
Let me take offense at the President having our distinguished stars and stripes around the table, our leaders of our military around the table, and he took the occasion to use most of the time with the press to talk about what happened with his lawyer. I mean, really, this is the oath we take to protect and defend, our first responsibility.
Now, up to a certain point as what he did last your was proportionate. They went in in the spring, they made a hit on a Syrian facility, it was proportional. Anything beyond that, he will need a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
President Obama sent one over. You know, an AUMF has three features: One, is how long it will last; secondly, what geography it will cover; and third, in no particular order, the scope, is it boots on the ground? What is the scope of the AUMF? President Obama sent that over.
The Republicans rejected it. However, that is what we need to do now if the President intends to do anything more than the proportionate discreet strike on a facility for a particular purpose in a limited amount of time.
So that is a discussion that has been going on in our Caucus for a while, and, in fact, Congresswoman Barbara Lee who has been our champion on this issue, won that point in the Appropriations Committee. And just in the most strange way the Republicans just took an eraser and erased it out of the bill. They didn’t bring it up with anybody, they didn’t make a suggestion that perhaps they wanted to do something else, they just erased it. It was appalling.
I haven’t seen anything like that, but they are afraid of that, and so we will have to have that discussion. Thank you.