Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Responding to President Trump’s Decision to Terminate U.S. Participation in the Iran Nuclear Agreement
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center and responded to President Trump’s misguided decision to terminate U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks.
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
I’m very privileged to be here with a distinguished group of Democratic Members. Thanks to Ranking Members Eliot Engel, Maxine Waters, and Adam Schiff for their outstanding leadership on their committees of jurisdiction and their fierce commitment to defending America’s national security in the region and around the world.
And thanks also to Representatives David Price, Lloyd Doggett, Jan Schakowsky, Gerry Connolly, Peter Welsh, Barbara Lee and John Yarmuth for joining us and for your strong leadership, all of you, in Congress as you defend the Iran Nuclear Agreement.
I carried in this book because I display it with great pride in my office and show it to people who come by, and this is the ‘Democratic Members’ Statements in Support of the Iran Nuclear Agreement.’
I believe that the Iran Nuclear Agreement was one of the great diplomatic achievements of our time. To be able to bring Russia and China, along with the other members of the National Security Five, plus Germany. It was remarkable. It was remarkable.
For years, we had been trying to get China and Russia to do any sanctions on Iran. Never, never, never. And now they were willing to join in this nuclear agreement that has a recognition of their importance in all of this.
So for the President to destroy the successful Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it gravely endangers our global security and defies comprehension.
This was an agreement and I show you this book because we didn’t ask people to sign a letter. We asked them to study the agreement, to review the validation of Ambassadors and Generals and Admirals and military people across the board, to review the recommendations of nuclear physicists, some of them Nobel laureates, saying that this agreement should be the template for future nuclear nonproliferation agreements, to ask their questions, to talk to their constituents, to make their own decisions and make their own statements about this.
So, I was very, very proud of the strong support that the Members came to their own conclusions about supporting the agreement. It was an excellent piece of work, this, but also the agreement.
So, as I said, the President’s action is very troubling.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, again, was masterful diplomacy. It brought the P5, the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany and the EU together for an agreement that was heralded by, as I said, generals, top physicists, Nobel laureates, ambassadors, diplomats, national security and nonproliferation experts and global leaders.
The JCPOA is working. Its historic restrictions and rigorous inspections have prevented Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and made the American people and our allies safer.
Even senior Trump administration officials have confirmed that Iran has remained in compliance with the agreement. President Trump’s dangerous action leaves America isolated in regard to Iran. It erodes our international credibility during a critical moment with North Korea, and it recklessly puts the catastrophic threat of a nuclear armed Iran back on the table.
Democrats have no illusions about the Iranian regime. Democrats remain strongly committed to stopping the advancement of Iran’s ballistic missile programs, its egregious human rights abuses in Iran and its unacceptable support of terrorism in the region.
But the Trump administration’s reckless, rash decisions are no substitute for real global leadership. Democrats will continue to show strong, smart leadership to keep our country safe.
And, with that, I’m very pleased to yield to the distinguished Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Adam Schiff of California.
Leader Pelosi Closing Remarks.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much, Gerry.
It’s really hard to explain to anyone why they think it’s a good idea to reject this agreement, because it is an agreement that said that Iran would not have a nuclear weapon for a number of years, possibly ever, in terms of the language of the agreement. Without the agreement, Iran was on a path to have a nuclear weapon in 1 or 2 years.
So to those who keep saying this is important for us to stop them from getting a weapon way down the road, you have just given them license to go forward in a year or two, making the world a more dangerous place, making nuclear activity desired by others in the region.
Very, very sad. We take an oath to protect and defend. That is our first responsibility. I do not think the President is honoring that oath by what he did.
I’m glad that we’re joined by our colleagues who spoke, others who have been working on this issue. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman John Yarmuth and Congressman Peter Welch are with us, and other Members who have been just saying that there is no plan B; how do we make sure that the world knows that we are committed to nuclear nonproliferation and we’re willing to make the important decisions and tough decisions to do so?
Mr. [Gerry] Connolly has set a high standard for the President. I hope he understands what’s at stake. And this isn’t about photo ops. It’s about global leadership.
Any questions? Well, on this subject. We’ll go to others after. But on this subject?
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Q: This is a White House who says the President was elected to renegotiate deals like this, he was elected on his own negotiating ability. And there are many Americans who don’t think the Iran deal is a good one. There are many moderates in Congress.
Can you comment on that idea, that the President is fulfilling a promise to voters to try and get better deals?
Leader Pelosi. It’s interesting how selective the President is about fulfilling his promises. Remember carried interest and what a villain that was? And, oh my gosh, he was going to get rid of that, and so many other things. Remember how he was going to protect American workers, and he passed a tax bill that gives corporations a tax incentive to create jobs overseas? Don’t get me started with his campaign promises.
So, the fact is over 60 percent of the American people in the poll that just came out said they wanted the agreement to be sustained.
I just want to read a quote then from Ed Royce.
Do you want to read it, from Ed Royce, your chairman?
Congressman Eliot Engel. Yes.
‘I believe the best path forward at this point is to continue pushing to fix these flaws as we enforce the hell out of this deal… Tearing up a nuclear deal will not recover this cash. That toothpaste isn’t going back into the tube. It won’t help galvanize our allies into addressing Iran’s dangerous activities that threaten us all. I fear withdrawal would actually set back these efforts. And Congress has heard nothing about an alternative.’
I would concur with all those words.
Leader Pelosi. The Republican Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Congressman Gerry Connolly. Who opposed the agreement.
Leader Pelosi. Both of whom opposed the agreement but know now that it’s – yes, sir.
Q: Thanks so much. The White House has indicated that it’s possibly going to implement additional sanctions beyond the sanctions they’ve re-imposed with the JCPOA. Some of your colleagues on the other side of the aisle have also floated this idea.
Legislatively, do you have any sort of game plan to, you know, keep some of your – not your Members, but, you know, people like Senator Toomey, Congressman McCaul, who have called for additional sanctions on Iran, from going forward?
Leader Pelosi. Does anybody want to speak to that?
As has been said, the President had no plan B. This was a coordinated collaboration among many nations, and that multilateralism was the strength of the agreement. It’s very hard to know if the President is even going to enforce sanctions if he doesn’t feel like it that day, no matter what the Congress says.
But as our Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs and others have said, we have no illusions about Iran, about their ballistic missile program, about their support for terrorism in the region or their human rights violations at home.
We have sanctions in place. I don’t know how – I mean, I just wish we could put the toothpaste back in the tube, because the President has taken us down a very dangerous path.
One more. Yes, sir. We’re just watching the clock because we have votes.
Q: Jeffrey Cook from ABC News. I have a question for Congressman Schiff. What was the most concerning part of the Facebook ad release from the Intelligence Committee today?
Leader Pelosi. Excuse me, just one second.
Any other questions on the agreement?
One more on the agreement.
Q: In context of this agreement with what the President is planning to do with Kim Jong-un, moving forward should these types of agreements be ratified as treaties so that it’s much more difficult for a successor then to walk it back?
Leader Pelosi. No. It was an agreement. It was a multilateral agreement.
Q: Can you speak at the mic, please?
Leader Pelosi. Does anyone want to speak to that?
It was a multilateral agreement, and it has the full force of – look, let me just say this. There’s something very strange about this attempt to stop Iran from going forward with developing a nuclear weapon. Not one Republican in the House or the Senate supported the effort to stop Iran from moving forward with that.
So that may not have been the motivation for having it as an agreement as opposed to a treaty, but doing it as an agreement got the job done.
Q: I guess my question is, so that’s okay, you know, moving forward with other international agreements? Whatever President Trump may agree to.
Leader Pelosi. Sure. It depends on what it is. You have to make a judgment about whatever it is and how many other parties are involved in it. This was the United Nations Security Council, plus one, Germany, the EU and Iran.
Congressman Gerry Connolly. Madam Leader, if I could just – let’s remember that the procedure for considering the JCPOA was set out in an agreement between the legislative branch and the executive branch that was actually authored by [Senator] Bob Corker, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
So we decided to go an alternative route, but it was hardly a rogue act by President Obama. It was done in full consultation with the legislative branch.
Congressman Eliot Engel. Yeah. And I would like to add, what happened two years ago happened two years ago. The question is now, what should we do?
I was opposed to the deal. I voted against the deal. And I think that there were legitimate concerns raised about the fact that certain things sunset in the deal.
But if we want to change that, what’s the best way to change it? Is it to petulantly pick up our cards and walk away? Or is it to stay there and fight against an aggressive Iran, stay there and make the case so that at least our allies will back us in it?
So it’s not the agreement itself. There were things that could be changed. And everyone here has said that Iran is a terrible threat. We all have the same feeling about it. The question is, what best serves the United States of America? And I would argue that by staying in the deal we best serve the cause of peace and we best serve the cause of the United States of America.
Leader Pelosi. And I might add that we wanted the House of Representatives to have some say in this, and, as you know, we have no say in any treaty agreement.
Congressman Adam Schiff. Just two last points on Iran before I turn to the Facebook question.
First, on the issue of sanctions, if this administration goes forward and starts to impose secondary sanctions on our European allies, who have given every indication that they’re going to remain within the deal, that will only further drive a wedge between the United States and its closest allies. That would be an additional destructive act. What made the sanctions so effective is that the world was in unison on them, and that will no longer be the case.
It also will accelerate a drive to develop alternate systems to SWIFT that will undermine the U.S. ability to sanction to avoid conflict in the future. So the ramifications are very serious.
A final point on the Iran deal. Our intelligence shows us that Iran is complying with the deal. This wasn’t a situation where we caught Iran cheating. This is a situation where our intelligence agencies have said quite publicly Iran was complying. And yet we are withdrawing from the agreement.
One of the consequences of that is, as new information comes available, as the Israelis have acquired new information, if those materials show that in the past Iran was doing work at sites and I’m not saying this is the case, but should we find those materials, that Iran was doing work at sites that we didn’t know previously, we’re not in a position anymore to call for inspection of those sites. We have essentially taken ourselves out of the agreement, and our ability to enforce its terms now is completely nullified.
Finally, on Facebook, we think it’s important for the public to see the length and breadth of the ads that the Russians put on Facebook. We are not in a position in our Committee to do the full analysis that academics and researchers can do that look at the ads, that look at how they’re targeted, that look at how they used social media across different platforms.
So, by providing this publicly, the public will get a sense, number one, of just how cynical these ads are and how they sought to divide us along racial and ethnic and other lines, how they sought to exploit divisions in our society, but also we can outsource to academia and journalists to help us in our research about the downstream consequences of these acts.
We’re going to continue working with Facebook and the other social media companies and hope to make further disclosures about the organic content, which, in many ways, it far surpasses what was done just in terms of strictly advertising. The task in minimizing that to protect personal identifiable information is more substantial, so that is going to take longer.
Q: Leader Pelosi?
Leader Pelosi. I’m sorry. We have votes.