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.
Good morning. Good morning.
I’m very happy to report that this week House Democrats put forth two more planks of our Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future. One of them that will make all the difference in the world to policy here, we believe, is the Better Deal to Protect Our Democracy.
The American people are paying a price for the Republican culture of cronyism, corruption, and incompetence. The President said he came to drain the swamp and he is the swamp. Actually, we said drain the swamp in 2006, corruption, cronyism, and incompetence. It was true then. It is true of them now.
What is the cost of their cronyism, incompetence, and corruption in the lives of the American people? Well, just look at what Secretary Pruitt is doing at EPA and know that your children, your grandchildren will not have clean water, clean air because of his commitment to major donors and his orientation that he brings there.
The list goes on and on of the price that people pay in their lives because of the commitment to special interests that the Republicans have.
Congressman John Sarbanes has been a leader on this issue for a very long time.
Our initiative to protect, to save really, our democracy talks about reducing the role of money in our [campaign] finance system, combating Citizens United. It is about stopping the constant spinning of the revolving door, people going in and out of government, taking their special interest credentials with them. And, again, to end the voter suppression that Republicans find so patriotic. It’s hard to believe, but that’s what they find patriotic, is to suppress the vote.
I’m very proud of the work. The 15 co-chairs of the [Democracy Reform] Task Force put together an excellent piece of work. It’s gotten a tremendous response in the country.
And I really believe that if the public thinks that their voices are diminished because of the role of money and special interests, then that’s what they believe and that’s what we must honor. And we must take this drastic step. I think we’re at a place that we can.
At the same time, another day later, on Tuesday, we put forth our Better Deal for Teachers and Students. American teachers, as we all know, are underpaid, our schools are crumbling.
We tell our children that education is so important, that they must study, it’s important to their future and to the competitiveness of our country. It’s about their aspirations to make the future better for themselves and for America.
And yet we send them to schools that are under par, some crumbling, many not really up to speed, literally and figuratively, when it comes to technology and the rest.
And we do not respect and pay our teachers in a manner that reflects the value that they bring to our kids and to our country.
And so, this is about A Better Deal to give teachers a well-deserved raise, protect educators’ freedom to negotiate for better wages and make bold investments in our schools, including the infrastructure of our schools and the security of our schools, the technology of our schools.
Other things happened this week that were not so pleasant: the President’s statement on the gag rule to rip away access to affordable preventive care for millions of vulnerable American women. We spoke about that yesterday in the press conference. We can talk more about it if you wish.
But really today, with all the excitement that we have about the progress of our Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future, our commitment to build, build, build, build the infrastructure of America, all across America, from sea to shining sea.
Build human infrastructure: education, putting things in schools like having net neutrality so that everyone has access, research and development and the rest, apprenticeships. The list goes on. Building human infrastructure.
And the third point that I made first here was building and strengthening our democracy. That’s what we are about. That’s what this is about.
So, I’m excited about some of the agreements that we’ve all come to, the consensus that is there, the connection to the American people in terms of what it means to their aspirations, and what it means to their apprehensions as well. Better Jobs. Better Pay. Better Future. Lowering cost.
At the same time, today is almost heartbreaking in the magnitude of disrespect that Republicans are paying to the Constitution of the United States and to the institution which they serve, the first branch of government: the legislative branch.
Today, there will be a very unacceptable, inappropriate meeting of intelligence briefings to the Republicans, which have the possibility of aiding the President’s defense in his investigation.
To add insult to injury, the Speaker of the House has said he can’t go to the Gang of Eight briefing that we insisted upon – which is appropriate – because he has fundraisers in Texas. So he’s going to this earlier meeting, which shouldn’t be taking place in the first place.
Senator Schumer and I sent a letter to the appropriate authorities to say that if you have this meeting – imagine, they were going to have this meeting. Then we said, ‘No, this is appropriate for Gang of Eight.’
They said, ‘Okay, we’ll have Gang of Eight two weeks from now. We’ll have this meeting today.’ No. No, that’s not what you do, give information with two weeks in between.
So then they called me and said, ‘The Speaker’s going to that meeting. Why don’t you?’ And I said, ‘Well, I don’t because I don’t believe in that meeting.’
But to make sure we know what is being conveyed in that Republican meeting, Adam Schiff will be attending the meeting. Adam Schiff will be attending the meeting and then he will attend the Gang of Eight meeting again.
I want you to understand, I have over 20, almost 25 years of experience in intelligence, longer than anyone who has ever served in the Congress. I have served as a Member of the Committee. I served as the Ranking Member, the position that Adam Schiff has now, and he has set a whole new standard for Ranking Members. And I served ex officio for a number of years.
Never has there been anything so disrespectful of the Congress than what they are doing today. I have been a relentless advocate for Congress receiving information – that isn’t the point – and for transparency.
The point is, at this very, very questionable time, that the Republicans have called for a meeting of Republicans only, for henchmen of the President to attend that meeting, and to be joined by the Speaker of the House, who has completely abdicated his responsibilities by saying, ‘I’ve got to be in Houston for a fundraiser instead of the important Gang of Eight.’
We don’t have those meetings that often. They are very important meetings. And they are for the four leaders of the Committee and also the four top leaders in the Congress of the United States.
It appears the Republicans in Congress and the leadership have taken an oath not to protect and defend the Constitution, but to protect and defend Donald Trump. It’s just wrong. The President has been clear that he doesn’t respect the office he holds, and now that disrespect has bled to the Congress of the United States.
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Q: Thank you.
With the President canceling the summit with North Korea, I know that some thought – there was optimism maybe there could be a breakthrough achieved. That said, historically we have seen situations where there have been summits which have gone south, I think Reykjavik in ’85 with Gorbachev and Reagan, and that actually proved to be good later on.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Looking at this through that sort of prism, do you see the potential of maybe this being a good thing, that maybe it actually results in something better down the road? Or what’s your interpretation?
Leader Pelosi. I think it’s a good thing for Kim Jong-un. Here you have a thug, a person who killed his own family member, a person who runs a police state, being legitimized by the President of the United States. They were on a par with each other. He got global recognition and regard. He’s the big winner.
And when he got this letter from the President saying, ‘Okay, never mind.’ He must be having a giggle fit right there now in North Korea, in Pyongyang.
As you probably remember – maybe not – I’m one of the few Members of Congress who’s been to Pyongyang, the capital, right into the North, not at the border but to their Capitol. It was an intelligence trip. Most of the Members who were on that trip are no longer in Congress now.
But it is a police state. It’s a terrible place, the suppression of their people, the brainwashing that they do. And then along comes Kim Jong-un, schmoozing the President of the United States, he’s taking the bait.
Now, we were sympathetic to say, ‘Well, talk, talk, talk. That’s better than war, war, war.’ But this takes preparation, this takes knowledge, this takes judgment, and clearly it takes preparation, which the President didn’t make. It’s clear he didn’t know what he was getting into.
And now he’s walking away from it in this very chummy, palsy-walsy letter to Kim Jong-un. He, Kim Jong-un, is the big winner.
It’s unfortunate, because, as you said, you want to be optimistic, you want to be hopeful that something can come of something. But it can’t come of something if it’s built on just saying, ‘I know everything. I don’t need State Department knowledge on these subjects. Let’s deplete the State Department. Let’s do this, that, and the other thing.’
It’s really a very sad thing.
Q: Because of your role, and you talk about your longstanding role in intelligence, were you notified ahead of time that the summit was off?
Leader Pelosi. No. Just when we got the President’s letter, the copy of the President’s letter, chumming up. It’s kind of like a Valentine to Kim Jong un. Really? Really?
Q: On your DOJ briefing, does the fact that Democrats like yourself are now getting the same information address some of your concerns about this arrangement?
Leader Pelosi. We have no idea what we’re getting. We have no idea what we’re getting, Nancy, because they’ve had so many of their own briefings.
And why? This is so extraordinary. It’s so extraordinary.
I don’t even think this information should be conveyed to Congress, if it has the possibility of affecting the President’s defense in an investigation of the President. We’ll see what they have to say today.
But they are making matters worse by having this meeting today.
Q: Do you think that an informant’s safety is being jeopardized as some Members of Congress call for his identity to be released?
Leader Pelosi. Sources and methods are always to be protected. I have always – this has been one of our priorities. Force protection, that’s what intelligence is about, to protect our troops in case they are going into war. Protection of our sources and methods, who risk their lives. They put themselves, in many cases, their lives on the line, just as our men and women in uniform do.
And for this frivolity to take place because of an investigation of the President that he’s mislabeling – and I wish you wouldn’t repeat his labeling of some these things, because they’re simply not true.
The President is not telling the truth. He wants a validation of what he’s saying by having these conferences, where these people will go out with their – whatever they want to say, which is probably prepared before they even hear the intelligence. And that’s why I’m insisting that Adam Schiff be at the meeting.
Q: Hi. Thirty three Democrats voted for the banking bill on Tuesday, despite you being on the Floor and saying it was a bad bill. Were you surprised by that level of support from your party?
Leader Pelosi. No.
Q: And what direction would you want to go, if Democrats retake the House, with Wall Street?
Leader Pelosi. Actually, I was very pleased that the number was as small as it was, because the industry was saying they were going to get 70 votes. They got fewer than half of that. Some people said 50 in the morning. I said, ‘I really don’t think?’
So, no, I think it’s a real tribute to Maxine Waters, because she’s the one who led the way on this and I support her all the way. And we made sure Members had the information they needed.
The compelling argument of what this means for community banks is one that is hard to overcome. But, no, I was pleased that the number – not pleased – I would like nobody to vote for it.
But I had a different experience among Members. As I said on that Floor, this is what they did to us in 2008, they want to take us right back to that place. And it’s a lot of different nicks to the Dodd-Frank legislation and we have to protect it.
And by the way, we talked about the discrimination in mortgage lending and the rest on the Floor, we talked about other measures that they have taken that are harmful. But people should know, many veterans are affected by what they are doing to consumer protections, mortgage discrimination and the rest.
So this is a bad idea all around, but I think we did a good job containing the number.
Q: On these DOJ meetings once more, it sounds like your initial criticism was that they were not bipartisan. But to clarify, you just said that you were offered a seat at the table and you refused? Is that right?
Leader Pelosi. No, no. Let me be clear. I don’t think this meeting should be taking place, period. What is the purpose of it? It appears that it’s a meeting that could be sharing information that somebody’s interpretation of could possibly be helpful to the President’s defense.
I objected to the meeting, period. So it’s not just that it wasn’t bipartisan. The fact that it was not bipartisan is offensive to the American people. But then when the Speaker of the House said he was going to legitimize the meeting, I said then we will have to have a representative of the Democrats at that meeting whether they like it or not.
Q: Last night on CNN you had said that there is no reason to have the Gang of Eight meeting if they continue with this Nunes/Gowdy meeting. Do you still feel that way?
Leader Pelosi. No. What I said, just so you hear, I said if they were going to have this meeting today and a Gang of Eight meeting two weeks from now – first they weren’t having a Gang of Eight meeting. They were just having this gang of whatever you want to call them meeting. And Chuck [Schumer] and I wrote and said, ‘This is not the appropriate place for this to be. It should be the Gang of Eight instead.’
They came back and said, ‘Okay, we’ll do the Gang of Eight two weeks from now.’
Oh, really? Two weeks from now? You’re going to have this one today and that two weeks from now?
And what does that mean about perishability, what they would do with the information, and their own misrepresentation?
So really, again, there’s a way, a decent, respectable way to treat intelligence and the intelligence community, because this involves revealing possibly a source or method. It’s totally irresponsible.
And because it may have another agenda that is questionable, we don’t know, but it could have the impact of infecting the information for the President’s defense, this is not the rule of law. This is not the rule of law.
So I objected to the meeting to begin with. The Speaker of the House legitimizing a meeting instead of going to the Gang of Eight meeting because he has fundraisers in Texas. What? What?
This is about the security of the United States of America. This is about the integrity of our elections. This is what we do when we take an oath to protect and defend the country, not to go have a fundraiser in Texas.
So understand, I objected to this, period, because this information should not be going anyplace. If it goes anyplace it should be the Gang of Eight. We would not even go to a meeting two weeks from now if they insisted on having this and the Gang of Eight meeting in two weeks.
This is beyond politics. It’s beyond President Trump. It’s about our country and respect for the rule of law, respect for our need to know.
And I’ve been a fighter for Congress’ need to know. Any President will tell you that I’ve been in there fighting for Congress’ need to know when they needed to know. But anything that relates to the President’s defense of his investigation is not a congressional need to know.
Q: Leader Pelosi, Mr. Schiff has said that he’s received assurances that General Kelly will not be in the meeting. Have you heard anything similar?
Leader Pelosi. He certainly shouldn’t be. With all the due respect in the world for General Kelly’s service to our country and the sacrifices that he has made, he has a big important job and I sympathize with the responsibilities that he has, one of them is not to be in this meeting.
It is our understanding, by way of Mr. Schiff, that he will not be in the meeting. He may be there in introductory, which I don’t even think is appropriate, but nonetheless not there for the information.
Now, he might be at the earlier meeting. I don’t know. I don’t know. But none of it is appropriate, sad to say.
Q: I just wanted to get some clarity. You had said that Mr. Schiff will be in both –
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Both of the meetings?
Leader Pelosi. That’s right.
Q: Okay. When he was he invited to the –
Leader Pelosi. No, I was invited. And I said I won’t be coming to that meeting because I don’t think it should take place.
But since the Speaker has decided that he would legitimize a completely inappropriate meeting, I want to make sure that Mr. Schiff has whatever information they are sharing in that meeting because I do not have confidence that they’ll share the same meeting in the Gang of Eight meeting.
Q: Okay. So is he going in your stead then?
Leader Pelosi. No, he’s going in his own stead as the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee.
Q: Thank you.
Leader Pelosi. Yes, do you have [a question] –
Q: Yes. I wanted to ask you, you signed on to the discharge petition.
Leader Pelosi. Yes, I did.
Q: Now it’s approaching 218, I think it’s at 212 signatures. Speaker Ryan this morning said that he doesn’t believe that the Queen of the Hill process is going to be able to produce a bill that the President could sign into law. But do you believe that the process, if you do get to Queen of the Hill, that it could produce a bill that you can at least send to the Senate?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, yes, indeed. And I do think that the Queen of Hill gives Congress a chance to work its will in the most generous way. Everybody will have their chance to vote on, whether it’s Goodlatte, the ‘Make America White Again’ bill, or it’s pure DREAM Act, which would be ideal, the compromise, Aguilar-Hurd, which is what we want to be last so it would be the Queen of the Hill.
Or the Speaker can put together a bill. Maybe they are capable of putting together a bill that they think can get bipartisan support. We haven’t seen it yet.
But I’m really proud of the work that was done by Members, regular order Members, working together on both sides. This is not a leadership product. This is a product where they came together, wrote their bill, gained support. I didn’t even sign until today, at their direction, and it’s pretty exciting.
And, you know, it’s a funny thing about the Dreamers, they have such idealism about America. They make us all so proud. That’s why their numbers are in the 80 percent or more in terms of favorability among the American people.
And I’ll say what I said last night, and that is this President is the first President in modern times, Republican or Democrat, who has been so anti-newcomers to America. And President Reagan, he was great. President Obama did the executive order on the Dreamers when Congress didn’t act, so he did an executive order.
President Reagan did an executive order after Congress acted and said, ‘You didn’t go far enough to protect enough people.’ So he and President Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, protected a higher percentage of people than President Obama did with his initiative.
Then President Clinton followed that tradition. President George W. Bush, one of the best intended Presidents in terms of immigration, he couldn’t get his party to follow. But he has always been so respectful and so positive about passing immigration reform. President Obama.
And now President Trump departing completing from the Bushs and President Reagan in terms of using this issue as a red meat issue to throw to his base any time he has a problem and not to even tell the truth about it.
So I’m excited about the bipartisan nature of the work they did together, proud to join at this late stage at their request, and I think it’s a good, strong number.
I think they got one more, you have that in your count already, one more Republican this morning?
Leader Pelosi. Two more this morning. So anyway, it goes on.
Now, they are threatening Committee assignments, support in campaigns. We hear all kinds of things that they are threatening Members if they do not abandon this. But we’ll see. Let’s see.
But in any case, for now the courts are protecting the DACA. The Dreamers are a bigger number, but the DACA kids. And we hope to keep that going in a bipartisan way, with all the respect in the world for the courage of the Republican Members to support a compromise position. And I commend Democrats, too, for supporting a compromise position on all of this.
So this is a very interesting day. Here it is Thursday. What were we out by, 10:30 on a Thursday? Out at 10:30 on a Thursday so they could go to fundraisers in Houston when we have so much work we could be doing for the American people, 10:30 on Thursday – was it 10 or 10:30? Thursday morning.
And a very important meeting of the Gang of Eight, the four leaders of the Congress, House and Senate, Democratic and Republican, the four leaders of the Committee, House and Senate, Democratic and Republican, except the Speaker of the House, who will be at a fundraiser in Houston, Texas. It’s just not right.
But it is indicative of the cavalier attitude, the lack of respect for the responsibilities that we all have to this institution, to our oath of office, to the Constitution, and to the American people?
Q: How about those Warriors?
Leader Pelosi. That’s tonight.
Q: Are they going to do it?
Leader Pelosi. Oh, yeah.
Q: You always say that.
Leader Pelosi. I know, and then they mostly do.