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 Opening Remarks
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. Good morning.
Very interesting week. And this month, when we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, the Fourth of July, the courage of our Founders, and remember that we all, as Members of Congress, and any other person in public life takes a sacred oath. We solemnly swear that we will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, so help me God.
This week we saw cold, hard evidence of the Trump campaign and indeed the Trump family eagerly intending to collude possibly with Russia, a hostile foreign power, to influence American elections. In the month, again, as we celebrate the courage of our Founders, Republicans in Congress have become enablers of the Trump-Russia assault on our democracy.
After these latest revelations, it is becoming clear we have suffered a desecration of our democracy not seen since Watergate. Speaker [Paul] Ryan must allow a vote on an outside, independent commission to get to the bottom of the Trump campaign’s role in Russia’s assault on our democracy and prevent Putin from ever doing it again, immediately – outside, independent commission.
It’s not just about what happened in the past. It’s to prevent it from happening again. We have an inside investigation in the Justice Department under Special Counsel Mueller. We have an inside the Congress investigation by the Intelligence Committees. We need an outside, independent commission to investigate this.
I’ve asked over and over again, what do the Russians have politically, personally, or financially on Donald Trump that we, the American people, should know? Why are the Republicans continuing to hide the truth?
Instead of defending the integrity of American democracy, instead of holding the Trump White House accountable for its complicity, instead of showing Russia that there will be consequences, the House Republican majority does nothing.
The GOP must immediately join us in a call for the release of all communications within the Trump campaign and within the family, by email, text, Twitter or any other direct message.
The GOP must hold [Jared] Kushner accountable for the false statements on his national security disclosure form and his security clearance must be revoked immediately. You know that the numbers keep growing as to the false statements.
Six months into this Congress, the Republicans still have not put forward any jobs bill, any bill to raise wages, create good paying jobs. There has been no budget, no infrastructure bill, no tax reform, no plan to avoid a catastrophic default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
Republicans are advancing an agenda that will create needless suffering in the lives of families in every part of America, manifested today on their latest iteration on Trumpcare.
Over the Fourth of July recess, Republicans heard an earful from constituents frightened and angry about what Trumpcare would do to them and their loved ones: higher costs for fewer benefits, gutting key protections, a crushing age tax, stealing from Medicare and Medicaid, and, again, millions of people losing their coverage.
This Senate bill now that is circulating does even deeper damage to Americans with Medicaid. The President has called the House bill mean. This is even meaner. The Republicans will do all this to damage seniors, children, and working families just to hand tax breaks to the richest.
And, by the way, it hits not only our working families and seniors and the rest, but veterans within those families, sick and disabled children, people in rural hospitals or served by rural hospitals.
As ever, the stories of families who will suffer are the most eloquent. Nothing is more eloquent to a Member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituents, and those stories and the outside mobilization of the outside groups who are involved in the sit-ins and town hall meetings and call-ins and the rest and presenting the stories, they keep turning up the heat on Trumpcare. When people know, people will act upon it, and hopefully their Representatives in Congress will represent them.
Earlier today, I called upon Republicans to withdraw their mean-spirited and discriminatory Hartzler amendment [to the National Defense Authorization Act] targeting transgender service members in the defense bill. This amendment reverses so much of the work of bipartisan efforts to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
On another subject, in terms of Russia, I am also pleased to join Whip Hoyer and Ranking Member Engel to introduce the strong Russia sanctions bill, overwhelmingly passed in a bipartisan way, 98 to 2, in the U.S. Senate.
So it’s just addressing two things that are happening legislatively on the floor yesterday and today.
Just in closing, I want to say I’m so saddened by the news of Liu Xiaobo’s passing today. Two weeks ago, I was pleased to join Representative Chris Smith, the co-chair, with Senator [Marco] Rubio, Co-Chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, as the House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution calling for the unconditional release of Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia.
The world grieves the loss of one of the great moral voices of our time. We had hoped that the Chinese – they mistreated him in prison, contributed to his illness – we had hoped that they would allow him to leave the country to receive medical care. They did not. It’s a sad day.
I had the privilege of going to Oslo when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. I was honored by the invitation by his family to be part of the delegation. As you probably remember, he was not able to leave China, so they had an empty chair. But his presence was felt because of his values, his writings, and it’s sad to see his passing.
With that, I’m pleased to take any questions.
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Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: Good morning.
Leader Pelosi. Good morning.
Q: You talked about the Republicans being enablers here for not moving against President Trump here.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: And you talked about the Russia sanctions bill. I know you want to move that. I know you want an independent commission.
But what would you see the Speaker or Republicans doing? What would be the appropriate format to call the President out to not enable him, besides the sanctions bill, besides having an independent commission? Distancing themselves from him? Disavowing him?
Leader Pelosi. No, the truth. Truth. We want the truth. We want to have an outside, independent commission that can look into the possible disruption of our election, which is, now we’re seeing, documented by their own statements. This is an appalling thing.
You may well, maybe you won’t recall, but a long time ago in the Bush-Gore race in 2000, Tom Downey was to be part of the debate prep with Vice President Gore. He received a package that was what we call fruit from the poisonous tree. It was information that was sent to him about the debate plans of the Republicans.
He did the right thing. He immediately called the FBI and handed over the information, and then immediately called the Gore campaign to say, “Since I saw this, thinking it was” not knowing what it was, but when he saw it, he said, “Now I can’t participate in those debates.”
The person who sent it to him went to jail. Went to jail. So this is very serious. This is a very serious thing that happened the other day. Campaign finance violations, accepting something of value, opposition research, documents and information from a foreign government or from a foreign national, fruit from the poisonous tree.
Criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, that is, impeding the lawful administration of a federal election, or to make an offense against the United States, cybercrimes, hacking against the Clinton administration; conspiracy with respect to espionage, depending on whether information was obtained through Russian spying and the level of their awareness of the spying.
As bad as everything has been, this takes us to a different – this has crossed a threshold. That’s why I say, join us in asking for any electronic communications within the campaign, within the family. We should assume that he did not tell the President? Is there no communication to that effect? Maybe so. Maybe not. Let us know.
And that very idea that some of these people should have security clearance after misrepresenting on their disclosure forms, there’s just an arrogance, a disregard for what is ethical. An ethical standard is really important. And for people to say, well, it’s just politics, they got the stuff – no, that’s not just politics. You get that, you call the FBI.
So, getting back to our Republicans in Congress, for a long time they have – they won’t join us in the release of the President’s tax returns, which could be very instructive in terms of any connection to Russia. Why should this President of all Presidents and all candidates for President in the two major parties, since Gerald Ford, not release his returns so the American people can know?
So they’ve avoided that. They have avoided the independent, outside commission. I think it’s really important for them to do it, and overwhelmingly supported by the American people.
Q: Leader Pelosi, on the Hartzler amendment that you mentioned earlier, this will be the first time ever the House of Representatives has voted on a measure to specifically target transgender people, how confident are you that that measure would fail if it came to the House floor?
Leader Pelosi. Well, of course it will depend on the Republicans. We’ll have a very strong Democratic vote against it. We have had good support from some Republicans in the past, for example, on the Russell amendment when they tried. But that wasn’t transgender but just LBGTQ in general.
I hope that we could defeat it, but I wish that they would withdraw it. It’s so mean-spirited. It’s so mean-spirited.
And, really, we’re talking about a bill about our national security. We should be talking about, what is our mission? What are our security needs? Why are we just going for the biggest number? Perhaps we have needs that we should increase our defense spending. Let’s have that debate. Let’s see what the mission is and what the needs are instead of having this mean-spirited, I say again, resolution.
So it was the subject of our discussion in our Whip meeting this morning, I think very strong in terms of opposition to the amendment. I would hope that we could get a similar vote as we did on the Russell. You remember the Russell amendment though. We won. Then they made people change their vote, and that was terrible. And then we had to take it up again.
Q: Leader Pelosi, you said that Jared Kushner should have his security clearance revoked.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Should he still have a job in this White House?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you know, shall we say, the receptivity of the American people for such unusual behavior in the White House is interesting. So if you combine the arrogance, one, of just saying, ‘I’m going to be surrounded by family and they’re going on the payroll and they’re going to have security clearance,’ which is a big violation, clearly not justified.
So I’m more concerned about them obeying the law. It’s not outside the law for them to be there. I think not according to hoyle, but nonetheless. But the law and the disclosure form you lie on a disclosure form, that’s a crime. You do it multiple times, that’s arrogant and a crime.
Q: And can I ask a follow-up?
Leader Pelosi. Sure.
Q: Donald Trump Jr. has basically said this was [opposition] research. Campaigns do this all the time.
Leader Pelosi. That’s not true.
Q: For people out in the country who are not involved in campaigns every two years, do campaigns do this all the time?
Leader Pelosi. No. And I think that’s really an important question and I thank you for it. We all do our own research about where we differ with other people on issues and votes that they have taken and the rest. So opposition research is done by the campaign.
If somebody gives you – especially a foreign government – information that is described as seriously damaging to Hillary Clinton, fruit from a poisonous tree, probably gathered illegally as well, you call the FBI.
Really important, because when we talk to our candidates, we say, ‘If something comes your way, you call the FBI. You call the law enforcement, or you just send it back.’ Because much of the time you don’t know what it is until you open it. But you just get rid of it, because that’s not what campaigns are supposed to be about.
And as I used the Tom Downey example, immediately he called the FBI, and that was local. That was a woman who went to jail for sending it to him. She worked in one aspect of the Bush campaign. She went to jail for it, for sending it.
I hear people on TV say, ‘Oh, this was a campaign.’ No, it is not. And that was a crime. She went to jail. It’s highly unethical. And there doesn’t seem to be any ethical standard in the White House. It’s always about ‘nobody broke the law.’
Well, wait a minute, you’re supposed to, as we have in the House, we have a rule that says, if you bring discredit to the institution then you will be subjected to an ethics investigation.
But in the White House, there just seems to be such arrogance about it all, as if they are doing us a favor by serving. Nobody in elective office should think they’re doing anybody a favor. It is a privilege that the people give us and we respect it with integrity. And I appreciate your question, so it enables me to say that’s not how it works.
Q: On another subject, your California colleague [Representative] Barbara Lee attached a war authorization amendment to a spending bill and said yesterday she was disappointed after talking to the Speaker that he didn’t want a debate on that in the House. Do you support a debate on phasing out the existing war authorization?
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: And do you have any concerns about what that would mean in terms of the troops around the world engaged in military operations?
Leader Pelosi. The question is about the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Congresswoman Barbara Lee successfully had passed to eliminate the authorization that is in place now. It’s old. In the course of the Obama administration we tried to replace it with something that was more current.
The Republicans said, ‘We’re not going to do that. We want to see what the President proposes himself.’ The President, President Obama, made a proposal. And the judgment that you would make about an Authorization of Use of Force is, what is the timeline of it? How long will it last? What is the scope of it? What can that Authorization of Force enable you to do? Is it about boots on the ground? Is it not? And third, not in any particular order, what is the geographic area that the authorization applies? Time when, where and how.
The President sent that, they rejected that. So we’re long overdue to have a new Authorization of the Use of Military Force. This is a good step forward. I don’t know that he can prevent a debate on the floor because it is in the bill. It’s in the bill that will come to well, they still have to go to full committee. I don’t know if they’ll take it out in full committee. We’ll have to see what that is.
Q: Or Rules.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, or Rules.
You know, we really do have to address this. And I don’t know why they don’t want to address the Authorization of the Use of Military Force. Again, for how long would that authorization last? What would it enable our troops to do? And in what geographic area?
Q: On a different topic, President Trump is asking Congress to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. Do you personally support eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts?
Leader Pelosi. No, I don’t. I think it’s foolish, a foolish proposal on the part of the President.
Let me just say this about the arts. I think that one of the forces for unity in our country are the arts. It’s something that brings us together. We laugh together. We cry together. We’re inspired together. We listen to the music. It’s a cultural export for our country.
The money that we spent on the National Endowment is so minuscule compared to our national budget. It’s like a hair on my head. It’s very small. But it is a very good investment.
And I just think it’s, in terms of supporting the arts, yes, and arts in the school. Any place you go in the country, especially in some of our poorer areas, the parents will say, keep the arts in the school. That is what gives our children confidence. They enjoy it. They learn what they can achieve. They have success. It enables them to feel confident when they go into other studies.
So whether it is for the self-esteem and the fulfillment of our children, the unity of our country, the arts are very important. I don’t think it will stand. We will fight that.
And it’s about jobs. People don’t ever think of it, but arts are an economic developer. Many, many, many jobs are created by investments in the arts, and it attracts other investment as well. I say that coming from San Francisco, a proud city of the arts.
But the whole country, as I say, traveling the whole country, arts in the schools, arts in the communities, it’s a very unifying force. When you go to a concert, it’s not about Democrats or Republicans. When you go to a museum, it’s about what you went to see, a play, whether you’re in one.
And, really, for our kids, to be part of the arts, to be part of a drama club, a band, a choral group, it’s a very positive thing. They want to join something, especially in middle school and high school and the rest. And it’s a force for good.
The poet Shelley once said, “The greatest force for moral good is imagination.” Imagination, of course, to be creative, but imagination to put yourself in other people’s shoes, to share experiences. I think we should view the arts in that way.
Q: Speaking of the arts, Kim Jong Um has been celebrating their ICBM launch with some cultural performances and such recently.
I just wondered, you know, you live in San Francisco, which seems to be on the verge of being threatened now by North Korea’s ballistic missile program. Do you have confidence in the administration’s approach on handling this issue? And if not, what do you think that they should change up?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me just say that I’m one of the few Members of Congress who has been to Pyongyang, to the capital. Many Members have been to Panmunjom, the border, but I’ve been to the capital and I see how degenerate the administration of North Korea is. Not when Kim Jong Un, when Kim Jong Il, his father, was President, was when I was there.
The poverty of spirit, the just horror of it all, people starving. And they call their philosophy self-reliance while their people are starving, while they save the food for themselves and not for children, whom they don’t consider productive or seniors whom they don’t consider productive.
I feel shameful for the diplomats who see a better life outside, and yet they allow this closed society to deprive people of even sustenance while they live the high life.
So I’m concerned about really South Korea because they have proximity and the threats of Kim Jong Un. And I think this, this is my main concern, and I would hope that the administration would be acting in a more responsible way, and maybe they’ll get to that place.
But here’s my problem about Kim Jong Un, and I’ve expressed this to the President of South Korea when he was here a couple weeks ago.
When we went to Pyongyang, and we talked about missiles, we talked about MIAs and POWs, we talked about hunger, we talked about a number of subjects, but about the missiles, because the development of missiles was a national security issue of concern, they said, ‘Look, we just make these to sell. Do you want to buy them? We’ll sell them to you.’
So when they do their road show, when they do their launches and all the rest, it’s not just to show what they may or may not have. There’s not really certainty as to whether they have miniaturized the weapon to go the distance. But it’s about who they might want to sell it to, maybe not an intercontinental ballistic missile but some of their other missile technology.
So I’m concerned about North Korea for many reasons, but one of them, in addition to most of what you have heard, is that North Korea could be a proliferator. And all of these demonstrations of strength are really a road show for them to sell to a rogue nation or lone wolf or whatever, whoever, some very dangerous technology.
So this requires the most mature leadership and knowledgeable appraisal of what our options are there.
That was it? Thank you all very much.