Pelosi Remarks at Media Availability at Capitol Following White House Meeting

October 16, 2019
Press Release

Washington D.C.  – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for a media availability upon returning to the Capitol from a White House meeting with Members of Congress and President Donald Trump regarding his disastrous decision in Syria, which was opposed by the House of Representatives today, by a vote of 354 to 60.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good afternoon.  We just came from a most unsatisfactory meeting at the White House.  The meeting started by the President saying he never invited any of us there, that we asked for the meeting.  And, well, without even going into that – what I – as Speaker of the House, I reported to the President that shortly before the meeting, we had a vote in the Congress: 354 to –

Leader Hoyer.  354-60. 

Speaker Pelosi. – to 60, opposing his actions that he took in Syria, calling upon the Turks to exercise restraint, asking us to have humanitarian assistance to the Kurds, especially the children and the rest of that.  As well as, most importantly, asking the President what his plan was to fight ISIS now that he had disrupted what was going on in Syria.

He couldn’t handle.  He just couldn’t handle it.  Two-to-one, the Republicans voted to oppose what he was doing in Syria.  He just couldn’t handle it so he just kind of engaged in a meltdown.

And, we were trying to get the answer: what is your clear plan that this resolution asked for, for how we fight ISIS?  It was very sad.  It was very sad.

Mr. Hoyer, did you want to say anything?

Leader Hoyer.  Well, we have, obviously, a crisis.  We had a resolution that said that the policy that we are pursuing and that was taken was not agreed to by an overwhelming vote of the House of Representatives.

We needed a reasonable, rational discussion between the President and the co-equal branch of government, the House and the Senate.  Unfortunately, the President came in, to my observation, angry and defensive.  And, frankly, it got worse from there.

We did have an explanation of what was being executed, but we had no response to the Speaker and the [Democratic] Leader Schumer’s question: what is our plan from here.

At that point in time, the meeting very shortly thereafter deteriorated into a very disrespectful assertion about the Speaker of the House, who is, after all, third in line to be President of the United States and heads up the Congress of the United States as the Speaker.  It was obvious that meeting was going to get angrier and more defensive.  And, we felt that the meeting was no longer a meeting in which we thought we would get useful discussion and results.  And so, we left.

But, it is sad for our country that at a time of crisis, the President who said first of all that he didn’t invite us.  We didn’t invite ourselves and we didn’t ask for the meeting.  As I understand, the Speaker did ask for a briefing of all the Members, Republicans and Democrats, of what had happened and what was happening.  Rather, we were invited down to the White House and, although he did not walk out as he did in a meeting on infrastructure: as you recall, we came out of the first meeting on infrastructure in a very positive mode, saying the President and the Democrats had had a very positive meeting about infrastructure.

Unfortunately, this was not a positive meeting.  Unfortunately, at a time of crisis, the President chose to be derogatory and accusatory, and it was unfortunate for the country.

Speaker Pelosi.  What’s really sad about it is – I pray for the President all the time, and I tell him that.  I pray for his safety and that of his family.  Now, we have to pray for his health because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the President.

I expressed our appreciation for what our troops have done in Syria.  And, by all accounts from the generals, they have done the job very well, that he is now pulling out – the explanation for that is what we asked for all Members of the House to hear.  And, that was supposed to be tomorrow, but now, they somehow postponed it today.

My concern that I expressed to the President is that Russia has, for a long time, always wanted to have a foothold in the Middle East.  And now he has enabled that to happen.  And, I have concerns about all roads leading to Putin: whether it’s a foothold in the Middle East; whether it’s placing in doubt any military assistance to the Ukraine, which is to the benefit of Putin; whether it’s placing in doubt our commitment to NATO, Article V, which, again, all roads lead to Putin.  That list goes on and on.  That seemed to have angered the President.

But, in any event, this is a – this is very serious.  ISIS – the protection of our homeland, the oath we take to protect and defend, this is very serious.  And, it was very sad, I think, how the President couldn’t handle the fact that the vote was so overwhelming in opposition to his – to what he did in Syria.  And, again, not being able to give us a clear picture to what his plan was to protect us from ISIS.

Q: You said that you pray for his health now –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Q: – in the aftermath of what you described as a meltdown.  Are you suggesting that he’s mentally unwell?

Speaker Pelosi.  I’m not talking about mentally.  I’m just talking about handling, just handling the truth.

Q: Madam Speaker, the most powerful tool that Congress has is the power of the purse.  We have to fund the government by the middle of November here.  Would you foresee, and why wouldn’t you put some restrictors in some appropriations bill to reverse the policy and therefore mandate that those troops go back?  Wouldn’t that be the automatic solution?

Speaker Pelosi.  I don’t think that that is a possibility.

Q:  Why not?

Speaker Pelosi.  That’s a very – that’s harder than you might think.  The President is the Commander-in-Chief.  The decisions that are made, hopefully are made with the concurrence of the Department of Defense and our men and women there. 

This is, what the President did was dangerous.  And, again, we have not only troops there, but equipment there and the rest.  I don’t know if he understood the situation.  But, I don’t think that’s something you can deal with in an appropriations bill.

Leader Hoyer.  Let me just say, we worked very hard to open up the government.  We were shut down when the Republicans were in charge.  Most of the government agencies were closed.  We are prepared to cooperate with the Administration and with our Republican colleagues to ensure that the government is funded and serving the American people and defending the American people.

As you know, we passed 96 percent of government funding to the Senate.  The Senate has not passed any appropriations bills.  We're concerned about that, but we're going to work very hard between now and November 21 and thereafter if necessary, I hope it's not necessary, to get agreement so that the government can be operational.

The American people expect that.  That is our duty.

Q:  Madam Speaker, did the President bring up impeachment at all?

Speaker Pelosi.  He did not.  That was not a subject that was brought up at all.

Q: Madam Speaker, Leader McCarthy came to the microphone after you left, he said after you left there were some Democrats who remained and he described the meeting after you left as productive and by the way saying that somehow you managed to make the meeting political and more about the way you and the Leadership were being treated.

Speaker Pelosi.  Maybe that's what he thought when I said the House of Representatives voted 354-60 against the President's policy.  Maybe he considered that political.  I didn't have any intentions of that.

Leader Hoyer.  I tried to be constructive with Leader McCarthy, because he tries to be constructive.  But, I don't consider him an objective source of information on President Trump.

Q:  What does President Trump's behavior toward you mean about working with him on USMCA and other things?

Speaker Pelosi.  It is not important in that regard.  We will do what we need to do for the good of the American people and that has nothing to do with him.  There may be some collateral benefit to him, when we successfully achieve something for the American people but there is no reason not to do it because there is collateral benefit to him.  Again, we are here for the American people, we are not here measuring what we do as to what it means to him.

Q:  Do you think future meetings with the President are no longer necessary because of the way these meetings have blown up in the past?

Speaker Pelosi.  We were invited to a meeting at the White House and the President immediately started off by saying that we asked for the meeting, which we had not.  But, you know, that’s, that’s a minor thing.  It was not a particularly hospitable opening to the meeting.  But, who cares, who cares.  What matters is the President made a very dangerous decision when it came to Syria and the Turks and the Kurds, and without much understanding of what was at risk there. 

354 members of the House concurred that they did not, that they opposed the President’s decision.  I think it rattled him.

Q:  Now, is there any doubt that the House – is there any doubt that the House will impeach the President at this point?

Speaker Pelosi.  Now that is a different conversation that we will go down the path where truth takes us and then when that decision is made, that decision is made.  But it has not been made and I don’t I am not even going there. 

These are two different conversations.

I disagree with the policy of the President of the United States.  That is the matter to have the debate, that is the civic debate that we will have and that’s a matter for the elections. 

Impeachment is a completely different subject.

Q:  [Crosstalk] – that got this meeting on the wrong foot? Leader Schumer said he called you a ‘Third-rate politician’ –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, no, a ‘third-grade.’

Q: Oh!  Third-grade.  Thank you for clarifying.

Speaker Pelosi.  Third-grade.  And I said, I wish you were a politician! [Laughs]

Q: What did he say that made clear that this was not going to be a –

Speaker Pelosi.  That was no – no, no the fact is we were trying to have a factual basis, a calm, factual basis about the security of our country.  There were certain, shall we say –

Leader Hoyer.  There were a number of things that the President said which were obviously meant to be derogatory towards the Democrats, generally, and President Obama, in particular, that were not conducive to any sort of rational, reasonable discussion about a crisis that confronts the country, of the President’s making.  So, the meeting went downhill relatively quickly unfortunately, from our perspective.

Q:  Referring to President Obama’s policy in Syria or more generally?

Leader Hoyer.  I don’t want to get into the specifics.

Speaker Pelosi.  No

Leader Hoyer.  But it became a derogatory meeting, from the President’s side and that, it went downhill.

Speaker Pelosi.  I just want to close by saying this.  I think it is a very sad commentary on the President of the United States, that he doesn’t have enough confidence in what he is doing to listen to other points of view, especially the overwhelming vote of the House of Representatives and have some level of respect for that.  And again, it shook him up, melted him down and he behaved accordingly. 

Does that mean we can’t have future meetings?  No.  Just depends on the subject, I guess.

Does that mean we can’t pass things working together?  If we can, we will.  Because it is a collateral benefit to him, will never be a deterrent for us to do what is right for the American people.  But, there has to be some levels of values, of calmness, of patriotism, a love of our country and our system and not a personal invective because he didn’t like the way a vote went on any given day.

Q: It was meant –

Speaker Pelosi.  As I said, I want to end where I began, we praised our troops and the wonderful work that they have done, just all, very praiseworthy, always, but again, in this particular insistence, we documented how well they have protected the American people from ISIS.  So, we thank them for that and I conveyed that to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as well as to the Secretary of Defense.

But, the fact is also, the President said, ‘I promised to bring the troops home and that is what I’m doing.’  My comment is, ‘Home?  Saudi Arabia.’  Now we are sending troops to Saudi Arabia, what’s that about? He doesn’t like to have to answer questions of that kind.

Leader Hoyer.  Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.