Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC's Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC’s Deadline: White House to discuss the resumption of COVID relief talks after the President’s decision to walk away and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Nicolle Wallace. This may be the understatement of the century, but in the last year, a lot has happened: a deadly pandemic spread across this country, infecting more than eight million Americans and taking from us more than 219,000; the President of the United States impeached over soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election designed to hurt Joe Biden; protests erupted across this country, part of a racial reckoning demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality and millions of acres of the states along the west coast of this country were scorched in historic wildfires. Quite a year.
In that time, one year, the President of the United States and the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have not spoken. Today marks the one year anniversary of the last chat. It was a sitdown at the White House that turned so combative, the Speaker and her Democratic colleagues walked out. But not before this image of Speaker Pelosi was snapped. In it, she is pointing her finger at the President. In that meeting, she made clear when it came to Donald Trump, ‘All roads lead to Putin.’
Joining us now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I remember where I was when that photo came out. I was heading to dinner with a family friend. And I remember when I saw that the White House had put it out, I said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, every woman will know exactly what is going on in this picture.’ And I could tell by the faces of the men sitting next to Trump, none of them are looking at you or him, they're looking at their hands and feet and anywhere but, because they know he's a heel and you've got him. This is, you know, mommy sends the bad boy to his room. What do you think though, about the year that we've had and the fact that you and the President are not on speaking terms? Would you be open if he reached out to and ever tried to open that channel of conversation?
Speaker Pelosi. Well it would depend on the what the purpose is. But I actually wasn’t pointing a finger. I was gesturing, ‘With you, Mr. President, all roads lead to Putin.’
But what’s funny about it is the White House put out that photo, because we're not even allowed to wear a smart watch in the room. It is all about – they have all of the technology. And they put that out and I said, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. President.’
But we left because there was no purpose to staying there. There was no truth coming from the other side. And it was really just unfortunate and it – because all roads lead to Putin. You can see that continuation in the revelations about Rudy Giuliani. When those interactions with the Russians were made known – were found out, they were made known to the White House. We don't know what that reaction was, but it is a continuation of all roads.
Now, you said some things that happened over the year. Let me say, without the two of us speaking person-to-person, but, either through the airwaves or through the President's intermediaries, we were able, in that period of time, to pass a huge omnibus bill to keep government open, working with Secretary Mnuchin then. And then, we were able to work with the trade representative to improve vastly what the President thought would be a good trade agreement with Russia – excuse me, with Mexico and Canada and so we were able to effect a U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement that all – overwhelmingly, the Democrats voted for. They usually don't, but we improved the bill, the proposal immensely. Since then, we've had four bipartisan, overwhelmingly bipartisan COVID-19 bills in the Congress, in addition to other legislation.
So it isn't as if it has to be person-to-person between the Speaker and the President. It has to be knowledge for knowledge in terms of what we – what our purpose is, what we know about the challenge we face and what the possible solutions are. How we strategically put something together that will get the votes and the signature to improve the lives of the American people.
The last thing it is about is whether the President speaks truth in any meeting in the White House worthy of attending.
Nicolle Wallace. I mean, we know he does – look, I take your point. And you look at the fact that Donald Trump has nasty things to say about his own former National Security Advisers and Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. It's clear that he saves his warm fuzzies for Vladimir Putin.
On that topic, though, I want to press you about whether there are structural changes needed. It is clear that the intelligence community has found that the Russians have succeeded in placing a Russian asset as close to the President as one can get in Rudy Giuliani, his chief political adviser, his chief personal attorney and one of the most visible surrogates for Donald Trump is, in the views of U.S. intelligence, a target of a Russian disinformation campaign. That information is being laundered by the President and coming out of his mouth on the campaign trail. Are you worried about that dynamic in the last 20 days of a presidential campaign?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I’m not worried. Because it comes as no surprise. The President has been catering to Vladimir Putin and now, as our intelligence were following what was going on among some Russians, they fell, came upon Rudy Giuliani and again reported that to the White House.
This is – was part of the impeachment, as you mentioned earlier. They have been trying to blame Ukraine for what the Russians did in the last election. Divert attention from what the Russians are doing 24/7 in this election, constantly. And I do believe that the American people want to choose our president, they don't want Vladimir Putin to choose our next president. So everyone is very vigilant. That doesn't mean that they aren't trying.
But it does mean that people are voting. And for all of the poison that you could talk about, about this President and his connection to Russia and maybe how they'll help him pay his debts, that the best antidote to the poison is the vote. Antidote: vote.
Nicolle Wallace. What is the latest status of talks? I know that, while you don’t talk to the President, you have worked on other COVID relief bills with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. What is the latest on those talks? And are they ongoing?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the Secretary said yesterday, that they were willing to accept our language on the testing, but they had some changes. So we're still waiting to see what the changes are, because, as you know, the devil and the angels are in the details. As soon as I get it, which I haven't gotten it yet, then we will talk about it, probably on Sunday since we haven't gotten it yet today, probably on Sunday.
We're making progress. We have to have clarification in language because we have some big differences. That is to say, when it comes to the amount that’s one disagreement. But it is not just about the money, it is about the funding. And if the funding is about giving the President a slush fund for testing, a slush fund for health care providers, a slush fund for this, rather than a prescription for what we need, what scientists tell us [we] need to stop the spread of this virus. This is the core problem. Everything else is a symptom. The way our economy goes down, whether our kids can't go to school, all of it, we have got to centrally defeat the virus. And science has told us how: testing, tracing, treating, mask-wearing, ventilation, separation, sanitation, all of it. And if we do that, we can help stop it, and then if we can, God willing, get a vaccine. And I hope that will be soon, and I pray it will be soon.
Some of them here say, you know, you have to choose faith or science. I say science is an answer to our prayers. So, we pray that God's gift to us, that wisdom will be soon and that it will be used. People will embrace it, not one day sooner than it is safe and efficacious but not one day later, and even if it comes in the next five days under the presidency of the Donald Trump.
But it is – it is so sad. I don't know if you saw the debate in Kentucky where Amy McGrath was talking to McConnell saying, ‘Why aren't are you addressing this problem,’ and he laughed. He laughed. It is no laughing matter. Mr. Leader, it is no laughing matter.
They have never taken this seriously. Over and over again we've put testing into – from March 4th, our first bill, testing, testing, testing, but it is clear that in order to get the job done, we have to prescribe a national strategic plan that is science-based, adequately funded.
If the President – the President knows – when a president speaks his words mean a ton. And people trust. And we would hope that he would embrace a solution rather than mocking it or in the case of the Majority Leader, laughing at it. So, again we'll – we’re having our negotiations.
Nicolle Wallace. Speaker Pelosi –
Speaker Pelosi. We'll talk again probably on Sunday. Well, we can't speak before we see where we've gone on the language. But I'll tell you one more thing, and I'd like to make this point.
Nicolle Wallace. Sure.
Speaker Pelosi. One of the other points of disagreement is how we treat low income working families. We have in our bill the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Child Dependent [Care] Tax Credit, which means substantial assistance to America's work – low-income, working families, so working.
This is a tax credit, and by the way, Nicolle, it is something that I worked with President Bush in the most substantial way. He understood what it means to have a tax credit for America's working families. What they had – and especially at the low-income level.
What they have in their bill is a gigantic tax break for the wealthiest people in our country in the CARES Act. They said, ‘It’s good policy,’ and nothing to do with coronavirus. It was retroactive.
And now they're saying, ‘No, we don't think we want to get a tax credit to America's working families.’ And it makes a big difference. You see the articles now showing how many people are falling into poverty because there is no relief, and we want that relief to happen.
So, that is another discussion that we're having. So, far they have not been receptive. But hopefully they will be when they see the difference that it will make. It's – well, forget compassion in terms of ‘don't we care about lifting people out of poverty?’ It is stimulus to the economy. And everything that we have in there is coronavirus-centric: honoring our heroes, crushing the virus, money in the pockets of the American people, and then we have some things about our democracy like the elections and census and the rest. But on these major, major issues –
Nicolle Wallace. I want to ask you about –
Speaker Pelosi. – we have our discussions continuing.
Nicolle Wallace. I want to ask you about that last topic you just mentioned. Donald Trump and Vice President Pence have refused to say that they will honor – I just had Mark Salter on who worked for John McCain for many years talking about John McCain's concession speech in 2008.
We remember that he viewed that as one of the most important speeches of his life, bestowing all of the legitimacy and dignity on an incoming president. Our current President now has said that he may not accept the results.
What is Congress doing if it is to open up lines of communications, to allies, to reassure them we'll get our bleep together. If it is to open channels for whistleblowers at the Pentagon or the State Department. What are you doing to support the other agencies of the executive branch if Donald Trump puts unprecedented strain on them?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say this. That is probably not something I would discuss openly here, but I think everyone is prepared for the worst, prepared for the worst but hoping for the best. You referenced John McCain's speech — would that John McCain on the ballot now, would that George Bush, would that Mitt Romney — this is something completely different.
I say to the Republicans, ‘Take back your party. This isn't who you are.’ So if somebody is saying, ‘I'm not going to accept the peaceful transfer of power,’ if somebody is saying, ‘I can't reject QAnon,’ and those kind of things, there is something wrong here.
So, there are a lot of interests ready to be helpful, but the fact is the big vote is it. This is what it is, and you see people turning out. We think our campaigns are doing a great job mobilizing the vote, but a lot of this is spontaneous. It is organic. It’s just people coming to vote because they know that their lives are at stake.
This is a health vote. You see what they're trying to do in the court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, pre-existing conditions. You see how they have neglected and laughed at doing a solution, crushing the virus, and so people know vote your health. Vote your health, and they're turning out. So, the mobilization is working. The messaging is very clear. That is what motivates people to vote.
And frankly the more the people – the more the President does his tweets the more money we raise in order to get out the message and mobilize the troops. So, we're ready for a big vote, and that would be the best antidote, a big vote: antidote.
But nonetheless we suspect that he has some skullduggery that he wants to engage in. And again he want – we're working in many ways in that regard, including my just win, Operation Just Win, to make sure he understands he's not going to be President because of the vote in the House of Representatives. He thinks that's his light at the end of the tunnel. And I keep saying to him, ‘That light is a train coming right at you. Don't come down this path. Just accept whoever wins. Accept the verdict of the American people, the decision of the American people.’ So, again, I'm hopeful in our negotiations. As we say to each other –
Nicolle Wallace. You're saying something that I heard from so many, yeah. What I keep hearing from Democratic leaders is that the size of the victory really is important to the peaceful transfer of power, and I hear you saying that loud and clear. Madam Speaker, to be continued. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today on all of these topics. We're grateful.
Speaker Pelosi. My pleasure.