Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
Here we are with a week that started off with Veterans Day. A wonderful day. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Armistice Day, a day we now observe as Veterans Day. Every day is Veterans Day for us.
On Tuesday, we passed a packet of bills, nine bills, to improve the lives of our veterans, our heroes in uniform. Among the bills, we were very proud to pass the Deborah Sampson Act, which reduces barriers for women veterans to access V.A., including anti-harassment initiatives. This has a broad base of support and we are very proud to be passing it, the day after Veterans Day.
Monday night when I came into town, I went to the World War II Memorial, to see who was there and just to visit it again. I love going there. It's so inspiring. And, I saw two – I was impressed particularly by two engravings on the wall. One that related to all veterans: President Truman said, ‘Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.’
And then, particular to women, not necessarily in uniform, but women in the war effort, by Franklin Delano Roosevelt – President Roosevelt. He said, ‘Women have given their sons to the military services, they have stoked the furnaces and hurried the factory wheels. They have made the planes and welded the tanks, riveted the ships, and rolled the shells.’ That, in addition to serving in the military.
So, again, we honored the men and women in the war effort on [Tuesday] with our nine bills.
In terms of increasing paychecks, we are today – this week, today and tomorrow, considering the Export-Import Bank, which creates nearly two million American jobs in all 50 states – the last decade, it has created over two million jobs. It is very important legislation, there will be some – you – shouldn’t even be a partisan issue, and sometimes in the past, it has not been. There will be an attempt by some to say we shouldn’t, Ex-Im shouldn’t be doing any business with China.
And I modestly say that I take second place to no one in the Congress for over 30 years of fighting China on their trade policy, on their human rights policy, on their proliferation policy. But, to – and we – and there are restrictions in the legislation about government-owned industries and the rest of that.
However, and, again, as critical as I am of China's policies, by some accord, I am – they advertise me as the most hated person in China, something I take with great pride because of my fight for human rights in China, whether it's Hong Kong, whether it’s Tibet, whether it’s Beijing or whether it’s the Uyghurs, the Muslims in education camps. Nonetheless, they should not use that as an excuse to not pass the Ex-Im Bank and I will speak to that on the Floor.
In the same token of globalization of the economy, we are moving positively in terms of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Again, it all comes down to enhancement – excuse me – enforcement. Enhancement, too, but enforcement. I do believe that if we can get this to the place it needs to be, which is imminent, that this can be a template for future trade agreements, a good template.
And then, again, in terms of economic – the financial well-being of America's working families, we are working on H.R. 3, our legislation to lower prescription drug costs, and hopefully we will be bringing that to the Floor soon.
Next week, we will vote on a Continuing Resolution to fund the government. We passed our appropriations bills, making smart, strong investments in the health, education, economic security, and well-being of America's families. Sadly, the GOP Senate has not done its job yet.
Soon, again, now another area in terms of legislation we'll be bringing: the Voting Rights Advancement Act, H.R. 4. H.R. 3 is health care, reducing the cost of prescription drugs. H.R. 4 is the Voting Rights Act. We're close to closure on that and certainly hope that that will be finished in this session of Congress.
So as I say, we legislate. We investigate, I'll get to that in a moment. But, we litigate.
On the litigation front, yesterday, Congress and the rule of law had an important victory as the courts once again resoundingly reaffirmed Congress's authority to conduct oversight of the executive branch on behalf of the American people.
Sadly, we have a President who does not believe in the separation of powers, says that Article II says he can do whatever he wants. It does not, and he cannot, without oversight from the Congress and with respect for legislation passed by the Congress.
And, so, as the court stated, ‘Contrary to the President's arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply.’ Mazars is the accounting firm that has the President's records.
We will see how that goes, accommodations back and forth in the next few days, but according to the decision, they’re supposed to release the information in seven days. It may be that we extend an accommodation to them for longer, but that remains to be seen by the Committees and our lawyers.
On the investigation front, yesterday was a very somber, prayerful day. I thought it was a successful day for truth. Truth coming from the President's men, people he appointed, a person that he appointed most recently, to the State Department.
Again, none of us has come to Congress to impeach a President. We've come here to do the work of the American people, to make the future better, for them to try to do so in the most bipartisan way possible, find our common ground where we can, stand our ground where we cannot.
But yesterday, you heard an appointee of the President speak in very unambiguous terms. A courageous public servant. The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the President abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into his political rival. Clear attempt of the President to give himself the advantage in the 2020 election. Doing so, as I said, to the President, ‘You jeopardize our national security, undermine our national security, jeopardizing integrity of our electoral system, violate your oath of office.’
I salute Chairman Schiff for the dignity and the statesmanship he brought and the Members of the Intelligence Committee, the Democrats, for showing great patriotism and professionalism with which they are conducting the proceedings. I'm very proud of them.
I said to the Members at the beginning of the day yesterday, when we take the oath to protect and defend the Constitution, we agree and we become custodians of the Constitution. The Constitution, the brilliance of our Founders to create a republic, a system of checks and balances, three co-equal branches of government, separation of powers, each a check and balance on the other. As custodians of the Constitution, we must be defenders of our democracy, because our democracy depends on that republic and not a monarchy – ‘Article II says I can do whatever I want.’
So, again, with respect to that responsibility, we go forward sadly, prayerfully, say with a heavy heart, because it's not what we came here to do, but we must uphold our oath of office.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. We hear it said routinely, and of course it's true that impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. Yet, as we can all observe many of the accoutrements surrounding the legal process are inherent in this political process with the depositions, subpoenas, perjury, so forth. This was made starkly clear yesterday by Chairman Schiff, it seemed to me when he reminded the Minority that he would do everything necessary to ensure the legal rights of the whistleblower to preserve anonymity in this political setting. So, I wonder if you can explain to the American people why the legal rights of the whistleblower should prevail in this political setting over those of President Trump who should ordinarily enjoy a right to confront his accuser?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say this, I will say to you, Mr. Republican Talking Points, what I said to the President of the United States: When you talk about the whistleblower, you're coming into my wheelhouse. I have more experience in intelligence than anybody in the Congress. Anybody that ever served. Twenty-five years on the committee as top Democrat; ex officio, as Speaker and Leader. I was there when we wrote the whistleblower laws. The whistleblower is there to speak truth to power and have protection for doing that. Any retribution or harm coming to the whistleblower undermines our ability to hear truth about power, so I will defend the rights of the whistleblower vehemently, vehemently.
Q: But why should they prevail over the rights of the President?
Speaker Pelosi. Well the President can come, if he has a case to make. Does he want to come speak, does he want to present in writing or speak to the Committee about his – what might be exculpatory for him, he has that right to do, but nobody, nobody, President – the President is not above the law. The President will be held accountable and nobody should have the right to endanger whistleblowers, and that is the system that I will defend, and the American people, the American people understand that.
Q: You talked about bribery a second ago, and that's a very serious charge. What's the case of bribery?
Speaker Pelosi. Well you know, we’re talking Latin around here. ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ from many one. Quid pro quo, bribery, bribery, and that is in the Constitution attached to the impeachment proceedings.
Q: So what was the bribe here?
Speaker Pelosi. The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into elections. That's bribery.
Q: Will you be looking at article of impeachment?
Speaker Pelosi. I don’t know that. We haven't made a decision to impeach. That's what the inquiry is about, and when the committees decide that, and they will decide what the articles are.
What I am saying, that what is – the President has admitted to and says it’s perfect. I said it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery.
Q. You’ve talked in the past about the importance of the public being along on the idea of impeachment and bringing the public along. Do you think yesterday the witnesses, your Members, their questioning was effective in convincing the public this was a worthwhile thing to pursue?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it’s – look, first and foremost, we have a responsibility to honor our oath of office, to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that is our responsibility.
The clarity for the public to understand what is there – it wasn't as clear, in my view, when you say obstruction of justice, obstruction of justice, obstruction of justice 11 times in the Mueller Report. That is justification enough for inquiring into an impeachment.
This had a story, a narrative about the President threatening to grant or withhold certain privileges, certain military assistance, voted on by the Congress to Ukraine, which is in our national interest to do so because they were fighting the Russians. They've already lost over 11,000, 12,000, 13,000 people fighting the Russians.
That's why I say all roads lead to Putin. Putin benefited from our not – any holding up of that foreign, that military assistance. Putin benefited by the action taken by the President vis-a-vis Syria and Turkey, because they wanted a stronger stronghold in the Middle East, and the President gave them that. Putin benefited from the President's comments about uncertainty about our support for NATO. Putin benefited – the list goes on, and I won't even go into the elections, just those three, because they’re the three I have mentioned to the President when I have said, ‘With you Mr. President, all roads lead to Putin.’
Q. You kept saying that you haven't really decided whether to move forward –
Speaker Pelosi. We haven't. That will be up to the committees to decide.
Q. Do you believe that yesterday’s testimony from Taylor and Kent at all moved the needle for Democrats toward – towards impeachment?
Speaker Pelosi. This isn't about Democrats. This is for the American people. This is about patriotism. It's not about politics – Democrats, Republicans. It's not about anything political. It's about patriotism. It's about honoring our oath of office and to uphold the Constitution, and the Constitution spells out what our responsibilities are and what our penalties are.
And yesterday, I think – I do believe the truth will set us free, and so the truth, coming from the President's own appointee, the President's own appointee describing bribery and threatening in the course of it – threatening the identity of the whistleblower was just shameful behavior on the part of the Republicans.
Q: I want to ask you if you think the USMCA is imminent, how do you think AFL-CIO is poised to respond if the implementing bill is going to be considered in the House?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we have shared values with the AFL-CIO and believe that the growth of our economy is blessed with more participation from collective bargaining, workplace safety, all of that. So, I think we will have – we'll see what the implementation is, what that is and the enforcement is, and I think it will be a value that's shared by our friends in labor, as well as the Democrats in the Congress. So we're in a good place.
We, as I say, I want this to be a template for future trade agreements, so that the work put in here will not only benefit the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement but for the globalization discussion in general.
And, so what we'll have to do as soon as we come to conclusion is to have the implementing language written. We have an idea of what that would be. So I think we are – I’d like to see us get it done this year. I mean, that would be my goal. I don't imagine that it would take much more in the Senate to pass.
I mean, some of our legislation we are going to pass this year, but we don't know what will happen in the Senate. I would hope they would move quickly with this.
Q: You say that the House is not decided to pursue impeachment yet –
Speaker Pelosi. That's right.
Q: – But when you see the hearing yesterday, a lot of questions about impeachment. We talked about three distinct things: bribery, abuse of power, things that could go into articles of impeachment. Why would the public not think that the House is dead set on a course to impeach the President when all of this milieu is going on?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, all of this milieu is it seeking of the truth. It's called an inquiry, and if the President has something that is exculpatory – Mr. President, that means if you have anything that shows your innocence – then he should make that known, and that's part of the inquiry, and so far we haven't seen that, but we welcome it, and that's what an inquiry is about.
Q: Do you think there is a way, considering all that they're doing – all the hearings, all the depositions – that there's any way that the House could not impeach, with all of this work, regardless?
Speaker Pelosi. Perhaps you have not heard me when I have said, this is something we do with a heavy heart. This is very prayerful, because impeaching is a divisive thing in our country. It's hard, and the place that our country is now, it's not a time where you go to 70 percent when people – when President Nixon walked out of the White House. It wasn't there before he left, even two weeks before he left. It wasn't there until the other shoe fell, and he walked out the door.
By the way, what President Trump has done on the record in terms of acting to advantage his – a foreign power to help him in his own election and of the obstruction of information about that, the cover-up, makes what Nixon did look almost small, almost small.
But, again, an inquiry is an inquiry and people come in, and you hear what they have to say. Next week, some of the Republican suggestions of witnesses will come in, and we'll hear what they, what they have to say. But this is not something that you take lightly, and you make a decision as you – as you go along.
One last question. Yes, sir.
Q: On the C.R., it's going to come when you guys are – passing – when these hearings are still going on. I'm curious, as you've been negotiating the Continuing Resolution, the spending bills, what's been the working relationship with the White House? I mean, have they been involved in this process? I guess the adage of walking and chewing gum at the same time comes to mind.
Speaker Pelosi. I am not a gum chewer, but I do eat a lot of chocolate as I walk around here. We – obviously the President – the four branches – you know House, Senate, Democrats, Republicans, and the White House are the – we all have to come to agreement. And, you know, left to our own devices, the appropriators – I come from the culture of Appropriations and Intelligence, that's where I was forged in Congress. Both places that, by and large, when I first started there were not particularly partisan.
But the – left to their own devices, the appropriators know, the appropriators know how to get their job done. So, without going into any detail, we're moving in a direction because we do not want a shutdown of government. We prefer to not have a Continuing Resolution. So, we have to make some decisions as we go forward.
Q: The White House is going to sign off?
Speaker Pelosi. When you say the White House, you mean the Administration?
Q: President Trump, the President has to –
Speaker Pelosi: Well, the Administration. Let's just say the Administration. Okay?
Speaker Pelosi. And whoever they may designate at the table. Cheryl?
Q: Madam Speaker, given the Republicans have been arguing that yesterday's witnesses only heard, heard things secondhand, I am wondering if you think it would be worth waiting for those who heard things firsthand, like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, to testify –
Speaker Pelosi. Cheryl, Cheryl, Cheryl. Don't fall into the secondhand stuff. Really. That is such a fraudulent proposition put forth by the Republicans. That is such a fraudulent proposition. And they know it. That's why they're talking about process rather than the substance of what we have heard. I just won't even dignify what they are saying in that regard, I just won’t.
Q: Do you think they are waiting for the courts to rule?
Speaker Pelosi. No, we’re not waiting, but we are engaged in what the Constitution charges the Congress to do – to make its decisions. We are not here to be manipulated by the obstruction of justice of the Administration. On the one hand, they say that it is secondhand. And on the other hand, they obstruct all of the people who they would consider to have firsthand knowledge from testifying. Obstruction of Congress. Obstruction of Justice.
I'm going to come back to H.R. 6. This is something that it – we’re so proud of, but over 160 days ago, we sent to the Senate, H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act. This is a bill that would protect our Dreamers in our country. These young people have come to our country, made such a valuable contribution. We're grateful to them for that and for their parents for bringing them here.
And the President has said that he supports the Dreamers on the one hand, on the other hand he calls them ‘thugs.’ So, you never know who is showing up that day in the White House.
But, the fact is, is that the American people support the Dreamers and I hope that the Senate will, again, be cognizant of the fact that, like 80 percent of the American people want the Dreamers protected in our country.
So, we started Tuesday morning on the steps of the Supreme Court as the Court was hearing the oral arguments, beginning and then hearing the oral arguments on the legislation that relates to, on a policy that relates to the Dreamers. At the same time, we're fighting them in the courts, we're fighting the President in the court of public opinion, and winning that, and now we're in the Congress of the United States, as well.
I just want to remind – and I didn't go to the oral hearings, arguments, this time because so many people had an appetite for the ticket. That's usually the case. But when you're there, you have to be very constrained. You can't even adjust your glasses because they might think you’re taking a picture or something. It’s a very – I don't know if you've ever been to the oral arguments, it’s a very – but, the temptation to jump up and say something is great. Of course, you can't.
But, if I had been there, what I would have said is that, President Ronald Reagan – you’ve heard me talk about his last speech and how supportive he was of newcomers to America as the vital force of America, as the preeminence in the world. But in addition to that, before his last speech as President of the United States, when the Congress passed the Immigration Bill of 1986, a comprehensive, bipartisan bill, passed the Congress, signed by President Reagan. He then said to Congress, ‘You did not do enough.’ So, he instituted Family Fairness which protected – gave protection to a higher percentage of people than President Obama did with the DACA order. Highest protection. President Reagan. Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush. And then the continuation of that presidency going on with President Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Obama. All, all supportive of that point of view until this President. It’s very sad.
So, I would hope the Court would – President Reagan’s decisions were upheld by the Court. I would hope that this Court would use that as precedent. But we will see. We don't know. I heard different versions of how people interpreted what one judge said, another judge said, and the rest.
But, I do know one thing – that if the Court supports President Trump on this, they will be doing great harm to hundreds of thousands of people and families in our country, and I hope that pain will be a part of their consideration, because they have to consider the impact. And, I hope they will understand the blessing to America that our newcomers are. And, I hope that the Senate will pass H.R. 6.