Speaker Nancy Pelosi

U.S. House of Representatives

Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

November 21, 2019
Press Release

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.  Good morning.  You're getting ready for Thanksgiving, I hope?  Isn't it going to be wonderful to go home and be with family and put this all on the shelf?  Or, well, sort of. 

In this pre-Thanksgiving week, we are working with great seriousness and urgency to accomplish some of our legislative goals but also to be prepared for what comes next when we come back after Thanksgiving.

We did the Continuing Resolution.  That will be passed in the Senate today, sent to the President.  And we have passed our appropriations bills, so we're ready for the negotiation.  And hopefully it will take place expeditiously so that we can be finished by December 20. 

We ran on a For the People agenda, an agenda that said we are going to lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and we're working on H.R. 3 to do just that.  We said we're going to increase paychecks by building infrastructure of America in a green and modern, resilient way, and we are making progress on that.  And, further to the jobs issue, we are working with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and are making progress on that. 

We continue with, again, our transformative infrastructure plan, and we've been having meetings on as I say, we have our four letter word meetings:  jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.  So we've been talking about these issues, defining the challenge for America's working families, reviewing the opportunities, and writing legislation to that effect. 

This week was a very good one for bipartisanship in the Congress and for democratic values in Hong Kong and, really, throughout the world.  We passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and also legislation to suspend sales of munitions to the Hong Kong police force. 

We had a signing ceremony earlier.  Some of you may have been there.  It was very bipartisan.  I was very proud of it.  Some of us on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol have been working for decades on this issue.  

And now we have an ever-expanding number of bipartisan supporters for democracy in China and focusing on Hong Kong at the moment, but concerned about what's happening with the Uyghurs, what's happening in Tibet, what's happening all over China.  We can go more into that, if you have questions about that. 

Last week, we walked over to the – Mr. McConnell's office with our legislation for the Dreamers, H.R. 6, the [Dream and] Promise Act.  It's been there for a very long time, and we're asking him to bring that up.  It has the support of the American people.  If he would bring it up, it would pass. 

We did that on the same day as the Supreme Court was hearing the oral arguments on DACA.  Many of us started the day on the steps of the Capitol.  We talked about this last week.  That was last week. 

This week, we went over with the background check legislation, commonsense expansion of the background check legislation. 

I continue to wear this bullet on this bracelet; constant, constant inspiration, not that anybody needs a reminder of the fact that for over 260 days, background check legislation has been sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk.  About 100 people a day die from gun violence.  Could all of them have been saved?  No, but many of them could have. 

And of that 100, about 47 of them are children – 47 percent of those who die from gun violence each day, 47 percent are teenagers or younger children. 

Our message to Mitch McConnell, as we delivered again our poster, his reflection: as you look yourself in the mirror, why do you think your political survival is more important than the survival of our children?  Not yours, not mine, not any of our political survival is more important.  And if you're afraid of the NRA, think of how afraid those children are at the prospect and then sometimes the reality of a gunman in their school. 

So background check legislation, 267 days.  Paycheck fairness, 239 days, equal pay for equal work.  VAWA, Violence Against Women Act, 231 days.  Save the Internet, 225, that is the net neutrality legislation, 225 days.  Climate Action Now, 203 days.  The Equality Act, ending discrimination against the LGBTQ community, 188 days.  The DREAM Act, 170 days, and we took that over last week, as I mentioned.  SAFE Act, protecting our election, 147 days.  Raise the Wage, $15 an hour, minimum wage, 126 days.  Butch Lewis Act to protect pensions, 119 days ago. 

The ‘Grim Reaper’ says he's the ‘Grim Reaper’, all of this will die in the Senate.  No, it's alive and well.  These issues are alive and well in the public, and we have to make them too hot for him to handle. 

But it's also instructive.  And I'll say this every meeting I have, and the number will continue to grow.  We have 275 bipartisan bills, bipartisan bills, sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk.  I named some of them just now. 

So, in any case, just to go back to gun violence [prevention], gun violence prevention and the bipartisan background check legislation, it's been 267 days since we sent it.  25,000 Americans have lost their lives to gun violence, 47 percent of them children. 

As we've said over and over, we are legislating, we are investigating, we are litigating.  I've talked some about the legislation.  Also talk about investigating, which you see going on now.  And litigating, we're winning in court. 

Right now, the Administration has appealed a most recent decision at the lower court level – we've won at the lower court levels – they've appealed it to the Supreme Court, and we're awaiting a decision by the Court as to whether they will lift a stay for the release of the information.  Today, we will be making our case as to why they should lift the stay. 

Chairman Schiff and the Committee, I think, have dealt with this with great seriousness and solemnity.  Appropriate for something so serious for a country.  Hard to think, except for declaring war, a more serious responsibility than the impeachment of a President.  And, none of us came here to impeach a President.  That's not our priority, our vision for our country. 

But we do, as the first order of business, take an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  And when we see a violation of the Constitution, we have no choice but to act. 

And the evidence is clear that the President – the President – has used his office for his own personal gain and, in doing so, undermined the national security of the United States by withholding military assistance to the Ukraine, to the benefit of the Russians; that he has undermined the integrity of our elections by what he has done, again, the Russian interference being ignored by him – and, third, he has violated his oath of office. 

As we continue to gather evidence and the facts from the testimony, we'll go where the facts take us.  I believe that the truth will set us free.  The President has said to me, ‘The call was perfect.’  I said to him, ‘The call was perfectly wrong.’

There's something very sad about all of this, because the President is undermining and shredding the fabric of our democracy and the patriotism of so many of the American people.  He's trying to attack the whistleblower.  That is fundamental to people speaking truth to power in our country. 

As I said to him when he started to make an attack on the whistleblower on a phone call, I said, ‘You're in my wheelhouse.’  I know about this, as somebody with more experience on Intelligence than anybody.  Whistleblowers will go beyond the Intelligence Community, but in the Intelligence Community that protection is absolutely necessary. 

So, you have seen now they're making assaults on the whistleblower.  This is, wherever you may stand on what the President did, an attack on the whistleblower is an attack on the integrity of our system.  We cannot let that happen, and we won't.  We will not let that happen. 

The Intelligence Community has publicly recognized the importance of whistleblowing and pointing out wrongdoing and the importance of protection of our whistleblowers. 

So, in any event, sadly, the President has responded to the inquiry that is going on now with behavior that is beneath the dignity of the Presidency, of the office that he holds and the oath of office that he took.  And, by the way, a very bad example for our children in the manner in which he behaves and speaks.

Any questions?  Let me just see.  Somebody who hasn't been asked for a while. 

Yes, sir. 

***

Q:  We're now hearing from witnesses in the seventh public impeachment hearing right now.  And you said that you're going to go where the facts take you.  Have you heard enough yet to make a determination on whether you're moving forward on Articles of Impeachment?  And, if not, what else do you need to hear?  Do you need to hear from additional witnesses?  And will the House call somebody like Rudy Giuliani? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, all of this is up to the committees of jurisdiction.  They have the responsibility, and they see the flow of evidence and fact.  So, we'll see.  We aren't finished yet.  The day is not over.  And you never know what testimony of one person may lead to the need for testimony of another, as we saw with Ambassador Taylor at the beginning of last week bringing forth Mr. Holmes today. 

So, again, that will be a judgment made by the committees of jurisdiction.  Particularly, now, we're under the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Committee.  So, no, we haven't made any decision. 

And, as I said to the President, if you have any information that is exculpatory, please bring it forth, because it seems that the facts are uncontested as to what happened.  Now, if you have contrary – if you have reason to convince people that something was different, under oath, please let us know. 

Yes, sir.  

Q:  Madam Speaker, before you sort of fully embraced the impeachment inquiry and announced it, you said one of the reasons you were cautious about it was because the process, you knew, would be long, arduous, and divisive.  And it turns out that you were in fact right.  And, it seems as if we're in this position   

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't think it's that long.  It's not anywhere near as long as the Nixon impeachment. 

Q:  Well, but in the sense that both sides are dug in, and impeachment has sort of taken on the tenor of being just like any other partisan dispute.  And so how did –

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't subscribe to that, so I can't even answer a question predicated on that.

Q:  Well, in a sense that it's not – there's not bipartisan support broadly –  

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, if the Republicans are in denial about the facts, if the Republicans do not want to honor their oath of office, then I don't think the dispute should be – we should not be characterized as partisan in any way because we are patriotic. 

Q:  I take your point.

Speaker Pelosi.  So what's your question? 

Q:  The question is, how does that change your calculus moving forward, or does it, as you try to make the case to the American people? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, the facts – we said we want to see the facts and we want the American people to see the facts.  Whatever decision is made, and it has not been made yet, whatever decision is made to go forward will be based on our honoring our oath of office, not on the resistance to the truth of the Republicans on the other side. 

I think the sad tragedy of all of this is the behavior of the President and the defense of that behavior by the Republicans. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, on a different subject –    

Speaker Pelosi.  Trade?

Q:  – trade, what did you think?  What additional guarantees or –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we'll see.

Q:  What additional guarantees are needed on the USMCA to secure enforceability, number one? 

And, number two, recently you said that you thought a breakthrough with Ambassador Lighthizer was imminent.  Is that –  

Speaker Pelosi.  Could be.  Could be. 

Q:  Is that still the case today, after your meeting with Richard Trumka and your press statement with the chairman, Richie Neal a couple of days ago?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, I appreciate that.  Thank you for referencing the statement with Richie Neal, because it had clarity.  It was, like, one sentence: we want to see enforceability.  And the Trade Representative knows that. 

Just think of yourself as a worker out there who's been affected by trade, felt very betrayed by the – by NAFTA.  We have a responsibility to drastically improve the situation, that is to say, to make it real.  Not just NAFTA with sugar on top, but a change in the fundamentals of it, so that you have enforceability, so what we say and promise people, we can get a result for them. 

So, for the American workers, we have to have enforceability.  And I think, if we can get to that place, we can have a template for trade agreements that will serve us well in the future negotiations. 

But just to have rhetorical comment is interesting.  It's pleasant, but it's not making a difference in the lives of America's workers.  And if we don't improve the leverage for America's workers, we don't improve the leverage for Mexican workers.  And the lower they get paid, the more jobs go to Mexico, the more the migration issue festers, and, again, we haven't helped America. 

Q:  So the Mexicans haven't done enough in terms of reforms and their commitment to –  

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, they are on their way, and we have to make an evaluation about their ability to honor their commitments, and we are trustworthy in that respect, but we have to do certain things in the bill. 

Again, I voted for NAFTA – you've heard me say that over and over – based on sidebars and letters and all that, which were never honored. 

So, we're just saying, all these good intentions – let's honor our workers by putting them in the bill, so that they have the effect, so that they have the effect of law.

Q:  And timing?  Imminent? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Timing?  Well, I mean – I'd like to – I'm eager to get this done.  I assume – I keep ­– see people have – we live in a world of instant gratification.  ‘You've got an agreement?  When's the bill coming?’ 

No, there's a lot of writing and conversations with Canada, with Mexico, on the basis of what we might come to agreement on, in terms of a change in the actual treaty and in the actual agreement.  So, it will take time to write and then to bring to the Floor. 

But one giant step will be if we could come to terms, and we have, really, clarity in what our position is, so it's not vague in any way.  We have clarity.  You're either for enforcement or you're for niceties, and we want to have both. 

Q:  Can I follow up on that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir.  Oh, yeah, you asked about it this morning. 

Q:  Do you need to get a deal this week with Lighthizer in order to vote in the House in December?  Or could you still come back to work on this after Thanksgiving? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we certainly have to make progress today.  Again, I keep telling the Freshman class, this is about legislating, and, you know, it takes time.  You need, in most cases, a CBO report.  You have to make sure that the committees of jurisdiction have all signed off, so that you can strongly go to the Floor.

I'm not even sure, if we came to an agreement today, that it would be enough time to finish, but it just depends on how much agreement we come to. 

And, again, you know what the areas have been: enforcement, overarching.  Under that: labor, workers' rights, et cetera; pharmaceuticals; environment.  We'll see where we are on all of those.  But, even if we could agree on the terminology, if we don't agree on the enforcement, we still have a problem. 

I don't want us to miss any opportunity to have a bill that I think could be a template for the future.  Because globalization is a reality.  It is not going away.  It is a fact. 

And to the extent that we can have fairness in terms of all workers in all the countries, protection for environment, because you cannot separate commerce from the environment, even though this Administration is in denial on that, but nonetheless, you can't separate it. 

And then the pharmaceutical issue is very important because the cost of prescription drugs.  And how it might be impacted by the trade agreement is a very big issue for us.  Hence, we have H.R. 3, and we don't want anything in the trade agreement to diminish our prospects here.

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Can you go back to impeachment?  Can you clarify what you mean about the timing and going where the facts –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I can't, because there's no timing – I don't know anything. 

Q:  But are you suggesting that you would actually, sort of, pause and have all of these legal cases play out? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I never said that.  Absolutely not.  I do not think so. 

Q:  Okay.

Speaker Pelosi.  We cannot be at the mercy of the courts.  The courts are very important in all of this.  Those cases will continue.  But I have never said we cannot proceed without the courts.  Because that's a technique on the part of the Administration: just keep ratcheting up to a higher court. 

So, forgive me if you had that misunderstanding.  I've never said that.  

Q:  So you're still moving at the same pace? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we're moving at the pace that truth takes us and when more evidence unfolds, if that requires more time, that's when we'll go. 

But if it is in fact a question of the Committee saying, I think that as you asked your question, ‘How much more do you need to know?  It's so self-evident,’ and the rest.  Okay, if the other side has a counter to it, under oath, the President can come submit his counter to that, under oath. 

One more from the woman.  Thank you. 

Q:  In light of Gordon Sondland's testimony yesterday –    

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q: – do you think the House should do everything it can to acquire testimony from people like Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton before moving forward to drafting Articles of Impeachment? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I think I answered that question just now –  

Q:  But, will you –  

Speaker Pelosi.  – because that's all in the court.

Q: – be seeking that testimony? 

Speaker Pelosi.  That's all in the court, about whether the Congress, as the court has declared in the case of Richard Nixon, unanimously – the Congress has the right to subpoena and to inquiry, and they should be coming before us.  They keep taking it to court, and, no, we're not going to wait until the courts decide. 

That might be information that's available to the Senate, in terms of how far we go and when we go.  But we can't – we can’t wait for that, because, again, it's a technique.  It's obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress.  So we cannot let their further obstruction of Congress be an impediment to our honoring our oath of office. 

Thank you all.