Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

January 15, 2021
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. 

While we celebrate and observe Martin Luther King Day on Monday, today is actually Reverend Martin Luther King's birthday.  And as we observe it in this extraordinary time, it is important to remember his words, all of them so appropriate one time or another.  Today, I remembered him saying, ‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.’  I particularly am drawn to that phrase because one of my favorites that I have in my office is Pope Paul VI.  He said, ‘If you want peace, work for justice.’  The connection is very clear. 

Justice is called for as we address the act of insurrection that was perpetrated against the Capitol complex last week.  Right now, our Managers are solemnly and prayerfully preparing for the trial, which they will take to the Senate. 

At the same time, we are in transition.  With the COVID relief package President‑elect Biden announced last night, he is delivering on what he said when he was elected.  ‘Help is on the way.’  His plan makes big, bold, urgent action, building on some of our Democratic initiatives in the last Congress, including an increase in direct payments to $2,000; vaccine distribution and testing support in a fair and equitable way, addressing the disparities in access; additional aid for small businesses; funding for state and local governments to protect our heroes' jobs; extension of unemployment benefits; help for renters, for food‑insecure people and for our children. 

As the last jobs report of the Trump Administration shows, the need could not be more urgent.  Moody's Analytics says – this morning they say that this package, the rescue and recovery package put forth by Joe Biden last night, this package will take us to full employment by 2021, one full year earlier than it would occur without it: 2021 versus 2022, one full year earlier. 

In just five days, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States. 

Following the attack last week on the Capitol complex, there has been unprecedented mobilization of security in the Capitol.  I want to express gratitude to our Capitol Police, to the National Guard who are present here to protect our democracy.  They have shown great courage.  I am very proud of them, and I was honored to be able to extend gratitude to them in person on behalf of the Congress. 

We must subject this whole complex, though, to scrutiny in light of what happened and the fact that the inauguration is coming.  To that end, I have asked retired Lieutenant General Russel Honoré to lead an immediate review of security infrastructure, interagency processes and command and control. 

The General is a respected leader with experience dealing with crises.  As a former Vice Director for Operations, J-3, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his focus was military support to civilian authorities – military support to civilian authorities – and he has experience with the National Capital Region's security. 

House Leadership has worked with General Honoré, seen up close and personal his excellent leadership at the time of Katrina, particularly Mr. Clyburn was the head of our Katrina task force.  So, he and I and others know full well how fortunate we are that the General has accepted, is willing to do this. 

Members are moving forward with strong oversight from committees, of course, to have after‑action review.  There is strong interest in the Congress in a 9/11‑type commission, an outside commission to conduct that after‑action review.  In the meantime, I am very grateful to General Honoré for taking on this responsibility. 

I find this to be a very emotional time.  I have said to the Members, we are very passionate to our reaction to this assault on our democracy, on this temple to democracy.  We're very passionate about our reaction, but we must be very dispassionate in how we make decisions to go forward for security, security, security. 

As I see many of the films and the incitement of it all by the President of the United States, but as you see the film, one figure – so many disgusting images, but one figure of a man in a shirt with Auschwitz on it: Auschwitz, work equals freedom, Auschwitz. 

This January, 1 year ago, I had the privilege of bringing a delegation in January to Yad Vashem, the Museum of the Holocaust in Israel, to join heads of state.  I came as the head of this Congress to observe the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Birkenau. 

On the way to Israel, I brought the delegation to Auschwitz and Birkenau, probably one of the most transformative national security visits that we have made.  All of our travel outside the country is about our national security, and so was that.  To see the dehumanizing of people that was perpetrated there was so, so overwhelming. 

To see this punk with that shirt on and his anti‑Semitism that he has bragged about to be part of a white supremacist raid on this Capitol requires us to have an after‑action review, to assign responsibility to those who were part of organizing it and incentivizing it. 

In the meantime, we're grateful to General Honoré for making some recommendations to us on how we can keep our Members safe, our staff safe, the people who make the building function – our custodians and the rest, who had to clean up after this insurrectionist mob.

But security – we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, our democracy, and that is what we will do, and we will protect all of those who are here to honor their oath of office. 

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Questions?  Yes, ma'am. 

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker. 

Can you tell us a couple things on scheduling?  Is there any update on when you might send the Article of Impeachment to the Senate? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No. 

Q:  And, second, can you tell us how quickly the House might take up President‑elect Joe Biden's recovery package? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me start with that.  We're very pleased with what the Vice President put forth last night.  I'm eagerly awaiting some of the particulars of the vaccine proposal that will come out this afternoon because this is a matter of complete urgency. 

As the Vice President said last night, this Administration, the Trump Administration, handled the distribution of the vaccine in a very disappointing way.  He used stronger language.  But now, we have to move on and do it in the right way, and that will require resources, which will require legislation. 

How it will be done effectively, we'll know more about.  I have some idea about it because we've made suggestions in that regard.  But I think that the message of last night and later today from the Vice President will be a message of hope to encourage people to, again, when they can – when they are – when it is appropriate for them to receive the vaccine, to do so. 

But as was said, as will be said, it's not just about the vaccine.  It's about testing and distancing and all the rest as we go forward so that we can crush the virus, which is what we must do.  Crush the virus so we can open our schools and our businesses, honor our heroes who are on the front line of this – our health care workers, our police and fire, first responders, transportation, sanitation, food workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers – and put money in the pockets of the American people so that the lives and the livelihood of the American people are addressed.  So, we're hoping that we can work in a bipartisan way as we go forward. 

In terms of the timing, what our – as I mentioned – we, one week ago, on January 6th, there was an act of insurrection perpetrated on the Capitol of the United States, incentivized by the President of the United States.  One week later, Wednesday to Wednesday, that President was impeached in a bipartisan way by the House of Representatives, so urgent was the matter. 

They’re now working on taking this to trial, and when they – you'll be the first to know when we announce that we're going over there. 

Yes, ma'am.

Q:  Madam Speaker, a number of House Democrats – you've mentioned a couple of investigations that are going to be going on since January 6th, but a number of House Democrats have signed a letter to the Sergeant-at-Arms and Capitol Police asking about – asking them to look into GOP Members who may have brought tours through the Capitol on January 5th. 

What would you like to see done in that investigation?  Is there a timeline or any action that may be taken towards Members who did bring public groups into the Capitol before January 6th? 

Speaker Pelosi.  When we're talking about security, we have to talk about truth and trust.  In order to serve here with each other, we must trust that people have respect for their oath of office, respect for this institution.  We must trust each other, respecting the people who sent us here.  We must also have the truth, and when – and that will be looked into. 

If, in fact, it is found that Members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress, in terms of prosecution for that. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  We all understand the extraordinary security measures –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Q:  – now in place, here on the Capitol and really throughout much of the district.  I'm just wondering your level of comfort about next week's inauguration. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me just say, and thank you for the question, as a member of the JCCIC, the committee that prepares for the inauguration, for a long time now, weeks, it has been determined that we would have a very small inauguration because of COVID, that in order to have the distancing and the rest on the platform and then some people down below, it would be necessary to limit it.  I don't know if they have publicly released the numbers – I won't – but a very small number of people, a tiny percentage of the people who participated before.  Most disappointing because, obviously, we are excited about nominating a new President of the United States, but not at the risk of people's health and well‑being and, indeed, their lives. 

So, this was always going to be small.  Now, with the insurrection of last week, it is necessitated by security to have more security, but it hasn't changed the nature of the swearing‑in.  I think it's important for people to know that.  This is not a concession to the terrorists.  It is a recognition of the danger of COVID. 

So, again, I'm in close touch, I will be again for like the third time in two days, with the Secretary of the Army, spoke with the head of the Secret Service last night.  We all want to be sure that the requests that are made by the Capitol Police are being honored by those who are in a position to meet the needs.  Again, it depends on the intelligence.  And we have to have more security than the intelligence might warrant.  I think in this case, redundancy may be necessary.  Not too much, but enough. 

Yes, sir.  Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, first of all, the Republicans are saying that, as far as the metal detectors are concerned, that the danger on January 6th came from the outside, not the inside. 

And, secondly, as far as the Speaker's Lobby is concerned, a totally different issue, when can we expect that to be open for us?  And will it be when the pandemic ends, and when do you see that happening? 

Speaker Pelosi.  It won't be one minute before it is safe to do so from a COVID and a security standpoint or one minute later than that. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, will Representative Ryan's subcommittee be investigating the Capitol Police?

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm sorry? 

Q:  Will Representative Ryan's subcommittee be investigating the Capitol Police? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Ryan, Tim Ryan.  For the benefit of – the Legislative Branch of the Appropriations Committee, yes. 

Q:  At the bare minimum, what would you like to see in reforms of the U.S. Capitol Police, especially in light of allegations from Members of the Caucus of institutional racism within the police force and also maybe even collusion in the insurrection?  What reforms would you like to see? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I think the investigation is central.  That has to come first.  But there will be, in addition to Representative Ryan, Mr. Chairman Ryan's Leg. Branch Committee, we have Homeland Security Committee.  We have issues that relate to intelligence from Judiciary and Intelligence Committee.  We have the Armed Services Committee. 

So, there will be a full – the committees will be doing their oversight in many different ways.  Of course, the Appropriations Committee and the Oversight Committee have overarching responsibility.  But, again, the investigation will tell us what we need to know to have truth so that we can trust the system that we have here. 

And it is so sad.  Imagine, like ten days ago.  As I said, we really lost our innocence in this because we always prepared to protect and defend from all enemies foreign, but the [oath to the] Constitution also says ‘and domestic.’  And now, we have to protect ourselves from enemies domestic.  How close within, the investigation will let us know. 

That’s it.  Thank you.