Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

January 16, 2020
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, everyone.  How are you?

I’ve said it over and over again, every day that we're involved in this impeachment is a sad day for America.  Yesterday, was one when we were given no choice but to send to the Senate two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, the President of the United States for his – the President necessitated this by his abuse of power and his obstruction of Congress; and his actions which undermined our national security, violated his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution and jeopardized the integrity of our elections. 

Every day, new incriminating information comes forward.  You're well aware of the hearing last night.  I think that only speaks very clearly to the need for the Senate to enter the documentation into their discussion.  

Today – and this is the day that the Government Accountability Office confirmed that the President's actions at the center of our impeachment articles, withholding Congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine, was illegal.  These are their words, these are the words of the GAO: ‘Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.  The Office of Management and Budget withheld funds for a policy reason which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act.  The withholding was not a programmatic delay, therefore we conclude that OMB violated the [Impoundment Control] Act.’

The Pres – the OMB, the White House, the Administration broke – I'm saying this – broke the law.  They say, ‘We conclude that they violated the Impoundment Control Act.’  This reinforces, again, the need for documents and eyewitnesses in the Senate. 

When I was in grade school, there was a sign on the wall, under the corridors.  It said, ‘What a tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive.’  You see this more and more and more in all of this, this tangled web to deceive that the Administration is engaged in. 

Also, on appropriations matters, I'm very sad about what has happened in Puerto Rico.  We pray for the families who have lost loved ones and injury to others.  The appropriation – it is unacceptable that the Administration illegally withheld, for over a year, the federal assistance that Congress appropriated and that Puerto Rico needs.  We're concerned that the Administration may be looking for excuses to create unnecessary obstacles to the timely flow of assistance based on reports of new restrictions on the aid.  We hope that it can be interpreted more loosely, but we're concerned. 

We hope the President will soon sign a major – Major Disaster Declaration for earthquake recovery.  He has signed an emergency one; we need the major disaster.  Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico – American citizens all – need assistance now.  That's why, today, the House will release the text of a bill to provide supplemental assistance for earthquake relief to be taken up soon. 

Again, we pray for the families of the two Americans who died in the disaster-related tragedies, but we're concerned about those who are hurt physically and also traumatically by the earthquake and by the uncertainty that we are not there for them. 

As you know, in the election, Democrats ran on a platform of For The People.  For The People, we would lower the cost of health care by lowering costs of prescription drugs.  We would increase – lower health care costs; bigger paychecks, by building the infrastructure of America, in a green, resilient way; and that we would have cleaner government.  We passed H.R. 1 to do that.  

In terms of lower health care costs, the – right before Christmas, we passed H.R. 3 to lower the cost of prescription drugs.  It’s been widely and popularly received throughout the country.  We're very proud of it.  It’s just, again, another bill, sitting on the desk of the ‘Grim Reaper’ on the Senate side: 400 bills have we passed, 275 of them bipartisan, sitting on the Leader’s desk.  One of them is about – is about gun violence, and that's – passing that bill and having it signed into law would save lives, but that's just one of many. 

But in terms of prescription drugs, we should – they have a bill; we have a bill.  Let's pass them and go to Conference.  But they’re not only not taking up our bill, they're not even taking up their bill. 

Increasing paychecks.  When we come back, that first week, we will be rolling out our infrastructure legislation, the work of more than one committee, but led by the [Transportation and Infrastructure] Committee, Peter DeFazio.  It is, it’s pretty exciting, it is something we talked about during the campaign.  It is something that the President talked about as a priority during the campaign.  We thought we would be able to move in a positive way on this.  So far, they have not come on board, however we’ve decided now we'll just have to go forward and we do believe that now, with the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that they might be interested in cooperating in other ways. 

And on that score, pleased that the Senate is going to be taking up the bill this morning.  I think it will be passed and then we'll sign it and send it over – the legislators will sign it and send it over to the President.  What is amusing to me is that the Leader over there was saying, ‘If she doesn't send me the articles of impeachment, I’m going to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.’  Okay, that's good news for all of us because we view that as a job, but I want to commend Richie Neal and our eight Members who were part of our task force to make sure we changed the bill that they sent us. 

We could never have supported the treaty that they had sent us.  But what we sent back to them in terms of, again, enforcement, enforcement, enforcement, but enforcement in labor rights and environmental protections and eliminating their giveaway to Pharma that was in the bill, among other, other improvements that we made on the bill.  So we're pleased we had a big, strong vote in the House and glad that – because we didn't send over in the – it gave them enough time to bring it up this morning because the Chief Justice won't be able to be there until this afternoon.

And when we talk about health care, as I mentioned yesterday, we had a beautiful ceremony yesterday.  I don't know if any of you saw it, giving a gold medal to Steven Gleason, former NFL, New Orleans Saints, football player – star, and he has a – he's been diagnosed with ALS in the very, now, late stages of it.  But in the course of meeting his challenge, he helped do so many things for other people with ALS or neuromuscular diagnoses. 

It was a beautiful thing but it points out that all of us are one diagnosis, our families are one diagnosis, one phone call, one accident away from needing really affordable, quality health care.  We all need it everyday, but this, catastrophic, so very important and that is again, we are particularly proud of the progress that we’ve made. 

Now, what we are up against is the President on every front, in the Congress and in the courts, is trying to undo the Affordable Care Act.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  And right now, he goes out and says he is the protector, I mean – where is it again?  ‘What a web we weave when we practice to deceive.’  How can he possibly go out there and saying he's protecting the pre-existing condition benefit and things like that when he's in court trying to overturn it?  Instead of the Justice Department protecting the law of the land, which is their responsibility, they're trying to overturn the law of the land in the courts. 

So, that's our fight and we have asked for expedited decision from the courts so that the public will know what we are up against.  They have said take it slow, take it slow, take it slow.  But this is a very, very important issue to the health of the American people but also the financial health of the American, of the American people. 

So we were very proud when we passed Elijah Cummings, H.R. 3, Lower Drug Costs Now.  That is something so remarkable, so transformative in terms of meeting the needs of America's working families.  But also, taking the money, saved from Big Pharma’s rip off and greed, and using it to transform Medicare in a way that it hasn't been transformed since its inception, and that is to take about a half a trillion dollars out of Pharma profits and use it for dental, hearing and visual benefits.  So, we're very excited about that. 

And, again, on this pre-existing conditions, about 130 million families are affected by pre-existing conditions and the President is in court trying to overturn that, so no longer will that benefit be available to people and no longer will the benefit of no lifetime limits or annual limits on it – the list goes on and on about that.

When we come back, we'll be addressing [the] surprise billing issue.  That's one of the – we come back, we'll have, the first week, we'll rollout infrastructure. 

Probably on the Floor — this will be all up to the Democratic Leader, but he's told me, told our Caucus, that we expect in the first week we would be bringing up the Ro Khanna bill, which says no funds for war in Iran, unless Congress would approve that.  And also Barbara Lee's legislation, which repeals the antique Authorization of the Use of Military Force, the AUMF that has been used for justification that is beyond its scope. 

So there we are.  The – again, we're very pleased with – since we returned from Christmas, we passed the PFAS to clean up toxic chemicals.  These are ‘forever chemicals.’  You practically cannot get away with them – cannot get rid of them, but it impacts millions of families and many of them are on our own military bases who are affected by these chemicals that are in the water supply, and they serve our country, these people, and their families are negatively affected.  And, I’ve met with some of the families and it is such a tragedy.  It is such a tragedy.   

Then, we passed the War Powers Resolution to limit the President's military actions in Iran and, soon, the Senate will be taking up Senator Kaine's version of that.   

Then, we passed the CRA to reverse an Administration rule denying debt relief to students defrauded by predatory institutions.  It is just a stunning thing.  These kids, they incurred debt, the institutions have disappeared.  Their degrees are not worth what they have borrowed money to obtain and this Administration wants to protect, not the students, but the predatory lenders. 

So with that, happy to take any questions you may have. 

***

Are you – no, you were the last question, yesterday.  Nancy, go ahead. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, what is your response to Senate Republicans who say they shouldn't have to consider new evidence like the Parnas material because it wasn't included in the House investigation?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, it’s – they’re afraid of the truth.  The American people have seen the allegations, and they’re allegations.  We need to see more evidence that would be contained in the documentation.  So, this is just another avoiding of the facts and the truth on their part.  They don't want to see documents.  They don't want to hear from eyewitnesses.  They don't want to – they want to ignore anything new that comes up. 

We saw a strong case, an infallible, undeniable case for the impeachment of the President, so no future president would ever think she or he could get away with what President Trump has been getting away with in his view.  Any further evidence should not be avoided and now it is in the – the ball is in the court of the Senate. 

Public opinion will have a lot to do with this.  Since we passed ours and sent it over, public opinion has grown enormously for seeing witnesses, eyewitnesses and documentation and they'll just have to contend with the public on that. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  Question on the role of Facebook, if I may.  In a new New York Times Editorial Board interview, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is questioning the influence of Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg.  I know Facebook is in your Congressional district – Fremont Street, if I’m not mistaken.  Do you similarly feel as if Mr. Zuckerberg or other tech executives have too much power?

Speaker Pelosi.  I think that they're different, the Facebook business model is strictly to make money.  They don't care about the impact on children, they don't care about truth, they don't care about where this is all coming from.  And they have said, even if they know it is not true, they will print it.  I think that they have been very abusive of the great opportunity that technology has given them. 

My thought about them is they don't want – all they want are their tax cuts, and no anti-trust action against them and they schmooze this Administration in that regard, because, so far, that's what they have received.  But, I think that they – what they have said very blatantly, very clearly that they intend to be accomplices for misleading the American people with money from God knows where.  They didn't even check on the money from Russia in the last election, they never even thought they should.

So, they have been very irresponsible and, again, as you say, these are people that we’ve known and worked with over time.  Actually Facebook’s down the peninsula, but they do have an office in my district and I think their behavior is shameful.

Q:  Madam Speaker, following up on Nancy's question, Senator Susan Collins called the timing –

Speaker Pelosi.  Senator who?

Q:  Senator Collins.

Speaker Pelosi.  I see.

Q:  Said the timing of the Parnas documents was perplexing to her.  Can you lay out why these documents are being released now and whether more may be coming?

Speaker Pelosi.  They were released now because that's when they were obtained and his going further into public interviews on that is very compelling.  But again, why would they not want to find out – under other circumstances, if somebody like Parnas came forward and there was evidence, there was reason to believe that there was, some of that was factual, there would be a special prosecutor appointed.  Does anybody think the rogue Attorney General is going to support – appoint a special prosecutor?  No, because he's implicated in all of this.  This is an example of all of the President's henchmen, and I hope the Senators do not become part of the President's henchmen.

Q:  Madam Speaker, given the Parnas interviews last night, do you believe that Lev Parnas should be a witness at the trial, and if so do you believe he would be credible?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, credible relates to the documents and the rest.  It certainly raises questions, but now I have appointed the Managers.  You’ve haunted me, tracked me – ‘Who are they? When are they coming?’ – well, they’re here and they have a responsibility and I'm very confident in how they will proceed, and again, there seems to be documentation that would validate what Parnas is saying, but that all has to be subjected to scrutiny. 

Q:  But Parnas is under federal indictment, so would he be a credible witness?

Speaker Pelosi.  He’d be a credible witness if what he's testifying to relates to the issue at hand: the President's behavior.  But again, there is a process for, for how you go forward with witnesses and that's not done in the basement of the Congressional Visitors Center, but in, you know – among those who are making those decisions about how to go forward – and I’m so proud of our Managers.  Our Members have been so positive about it and, you know, this is not without risk.  They're going to give a great deal of their intellect as an intellectual resource, as patriots, giving a great deal of time, of course, but also they're courageous.  Let me just say it that way: they're courageous in doing that.

Q:  You said that the Attorney General is implicated in this.  What evidence do you have?

Speaker Pelosi.  Excuse me.  I told you I wasn't answering.  You had a question yesterday.  When I said the Attorney General was implicated, as I said, this testimony implicated the rogue Attorney General who has been the puppet of the – I don't know who’s the puppet, Trump or the Attorney General, but this is not – he says this is my Attorney General.  This is my Department of Justice.  Really?  So, in any case, it’s not a question of saying what proof.  It says what allegations have been made and that has to be subjected to scrutiny as to how we go forward, but it should not be ignored, and the context of other events that have happened that would substantiate some of that. 

Yes ma’am? 

Staff.  Last question.

Speaker Pelosi.  Only have one more question.

Q:  Do you think it would be appropriate to delay the State of the Union until after the impeachment trial has concluded?

Speaker Pelosi.  That's up to the President.  I mean, the President has some options: he can come that day, and we are prepared to welcome him that day; he could send a printed copy, which was for a long time the tradition – the President would send a copy of his State of the Union address; or he could ask us to postpone it, if in fact, he wants to have it after all of this is resolved.  But the timing of the investigation – of the trial of the President for obstructing Congress and abuse of power should not be hastened because of a speech he wants to make to the Congress of the United States. 

Thank you all very much.  Thank you.