Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

January 21, 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, everyone. 

What a difference a day makes.  Wasn't that just the most beautiful inauguration, with the theme ‘America United’?  It was so perfect in my view, not only for the, shall we say, peaceful transfer of power, but the manner in which it happened: ‘America United.’ 

You know, I've said again and again that the arts will bring us together.  When we laugh together, we cry together, we're inspired together, we find our common ground more easily.  And that was certainly given proof yesterday when Amanda Gorman made her, recited her beautiful – presented her beautiful poem about unity and about coming together, optimism. 

And it was, of course, the complete theme of the inauguration, but also of the Vice President – excuse me, the now President, and he was President when he made his beautiful inaugural address about unity.  It was when the day began, the inauguration began. 

At the end of the day, I loved what was on TV at the end of one of the celebrations.  You know, the President always loves to quote the Irish poets, Seamus Heaney being one of his favorites.  So, at the end of the day, to see Lin‑Manuel Miranda reciting Seamus Heaney's poem, and then at the end of the poem Joe Biden and [Lin-Manuel] coming together saying, ‘The longed‑for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history can rhyme.’ 

It's about trust.  It's about hope.  It's about optimism.  That's what the inauguration was about. 

When the President said, ‘Today is America's day, today is democracy's day,’ that was really true.  That inauguration was a breath of fresh air for our country.  The inauguration of Joe Biden as President, Kamala Harris as Vice President of the United States, with all of the newness that that presented – first woman, first African American woman, first Asian American woman, the best.  Not just about democracy, but about quality of leadership.  So exciting. 

So, now with the Biden‑Harris Administration in place, a Democratic Majority that occurred later in the day, yesterday, when Chuck Schumer became the Majority Leader of the Senate, with the swearing in of three new Members.  We're very proud of Senator Padilla of California, just overwhelmed with joy about the two Senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.  Three new Senators, a new Democratic Majority, now we can recover from the pandemic and get to work to Build Back Better. 

Today, our nation marks the passing of the 400,000 people – that was [Tuesday], 400,000 people died.  But today marks one year since our first knowledge of this pandemic.  And what did we learn this morning?  We learned this morning that the Trump Administration had no real plan for the production and distribution of the vaccine.  Just another in a series of their terrible, ineffective approach to it from the start, in denial, delay, distortion, calling it a hoax, and now we find that they don't – they didn't even have a plan. 

As we go forward, though, we see immediately that Joe Biden has – President Biden has put forth a plan to crush the coronavirus.  You know what that is.  Yesterday, he talked about it in his Executive Actions when he talked about wearing masks, distancing, science‑based approaches. 

Today, he'll sign further orders, my understanding is, to use the Defense Production Act to speed up PPP – PPE delivery to expand testing, treatment, and public health workforce that we need and launch a vaccination campaign.  All of this to more safely open up schools and businesses, improve health equity, something that the Republicans would just erase from any bill, addressing the disparity in treatment and testing and therefore the disparity in incidence of COVID‑19 in communities of color. 

As we salute these actions, we are getting ready for a COVID relief package.  We'll be working on that as we go. 

As you probably have seen, Mr. Hoyer announced that as we work on these issues we won't be back in session until the beginning of February, another week.  February 1st, is it, or 2nd?  And – but we'll be doing our, we'll be doing our committee work all next week so that we are completely ready to go to the Floor when we come back. 

And then, again, the COVID proposals from the Administration build on many of the initiatives that were in our packages all along.  It's what the people need, what the country needs to crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people and honor our heroes. 

We're talking largely about Executive Actions, but I just mentioned that one bill, the COVID package.  We also were pleased to see the President come forward – the Administration come forward with an immigration proposal.  We are pleased that in the House, Linda Sanchez will be taking the lead, Senator Menendez in the Senate.  It has the basic principles that we've talked about all along, and we'll see what the timetable is on that. 

Today, we are in session to vote on the Austin waiver.  It is a waiver so that General Lloyd Austin can serve as Secretary of Defense.  As I have said, General Austin is a highly qualified and well‑respected leader.  With over 40 years of decorated service, he brings a great understanding of the challenges facing our nation's defenses and the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and their families.  Once the waiver is approved, I feel confident that the Senate will confirm the General as Secretary of Defense. 

Civilian control of the military is not an issue for us, it is a value.  It is a principle.  And we are so pleased that, unlike the Trump Administration, the Biden Administration not only allow but encourage the General to come and present his views, which is happening right now in the Armed Services Committee. 

So, again, a very happy time.  We are – I'm very proud of our Members.  Right before I came here, I was in a session that was made available for Members and staff about the trauma of what happened on January 6th, talked about physical trauma, psychological trauma, vicarious trauma and the rest. 

When the press came, saw my office and the rest, and asked about things that were stolen, glass that was broken, just violation of the property there, I really said, I don't – that's important, I respect the Speaker's Office and the accoutrement of history that is there, but I'm more concerned about the damage that they did to our staff, to our colleagues in the Congress, to the custodial staff in the Capitol of the United States.  That is damage.  That is damage that must be addressed. 

The resilience that we want to convey, we tried to do that night by coming right back, opening up the session of Congress, proceeding with the business at hand, the counting of the Electoral College votes to ascertain that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were President and Vice President of the United States. 

But that was one aspect of resilience.  So many Members felt their lives threatened.  The uncertainty of it all contributed to the trauma.  This is something that everyone in the country should take a measure of how they reacted to this.  But let us all pray for the resilience that our country is famous for and that our people need to have as we go forward. 

And one other part of that is that we will be, in another few days, when I'll be talking with the managers as to when the Senate will be ready for the trial of the then-President of the United States for his role in instigating an insurrection on the House, on the Capitol of the United States, on our democracy, to undermine the will of the people. 

It's very clear he has been on this path for a while, but that – just that day he roused the troops, he urged them on to ‘fight like hell,’ he sent them on their way to the Capitol, he called upon lawlessness, he showed a path to the Capitol, and the lawlessness took place, a direct connection in one day over and above all of the other statements he had made before. 

So, in any event, we – if somebody is asking – I'm not going to be telling you when it is going, but we had to wait for the Senate to be in session.  They've now informed us they're ready to receive.  The question is – other questions about how a trial will proceed.  But we are ready. 

***

With that, I'm pleased to take any questions.  What have you got, Chad? 

Q:  Madam Speaker, good morning.  You were talking about security here at the Capitol, and I know you're very concerned about that.  Do you have any evidence or were you briefed in any capacity about these allegations of reconnaissance tours that some have talked about?  And if there's not proof to that – again some of your Members on your side have said that.  Some of the Republican Members who were alleged to have given these have denied that they'd given them. 

Speaker Pelosi.  As with all of those things, as you indicate, you have to have evidence of what has happened.  There is no question that there were Members in this body who gave aid and comfort to those with the idea that they were embracing a lie, a lie perpetrated by the President of the United States that the election did not have legitimacy.  These people believed it.  They believed the President.  The President of the United States, his words have weight.  They weigh a ton, in fact.  So, that's one thing. 

In terms of what you suggest, everything has to be based on evidence, and that remains to be seen.  In that regard, I'm very pleased that we will have an after‑action review that will review many aspects of what happened.  If people did aid and abet, there will be more than just comments from their colleagues here.  There will be prosecution if they aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died.  But, again, as, Chad, as you rightfully ask, that is something that you have to collect the evidence for as you proceed, A.  

B, I'm very excited, because you asked about security here, that General Russel Honoré has agreed to take a big view of the security here.  We will have an after‑action review.  There will be a commission, all of that.  But immediately, actually before the weekend, he agreed to take a look at the security infrastructure, the interagency relationships, the fact that he is so familiar with the capital regional security aspects of it.  We feel and we believe that we are in very good hands with his taking the look that he has and inviting experts in the field to give their views as well.  So, that's where we are. 

Yes, ma'am. 

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker. 

Two things.  If you can put any finer point on the timing for the Articles of Impeachment? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.

[Laughter]

Q:  Okay. 

Speaker Pelosi.  It will be soon.  As I said, you'll be the first to know. 

Q:  Thank you.  And also, you mentioned Leader Schumer becoming the Senate Majority Leader. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.  It's very exciting. 

Q:  You have worked a long time with both Leader Schumer and Leader McConnell.  What is your advice for Leader Schumer now that he is in the Majority as he confronts Leader McConnell, who let us know yesterday he still sees, you know, that even though Democrats have a sweep of government now with the House, Senate and White House, Leader McConnell still sees, you know, an important role for Republicans as – you know, in the Congress. 

Speaker Pelosi.  So, you're asking what advice I would give to Leader Schumer? 

Q:  Yes, ma'am. 

Speaker Pelosi.  You know him.  I wouldn't think of giving him any advice on how to deal with the Senate, not at all, nor does he give me advice on how to run the House. 

Q:  And in dealing with Leader McConnell?

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  Again, that's a dynamic that is very different from the House.  I would say though, for both of us, we have a responsibility to find bipartisanship where we can, to find our common ground where we can.  We have that as not only a goal, but a responsibility.  When we can't, we must stand our ground.  That's Thomas Jefferson, standing the ground with that. 

But it is – if we're talking about what the country needs, the country needs to crush the virus.  It hasn't happened yet.  The country needs to end the economic crisis that we're in.  We need to do more to do that.  And one way to do both is to help our heroes, our health care workers, our police and fire, our first responders, our sanitation, transportation, food workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers.  They are on the front line, risking their lives to save lives in some cases and on the verge of losing their job.  So, it's about a case that we make for what the country needs that hopefully we can have a bipartisan agreement. 

Yes? 

Q:  Thank you.  You mentioned unity, the message of unity that came out yesterday. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q:  Are you at all concerned about moving forward that an impeachment trial could undercut that message and alienate Republican supporters of the President? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  No, I'm not worried about that.  The fact is, the President of the United States committed an act of incitement of insurrection.  I don't think it's very unifying to say, ‘Oh, let's just forget it and move on.’  That's not how you unify.  Joe Biden said it beautifully: If you're going to unite, you must remember.  And we must – we must bring this. 

And, look, that's our responsibility, to uphold the integrity of the Congress of the United States.  That's our responsibility, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and that is what we will do. 

And just because he's now gone, thank God, that we – you don't say to a President, ‘Do whatever you want in the last months of your Administration, you're going to get a get‑out‑of‑jail card free,’ because people think we should make nice‑nice and forget that people died here on January 6th, that the attempt to undermine our election or to undermine our democracy, to dishonor our Constitution.  No, I don't see that at all.  I think that would be harmful to unity. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, a year ago, in the context of the last impeachment trial, you said that you cannot have a trial without documents and witnesses. 

Speaker Pelosi.  That's right. 

Q:  I'm wondering what kind of trial you'd like to see your impeachment managers put forward.  And is that part of your what you're waiting for, some kind of guidance from the Senate about how they'll conduct themselves before you send that article over? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say this.  We're talking about two different things.  We're talking about a phone call that the President had as one part of it, that people could say, ‘I need evidence.’  This year, the whole world bore witness to the President's incitement, to the execution of his call to action, and the violence that was used. 

So I, believe it or not, don't take part in the deliberations of delivering – of making the – preparing for the trial.  That's up to the managers.  But I do see a big difference between something that we all witnessed versus what information you might need to substantiate an Article of Impeachment based on, large part, on a call that the President made and described as ‘perfect.’  It was perfectly unconstitutional.  This is different. 

But, again, it's up to them to decide how we go forward, when we go forward.  It will be soon.  I don't think it will be long.  But we must do it. 

Staff.  Last question. 

Q:  Speaker Pelosi.  Just a quick question.  What's the status of H.R. 1 right now? 

Speaker Pelosi.  H.R. 1 is – the status of H.R. 1 is that it is in an exalted position. 

[Laughter]

We – it is a priority for us.  The Senate has S. [1], I think is what theirs is, S. [1]. 

This is very important, and I thank you for asking about it, because this is really central to the integrity of our government, to reduce the role of big, dark special interest money in politics, to give more leverage to small donors and grassroots activists, to implement what John Lewis put forth in ending voter suppression.  That is what January 6th was about as well, voter suppression, and the list goes on. 

We have pulled out H.R. 4, which was part of H.R. 1, the Voting Rights Act, but that's very much a part of the spirit of that.  The reason we are doing them separately is [H.R. 4] needs to have – and we have provided it with hearings all over the country.  Marcia Fudge, now soon‑to‑be Madam Secretary, Terri Sewell, John Lewis – bless his heart, when he was here – all were part of establishing that record for H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Act, for now. 

So, we're optimistic we are going to pass both of them, and it will give confidence to the American people that their voice is as important as anyone's, that big money, which suffocates the airways, is no longer going to be the order of the day. 

And I thank John Sarbanes for his tremendous leadership over a long period of time.  John Larson was doing it earlier, now John Sarbanes, both of them.  And what's important about it is that it gives people the hope that, yes, we can have clean air and clean water and address the climate crisis because big, dark money will not dominate the policy; yes, we can have gun violence prevention because big, dark, special interest, gun lobbyist money will not dominate the process. 

We in the Democratic Party have advanced these.  They have been stopped, as you know, on the other side.  But we hope now that the more the public knows the better we will be in terms of policy. 

And I'd just – I'll conclude by saying something you've heard me say again and again: ‘Public sentiment is everything.  With it, you can accomplish almost everything, without it, practically nothing.’  Abraham Lincoln.  Abraham Lincoln. 

And now that we have the bully pulpit and the President can explain to the public more clearly, because a President has a bigger audience, that the public will know what is at stake, how they can weigh in.  And it won't be a question of the press saying, ‘Oh, they're bickering, or this or that.’  No, we're not.  We're not bickering.  We have a very major difference of opinion as to what – how we honor the Constitution.  We hope that we can find common ground on it because it's very important. 

And, again, I'll further close, wasn't it beautiful when President Biden quoted what Lincoln, President Lincoln said when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year's Day [1863]?  It was in his soul, it was in his being.  And Biden, of course, said what he is setting out to do is, again, in his soul and in his very being. 

Thank you all very much.  What a difference a day makes.  Thank you.