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 afternoon. I don't know if the word ‘good’ is the way to describe it, but – because yesterday, the President of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America, the gleeful desecration of the U.S. Capitol, which is the temple of – of our American democracy, and the violence targeting Congress are horrors that will forever stain our nation's history, instigated by the President of the United States. That's why it's such a stain.
In calling for this seditious act, the President has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people. I joined the Senate Democratic Leader in calling on the Vice President to remove this President by immediately invoking the 25th Amendment. If the Vice President and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment. That is the overwhelming sentiment of my Caucus, and the American people, by the way.
Justice will be done to those who carried out these acts, which were acts of sedition and acts of cowardice. To those whose purpose was to deter a responsibility, you have failed. You did not divert the Congress from our solemn Constitutional purpose to validate the overwhelming election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President of the United States.
Despite the desecration of our Capitol, we upheld, in front of the country and the world, the bedrock principle that the people are sovereign and that they hold the power to choose their leaders through the ballot, rejecting this attempted coup on the part of President Trump and his supporters.
Accountability is also needed for Republicans in Congress who promoted the extreme conspiracy theories that provoked the violence, encouraged the mob and who, after desecration of the Capitol, went back to the House Floor and continued to push the falsehoods and underpinned this assault – that underpin this assault on our democracy.
These Republicans abdicated their oath of office that was taken just three days prior to protect the American people and to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The House worked through the evening and into the morning, till nearly 4:00 a.m., to validate the electoral count, again, proclaiming Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the duly elected President and Vice President of the United States. I just want to say how proud I am of my Members. For a while now, our four scholars we call them, Jamie Raskin; Zoe Lofgren, the Chair of the committee of jurisdiction; Adam Schiff; and Joe Neguse, set forth a plan that was about the Constitution. It wasn't about Donald Trump and all the reasons he shouldn't be president. He was not part of this. It was about the Constitution, and how we have to – we are a country of law. We are not a monarchy with a king, as Jamie said – has said over and over again.
I want to also thank the Members of the Arizona Delegation, led by Raúl Grijalva, and the Pennsylvania Delegation, led by Mike Doyle, the two deans, for the presentations that they made to refute the ridiculous statements being made by our colleagues. For what reason, I don't know, but it wasn't about reason. So, I thank them for that.
So, all of this, this week, our swearing-in on Sunday; passing our Rule and preparing for Wednesday, as the week began; the election of two Democrats in Georgia, because of the overwhelming participation of people at the grassroots level, so many people. I'm so proud of our House Members, Congresswoman Williams, the Chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, Lucy McBath, the newly elected Carolyn Bordeaux, David Scott, Mr. Bishop, who was the Dean of that Delegation, and Hank Johnson. Well, they had their plan already, should they have objected to Georgia, as did Nevada, as did Michigan, as did Wisconsin. So, we were prepared. Members worked hard about defending the Constitution, honoring our purpose to count and ascertain the Electoral College numbers for the presidency. So, I was proud of them.
And I did, over and over again – we're very pleased now that we have in thirteen days, President Joe Biden, a Democratic House Majority and a Democratic Senate Majority that will work to heal, to heal and restore the soul of our nation. I will, too, close by evoking, as I did last night, the Song of St. Francis, our patron saint in San Francisco, whose Song of St. Francis is our – our city's anthem. ‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. Where there is darkness, may we bring light. Where there is hatred, love; despair, hope.’ The list goes on. And so does the time for healing. Take us down a path of unity, of unity for our country
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With that, I would be pleased to take any questions.
Q: Have you encouraged Cabinet members not to resign, so that they can invoke the 25th Amendment
Speaker Pelosi. No, but let's go over that list. Why wouldn't they, if you were a member of the Cabinet, a secretary in the Cabinet, you're in the line of succession to the presidency – President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, Senate [President] Pro Temp, and then Secretary of State. When – just for the information of some – when you have the 25th – the 25th Amendment invoked, that would be calling upon the Vice President, as we hope to do, to take the lead, and with a majority of the Cabinet to be able to unseat the President of the United States, a very dangerous person who should not continue in office. This is urgent. This is emergency of the highest magnitude.
So, you're Pompeo, the Secretary of State. Do you stand by this President dangerously staying in office? Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin, what is it? Is it about success in business later? Or is it – do you believe in this – do we have the list? I know it because I know it. Then the way it goes is ST. DAIACLHHTEEVH. It’s a mnemonic – Secretary of State, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Defense, the Acting Secretary of Defense – I don't know what authority he may have, but he certainly has to answer for where the National Guard was yesterday. Secretary of – then-Attorney General, Attorney General Barr, do you subscribe to the presidency of Donald Trump after the act of sedition he committed yesterday? It's next, Postmaster General. But that's, that's it – when our Founders put it together, Interior, the list goes on. Ask each member of the Cabinet, do they stand by these actions? Are they ready to say in the next thirteen days, this dangerous man can do further harm to our country, an assault on our democracy on the first branch of government.
Rosen, we spoke to yesterday, why would he not? Why would he not as the Acting AG, as the Acting AG, say this is wrong?
There are some courageous Republicans who are speaking out. I salute Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen and others, other Defense Secretaries who've signed a letter, even before yesterday about what is going on in the White House and how that is not a good thing for our country. And the message that it sent to the world, a complete tool of Putin, this President is. Putin's goal was to diminish the role of – the view of democracy in the world. That's what he has been about.
And, again, his enabler has been Donald Trump for a long time. That's why I said in that photo when I'm leaving his meeting, ‘With you, Mr. President, all roads lead to Putin.’ Putin wants to undermine democracy. That's what he's about domestically and internationally. And the President gave him the biggest of all of his many gifts to Putin, the biggest gift, yesterday. My friends, we are in a very difficult place in our country, as long as Donald Trump still sits in the White House.
Q: You said you may be forced to pursue impeachment. Under what circumstances would you do that and how long would you give this 25th Amendment process to play out before going down that route?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it's a simple matter in terms of the Constitution. The Vice President, working with the Cabinet, more than 50 percent of the Cabinet can immediately, can immediately improve the security of our country.
If that doesn't happen, Jamie Raskin has [introduced] legislation that enables another step in the 25th Amendment process. The 25th Amendment processes is when it is determined that the President is unfit, for whatever reason, to be President of the United States, in case some people don't know what that is. And he clearly has indicated that over and over again, and by inciting sedition, as he did yesterday, he must be removed from office. While it's only thirteen days left, any day can be a horror show for America. So – so, the next step would be that Congress, and this can be done quickly, can establish a commission, very fast, of maybe former presidents, cabinet people that know something about health, the health of the president and the rest, and – and that that group can make its recommendations to the Congress. The list goes on.
Having said that, if that – if that – the best route, the most immediate route would be the Vice President to recognize the danger of the Donald Trump presidency and take this action, A. B, my Members are very much interested, as my phone is exploding with ‘impeach, impeach, impeach.’ The President must be held accountable. Again, he likes –
Q: Madam Speaker, how do you have enough time for your Members left for impeachment?
Speaker Pelosi. We would be prepared to do that, but I don't have immediate plans, because we haven't even been to sleep since – since the folly of the Republicans deciding we should go into four o'clock in the morning for no purpose whatsoever, except to be enablers of the President's sedition, by undermining, by undermining the elections. Imagine that, the President of the United States undermining the elections in our country.
So, in any, in any event, we would be prepared.
Q: How long are you willing to give Pence, 24 hours, 48 hours?
Speaker Pelosi. I don't know how quickly he might respond. We'll see. And that should – that could be quick.
Q: But you said there’s great urgency. The clock is clearly ticking. There’s thirteen days.
Speaker Pelosi. That’s right.
Q: How long are you willing to give the Cabinet and Pence before you start your own procedures?
Speaker Pelosi. I don't think that it'll take long to get an answer from the Vice President. It will either be yes, or it will either be no. And we'll see. But we want to make sure.
Q: Today, do you expect an answer today?
Speaker Pelosi. We would hope. But we had, we – Mr. Schumer, the new Majority Leader of the Senate and I have made our interest in this known. So, we'll see what they come back with. But they have to answer for it, and in answering for whether they're prepared to do that, they are answering for the behavior of Donald Trump.
I'm sorry. I’m talking to you.
Q: The security breaches here, Chuck Schumer is talking about firing the Sergeant-at-Arms over there. Are you thinking of a similar step over here? What are you going to do to address the security breaches on the Capitol?
Well, let me just say that that is very important question. Let me hold for a moment, because it is not – we have to do the after-action review. I have – I am calling for the resignation of the Capitol, the Chief of Capitol Police, Mr. Sund. And I have received notice from Mr. Irving that he is, will be submitting his resignation.
Having said that, we will have the after-action review, but it goes beyond the Capitol Police. It goes to the FBI. What was – what was the shortcoming in their intelligence that they provided? It goes to the Department of Defense. How long did it take for them to respond or anticipate the need for the National Guard? It goes to many other elements of the Executive branch. And I think we have to have a full review.
But from the standpoint of – let me just say this, many of our Capitol Police just acted so bravely and so – with such concern for the staff, for the Members, for the Capitol, for the Capitol of the United States. Many of them, and they deserve our gratitude. But there was a failure of leadership at the top of the Capitol Police. And I think Mr. Sund – he hasn't even called us since this happened. So, I have made him aware that I would be saying that we're calling for his resignation.
Now, on that score, getting back to what was underestimated. That the President of the United States would not be as insightful, perhaps somebody thought for a moment that he would be patriotic before he leaves office for just this once. So, again, the fact that these people were incited – and you know what?
Last night, I don't know if you heard on the Floor, but some of the Republicans and their enabling of the President's bad behavior, have said, ‘Those were not Trumpites, they were Antifa invading the Capitol, disguised as Trumpites.’ Right.
So, we have a problem here with the enabling that is going on with the Republicans in the Congress, as well. Undermining the election, again, enabling the President. And if they don't recognize what yesterday was – a threshold was crossed of such magnitude, that there is no way that this President should be allowed to make any decision to rouse any troops and, of his Trumpites, to -- what's next? What happens today? Who knows? But what we do know, that he must be contained.
Any other question? Yes, ma'am.
Q: I wanted to ask, for the inauguration, what are your plans? How are those changing and how do you plan to keep Members and people in the Capitol secure at that time?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I'll go back to my original point. We have thirteen days more of Donald Trump to deal with, who was a danger to our country. So, when we talk about the inauguration, that is a national security event, and that rises to a different level of security protection.
We want every day at the Capitol to be deemed a national security event. So that there's no, ‘Well, I didn't know,’ and – that highest level of concern, intelligence seeking, redundancy, if necessary, to protect. We've been working a long time on the inauguration and, just in terms of coronavirus – another shortcoming of the President. People have died because of his denial, distortion and the rest, calling it a hoax. This man is deadly, to our democracy and to our people.
But to get to your point, so because of coronavirus in our meetings on the intelligence – excuse me, on the inauguration, as far as we have jurisdiction in the Congress. But then, it becomes the purview of the Presidential – now, designee, Joe Biden. But to the point that we have, that decision was encouraged to just have a very small inauguration. I don't want to make – I don't know what is in the public domain on it but I don't – I'm not going to put that out there, except that it would be very small, and hopefully have a celebration at some later time when we're not coronavirus centric.
Now, on top of that, to see what happened yesterday. If there's any – I don't want to use the word benefit, because there's – nothing could justify. But if there's anything learned about it, it is that we have to be very, very careful because these people and their leader, Donald Trump, do not care about the security of people. They don't care about our democracy. They don't care about the peaceful transfer of power. Something is very, very wrong here.
Now, let me just say one more thing about what he did yesterday, and relating to other national security events. People saw throughout the world, something that looked like it was out of a banana republic or some other kind of a third world – where the President of the country turned on the people. Turned on the people.
And what was sad about it is, of course, as Members of Congress, we sign up, we sign up for the exposure that we have. But to see in the eyes of so many of the staff people, especially the younger ones, the trauma, the fright, that it was for them to be locked into rooms with terrorists banging on the doors, hiding under desks, under tables and the rest of that. They didn't sign up for that. We didn't sign them up for that. A blessing to be interested in public service, to learn from it here. Perhaps, to go on into public service, but to carry that important value into whatever they do in life. But to see, to meet with them and to see how frightened they were, how traumatized they were. Because these thugs, these Trump thugs, decided that they would desecrate the Capitol with no thought of what harm they might do physically, psychologically, or in any other way. And they will be prosecuted, and they will be prosecuted, justice will be done.
So, in terms of the inauguration, I don't know if it could be made any smaller. But I don't trust whatever the President might have in mind, because I do not trust – because I think he's a very dangerous man.
So, again, we'll review what our options are in terms of the 25th Amendment. Review what our options are if he wants to be unique and be doubly impeached. That's kind of up to him and his Cabinet as to whether he should stay in office, defeated – impeached, defeated, impeached, gone.
And it's really a sad tragedy for our country. I say I pray for the President every day and I do. Last night was the hardest day for me. Night, at like five o'clock in the morning when I finally got home, as I was praying at night – just, ‘you gotta keep praying for him, you gotta keep praying for him.’ Maybe, maybe there's some hope. But we can't take that chance because people's lives are at stake, as well as our democracy.
That’s it for now. Thank you.