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 morning, everyone.
Today is a happy day for us. We are going to celebrate the wedding of Barbara Lee, who got married on New Year’s Day – or New Year’s Eve, I guess it was – in California, but today we’ll celebrate her wedding in Washington D.C. I convey that to you, because it is a source of joy to us, as she is a source of joy in her service to the country, and her personal joy is lovely.
In any event, here we are. We’ve got the ‘I’s: Iran, impeachment. Let me start with Iran.
Today, we will have a resolution on the Floor put forth by Elissa Slotkin. We're very proud of her, in terms of her experience in terms of national security, under Democratic and Republican presidents, now a Member of Congress putting forth a resolution this week.
Last week, in our view, the President, the Administration conducted a provocative, disproportionate airstrike against Iran which endangered Americans and did so without consulting Congress.
When I was informed of this attack, the Administration took responsibility for it over the weekend, I said why did you not consult with Congress? ‘Well, we held it in closely.’ ‘We held it in closely, closely’ – no, you have a responsibility to consult with Congress. ‘No, we held it close.’ So, whoever ‘close’ means.
As you see, there has been criticism from the Republicans about the briefing that was put forth yesterday by the Administration on this subject. Some have asked do you agree that this is the worst intelligence classified briefing that Congress has received from this Administration. As some of you have heard me say, there is stiff competition for that designation of ‘worst.’
So, here we are. To protect American lives and values, we are passing today a War Powers Resolution to limit the President's military actions. The Administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence. America and the world cannot afford war.
Some of you have heard me say that, in December, I took a bipartisan delegation to the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. It was just so remarkable to meet our VIPs, our veterans who served at the Battle of the Bulge, some of them also at Normandy. Imagine the courage, teenagers most of them, at the time.
But the compelling message from the veterans – the veteran who spoke for them, along with the King of Belgium and the Archduke of Luxembourg and the President of Germany, the veteran who spoke, he spoke about the Band of Brothers; he spoke about allies working together, multilateralism; he spoke about the challenges they faced in those winters, remind me, really, of Washington crossing the Delaware because it was in December and it was snowing and they were not as prepared for snow and camouflage from snow as they needed to be. But just seeing their patriotism, their courage, those young people and this veteran coming to speak for them, 90-some years old. At the end of those remarks, he said, ‘I just have one message and I don't know if it's appropriate to say, but I will: pray for peace.’ Pray for peace. That's what we all do.
Protecting the American people is our first responsibility. Protect and defend: an oath we take. Not only of our Constitution, but of the American people. Pray for peace. That's what we must do.
And so what happened in the view of many of us is not a promotion of peace, but an escalation. Not that we have any confidence in the goodness – or the good intentions of Iran, and we certainly do not respect, and I from my Intelligence background know just how bad Soleimani was. It's not because we expect good things from them, but we expect great things from us.
Now, in terms of impeachment, you all keep asking me the same question and I keep giving you the same answer. As I said right from the start, we need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask? In October, we put forth H.R. 660, which is House Resolution – which talked about the terms under which we would proceed further – to further proceed with the investigation, so the people knew what the battlefield would look like. We expect to see that here.
I hear different things. I hear that they might want to – you've probably heard, one way or another – some of them have suggested they might want to dismiss. Dismiss equals cover up. Dismiss equals admission that you’re afraid of the facts, the truth, the witnesses and the documentation.
We would have hoped that like, as with the Clinton process, that there would have been a bipartisan resolution determining how to proceed. Contrary to what the Majority Leader says, he says this is like the Clinton – no, it's not at all and I sent our Members yesterday six of the points in which it is different.
But nonetheless, at some point we would hope that we would see from them what the terms of engagement will be. We are ready. We are proud of our defense of the Constitution of the United States. We are concerned that the Senators will not be able to live up to the oath that they must take to have an impartial trial. So much for that.
At the same time, as this is all going on, it's important to note that there are so many other things of concern to the American people. One is the assault on the Affordable Care Act that this Administration is engaged in in the courts, in the Congress, and we are fighting them in the courts, in the Congress and in the country. But right now they are in the court, instead of defending the law of the land, as is the responsibility of the Justice Department, this Administration is fighting the law of the land. That means benefit for pre-existing conditions, no lifetime limits or annual limits, child staying on your policy until 26, being a woman no longer being a pre-existing condition: the list goes on and on that they want to tear down.
So with all of the other, shall we say, distractions going on, which are a collateral benefit to the Administration because it is a distraction, as they are masterful at, of what's going on.
In addition to that, and related to health, is the statement from the Administration that they're no longer going to enforce NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act. This means more polluters will be right there next to the water supply of our children. That's a public health issue that they’re – and their denial of climate – they're going to not use the climate issue as anything to do with environmental decision-making. The public should know this. Denial, denial about the climate crisis in the midst of forest fires in Australia, and we have them in our own country.
And then I'll close by just talking about how proud we are of the work that our Members have done For The People. We have moved to lower health care costs by lowering the costs of prescription drugs, H.R. 3, wildly popular in the country. Hopefully – and passed the House before we left. We also were proud to pass a Mexico-U.S.– U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement which is sitting over there in the Senate.
It's sitting over there with more than 400 bills we've sent over, more than 275 of them bipartisan legislation. One of them we observed yesterday, the ninth anniversary of the assault on Gabby Gifford's life – this is a bullet that I wear – that's of the highest priority. Because if they would pass this bill, it would save lives – the bill to have sensible background check legislation.
So, again, we’re proud of our legislative agenda to lower health care costs, keep the American people safe, bigger paychecks by building infrastructure and this week, this coming week in the next period of time, our Chairmen – led by Peter DeFazio, Chairman DeFazio of the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee – will be putting forth our most current initiative on the climate. I say climate because you can't do infrastructure without having a recognition of resilience and green technologies. So, that's where we are there.
Now, today, we again send sad condolences to the person who lost his or her life in Puerto Rico. Others whose homes were damaged. We call upon the White House to stop its unlawful withholding of funds from Puerto Rico. We also – there are needs that need to be met. There has been a disaster designated, but the ongoing withholding of funds appropriated by Congress to Puerto Rico is illegal and we call upon the Administration to cease and desist that illegal activity.
So what else do we have here? Maybe we’ll just take some questions from all of you. Nancy.
Q. You say you need to know what the arena looks like in the Senate. How long are you prepared to hold on to the articles of impeachment if you don't get the answer?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it's interesting just to listen to what they say because the other day, you probably heard the Leader say, I'm glad to show you what it is when I'm ready. But we don't know when he's going to be glad to be ready to show it to us. So there is something that they will have, and then he says, well, we'll pass it once we get the articles.
In the past few weeks since we've had this, shall we say, impasse because they won't reveal the terms of engagement, many things have been accomplished that are of collateral benefit to the discussion. And they relate to – on December 20th, new emails showed that 91 minutes after Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian President, a top OMB aide asked DOD to hold off holding sending aid to Ukraine. Directly related to that call.
On December 29th, it was reported, public revelations about Mulvaney’s role in the delay of aid, the effort of lawyers at OMB, DOJ and White House to justify the delay and the alarm that the delay caused within the Administration, because everyone was not in agreement.
Last Thursday, newly unredacted Pentagon emails exposed serious concerns by Administration officials about the legality of the President's hold on the aid – legality of the President's hold on the aid to Ukraine.
And just this week, Bolton announced he would comply with a subpoena compelling his testimony. His lawyers have stated he has new relevant information.
These and other – our investigation and our articles necessitate a fair trial with documents and witnesses. They don't want documents, the documentation. They don't want witnesses. They may want a dismissal, which is proof that they cannot, cannot clear the President of the wrong doing that he has put forth.
Q: Are you holding the articles indefinitely?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I'm not holding them indefinitely. I'll send them over when I'm ready. That will probably be soon. I just – you know he said if you don’t send them over I'm going to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. Okay.
But we want to see what they're willing to do and the manner in which they're willing to do it. But we will not let they say this is just like Clinton, ‘fair is fair.’ It's not. Documents – documentation, witnesses, facts, truth, that's what they're afraid of.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, the Democrats call him a clear and present danger to democracy. Shouldn’t you –
Speaker Pelosi. Who are we talking about? About Tr –
Q: House Democrats in the impeachment process called the President a clear and present danger to democracy.
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, I thought you meant Mitch McConnell. Okay.
Q: Shouldn't you move more expeditiously given the fact you've raised this serious concern of the President –
Speaker Pelosi. No, I think we should move smartly and strategically.
Q: On Iran, this is an H. Con. Res. –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, Concurrent Resolution. Yes.
Q: There's been some criticism on both sides that this should be binding. I know there is some parliamentary questions about it being privileged over there, but why not make this with real teeth and make this like an AUMF?
Speaker Pelosi. This is with real teeth. If you are familiar with the War Powers Act – I'll get you the text – the War Powers text enables two approaches to go forward. One is a concurrent resolution, and it gives a procedure for that, which we will be following today. And it gives it a path for a concurrent – for an H. Con. Resolution. We're taking this path because it does not require a statement – a signature of the President of the United States. This is a statement of the Congress of the United States, and I will not have that statement be diminished by whether the President will veto it or not.
Q: Some of your Members have raised serious concerns about the timing of the strike against Soleimani, the Administration's justification. You've been briefed. Do you think the Administration misled the American people about an imminent attack?
Speaker Pelosi. I think it's very unfortunate that right now, because I was briefed in the Gang of Eight. And I was briefed in the – what did he call it, demeaning and worst classified briefing that the Republican Senators ever heard yesterday? So, at this point, in terms of what is in the public domain – difficult to address some of what they contended.
However, I will say this, because I was informed by phone call as I mentioned to you earlier – I think I did anyway – that when I was briefed by the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs over the weekend, taking responsibility for the killing, that it was disdainful in terms of not consulting with Congress, dismissive.
‘We held it closely.’
Really? So if you want us to all join together, let us have a strategy that we work together on. I do not believe in terms of what is in the public domain that they have made the country safer by what they did, and that is what our responsibility is. We'll have more discussion of this on the Floor today at some length, but it's, again, as I go back to the Battle of the Bulge, pray for peace. We must avoid war, and the cavalier attitude of this Administration – it's stunning. The President will say, ‘I inform you by reading my tweets.’ No, that's not the relationship that our Founders had in mind in the Constitution of United States when they gave power to the White House to do one thing in terms of our national security and to the Congress to declare war and to allocate resources and the rest.
So this is – your question is an important one. Again, we will have two hours – an hour on the rule and two hours on the bill today to put forth some of the factual basis of the concern that we have. And let me just say this, because you hear the Administration say, ‘Well, we were justified because the Office of Legal Counsel said’ – the Office of Legal Counsel is a tool of the President of the United States. That's who that is. So, whatever the President wants to be declared legal, his office of legal counsel declares it so.
So, it's misleading to the public as to what War Powers Act, Article II that gives the President certain powers, Article I that gives the House – the Congress certain powers. It's a very big issue now because it's nothing less than preventing war as we honor our first responsibility to protect the American people.
Q: Madam Speaker, yesterday in the Senate several people came out and said the briefers told them that putting out information debating the War Powers Act would empower Iran. The House Floor is debating war powers around Iran. What do you say to the Trump Administration if they're telling you that's empowering Iran?
Speaker Pelosi. I wouldn't spend a whole lot of time telling them anything, because I don't know what their basis of judgment is to receive information. However, I will say this, if they think that any statement they make is there to curtail public debate on a subject as serious as this, it just explains to you the seriousness of the situation that we are in.
We will debate on the Floor of the House. Now, we are not going on the Floor and talking about what we learned in the – they said at the beginning, even if you read it in the newspaper, if you hear it in here you can't talk about it, and then they proceed to tell us many things we have read in the metropolitan journals or seen on TV. That's foolish, completely foolish. As I say, we have no illusions about Iran, no illusions about Soleimani, who was a terrible person. Did bad things. But it's not about how bad they are, it's about how good we are, protecting the people in a way that prevents war and will not have us producing, again and again, generations of veterans who are suffering.
Let me just close by saying this. When we were there, and I met many of the veterans at the 70th Anniversary of Normandy, when I met them there I said, well, my uncle was in World War II close to the Battle of the Bulge, they said, ‘Oh, we went there next.’ And these were so brave, teenagers, mostly they were eighteen, nineteen, some seventeen years old. And when we talked to them this time because deeper relationships over time, they said, ‘You know, I never wanted to kill anybody. I didn't want to kill the Germans. I was incapacitating them. I would shoot them in the leg or something.’ And, then one of them told me, ‘I killed somebody and I found out later he was a doctor and I've always carried that with me.’ I said, ‘Well, you were, you were instructed to shoot him because a superior said, “You take him, I’ll take him,” you know.’ And they said, he said, ‘Well I still never forget that.’
So, we all would die for our country, we take pride in saying that. But to kill for our country is a pretty traumatic thing. So, when we want to engage in these, whatever we want to call this that the President engaged in, you have to be really careful about how we endanger our men and women in uniform who courageously, patriotically put themselves out there to protect and defend.
Any other questions?
Q: Because – thank you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Because the air strike targeting General Soleimani happened in Iraq, is it time for the House to consider a broader AUMF? I know that that’s sort of the legal justification the Administration has put forward with this airstrike. Is it time for Congress to get rid of the 2001-2002 AUMF?
Speaker Pelosi. For sure. Well, we did get rid of the AUMF of 2002 and we – it was in an appropriations bill and it passed in a bipartisan way. And in the dark of night, the then-Speaker Ryan just took it out. It was highly unusual. Highly unusual. They just went and took it out. I mean, that’s ridiculous. But that's what he did. So, Congress has already passed rejecting – So, Congress has already passed rejecting – after it passed [the Appropriations Committee], he took it out before it was [voted on in the House].
So, we will have that resolution coming up soon under leadership of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, whose wedding we observed today, and then the question is what do we do about an AUMF? It's harder than you would think because an AUMF – so who is President, a Democrat or Republican? How much power – confidence do you have in that person regardless of party to execute an AUMF?
And the decisions that have to be made about an AUMF, it's important to note, are: what is the timing of it? This one is too long. It didn't have a date. It should have a date. Not one that couldn't be renewed but nonetheless, it should have a date. The timing, the geography. What are we talking about? This was to go into Iraq, it was used then to pursue al-Qaeda, different places and here we are. And third, what is the scope? Are we talking about boots on the ground, are we talking about air cover? What are we talking about in terms of scope? So, timing, geography and scope.
When you have that debate, it's well, I want the President to have as much power or I want the President not to have as much power. So, it’s hard, it's harder than you would think but we have to do it. And when we do it, we have to have it with enough time that it is realistic militarily but also not endless so that we're in the situation that we're in now.
So, to your point, the argument would be made that, putting the shoe on the other foot, if the United States had a high level, maybe the second most important person in the country, assassinated wherever, [the] United States might consider that an assault on our country, right? And the Iranians might as well, even though this took place at the Iraqi airport. And so it's foggy. There are those who think, well, it was in Iraq so it counts. But, it was an assault on Iran so it shouldn't count. I don't think there's anybody who thinks that that AUMF would apply in Iran. To your other point on it, though, it is, it needs to be addressed, rewritten, because we have to have an authorization of use of military force specific to the danger that we are addressing.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. One last question. Yes ma’am
Q: You have mentioned the Clinton impeachment trial agreement, you need witnesses and documents. What other details specifically are you waiting to hear from Senator McConnell and why not fully turn over these investigations now to Senator Schumer?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, they are in the Senate’s hands. This is the Senate – and they have tried to have a bipartisan approach to how they would conduct the investigation, as – what are we calling it – the trial, conduct the trial.
But feebly, feebly, the Majority Leader has said this is just like Clinton. Expect it isn't. It's exactly not like Clinton in that he won't do a bipartisan agreement on how to proceed. So, that's very important. But, it's not incidental to say but for the documentation and witnesses.
Now separate from all of that, under the House – Senate Rules of 1986, what is allowed for the presentation from the House is one person to speak. One person to speak. So, are those the terms? Is that what we should be ready for? Or is there something else that they have in mind? Is one person to speak for the House and one person to speak for the White House? Did you know that? 1986. So is that the rule under which they are going?
So, all we want to know is what are the rules. It doesn’t mean we have to agree to the rules or we have to like the rules. We just want to know what they are.
So, getting back to sports, because that’s all we live right? Football, football, college, high school, professional. Do we send in our team or do we have to send in special team, as well as the team because we have to know what that trial is about.
Q: Why not send the articles over and turn the whole negotiations over to Senator Schumer?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah, yeah. They’ve had the negotiation. The Senator has said he has, doesn’t have to have witnesses and the rest, so that’s, but you know we may send them over, that. We have our – I’m not responsible to Mitch McConnell or anybody else, except my Members and the people who have worked so hard on this. Members and staff patriotically honoring the oath of office, the Constitution of the United States, and I will give them their, our best shot to find the truth for our bosses, the American people.
Thank you all very much.
Q: Are you going to the Niners game? Are you going to the Niners game?
Speaker Pelosi. It would be my intention to go.
I went, I went to the one game in San Francisco. We watched all together the second game in Seattle. I have, unfortunately, responsibilities to save our country from peril, so this weekend, so I have on my Democratic, wearing that hat of a political leader this weekend, so my family will enjoy our season tickets at the 49er game, and then next week – well, get one game at a time and then we’ll see about the next one.
Q: Baltimore-San Francisco Super Bowl?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we’ve had the Baltimore-San Francisco Super Bowl and that was hard because I had been rooting for both teams all along, right, and again, going to the 49er games and watching the Baltimore games on TV right there at the stadium. So, what happens when they both win? Nobody was in a more difficult situation than I, than the mother of the coaches. Brothers coaching the teams. And then, you saw what happened at that game, but the D'Alesandros from Baltimore came all dressed in purple and the Pelosis from San Francisco all came in red and we had a lovely family reunion. This time I hope that it, we get a similar result, that we’d have both teams in the, I already, because of my, shall we say responsibilities to win the House for the Democrats and hopefully the electoral college for the American people, I was scheduled to be in Florida that weekend, so I’m all set. I’m all set. One way or another.
Q: Do you think Harry and Meghan will move to California?
Speaker Pelosi. Who knows? But we’re talking about Tom Brady. Who knows, who knows what happens with all this, but isn’t it interesting and it’s wonderful because it’s so unifying. You know every, whatever your politics or whatever, forget it. It’s about the team and we all like to say and we all believe that we’re all Team USA, so however it turns out. Thank you all very much.