Transcript of Pelosi, Congressional Delegation Press Conference at NATO Headquarters

February 17, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Members of a high-level congressional delegation held a press conference at NATO Headquarters in Belgium.  Below is a full transcript:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good afternoon, everyone.  I hope the large number of Members up here on this podium is a demonstration to you of the strong, bipartisan commitment that we have to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to the transatlantic partnership that the United States values.  And that we are here, not only the sixteen Members that you see, but also in large numbers in Munich – House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans – all confirming, with great strength and assurance, our recognition of the need for us to be united, work together for peace, for security, for stability.

I’m very honored to be here with Mr. Connolly, who leads a bipartisan delegation to the North Atlantic Parliamentary – it used to be called North Atlantic Assemblies, way back when, so I revert to that title – North Atlantic Interparliamentary.  And, we’ll talk about some of what is happening there.

Any time Members of Congress go abroad, it’s about security.  It’s about economy and how that’s related to security.  And, it’s about governance and our values.  On this trip, there was an overarching ethic that address – that comes in contact with all three of those, and that is the climate crisis.  And so, in our conversations here and in Munich, that has been an important part of our discussion to see how we go forward, not in a way that divides, but in a way that brings us all together.  Not in a way that diminishes opportunity, but in a way that increases it.

I made a special point of being concerned about autocracy versus democracy, and one manifestation of that is what is happening with 5G and Huawei.  And, why in a bipartisan way, we had placed in our national defense legislation – we addressed this issue there.  Because we believe that the information highway should be democratized.  It should not be dominated by an autocratic approach to it.  So, that was one of the areas that we did address in Munich, and here as well.

So, again, this is an important meeting for us.  We were honored to have – to hear a presentation – to meet with the Secretary General.  I remind that we had him at a Joint Session of Congress – bipartisan, bicameral invitation and wonderful reception – since we were here last year.

So, again, our relationship is always increasing because the challenges we face are more diverse, more challenging and better served by countries working together.

With that, I’m pleased to yield to the distinguished head of our delegation to the [NATO Parlimentary] Assembly, here, Mr. Gerry Connolly of Virginia.  And, I thank him for his leadership and, again, for bringing a bipartisan delegation to this meeting.  Mr. Connolly.

Congressman Connolly.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I think it’s very significant that when Nancy Pelosi took back the Speaker’s Office with a new Majority in Congress last year, one of the first things she did was to come here to Brussels for the first plenary session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

She is, herself, a former Member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.  But, it wasn’t out of sentimentality.  It was a very firm conviction that a statement needed to be made, that a reaffirmation needed to be given that the United States is firmly committed to collective security and shared values through the North Atlantic Treaty.  And, I think that was a very powerful statement.

And, she did it again this year.  She also issued the first statement – the first invitation to a Secretary General of NATO, in its 70 year history, to speak before the Joint Session of Congress.  Never happened before.  Another powerful and bipartisan message in terms of who we are and who our friends and allies are.  And, I think that that symbolism and that firm statement tell you a lot about the commitment of this Speaker and the Congress she oversees.  And, of course, behind her are our colleagues, Republican and Democrat, who share those values and share in that commitment. 

And, I think we have to, we cannot be naive about the nature of the threat.  Vladimir Putin and the Russia he presides over are malign influences in continental Europe.  They are malign influences on free and democratic elections.  They are malign influences on free discourse, with respect to free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to politically organize.  We need to take cognizance of that and we need to counter that threat.  And, that’s why our involvement and commitment to NATO is so important.

So, I thank the Speaker for her leadership.  And my Republican counterpart, Mr. Paul Cook of California, also has some words to share.

Congressman Cook.  Thank you very much.

You know, I won’t tell you how many years ago I made my first NATO exercise, except that it was the middle of the Cold War, it was the USSR and I remember I froze the rear part of my behind in Germany and I was cursing everyone under the sun.

[Laughter]

Anyway, NATO has – this is their anniversary.  And, it’s coming up.  And, with all the problems that we’ve had, I don’t want to say it’s like Washington, but sometimes you know, we go at it a little bit.  And, we are going to be adding another member.  You’re going to have 30 members.  A lot different.  A lot of different individuals, different players.

But, I’ll tell you, today, what you’re going to see is, obviously, Democrats and Republicans that, as Gerry said and the Speaker already said, they have underscored the fact that this is something we’ve got to get straight.  This is not time for, you know, arguing about politics or what have you.  And the Speaker, I’ve got to commend her for bringing us together here for national security and for the security of Europe and the world.

These are tough stakes.  You know, the world is changing.  And, I’m one of those ones that – I support NATO.  Obviously the Speaker does, this is a huge statement.  The Speaker comes over here and you don’t think our allies see that?  I mean, it’s tremendous.  And, you don’t think our enemies see that?  So, by doing that – you know I’m military, I’m old, I’m hard-core and everything else – and, she was complaining about getting MREs.  And, I won’t get into what are MREs.  And, I said, ‘The next time you’re over here and out in the cold, I’ll bring the C-rations.’

[Laughter]

You got to be really old to know what C-rations are.

But, this was a very very special event because of the commitment and everybody that was here today.  And, to our allies, that we’ve got to stick together, and by doing this, this is a big statement.  And thank you very much for everything you’ve done.

Thank you.

Congresswoman Davis.  Hello, everybody.  I’m Susan Davis from San Diego, California, and I am a proud member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and also a – for the Science and Technology Committee.  I’m very pleased to be here.  

You know, as politicians, we learn very, very early that 85 percent of your job as a representative is showing up.  Frankly, I think it’s more than that.  We have to be there for our constituents.  They feel it when you are present.  And so, in the same way, I think it’s very, very important – we will always be here in force, when it comes to NATO. 

One other thing that they decided to mention very quickly, because we’ve spent a lot of time talking about Afghanistan, from the Munich conference and here.  We’ve spoken with General Secretary Stoltenberg about it.  We’ve spoken with Ambassador Hutchinson as well, and our message is very strong.  We know that women’s rights are enshrined in their constitution, but we’re going to be a little skeptical, as things move forward, and we await some of the announcements regarding hope for negotiations, hope for a ceasefire.  And what’s important to recognize is that we’re not just talking about being about women’s rights.  We know that in the United States as well, just being at the table – why it’s important.  It’s not always the full answer, but it’s having what we call agency.  It’s having influence.  It’s having the ability to change, to mold to be certain that families are protected, that the country can thrive.  And that is one of the things that NATO cares about.  We triggered Article Five.  We are together on that, and we appreciate the fact that our NATO colleagues and countries are with us.

Thank you.

Congressman Crow.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I’m Jason Crow from the state of Colorado – also a member of the Armed Services Committee.  Before I was a Member of Congress, it was the honor of my life to be an Army Officer in the United States Army, and I served shoulder-to-shoulder with a lot of our allies and partners, including NATO and Afghanistan and other partners in Iraq as well. 

And I learned during that period that it wasn’t just important that we do that, but it was absolutely essential, because we could not complete the mission without our partners.  We are strong, though, not just because of the commitment that we have militarily, but the alliance that has existed for over 70 years is obviously a military alliance at its height.  But it’s strong, and it has endured through recessions, through wars, through changes in leadership in all of our countries because of shared values.  Those values are still as relevant as ever.  They are still as important as ever, and that is what will make our alliance endure. 

The challenges we face are actually more complex than we have ever faced, from climate change, the great power competition, to terrorism, to cyberwarfare, to artificial intelligence.  And because of these complex and overlapping challenges, it makes it more essential than it has ever been that we collaborate.  

Now, there’s been some discussion over the past couple of years about debate and friction in the alliance.  Now, I’m somebody that thinks when you’re a family, when you have a strong relationship, it is actually a sign of strength to have the confidence to be able to debate and have tough conversations.  We will, as a partnership, draw strength from that.  We will figure out how to address those challenges, because we have the confidence to have those types of discussions.  In short, we will either succeed together, or we will fail separately.  America is prepared to succeed together. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Mr. Crow.  My colleagues will now be happy to answer any questions you may have, but – so that you can address them directly I want them to do a – you heard from Mr. Cook and Mr. Connolly – just introduced yourselves.  Go ahead.

Congressman Guthrie.  Brett Guthrie from Kentucky.

Congresswoman Escobar.  Veronica Escobar, Texas.

Congressman Dunn.  Neal Dunn, Florida. 

Congressman Khanna.  Ro Khanna, California. 

Congressman Keating.  Bill Keating, Massachusetts. 

Congressman Lynch.  Steve Lynch, Massachusetts. 

Congressman Boyle.  Brendan Boyle, Pennsylvania.

Congressman Garamendi.  John Garamendi, California.

Congressman Himes.  Jim Himes, Connecticut.

Speaker Pelosi.  That’s it.  Any questions?

Q:   Can you hear me?  Madam Speaker, you just mentioned that the information highway should be organized in the context of the 5G discussion.  Now, you know that the United States services have been monitoring citizens of Western allies too, not the least among them, the German Chancellor.  If you do not happen to be a United States citizen, you don’t have a lot of tools to be able to develop a democratic state – hand of the United States, and you don’t have the tools to counter against steps you might deem unfair against yourself.  So should a Democrat become President next year, would you say that things like these are going to change?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say that I’m not confirming anything that you said about any of our activities, but I will say there’s a big distinction about what we do to protect and defend our countries and to use whatever’s available to us to do so.  And that is quite different from a country monitoring everything that its citizens do.  I do believe that if we were to let Huawei have the information highway dominance, it would be like putting the state police in the pocket of every person who uses that highway.  I want to yield to Mr. Himes of Connecticut on the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman Himes.  So, thank you for that question.  I’d make two observations for you.  One is that three of us up here, as members and former members of the intelligence committee, we are charged with oversight of the Intelligence Community.  That means we grapple with exactly the questions that you asked.  And, like Germany, like Canada, like Great Britain, we will have an ongoing dialogue, including with our allies, about what we’re comfortable doing.  And you will recall, of course, that President Obama had a conversation with Chancellor Merkel when some of the revelations came out.  And so, the three people up here are tasked with making sure that whatever our operations are, they are consistent with the interests of our allies.

But I want to make a point that I think is equally important, because we’ve gotten similar versions of this question before: we have to resist the temptation to draw an equivalence between the services of the democracies and the services associated with autocratic regimes.  We are here for one reason, which is that our collective strength backs the values of freedom and liberty.  That is why we are here in this building.  That is not why the services of Russia, or China, or even go back in history to the totalitarian and dictatorial regimes – that’s not why they exist. 

And so, we need to resist the temptation, even as we have the very important and robust conversation about what the limits are, and not just with our allies, but with our own citizens; and that is something we engage in, in a very robust way, because that is our job.  We should never fall into the equivalence that this activity is somehow – that the activities of the U.S. sector are somehow consistent with what we know Huawei does.

Q:  Madam Speaker, this morning you met with the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission.  Can you describe what you learned from – what is our current relationship between the European Union and the United States government?  In particular, after the world watching the impeachment process – can you tell us what you learned from speaking with both presidents of the Commission and Council today?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it had nothing to do with impeachment.  That’s something that we – that is at home.  But what we did learn was the caliber of – take a measure of the leadership, the new leadership in the commission and in the council.  We had good relationships before, and to commend them for that. 

But, we had very hopeful conversation this morning based on shared values.  And I know that sounds like an intangible, but is the basis of our friendship, and the security that is required to maintain our shared values and the investments that we need to make in soft power to do so.

So, we had very positive meetings, again, always using our time well to learn, but also, in friendship, to be candid about any questions we may have of each other about how we go forward.  I always say, and you’ve probably heard me say, when I was a student, I heard President Kennedy say, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’  Everybody knows that, but the next sentence: ‘To the citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do working together for the freedom of mankind.’

And I would say, from my perspective, that it was a very promising meeting, both based on our past history, but our prospects for the future about how we prioritize democracy over autocracy.  But I want to yield to any of the other Members who want to speak.

Congressman Keating.  Bill Keating, and I’m Chair of European Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs.  We had a very constructive meeting, and I must tell you that it’s not just shared values that we talked about.  We talked about common threats and how our security is important together.  We talked about Huawei and 5G and that threat. 

We also talked about our economic security and how that is all part of our security.  We talked about difficult issues of trade, and we came to the understanding together in that discussion – it was reinforced, we had it before – the fact that neither the EU or the United States can be effective alone.  Not nearly as effective to meet the challenges of China, and what they’re doing economically, as we can by working together.

Together, we’re almost half the world’s GDP.  We can deal with the threats of China through strength and I think that is the thing that people have to remember: the fact that we need each other.  And the U.S. understands that.  And the EU understands that.  It was so constructive to hear it.  It was one of the most hopeful discussions we’ve had since we’ve been here.

Speaker Pelosi.  I might also say that the overarching issue I mentioned earlier, climate, was something that Congresswoman Escobar led us into the discussion with the President of the Commission.  Veronica, did you want to speak to that?

Congresswoman Escobar.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  And, just to point out something for all of you.  Representative Crow, who you just heard a little bit ago, and myself are two Members of the Freshman class; newly elected last year, and we stand together with our colleagues – Republican and Democrat – some who, as Mr. Cook mentioned, have lived through much of the promise and the commitment to NATO, which we as brand new – maybe not so brand new, but recently-elected Members of Congress – one year in – embrace and celebrate and are delighted to continue to participate in.

But, one of the things, as the Speaker – as she mentioned in her remarks, we face an existential threat of the climate crisis.  And as that climate crisis continues to ravage the earth, we are going to face security issues that deal with famine, food insecurity, economic insecurity and probably increased migration throughout the globe.    

And how we solve that together, not just the climate crisis itself, but the consequences of it, we are stronger when we collaborate on those solutions.  We are stronger when we face those challenges as opportunities together.  And we are stronger when we recognize the realities of what we face immediately and with the urgency that they deserve, and that the climate crisis is something that each day, in the news, we see more and more terrifying information.  And so the urgency that we have, and again the opportunity that comes with that, was something that we discussed and I feel very hopeful, as well, about those shared interests and that shared commitment and what we, the steps we need to take together going forward.

Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  And in our meetings with the President of the Commission, President of the Council and the Secretary General, climate crisis was a national security challenge. 

Any other questions?

Q:  You mentioned trade and that clearly has been a bone of contention for the two sides and you even touched on security because security was a justification for the President’s tariffs.  Where did you think the situation on trade stands and is there, in Congress, is there a feeling that Europe needs to do more or is the feeling that things are in the right direction? Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  Before I take your question and share it with my colleagues, I did also want to call on Mr. Dunn, who is also a veteran who has served our country so well, for any comments he may have on everything else that he has heard here.  Mr. Dunn?

Congressman Dunn.  Thank you, Madam Speaker. 

As the Speaker mentioned, I was an army physician for a long time.  It actually has assisted me in my Congressional career.  We recently had the coronavirus break out, and in my former life I worked in the Army Institute of – Research Institute of Infectious Diseases up in Fort Detrick.  So it was very helpful to be able to call up my old pals and ask them some questions about that and so I have enjoyed my time up here. 

I also want to say that there is a complete 100 percent commitment on the part of America to remaining in NATO and making sure it remains strong and I think that is, as she – the Speaker said, a very bipartisan attitude.

Thank you –

Speaker Pelosi.  And his twin brother is – has served in the trade –

Congressman Dunn.  Wow, you know a lot.

[Laughter]

Speaker Pelosi.  I thought you were going to share any information your twin brother gave you about trade. 

Any of my colleagues like to address the issue of trade?

On the Ways and Means Committee, Brendon Boyle.

Congressman Boyle.  Brendon Boyle of Pennsylvania.  Proud Member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.  As well as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade.  And so while our negotiation with Canada and Mexico for the replacement of NAFTA and USMCA took a lot of attention last year, as well as the ongoing bilaterals with China, I hope, and I think many of us on the Ways and Means Committee, on a bipartisan basis, are hopeful we will get back to was, what was a big discussion in terms of T-TIP at the tail end of 2015 and 2016 and then got derailed.

So, you saw through the USMCA process, a real bipartisan achievement of many of us on the stage.  I am pretty hopeful that we could have a strong US-EU comprehensive trade deal.  Even with the UK extricating itself from the European Union.  The European Union still represents a large percentage of world GDP, a market of almost 500 million people.  And obviously a natural partner for the U.S. in terms of shared values, so I am optimistic, and I think that I am reflecting the view of a bipartisan group of us on Ways and Means.

Speaker Pelosi.  Anyone else – Mr. Guthrie?

Congressman Guthrie.  I am okay.

Speaker Pelosi.  Okay.

Anyone else?  Well, on that subject, I do and have for a long time thought that if the United States and the EU collaborated together on the issue of the exploitation of our markets by China, that we would be a bigger force to change that as we go forward because these trade deficits are harmful to our countries and this EU and it isn’t, it shouldn’t have to be that way.  So rather than, in short, contending with each other, let’s join together the synergy of these two big markets together as bigger than the sum of its parts.

Q:  Thank you.  I am from Bloomberg, I am Jonathan Sterns from Bloomberg.  Speaker, could you please tell us, after your meetings today in Downtown Brussels with the Commissioner of the Council, are there differences fundamentally in your view of the threats posed by Huawei and Chinese technology and the views of the Europeans or is there much more common ground than anyone might suggest?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, anyone else who wants to weigh in but I will begin by saying this. 

As you probably know, the EU has established some criteria that they have agreed to, that if company, whatever direction a country may want to take, it has to have those certain, I don’t know if the word is protections but those standards set there, so that they are not going down the autocratic path, but a democratic path.  Now, that is consensus in the EU.  Countries, individually, will do what they do, and as you know, there’s some differences of opinion.  And we want to point out that while some people say, ‘Well, it’s cheaper to do Huawei.’  Well, yeah because it’s a People’s Liberation Army developed initiative using reversed engineering from western technology.  So, of course it’s going to be cheaper to put on the market and if it’s cheaper, they get the market share and then they bring in their autocracy of lack of privacy and other entities.

So, again, because of price, people are saying well I can afford it better.  That shouldn’t be the reason to take it, because what you might gain in price, you lose in values.  In addition to that, there’s some economic threats by the Chinese to companies: ‘if you don’t, if you don’t take Huawei’s for your country, we won’t be doing these deals.’

That’s totally unacceptable.  And again, I would hope that there would be the maturity of these countries to understand that for the benefit of a few corporations, you cannot sell the privacy of the people of your country down the river.  As I said before, it’s like having state police – the Chinese State Police – right in your pocket.

Anybody else? 

Congressman Guthrie.  I can say something to that.

Speaker Pelosi.  Mr. Guthrie.

Congressman Guthrie.  May I go first?  I’m Brett Guthrie of Kentucky.  I’m on our Energy and Commerce Committee and deal with this, and there’s a couple of things:

One, with the state subsidies that Huawei’s got.  It’s put, you know, we have businesses that have gone out of business, so the other options are out.  We’re going to lose options if we don’t take action.  Not because they’re competing on the world market in a free enterprise way, but because of state subsidies – that’s important. 

The other thing is, with Huawei it’s not just the backdoor that you’re afraid of that the Chinese government can access.  The fact is it’s not that secure at all.  It’s not a very secure site, or very secure system, so that other people can access it too.  So, it’s not just we’re fearing, which we should fear, but it’s not the only fear that the Chinese government is going to gain access to us by implementing these systems – or to Europe, or anyone.  It’s the fact that anybody that knows how to get into these networks is going to – it’s not just a backdoor for China, I guess I should say.  It’s a backdoor for a lot of people to enter into. 

And I think it’s, as we’re discussing – I’m on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly side of this delegation, so we’ve got the next couple of days and plan to discuss with our colleagues, to come up with some of the answers you’re talking about.  And make sure that we have dialogues with each other about why this is important to us as a country, and hopefully important to our NATO partners as well.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Guthrie.

Congressman Guthrie.  Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  And I say that what we’ve talked about is not Americanization of this.  It’s about internationalization of what we can do, working together, to have a system that exploits the opportunities of technology, while honoring our values. 

Mr. Ro Khanna is from Silicon Valley and he may have something he wants to say.  You’re okay?

Congressman Ro Khanna.  I’m good.

Speaker Pelosi.  Mr. Garamendi?  You had something you wanted to say on this?

Congressman Garamendi.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I want to thank you for taking this issue so very, very strongly.  On the House Armed Services Committee, this issue is of paramount importance to us.  And I would suspect that we will see in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, a very strong, very bipartisan effort to address the Huawei issue, and more importantly, how we can build an alternative – an international alternative to Huawei.  One that we can count on to carry out all of the goals that the Speaker has so clearly laid out.  This is a fundamental national security issue for America, and I would dare say, for any other country – particularly, the European countries. 

There are many different aspects of the Huawei system that ought to give great concern to all of us, and so be aware.  We’re going to move on this.  It’ll be part of the law that we’ll propose out of the House of Representatives.  Whether it becomes law or not, we shall see.  But let us be very much aware.  This is where we’re headed.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.  The – again, some countries have gone down a path – again, we hope that without even just naming Huawei, any entity that would be exploitive of individual rights and privacy of people, backdoor or whatever way, is something that we have to avoid.  At the moment, this is the threat, so some people say, ‘talk about it, but don’t use their name.’  Well,  we have used their name in our legislation and we are concerned about them or anyone else who decides to go down this path.

We see a brilliant relationship with the European Union, of course – a strategic one for our security in NATO, our values in both.  We think trade is important.  We did have some longer discussions with Mr. Hogan about trade and how we can work together as we go forward, in fairness, but what contributes to the economic growth of all of our countries – creating good-paying jobs in a way that is respectful of the environment as we go forward.

So, thank you all very much for coming.  I thank my colleagues for being part of all of this and wish our North Atlantic [Parliamentary] Assembly members – under Mr. Connolly’s leadership, but in a bipartisan way – much success in their deliberations as they go forward. 

Thank you all very much.  Thank you.