Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe

March 17, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough, Willie Geist and Kasie Hunt on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the American Rescue Plan and other news of the day.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks: 

Mika Brzezinski.  Joining us now, Democratic Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California.  Thank you so much for being on this morning.  I know we'll be talking about the COVID relief bill.  But first, I want to ask you about the investigation into security and everything surrounding the January 6th attack on the Capitol. 

Where do we stand with a 9/11 commission to look into the tick-tock of what went wrong that day? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, first, let me say Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you.  I was excited to see the Taoiseach on earlier.  Later today we'll have our annual lunch – virtual.  It was started by Tip O'Neill and President Ronald Reagan in [1983], I think it was.  The following year the two of them then invited the Taoiseach.  So, it’s been a tradition all these years.  This year, virtual. 

We're very excited to see the Taoiseach, and the Brexit talks had complicated the Good Friday – the assurances that we needed to have.  I had the privilege of speaking to the Dáil – that's not how they pronounce it – the Parliament of Ireland, joining President Reagan and President Clinton in doing that on this subject.  So, today is an exciting day for us.  Richie Neal, the new Republican co-chair Kelly to welcome the Taoiseach and the Irish American President of the United States to celebrate that in the Capitol virtually. 

As the Taoiseach said this morning, next year, he'll be here and we will have it actually in the Capitol.  And in the Capitol is where that horrible thing happened on January 6th.  The disagreements that we're having about having a bipartisan commission – and it must be bipartisan – is on the scope.  On the other side, they don't want any findings included in how we go.  They don't want – they want to treat something like Black Lives Matter peaceful demonstrations in a similar manner as they would January 6th. 

The main problem is the scope of the investigation.  We can pass a bill, but that's not the point.  You want it to be bipartisan.  And it cannot be bipartisan if the scope of it is to not draw any conclusion about what happened that day as the premise for how we would go forward and investigate it.  But we must investigate it and we must get the truth for the American people.   

Mika Brzezinski.  Are you concerned that – were you at all asked whether or not the National Guard should be deployed previous to that day? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No. 

Mika Brzezinski.  Were you involved in any planning with the security prep? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No. 

Mika Brzezinski.  Who was? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, there are two different questions.  We were assured by the security for the Capitol that they were prepared.  I was not asked anything about the National Guard until after 1:00, some time after 1:00, when the President's incitement of an insurrection had already taken place.  And I was pulled from the podium and at that point, I said yes.  And they asked Senator McConnell and he said yes for that request.  There was a delay in terms of responding to that. 

But we have later learned that the District of Columbia asked for the deployment of its own National Guard.  And you probably have seen the response from the Secretary of Defense, which is just devastating in terms of how it was suppressing any real deterrence on the part of the National Guard. 

But that's all part of what an investigation would be.  Because we don’t want, obviously, this to happen again.  So, what we have been proposing, some of the proposals that General Honoré – and he assembled a group of experts who are national security and law enforcement experts, and civil liberties experts to make recommendations to them. 

One of them is that we would have a permanent, designated National Guard unit always at the ready in case there is a threat of something happening.  It would be much smaller but ready, and without having to have any question as to what we went through that day.  All of us on the phone – Mr.  Hoyer, Mr.  Clyburn, Mr.  McConnell, even at some point the Vice President – trying to see why the National Guard was not being released to weigh in.  When they were, it made a big difference. 

Willie Geist.  Madam Speaker, it's Willie Geist.  Good to see you this morning.

Speaker Pelosi.  Hi, Willie.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day. 

Willie Geist.  Thank you.  To you as well.  I want to ask you about what’s happening down at the border right now.  As you know, there's a surge of migrants including huge numbers of unaccompanied minors, who are now being held at detention facilities until their cases can be sussed out. 

If you listen to the people coming into the country – they’ve been interviewed along the border – and they say quite plainly, ‘We think it's going to be easier to come to America and to stay in America than it was under President Trump because of moratoriums on deportations or a potential pathway to citizenship for people who have come here illegally.’ 

What should the Biden Administration do right now?  I understand they're pointing the finger back at President Trump, but what should they should be doing as of today to ease this crisis? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.  Thank you, Willie, for that question because it’s a matter of great concern.  Many of us have spent a good deal of time on the border or in the country of origin of many of these immigrants. 

The President, I understand, is reported to have spoken out and said stay home, don't come now, A.  B., he sent FEMA to help facilitate meeting the needs of these people.  This is complicated by COVID.  There are 13,000 beds that could receive many of these incoming immigrants.  However, because of COVID, you can't use 13,000 beds because you have to space them. 

So, they are again preparing for what they do next.  Now, one of the things that it's important to watch is some of these people, when they say it's ‘easier,’ if they have a well-founded fear of persecution, which is to seek asylum here, that hopefully will be easier because the Trump Administration had no respect for the responsibility we have as a country – and other countries have as well – to give shelter to those with a well-founded fear of persecution in their country.  Many of these people are in grave, grave danger at home, and that's why they risk coming here. 

Now, I always take pride in quoting our evangelical friends, the representative from the American evangelicals said in one of our hearings – it wasn’t a hearing because we weren’t in the majority.  It was a mock hearing.  But he said this, ‘the United States refugee resettlement program is the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.’  Crown jewel of American humanitarianism. 

So, we have to make some distinctions about those who have a well-founded fear.  And we have to have the capacity at the border to do that or to have that adjudicated in the country of origin, but recognize that we have that responsibility as we pass judgment on other countries for not receiving refugees into their country.  So, that's one piece of it. 

As far as the children are concerned, we can just imagine – me as a mother of five, grandmother of nine – every minute that a child is separated from a parent to me is a crisis.  So, we want this to move along expeditiously, but we have to have a real plan.  And what they inherited was terrible.  Now, the President has been in office not quite two months.  And they are addressing it, and it will improve.  But again, we're all impatient for any time a child is separated from a parent.  Let's get on with it. 

However, I do take issue with some of what our friends on the other side of the aisle are saying, that they're terrorists coming into the country – terrorists coming into the country.  So, what we want to do is be able to honor our responsibilities as a nation in terms of the crown jewel of our humanitarianism, what we do in terms of asylum seekers, but also to meet the needs of the children coming in.  I have – 3-year-olds have to be before a judge without access to counsel.  And we'll have that resolution on the Floor when we come back after Passover and Easter – Congresswoman Jayapal’s legislation.   

Willie Geist.  Pardon the interruption, Speaker Pelosi, but do you agree with some of the migrants who say we are coming because Biden’s policies – or at least proposed policies – will make it easier for us to come to American and stay?  In other words, we looked at what President Trump and his Administration did at the border and said it's not worth the long trip up, but now it is because Joe Biden will let us in. 

Speaker Pelosi.  It's not a question of ‘agree with.’  What I said was if they have a well-founded fear of persecution, if they're asylum seekers, yes, it is agreeable.  Apart from that, if they're just coming, the message from Joe Biden is stay home for now. 

And we have to address the causes of this migration.  I brought a group before COVID to the Northern Triangle, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, because that's where a lot of the immigrants were coming from.  Right before we went on the trip, the Administration cut off the funding that Congress had provided to address the needs in those countries. 

For example, USAID was helping with some places of shelter for young people there and the rest.  It was the absolutely wrong thing to do.  Whether it's corruption or violence or just actually, in fact, what we found, even the climate crisis, causing such a drought that people couldn't farm, make a living, and that was one of their motivations to come.  That's not a well-founded fear of persecution, but the violence that springs from the corruption would be.  So, again, if we can help them there in our hemisphere, that would be a good thing, so that they don't – people generally like to stay home. 

Mika Brzezinski.   All right.  NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent, Kasie Hunt, joins us and she's got the next question. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Hi, Kasie.

Kasie Hunt.  Madam Speaker, good to see you this morning.

Speaker Pelosi.  Nice to see you. 

Kasie Hunt.  President Biden told ABC News that Andrew Cuomo – Governor Cuomo – should resign if the investigation shows the allegations against him are substantiated.  Do you agree?

Speaker Pelosi.  I’ll repeat what I said – what I have said.  At the beginning, I said these are credible and serious allegations – charges – and that the women must be respected as they go forward and called for the investigation, which is taking place, taking place under the leadership of a respected Attorney General in New York.  And let's see that investigation, and the interest of the women, so they can have their allegations heard with respect.  As I said on Sunday, the Governor has to look inside of his heart to see if he can govern.  Whatever the outcome of the investigation is one thing, but governing is another thing and that's a decision that he has to make for a state that he loves. 

Kasie Hunt.  If the investigation shows these allegations are substantiated, do you agree with President Biden that he should step down? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm sorry.  We lost the sound. 

Mika Brzezinski.  All right.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi – I think she's lost the audio.  Just waiting two seconds to see if we can get it back.  You know what we’ll do?  We'll take a quick break and see if we can fix it and continue our conversation with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  We'll be right back.  Right back.

***

Mika Brzezinski.  We're back now.  We've got the audio with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joining us live from Capitol Hill this morning.  We look forward to talking and hearing more about the COVID relief bill, but I just want to let Kasie Hunt finish her line of questioning.  Kasie, jump in. 

Kasie Hunt.  Apologies for those technical difficulties there.  I was just wanting to underscore here, because we heard President Biden now say that after that investigation that you talked about was complete, if the allegations are shown to be substantiated, Governor Cuomo should step down.  You have other Democratic Leaders like Chuck Schumer, of course, of New York, saying he should step down.  If that investigation shows those allegations are substantiated, should Governor Cuomo resign? 

Speaker Pelosi.  We have zero tolerance for the behavior that is alleged against the Governor.  Again, I think he is a supporter of zero tolerance in terms of sexual harassment.  So, it would follow that, if you have zero tolerance, then that would be, again, a decision that we hope the Governor would make.  It's heartbreaking.  It's heartbreaking. 

Again, today on the Floor of the House, although we're celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, we're having the Violence Against Women Act on the Floor and the Equal Rights Amendment, separate legislation on the Floor of the House.  People have to unlearn some bad behavior in order to learn how we should go forward.  And again, if these allegations are proven to be true, then zero tolerance would follow, that the Governor should not continue. 

Mika Brzezinski.  Speaker Pelosi, I want to ask you about the COVID relief bill, a landmark in many ways.  How do you plan to sell it to the American public? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I think the President and the Vice President are doing a ‘Help Is On The Way’ tour right now.  Our Members individually are taking the package home.  It has so many spectacular provisions in it.  First, to do what – our purpose is to crush the virus.  This bill is similar to what we passed in May in terms of the Heroes Act.  But it is better in that President Biden, being President, has injected so much more in terms of prevention and respect for the disparities among communities of color and the vaccine, the vaccine, the vaccine, with the funding to make sure that it's available to everyone as they are eligible to receive it.  I'm excited about the eighteen and over from May 1st. 

So, crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people, get our children safely back in school, again, and get people back to work.  That's the package they are selling.  Within that, we have so many things about children who are starving and hungry in America.  Twelve billion dollars for funding to address food insecurity, money for rental insecurity, so that people can get through this.  So, take every category, and I think you see that with – they're talking about small business.  What does this do for small businesses?  Very positive.  Taking one piece at a time so that people understand how they can avail themselves of the benefits. 

The response our Members have been getting so far has been overwhelmingly positive, overwhelmingly positive.  From the standpoint of our economy, this injection of money to those who need it the most – and they will spend it – injects demand into the economy, creates good-paying jobs, serves as a stimulus, although it is a survival rescue package. 

So, we're very, very proud of it.  And it is, again, to meet the needs of the American people.  That is what President Biden has talked about, a package that would meet the needs of the American people.  We're very proud of it, and our Members are excited about exchanging ideas with people at home as to how they can avail themselves of it. 

Mika Brzezinski.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you so much for coming on this morning. 

Speaker Pelosi.  It’s bipartisan across the country, bipartisan across the country. 

Mika Brzezinski.  It is.  The support is there.  We're about to talk about that.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  Thank you so much for being on.