Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC's Deadline White House with Nicolle Wallace
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC’s Deadline White House for an interview to discuss the ongoing efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including the recently passed interim emergency funding package transformed by Congressional Democrats to provide critical support for small businesses, hospitals, health care workers and all Americans. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Nicolle Wallace. Less than 24-hours after the House told its Members to prepare to return to Washington next week, it's reversing that decision, not wanting to risk the safety of lawmakers and their staffs as the number of cases in the D.C. continues to rise. The Senate, however, is still planning to come back next week.
Donald Trump was quick to mock the House's decision, saying Democrats don't want to come back, they're ‘Enjoying their vacation.’
Joining us now, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. I'll let you respond to that quickly, if you want to.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, we had intended to come back next week as had been previously scheduled. But, once the Capitol Physician told us it was not proper for us to do that, in the interests of not only Members and staff, but the custodians, the people who maintain the Capitol, the press who cover us, the staff of the actual legislative chamber, there was no choice for us but to say we'll put this off.
And the Senate can – the President can characterize it any way he wants. But, as any of our Members can tell you, the last thing that this is is a break. It's an intense communication and listening to our Members, the scientists – the Member’s constituents: the scientists, the people of faith, the educators, health care providers, workers in every field, as to what the impact is. And so that their intelligence can have an impact on the legislation that we write. That it is current with information in real time, something that perhaps the Administration is not used to doing.
Nicolle Wallace. So, Madam Speaker, as I understand, you're listening to advice from the physicians you consulted. Theoretically, the Senate received the same advice. Do you think they're defying that advice?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't know what the Capitol Physician has told them.
We're a much larger body. We're presently 430 Members. They're a hundred. They do things by unanimous consent. We don't always have that kind of, shall we say, agreement to go forward.
So, I'm not making any judgment about what they're doing. I'm just saying a large part of the decision, as I understand from the report from the Capitol Physician's office, was what was happening in the Washington, D.C. area. They really haven’t spiked here in Washington, Montgomery County, Prince George's County. And the concern is that all of this will be on the rise in the next week.
So, again, I can't answer for what the Senate – how the Senate takes the Capitol Physician's advice. I just know in our situation we had no choice but to take that advice and continue to work from home. Also to try to be having some virtual hearings next week. Even, maybe, some actual hearings with a few Members showing up, but not 430.
Nicolle Wallace. Madam Speaker, I want to ask you about a story we started with. It’s Greg Miller and his colleagues at the Washington Post have reported that the PDB, the President's Daily Briefing, the most sort of sacred intelligence product, was sounding the alarms over the spread of COVID in China and the lethal danger that it posed to Americans as early as January. Were you aware of that at the time?
Speaker Pelosi. No. But, I will tell you this as an Intelligence person. I have over 25 years experience in the Intelligence Community. The President's Daily Briefing is just so very important to decision-making and the rest.
So, what you just heard begs the question: what did the President know and when did he know it? In addition to which, what did the scientists tell him and when did they tell him?
Because, actually, as a matter of fact, this President has presided over the worst disaster in our country's history, an assault on the lives and the livelihoods of the American people. And he did so by neglect of information, also denial and delay in accepting the facts.
Nicolle Wallace. You were – you were in very good company, but you were one of the people clamoring for the release of the PDB when I worked in the George W. Bush White House before 9/11. We, I was part of – I said, in the last block – I was part of the communications department to declassify that PDB.
I wonder what role you think Congress will play in declassifying President Trump’s PDB about COVID, and when?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me say this Nicolle, the President has made so many mistakes, and that is all for an after-action review. We have to look forward and hope that he will not continue to make mistakes.
This information is very valuable because it says to the American people that the President ignored this guidance, this advice, this information, this intelligence. So, hopefully they may change some behavior for him or those surrounding him, that his doing that was dangerous, in fact, deadly.
So, let us try to say now, let’s go forward. What do we have to do now, as we go forward, as we write the next bill, the CARES 2 bill? As we prepare for the future, I don't know that this Administration is, on the basis of any guidance they had scientifically or intelligence-wise, preparing for, if there's a vaccine that is developed, do we have the capacity to produce it in our country? Do we have the supply chain in place to have the ingredients to do that? Do we have the syringes and the vials and the rest, that could take a year to manufacture as much as we need to vaccinate everybody in our country? And do we have in place an ethical standard to fairly, fairly and equally, distribute such a vaccine?
There are things we need to be doing to meet the needs of people that I fear may be lacking from the standpoint of the Executive branch, if they're ignoring the facts as they have done.
But let us just go forward, as I say, we'll save all the review of the President's deadly behavior for an after-action review. Let's, right now, go forward.
Nicolle Wallace. You have a track record of being able to get the President to sometimes inch your way. You leave a mark. He's so angry at you, I understand, that he's not talking to you.
But, is it worth picking up the phone and saying what you just said, ‘We need to be able to create a vaccine. We need you, Mr. President. Only you can activate the Defense Production Act.’ We need to put aside whatever baggage he still feels towards you and take this next step. And say what you just said to me, that you’ll save the after-action review, the looking behind us, until a later date.
Is it worth taking a move like that? I know he carries a lot of the blame for the acrimony in the relationship, but is it worth being the one that picks up the phone and says where can –
Speaker Pelosi. Let me – excuse me, I’m sorry. Well, let me say worth – what is the word worth. Would it change his behavior?
Has he ever said anything in the meetings that we’ve had about Dreamers, where he was going to get the job done, and then he changed his mind. What he said about infrastructure, and then he changed his mind. What he said about guns, and then he changed his mind.
So, again, time is the most finite quantity that we all have. My time, I think, is better spent speaking to the President in a public forum. That's something that he pays attention to. We certainly have our communication with the Administration, in the hopes that we can work in a bipartisan way, as we have done already with four bills to address the coronavirus. Four bills, all bipartisan. I'm very proud of that. Overwhelmingly bipartisan, and we will continue to – continue to do that.
But it's – his not speaking to me. I mean, he kind of stopped talking to me when I became Speaker. It was okay when I was Leader, but when I became Speaker, a person of tremendous power, then that didn’t get as interesting to him.
But, in any case, without going into the psychology of what's worth doing as far as the President is concerned, I think it's worth it for him to listen to the scientists. I think it's worth it for him to listen to the Intelligence Community. I think it’s worth it for him to listen even to some people in his own Administration who I think want to do the right thing.
But I bear no responsibility for his lack of listening to other people and I do do my best to try to be as bipartisan as possible in my actions as we try to be respective of other people's views as we do these bills. Four bill, all bipartisan, all overwhelming.
We have a problem with the President. I don't know why some other Republicans in the country, in the establishment, you know many of them well, are not just speaking out and saying, ‘This is not the Republican Party.’ The Republican Party is a grand old party in our country. I say to my Republican friends, and I do have some, ‘Take back your party. We need a strong Republican Party in our country, that has contributed so much to the success in America.’ And, yet, we have people being silent.
Nicolle Wallace. It’s such a good point.
As you're talking, I'm trying to figure out what John McCain or John Boehner, what their profanity-laced response would have been, that I couldn’t have put on this program, but that you certainly probably would have heard and I might have heard, about injecting bleach.
I mean, you're right. It is Trump. He's the problem. And he’s more likely to see you on tv than if you went down there. They're not wearing masks anyways, so I’m not sure if that’s a safe idea.
But, just expand a little bit on this idea of a zombie GOP. Did they speak out in the same way that the State of Washington spoke out and the makers of Lysol spoke out and, I think, Governor Hogan spoke out? Where are the Republican House Members who don't want their kids or loved ones injecting bleach to clean their lungs? Have you heard from any of them?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, no. But Governor Hogan is Republican and he's certainly has spoken up, and other governors.
And we had strong bipartisan support, Democrats and Republicans, in support of state and local investments, as we go forward in the next bill. And that is to support our heroes: our health care providers, our first responders, police, fire, emergency services people, our teachers, our transit workers, our postal workers – who deliver the mail, medicine to many people in our country, certainly our seniors over time – our food providers. The list goes on.
So, rather than spending time talking about the President's saying we should inject Lysol in our lungs – and he makes a big fuss about ice cream in my freezer. That’s his latest today, his most current today. ‘She has Lysol in her freezer.’ I guess he’d rather have – I have ice cream in my freezer. That's better than having Lysol in somebody’s lungs as he is suggesting.
But, again, enough of him. Let’s just – enough of him. It’s not worth it, to just dwell on him. We have to go forward.
And Republicans will have to make their own decision. I can just imagine what John McCain would be saying now, that great American patriot who was treated disrespectfully by this President.
Enough about him. Let's go forward. Let's work in a bipartisan way. Democratic and Republican mayors, the Chair – the President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors is a Republican. The Chair of the National Association of Governors is a Republican. The Chair of the – the President of the National Association of State Secretaries of State is calling for them to lift their obstruction that they put in their bill to vote by mail.
These initiatives are bipartisan. So that’s where I’d rather dwell than psyching out the unpsychable.
Nicolle Wallace. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you for spending some time with us. We’re grateful to have so much of your time.
Speaker Pelosi. It was wonderful to see you, Nicolle. Thank you.