Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports to discuss President Biden’s historic First 100 Days, tonight’s Presidential Address to a Joint Session of Congress and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Andrea Mitchell. Joining us now is someone who’s really going to be watching from an exclusive seat. We’re speaking exclusively, of course, from the Capitol – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Thanks so much for joining us.
Madam Speaker –
Speaker Pelosi. My pleasure.
Andrea Mitchell. Let’s begin.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you for having me.
Andrea Mitchell. Well, it's an historic day, and it’s great to have you. Let’s start with what you want to hear in tonight's speech – it’s the first speech by a Democratic President to a Joint Session in five years – and what it means to you to be sitting next to a fellow Californian and fellow woman, the first ever woman vice president, to have two women there in those honored positions.
Speaker Pelosi. It's pretty exciting, and it’s wonderful to make history. It's about time. I made history when I was the first Speaker to be standing behind President Bush, and he made note of that. Now, this is just, just so exciting.
But, let’s just talk about – not only making history, but making progress for the American people, and that's what President Biden will be doing. We are so pleased with the – what has happened so far in the First 100 Days: the Rescue package, surpassing his goal – doubling his goal to 200 million [vaccinations], having shots in the arm, well over 150 million checks in their pockets, children in school, workers back to work and the rest.
We’re very excited about the progress of the Rescue package and now it’s time for the Jobs Plan, the recovery plan. And that's what we’ll hear a good deal about tonight. But it, too, will be making history and progress because it will be transformative. It will be transformative, calling upon the traditions of our party of persistent, bold experimentation to work For The People. That’s our history. But the progress is what people want to hear and what it means in their lives.
So, we’re pretty excited. It's consistent with what Democrats have campaigned on: For The People, lower health care costs; For The People, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure in a green way and For The People, cleaner government by passing H.R. 1, S. 1, for cleaner government and stopping voter suppression. So it is pretty exciting on every front: civically, personally, as well as economically.
Andrea Mitchell. And I want to drill down on some of those policies in just a moment. I want to ask you first about the different look, of course, tonight. It’s a much smaller audience, only 200 people. There was a security meeting recently and, afterwards, you said you wished there had been a similar briefing ahead of January 6th. What is the situation regarding tonight?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, tonight is small. It's with – usually 1,600 people would be in such a presentation by a President. It's going to be 200 people tonight, but that’s largely because of COVID. That’s a COVID limitation that is put on by the Capitol Attending Physician. That is something that we cannot defy. That rules, that dominates, that dictates how many people can be in the room. The more people get vaccinated, hopefully, the more people can be in a room, so we want people in Congress to be vaccinated – in the Congress.
Yeah, we had a very thorough briefing, I did, the other day. It was one that they decided they didn’t need to give us before. I don't know if it would have made any difference if they still had the assurances they had then. But, right now, it’s about going forward, and that’s what we are doing with our supplemental to harden the windows and doors, et cetera, of the Capitol, per the Architect of the Capitol. It's about investing in the personnel of the Capitol Police, add to their numbers, add to their training, add to the intelligence that is available. And I mention them, I want to salute them because they saved our lives that day. Maybe no one adequately predicted that a President of the United States would incite an insurrection, but they did save the lives of every Member of Congress, risking their own lives.
Andrea Mitchell. We’re already, of course, hearing Republican pushback to the President's new $2 trillion Families Plan with initiatives like universal pre-K, and they’re popular, but what about the tax increases that are going to have to go along with that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the fact is that the Republican – this bill is, what, $1.8 trillion that the President is putting forth. They didn't have any hesitation to spend $1.9 trillion to give 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent. What the President is doing is rewarding work, meeting the needs of people using some of that same money that they rewarded the rich with before. We don't have any resentment against anybody for their success, but as we meet the needs of the American people, it’s important for people to know that our budgets are a statement of our values.
And the budget that President Biden is putting forth – the particulars of it – are a statement of our values that people matter. That we want to invest in our children. We want to invest in our workforce, so as we Build Back Better, we have a trained workforce, many more people able to participate from every aspect of our society. That’s what we are doing in terms of children and seniors and care for them, that many more women can participate in the fullest way, and that certainly ensures that we will Build Back Better.
So, this has an integrity to it. The narrative of it is that this is For The People. For The People. And For The People, the President is going to be fiscally responsible as we invest. Many of these investments bring more money to the Treasury. Nothing brings more money to the Treasury than investing in the education of the American people – early childhood, K-12, higher education, post-grad, lifetime learning for our workers. All of that contained in what the President has done in the Rescue package and now the recovery Jobs package.
So, I'm so pleased because we’re on a path. We’re on a better path For The People. And again, what he is talking about is exactly just the reverse of what the Republicans did in their tax scam, where they added almost $2 trillion to the national debt, if you include the cost and the interest on the debt, to give tax breaks to the top, top, top wealthiest people in our country.
Andrea Mitchell. Madam Speaker, police reform and judicial reform is a major part of the speech tonight. Karen Bass has said that the issue of qualified immunity – holding police officers legally accountable – is a big sticking point. We know she’s been talking to Tim Scott in the Senate about limiting the qualified immunity to the police departments rather than to the police officers, but also having the departments be liable. Are you any closer to an agreement on this? The George Floyd bill has been in the Senate for a year. And what is your guidance to Congresswoman Bass about having formal negotiations with Tim Scott? Is she authorized?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, Karen Bass has been authorized to have negotiations with the Republicans, with Tim Scott. We could not be in better hands. Karen Bass started this – well, let's put it this way. Last year, May 24th or 25th was the assassination – the lynching – of George Floyd. The second week in June, she already had a bill introduced. By the 25th of June, the bill passed the House. We are still hoping that we’ll pass it again this session, hoping that it will pass the Senate. She is on a good path. She is respected for her knowledge. She is weighing the equities about how we get the job done.
And remember, remember that millions of people were in the streets, across the world, saying that we needed to do something, and we do. I am optimistic that we will. From our standpoint, under the leadership of Karen Bass with Tim Scott, with Cory Booker in the Senate, a number of Members in the House working with them as well – Josh Gottheimer, Tom O’Halleran, a number of Members. Tom O’Halleran is a former police officer. And working with the Republicans on the House side as well.
Andrea Mitchell. I want to go back briefly to January 6, because I spoke with the Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley yesterday about the National Guard and their response time. And I want to ask you about what he said, because it is in direct conflict with a lot of the testimony from the former head of the D.C. National Guard. Let’s watch.
Chairman Milley. To bring in the amount of Guardsman that was needed, I thought the decision-making was quick, and I thought the Washington, D.C. Guard responded quickly.
Andrea Mitchell. Well, according to the Commander of the D.C. Guard – now former Commander of the D.C. Guard – he had them mobilizing. He had them at the armory. He had them on buses and could have had them there in eighteen minutes. The Capitol was breached around 2:00. Actually, it did take several hours. Are you familiar with what happened between the Acting Secretary of the Army and others – maybe civilians involved – who delayed the requests of the Speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the Senate?
Chairman Milley. I am very familiar with it. There was, to my knowledge – and I have pretty good personal knowledge on this stuff – there was no specific attempt to delay the response of the National Guard. I mean, that was just false.
Speaker Pelosi. That isn't false. And I was there, and I can attest to what happened there. But let's hear people talk about it in a commission to find the truth about January 6th. I have the highest regard for General Milley, but he doesn't know the full picture if he is presenting the characterization that you just presented. The fact is that they could have been there very much sooner, and there could have been much less destruction and the rest. But in any event, that's why we are hoping to have a truth commission, a 9/11-type commission. We’ve yielded on many scores to the Republicans on this. They seem to say, ‘Well, yeah, let's have it, but let's look at what happened last summer with some demonstrations that have’ – no. This is about January 6th, an insurrection against our democracy. And again, no use having a debate about this. Let's put it on the record under oath so that we can get to the truth.
But I can tell you from firsthand knowledge in the room that day that the Secretary of the Army delayed even making the request to the Acting Secretary of Defense. And that caused much mayhem. But again, let's not debate it here. Let's have – let’s either have a commission, or we will have a Select Committee to find the truth, because the American people must know the truth. I want it to be bipartisan, because I think that that is important to the integrity of it all in terms of the public view of it. But we will have the truth.
Andrea Mitchell. I just want to drill down for a moment. I understand that there was a conference call with leaders, you and the Republican leaders, bicameral, bipartisan with people at the Pentagon, and you were pleading for help, and it did not arrive.
Speaker Pelosi. That’s right. Well, again, let me just say this. An assault was made on democracy. While all that was going on, the instigator – the people that were instigated by the President to come to the Capitol were trying to get the mahogany boxes that contained the votes, the votes of the Electoral College. This was just not any day in the life of the Capitol when they came in to be disruptive. That would be bad enough. This was a day constitutionally required to count the votes and ascertain and certify who would be President of the United States. That disruption of our democracy, done in a violent way [to] the Capitol and our Congress at the instigation of the President, is something that we must set the record straight on. And whatever view that some others may have of the timing of the National Guard coming – I don’t think anybody would think it was soon enough.
Andrea Mitchell. Do you have any reaction to a federal judge in Atlanta ordering the release from jail of the man photographed with his feet on your desk during the insurrection by citing an appeals court decision about not detaining riot defendants who were not accused of violence?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you know, what I’m concerned about is the behavior of the Members of Congress who, on the one hand, want to have the luxury of criticizing the President, on the other hand, not wanting to do anything about it.
I am not going into what happens in any particular courtroom. I will never forgive those people and the President who instigated the insurrection for the trauma that they caused to the workers in the Capitol. Whether it was the young people who work in our offices, whether it was the custodial staff who make the Capitol run, whether it was the Capitol Police. The trauma that they caused – they messed up my office, they broke mirrors, they stole stuff and the rest. Who cares? What I do care [about] is the impact, the negative impact, the fright that they instilled in people because they were doing their civic duty in the Congress of the United States.
So, again, we can have all kinds of discussion of who did what in what court around the country. And those people who came, desecrated the Capitol – they desecrated with their violation of what was happening there by trying to steal and destroy those mahogany boxes. They did so by disrupting and looking for the Vice President, to scare him to going their way – of course, I am always under threat from them so it’s nothing new for me. But if they want to [desecrate] into the Capitol of the United States – just horrible, they were so horrible and disrespectful. It wasn’t even sane. And yet our Republican colleagues at the end of that day when we went back – and to his credit, Mitch McConnell was right there with us: ‘We’re going back to the Capitol. We’re not going to take an easy path by having a session of Congress away.’ That was bicameral in our intent and what we intended to do. The Republican Members of the House, for two-thirds of them to vote that the election, the count was not what it obviously was, was really – goes below – it’s a statement of their lack of patriotism.
Andrea Mitchell. Well, Madam Speaker, Kevin McCarthy just this weekend on Fox television was defending Donald Trump’s denial of the election.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you know what? I can’t go into him. Let’s just have a truth commission to see what happened so the record will show in a way that not only talks about how this happened and how we can correct it from happening again, but how we can build our democratic institutions in a way that command more respect from the American people than was demonstrated by those thugs who invaded the Congress, attacked our police officers and were on a quest to harm others. I don't want to talk about Kevin McCarthy. I want to talk about the truth and how we go forward, again, to protect our Capitol, to find out the truth for the American people to know and also to protect our institutions – and the respect that they command among the American people.
This is about patriotism – [nothing] to do anything with partisanship or politics or anything like that. It's about patriotism for our country. And it’s about respecting the vision of our Founders about this democracy. It's about honoring the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who fight to protect it. And it's about the vision of our children for their future, that they know that what we do here is about their future, and their future is in a democracy with liberty and justice for all. We pledge it every day. And it is a beautiful value.
Andrea Mitchell. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. Madam Speaker, thank you very much. Thanks for being with us.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. I’ll see you tonight. Thank you. My pleasure.
Andrea Mitchell. We’ll be watching.