Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace

May 19, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC's Deadline: White House to discuss The Heroes Act, House Democrats’ urgently-needed legislation to address the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, and the President’s late-night, weekend firing of the State Department Inspector General.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Nicolle Wallace.  Joining us now, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  Madam Speaker, what you said is actually something that can be corroborated in the White House’s release of the President’s last physical, which is that his weight does qualify him as being morbidly obese.  Is that what you were saying, or did you know it would elicit this kind of reaction from the President?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I had no idea.  I didn't know that he would be so sensitive.  He's always talking about other people's avoirdupois, their weight, their pounds.  So, I really – I don't even want to spend any more time on his distraction, because as you see in the last couple of days, so much of the time has been spent on what he said.

Rather than that, I think he should recognize that his words weigh a ton.  Instead of telling people to put Lysol into their lungs or taking a medication that has not been approved, except under certain circumstances, he should be saying what your previous guest mentioned, things that will help people. 

But let’s not dwell on him.  What we have to dwell is on is over 90,000 Americans have died, have lost their lives to this villainous virus and a million and a half infected.  We don't really know the full total of it and that's why our Heroes Act says, test, test, test, trace and treat so that we can lower the amount of people who are dying because we know earlier if they are infected. 

Let us, again, honor our heroes who are fighting the fight: our health care workers, our first responders and the rest who risk their lives to save lives and now may lose their jobs because of state and local budgets going down the drain.  And, again, let's do so in a way that keeps all of those who died in our hearts forever.  This is a scar on America. 

Nicolle Wallace.  Madam Speaker, I worked in the White House on 9/11.  And are you surprised, I mean, the people who are frontline workers in hospitals, in any city in a hotspot, they have the same DNA as the same people who ran inside the towers.  They run toward the danger that people like me are in my basement hiding from.  Are you surprised that as a country we aren’t grieving collectively for people who have lost their lives, people on the frontlines helping to save our relatives? 

Speaker Pelosi.  As you know better than anyone, we have different leadership in our country now.  I have a constant drumbeat in my Caucus about when are we going to have real memorial service for those who have lost their lives to this villainous, as I said, virus. 

But the fact is, we owe it to them and to all who are fighting the fight on the frontlines, whether health care workers, our emergency services folks, our police and fire, sanitation workers, food providers, I said sanitation but even our teachers and the rest.  We owe it to them to make sure that they have the PPE, the protections that they need.  And we owe it to them to make sure that they can feel secure in their jobs and that their workplaces are safe.  And when they go there, they don't bring something home that can be deadly to other members of their families and that they still have the opportunity to keep their jobs.

So, it is – many, many more people died now.  That was a shock to our country because of the attack on our country, but this is an assault on our country as well.  And we have a responsibility to be better, to better respond to it in ways that the scientists are telling us are necessary, rather than the President being a notion monger about what, for one reason or another, he thinks will work. 

But putting him aside, because we have to put him aside.  He’s not serious about what we really need to do to go forward.   

We need to honor our providers.  We need to test, trace and treat, and we need to do so in a way that's unifying to our country and respecting the dignity and worth of every person because this is assaulting people in a very disparate way in terms of communities of color as well.  So, they need to be tested; they need to be traced; they need to be treated.  That’s what The Heroes Act does. 

Nicolle Wallace.  I guess I asked you about whether we're missing an opportunity to grieve collectively and to celebrate the frontline heroes because it's my understanding that The Heroes Act has a very uncertain future in the Senate.  What's the prospect of its passage there?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I do believe that we have strong bipartisan support across the country.  19,000 –  there are 19,000 mayors of townships and smaller towns who are – who need these resources, to governors and mayors who need to offset the costs of the coronavirus in terms of the outlays of funds, but also in terms of the loss of revenue.

This is absolutely urgent for our country.  To ignore it is to ignore all of the good sense.  And, by the way, it only costs half as much as the Republican tax scam that gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent.  I hate to keep going there, but when they talk about the costs, well, the money didn't seem to matter when you were enriching your friends at the cost of our children's future. 

This money – this money is a stimulus to the economy as it protects jobs and keeps services going for the American people: education, health care, public safety in every form, sanitation and all the rest that helps us fight this vicious villain and to, again, meet the needs of the American people.  I think it's going to be fine. 

Look, when they put forth their bills, CARES 1, when McConnell put that forth, everybody said, ‘Okay, let's respond to that.’  When I put forth our bill they said, ‘Oh, it's not bipartisan.  How can we do this?  It’s not bipartisan.’  His wasn't until it was.  Ours isn’t until it will be.  But, everything in our bill, ninety-something – over 85 percent of what's in the bill had been initiatives that the Republicans have voted for before, whether it's state and local, whether it’s testing, whether it's putting money in people's pockets: Unemployment Insurance, direct payments.  They've done that and that's largely what the bill is about. 

We have a few other items like the Post Office and election vote by mail and SNAP, which seems to be a problem for them.  They don't want to vote for food stamps when people are starving in our country.  And the OSHA, stronger guidelines – not guidelines, mandates for OSHA to protect workers, but also to protect business owners as well.  Those are some of the areas that we haven’t found complete agreement before.  But, in the others, they've all voted and supported for all of those initiatives.

So, it has a provenance that is bipartisan and, now, we need to get the agreement with the Senate.  And, you know, we have no red lines in the sand because this is urgent.  To us, it is inevitable.  To them it may be inconceivable, at the moment.  But our job is to shorten the distance between the inconceivable to them and the inevitable to the American people, Democrats and Republicans alike, across the country. 

Nicolle Wallace.  Madam Speaker, I want to shift gears and ask you about the way Donald Trump has spent every Friday of the pandemic: he's fired Inspectors General at, I think, at least four agencies: the Department of Defense; most recently, the State Department; he fired the ICIG who brought the whistleblower complaint to the House Intel Committee initially; and he's also fired the Inspector General of the HHS for the crime, in his view, of doing a survey of hospitals and reporting out to the public, as HHS’s Inspector, a lack of PPE.  He didn't like that, that was made public.  She was gone, I think, within days.

What can you do to protect any Inspectors General who are still there and to unearth whether there was corrupt intent in removing, at least the IG at the State Department who appears to have been investigating some personal corruption on Mike Pompeo’s part and arms sales to Saudi Arabia that wasn’t approved by Congress?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say, first of all, it’s just another example this Friday night – it’s always a Friday night, you know, people are getting engaged in their weekends and that's a nice time to slip something through.  And then the next couple of days later say you're taking a medicine that's not recommended, so that you distract from that.  You understand, it's all a distraction. 

Nicolle Wallace.  We will not be distracted, Madam Speaker. 

Speaker Pelosi.  But I know you won't.  But some of your friends are. 

In any event, the fact is that the President is clearly afraid of the truth.  And we, as the country, must insist on the truth: on the truth of how we're fighting the coronavirus, the truth in how we are securing our nation.  Not only was the arms sales to Saudi Arabia not approved by Congress, Congress said no to it.  And then they declared a fake emergency in order to do that. 

And if, in fact, and I don't have all of the facts, but if that is what the IG was investigating, then, again, the President was afraid of the truth.  And we must insist upon the truth.  The truth in terms of science, the truth in terms of what the possibilities are for our country in every way.  If we don't, we're no longer a great democracy, we're turning into something very different.  

And, by the way, as I said earlier, the President's words weigh a ton.  When certain people hear his words, whether it's about our security, whether it's about anything – in terms of even their personal health – they believe the President of the United States.  So, don't abuse the privilege that you have as President by not only not being fully truthful in your comments or careful in your comments but also firing those who tell the truth.  

And that's what's happening with the IGs.  The IGs were established after the Watergate, and the purpose was to hold agencies of government accountable.  Whether Democrats or Republicans, the IG is a respected arbiter of what is happening.  And to say, ‘If you don't like what they're talking about, they get fired.’  And even – even Secretary Pompeo said something to the effect of: he wasn't operating the way we wanted him to operate.  Well, no.  He’s not supposed to operate –

Nicolle Wallace.  Right.  ‘He didn’t embrace our ethos.’  Right, right.  

Speaker Pelosi.  The way an Inspector General is supposed to operate.  It's really unfortunate.  It's really sad.  And it's really a threat to our democracy. 

And I would hope that – I know that some Republicans are speaking out, writing letters and the rest.  I hope they will do more.  But at least they are, again, saying that this is not right, not for a Democratic president, not for a Republican president, not for any president, or head of any agency of government. 

We must insist upon the truth. 

Nicolle Wallace.  It really is unprecedented.  For years and years, it's been a third rail that no one disparaged an Inspector General, let alone firing one every week, as you said, when most people are starting their weekend. 

Madam Speaker, it’s so nice to get to talk with you.  Thank you so much.  We're grateful. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Always a pleasure.  Thank you, Nicolle.  My pleasure.