Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell

May 21, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC's The Last Word 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:

Lawrence O’Donnell.  And joining us now, the Representative of California’s 12th Congressional District who is the 52nd Speaker of the House of Representatives and, in that constitutionally-established office, Nancy Pelosi is second in the line of succession for the presidency.  Thank you very much for joining us, Speaker Pelosi.

And the reason I mention tonight the line of succession for the presidency is Mike Pence was in Florida today very proudly having a hamburger with the Governor of Florida wearing no mask, not taking the recommended precautions.  Donald Trump obviously doesn't wear a mask.  He's going to go to a Ford factory tomorrow, where he surely will not be wearing a mask, not be taking all the precautions.  And so, there is that old saying that the Vice President is a heartbeat away from the presidency.  But it seems, tonight, you're two sneezes away from the presidency with the fact that the President and Vice President are not taking the necessary precautions.  Are you concerned about that situation with the President and the Vice President, their lack of precautions?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I always pray for our President and Vice President and their families, for their safety, for our country.  But I am also concerned about the example that is not being set for the rest of the country and I'm concerned about those lives because, while the President and the Vice President may consider it not in their interest to wear a mask, they have doctors around them all the time who can tend to their needs at any given moment, but most of the American people, who might follow their lead, do not have that same opportunity. 

So, my concern is about the American people and the poor example the President and the Vice President are setting.

Lawrence O’Donnell.  I want to ask you about your comments about the President today.  You referred to him, drew the comparison of a child with doggie doo on his shoes.  Yesterday, you referred to him as morbidly obese.  Are you deliberately choosing words that you hope to be provocative to the President?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, actually, I was saying yesterday, when they asked me about his taking whatever he's taking, I said I wish he would not.  He's our president and I would hope he would not take something that has not been deemed safe by the scientists and especially somebody in his condition of age and weight, and I just quoted what I thought they had said about his condition.

But I don't worry about that.  He's commented on other people's weight many times.  I was spontaneously, not intentionally, giving him a dose of his own medicine.  As far as doggie doo is concerned, I don't think I said a child – children, I try not to put in the same sentence with anybody else.  I revere them and dogs too, as a matter of fact.  But, what I was saying is, the mess that they have is really something that is going to stick to their shoes for a long time to come.  

But, rather than spending time on the President's planned distractions by talking about what he's taking or isn't taking, what he's wearing or isn't wearing, I’d rather talk about putting that aside and talking about what we have to do to go forward to open up our economy by having testing: testing, tracing and treatment; by honoring our heroes; by supporting state, local, tribal and territorial governments.  That's in The Heroes Act.  That's why it's called The Heroes Act.  They are our heroes.  And, by injecting funds into our – the pockets of the American people with what we have with direct payments, Unemployment Insurance, et cetera because that is what is needed.

Those are the three pillars of The Heroes Act and all three of them have strains in previous bipartisan legislation that has been passed by the Congress in recent weeks and months.  So, it isn't anything new.  It is built on what we have worked together, in a bipartisan way, except bigger.

And, now, in addition to that, I have four other things.  I have OSHA, which we still haven't convinced them of doing.  I have Post Office, which is essential.  Over a billion packages of medicine went through the mail, delivered to America's families last year.  90 percent of veterans get their medicine through the mail.  We have voting; voting at home, very important to the health and well-being of the American people.  And we have food.  At a time, SNAP and food stamps and the rest.

So, those are what I call, ‘The seven hills of Rome.’  The three original pillars, the four issues I just mentioned that we are there to make sure prevail when we go to the table for negotiation.

Lawrence O’Donnell.  I want to try to get through all of those if we can, beginning with food security because you emphasized it strongly in your comments earlier today.  How is it that food security has become a legislative challenge and it appears to be partisan when the modern version of food stamps was an alliance of Republican Bob Dole and the most liberal Senator, George McGovern, at the time?  How could it be that the Democrats are fighting for food security and the Republicans regard it as something they might or might not give you in some kind of legislative trade-off?

Speaker Pelosi.  It's hard to understand because, as you know, being on the Senate side of things, those two great champions, both of whom are so wonderful, I love them both, still love Senator Dole, one of my heroes, and his wife.  But they are from the heartland of America and they knew that what was good for the American people, in terms of the health and well-being of our people and their preparedness for education and even fighting our wars required them to have good food, and that it helped the farmers at the same time.  

How our Republican colleagues have decided that this is something they could grant or withhold, when we're talking about people of faith?  ‘When I was hungry, you fed me’ – the gospel of Matthew.  How can we ignore such a thing, especially when the American people, at this time, are so well aware of food insecurity?

Our children not in school getting school lunches, breakfast.  And, for some, those are the [only] meals they get any day.  For our seniors, meals on wheels, all of these kinds of things that are not necessarily SNAP, but part of our emergency food initiatives.  We have billions of dollars in The Heroes Act, some of it building on other support in the past, some of it greatly additional in light of coronavirus.  But it's really very hard to explain to anyone. 

Moms have testified that their children under 12, by in large, at least one in five goes to sleep hungry at night.  That's a figure that challenges the conscience of America all the time, but, at the time of the coronavirus, it's even worse and even sadder that they just haven't – they just won't support it.

But we believe, as Lincoln did, ‘Public sentiment is anything.  With it, you can accomplish almost anything.  Without it, practically nothing.’  And we think that public opinion will weigh in and that they will support ending food insecurity in our country, especially at this difficult time

Lawrence O’Donnell.  There are two issues you mentioned that are linked: support for the Post Office, which desperately needs the support, but also mail-in voting.  The President is tweeting today, kind of rage tweeting, about the possibility of mail-in voting.  And, as I've said before in this program, the one thing that I share with the President is that we both vote by mail.

You are a Representative from a state where all of the voters of California are going to get ballots in the mail that they can use.  What is it that your legislation does to help allow mail-in voting and what does it also do at the same time to support the Post Office?

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you for that.  First of all, we're now calling it voting at home because that's really what it's all about, enabling people to vote at home. 

And, in the legislation, we have additional funds, $3.6 billion, which is necessary for us to conduct an election, which follows some of our encouragements that is that every voter would receive an absentee ballot; that there would be same-day registration; that for those who need to vote on election day, whether it's disabilities or concern about their ballot, etcetera, that there would be safe opportunities for them to do so well in advance of election day, but in adequate locations that are safe.

This becomes a health issue.  This becomes a health issue as we saw in Wisconsin: standing in those lines for that amount of time, going to places that are enclosed is dangerous to your health.  And again, vote by mail is more democratic.  It gives people more options.  It removes obstacles and barriers to voting, which is what we've wanted to do: voting by – at home.  Essential to it is a lively, thriving postal system.

It's interesting to note that what we have in the bill for the postal system is what has been recommended by the bipartisan Board of Governors of the postal – U.S. Postal Service, all of them appointed by President Trump, all of them.  And they unanimously agree that we must have a $25 billion infusion of appropriation for the Postal Service, that we must have some loans that are unrestricting in terms of conditions put on them.

They even ask for more than we have in the bill, and we'll save that for another piece of legislation.  But, right now, what we're acting upon is the recommendation of the bipartisan Trump-appointed Postal Service.  And that is, as I had mentioned, over one billion people last year, more like 1.2 billion people – not billion people, 1.2 billion packages of medicine have gone through the mail.  90 percent of the medicine needed by our veterans comes to them through the mail.  So, this is a health issue in addition to a convenience issue for the American people, in terms of shelter in place and ordering whatever they order through the mail as a convenience to them.

So, this is one of our ‘hills of Rome’ that we will fight, and win.  And it is about, again, the good health of the American people, both receiving their medicines, but also not exposing themselves to injury.  I think that we should put a warning label on some of the things that our colleagues are saying and some of the people who are saying them, ‘Dangerous to your health.’

Lawrence O’Donnell.  And, just as a final question, Madam Speaker, I want to go back to your reference earlier today.  You called doggie doo on the shoes, and you said that is on the shoes of all the people who are working with Donald Trump.  One of the people who seems to have something on his shoe is Mike Pompeo, having fired – requested the firing of the Inspector General of the State Department who appears to be investigating Mike Pompeo.  What is your reaction to what Secretary of State has said about this, where he's refusing to comment on why he requested the firing of the Inspector General?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, again, this is a pattern of the Trump Administration.  They're afraid of the truth.  And, any time an Inspector General comes close to the truth, that person loses his or her job.

As you know, this was well before your time and mine, but this was an initiative following Watergate where there was a need to place, in the agencies of government, an Inspector General to make sure there was no waste, fraud and abuse or violation of the law.  And so, when they fired these people, when they come close to looking at behavior that might cause them some unease, they fire them.

And Secretary Pompeo said they should have fired him a long time ago because he wasn't acting in the manner we wanted him to act.  Well, did that mean turn a blind eye to wrongdoing?  What is it that they are afraid of?

We have to insist upon the truth and, not only the truth, but that our democratic principles are followed.  And what they are doing is really, in my view, scandalous and unfortunate, but not surprising part of a pattern.

And, again, the American people have to realize their interests are protected by these Inspectors General.  And, again, I would say that if it were Democratic president or Republican president, doesn't matter.  The truth must prevail.

Lawrence O’Donnell.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, always an honor to have you join us.  Thank you very much.

Speaker Pelosi.  My pleasure.  Thank you so much.