Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
May 23, 2019
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning.
Q: Good morning.
Speaker Pelosi. Sorry for the delay. We had a little longer, took a little longer, on the Floor than I had anticipated, but the Floor rules.
As we go into Memorial Day Weekend, which is such a beautiful time for us to remember, respect, and honor – we honor the service and sacrifice of our heroes in uniform and reaffirm our sacred duty to never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
The service of our veterans reminds us of our mission to build a future worthy of their sacrifice. We do so honoring the oath we take to support and defend the Constitution and to protect the American people.
Honoring that oath, this week, the House passed nine bills to support veterans, protecting their health benefits, financial security, and taking action to end the crisis of veteran suicide.
This week, we’re also passing an urgently needed fix for military families facing tax hikes under the GOP tax scam. With the ‘Kiddie Tax’, Republicans took half a billion dollars from working and middle class families and gave it to big corporations and the wealthy. A half a billion dollars, the ‘Kiddie Tax’.
It is unacceptable that surviving children of our fallen heroes, who have suffered so much, are now forced to pay thousands of additional dollars in taxes on their benefits. They cannot be forced to sacrifice twice.
As Democrats take action to protect military families, we also are hard at work to protect our workers, in stark contrast to the Republicans’ special interest agenda.
Today, in the same legislation that contains the ‘Kiddie Tax’ Act, or tax fix, to fix what the Republicans did in their tax scam, we’re passing the SECURE Act. We’re passing strong measures to help workers have a secure retirement.
And yesterday Congresswoman Waters’ Consumer First Act, reversing the Administration’s destruction of the Consumer Bureau. The Consumer Bureau returned nearly $12 billion to 30 million seniors, servicemembers, and veterans before being gutted by the Trump Administration.
Also, to honor our oath, we’re hoping to have a disaster supplemental bill passed before we leave for the district work period. That was our hope. That’s what we’ve been working on till the wee small hours of the night last night.
However, we have sent legislation, bipartisan legislation passed in the House, to the Senate. It would be helpful for those in the disaster stricken areas if the Senate would just pass the bill – bills – and send it on to the President.
We passed a bill a while back, months ago, and then in light of other disasters that occurred in the spring, we then, May 10, passed another bill that expanded the areas that were affected. That’s sitting over at the Senate. They could well just pass it and send it to the President.
That would send such a beautiful message to those areas that are affected and continue to be affected. You see what’s happening in Missouri as we with gather here.
What the problem is, is that the Trump Administration has put in conditions for border funding that are just totally unacceptable, really don’t have anything to do with what we’re trying to do for disaster assistance, and we have not been able to find common ground. We understand our responsibility to protect our border, but what they are doing is just not right.
And it’s important to note that in the 10 years before this, not a single child died in the custody of the Border Patrol at our border. Now six children have died in the last several months. Six children have died in the last several months.
Further honoring our oath means honoring our Constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight of the President and the Trump Administration. That responsibility has been resoundingly affirmed again and again, making absolutely clear that the House has a responsibility to follow the facts, uncover the truth for the American people.
Yesterday’s Deutsche Bank ruling concluded, and I quote: ‘Put simply, the power of Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process.’
And in the Mazars case, that would be on Monday, the judge declared: ‘There can be little doubt that Congress’s interest in the accuracy of the President’s financial disclosures falls within the legislative sphere.’
But the President’s priority is his personal and political interest, not the public interest.
Yesterday, as you know, Democrats went to the White House prepared to offer the President the opportunity to launch an historic infrastructure initiative. We had met three weeks before. The idea that we – and it was a good positive meeting about how we’d build the infrastructure of our country – roads; bridges; mass transit; broadband in rural areas, and in underserved urban areas as well; water systems, both wastewater and safe, clean drinking water, infrastructure for our satellites so that our technology works here.
For all of these things, we were optimistic. We also were hoping for housing and school construction as a further part of the conversation.
But the question is: How was it paid for? And the President was going to – the plan was, as we agreed at the meeting three weeks ago, the President was to present his proposals at yesterday’s meeting.
Well, everyone, he started making, sending signals that he may not be – he might not be ready or interested. The night before, he sent us a letter, to Chuck Schumer and to me, saying that he doesn’t want to do infrastructure until we do the U.S.-Mexico-Canada – that’s not the accurate – some people call it AFTA, NAFTA, some call it NAFTA 2.0. But anyway, that trade agreement. And that was a strange juxtaposition. But nonetheless, the next day you know what happened.
I think what happened, he says it’s because of cover-up, and I know that that strikes a chord with him and he’s afraid of cover-up – afraid of being accused of cover-up. But I really think that what – he knew the one court decision was getting into territory that he did not want touched, and they did not allow the Mueller investigation to go into the President’s personal finances.
So, Mazars was a setback for him, and then he must have known the Deutsche Bank decision would be consistent. But in any event, to inoculate against its presentation, he pulled a stunt.
Now, I truly believe that the President has a bag of tricks, and the White House has a bag of tricks, that they save for certain occasions. They don’t necessarily apply to the occasion, but they’re a distraction, which is – he’s a master of distraction. We will all agree on that. That’s something he does well. To distract from problems that he has, he changes – tries to change the subject.
And while he tried to say it’s because I said cover-up, we’ve been saying cover-up for a while. And our 9 o’clock meeting was a meeting we have anyway. So, it had nothing to do with him.
But, I think what really got to him was these court cases and the fact that the House Democratic Caucus is not on a path to impeachment, and that’s where he wants us to be. And when he saw that that was not happening, that, again, with the cover-up, which he understands is true, just struck a chord.
So, it was really sad, because as I said to some of you yesterday, Thomas Jefferson, one of our—you know, our third President, had the first infrastructure initiative. He tasked [Albert] Gallatin, who was his Secretary of the Treasury.
And I said that to the Secretary of the Treasury yesterday after the President left the room that he tasked his Secretary of the Treasury to put together a big infrastructure plan, to follow the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Louisiana Purchase, to build into the infrastructure of America, Cumberland Road, Erie Canal, things like that, that are so important to our country in terms of commerce and mobility and the rest.
And then, 100 years later, 100 years later, Teddy Roosevelt, he initiated his infrastructure plan, which was green, the establishment of the National Park Service.
Later in the century, President Eisenhower put forth an Interstate Highway proposal. It was very bipartisan. The leader in the Senate was Lyndon Johnson, in the House Sam Rayburn, and the President of the United States, a Republican President, Eisenhower, working together to pass that for the good of the country. And its purpose under President Eisenhower was that it would unify America. It was a defense issue.
So, what we’re talking about now, infrastructure, the President says ‘I’ word. I thought he was talking about infrastructure, roads, bridges, mass transit. I said some of these things already. And I thought we could give him the opportunity to make an historic contribution to the safety, because it’s a safety measure, it’s about commerce, it’s about safety, it’s about mobility, product to market, and the rest. It’s about clean air, clean water. It’s about a better future for our country.
Much needed billions, trillions of dollars in deficit in terms of low or no maintenance that we haven’t afforded. It’s never been partisan. We don’t want it to be partisan now.
But I can only think that he wasn’t up to the task of figuring out the difficult choices of how to cover the cost of the important infrastructure legislation that we had talked about 3 weeks before.
But the President, again, stormed out. And I think, what, first, pound the table, walk out the door. What? [Before], have the TV cameras in there while I have my say. That didn’t work for him either. And now this time, another temper tantrum.
Again, I pray for the President of the United States. I wish that his family or his Administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.
* * *
Q: Madam Speaker, would you be prepared to change your rhetoric given the political landscape, your understanding of the President’s temperament? Your prayer comments almost suggest you’re concerned about his well-being.
Speaker Pelosi. I am, and the well-being of the United States of America.
Q: Would you be prepared to do something differently for the pragmatism in terms of getting more done, to not use phrases like “cover-up,” or to not perhaps provoke him? Would you be open to that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you have bought into his excuse. That was not a reason that he did that yesterday. That was an excuse for him to do that.
And with all due respect to your question, I do not intend not to honor my oath of office, nor do my colleagues in the House of Representatives to honor our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, which has a system of checks and balances, separation of power in it.
And, again, it’s a question of the American people understanding that what he is doing is an assault on the Constitution of the United States.
We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I hope he can, too.
Q: Yesterday you said that the President may have engaged in impeachable offenses.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Yet today you’re saying you’re not on a path to impeachment. Can you explain why you’re opposed to launching an impeachment inquiry that many of your Members want to do?
Speaker Pelosi. Let me be really, very clear. The President’s behavior in terms of his obstruction of justice, the things that he is doing, it’s very clear, it’s in plain sight, it cannot be denied. Ignoring subpoenas, obstruction of justice. Yes, these could be impeachable offenses.
But I intend – there are three things. You might understand it better if you remember these three things.
We want to follow the facts to get the truth to the American people, with a recognition, two, that no one is above the law, and three, that the President is engaged in a cover-up. And that is what my statement is.
How we deal with it is a decision that our Caucus makes, and our Caucus is very much saying, whatever we do, we need to be ready when we do it.
And I do think that impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country. And what – we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation, it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment, or not. But we’re not at that place.
Q: Would you take another meeting with the President after what happened? And can you work with him on anything?
Speaker Pelosi. Of course. Of course. I mean, you know, we’re dealing with a situation that is becoming more predictable. But I do think that we have a responsibility to try to find common ground.
It’s funny you asked that question, Kasie, because yesterday I was going to start the meeting in terms of, of course putting it in historic perspective, as I have done here, but also to say, we’re very busy people, the leaders in the Congress, especially the President of the United States, I think. And a meeting between the leaders of the Congress and the President is an historic meeting.
This is not a casual coming together of Democrats and Republicans. This is an historic meeting. It’s the leadership of the legislative branch, the first branch of government, and the President of the United States.
So let’s make it count for something. Let’s really make it count for something, by dint of preparation, by dint of respect for each other’s views, understanding that we’ll have to yield on points to get results for the American people.
But he obviously did not – was not prepared by dint of preparation, he was not prepared, and so he used some excuse to go out the door.
And I will not take responsibility for his irresponsible behavior because we are pointing out the truth to the American people.
She has a follow-up.
Q: Given the gravity of the meeting, Kellyanne Conway made remarks at the end of the meeting. She’s apparently expanded on her remarks today.
Speaker Pelosi. I’m not going to talk about her. I responded as the Speaker of the House to the President of the United States. Other conversations people want to have among themselves is up to them.
Q: Madam Speaker, now, obviously you guys have a lot of major legislative issues that you need to address this summer. The Treasury Secretary here was talking about raising the debt ceiling, the import of that. You’re going to need Democratic votes, you know, to add the question: How do you go back and reengineer this? You might not get infrastructure, but you’ve got to keep the government open, and you have to raise the debt ceiling, and you’re going to have to have Democratic votes, and the President is going to have to have that –
Speaker Pelosi. Why don’t you go ask that question of the President of the United States? We have always been responsible. Left to their own devices, our Appropriators can always – I’m an Appropriator, forged in that culture, Intelligence and Appropriations. And in those days, they were not really partisan arenas.
So frankly, on disaster assistance, we could have gotten there left to their own devices of the Appropriators, until the White House intervened.
So we will have to pass the Appropriations bills, and we will, and hopefully we will do them in a very timely fashion.
The debt ceiling will have to be lifted, and that’s a matter of conversation that we’re having on the debt ceiling.
We’re not saying, as the President said, ‘If you don’t stop investigating me, if you don’t stop honoring your oath of office, I can’t work with you.’ That’s basically what he’s saying. Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence, I don’t know.
But on the other hand, we understand what our responsibilities are. We’re fully prepared to go forward. It really will be up to them to have some level of cooperation.
Q: Do you think this puts you in a better position to ask for more, though, because of the blow up yesterday?
Speaker Pelosi. We want to do what we have to do that is right for the American people, respectful of all the equities that have to be weighed.
Staff. Last question.
Speaker Pelosi. One more, because we have to go back.
Q: You said in private, you suggested it today, that the President wants, on some level –
Speaker Pelosi. Of course.
Q: to be impeached.
Speaker Pelosi. I told you that.
Q: Can you explain that a bit? And can you also explain the comment you made about the staff doing an intervention?
Speaker Pelosi. Okay. The what intervention?
Q: You made a comment that you thought the staff might want to do an intervention.
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, I thought you said statutory intervention. That would be good. Article 25. Troublemaker. That’s a good idea. I’m glad you suggested it. I’ll take it up with my Caucus.
Q: For the record, it was not my –
Speaker Pelosi. Not that they haven’t been thinking about it. But your support will be important to them.
What was the question – oh, yes. Oh, there’s no question, the White House is just crying out for impeachment. That’s why he flipped yesterday, because he was hoping, because he was – somehow or other, you all have a story that isn’t real. I mean, you want to believe that there’s all this unease in our Caucus. That simply isn’t the truth.
We have respect for the diversity of opinion in our Caucus. And I say to the Caucus, our diversity is our strength, our unity is our power. And we have unity in our Caucus.
And so when he saw that – see, he’s saying, ‘Oh, you called that meeting at 9 o’clock.’ No, we have the meeting, Mr. President. It’s not about you. But it is about whatever is current at that time.
And so, somehow or other, you keep perpetuating this story, I don’t know why, because it isn’t factual. But nonetheless that was what disappointed him, because he didn’t see this rush to impeachment coming out of our Caucus in our 9 o’clock meeting, which he thought was called specifically for him.
And then intervention, that’s up to his family and his Cabinet and his staff in the White House. This is not behavior that rises to the dignity of the Office of President of the United States.
But having said that, as I said, I actually ardently pray for the President, because we need – I don’t know, sometimes when we’re talking to him, he agrees, and then, I said one time, ‘Who’s in charge here? Because you agree, and then all of a sudden something changes. What goes on there? Who’s in charge?’
And he says he’s in charge, and I suspect that he may be. And I suspect he may be even more since yesterday, because I don’t think that any responsible assistant to the President of the United States would have advised him to do what he did yesterday.
That’s it. Thank you all.
Q: On the Warriors?
Speaker Pelosi. I almost wore my yellow jacket today, but let’s see the other side play out. I watch every game. I’ve watched almost every game.
Q: Do you prefer Toronto or Milwaukee?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I’m kind of – while I would not like to play against the Greek Freak, it would be fun. It would be fun, yeah. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.