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 the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, including oversight and the latest on efforts to increase aid to essential workers and state, local and tribal governments in the upcoming CARES 2 package. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Andrea Mitchell. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joins me now from Capitol Hill. Madam Speaker, thank you very much for being with us today. It's good to see you.
Speaker Pelosi. Nice to be here. Thank you.
Andrea Mitchell. The President said that there would be more deaths but that the virus will pass, that it's time to reopen the economy. As we see hotspots spreading across the country, do you agree with him now that it's time to focus more on what he sees as getting back to normal?
Speaker Pelosi. No, what I think we must do, and science tells us, is that we must have testing, testing, testing, tracing, tracing, tracing and have a number – an idea of how our country has been affected in all communities across the country. That's why I'm so – we’re all here working on putting, again, the next CARES 2 bill. It's about testing, tracing, treatment and isolation, social distancing and the rest – right away, rapid and robust testing, so we can see and take a measure of what is there. And not to do so in a way that – one day they have a Task Force; the next day they don't. One day they have a volunteer corps; the next day it's looking like it’s a handmaiden of good friends of the White House. This – let's forget about what they're doing because they have been on a bad case.
And in reference to what you're saying about China, yes, we want to know how this started, but we want to know what the President knew and when he knew it and what his Administration did or didn't do about it. That's for later – after-action review. But we cannot continue to try to save lives and livelihoods, indeed our democracy, on the strength of what the President said last night. I – our bill is about testing, and I'll tell you more about it if you wish.
Andrea Mitchell. I do want to ask you more about that. But first, let me first ask you about Dr. Fauci, because there are some indications we have not seen him and Dr. Birx as part of the Task Force front and center at the White House at least, in at least a week I think or more. Let's talk about Dr. Fauci and whether or not he could appear before the House. We know he's supposed to appear before the Senate, but the White House, Mark Meadows, will not let him appear before the House. Donna Shalala on an earlier hour right here on MSNBC said as a former HHS Secretary and, as you know, a Member of Congress – said it's up to you whether or not the House subpoenas Dr. Fauci. Do you plan to subpoena Dr. Fauci to testify?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we're in court right now, in the Supreme Court as a matter of fact – on the rights of Congress to have oversight over the Executive branch – three co-equal branches of government. And Dr. Fauci – I would hope that Dr. Fauci would say things in public that we wouldn't need him to be subpoenaed to say about how he sees things going. I feel sad for him and anybody who has to stand in that Task Force and practically validate what's coming out of the President's mouth except for an occasional clarification.
So, again, we want the information. It's clear the Administration is afraid of the truth, and the President of the United States to say that the Congress, the House, is ‘a bunch of haters’ is so beneath the dignity of the office that he holds and so distant from the seriousness he should bring to a matter of life and death of so many people in our country.
Here we are, National Nurses Day and week, the President's going to do a proclamation, but we're unworthy to praise and thank our first responders unless we give them what they need. They need to have the personal protective equipment. That's why we have, in addition to the testing – we have a big allocation for state and local government. These people are risking their lives to save other lives and they may lose their jobs because of the economic consequences of the coronavirus. So, I think we have to really recognize science, truth, fact, data is where – what will take us out of this. That's why – talking about the testing.
So, we want to save the lives of the American people. We want to salute our heroes with our state and locals. That's a tribute to the caregivers, the police and fire, first responders, emergency services, transit workers, teachers, teachers, teachers and the rest, custodians, all who come in contact with this in terms of risking their lives to save other lives and now they may lose their jobs. So, we would hope they would join in something like that.
But we have to have a strategic plan. You have to plan, testing, testing, testing, tracing, tracing, tracing. We have to have a plan that reaches everyone in our country with the allocation of resources to do so and show there is a plan. So, when you're asking people to social distance and the rest, they see it as part of a plan. We haven't seen a plan yet out of this White House except a plan for every day, so you can quote him.
Andrea Mitchell. Speaking of some of plans that they've done already, there's reporting that there were a lot of issues with Jared Kushner and his volunteer force – you just referred to that – that the House Oversight Committee is looking into. Political influence, favoritism, contracts being awarded improperly, ventilators not being produced, protective gear going to political favorites. What can the House do to look into any of that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, all of the committees have their own oversight responsibilities, but our new Select Committee, chaired by Mr. Clyburn, is a committee that will be looking at how these dollars are spent. One of the examples from that so-called volunteer corps, whatever that thing was, is that somebody knew somebody who knew somebody who said he had X number of ventilators, referred it to the state of New York. They awarded a contract. And there were no ventilators.
We hear that again and again, with masks and the rest. So, we just want to make sure that the hundreds of billions of dollars that are being spent to the tune of trillions now, but hundreds of billions spent for these purposes is not waste, fraud, abuse, price gouging or profiteering off of this. So, that in an overall guide assistance what the committee will – that new committee will be doing.
It's not about oversight of what the President knew when and where. That's for another day. But for this committee, it is about how we go forward.
Andrea Mitchell. And what about Dr. Bright? He's going to be testifying. The whistleblower whose complaint alleges a lot of mismanagement and improper science, through political influence from the White House and pressure on him, and he says retaliation, which sidelined him.
Speaker Pelosi. So sad because this is a really respected scientist doing the job, and to have political interference into science when lives are at stake – this is nothing for theoretical down the road, wouldn't it be nice if we had, it's about the here and now. So, again, Congresswoman Eshoo, Chair of the Health Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce, and the Chair of the Committee, Mr. Pallone, next week they will have a hearing about those allegations that have been put forth by Dr. Bright.
But understand, he is a person of the highest integrity and experience as a scientist. BARDA, the organization that he heads, is there to be in the forefront to get science we – anticipating things, in addition to responding to them. And that the White House would interfere, as it interfered in this volunteer thing, is really quite tragic.
Because, look, we all want to come together. We all want to work together. We want to forget this or save that for later or, ‘What's so important about that?’ or whatever it is. But the fact is, if you undermine science, if you underfund testing, if you exaggerate the opportunity that is out there for the economy at the risk of people dying, that's not a plan. Death is not an economic motivator, stimulus.
So, why are we going down that path? Why don't we – everyone wants to get out and we think to unlock the lockdown is to test, trace and treat as well as isolate and social distancing. And when the science tells us that we can do something differently or to be socially distant, wearing your mask, doing things in a way that is appropriate. But not cheering people on, going with guns and swastikas to the legislature in Michigan and saying these are really good people.
What I don't understand about someone associated with the Task Force is how the concern that that happened and it's dangerous and these people can take this home with them and hurt their families and all of the rest, but they never say to the President, ‘Don't look fondly on that. That's not supposed to happen. It's in defiance of the guidelines you're asking people to honor and yet you honor those who are in violation of them.’
So, again, how can we find our common ground for the funding, for the testing, for honoring our heroes and for putting money in the pockets of the American people? We have to do that more effectively and with more money.
I also want to just add one more thing: our democracy. We have to have the money for our democracy, for our elections. This is very essential. A small amount of money compared to the big –
Andrea Mitchell. About election security.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes. The voter protections for vote by mail and those who want to and don't want to vote by mail.
Andrea Mitchell. Let me ask you quickly. You mentioned masks. Should the President role model when he's out in public – the Vice President has said he made a mistake for when he went to the Mayo Clinic and did not follow their guidelines. Should the President wear a face mask when he is out in public, or some covering?
Speaker Pelosi. The President, it's a vanity thing, I guess, with him. I don’t know why he would be vain, but anyways, it's a vanity thing. You would think as the President of the United States you would have the confidence to honor the guidance that you are giving others in the country. Yes, he should have worn a face mask.
But it's really another indication that as we tell everyone to wash their hands, 30 seconds, soap and water, top and bottom, wash your hands – hygiene and sanitation, very important in fighting this. Apparently the President has washed his hands of this. He's just washed his hands. He wants the Task Force is here today, gone tomorrow. No mask. ‘Why should I have a mask when I'm President of the United States?’ We have a real problem here, but forget it. Let's not make that important.
Let's make important what we can do next working together to honor our first responders, our heroes to test, test, test, to find the true extent in all of the communities in our country and to save lives, livelihood and the life of our democracy. We can do that, and we can do it working together. I'm very proud that our first four bills were bipartisan.
Andrea Mitchell. Would you put those priorities, your priorities, you made it clear what they are, on the House Floor for a vote before you have an agreement with the Senate and with the White House?
Speaker Pelosi. That would be an option that we have. And that's up to my Caucus and we're in a series of calls in one way or another: smaller groups, bigger groups, committees and we’ll have a Whip call today. But I definitely will present that as an option. And what we're doing is very, I think, appealing.
Let me just say, the governors, Democrats and Republicans, Republicans and Democrats, mayors, county executives, all support, all support the state and local, our Heroes Bill. Scientists universally say we must be testing. So this is nothing controversial. It's science and it's honoring those who are risking their lives to save our lives but may lose their jobs. I think that's bipartisan.
Andrea Mitchell. Before I let you go, do you want to send a message to an 87-year-old Supreme Court Justice who just participated in an oral argument from Johns Hopkins and was, you know, right in the frontlines, still in the fight?
Speaker Pelosi. Not only my message but the message of so many people that I was texting with on the last – since yesterday, to her. We thank her for her values. We thank her for her courage. We thank her for her strength and determination and what we do. I mean she is just absolutely magnificent, a real – God truly blessed America with the service and leadership of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Andrea Mitchell. Thank you so much, Madam Speaker. It's always good to talk to you. We appreciate it. I know you're a busy, busy person.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Thank you so much.