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Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

June 13, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning.

Here we are, continuing a late night into the next morning.  I always say to the Members, ‘Let’s see who can hoot with the owls and soar with the eagles early the next morning.’  And they are there on the Floor with our appropriations bill.

I just want to start off the morning to say that Leader McConnell seems to take great pride in calling himself the Grim Reaper.  It’s part of his political campaign.  It’s part of the pride he takes as Leader of the Senate.  And as you see what he wants to bury, none of these things are going to pass.  They won’t even be voted on.  ‘So, think of me as the Grim Reaper,’ his own quote.

He wants to bury the For The People Act for cleaner government.  The Equality Act for ending discrimination against the LGBTQ community.  Dreamers, to protect our Dreamers and TPS recipients.  Paycheck Fairness, equal pay for equal work.  Gun violence protection, commonsense background check legislation, he’s burying that.  Climate Action Now.  Climate Action Now, let’s bury that.  Save the Internet Act, the net neutrality legislation young people are so concerned about.  The Violence Against Women Act won’t even get a vote.  Lowering health care and prescription drug prices won’t even get a vote.

That’s what he said about our agenda, which encompasses most of our early legislation on what we promised For The People: to lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, by building infrastructure of America in a green way, and in doing so, increasing paychecks.  Lower health care, bigger paychecks, cleaner government.  Not even going to get a vote.

Again, ‘Public sentiment is everything,’ President Lincoln.  The Senate will certainly be hearing from the public on issues, values really, that have bipartisan support across America.  This is our attempt to find our common ground.  So many of these issues, whether it’s gun safety or violence against women and the rest, rank very high across the board, across party, across party lines.

Right now, I’m very proud that on the Floor of the House, as a former Appropriator, the Appropriations Committee is putting forth legislation that reflects our values to meet the needs of the American people.  Already we have addressed issues like raising the funding for the National Institutes of Health, investing further in early childhood education, we are talking about.  And that’s in Rosa DeLauro’s bill, Health and Human Services and Education and Labor legislation.  We heard from Mr. Visclosky on the Defense bill.

So, we’re talking about a strong America, strong in our national security, our national defense, and strong in the health and education and well-being of the American people.

I would love just to read to you all the provisions of the legislation, but they’re there for you to see, and we’ll be talking about them, enlarging those issues as to what they mean to the American people.

So that is part of our legislate, investigate, litigate agenda.  We’re doing this, and at the same time we are honoring our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Yesterday, the President gave us, once again, evidence that he does not know right from wrong.  It’s a very sad thing, very sad thing that he does not know right from wrong.  I believe that he has been involved in a criminal coverup – I’ve said that before – and our investigation is demonstrating that.  The Mueller Report showed obstruction of justice in at least 10, perhaps 11 places.

But for the President to be so cavalier, to disregard, to be indifferent to law and any sense of ethics about who we are as a country, to say he would invite foreign intervention further.  The Intelligence Community with great confidence has put forth that the Russians interfered in our election.  That’s an assault on our democracy, an assault on our democracy.  This President says it’s a hoax.

He takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, but I guess it doesn’t include him in terms of being – to be held accountable to obey the law.

So, we have a package that we’re putting forth in light of the Mueller Report, a package of legislation, duty to report if someone comes to you, mandating that campaigns report foreign offers of assistance.  It shouldn’t even – I mean, it’s so self-evident as a matter of ethics, but we’ll have to codify it, mandating a duty to report for campaigns reporting foreign interventions in our elections.

Protecting our elections with paper ballots, that’s our election security bill that Zoe Lofgren is working on.  And she is working with the Senate, hoping to have bipartisan support in the House for our legislation to protect our electoral system.

Closing foreign money loopholes, that’s Mr. Sarbanes’ bill post the Mueller Report.  And Mr. Thompson will be having a hearing in the Homeland Security Committee about preventing foreign disinformation.  That is just a sample of some of the things that will be out there.

I believe we’re making good progress on oversight.  Our Chairmen are doing a great job.  I’m so proud of them.  They’re winning in the courts and winning documents from the Justice Department with the thought of contempt or following up on subpoenas.  And we’re going to get the truth for the American people so that they can know what the attack is on our country, what the President refused to do about it, and what he engaged in to cover up what was done.

There are so many things happening.  I just want to refer to one thing, in Hong Kong.  As many of you know, or some of you do anyway, the issue of China has been an important one for me since Tiananmen Square, even before, but in terms of public policy here in the Congress since Tiananmen Square.  On June 4, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square.

At the same time, we’re observing that the Chinese Government is engaged in arresting millions of Uyghurs and putting them into education camps, that they’re diminishing the democracy in Hong Kong, trying to really just eliminate the culture, the language, the religion in Tibet.  The list goes on and on.

But right now, currently, as we gather here, in Hong Kong, as you know, in the last few days hundreds of thousands, if not a million people gathered in the street to protest an extradition law that the Chinese Government wants the Hong Kong Government to pass.  It’s such a horrible, horribly dangerous piece of legislation.

I’m very pleased to be supporting legislation that Senator Marco Rubio and Chris Smith on the Republican side, Jim McGovern and I on our side, and others are putting forth to improve and modernize the Hong Kong-U.S. Relations Act – U.S.-Hong Kong Relations Act – and that is going to be submitted today.  They’re just finalizing it, perhaps being submitted today.

But this is so wrong.  And I do hope that the President will speak about human rights in China and freedoms in China when he talks about trade with the Chinese.  I am pleased with Secretary Pompeo’s statement on what’s happening in China now in this regard.

With that, I’ll take any questions you have.

 

***

Q:  Speaker Pelosi? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma’am.  You always sit right there.  So, Nancy gets it.

Q:  That’s the strategy. 

When it comes to this issue of opposition research, what would you do if a House Democrats accepted assistance, campaign assistance, from a foreign power?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we’re saying it should be against the law.  It’s so against any sense of decency.

But, let me give you an example.  Perhaps you don’t know this or maybe you do, but to remind – in 2000, when the race was between Senator Gore and Governor Bush, Tom Downey – former Member of Congress, close friend of Al Gore – was playing George Bush in the prep – in the debate prep – and somebody threw over the transom or under the door, whatever place it came, the plans for the Bush campaign in the debates – in the debates.

They just got that to Tom Downey.  He picked it up and sent it to the FBI.  This isn’t even foreign governments.  This isn’t even foreign governments.

That’s what you do.  There is a sense of decency about fruit from the forbidden tree, ill-gotten gain about what – again – how President, then Governor, Bush would have conducted that debate.

This is so – and just by dint of your question, with all due respect, you make it sound like it could be a common thing – it is not.

And, what the President said last night shows clearly, once again, over and over again, that he does not know the difference between right and wrong.  And that’s probably the nicest thing I could say about him because, if he does not know the difference, that could explain some of his ridiculous behavior.

And now, to invite further involvement of foreign governments into our election – there was an assault on our democracy, an assault on our country by the Russians.  That has been clearly documented by the Intelligence Community and the President of United States, instead of coming to the defense of our democracy, has said it’s a hoax.

This is beyond – it’s really, there is no sense of – what’s the word I want to find – of any ethical sense that informs his comments and his thinking.

Q: Madam Speaker, I want to make sure we understand what you’re saying because you’re going to be pushing for legislation here.  Are you saying – it is clear now whether this is illegal, whether it’s wrong, is it illegal to take this kind of information?  And, in addition, one of your Members, at least, is saying this is impeachable – this attitude by the President – do you believe that this is impeachable? 

Speaker Pelosi.  There is in the law that you cannot accept contributions and that includes in-kind from a foreign government – your campaign cannot.  That is in the law but if it needs more clarity then we will go the duty to report.  That is not only you don’t accept it but you report it to the FBI because this is – it is an invasion of our democracy.  I don’t have the language right here but there is language in the law that prohibits any contribution, and again, contribution is in-kind, information or whatever that is but we want to make sure that it has more clarity and carries a responsibility to report.

Q:  Madam Speaker, if you discover – we are already in campaign season – if you discover that this President over the course of the 2020 campaign accepted help from a foreign government as he suggested that he might, would you consider that grounds to launching impeachment proceedings? 

Speaker Pelosi.  It has nothing to do with any campaign.  I want to make sure you all understand that.  We go down this path to seek the truth for the American people and to hold the President accountable.  It has nothing to do with politics or any campaigns.  It has everything to do with – it has everything to do with – excuse me, if I may answer your question.  It has everything to do with patriotism, not partisanship.  As we collect facts and it takes time because you have to do your research, make your request, if you go to court, you have to do the accommodation – do you know what that is?  It takes time to prove that you have tried to resolve the issue and that takes time and that is the path we will be.  And it encompasses any and all of the comments that the President has made.

Q:  Can I just clarify though –

Speaker Pelosi.  It is all women in the front.  I am so excited about that!

[Laughter]

Q:  If the President is inviting foreign interference, why is that not grounds to move toward impeachment?  And what grounds would you take to prevent him from impeachment?

Speaker Pelosi.  Everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the President said last night.  Everybody should be appalled, but he has a habit of making appalling statements.  This one borders on so totally unethical that he doesn’t even realize it.

However, what we want to do is have a methodical approach to the path that we are on and this will be included in that.  But not any one issue is going to trigger – ‘Oh now we’ll go do this.’  It’s about investigating, it’s about litigating, it’s about getting the truth to hold everyone accountable, and no one is above the law.

But, I want to get back to our legislation, because that is what the American people elected us to do.  They elected us to – For The People agenda, to increase paychecks, lower health care costs, have cleaner government.  Many of these pieces of legislation are in that.

What is it about Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in Congress, that they do not want to respond to what is so popular across the board in our country?

To take it back to your question, what is it about the Republicans in Congress, how much more of the President’s unethical behavior can they bear, that they think they’re honoring their oath of office?

And I believe all of these things are connected.  It’s all about money.  Connect the dots, in all of this.  It’s all about money.  And look at what the President’s doing in Saudi Arabia with the sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Follow the money!  Who benefits from that?  To declare a national emergency that he can bypass Congress in terms of those sales.  Bypass the law in terms of transferring nuclear technology to a country.  Follow the money.

Q: Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, Chad.

Q: Thank you.  Good morning.

On this issue of a COLA increase, is there, number one, a problem with the idea that people come here and because the pay isn’t satisfactory they then go off Capitol Hill and go to K Street and that entails corruption? 

And, why is it so hard, naturally, to then take a vote on this because it’s so toxic for a regular pay raise or a COLA increase?  And is that appropriate at this time when people, you know, themselves back home in the Midwest or out West need more money? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it’s hard at any time.

It’s not a pay raise.  It’s a COLA increase.  And whether that comes to be, I don’t know.  It would have to be a bipartisan initiative, if it were to be the case.

And, as you know, Mr. Hoyer feels very strongly, in support of strengthening this institution, that there should be a recognition with a COLA of the work that is done.

Let me just say, listening to the Members – because it’s never a good time to bring up something like this – there is a sentiment in the country that Congress should not be just, Members, people who can afford to go to Congress.  It should be about everybody having the opportunity, many more women, many more people of color and the rest, and that that is where some of the unease comes from that people say it shouldn’t be just for wealthy people.

Well, it isn’t just for wealthy people, but there is that impression.  And there is an impression among Members that it’s hard to have two homes, raise a family and all the rest.  So that’s part of what the discussion is.

I don’t see it as any – what did you say?  You relate it to going to K Street? No, I think – what I think is an issue in our country is the revolving door, largely spinning madly in the executive branch, as we see it now.

Look at the people in the Departments – the Secretaries in the Cabinet.  They’re all connected to the special interests.  So many of them have left already in disgrace, dismay or disappointment.

But you see their connection, whether it’s EPA, Interior, you name the list – there’s so much connection to the – when I say private sector, I don’t want to paint everyone with the same brush, but to special interest – I’ll paint that in there.

So, this whole issue of this revolving door is a separate issue and something that has to be looked into, but as we have inclusion, and that is an important value.

Q: Well, what is this disconnect with the public?  The House was in till 4:01 this morning –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Q: And most people back home say, ‘Oh, Congress doesn’t get any work done, nothing happens.’ 

I know you’re talking about the graveyard here.  But that said, you know, the public doesn’t think that Congress gets things done, and the House was in till 4 o’clock in the morning.  The Defense markup was quite late last night as well –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, till 7 o’clock this morning.

Q: But that’s my point – why does the public perceive this differently and that’s why they’re opposed to a COLA increase and Members are afraid if they vote for that, they’re going to get hammered?

Speaker Pelosi.  I don’t think that this is – look, we have a President who is ignoring the law, not honoring his oath of office, not honoring the office that he holds.

We have a funding challenge that we have, which is something that must be done – by the end of the fiscal year, we must pass the appropriations bills.

I’m an appropriator.  Left to our own devices, I believe, as I’ve said to you before, that the appropriators in a bipartisan way can reach solutions.  We’re still having the caps fight, the lifting of the debt ceiling.

We have the President transferring nuclear technology as well as other weaponry to a country that is getting away with murder and he chooses to ignore it, is engaged in a deadly war in Yemen, which the Congress opposes.

So, we have important policy matter to deal with – I think I’ve spent enough time on speculating as to whether there will be something or not, which we don’t know if there will be.

Q: Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma’am.

Q: On the appropriations, at the end of the month, the Office of Refugee Resettlement said that they are going to run out of money to house unaccompanied migrants at the border.  The Senate is going to mark up a bill next week on this issue. 

How do you think that the Senate and the House can bridge the divide given the fact that they had to drop this off of the disaster aid bill just a couple of weeks ago because they couldn’t find agreement? 

Speaker Pelosi.  They’re working on it.  There are two paths.  One is in the appropriations bill, where we have the Homeland Security piece, which is part of the 2020 appropriations, and then the supplemental.  We’ll have to have a supplemental because the needs are so great.

But, I have confidence that they will come to a conclusion on it.  We have to – the humanitarian needs are very great there, and we care very much about that and we don’t want them to poison pill what we’re trying to do to alleviate that humanitarian challenge.

I mean, really, taking children out of the arms of their mother, separating families?

How could it be, as people of faith that believe in the spark of divinity in every person, that we’re all God’s children, that we could treat people the way they do?  But, we will have to come to an agreement to get the bill passed and signed by the President.

Q: Can it be done by the end of the month? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh, I think so.  Yeah, I hope so.  I mean, we’re on that path.

Yes, ma’am.

Q: In order to pass legislation, you’re going to have to work with this President.  I don’t see infrastructure on your board.  Going back to the infrastructure meeting a few weeks ago, looking back, was it a good idea in that moment, right before you walked in, to accuse the President of a criminal cover-up before you were trying to get a deal done for the American public? 

Speaker Pelosi.  These are bills that have passed the House.

Q: I know.  Yeah. 

Speaker Pelosi.  These are bills that have passed the House.  We are not giving up on infrastructure.

And I say almost every day that the President is involved in a criminal cover-up.  He just chose to pick it up that day.  So there was nothing new about anything I said about the President at that time.  I think the President just didn’t want to pay for it.

The purpose of that meeting was we’re going to do infrastructure: build the infrastructure in our country – which I truly believe he wants to do – build the infrastructure of our country in a green way – I’m not sure about that – to raise the paychecks of the American worker.

And to do so in a way – infrastructure is a national security issue, as President Eisenhower so beautifully demonstrated in the ’50s when he instituted the Interstate Highway System as a national security issue to unify America.

So, I don’t take any responsibility for the President’s behavior, except to say that we’re going to hold him accountable for it.

Q: Budget caps question? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir.

Q: I understand the White House is floating some new offers to Democrats that were going to review it.  Have you seen that?  Do you have any comment on how the talks are –

Speaker Pelosi.  I don’t know what that is.  What are you referencing?

Q: Apparently Mnuchin was in with McConnell making offers last night and wanting to run something by you, so I just –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I don’t know what it is so I can’t tell you if I do, but I’ll tell you where I see things.

We do have to lift the budget caps.  We have to avoid sequestration, because that is not a good idea for our country.

We have to avoid shutdown of government, which is palatable to some Republicans who don’t believe in governance, but we will not go down that path.

And, we are going to combine – when we lift the caps, then we can talk about lifting the debt ceiling, but that would have to come second or simultaneous, but not before lifting the caps.

I don’t know what their proposal is, but I do know that when we’ve been engaged in conversation – Mitch and – Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer and Mr. McCarthy and I, with the Secretary of the Treasury, we were making some progress.  But then they kind of backed away from it.  So, we’ll see.  I don’t know what that one is.

I’m not usually, shall we say – when Mick Mulvaney takes the lead – Mick Mulvaney was one of the leaders in shutting down government when he was here and voted to keep it closed, voted to keep it closed.  And that was when we were operating on the Republican number that we said, ‘We’ll agree to it.  We don’t like it.  We’ll agree to it.’  And they didn’t agree to their own number.

So I’m hopeful, always hopeful, always open.  But I think, left to our own devices, we can get – I keep using that phrase because there is bipartisanship in all of this.  We know what we have to do.  We can get it done.

It’s when they come in with deal breakers because they don’t believe in governance, they don’t believe in science – which says evidence, data, truth, fact, what we need to do for our country.

So, if you don’t accept that and you don’t believe in governance then you have a different approach to all of this.

Okay.

Are you ready for game time tonight?  See my yellow jacket?

[Laughter]

Golden State Warriors – game time.

Q: You made a bet with Justin Trudeau.

Speaker Pelosi.  I did.  I made a bet with Justin Trudeau after it was 3‑1.

Now, I didn’t want to bring it up in Normandy, that wouldn’t have been appropriate.

[Laughter]

That wasn’t the time or the place, but the next day – the next day we made our bet.  Can’t wait to see what those goodies are from Canada.

[Laughter]

Q: Poutine?

Speaker Pelosi.  Say what?

Q: Poutine, perhaps? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Is that what they’ll have?

Q: I don’t know.  Maybe.

Speaker Pelosi.  I think that it will be – see, my advantage is – my advantage, apart from the Golden State Warriors, my advantage is that I’m the Speaker of the House, but my bet is from California.  So, walnuts and almonds and chocolate and wine.

His advantage is he’s the Prime Minister of Canada, so he has to have a representative supply.  I don’t have to do the whole country.  I can just do California.  So, I’m eager to see what he sends.

Game time.

Q: Thank you.  Good luck. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.