Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Craig Melvin on MSNBC Live to discuss the Congressional response to the killing of George Floyd, including Democrats’ newly unveiled bill, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Craig Melvin. I want to bring in Nancy Pelosi, now, to talk about the legislation. Madam Speaker, thank you for your time on this Monday.
Among other things, this bill would ban choke holds. It bans those no-knock warrants, like the one used before Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in Louisville. It would create a national database of police misconduct. How did you and the leadership team zero in on these specific reforms?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I want to commend the Congressional Black Caucus who has taken the lead on these issues for a very long time. The Judiciary Committee – and that would be Karen Bass, our Chair, and, then, Jerry Nadler, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee.
There is an array of bills that Members have had in the hopper for a while. But, now, with the public sentiment where it is, the prospect for them becoming law is greatly increased. So, I have respected the prioritizing that the Caucus has done, the writing of the legislation that the Judiciary Committee has done.
And, as you said, any racial profiling, choke holds, and some things that seem so obvious, but nonetheless have been hard to turn into law, now we have that opportunity. President Lincoln said, ‘Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything. Without it, practically nothing.’ And the public sentiment is there for us to do something transformative.
And I thank our Congressional Black Caucus, John Lewis, so many over the years who have advanced these very good solutions.
Craig Melvin. The phrase ‘defund the police,’ Madam Speaker, as you probably know by now, it's a phrase that has already been seized upon by those on the other end of the political spectrum. They're using the phrase to paint you and some others as radical. The phrase ‘defund the police,’ what does that mean to you?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, what it means is let us – the resources that we have, let us spend it in a way that gives the most protection to the American people: protection for their safety, protection for their rights.
Funding of police is a local matter, as you know. From the standpoint of our legislation, we're not going to that place. What we're doing is talking about how we change policy to make our policing more just and that – there's some issues that we ask police to do like mental health issues, policing in schools, all the rest, that perhaps we can shuffle some of that money around. But those are local decisions.
We take an oath to protect and defend the American people. Their safety is our top priority. And so, again, respectful of those in law enforcement who take pride in their work, disrespectful of those who do not, we want to work together as to how we go forward.
Craig Melvin. Were police unions consulted in crafting this legislation?
Speaker Pelosi. Some of our Members are in touch with some in the unions that represent various elements of law enforcement. I don't know where the police unions will be on this. But I do know where the American people are, and they want us to have liberty and justice for all, as we protect them.
The issue of safety and liberty is a constant balance in our country. And I feel very confident that where we're going is where the American people want us to go and where the vast majority of our law enforcement people – they take their responsibility to protect the American people seriously. I hope they will join us in this effort, as well.
Craig Melvin. My colleague, Carol Lee, over at the White House is reporting that the Trump Administration apparently does not anticipate supporting this bill, supporting this legislation. How do you hope to win over Republican support in the House? How do you do it in the upper chamber, as well?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think my colleagues, led by Congresswoman, Madam Chair, Karen Bass, she has had outreach to the Republicans on this. And we know there's some sentiment there for good change. And, as you saw, the beautiful demonstration of Senator Mitt Romney, that wasn't about this bill, but it was about this issue.
I think that the more visibility this debate has, the more Republicans votes we will get.
I don't pay a whole lot of attention to what the White House. They will distort, distract. Let’s ignore them. Let's just talk about passing legislation to keep the American people safe, all of the American people safe.
And isn't it a beautiful sight to behold? The martyrdom, the martyrdom of George Floyd has evoked such a response of peaceful demonstrators calling for the change they know our country needs as we go forward. It's a prayerful moment. It's a transformative moment. We have a responsibility to take advantage of it.
And I'm glad that the Black Caucus, John Lewis – the conscious of the Congress, an inspiration to all of us for so many years in the Congress, an honor to serve with him, has been such an inspiration to us over the years – but many Members of Congress, especially of the Black Caucus have had these bills in the works for a long time.
And, then, we have other things. We have The Heroes Act, which is going to help in terms of disparities of access to coronavirus testing, tracing, treatment. We have the honor our Heroes Act, which is going to help our local governments provide the services that people need in their communities, including education. And then we have the putting money in people's pockets, which is going to help people through this difficult time.
So, when you show figures that the American people think things are out of control in the country, there are solutions. The coronavirus was very disruptive for what it did to our economy. We’re saying open the economy, test, treat, isolate, get the job done. We’re talking about honoring our heroes.
So there are – there is a path to bringing, restoring order to our country if the President wishes to take that path, or if he just wishes to make up slogans to distract from the failure that he has been responsible for. But, forgetting about him, let's just forget about – how we go forward now with the golden opportunity this martyrdom has given us to rise to the occasion, to remember all the others who have sadly lost their lives to police brutality, but, also, to recognize the many in law enforcements – law enforcement who take pride in their work and are there to keep the Americans safe.
Craig Melvin. Madam Speaker, the proposed bill is sweeping. If passed, it would truly be transformative. But, the reality is a lot of what we have seen manifest itself, whether police brutality or other violence in this country, as it relates to race, it's not related to legislation. It's the heart. It's the mind. How do you address that? How do you change the way that people view other people in this country? How do you legislate that?
Speaker Pelosi. That has always been the challenge: the hearts and minds. We can tear down bad laws, but we tear down the walls in people's hearts. What I think we've seen on the streets of America, across the country, in large numbers, day in and day out, is saying, really, young people are thinking differently. Everyone is learning from them that for America to live up to its promise of the greatness that we are – we want to make America proud again, so do those young people.
So I believe we're – this is an opportunity. We will miss the opportunity if we didn't take advantage of it, and show a way racial profiling, choke holds, the doctrine of – all of the issues we deal with in the legislation will make a difference, a discreet difference, in how we respect people.
So, this is about respect: respect for individuals, but respect for our Founders and what they had intended, respect for our men and women in uniform for what they've fought for and protected, and respect for the aspirations of our children who are, right now, the younger generation, out there in the streets. Other people, too, but nonetheless, led by the young people to say, this is the future that we want to be a part of.
Let's not think in old ways. Let's think in a very positive way about how we go forward. It's time for healing. You know, in Ecclesiastes he talks about a time – there’s a time for everything. There’s a time for healing now. And, I think, across all generations, people want America to heal.
Let's do so in a way – advance our solutions in a way that brings people – that bring people together and not divides our country. The greatness of America depends on our doing that.
But we have big problems to address. I've said, when we had the moment of silence in Emancipation Hall this morning, when I was in Alabama earlier this year, and saw the little children who – whose parents were being sold into slavery and so were they saying, ‘Mama,’ children calling out for mama, saying, ‘Has anyone seen our mother?’ And, then, to hear George Floyd call out for his mother. A couple hundred years of separation, the same sentiment, the same sentiment.
A family and community and how that has been disrupted and how we have to make the change. George Floyd is a martyr, and beauty of his family and how they had the dignity and inspirational way that they have led us through this mourning period. Let us hope that after tomorrow he will rest in peace and his passing will be a passage of peace for the country.
Craig Melvin. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Madam Speaker, thank you. Thank for your time.
Speaker Pelosi. My pleasure to be with you. I wish it were under different circumstances.
Craig Melvin. Same here, Madam Speaker. Same here.