Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC's The Beat with Ari Melber
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Ari Melber on MSNBC's The Beat to discuss coronavirus relief legislation, the Trump Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic response and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Ari Melber. Welcome back to The Beat. We turn now to the big interview we've been telling you about, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, joining us live on a busy day at Capitol Hill from the Attorney General testimony to the battle over COVID-19. Madam Speaker, really glad to have you. Thank you for making the time.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. I was running a little behind because we have so many people lined up to see John Lewis. As we move around the Capitol, it takes longer, but it's so lovely to see all the respect being paid to him.
Ari Melber. Well, you know, that was on my list of things. And, since you brought it up, maybe we will just start there naturally. You've known him, Madam Speaker, for such a long time. You've worked with him for such a long time. Tell us about your feelings and reflections.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I had the privilege of calling him colleague for 33 years and a dear friend for that time as well. So, for all of us who served with him, his leaving us is like a death in the family.
But he would remind us that 150,000 Americans have had a death in the family and we have to be mourning that, those losses, as well. And that's how he always was, defer – talking about others.
Yesterday, we had the privilege of having him in the Capitol, and it was so wonderful to have him in the Rotunda. Imagine that: 55 years ago, he was being beaten on the bridge, and then you saw him come across the bridge, horse and buggy, the state troopers saluting him instead of beating him. And then, yesterday, to have him on the catafalque that held Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, it's just so remarkable to see the respect that he commands and the farewell he received, lying in state in the Capitol of the United States.
Ari Melber. Well, I do – I really appreciate you having us think about that. And he's the first Black lawmaker to lie in state.
We did pull something I want to play for you because much of this is not only about the legacy, but the work. And you have worked with Congressman Lewis and your colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus and others on many of these issues for a long time. And there's this push, of course, to honor him with passing voting rights protection. Let's take a brief look at 2012, at your work with him on voting rights.
Speaker Pelosi. Our strength is our vote, and that's why that's under attack too.
John Lewis. People died for this right. If we fail to remember the past, we will repeat the history. We don't want to go back. We want to go forward, and that's what we must do.
Ari Melber. That was both of you speaking at that event. I guess my last question on Lewis, before we turn to these other negotiations, is what do you think Congress should do best to honor him now?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, everyone is very excited about the prospect of the bill that we passed yesterday to have the Voting Rights Act named for him and passed by the United States Senate as soon as possible. That would be a great tribute to him, and appropriate.
Short of that, or in addition to that, we would like to see the Senate put $3.6 billion into the COVID-19 bill, The Heroes Act, so that we can remove obstacles of participation in voting in every way, and that's what John Lewis was about.
Ari Melber. That makes sense. On the COVID negotiations, let's turn to that
Speaker Pelosi. Well, before we go there, may I just say that –
Ari Melber. Please, yes.
Speaker Pelosi. One more thing about John is that as I was contemplating what to say about him, as Speaker of the House in the Rotunda under the dome of the Capitol, I thought, why don't I just have John speak. And I was very proud of how beautifully his voice resonated through the dome of the Capitol. And people were in tears to hear his voice once again as the gentleman from Georgia, John Lewis.
Ari Melber. Yeah. And he lived this public life but you all – we sometimes, Madam Speaker, can forget that you all are human beings. You're mourning a friend and a colleague and obviously you're moved by it. And so many people were moved by him, so I appreciate that.
On the news, you're fighting for this COVID relief bill; you're fighting for more money for people who may have lost their jobs, and you've been negotiating directly with White House officials without, we're told, reportedly, Mitch McConnell. So, what are you fighting for in the bill, and would it be better if Mitch McConnell showed up for these negotiations?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't know what would be better. What would be better is if they would just put The Heroes Act on the Floor, which has three main pillars. One to honor our heroes: our health care workers, our first responders, our transportation, sanitation, food workers who are paid by states and localities to meet the needs of people. They are risking their lives, many of them, to save lives, and now they may lose their jobs. And then what for them? They go on unemployment. Big savings.
The second piece is to open our economy: testing, tracing, treating, social distancing, wear your mask, wash your hands, sanitation and the rest. A strategic plan to get the job done, which was – had it been in place before, if the Administration had followed the actions of Congress before, we would have had many lives saved from that.
And the third is to put money in the pockets of the American people. The $600 makes a big difference in the lives of America's working families and we have other direct payments to families as well.
So, we would want them to do that. All of those things have been voted upon, supported by Republicans in the past. Nothing new, just more of it because the virus – the Trump virus continues and the needs are only growing.
So, we're seeing what the – we have passed our bill. The appropriate thing for the Senate to do is to pass a bill and then we can negotiate with them. But they can't even get a bill passed on their side, even if it just took 51 votes. They're in disarray. They're distorting the facts. And, today, today of all things, when we are starting our negotiation – and it isn't a negotiation really. It's just a review of our bill versus what the Republicans are proposing, so it's not even to the level of negotiations –
Ari Melber. Your point just – I just want to ask you on that very point: you're basically saying they haven't even done enough work to call this negotiation because you've put forward a real bill with numbers and they're just sort of pushing back without their own bill on the McConnell side?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, they can't pass a bill. I mean, forgetting the 60 votes, I think it's very hard for them to get 51 votes for the proposal that they put forward.
But the fact is – the point I was going to further make is that: What are we here for? We're here for America's working families. And they're having condescension and disrespect for America's working families saying, ‘Six-hundred dollars. Some of them may stay home instead of going to work for $600.’
Well, they may have an anecdote to that effect, but I have an expression from Appropriations: the plural of anecdote is not data. The data tells us that American working families need this $600, which will expire this week. And they're not even saying, ‘Let's get it done,‘ they're just saying, ‘Well, maybe we'll do $200.’
It's really – I mean, again, what we talked about, about honoring our heroes, you can't honor our heroes if you're not going to support them. And you can't – you can't get rid of this virus unless you obey science, which they don't seem to have confidence in. And you can't help our economy by not helping working families. That money is spent, it injects demand into the economy, it creates jobs itself. So, we don't see why they don't support what they have always supported before.
Now, we have some other things in the bill that they might not have comfort level with. And that is, we want the money to remove obstacles to voting by mail and voting in a healthy way if you decide to work – to vote in a work – at a precinct. So, that's another area that we're working on, as well, in honor of John Lewis.
Ari Melber. Well, and you mentioned the voting by mail. You have always been able to do more than one thing in this Trump era, so you've been pushing on these proactive economic and health priorities.
You've also talked about the import of holding the President accountable. You went forward on the impeachment trial. Mr. Barr now, under Chairman Nadler, as you know, having led it, did finally show up for his oversight hearing. A lot of news out of that we've covered. Two pieces I wanted to ask you.
First, given how far this Administration has gone to try to delay or defy oversight, what do you think the Democratic House got out of or learned from Attorney General Barr when he finally showed up today?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't know that they learned anything, but it demonstrated to the American people the contempt that he has for our democracy. In fact, one year ago, in July, we held the Attorney General in contempt.
His inconsistencies about sending – not sending law enforcement in when people invaded, really, the legislature in Michigan and then saying because demonstrators are out on the street, that's violent. But it wasn't violent for people to go in with guns into the legislature in Michigan, so the inconsistency of it all.
And the fact that he was, shall we say, not forthcoming in his rejecting any thought that he would talk politics as the Attorney General with the President of the United States. This is very serious. Ninety-eight more days to go, and he was even vague about stepping aside if it is clear. Clear to whom? Clear to the American people, the results of the election are the results of the election. He doesn't have to qualify it.
I just thought he was despicable and so beneath the dignity of an Attorney General. Now, I did not watch the entire thing because I have my own work to do. But I did tune in to hear certain questions that I had an interest in his answers and they all related to upholding the Constitution of the United States. And he fell very short in that regard.
He is there to support the President, Donald Trump, no matter what. He's not the President's lawyer. That was Michael Cohen, and you know what happened to him.
Ari Melber. Well, that’s – we do.
Speaker Pelosi. And he is the lawyer for the United – he is the Attorney General of the United States of America. Too bad he doesn't care or realize that.
Ari Melber. Before we lose you because I know your time is short, there's one clip from the hearing that I did want to play for your benefit. As you know, in the news we have what people say and we try to get a fair response. He did speak about your comments about law enforcement. So, for your response, let's take a look at that.
Congressman Collins. The stormtrooper comments by the Speaker of the House, and we know that is a direct reference to the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party. Don't you think it encourages the violence we're seeing and encourages the participation against the police?
Attorney General Barr. I think that's possible, and I think it's irresponsible to call these federal law enforcement officers stormtroopers.
Ari Melber. The Attorney General –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, actually I said they acted like –
Ari Melber. Well, I'm just going to read it to you. I want you to hear what he said. He implied, under oath, that it is possible that this would be dangerous to law enforcement and he called your remarks irresponsible and we give you the Floor.
Speaker Pelosi. I never heard him say anything about Rudy Giuliani when he said they were, ‘like stormtroopers,’ when they went into Michael Cohen – was it his home or that? Or one of his other henchmen said that the law enforcement were like the Gestapo when they went into one of the other of the President's henchmen's place. I said they acted like stormtroopers, and they did. And my colleagues have said that as well.
What is – I am an organizer, that's how I came into all of this, Chair of the California Democratic Party, and peaceful protest is who we are and what we do. And do some other people come along and try to disrupt? Yes. But you don't send in people acting like stormtroopers into the scene and evoking even more, even more unease and unrest. He should be answering for what he did at Lafayette Square, a disgrace.
So this – it's really – he was like a blob. He was like a – just a henchman for the President of the United States instead of the Attorney General of the United States of America.
Ari Melber. Speaker Pelosi, you get the last word on that. We covered several important items. You're very busy, I appreciate you making time to come on The Beat. I hope you'll come back.
Speaker Pelosi. I hope so too. Thank you so much. Appreciate being here.
Ari Melber. Thank you, Madam –
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you.
Ari Melber. Thank you, Madam Speaker.