Transcript of Pelosi Interview on CNN's Newsroom with Brianna Keilar

July 31, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Brianna Keilar on CNN’s Newsroom to discuss the Trump Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic response and other news of the day.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks: 

Brianna Keilar.  With the 2020 election a little more than three months away, the Speaker of the House made a dire statement today that the Administration is withholding information on election security from the public.  To talk about this remark, I want to bring in Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

Thank you, Speaker, for being with us.

Speaker Pelosi.  My pleasure to be with you.

Yesterday, we laid John Lewis to rest.  Now, we have to keep his ideas alive.

Brianna Keilar.  And can you tell us a little bit about what information is being withheld?

And I certainly have a question for you about John Lewis, for sure.  But I want to get to this information about election security.  What information do you think is being withheld?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it’s not being withheld.  I would – I'm talking about what we have said for weeks, that Mr. Schumer and I and the Chair of the – Adam Schiff, Chair of the Intelligence Committee, the Ranking Member – Vice Chair, I guess they call it in the Senate – Mark Warner. 

I sent a letter to the intelligence community weeks ago, saying we thought that the American people should have a right to the information regarding Russian interference in our elections.  That information is being withheld, and therefore, I won't be able to disclose it here.

But it has been well-known that the Russians interfered majorly in the 2016 elections.  Since then, the intelligence community has told us that they're 24/7 being involved.  And there's some very specific ways that I'm not at liberty to divulge, but we think the intelligence community can do, without jeopardizing sources and methods.

Brianna Keilar.  And we certainly understand that you cannot divulge that.  We did hear from the Attorney General this week, and he affirmed: yes, 2016, Russia meddled in the election and he said that we should assume they're doing it in 2020.  We've heard intel assessments and reporting of intel assessments about that.  But I guess, then, I can ask you this: what is the reason for that information not being more broadly shared with Americans?

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't know.  And that's a question that we're asking the intelligence community.  What they put out, in response to our letter was bare leaves.  It was a poor excuse.

Truth matters.  The American people have a right to know.  In their response to us, they said, ‘American people have to have the information so they can make an informed judgment in the election’ and, yet, they're withholding information that would enable them to have an informed judgment about the election.

This is very serious.  It's about our democracy.  We're very disappointed in what they conveyed this morning – how they treated the information they conveyed this morning to Members.

Brianna Keilar.  You mentioned yesterday, laying John Lewis to rest.  I want to play some sound of President Trump who was just asked about former President Barack Obama's eulogy at John Lewis's funeral, which was received very well by Democrats, but certainly not by Republicans.  This is what President Trump just said.

President Trump.  Universal mail-in are a disaster.  You're going to see an election that, and we're going to do very well in the election.  Nobody wants that date more than me.  I wish we could move it up, okay.  Move it up.  But you're not prepared for what they're doing and they're using COVID.  They're using the China Virus.  China must be very happy about it because they hit us with a virus and now they screw up an election like you – you will never see.  You watch what happens.

Brianna Keilar.  All right.  I’m sorry about that.  I wanted to ask you about something he said about the eulogy, but let's go back to what the President is saying about mail-in ballots and also about delaying the election.  

You know that he tweeted yesterday the suggestion that it could be delayed.  You know, obviously, he doesn't have the authority to do that.  So, what is your concern about what his motive is there?

Speaker Pelosi.  Confusion.  A distraction, because yesterday was a report on how the impact of the coronavirus has on the GDP of our country, on the impact on our economy.  And what does he want to do but divert attention from that?  

And in doing so, at the same time as we're burying a hero of voting rights, our democracy, he goes out and says something beneath the dignity of the White House.  But he does that almost every day, beneath the dignity of the presidency.  

So, he said something he knows he doesn't have the authority to do or the people around him certainly should.  But it’s about diversion and it's a tactic.  And the reason he does it is because the more people hear something like that, the more they're discouraged to vote.  ‘Why should I vote because it's going to all be confused?  They may not count my voted the way I cast it.’  So, it's a – it’s a way to suppress the vote.  But, again, beneath the dignity of the presidency of the United States.

I declared this morning that I've known for a long time now that I have more respect for the office of the presidency than the current occupant.  Ninety-five more days until the election.  I would hope that in one of those days he would respect the office he holds, the Constitution of the United States – that voting is the life blood of a democracy and not try to suppress the vote, but instead to encourage it.

Brianna Keilar.  He was also asked about former President Obama's remarks.  His eulogy yesterday, as we talked about, at John Lewis's funeral, and what were clear allegations against President Trump that he's targeting minorities and he’s attacking voting rights.  And when he was asked about  it, President Trump said, ‘He did a bad job for minorities.  I did much more for minorities than he did.’  He said ‘And, if you look at the numbers prior to the plague coming in, those numbers will soon be back.  You’ll see, I did a much better job, by far, than President Obama did for Africa Americans, for Asians Americans, for women, for any group at that you look at.  Far better than Obama did.’

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't intend to come on one of these shows and talk about the, shall we say, wanderings and the notion mongering of the President of the United States.  He succeeds because all we do is talk about it.  So, why are we even talking about this?  

Three presidents praised John Lewis: George Bush, a Republican president; Bill Clinton – President Bill Clinton; President Obama and Jimmy Carter – President Jimmy Carter sent a letter of respect.  You would think that there would be an ounce in that big frame of decency to say something about the importance of voting in our democracy instead of criticizing somebody else's eulogy. 

But I really, I have to say, with all the respect in the world for our freedom of the press, which I believe to be the guardian of our democracy – and I thank you for the great work you're doing.  And truth matters in terms of COVID and the rest.  But we spend far too much time asking people what they think about some notion mongering, some stuff that has no prospect of success and isn’t even have – had any relationship to fact, truth, data, evidence that this notion monger is putting forth.

Brianna Keilar.  And look, I hear you on that, but this is it the President saying it and so we have to ask about it.  This is the President who says this.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, the fact is, we're saying we have a bill called the Heroes Act that is going to be able to get rid of the Trump virus.  Do you realize we put this forth ten weeks ago, more than ten weeks ago.  In that time, nearly 70,000 people have died, three million people have been added to those – the list of those that are infected.  This thing is moving like a freight train because of his denial, his delay, his distortion and of all of that. 

And that is what we should be focusing on, saving the lives of the American people and let's compare how we intend to do that with other ideas all springing from our scientists.  And not spend our time hung up on, again, the deadly comments of this president of the United States.  And just because he said it, doesn’t mean – how about we report on the fact that his policies are slamming the economy?  How about we talk about that?  

Brianna Keilar.  So, let me ask, he’s a key part of these –

Speaker Pelosi.   Just because he said it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  Excuse me, sorry.

Brianna Keilar.  He's a key part of the negotiations, obviously, when it comes to moving forward on more relief for Americans who are battling with the economic and health effects of the virus.  And yesterday, the White House offered a short-term approach of continuing with that $600 additional federal money to go on top of state Unemployment Insurance payments and you rejected it. 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, that isn’t true.  Let's just set the records straight. 

Brianna Keilar.  But explain why not agreeing to something –

Speaker Pelosi.  They made no such offer. 

Brianna Keilar.  Okay.

Speaker Pelosi.  They made no such offer, so don’t accept something as fact just because the White House said it.  They made no such offer.  They talked about something for six or seven days.  That's not any offer and it's not anything that they can even pass in the Republican Senate.  So, why don't we just try to stipulate to fact and comment on fact. 

Brianna Keilar.  So, you're saying they made no short-term offer on extending these payments?  And the reason I ask is because, you know, it's widely seen as something that I think is significant.  Broadly, I think it's seen as significant, but also it's seen by Democrats as something that, you know, you have other priorities, as well, that you think are important.  And I guess my question is why would you – what would you worry about losing in order to get that short term assistance for Americans? 

Speaker Pelosi.  First, I think that the important, in these discussions to understand what is fact and what is a statement coming from the White House. 

Let me just say this.  Right now, there is food insecurity among millions of children in America.  For this – this day, for the nineteenth-straight week, over one million Americans applied for – claimed Unemployment Insurance.  Families are concerned about paying the rent.  The virus is a threat to the lives and the livelihood of the American people and they're asking about doing something for a week.  That is completely – first of all, it isn't even real because they can't pass it in the Senate. 

We passed our bill.  Our bill is passed and it's on the table.  Their notion mongering, making up things that they say they're offering and the rest.  But understand this.  Passing something for a week without all the other things that should go with it is not any path we will go down.  They just want – it's a public relations stunt on their part and we're very much concerned about that. 

But just so you – since you're talking about what they claim to be doing.  What they did do yesterday was put on the Floor $200 a week.  That's what they put forth yesterday, $200 a week.  That's not what – that's so beneath the value of America's workforce or meetings the needs of the American people. 

Brianna Keilar.  You're saying that's what the White House put on the table? 

Speaker Pelosi.  So, we’re not going to let them – they’re not going to – I'm sorry? 

Brianna Keilar.  You're saying that's what the White House put on the table? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, that's what the Senate put on in the Senate.  That's what the Senate put in the Senate.  So, if we're going to have discussions, let's see where the reality is.  $200 is their proposal.  That is not enough while they're giving tax breaks to their wealthy friends day in and day out.  They have $150 billion in the CARES Act that is retroactive in terms of a tax advantage for high rollers in our country.  They did it in the dark of night.  There it is in the bill.  We want to undo that.  We could use that money for working families in our country. 

But I appreciate your line of questioning because it gives me an opportunity to say perhaps you mistook them for someone who cared about these people.  That's not where their priorities lie and that's where their legislation, what their legislation indicates.  We're having our conversations.  We'll find our common ground.  But in every bill we've had, we've had to turn what they're talking about upside down to spring from the needs of the people, rather than trickle down from the – from the elites.  And this is – this is very serious because it's live, it’s livelihood. 

Brianna Keilar.  Of course.  But you're negotiating with both the White House and with Senate Republicans, and to that end, and they're offering, it appears, different things.  And I know this is certainly a moving target, these negotiations, but as you're dealing with the White House, I wonder, you met last night with Mark Meadows, the Chief of Staff, and you certainly knew him previously in his capacity as a Member of Congress.  Do you – do you trust him in these negotiations? 

Speaker Pelosi.  What I trust is our meeting the needs of the American people.  When they come to terms with that, we'll have an agreement.  I think we will have an agreement at some point because it's very necessary.  It's very necessary for having a strategic plan on testing so we can open our economy and –

Brianna Keilar.  But, do you trust him as a negotiator, Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Make our communities safer to open our schools.   Well, that's not an appropriate question for you to ask.  I do – I will say this.  Whatever he said about making four offers, that –

Brianna Keilar.  Well, how is that not appropriate if you're negotiating with him, you must be able to trust him in order to negotiate.

Speaker Pelosi.  Why would I have to trust him?  He's a representative of the President, President Trump.  That's who the President sent, the – President Trump trusts him.  That's what that – that's the relationship.  It’s a question of where we can pragmatically come to terms on an agreement.  The President trusts him, he sends him in the room, we assume he's speaking for the President.  Although, they all have to go running back and ask the President this, that or the other thing.  But that's okay.  That’s the way it is. 

I'm not complaining about that.  What I am complaining about is they don't have shared values and they want to wave some – they have not – you're also – inference that I'm drawing from what you're saying is these offers he's making, they don't exist.  They don't exist. 

So, let me just say this.  $600 is a number that families need to succeed.  It is something that has kept many people out of poverty.  That is a number that is also something that makes sense in most of the country.  They're trying to say these people are just taking that money and staying home instead of going to work.  That is disrespectful, and we have the data to prove it isn't even true.

Brianna Keilar.  But you want that money attached to a more comprehensive proposal, right?

Speaker Pelosi.  I’m sorry?

Brianna Keilar.  You want that money attached to a more comprehensive proposal not just as a standalone?

Speaker Pelosi.  We do.  And we have it in a proposal that honors our heroes, our men and women in health care, whatever, teachers, transportation, sanitation, first responders, food suppliers.  They work for state and local government.  We're honoring our heroes.  We have no right to honor them if we're not willing to pay them.

Secondly, we are saying, open our economy by having testing, tracing, treatment, separation, masks, sanitation and the rest.  We don't have a [vaccine].  Until we do, we have the tools that can contain the spread of this.

Third, we want money in the pockets of the American people.  We don't want to say – and I'll leave you with this thought.  We’re not saying to the American people, ‘We have a terrible virus.  It is spiking.  It is spreading, and we're going to give you a cut in the benefit you have received attached to this virus.’

Brianna Keilar.  I do want to ask you –

Speaker Pelosi.  ‘We’re going to give you a cut.’  That is what they're offering to the American people.  We cannot let that happen.

Brianna Keilar.  I want to ask you, because obviously, look, Congress can't do its job unless it stays well enough and that really hit home this week when Louie Gohmert tested positive for COVID, someone who has not worn a mask.  You, this week, decided to make masks mandatory on the Floor.  There has not been widespread available testing on Capitol Hill.  I know that you say that is the purview of the Physician’s Office –

Speaker Pelosi.  It is.

Brianna Keilar.  – in the Capitol, but look, with all due respect, you are the Speaker and for folks familiar with your leadership style, I think the expectation is that if you wanted that testing and that were a priority for you, it is something that would happen.  Is that something that is going to happen?

Speaker Pelosi.  That is not true.

Brianna Keilar.  And also do you wish that on the Floor you had made masks mandatory previously?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, what is important to know about masks, we ask people to wear masks and in committees and all of the rest.  But what is important about the mask requirement is enforcement, and until we could get the go ahead that we would have enforcement from the Capitol Police, it could only be a recommendation. 

But now we have their approval to say it is a requirement and that people will not be allowed on to the Floor of the House if they don't have a mask on.  And if they don't have a mask, we have one for them.  And if they take their mask off, they'll be asked to leave.  So, it’s not just about what I want, it is about what is enforceable.

Secondly, in terms of the Physician, this may sound strange to you, I think.  This is about science.  It is what the doctors tell us that we need to do.  It is not what I say so that I could come on a show and say I called for testing.  It is not just about testing Members of Congress.  

We have the support staff.  There are 20,000 people who make the Congress function.  Now, they're not all there now because of the coronavirus.  But thousands are.  So, it is not just about us.  And why should we take precedence over people out there, especially in the minority communities who don't have access to testing?

And that takes us back to science.  And what we want the President to do is to have the Defense Production Act produce the equipment that enables us to have enough tests for everybody who wants to be tested to be tested and for the machinery, the equipment to be able to get a result from the test in a shorter period of time than one week and have the tracing therefore that would go with that.  So, this is about science.  It is not about, ‘Oh, you're the Speaker.  You can make it up.’

We have to act in a way that is scientific.  And somehow or other the Republicans have an aversion to science and to governance.  But we have to respect the rule of both in all of this.  These are the tools to stop the spread of the virus, which is moving like a freight train.

And it is about lives, it's about livelihood and it’s about the life of our democracy.  When we have to have – we don't want people to have to make a choice between voting or jeopardizing their health because of the coronavirus.  This is all very important.  And we'll get our job done.  We have had four bipartisan bills before.  The need is only greater now because of the increased number of those infected.

And sadly, today on the Floor, we had a motion – a moment of silence for 150,000 Americans who have died of the coronavirus.  Very sad.  We mourned John Lewis, but as he said to me before he left us, this is one life we're mourning.  150,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus and more to come.  Let's have a lot of sympathy for those people and prevent more of that from happening.  We can do it.  We have the tools.  We have to look to science for the best possible route.  That is what we intend to do.

Brianna Keilar.  But you don't wish that you had put a mandate for masks on the Floor sooner?

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  We couldn't do it until we had enforcement.  We asked people to do that.  We asked them not to come to the Floor without it, but now we have the enforcement authority that – not only on the Floor of the House, but by their own authority then the Capitol Police and that could say that that holds true for other Congressional buildings and rooms in the Capitol complex.  They have – that is an authority that is there.

But they put out, when I said the first mask requirement, that they didn't intend to enforce it.  Now, they will.  The Gohmert thing really got the fear of the Lord into a lot of people, sadly.

Brianna Keilar.  All right, Speaker Pelosi, we really appreciate your time.  Thank you so much for being generous with it.

Speaker Pelosi.  You're welcome.  My pleasure.  Thank you.