Transcript of Pelosi Interview on CNN's Newsroom with Jim Sciutto

August 3, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Jim Sciutto on CNN’s Newsroom to discuss the House-passed Heroes Act, the latest on the negotiations on the COVID-19 response package and other news of the day.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks: 

Jim Sciutto.  Later today, White House negotiators will be on Capitol Hill to continue talks with lawmakers over a new coronavirus stimulus package.  Sources tell CNN that both sides are still very far apart, particularly on that $600 federally enhanced unemployment benefit.  So, let's talk to someone who knows. 

Joining us now to discuss, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Thanks so much for taking the time this morning. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning.  My pleasure.  Good morning.

Jim Sciutto.  So, that's the question of the day.  Are you any closer to a deal on a stimulus plus package today than you were yesterday? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let's see when we meet today.  It's absolutely essential that we reach agreement.  The numbers are spiking in terms of the lives and the – life and death, as well as infections, in terms of the virus.  So, my view is that if you want to open the economy and the schools, you just have to defeat the virus, and we haven't done that. 

And then in terms of millions of children are hungry, are food insecure.  Tens of millions of people are out at work, have filed for unemployment claims. 

Jim Sciutto.  Yeah. 

Speaker Pelosi.  The state and local governments will have to fire people because of the expenses they are incurring because of the coronavirus, so we have to, again, honor our heroes and see what we can invest in our state and local governments. 

Jim Sciutto.  Okay. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Defeat the virus –

Jim Sciutto.  A big difference, of course –

Speaker Pelosi.  Defeat the virus: testing, tracing. And then putting money in the pockets of the American people. 

Jim Sciutto.  Speaking to that point, big differences on the amount of this enhanced benefit, as you know. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Jim Sciutto.  You and other Democrats sticking to $600.  White House, $200.  Steny Hoyer has said it's not $600 or nothing for Democrats.  I wonder if you agree.  Are you willing to negotiate on that figure? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I think that the number, the $600 is related more to the unemployment rate.  If the unemployment goes down, then that number can go down, but it doesn't go down – you know, you're not saying to the American people we have more infections, we have more deaths, we have more unemployment, we have more hunger, and now we're going to cut your benefit. 

Jim Sciutto.  Right. 

Speaker Pelosi.  That's just not going to happen.

Jim Sciutto.  There have been discussions of a phase out over time.  Senator Mitt Romney suggested this, though starting at a lower level of you.  Would you sign on to legislation that might have $600 today but if the rate or the number of unemployed went down that you would reduce that benefit? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Jim, that's something to talk about.  Right now, today, we have an emergency.  A building is on fire and they are deciding how much water they want to have in the bucket.  This is very important to stop – millions of people could have fallen into poverty without this $600. 

They’re so fussy about any anecdotal information they may have about somebody not going to work because they make $600 on this, but so cavalier about big money going to companies that really shouldn't be having it, so the $600 is very important in the lives of the American people.  When you want to speculate about stabilization and this or that, if and when, that's for another day.  For right now, we have an emergency. 

Jim Sciutto.  Is the President, a very basic question, is the President himself substantially involved in these negotiations?  Do your Republican counterparts even want the President involved? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, that you have to ask the Republican negotiators.  I assume that he is.  I trust that he is and that they represent his point of view and that they carry back our point of view to the President.  I certainly hope he is. 

Jim Sciutto.  Okay.  Let's move on, if we can, to a key question on the minds of many of your constituents, many parents around the country and that is school reopening. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Jim Sciutto.  The President again tweeted this morning, ‘Get those schools open,’ again, while repeating what is false information that cases are rising in the country only because of increased testing.  What is your response to the President? 

Speaker Pelosi.  The President has said that testing is overrated.  The President said that the virus is a ‘hoax.’  The President – they don't even believe in tracing. 

And so, if we're going to open our schools and our economy, we have to have testing, tracing, treatment.  Reducing the amount – the level of infection in a community is central to whether you can open the schools.

Now, I'm a grandmother.  I have children and grandchildren at private, private Catholic, every version of school.  I also have family members who are teachers, including in public school, so I'm very concerned about the safety of it all.  Not just for myself, but I know what it means as families discuss this across the country. 

And, again, it will vary from one location to another depending on the rate of infection in a particular community, but you can do it all if you have money, and that's where we have some difference. 

Jim Sciutto.  Yeah. 

Speaker Pelosi.  You have to have –

Jim Sciutto.  Understood. 

Speaker Pelosi.  If you're going to distance, you have to have more space, therefore more teachers, better ventilation.  It all – masks, cleaning, washing down every day.  It takes real money.  And not money to say, ‘Unless you open up you're not getting any money.’  No, money to open up. 

Jim Sciutto.  Okay.  You said this weekend that you don't have confidence in someone who is part of the Administration's – leading, helping lead the Administration's response to this. 

Speaker Pelosi.  That's right. 

Jim Sciutto.  In White House adviser Dr. Deborah Birx. 

Speaker Pelosi.  That's right.  I said that. 

Jim Sciutto.  Given that she has – she has differed with the President on a number of issues in which he's just flat out wrong based on –

Speaker Pelosi.  What?  Over the weekend.  Over the weekend. 

Jim Sciutto.  With hydroxychloroquine, et cetera. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Jim Sciutto.  I just wonder, why single her out given the President’s leading, really, the effort?  

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, because what happened is we had a conversation about how we stop the virus.  And when we did, they were making contentions about how tracing isn't a valuable thing; ‘we shouldn't do it.’   And I said, ‘Well that's not what most scientists say.’  And they said, ‘Well, we'll bring a scientist to say that.’  I said, ‘Well, make sure it's not Dr. Birx,’ because I don't have confidence in anyone who stands there while the President says, ‘Swallow Lysol, and it's going to cure your virus.’  You know, it will kill you, and you won't have the virus anymore.  I don't have confidence in somebody who, when the President says, ‘It's a hoax.’  ‘It’s magic.’  ‘It’s going to go away by magic.’  ‘It’s a miracle,’ and all of those things.  So, no I don’t have confidence in her.

Jim Sciutto.  So you’re saying she hasn't challenged his disinformation or not, if you’re saying that’s the issue.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, she stood there.  I think that she has – that she has enabled, but it's not about her.  It's about the American people.  It's about the American people and how we have a real and strategic plan.  This Administration has not had a strategic plan for the six months that we know about the coronavirus.  We should have had a plan for testing, tracing, treating, separation, masks and the rest.  The President’s saying something about masks and – and there has to be some responsibility.

Jim Sciutto.  Okay.

Speaker Pelosi.  So if the President is saying these things, who is advising him that this is okay and enabling that to happen while millions of people have [been infected]?

We passed our bill almost now eleven weeks ago, and since that time, three million people have been added to the infection list, nearly 70,000 people have died.

Jim Sciutto.  Okay.

Speaker Pelosi.  And they still don't have a strategic plan on stopping the virus.  That's why I said I would like to have somebody else come in from the scientific point of view.

Jim Sciutto.  I want to talk about election security, if I can.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Jim Sciutto.  You're aware of external threats to this election but also, frankly, disinformation being shared repeatedly by the President.

Speaker Pelosi.  Right.

Jim Sciutto.  Will Democrats insist that any stimulus package include significant funding for election security?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, and let me tell you why.  This is a health issue.  First of all, there's real inconsistency on the part of the Administration.  We had a special election in the spring in California where the President's son, namesake, Donald Trump Jr. was urging people to mail in their absentee ballots and where his daughter-in-law was out there robo calling and saying vote by mail.   

So, this idea that – that they all of a sudden have decided that there's something wrong, but the fact is, I was a former chair of the California Democratic Party years ago, before I came to Congress.  And I can tell you we could win any election on election day.  It was the vote-by-mail that the Republicans came in on that made the difference, and the Republicans very much have been voting by mail and they understand the importance of it.

Jim Sciutto.  Yeah.

Speaker Pelosi.  Right now, even more important because it is a health issue.  People should not have to choose between jeopardizing their health with the coronavirus and being able to exercise their right to vote.

Jim Sciutto.  Okay, final question, question of foreign help.  I don't have to discuss with you Russia's efforts in 2016 and their continued – and the intelligence you've seen from Russia will continue to threaten this election.  Senator Ron Johnson, he is working with a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker on dirt on the former Vice President Joe Biden.  I just wonder, in your view, is that accepting foreign help in the election, and is it – would it be taking part in foreign interference to accept such help?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, especially when – what I can't really go so much into, but when that foreign help is associated with the Kremlin, I think it's really important.  Now, that could be unwitting with on the Senator's part.  I don't know what he knows.  Now, that's why we want the intelligence community to tell the American people what they know, not jeopardizing sources and methods.  

I've been involved in intelligence for 25 years.  I – we can't do that.  We can't ever do that, but there is plenty they could be telling the American people and including the United States Senators who may be associating with some of these people.  And again, this is our right to vote. 

Jim Sciutto.  Are you saying – I don't want to get into the intelligence, but are you saying the Kremlin is involved in efforts to denigrate the former Vice President Joe Biden?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let's – that's a question that should be pursued.  That's a question that should be pursued, and, again, we would wish that the President would have asked that question with as many calls to Vladimir Putin, but it just never comes up and the intelligence community does tell us that the Russians are 24/7 still involved.  That's in the public domain.

Jim Sciutto.  Understood.

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm not telling you anything – that’s in the public domain, has been in the public domain for a while that, of course, they meddled in 2016, and they continue to meddle.  This is deadly serious, and it is something that – let the American people make their own decisions about whether they think they should choose who the President of the United States is or if they think that Vladimir Putin should decide who is President of the United States.

Jim Sciutto.  Speaker Pelosi, thanks so much for joining the broadcast.  You're always welcome.

Speaker Pelosi.  My pleasure.  Thank you, Jim.