Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

September 12, 2019
Press Release

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. 

Yesterday we gathered on the steps of the Capitol to hold a moment of silence to observe a National Day of Service and Remembrance on 9/11.  Later that morning, we had in my Caucus, House Democratic Caucus, we had a presentation of a situation in Afghanistan, a country that we went into following 9/11, to see where we are and where we go from here.  The longest war in the history of the United States; some disarray at the White House on this subject. 

But 18 years after the attack, the terror attack on 9/11, we remember the heroism that we saw that day, and renew our solemn commitment to support our men and women whose sacrifice keeps America safe.  Whether it's our men and women in uniform, in the military service, or our first responders, we'll never forget their valor, at that time and every day. 

Sadly, here we are.  The President's decision to cancel $3.6 billion for military construction initiatives makes us less safe by undermining our national security and the quality and life and the morale of our troops.  And it dishonors the Constitution of the United States as the President negates the Constitution's most fundamental principle, the principle of checks and balances, the separation of powers and his assault on the Congress's power of the purse.  The decision is bad for security of our border, for the security of our nation and the well‑being of our children. 

As you recall, the President said that Mexico would pay for the wall.  Well, that's not happening.  Instead, look who's paying.  A prospective middle school, of $62 million in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, take that money, spend it on the wall.  Child care development center at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, $13 million, spend it on the wall.  Fire station at Tyndall Air Force Base, that was very much destroyed with Hurricane Michael, $17 million for the President's wall. 

Look at this, European deterrence initiative to combat Russian aggression: $771.5 million.  Taking money to deter Russian aggression and spending it on the wall. 

The list goes on and on.  It's appalling.  Not only it's appalling, it's dangerous.  It's not right for our children.  It dishonors the Constitution, it undermines our security.  It takes investment, again, away from our children, and we will be fighting that again and again.  It's really – just when you think you've seen it all, the children will pay for the President's wall. 

This week, a coalition of education, labor and veterans organizations wrote to the President to express their ‘profound concern’ – that's their two words – about this decision.  They write, and I quote, ‘Our troops and their families deserve much better for their sacrifices.  While these brave men and women stand at the ready to defend and protect our nation, they should not be distracted by any concerns that their children are being subjected to sub-optimal learning environments that could limit their opportunities.’ 

The President said Mexico will pay for his wall.  Not military families.  First of all, in my view, we shouldn't even be having a wall, but this is some kind of an ego wall for the President, and he’d just make anybody pay the price for him to get his wall. 

The Senate will vote in the coming weeks to terminate the emergency declaration that the President is using to steal military funding to pay for his wasteful wall.  Once the Senate passes that resolution, the House will take it up. 

On another subject of safety for our children, at the same time, Democrats are hard at work to keep the American people safe by action to end gun violence, the gun violence crisis.  This is about commonsense legislation – passed the House in a bipartisan way in February.  Many lives could have been saved if that law had become – that bill had become the law of the land. 

One of the first acts in our Majority, in fact, was to pass the bipartisan background checks, H.R. 8, H.R. 8, House Resolution 8, so named because it was eight years from the time that Gabby Giffords, meeting with her constituents in a grocery store, was assaulted.  People died.  She survived.  She's an inspiration to us all.  H.R. 8.  And H.R. 1112, Mr. Clyburn's legislation. 

We've celebrated the drumbeat of the action.  We are not stopping until the job is done, Leader McConnell.  You have refused to join us in saving lives, but the beat will go on until the law is passed.  Every day that the Republicans in the Senate refuse to take up our House‑passed bipartisan legislation, an estimated 100 people are killed in gun violence, a large number of them children, and including teenagers. 

Then, we came back from our August District Work Period determined to ‘Own August’, proud of what we did in the first 200 days leading up to that District Work Period, to talk about our For the People agenda.  For The People, we are going to lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and preserving the preexisting conditions benefit, A; B, lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building infrastructure of America in a green way.  And we hope to be able to do that with the President in a bipartisan way.  We're still waiting to hear how he would like to make that investment, but we will keep that going and – lower health care, bigger paychecks, cleaner government.  I don't have too much hope that they would join us in the cleaner government initiative, but we will work to protect our system from all enemies, foreign and domestic.  As we protect our Constitution in that same way, we'll protect our electoral system.  So that goes on and on. 

As you know, we are in conversations back and forth with the Administration on the U.S.‑Mexico‑Canada Agreement.  It is – we are just waiting for language about enforceability.  If you can't enforce the provisions in any treaty, then you really are not protecting American workers.  But I'm hopeful, I've always said we want to be on a path to yes.  I supported NAFTA the first time around.  Those who didn't are even more eager to make it better now, but in order to be made better, it has to be improved greatly in terms of enforcement.  But, I'm optimistic as we go forward that we will come to terms. 

There's nothing – some of you are urging us to put it on the Floor.  There's nothing to put on the Floor.  We don't have a bill.  We don't have an agreement yet.  But we're hopeful that we will have one, and when we do get that agreement, then we'll get the letter for the enabling legislation from the Administration to go forward. 

Any questions? 


Q:  Madam Speaker, on the other topic of the day, impeachment, do you agree, do you concede now that an impeachment inquiry into President Trump is underway? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Do I concede now?  Have you not paid attention to what we've been talking about?  For months, we've been saying we're doing three things:  We're legislating.  Do you want me to go over our 200 days of legislation leading up to now and even what we did this week to protect our environment? 

We are legislating, we are investigating, as six Committees have been doing for months – six Committees have been working for months.

And third, we are litigating.  We are taking the work of the Committees into the courts.  We won in two instances already.  They have appealed.  We're waiting for those decisions, as we also wait for decisions for other litigation, based on what our investigations in the Congress have called for. 

So, I stand by what we have been doing all along.  I support what is happening in the Judiciary Committee, because that enables them to do their process of interrogation and their investigation, and I salute them for that work. 

But I also salute them for what they did this week, earlier this week.  They took up and marked up three bills to make America safer in terms of commonsense gun safety.  So legislate, investigate, litigate.  That's the path we have been on, and that's the path we continue to be on. 

Q:  If I may, is the specific language not important?  I mean, how should the American people understand –

Speaker Pelosi.  The American people understand that when –

Q:  – are speaking very differently about it? 

Speaker Pelosi.  You're the only ones who are sowing this –

Q:  That's not true, ma'am. 

Speaker Pelosi.  It is true. 

Q:  – feel very differently about it. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Look, I travel the entire country.  Come with me sometime, and you'll hear what the American people are saying.  They understand that impeachment is a very divisive measure, but if we have to go there, we'll have to go there.  But we can't go there unless we have the facts, and we will follow the facts, and we will follow the obstruction that the President is making – getting the facts, and make our decision when we're ready. 

That's the only question.  That's all I'm going to say about this subject.  And there's nothing different from one day to the next.  We're still on our same path. 

Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  We have heard from many of the Members of your Caucus who have been very open in saying that they're getting mixed messages, and those mixed messages sometimes translate to the American public.  And you have long said that public sentiment is an important factor in deciding what you're going to do there.  So shouldn't you set the record straight –

Speaker Pelosi.  I have said what I am going to say on the subject – that's it.  We are legislating.  We are focusing on the work that we're here to do for the American people.  And part of our responsibility is to honor our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  And in doing so, we are getting, seeking the facts.  I'm not answering any more questions on this subject.  That is what we have said all along.  That is what we continue to do. 

And, again, in the American public, when I go out there, people are saying, it's good to be careful about how we proceed.  And when we make a decision about this, whatever it may be, we want the American people to respect that we were careful, that we were methodical, that we were accommodating of the needs of the courts as we proceeded, and of the ability of the President to exonerate himself.  If you have exculpatory information that proves your innocence, let us see it.  If not, you are obstructing our access to what that information may be.  And that is where we are. 

Next question on any other subject? 

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  On the election results from –

Speaker Pelosi.  And by the way, I'm very pleased at the path we're on and the progress that our Committees have made, not just the Judiciary Committee, but the other Committees.  So we are, from a timing standpoint, where we need to be. 

Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  Actually, that just – a second question if I might, on the timing standpoint on that.  Is there a deadline on the investigations?  But what I also wanted to ask you was about the election results from Tuesday.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, what is your question? 

Q:  Oh, on what you just said about the timing, is –

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm not answering any more questions on possible inquiries, investigations, and the rest.  I've said what I'm going to say.  I'm proud of our Members.  They have gone out there and expressed themselves for what they believe in on the basis of what they know.  I'm proud of our Committee work.  And people are impatient about it moving more quickly.  We can't go any faster than the facts.  Did you have a question on another subject? 

Q:  Thank you, ma'am, I did.  On the election results from Tuesday night, do you have any concern about the gains that the Republicans seem to be making in the rural areas?

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  I think they should have concerns about the gains we're making in suburban areas.  That was not a good‑news night for the Republicans.  I'm very proud of Dan McCready.  He's a great patriot.  He's an independent voice for the district that he would have represented.  It's too bad he's not coming here.  But, he did a great job.  Actually, he came out 10 points higher than our last three Presidential candidates.  So, he won the campaign.  He didn't win the election, but he won the campaign, and he really reinforced and energized a force out there that made that district much more Democratic for any statewide or local purposes. 

Q:  But any concern that your message is not resonating –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, not at all.  Not at all, no.  As I said, we fully intend to win this election by this November.  Republicans did not have a happy day on Tuesday. 

And as I said, I think the results indicate that in the pockets that you have to look at that are very useful to us across the country, the Democratic enthusiasm was high, as was the turnout.  It's a very, very tough district.  President Obama got, what, 44‑point‑something percent one time.  Forty-five percent, the other time.  The other time, Secretary Clinton lost by 12 points.  He lost by two.  And that is not to put down what they were able to do in the district, but to praise what he was able to do.

Q:  Madam Speaker, on trade? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir. 

Q:  Could you spell out – you talked about your vote in 1993 for NAFTA, could you talk about what would be different about the construct of the USMCA –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q:  – having enforcement built in –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  – in concrete terms, what that would look like –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  And do you think that you’re in a better position now that the Administration could build that in?  You say you’re waiting now for the letter – that that could be in that?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me say, it's not a question of waiting for the letter.  We have to finish our back‑and‑forth.  We've made an offer.  They have made an offer.  Now we sit down and see where we can find our common ground. 

Yeah, I voted for NAFTA then, and I had my own disappointments about how it was implemented.  And all trade agreements need to have strict enforcement, or else you're just having a conversation.  You're just having a press release.  You're not having any progress for America's working families. 

So, I appreciate your question, because what I've said is, this cannot be the old NAFTA with a little sugar on top and say we renegotiated it, if it's not going to make the difference it needs to make in the lives of America's working families.  And that's what our priority is.  But, America's working families are not served well by the suppression of workers in other countries.  Because that just draws facilities to the other country, if the other workers are not respected or paid.  So in any case, we think we're making progress. 

Q:  What does that enforcement look like in –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, you'll see.  You'll see when we come to it, but it has to be enforcement within the agreement.  The difference is, if you have a side‑bar letter that says we're going to have enforcement, that does not have the force of a treaty. 

You have to have enforcement in the body of the treaty, and that may – it may – require surgically, not for opening it up for any and all, but surgically having more clarity and more standing on what the enforcement is within the agreement.  I feel confident that it is possible to do so. 

I don't think it's fair to American workers to pretend that we did something different when we just had good things to say – and there are good things to say about the agreement, but not if they're not enforceable.  So there's one word: enforceability.  And I think that it can be achieved. 

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir. 

Q:  There was a Washington Post/ABC poll out this week that showed the top five Democratic contenders all beating President Trump in a head‑to‑head race.  Tonight, we've got the top 10 contenders all on the same stage for the first time. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.  That's exciting. 

Q:  What are you hoping to hear more from your candidates?  Do you want them to focus on the issues that are foremost in your agenda, or do you think what they should focus on attacking the President and his constitutional failures?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I appreciate your question.  We're very proud of our candidates, all of them on the stage and those who didn't make the cut this time.  I admire their stamina, their courage, their confidence, their humility, to put themselves forth in a debate, or a competition, or whatever, about who will be the next President of the United States.

We're very proud of each and every one of them.  I, myself, would say they're not asking for any advice.  They're running for President of the United States.  They have that confidence about their ‘why’, why they are running, what they know about their subjects, how they intend to achieve them. 

So, what I'm looking for is how these leaders will emerge as the list perhaps gets smaller, maybe it won't, but as we proceed, who among them will connect – and not just meaning one person – who among them will connect with the American people, because the election is always about the future, and what that future means to America's working families. 

If they were to ask for advice, which they haven't, but if they were, I would say, the model that we used in 2018, the For The People agenda – lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government – was a very successful model.  We won 40 seats in the most gerrymandered, voter‑suppressed political arena that you could find.  So it worked.  I, myself, did not encourage any of our Members, in fact, I discouraged Members and candidates from ever even mentioning the President's name. 

So, I know that part of the debate is who can contend with him, but I think more importantly, for the American people, it's who can really connect with them, identify with their hopes and dreams and aspirations and apprehensions, and that they, all of this – vision, knowledge, judgment, strategic thinking, are here, but they have to show people what is in their hearts and how they connect with the American people.  So, that's what I'll be watching. 

Q: Do you have a personal favorite? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Do I have a personal favorite?  Ten or twenty.  No, they're all great.  They're all great.  But my favorite button that I see across the country is ‘Democrat for President.’  That seems to have blossomed across the country, which I travel extensively. 

Q: Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Nancy. 

Q: The House Minority Leader said the other day there's really not much difference between government officials staying or eating at a Trump property or at a Marriott, for instance.  What's your view on whether government officials should be spending money at Trump properties? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, you know, Mr. Raskin has his legislation on emoluments.  You probably do also know the Committee on which he serves, chaired by Mr. Cummings, that there's an investigation of federal dollars being spent at Trump‑owned properties.  This is beyond appalling.  But how can anybody be appalled?  We've seen it all.  In terms of integrity, it seems the Administration is having a limbo contest with itself to see how low it can go.  To divert transportation, whether it's the Vice President or military and the rest, to Trump‑owned properties, this is not right. 

And then for it to be from foreigners, which is prohibited by the Constitution – and that's really what Mr. Raskin's legislation is about.  It's about the money that is coming to Trump‑owned properties from foreigners as an emolument that is forbidden by the Constitution, unless Congress approves.  And I don't know if our Republicans in Congress want to approve of foreign money going into the pockets of the Trump family. 

Q: And just to follow up, are you uncomfortable with the term ‘impeachment inquiry’?  Is there another term we should be using? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you all very much. 

We are on our path.  Where it takes us is where – we will follow the facts.  That's what it is.  Why don't we spend some time going over to see Mitch McConnell and asking him why he doesn't want to save lives, why he will let every day go by where at least 100 people, a large number of them children or teenagers, die from gun violence.  Why is it that you're hung up on a word over here, when lives are at stake over there? 

Thank you all very much.