Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today

November 17, 2016
Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today.  Below is a transcript of the press conference.  

Leader Pelosi.  Good morning, everyone.  I'm in the midst of a House Democratic Caucus.

So, the last time we met, I was very positive that Hillary Clinton would be the next President of the United States and walk into the Oval Office as one of the best qualified Presidents in our country's history.  We, of course, are all very disappointed – more than disappointed.  It's hard to accept the result.  But accept we do.  Peaceful transfer of power is what America and our democracy is about.

I'm very proud of the speech that Secretary – she's had so many titles – Secretary Clinton made.  Her concession speech really exhorted us to be hopeful, to be positive, and to find a common ground.  And that is what we intend to do.

After winning the Presidency, the Electoral College, but losing the popular vote, I think that President elect Trump, that he has a responsibility to try to bring people together, not continue to fan the flame of division and bigotry.

Later today, I'll meet with Vice President-elect Pence, and it is my hope that we can discuss areas where we can work together constructively.  As we've always said, we always try – we have a responsibility to find common ground but to stand our ground when we can't.

I just left, as I said, our caucus, where at the beginning of it we heard from our 27 new Democratic Members.  As our Founders intended, these new Members coming are the constant reinvigoration of the Congress, and it was invigorating, indeed, to hear everyone make a little presentation there.  It's pretty exciting.

At that caucus – that was today's caucus.  We meet almost every day, and that will be our intention to continue – our focus was largely on the economy.  And I presented a frame to our Members for them to change, adjust, or whatever, but to consider of three items – infrastructure, innovation, and inclusion – all three of which strengthen each other.

In terms of infrastructure, we Democrats have always been advocates for strong infrastructure in our country.  And we hope that we can have the biggest, the most robust infrastructure legislation that we can achieve, working in a bipartisan way.  But we are, again, not just settling for the lowest common denominator but moving forward with something big, and I can talk more about that if you wish.

Innovation.  Innovation is central to how we build our infrastructure.  And when we talk about blue collar jobs and Rust Belt stakes and the rest of that, we have to recognize that innovation is central to how we all go forward together – an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

In that regard, we've had this year more than 20 sessions around the country, one of them in Pittsburgh and others all over the country – we always say Pittsburgh because that's the heart of blue collar workers in our country – because we cannot talk about blue collar jobs, ignoring what is happening in terms of infrastructure, working together.  And we got great ideas from the community about how we can have success in that way.

Infrastructure, innovation wedded.  And inclusion.  Again, how do we include everyone in this.  This is not just about jobs for blue collar workers who may be white; it's for everyone.  Everyone is feeling the pain in their paychecks.  And so how do we work together on that?

And so it's very exciting to hear how far – how big do you want the infrastructure to be, recognizing that innovation begins in the classroom.  And if we're going to keep America number one, which is the goal of our Innovation Agenda 2.0 that Congresswoman Eshoo has been advocating, you have to begin in the classroom.  And that means earliest childhood education to lifetime learning for our workers.  So it's a pretty lively and exciting discussion.

When I talked about the inclusion piece, that's about including everyone in our economy – but also to not discriminate against anyone.  And we were very disappointed; naming Steve Bannon as his chief strategist is an alarming signal that President-elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign.

Already, House Democrats are challenging the appointment.  David Cicilline, our colleague from Rhode Island, has 159 Democrats – that was as of yesterday; he said he's going to get the rest later – but at least 159 Democrats on the letter calling on President-elect Trump to reverse his appointment of a white nationalist as his chief senior adviser.

As you know, yesterday, I formally wrote to my colleagues to ask for the continued honor of serving as House Democratic Leader.  To be a strong voice for hardworking families and to uphold the values we cherish as Americans, House Democrats must be unified, strategic, and unwavering.  Those same attributes served us well in 2006 when we won the House, and I'm hopeful that that – I believe they will do so again.  We are elected to fight for jobs, for families, and for the future of the American people.

It's very exciting.  I'm very honored by the support I have received from my colleagues.  And, as always, I say I take pride in being the head of our caucus that is not a rubber stamp, that has all the enthusiasm that it does.  And, again, I'm just very happy to be listening to what they have to say.

We will have our rollout of our leadership after Thanksgiving, and that's probably the next time I'll see you.

Any questions?  Yes?

Q:  Good morning.

Leader Pelosi.  Good morning.

Q:  It's a two part question.  As you're saying in your comments that Democrats must be unified, strategic, and unwavering, there are obviously some folks who are talking about possibly challenging you. 

First part of the question:  Do you see that as a lack of unity?  And do you attribute the tension inside the Caucus to possibly challenge you to just letting off steam toward you because of the election results or that they genuinely see that maybe we need to have a change at the top? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, let me just say that, as I said, without even asking anybody for a vote, I have over two thirds of the caucus supporting me.  It's a funny thing in the Caucus or anyplace, when somebody challenges you, your supporters turn out, both internally in the Caucus and in the country, whether it's supporters at the grassroots level, financial supporters, intellectual resources to us.  So it almost did me a favor by saying, before I even asked for support, that I would appreciate having people's support.

It isn't that much, I have to tell you, but I'm respectful of what people are saying.  There's a lot of unease, as people have always wanted to – many have said they want to have term limits in the committees so that they can rise up.  I say, if you want that, you have to go fight for it, because that's a debate within our caucus.

But I don't see anything about what is being suggested now as anything but the friendship of all of us.  We are family.  I never said "unanimity," but I did say "unified."  And I…

Q:  And what's the difference in your mind there?  I mean, is it a healthy debate to have this at this stage, about who should be the Leader? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I think that the sooner we can have the official status of going forth and speaking, the less time we spend on questions like this.  And so we want to get on to that.

But I've always – I've regularly had some opponents.  And as Members in there said, “we cannot be taking full responsibility for what happened in the election.”  You know, we have to do our after action review thoroughly and see what we could have done differently, but a lot of it was beyond our control.

Q:  Madam Leader, as of right now – a two part question as well.  As of right now…   

Leader Pelosi.  Oh, did you get to your second?

Q:  No, no – well, I don't know that you answered my question, but that's all right, Madam Leader.  Thank you. 

Q:  As of right now, I know you're still examining it, but what do you think the main factors were in Hillary Clinton's surprise defeat? 

And do you think that Rudy Giuliani has financial conflicts of interest that should be considered when he's being considered as Secretary of State? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, you had a two part question, but they're two separate questions.  At least yours was…

Q:  I acknowledge that.

Leader Pelosi.  Okay, here's the thing.  I believe that the Comey letter was a foul deed.  It was a wrong thing to do.  I have great – I have had great admiration for Director Comey.  I think that he just couldn't take the heat.

I think there should be an investigation – and we'll figure out how to call for that – of how [former New York City Mayor Rudy] Giuliani knew two days before that something was coming.

It is standard practice of prosecutors and U.S. attorneys historically not to release that kind of information, even when they think it's significant, so close to an election.  And Director Comey said, "I don't know if this is significant."  It really just changed everything.

And the same Comey who said he didn't want to put his name on the consensus intelligence appraisal that the Russians were the hackers of the Democratic Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign because it was too close to the election for him to sign a consensus intelligence document.

So something is not right in this picture.  And I think the American people deserve an investigation into how a foreign government had an impact on our election and how Rudy Giuliani had access to that information when he did.  I think the Comey letter was dispositive of the election.

Now, should we have been more fortified to be able to stand the hit?  Well, that's part of the after action review evaluation.  But we could just see it in the numbers.  You know, we thought we were, like, at 20 and trying to go for more.  Hillary was like this in those districts.  Hillary went like that in those districts.  Now, I'm talking from the standpoint of the numbers I have seen in our races.  In terms of Hillary's race, I think the minute he came out with that letter, that was totally wrong.

I think everybody has to be vetted in terms of – I believe they'll have a vetting.  As you may know, yesterday, in our previous question on the Floor, we were saying don't – let us bring up a bill that says no lobbyist should be on the transition team, no funds in this act, following the legislation that's already there, but codifying that they shouldn't be on the transition team.

Certainly, the vetting process that everybody goes through, no matter who wins the election, will reveal what his exposure is.

Q:  What about Jared Kushner?  Is that against nepotism rules? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, that's a third question.

Q:  Leader Pelosi, back to the debate within your caucus, Congressman Tim Ryan considering a challenge against you.  We talked to him on the way into the Caucus meeting.  He said that we have the lowest number in our caucus since 1929, and we've lost over 60 seats since 2010.  Speaking about you, he said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and keep getting the same results." 

And I wonder if you could respond to that. 

Leader Pelosi.  I don't want to respond to that, but I will say the following:  And that is, in 2005 and 2006, I orchestrated the take back of the House of Representatives.  I'm very, very proud of that.  And, as I said, we see that as an opportunity now.

When President Clinton was President, the Republicans took the House.  When President Bush was President, the Democrats took the House.  When President Obama was President, the Republicans took the House.  So we have an opportunity.  It doesn't mean any guarantee, but it means that we will do very hard work.

So I hope to have – I'm very proud to have the opportunity.  I know how to do it to get it done.  But I'm not responding to that question.

Q:  Madam Leader, just a quick question.  Jesse Jackson just today came out asking for President Obama to pardon Hillary Clinton.  What are your thoughts on that? 

Leader Pelosi.  I don't even know about that.  Pardon her for what?  I don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about.  I mean, I just don't know.  But I don't know why he would – pardon her for what?  I'm sorry, that doesn't make any sense to me.

Q:  On appropriations, what's your reaction to Chairman Rogers' announcing he's working on a CR through the end of March?  And what type of items – I'm thinking specifically supplementals – will House Democrats be pushing for?  In terms of supplemental funding, will you be looking for any…

Leader Pelosi.  Are you talking about a different bill?  A supplemental bill?

Q:  So Chairman Rogers just announced…

Leader Pelosi.  Yeah, he just said that about the CR.

Q:  Yeah.  But I'm wondering if you're going to be trying to attach supplemental appropriations?  I know there's a war supplemental.  You guys still want one for Flint.

Leader Pelosi.  Well, no, the supplemental bill is a separate bill.  And the President has sent over a supplemental – I don't know if he's sent it yet, but he's in the process of presenting a supplemental bill, which is a different bill.  That's about now.

Q:  Okay.

Leader Pelosi.  The CR is about how we would go forward.  I would've hoped that we could've achieved an omnibus.  Democrats and Republicans on the Appropriations Committee – I'm from that culture, I'm an appropriator, and we always are able to try to work together.  And they had been making good progress until this morning on finishing up the appropriations bill.  Now this freezes it because they're only talking about until March.  I think it would be – to give the American people certainty and also for the U.S., whether it's a person getting a Social Security check or all the way across the board, we want some certainty.  And to go to March is really not certain.

But I would say this:  I think that they're making a big mistake for themselves.  They're going to have a kettle of fish in March that they can't even imagine.  And it's too bad that we could not have gone to next September.

Q:  Leader Pelosi? 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, ma'am.

Q:  Do you think the Democrats have forgotten white working class voters…

Leader Pelosi.  No.

Q:  …in recent years?  And if so or if not, what do you say to critics who say you might not be the right person to be able to speak to those voters, as a coastal liberal?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I take great pride in the city that I represent of San Francisco.  And I take great pride in the fact that our whole state of California has been the source of so many ideas – intellectual resource, political resource, financial resource.  It helped us win the Congress in 2006.

And when people bring up numbers and say we have fewer Democrats than before, the fact is we got our high numbers when we won the Congress.  When we had higher numbers from that, we had a big boll weevil faction.  So, in terms of a functioning majority, if you want to talk numbers, you have to talk the reality of that.

So, back to your question, the encouragement that I have from my colleagues is that I enable them to do what they do.  It's not about me; it's about them.  And they have an opportunity to make this contrast between President Trump – President-elect – well, soon to be President Trump and what we stand for.

Look, as far as we are concerned, the problem was more with the communication than it was with our policy.  What did we do by – facing Republican resistance, bailed out the auto industry.  That was congressional Democrats and President Obama at the time, when Mitt Romney was, in an op-ed – and doesn't Mitt Romney look good to us now?  Oh, my God.  But when Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed that we were interfering with the free market by bailing out the auto industry.  And we did that.  Now, what is that effect?  Hundreds of thousands and millions of jobs in Ohio, Michigan, western Pennsylvania – all of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa.  But people didn't – we didn't message it so they understood it.

Now, I would say to people:  For any of you who are married, you may think you're messaging, but if your spouse doesn't think you're messaging, you're not communicating.  So they didn't think we were communicating.  We have to get that message out there.

But our work here for our friends in labor out there for collective bargaining and NLRB and OSHA and the rest is a fight that we fight for them.  The fight to increase the minimum wage – we should be, the whole country should be behind increasing the minimum wage after they heard the cry for help from this campaign to increase paychecks.

So our lives are dedicated to those very people.  We didn't communicate it, the successes we had.  And, quite frankly, the election of the Republican Congress interfered with the next steps in what we were doing to increase the paycheck, to stop every job initiative that President Obama would put forth.

Yes, sir.

Q:  I love asking you intel questions since your experience – all those years on the Intel Committee.

Leader Pelosi.  My other – Appropriations and Intel, yeah.

Q:  Right.  Not heavily noticed, but the head of the NSA, Michael Rogers, had a Wall Street Journal forum a day or two ago.  Said in public that a foreign entity had specifically intervened in order to change the outcome of the election and that he wants the people to understand that. 

Of course, the community had already, with Homeland Security, made that assessment similar…

Leader Pelosi.  That's the one that Director Comey refused to sign because it might have an impact on the election.

Q:  So a lot people heard Rogers, Admiral Rogers, say that.  And from where you sit, when the head of the NSA speaks publicly in that way, how do you interpret the intelligence community's desire now to have Congress amp up this issue, take it seriously in the new administration, whether it's hold hearings or empower them?  When you hear a message like that in public versus in the SCIF, how do you interpret it? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I knew and I said at the first day of the convention that the Russians were hacking our system.  I didn't know it from any official status, or else I wouldn't have been able to say it.  I knew it because we had to spend money to figure out who was hacking our system, and it was the Russians.  It took a while for the intelligence community to have the high level of confidence that they did to make that statement.

I don't know why – you tell me – why the media didn't say, isn't there something wrong with this picture when somebody has hacked our system and are releasing emails that are only on the Democratic side?  Wasn't that a clue that they wanted us to look bad?

We know it's the Russians.  They're leaking it.  And it's only Democratic leaks.  So, okay, that's one thing.  But for Comey then to go to the place he went, with not signing the consensus because it's too close to the election, he then says this other thing is not too close to the election.

Q:  I guess I'm interested in, going forward, though, how you're interpreting the message…

Leader Pelosi.  Yeah, I think the American people need to know that a foreign power interfered in our election.  And not to be sour grapes – in other words, we all take responsibility for our role in having gotten to where we are in the election.  But the fact is, no matter how the election turned out, even if Hillary Clinton had won, the fact is the American people have to believe in the integrity of the system.

And it has been the custom and practice of the Russians to disrupt elections, not just in the United States but in other countries, for their own purpose.  And, in the U.S., the main purpose is to undermine democracy and to have people be skeptical, even in our own country, about the sacredness of the vote.

So I think that we should have – I know that there is a request for an inspector general report by Elijah Cummings on what happened at the FBI and who knew what, when, and why.  You'll have to talk to him about the particulars of it.  And I'm saying there has to be something bigger than that even.

I'm going to have to go now because the Speaker is…

Q:  Madam Leader, on the earmarks, can you take a question on whether something has changed as to whether they should be in the legislative process? 

Leader Pelosi.  I've never been an opponent of legislatively directed resources.  I don't see why we give it all to the administration to make those decisions.

There has been talk now about relaxing that for state and local government earmarks, and I hope, if they go down that path, that they would include Native American sovereignty, as well, as one of those categories that would be part of any change in legislatively directed resources.

Thank you all very much.