Tensions Between White House and Pelosi Take Center Stage at Fiscal Summit

June 11, 2019 by Dan McCue
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at the 2019 Fiscal Summit presented by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tried to make a joke of the string of questions she was being asked about impeachment and President Trump’s recent disparaging of her during an appearance at a fiscal policy summit Tuesday morning.

Appearing onstage with CNN’s Manu Raju at an event hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Pelosi smiled, gestured broadly and made good-natured, defensive quips as the reporter assured her he’d eventually move on to policy questions central to the event.

But finally there came a point when enough was enough for the House Speaker.

“I am done with him,” Pelosi said finally as she made clear she had zero interest in discussing the president.

“What bothers me more [than what the president said] is that we’re talking about it rather than discussing the subject we’ve all gathered to talk about today,” she said, prompting several summit attendees to applaud.

“I don’t even want to talk about him,” she said.”My stock goes up every time he attacks me, so what can I say, but let’s not spend too much time on that because that’s his victory, the diverter-in-chief, the diverter-of-attention-in-chief.”

Tensions between Pelosi and Trump have risen to new heights in the past week after a published report said the speaker told Democratic leaders in private that she would rather see the president “in prison” than impeached.

The president responded last Thursday by calling Pelosi a “nasty, vindictive, horrible person” during a Fox News interview that took place while Trump was observing the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the Normandy American Cemetery in France.

Pelosi suggested it was disgraceful for the president to say such things when he was supposed to be honoring American and allied war veterans, but said it was for others to decide what they think of his comments.

“But if you actually say that, did you actually say that the President, you’d rather see him in prison?” Raju asked.

“When we have conversations in our caucus they stay in our caucus,” the speaker said. “Do people think there’s some impeachable offenses that the President committed? Yes. How serious are they? Are they criminal? Many people think they are.”

“But I’m not going to that place of talking about what happens within our caucus. I’m here to talk about what’s happening in our country,” Pelosi said.

While the speaker eventually conceded an impeachment inquiry is “not off the table,” she objected when Raju asked if she’d move forward with impeachment if a majority of Democrats in the House wanted it.

“The support for impeachment is not even close in our caucus,” Pelosi said.

“Why are we even speculating on hypotheticals?” she asked.

The speaker tried to talk about the Democratic agenda, efforts to educate the workforce of the 21st Century, create high-paying jobs, strengthening the Affordable Care Act to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions, passing greater protections from violence against women and the LGBT community, protecting DACA recipients and fighting voter suppression.

“The list of things we want to do and are doing goes on and on,” Pelosi said. “And in all this one belief that guides us, is that we do these things on a pay as you go basis.”

That statement immediately drew praise from the Blue Dog Democrat Coalition, which said it was “glad to see Speaker Pelosi reaffirm her continued support for the bipartisan PAYGO rule.

“With an unprecedented $22 trillion national debt today and the prospect of a $1 trillion annual budget deficit in a few years, the least Congress can do is prevent the problem from getting worse. And PAYGO does just that. We look forward to working together with both parties on an agenda that is paid for to ensure a better future for our children and grandchildren,” the coalition of fiscally responsible Democrats said.

But even with Speaker’s obvious segue to the focus of the summit, Raju still wanted to talk impeachment.

“What we’ve been doing in the House is legislating, investigating and litigating,” Pelosi said. “We have a situation where Russia attacked our democracy and the president called it a hoax. Well, we in Congress believe we have to make sure they can’t do it again. We have to protect our democracy, and we’re seeing the information we need to do it.”

Pressed about differences of opinion among Democrats about the best way to get that information, Pelosi smiled.

“I have 238 members, many of whom have beautiful exuberance and all of these ideas that haven’t gotten to a place where we’re discussing them in detail,” she said. “There is a diversity of opinion in our caucus. It’s generational, it’s gender, it’s ethnic, and it’s shaped by people coming from different regions of our country.

“So yes, there are differences of opinion in our caucus, but every opinion is valuable to us,” she said.

“Our diversity is our strength,” Pelosi said, flexing her muscles. “But our unity is our power and that is what the president fears most.”

Hours after Pelosi left the summit, Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said he believes the White House and congressional Democrats will continue to work together in some areas despite the current level of tensions between the president and the speaker.

“We’re not done with her, I doubt she’s done with us,” Mulvaney said in response to Pelosi’s earlier comments.

“We’ll see how that holds up. Is anybody making book on that as to how long that lasts?” he asked to a smattering of laughter.

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