RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Excerpt: "I'm not for impeachment. [...] I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he's just not worth it."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (photo: Melina Mara/WP)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (photo: Melina Mara/WP)


Pelosi Caves on Impeachment

By Joe Heim, The Washington Post

12 March 19


In a wide-ranging interview, the country’s most powerful Democrat says Trump is unfit to be president — “ethically,” “intellectually” and “curiosity-wise” — but impeachment would be too divisive.

Safely in power, the Speaker of the House now is prepared to say publicly what her House colleagues have known for months: she is against impeachment. She leaves open the possibility that, if the evidence were “so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan,” she might back impeachment, but she seems in effect to foreclose the idea by simply saying, “He’s Just Not Worth It.”

It’s a purely political calculation that absolutely trivializes the responsibility vested in Congress to be the only American institution with the power to address criminal conduct on the part of the President of the United States. Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House, not the owner of the Constitution. She is a servant of the people. The Constitution puts impeachment on the table; it’s not Speaker Pelosi’s to take off. – MA/RSN


ancy Pelosi stands up in her spacious office in the U.S. Capitol, walks past an enormous window with a commanding view of the Mall and the Washington Monument, and picks up a small plaque from her desk. A gift from Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), the plaque has the familiar profile of a young Abraham Lincoln on one side. Pelosi returns to her chair holding the plaque on her palm and reads a quote from Lincoln etched on the reverse side: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.”

It was public sentiment, Pelosi says, that convinced her President Trump would back down in the standoff over funding a border wall that partially shut down the government for 35 days earlier this year. And it is public sentiment, she says, that will guide her as she leads the House Democrats and seeks to use their powers as a check on a president she believes disregards the Constitution.

Pelosi, 78, never thought that Donald Trump would be elected president, but in many ways she has been preparing for this political battle all of her life. First elected to Congress in a special election in 1987 and now in her 17th term, she is experienced in all of Washington’s various forms of combat, power and perseverance. She is the first woman to lead a political party in Congress and, in 2007, was the first woman to become speaker of the House. After Democrats won control of the House in November following eight years out of power, Pelosi fended off an effort by some in her party to replace her, and reclaimed the speakership.

Now in her fourth decade as an elected representative, Pelosi is at the outset of a term that will almost certainly be the most critical of her career. I spoke with her last week about her relationship with Trump, the rise of a new generation of women lawmakers, the Green New Deal, the prospect of impeachment and more.

After eight years as minority leader, what does it mean for you to be back in this office?

Has it been eight years? [Laughs.] In some ways it seems much faster than that. Well, being in the majority always feels great, especially compared to the minority. … So it feels good. I mean, it feels responsible. We have important work to do for our country. And I’m very proud that we got here on a path for the people with a clear definition of our agenda. Lower health-care costs, bigger paychecks, building the infrastructure of America, cleaner government. We have H.R. 1 on the floor, and in the first 100 days we will have had introductions, hearings, markups or floor action on everything in our agenda: lowering health-care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, building infrastructure, bigger paychecks. And then guns, dreamers, Equality Act and equal pay.

Is this the most divisive political climate in your 32 years in Congress?

Yeah, well, it’s very divisive because of the person who is in the White House and the enablers that the Republicans in Congress are to him. It was terrible when we were here in the ’90s and [Newt] Gingrich was speaker and impeached the president, Bill Clinton. There’s no question that that was horrible for the country. It was unnecessary and the rest. But in terms of where we are, as Thomas Paine said, the times have found us. And the times have found us now. We have a very serious challenge to the Constitution of the United States in the president’s unconstitutional assault on the Constitution, on the first branch of government, the legislative branch. … This is very serious for our country. Forgetting politics, forgetting partisanship, just talk about patriotism. So in terms of divisiveness, that we don’t see a commensurate — I don’t want to say reaction, just action — on the part of Republicans to the statements and actions the president is taking, yeah, this is probably the most divisive and serious. Serious, because again it’s about our fundamentals; it’s not about our politics.

For 2020, your goal is to keep control of the House and have a Democrat elected president.

And the Senate, the whole thing.

Is this the most critical 20 months of your entire career?

Well, every election we say this is the most important election of our time. And it just gets to be more crucial every time. In ’16, I never thought he would be elected president of the United States. How could it be? But then he was, so that made ’18 more crucial. And we won that. And thank God, because we now have a lever; we have leverage against this assault on the Constitution. This election is very important. I don’t think he’ll be reelected, but it is important for us to elect a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate and Democratic House. So they only become more crucial. Not to diminish the importance of the others, but because of the actions taken by the person in the White House, disregarding the Constitution of the United States, disregarding our commitments to the world in terms of our commitment to NATO, to Paris climate, to our values.

How would you describe your relationship with the president?

Is there a relationship? [Laughs.] How would I describe my relationship to the president? My relationship toward him is respectful, respectful of the office that he holds. Straightforward, just tell him what I think. And I always say you’re not going to hear me saying anything publicly that I’m not saying here in the office. Hopeful that at some point we can find common ground that he’ll stick to. So, yeah, respectful, honest and hopeful.

Do you feel that he has done anything that has been good for America?

He’s been a great organizer for Democrats, a great fundraiser for Democrats and a great mobilizer at the grass-roots level for Democrats. [Laughs.] And I think that’s good for America.

There have been increasing calls, including from some of your members, for impeachment of the president.

I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before. But since you asked, and I’ve been thinking about this: Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.

A lot of Americans are really anxious about where the country is right now, and some of them feel the nation’s institutions are in a perilous state. Do you share that concern?

No. Here’s why I don’t: Our country is great. It’s a great country. Our founders gave us the strongest foundation. … All the challenges we have faced, we can withstand anything. But maybe not two [Trump] terms. So we have to make sure that doesn’t happen.

So you’re on the cover of Rolling Stone with Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Do you see in this new generation of women lawmakers, not just them, but this generation, do you see yourself in them, or do you not see much of yourself in them at all?

Here’s what I see myself in them as: When I came to Congress I had no intention of running for office, shy person that I have always been. I was chair of the [California Democratic] Party, always advancing other people. I loved that because I cared about the causes of the Democratic Party, about fairness in our economy. My motivation is the 1 in 5 children who lives in poverty in America.

So what I see, and I say this to them: I was you. I used to carry the [protest] signs pushing strollers. … And as an advocate, relentless, persistent, dissatisfied always. But when you cross over the threshold and come to Congress, you can bring those enthusiasms, those priorities, your knowledge, your vision, your plan. But you have to want to get results. You have to get results. Then, you were trying to impact others making decisions. Now you are that person. So [my] being a progressive, a liberal from San Francisco, they can’t go any place I haven’t been philosophically. [Laughs.] … So I think I have a good simpatico with a lot of them because, again, that’s who I was. The young women today, though, coming in … the way they balance family and children and home, I’m in awe of them. I’m in awe of them.

Is it harder to manage the demands of the more-centrist members who are going to face tougher reelections, or the more-progressive members who maybe feel a freedom to push a little more?

Understand this: There are a range of views in our caucus, and we respect that. But we are unified. People compliment me and they say, “Oh, you know, you can keep them all together.” I don’t. Our values unify us. And all of us, wherever we are, here or there, are all of one mind that we are here for America’s working families to lower their costs, to raise their paycheck and give them more-honest government in a country where we have gun safety and respect for every person in our society. So there is no management of this. It’s the vitality. We invite it. We’re not trying to curtail it. We’re excited by it.

Has Twitter been good for American politics?

Are you including the president of the United States? I don’t think that’s been good. No. I think truth, fact, evidence, data — I think that’s what’s good for America. As long as that’s being conveyed, I’m for it all. But when it’s not, and I don’t think that’s what the president is conveying, I think that that does a disservice.

It’s Ash Wednesday, and you’re a practicing Catholic. How does your faith guide you in this office?

I was born into a family that was devoutly Catholic, fiercely patriotic, proud of our Italian American heritage and staunchly Democrat. And we saw that connection between church and Democrats as the Gospel of Matthew. When I was hungry, when I was thirsty, when I was naked, when I was homeless, when I was in prison. And that was how we were raised, that we had a responsibility to other people. And that was our motivation. So that’s why sometimes it’s hard for me to understand — I have to admit this, that we were raised to say there’s a spark of divinity in every person. That we’re all God’s children. And yet I see people of faith go down paths that so contradict what they say. For example, on the issue of immigration, so many people of faith, I guess they just don’t think that there’s a spark of divinity or that we’re all God’s children. How disrespectful they are.

When Trump was asking for the money for the border wall, why was it so essential that Democrats not give in?

Because it was wrong. I mean, when the president was advocating for a wall, that was a tangible, visible sign of discrimination. He [was] in sharp contrast to every president before him in modern times. It might interest you to know that the president I quoted most on the campaign trail was Ronald Reagan. … He talks about the Statue of Liberty and what it means to the world to see this beacon of hope, what it means to people who came here, people who are coming here. Then he goes on to say, the vital force of America’s preeminence in the world is every generation of newcomers to our country. And when America fails to recognize that, America will fail to be preeminent in the world. … Ronald Reagan, President George Herbert Walker Bush, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama all subscribed to the vitality of America being about a renewal of optimism, hope, determination to make the future better. Courageous to come here, to do it as newcomers, making America more American and subscribing to those values of our country.

Except this president used a message of fear against immigrants, against trade, against Hillary Clinton in his campaign, but his anti-immigrant issue is ongoing. It’s the wall, and the wall is not even a campaign promise because he promised Mexico was going to pay for it. It’s a campaign applause line of discrimination and bigotry. And it’s just not right, and it doesn’t do the job. So he wants us to spend billions of dollars when we have other needs to meet the needs of the American people. He wants us to spend tens of billions of dollars on a wall that doesn’t serve the purpose and is a sign of discrimination.

You said earlier you don’t feel it’s worth it to pursue impeachment. Do you believe he’s fit to be president?

Are we talking ethically? Intellectually? Politically? What are we talking here?

All —

All of the above. No. No. I don’t think he is. I mean, ethically unfit. Intellectually unfit. Curiosity-wise unfit. No, I don’t think he’s fit to be president of the United States. And that’s up to us to make the contrast to show that this president — while he may be appealing to you on your insecurity and therefore your xenophobia, whether it’s globalization or immigrants — is fighting clean air for your children to breathe, clean water for them to drink, food safety, every good thing that we should be doing that people can’t do for themselves. You know, I have five kids, and I think I can do everything for them, but I can’t control the air they breathe, the water that they drink. You depend on the public sector to do certain things for the health and well-being of your family, and he is counter to that.

But again, this is coming across too negatively. I don’t usually talk about him this much. This is the most I’ve probably talked about him. I hardly ever talk about him. You know, it’s not about him. It’s about what we can do for the people to lower health-care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government.

One of the proposals that has drawn a lot of attention and some support from Democrats is this idea of a Green New Deal. What do you tell members who want leadership to get behind that plan?

I don’t think anybody’s ever told me to get behind the plan. Here’s the thing: When I was speaker, the first time, my flagship issue was climate and energy. And working with President Bush to pass the biggest energy bill in the history of our country, the equivalent of taking millions of cars off the road by raising emission standards, the CAFE standards. He wanted nuclear. I want renewables. We came to a conclusion. We passed a big bill that was the basis for many of President Obama’s initiatives to protect the environment and honor what we agreed to in Paris. …

So the fact that the Green New Deal raises the profile of the issue, that’s really important. But any proposal that someone has, has to come through the committee process. We see it for standards. What does it do in terms of public health, clean air, clean water? What does it do in terms of jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs? How does it keep America preeminent in the green technologies? What does it do in terms of our national security? And I think the generals came out again with a more-current statement of how the climate issue is a national security issue. … And it’s a moral issue if you believe, as I do, that this is God’s creation and we have a responsibility to be good stewards of it — and even if you don’t share that view, if you just believe that we have a moral responsibility to future generations to preserve the planet or pass it on to the next generation in a responsible way. … So I’ve just said if you have an idea, put it forth, we’ll send it to committee. It will be subjected to that review. But know that we all share the value of preserving the planet.

[Your daughter Alexandra] said in an interview: “She knows what she’s doing. And that should make you sleep at night, knowing that at least somebody in this town knows what they’re doing.” I want to ask: How well do you sleep at night?

It depends on how much chocolate I have eaten during the day. Now today I gave up chocolate for lunch — I mean for Lent. [Laughs.] It really was more for lunch because I’m off it already. I had a doughnut for breakfast. I totally forgot till I went to get the ashes that I wasn’t supposed to have that chocolate doughnut for breakfast. Then, once I had the doughnut, I thought I might as well have the chocolate ice cream for lunch. Then my colleague came from Guam and brought chocolate chip cookies. What am I supposed to do? And out of kindness to my colleagues, to my staff and to my families, I don’t think giving up chocolate for Lent is going to work.

Well, that did not last long.

It didn’t last long at all. … What keeps me up at night is the concern I have about the lack of respect for the Constitution, for our values, for our responsibilities and the rest that exists in the White House. And how can we, because you have so many issues, how do we stay focused and just make sure the public knows this isn’t, again, about politics, it’s about who we are as a nation. …

So it’s always about what keeps you up at night. The challenge and what are we going to do about it. And I have a pretty good feel for what we need to do, and, really, to be respectful of every point of view in our caucus. I consider myself a weaver. Like, every thread is important, and you have to just weave it all in. Every thread is important no matter how different — in fact, that’s part of the strength of it. And that beautiful tapestry of what is the Democratic Party in Congress is strengthened by every different thread. So as I say to the members, and will close by saying to you: Our diversity is our strength, our unity is our power. We’re about power.

Email This Page

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+34 # treerapper 2019-03-12 09:32
I don't believe that the House could get the Senate to go along with impeachment. Going that route might also instigate an attempt to interfere with Mueller and other ongoing investigation.

I also don't believe that impeachment brings with it enough punishment while if NY State goes ahead with where it seems to be headed, that would mean indictment for the gangster and that is the least of what he deserves. I could definitely dance to that tune.
 
 
+19 # Texas Aggie 2019-03-12 11:44
If you don't get rid of Pence at the same time, even if you get a conviction of individual 1, all you've done is go from the frying pan into the fire.
 
 
-19 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-03-12 09:44
Ho Hum. Even Nadler says there is no impeachable evidence in his hands yet. Isn't it sort of putting the cart before the horse to talk about impeachment before there are even any crimes discovered or any evidence to prove they are crimes. Talk of obstruction or collusion with Russians are both dead ends. They have been investigated and found to be nothing.

Pelosi is right on this one. If there were compelling evidence of a serious crime, then Trump should be impeached. I think if the crime were blatant enough, even republicans would vote to get the stench out of their party.

What the cries of impeachment amount to right now are only expressions of hatred for Trump, vengeance for Hillary's loss, and a continuation of dirty campaign tricks. None of these are worthy of any elected official or even any human being.

Let's be real. Bush II was much worse than Trump and movements to impeach him were very, very small. Obama was worse than Trump -- at least so far in Trump's regime. And there was a movement to impeach him for idiotic reasons -- he was not born in the US.

If democrats want to be the leading party, they need to talk non-stop about issues and policies that are needed to fix a totally broken America. Impeachment rhetoric is the refuge of the scoundrel and cowards.
 
 
+10 # Porfiry 2019-03-12 12:35
Incredibly wrongheaded, as usual.
 
 
-5 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-03-13 07:00
Porf -- almost all of the commenters so far express the same opinion as I do, only with less detail. This time it is you who are hanging out there alone.

I just dream of the possibility of a political party that rises above these dirty political squabbles and keeps its focus on the issues facing the American people. Almost everything in the US is broken. Congress should have a very large role in fixing these things. Impeaching Trump distracts the nation from the crisis level issues that are degrading American lives. Trump is about the same as Reagan. He's less bad than Bush I and II. Time to forget the hatred and get real.
 
 
+3 # HarryP 2019-03-14 12:57
Rodion:

Stop making shit up, Nadler never said “there is no impeachable evidence.” He and Pelosi understand you only get one bite at the apple and when you chomp down you must have 67 votes in the Senate. The impeachable evidence is there - in spades. Trump knows it; you know it. The votes, however, aren’t there - yet. That’s the point Pelosi and Nadler have made.

Absent the votes, they (and Mueller who can count to 67) are engaged in the arduous task of dismantling the crime syndicate - one crime ar a time. Weisselberg, Graff, Stone (who, I’m sure, is fixated on the fate of Manafort), Corsi et al. will have to decide whether, as their last service to Trump, they will be willing to go to Club Fed. Barr, is seems, has already decided he doesn’t want to die on Mt. Trump. Trump won’t be able to pardon himself out of the RICO investigation. His best chance is a postponement. You’ll get your chance to vote for him in 2020.
 
 
+22 # indian weaving 2019-03-12 09:47
She didn't "cave". She made the smart, right decision for many reasons.
 
 
+21 # Larry 2019-03-12 10:04
Caving? Seriously? What could possibly be worse than impeaching this Frothing Mad Would-Be-Dictat or, knowing that his Senate enablers will refuse to remove him from office? Imagine the spectacle of Trump going full Mussolini; strutting and gloating that American people have now given him a mandate world-without-e nd to continue Making America Great; i.e., raping the Constitution and shredding the rule of law.

No, not caving. Rather, standing firm against a catastrophic blow to our country and our democracy.
 
 
+14 # gbdoc 2019-03-12 10:23
Pelosi’s absolutely right in every way. “She leaves open the possibility that if the evidence were "so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan" that she might back impeachment but she seems in effect to foreclose the idea …”. She didn’t cave, that’s not foreclosure, it’s wisdom. First, impeachment by the House would have no teeth unless the Senate went along, which it won’t unless the evidence is overwhelming. Second, even if the House impeached, it would be the Democrats who made it happen. If the Senate doesn’t convict, the Democrats will have mud on their faces in the eyes of many voters. Third, even if the evidence were so overwhelming that Trump were in fact defenestrated (with bipartisan support), political polarization in the US has reached such a toxic level that the nation would reel in very disruptive and painful civil – uncivil – strife, at least in the short term, and for a while after.
 
 
+1 # RLF 2019-03-12 10:24
Pelosi is like Obama who wouldn't put banksters in jail because "It would divide the country". What a load of crap...the country is divided...get over it and start playing hardball or we'll throw your DINO butt out! The country is tired of a Democratic party that will let anything go by if it's done by the rich or powerful. Stand for something or leave!
 
 
+14 # ajzerkin 2019-03-12 10:32
I also don't think she "caved". If there were indications that the Republican votes would be there in the Senate to remove Trump, I think she'd initiate the impeachment process. What's more important now is to be pursuing the policy agenda that will make the difference between Republicans and Democrats clear and ensure that the voters throw him and his Republican Senate enablers out in 2020.
 
 
+5 # lfeuille 2019-03-13 19:38
That's not how it works. The support is created by the hearings that keep the issue front and center, chipping away daily the remaining resistance in the Senate. To announce before hand that "he's not worth it" short circuits the process. And HE may not be worth it but his victim are.
 
 
+10 # kyzipster 2019-03-12 10:38
I agree with Pelosi. Impeachment without evidence of a high crime and without bipartisan support would be a political disaster. Like with Clinton, it probably wouldn't even result in removal from office and it would work in Trump's favor in 2020.

If something is proven that is not 'high crime', Trump can be censured. This is the path the Democratic Party could have taken during the Bush years. They didn't even demand investigations of the lies to Congress that persuaded a vote for the Iraq War. Had investigations proven a law was broken and Cheney, for example, was censured, the public might have come around to demanding removal from office. A bipartisan demand.

I don't trust Pelosi because of that history but I still agree with her about Trump, it's not the same scenario.
 
 
+8 # Texas Aggie 2019-03-12 11:51
"are all of one mind that we are here for America’s working families to lower their costs, to raise their paycheck and give them more-honest government "

But what you want to bet that she backs Biden for president? If there were ever a corporatist in the Democratic leadership, it is he. He's made a career out of supporting management over the workers, men over women, the MIC over country, Wall St over Main St.
 
 
+8 # Porfiry 2019-03-12 12:36
If being intelligent, savvy, analytical, etc. is "caving" then I am all for it.
 
 
+6 # Farafalla 2019-03-12 14:31
Amazing how many people find Pelosi to be right on this. There will be evidence so compelling that impeachment will be called for but she will cave again. The impeachment provisions of the constitution are there for situations like this one. As is Article 25. The constitution does not say impeachment of a criminal president is to be avoided if politically difficult.
 
 
+6 # DennisCMyers 2019-03-12 17:06
"I haven’t said this to any press person before."

Give me a break. She's said it repeatedly.

CNN/ November 5 2017: "Pelosi on impeaching Trump: Not somewhere we should go"

Salon/ December 12 2017: "Focusing on impeachment, Pelosi says, will distract from the Democratic Party’s appeal."

USA Today/ December 17 2018: "But likely Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said multiple times that she opposes starting an immediate impeachment inquiry."

Associated Press/ August 22 2018: "But Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi said that unless other information emerges, impeaching Trump is 'not a priority' for Democrats if they regain control of the House this fall."

Washington Post/ May 3, 2018 ... Former Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid echoes Pelosi, saying, 'The less we talk about impeachment, the better off we are'.”

Doesn't the Post check its own files?
 
 
+7 # jimallyn 2019-03-12 18:15
“It might interest you to know that the president I quoted most on the campaign trail was Ronald Reagan.” — Nancy Pelosi

Interests me, yes. Surprises me, no.
 
 
+5 # MikeAF48 2019-03-12 19:19
Perfect Nancy said it. Trumps not worth wasting our time on impeachment. We have a lame duck president. Now lets move on.
 
 
+5 # lfeuille 2019-03-12 19:26
This is supposed to be news? This has been her position all along. She unfortunately did not "cave" to the desires of rank and file Democrats. All the arguments against impeachment are just lame excuses to ignore blatant violations of law and the destruction of presidential precedent that keep the chief executive from becoming a dictator, in this case a fascist one. The are much less important than fighting against the rampant corruption that is this White House.
 
 
+5 # draypoker 2019-03-12 20:21
It seems unlikely that the Senate would find the current president guilty, so it would not necessarily be useful to impeach him - except if it would distract him from 'doing' anything.
 
 
+1 # littlebird 2019-03-15 00:17
If not impeachment, what can be done to rid our country of a lunatic president who is quite guilty of so many crimes that it is taking months to add them all up. Can Trump be found guilty as charged when all the evidence is in and still "rule" from prison?
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN