Nancy Pelosi on the riot at the Capitol, Congress' mandate under Joe Biden and the youth in the Democratic party

Days after her own office was ransacked by Trump supporters, the speaker of the House talks to Lesley Stahl about what she experienced that day and more.

Pelosi speaks to 60 Minutes about Capitol riot
Pelosi speaks to 60 Minutes about Capitol rio... 13:41

January 6th should have been a day of ceremony when Congress met in joint session, then opened and counted electoral votes for president and vice president. 

Instead, it will be remembered as the day an angry mob, stirred up and aimed down Pennsylvania Avenue by an election-losing president, smashed its way into the Capitol, leaving five dead, the building ransacked, and American democracy under siege.

On Friday, we joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Capitol, where her influence in the nation's leadership is growing as President Trump's power, support and relevance dissipates.

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Correspondent Lesley Stahl with Nancy Pelosi

Lesley Stahl: Madam Speaker, who is running the government of the United States? We have a pandemic. We just had this horrendous act of violence up here. We had a Russian hack of our institutions. Is anybody running the Executive Branch of the government? Who is running the Executive--

Nancy Pelosi: Well, sadly, the person that's running the Executive Branch is a deranged, unhinged, dangerous president of the United States. And we're only a number of days until-- we can be protected from him. But he has done something so serious-- that there should be prosecution against him.

Lesley Stahl: Well-- I gather that the 25th Amendment is off the table?

Nancy Pelosi: No, it isn't. Nothing is off the table.

The mayhem at the capitol started early afternoon on January 6th with the rioters barreling past the barricades, clashing with police and breaking into the Capitol. As they swarmed through the halls, the speaker was on the house floor, during the count of the Electoral College vote.

Lesley Stahl: So tell us what happened when, when the protesters were trying to get in here. You're up there.

Nancy Pelosi: Well, the-- when the protesters were making the assault on the Capitol-- before they even got to these doors, the Capitol Police pulled me from the podium and I was concerned because I said, "No, I want to be here." And they said, "Well, no, you have to leave." I said, "No, I'm not leaving." They said, "No, you must leave."

Police – guns drawn - held the invaders off the House floor, but over in the Senate, the Trump supporters were able to break into the chamber. The scenes were shocking to watch.

Nancy Pelosi: I think there was-- universally accepted that what happened was a terrible, terrible violation of what-- of the Capitol-- of the first branch of government, the-- the legislative branch by the president of the United States.

The mob was free to roam the halls, one group making it right up to Speaker Pelosi's suite of offices.

Nancy Pelosi: This door, they broke down as you can see.

Lesley Stahl: Oh my goodness.

Nancy Pelosi: They broke that down.

Lesley Stahl: Look at that. They broke the door.

Nancy Pelosi:  They smashed it in.

And went through to another door – behind which Pelosi's young staff cowered, terrorized.

Nancy Pelosi: The staff went under the table, barricaded the door, turned out the lights, and were silent in the dark.

Lesley Stahl: Under the table this whole--

Nancy Pelosi: --under the table for two and a half hours.

Lesley Stahl: Wow.

During which time they listened to the invaders banging on that door - as you can hear on a recording from one of the staffers' phones.

Across the hall, a group broke into the speakers private office.

Lesley Stahl: Oh wow. Oh wow.

Nancy Pelosi: You see what they did to the mirror there? The glass was all over the place. They took a--

Lesley Stahl: They smashed--

Nancy Pelosi: --computer and all that stuff.  But-- laptop. And then the desk that they actually were at was right there that they defamed in that way, feet on the desk and all that.

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A member of the mob who invaded Pelosi's office puts his feet up on a desk.

That man was arrested on Friday. And the FBI is investigating whether any of the agitators — some seen in ballistic vests, with zip ties — intended to kidnap or kill legislators or their staffers.

Lesley Stahl: They were coming to find you. I-- maybe to hurt you, I don't know.

Nancy Pelosi: The evidence is now that-- that it was a well-planned, organized group with leadership and guidance and direction. And the direction was to go get people.

Nancy Pelosi: They were vocally saying, "Where's the speaker? We know she has staff. They're here someplace. We're gonna find them." 

While all this was going on, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer from an undisclosed location called on the president to tell his followers to leave the capitol.

President Trump in video posted January 6: It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side. But you have to go home now. We have to have peace.

Nancy Pelosi: The president said, "Go home," but the election was-- you know, went on with his lies, his misrepresentations, his delusion that he won in a landslide in this election.

Will the House continue to investigate Trump?... 02:55

Lesley Stahl: So finally, the protesters were ejected. And you came almost right back into session. How did that happen?

Nancy Pelosi: I know from Chuck Schumer and from Mitch McConnell, there was consensus that we should come back. There was some suggestions that it may take too long, and we should do it at the undisclosed location. But there was general belief that it-- from the message of strength that we needed to send, we had to go back to the Capitol as soon as possible.

Vice President Pence, who had been taken to a secure location in the Capitol, concurred with the decision to resume the count, amid reports that he was livid at the president.

Work dragged on until almost 4 a.m. as Republicans challenged certified election results.  

Lesley Stahl: And they did that after the violence?

Nancy Pelosi: After the violence. Shame on them. And shame on-- two-thirds of the Republican caucus in the House supporting the-- so these people are enablers of the president's behavior. I remember when Republicans in the Senate went to see Richard Nixon and said, "It's over." That's what has to happen now.

One of the reasons she is so eager to see Mr. Trump's immediate removal from office is her grave concern that in the next ten days he might try to do something reckless militarily, including ordering the use of nuclear weapons.  She told us she sought advice from General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Nancy Pelosi: I have sought information from those who are in position to know that there are protections against this dangerous president initiating any military hostilities or something worse than that.

Speaker Pelosi on the Democrats' new majority... 03:58

Something else she and Senator Schumer did was call the vice president to urge him to initiate the 25th Amendment that provides procedures to remove a president from office.

Nancy Pelosi: We were kept on the line for 20 minutes. "He's gonna be here in a minute, a minute, a minute." Well, he never did come to--

Lesley Stahl: They kept you--

Nancy Pelosi: --the phone.

Lesley Stahl: --on hold for 20 minutes.

Nancy Pelosi: At least. Of course, I was-- I was at home, so I was running the dishwasher, putting my clothes in the laundry. We're still waiting for him to return the call.

After Congress confirmed Joe Biden's victory in the election, President Trump read from a teleprompter, offering his most conciliatory statement about the election.

President Trump: A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.

Mr. Trump has said he will not attend the inauguration. The new president has said he wants to turn over a new page of bipartisan cooperation.

Lesley Stahl: In the election in November-- someone said that the mandate that the Democrats won was not about issues, because you lost so many seats. That the mandate was for tone and attitude. And-- a strong desire for compromise.

Nancy Pelosi: I do know that it was a mandate for us to go forward with an agenda for America's working families-- as well as to do so in tone. We have-- I always say to our members, we have a responsibility to find common ground. When we can't, we must stand our ground, but we have to-- we have a responsibility to try.

Lesley Stahl: You yourself are not known as a person who compromises.

Nancy Pelosi: No, I am. I'll compromise. We wanna get the job done. I'm not-- I'm-- mischaracterized by the Republicans that way. But that's a tactic that they use. But we know we want results for the American people.

Lesley Stahl: What about the COVID relief package?

Nancy Pelosi: Yeah.

Lesley Stahl: That was held up for eight months.

Nancy Pelosi: Right. But that was their obs-- obstruction. Understand this.

Lesley Stahl: Well, wait. Y--

Nancy Pelosi: Was their obstruction.

Lesley Stahl: Yours too.

Nancy Pelosi: Their obstruction.

Lesley Stahl: No, yours too. Takes two to--

Nancy Pelosi: No, it wasn't obstruction.

Lesley Stahl: You held out for eight months.

Nancy Pelosi: No, no. We held it up because there was no-- no respect for our heroes, our-- our state and local health care workers, police and fire, our first responders, our sanitation, transportation, food workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers. They would not go down that path.

Lesley Stahl: There's a member of your caucus who said specifically that, "We look like obstructionists, and it was a mistake."

Nancy Pelosi: I don't remember anybody saying that. And—

Lesley Stahl: But--

Nancy Pelosi: --they may have. And they may have. But it isn't-- it wasn't a mistake. And I would not, and nobody expects me to, to support something that solidifies injustice in our country.

Speaker Pelosi on getting Trump's taxes 03:37

Lesley Stahl: Let's talk about the Russian hack. There was an invasion, a cyber invasion.

Nancy Pelosi: Big deal.

Lesley Stahl: Big deal.

Nancy Pelosi: Uh-huh.

Lesley Stahl: What should the United States do about that?

Nancy Pelosi: In terms of the hack, that the president would not assert his authority, first of all--

Lesley Stahl: He hasn't said anything.

Nancy Pelosi: No, he hasn't said anything because--

Lesley Stahl: Except that maybe China did it.

Nancy Pelosi: Yeah. What the president, again, has a tin ear, blind spot and whatever obligation. I don't know what the Russians have on President Trump, whether it's personal, whether it's political, whether it's financial. I don't know what it is.

Lesley Stahl: You think they have something on him?

Nancy Pelosi: But there's no other explaining why this president of the United States is such-- a handmaiden of Putin.

Lesley Stahl: Can we talk about the A-word?

Nancy Pelosi: What's that?

Lesley Stahl: Age.

Nancy Pelosi: Oh, age!

Lesley Stahl: You're 80.

Nancy Pelosi: Right.

Lesley Stahl: Your number two, Steny Hoyer's 81. Your number three, Jim Clyburn, is 80. Why haven't you brought young people into the leadership? We've-

Nancy Pelosi: Because we have. You perhaps don't know.

Lesley Stahl: Why does AOC complain that you have not been grooming younger people for leadership?

Nancy Pelosi: I don't know. You'll have to ask her-- because we are.

Lesley Stahl: --that was kind of sharp, kinda dismissing her.

Nancy Pelosi: I'm not dismissing her. I respect her. I think she's very effective as are other-- many other members in our caucus that the press doesn't pay attention to. But they are there and they are building support for what comes next.

The speaker intends to keep the pressure on President Trump to leave office as soon as possible. If he does not resign immediately, she has threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings.

Lesley Stahl: What if he pardons himself?

Nancy Pelosi: What if he pardons these people who are terrorists on the Capitol? What if he does that?

Lesley Stahl: Or pardons himself?

Nancy Pelosi: He can only pardon himself from federal offenses. He cannot pardon himself from state offenses and that's where he's being investigated in the state of New York.

Lesley Stahl: There is a possibility that after all of this, there's no punishment, no consequence, and he could run again for president.

Nancy Pelosi: And that's one of the motivations that people have for advocating for impeachment.

Lesley Stahl: Won't that take more than the 10 days and does it actually make sense?

Nancy Pelosi: Well I like the 25th Amendment because it gets rid of him. He's out of office.  But there is strong support in the Congress for impeaching the president a second time. This president is guilty of inciting insur-- insurrection. He has to pay a price for that.

Produced by Richard Bonin. Associate producers, Mirella Brussani, Natalie Jimenez Peel and Kaylee Tully. Broadcast associates, Wren Woodson and Sheena Samu. Edited by Peter M. Berman.

  • Lesley Stahl
    Lesley Stahl

    One of America's most recognized and experienced broadcast journalists, Lesley Stahl has been a 60 Minutes correspondent since 1991.