Transcript: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on "Face the Nation," November 11, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi that aired Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: On Friday, we sat down with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is working to round up the votes among Democrats to become Speaker once again.  We began our discussion with the Democrats' call for the new acting attorney general to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller probe after the president asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step aside last week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think under Whitaker that the integrity of this investigation is in peril?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Yes I do. First of all, I think that he should recuse himself for any review of the investigation because of statements he has made already in the public domain about the fact that this investigation should not-

MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't have confidence in him as America's top enforcement officer?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: No I don't, and don't just take it from me. There's bipartisan editorializing about this that- that he should never have been appointed and that it- it does violence to the Constitution and the vision of our founders to appoint such a person in such a manner to be the chief legal officer in our country. And that's bipartisan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are questions about what will happen when Bob Mueller wraps up his investigation, the report and the conclusions he comes to, and whether they will ever see the light of day, because we don't know if they're going to be shared with Congress. In a Democrat controlled House with subpoena power would you force that?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well we don't know if- if- the- what he will decide and what will be made public. But we do want the truth.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --The public has a right to know--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: The public has a right to know and no one is above the law in terms of our having access to that information.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't think it would require a subpoena to the DOJ to release it?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well let us hope not but the Congress- the beauty of our Constitution is the system of checks and balances. And in doing so to have oversight responsibility, to be a check. So in our oversight responsibilities we would want that information.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What are the bounds of that oversight? Because, you know, one of the concerns you hear is Democrats are just going to issue subpoena after subpoena and make the president's life legally more difficult. Is there a limitation to that that you see?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well we are responsible. We are not scattershot. We are not doing any investigation for a political purpose, but to seek the truth. So I think a word that you could describe about how Democrats will go forward in this regard is we will be very strategic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No investigation for political purposes you say--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: --that's right--

MARGARET BRENNAN: A number of Republicans would say, "Come on." There's always a- a political upside or downside to moving forward with some of these investigations.

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well if the Republicans would say that they're just projecting their own attitude toward investigations, which was very political. We are coming to do something that is very important for our country; a more open Congress with accountability to the public, with a seeking bipartisanship where we can find it, stand our ground where we can't.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president has been saying that there's election fraud in Florida. What do you think is happening in- in Broward County? Is this election fraud, and is there a role that Congress needs to play in upgrading election infrastructure?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well, yes to the second part, but let's go to the first part first. My experience with the president is that any time he charges somebody with something, he's just projecting what he might have done himself. We are not--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Election fraud?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well obstruction- suppression of the vote. Those- those kinds of issues I think are wrong and not in honor of our sacred right to vote. So no, there is no election fraud. What there is is an honest count of the vote.

MARGARET BRENNAN: On immigration, would you try to block any attempt to fund the border wall?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Let's just enlarge that issue into what we need to do as a country. We certainly have to protect our borders, and Democrats know that, and we have always worked to do that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you'd be open to supporting this--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: --No, I'm saying that I would--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --As Speaker, would you ever--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: --I support protecting--

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- shepherd that legislation?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: --protecting our border, and we have done that, and there are many ways to protect the border before tens of billions of dollars building a wall where technology and personnel and the rest could possibly do the job. But whatever it is has to be tied to comprehensive immigration reform. What this administration has done is undermining our values. Taking babies out of the arms of their moms -- as you, a new mom, you understand that bonding very well, with me a- as my- mother of five, grandmother of nine, understand that bonding very well. Let's take the baby out of the arms of their moms. Let's separate families. Shameful. And what the president just did in the last day on the executive order flies in the face of even what the evangelicals, who are his big supporters, have said. Evangelicals have said the United States amnesty- excuse me- The United States Refugee Resettlement Program is the crown jewel of America's humanitarianism. And what the president did does not recognize what the law of the land is and- in terms of refugees.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But Speaker Pelosi, if you're Speaker, as you said you were confident you will be--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: --Yes--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --would not, in principle, oppose a border wall. You would have the conversation if it's part of comprehensive immigration reform?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: No, I- I- I- I didn't say that. I didn't say that. I said that we- we think there are better ways to protect the border, but everything that we do is related to how many people we protect in our country in terms of comprehensive- comprehensive immigration reform. Remember the president says, "I'm going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it." Well, it's tens of billions of dollars. But it- again, I think it's wrong. I don't think it's effective. I think it's costly, and I think it- it- there's a better way to protect our border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There's a lot more of our interview with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi ahead, including her plans for fixing the Affordable Care Act and the record number of women in the next Congress. That's coming up in our next half hour.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face the Nation. We want to continue our conversation with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. In the next Congress, there will be at least 100 women in the House; that's a record. We asked Leader Pelosi about the new freshman class.

HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER NANCY PELOSI: We got 23 women, got us to the majority. And then we have many men, some of people of color among those men. It's to take us to bigger heights. I want to salute the quality of our candidates who- who took their message, their "why" – why they wanted to be in Congress, what they cared about, and what they knew about that, and how they connected in a very personal way with their constituents. They- we own the ground because people were inspired by them, and the outside groups did so much – door to door, telling stories about health care and why that was important in this election, and so many other personal stories. So, personal stories won the day. Health care was the big issue. I'm here to protect that health care. In terms of the diversity, we used to be over 50 percent women, people of color and LGBTQ. Now we're over 60 percent and that's a- a beautiful thing, that diversity for our country. The additional people who will be- who will change the face of security in our country and of our- not only our national security, but our- our- our national economy. People say, "Oh you're going to have more women so you'll have more emphasis on child care." Well, we already have that, and we'll do more. But the- the point is, is that every issue is a women's issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the issues that Democrats campaigned on was protection of the existing healthcare law--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Republicans and the president have talked about preexisting conditions and something they want to actually protect. So what does that actually mean in practical sense? Do you think that there is any room for reform of ACA – of Obamacare?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well you have two different questions. One is the- the preexisting condition as a- not being a barrier to getting coverage is part of the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans have tried to disrupt that. They did it in their "Trumpcare" or "I don't care" bill that he had, and it was defeated. They now are going- they didn't succeed in the Congress. So now they're going to the courts, and a large number of Republican attorneys general throughout the country have brought suit against the preexisting condition benefit. And instead of protecting the law of the land the president has sided with those attorneys general who want to eliminate that benefit. They misrepresented during the campaign where they were on this. They have another chance now, with us in the majority, to join us into removing all doubt that the pre-existing medical condition is the law- the benefit- is the law of the land.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does this change anything for you, in terms of your- your sense of needing to stay here or--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: But I- the- I- the more--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --needing to stay as Speaker?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well, I- I'm staying as Speaker to protect the Affordable Care Act. That's my main issue, because I think that's, again, about the health and financial health of the America's families and if Hillary had won, I could go home. Nobody from California ever gets Potomac fever. You may know that. But--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --That's still your north star right now, though?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: What?

MARGARET BRENNAN: The protection of the Affordable Care--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: --Yes, that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Act?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: That- that- I mean, I- I hope we will have a- a- a woman president very soon, but that's not the- the- the fact that we almost had one would have been motivation for me to say, "There's a woman at the table." It's very important. You cannot have the four leaders of Congress, the President of the United States, these five people, and not have the voice of women. Especially since women were the majority of the- the voters, the workers in campaigns, and now part of this glorious victory. But these women bring each their individual- individual excellence to the Congress, and we're very proud of it. When I came to Congress, there were 12 Democratic women. I said, "We have to change this." Now we'll have close to 90. And that's a- a major accomplishment for- for the American people, but also for the Congress.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you respond to those who say there still needs to be more diversity in the leadership, either age wise, because you look at- at the other two leaders alongside you in- 78 years old--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: --Yeah, well that's a--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you need to have some of these new progressives who've come in younger--

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: We've had them. We have had them--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --in leadership?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: --in the leadership along the way, and that more will be in now that we have more positions. When you have- when you have the majority, you have more positions to put people in leadership. But our leadership doesn't just extend to the caucus chair, vice chair, all that. It's about the leadership of our committees. And in our leadership of our committees, we have beautiful diversity – women, people of color, LGBTQ. It's a- it's a sight to behold, to see all of that diversity, all of that talent leading the way. And some of the people here like being a chair more than they'd rather be chair of the caucus, they would be the chair of the Armed Services Committee or chair of the Financial Services Committee--

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's how you would resolve these questions?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well it's- it- people have to run. When I first ran, people said, "Who said she could run?" Nobody smoothed a path for me. I've tried to smooth the path for others, but you have to run, you have to want to do it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Policy wise, what does that mean?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Policy wise that means that the face of national security in our country will be very different and very diverse. We have many women coming in with experience in national security. We have many women here moving up in the ranks on national security, but I want to make sure that everybody has a security credential, whether it's- in all of different committees of jurisdiction in that regard. It also means that women will be taking the lead on our- our economy, the strength of our economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you said you're a transitional figure. Is that what you're transitioning towards? Handing off to these women?

DEMOCRATIC LEADER PELOSI: Well I've always considered myself a transitional figure. I am on a mission and that mission was to honor what we did with the Affordable Care Act. It-it stands with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid as pillars of economic, as well as health security for the American people. When we had the opportunity to do it we fought hard, and we won, and now we have to protect it, not just as a legislative matter, but as what it means in the lives of the American people. And so I-I think we're on a good path to- to protect it. It was the central issue in this campaign. And so many of the outside groups told their stories, walked their precincts, won their votes, for us to preserve and protect the Affordable Care Act and improve it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with our panel.