Transcript: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on "Face the Nation," November 17, 2019

Full interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

The following is a transcript of an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that aired Sunday, November 17, 2019, on "Face the Nation." 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to Face the Nation.  We begin this morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, we spoke with her just after the conclusion of public impeachment hearings Friday.  Our conversation started with President Trump's real time tweet about Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.  

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you think he was tweeting about her?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, he made a mistake and he knows her strength. And he was trying to undermine it. Of course, presidents appoint ambassadors, but people don't insult people, especially when they're giving testimony before the Congress of the United States. I think even his most ardent supporters have to honestly admit this is the wrong thing for the president to do.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House said it was just his opinion. He wasn't trying to intimidate. What do you think?

SPEAKER PELOSI: The president and perhaps some at the White House have to know that the words of the president weigh a ton. They are very significant. And he should not frivolously throw out insults, but that's what he does. I think part of it is his own insecurity as an imposter. I think he knows full well that he's in that office way over his head. And so he has to diminish everyone else.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think that was witness intimidation in your book?

SPEAKER PELOSI: I haven't had a lot of time to pay attention to the president's tweets and the legal implications of them. I just think that was totally wrong and inappropriate and typical of the president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you tweeted today, you said Ambassador Yovanovitch was viciously smeared by Trump allies, removed from her post and then threatened by the president. What part of that amounts to an impeachable offense or a crime?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, there are many things that the president does that are completely out of the question that are not impeachable. And they're about the election. But when it comes to violating the Constitution of the United States, as he undermines our national security, jeopardizes the integrity of our elections, dishonors his own oath of office. That's about impeachment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So the Constitution defines an impeachable offense as treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you think applies to this case?

SPEAKER PELOSI: We are unfolding the facts. That's what an inquiry is about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You use the term bribery.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yeah, I was translating from the Latin. That- that was in the context of E Pluribus Unum. For many, one. And so I said for many, one. Quid pro quo. Bribery. Now that's what that is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So but do you expect that to be one of the articles--

SPEAKER PELOSI: I have no idea. Well, there's not even a decision made to impeach the president. This is a finding of fact, unfolding of the truth. And then a decision will be made and that is a decision that goes beyond me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you point out factually, right, that vote has not taken place to proceed necessarily with impeachment. But do you think you'll go through all of this and not vote to impeach the president?

SPEAKER PELOSI: That remains was- the facts if the president has information that demonstrates his innocence in all of this, which we haven't seen. His trans- transcript of a phone call is tucked away in a high- highly sensitive, compartmentalized intelligence server so that we can't see that. If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You think Democrats have had a good week?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I think the American people have had a good week. I think truth has had a good week. I think patriotism has had a good week. And I think the Constitution has has a good week. I don't think the president has had a good week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Republicans argue here--

SPEAKER PELOSI: You know what? If- if we could just talk about what we want to do- I- I really have a real discomfort level of responding to what Republicans say because they are in denial about what has happened in the country. So if you want to ask me about where we're going on this, I'm happy to respond to that. But I find it a waste of my time and yours to just be talking about what Republicans say.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I want to just let you respond, though, to the argument that's being made in messaging by Republicans here. That the grounds--

SPEAKER PELOSI: No I don't want to respond--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --for the impeachment--

SPEAKER PELOSI: --let it stand. Let their arguments stand because there's so in such quicksand that I don't even want to have it given any more visibility by my dignifying any of their misrepresentations of what they say. And I say that out of great respect for you because I respect you as a great journalist. And I'm honored to have this interview with you. But I say to everybody else, I'm not here to talk about what they say because they're not facing the reality of what is happening to our country. And this is about our democracy that is at risk with this president in the White House.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So Chairman Schiff has said he learned of the whistleblower complaint September 9th. The aid was released days later. The military aid that's in question here. Do you see a connection there?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Of course. The president wasn't going-- the Republicans like to say, if you want to talk about them, "oh, it doesn't matter the aid was released." No, the whistle was blown. The whistle was blown. And that was blown long before we heard about it. Don't forget that in- in between all of that came, the inspector general, an inspector general appointed by President Trump. And the inspector general said that this was of urgent concern. And so that is what intervened.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you help walk the American people through what happens next? We have another week of hearings.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There will be an intelligence report written up and then what? Does the president get, as he says, to confront his accuser or get due process?

SPEAKER PELOSI: What do you mean confront his accuser? Confront the whistleblower?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Presumably, that's what he means.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower. So the president could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't expect him to do that?

SPEAKER PELOSI: --if he wants to take the oath of office or he could do it in writing. He has every opportunity to present his case. But it's really a sad thing. I mean, what the president did was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did, that at some point Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognize that this could not continue. The Intelligence Committee is leading this part of the inquiry. There are other depositions that are being taken by more committees. So some of the depositions will continue and then what takes place in the intelligence public will continue for another week. I don't know how much longer. I guess it depends on how many more witnesses they have. That's up to the committee. I don't guide that. That's up to the committee.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you expect that to be wrapped up before the end of the year?

SPEAKER PELOSI: I have no idea. Again, I--

MARGARET BRENNAN: No timetable for that?

SPEAKER PELOSI: No, I mean, it is self-evident that we have open hearings for the next week. I don't know if there are any beyond that. Then we're out for Thanksgiving. Doesn't mean depositions couldn't be taken during that time. And then when we come back by then, maybe a decision or maybe they have more hearings. And then I have six committees who have been working on all of this, and those six chairmen have been very involved in what the, how we will proceed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that mean that'll be potentially included in an impeachment that you might broaden this beyond the issue related to Ukraine?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, that- that it's- not up for me. That's what the facts will determine. We are also proceeding in the courts. And this week we had another powerful decision by a court. Now it is- the president is appealing it to the Supreme Court that the president should release his financial documents. We've won all of the cases in the court on this. Roger Stone, what seven counts, was it that he was found guilty? Manafort is in prison. Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer, is in prison. There's so much wrongdoing attached with all of this. But we have to keep it very precise in terms of the president of the United States and the Constitution of the United States. And that is what this is about. And it's very serious. And none of us came here to impeach a president. This is very sad. At the same time, as I say, we're trying to pass a trade bill, pass our appropriations bills, Voting Rights Act. Whether it's background checks, climate action now, equal pay for equal work, raising the minimum wage, all of the issues that we're working on for the good of the American people. So this isn't- while this is a concentration of our conversation here, it's not what we do in a day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You met with the Treasury secretary this week and he said the White House has no intention of allowing another government shutdown.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Agreed. We are- we're all in agreement on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you confident you can avoid one?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, let us hope left to their own devices, the appropriators can avoid that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that mean Democrats will provide funding for the border wall?

SPEAKER PELOSI: No, no. That's-we have well over a trillion dollars worth of decisions to make. I don't know why we would go to that. The president hasn't built any new wall in a whole term of office. I think that his comments about the wall are really an applause line at a rally, but they're not anything that he's serious about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When will the free trade deal, known as USMCA be up for a vote?

SPEAKER PELOSI: When we have assurances that worker protections are provided. It's all about enforcement.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said imminent recently.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yeah, well imminent that--

MARGARET BRENNAN: does that mean--

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, we're a long way from where we started. But I'm not, I don't have a date when it'll come up because it cannot be any sooner than the trade representative agrees to the proper enforcement so that our workers really do get a better deal than they have in NAFTA.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is it like for you to go toe to toe with President Trump?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Sad, you know. None- as I say, none of us come here to impeach a president. And when a new president is elected, we wish that president success and hope that we can work together and find common ground. And I thought maybe we could on infrastructure. And I'm still hopeful. I thought we could on reducing the cost of prescription drugs. And I'm still hopeful. I had hoped that he would want it to be- able to find some common ground. It is not a president who believes in governance. I've worked with President Bush before and we did many things-- pass the biggest energy bill in the history of the country, PEPFAR for HIV AIDS drugs, issues that related to fairness in terms of the tax code for poor people and- we- we did many things together.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think it's different now, though, because you are so often the only woman in this room? I mean that iconic photo of you after that recent clash at the White House with you standing up.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well I was largely the only woman in the room when President Bush was president as well. But President Bush believed in governance so you could find common ground. But if you don't believe that- you know in governance, then there's hardly any way to negotiate a solution. This is a very strange situation. The 24th of September was when I called for a fuller expansion, the inquiry was going on but to proceed with the inquiry, and that kind of changed our communication until that day in the room when I said, "All roads, Mr. President, with you lead to Putin." Whether it's giving them a stronger foothold in the Middle East by what you did with Turkey and Syria. Well, what you did by withholding a grant- withholding aid to military assistance voted by Congress to Ukraine to the benefit of Putin. One-one thousand- more like thirteen thousand by now, Ukrainians have died at the hands of the Russians. They needed that military aid. And with his disparaging remarks about NATO and questioning our commitment to NATO. That's to Putin's advantage. So we do have a, shall we say, a candid relationship.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Madam Speaker, thank you for your time.

SPEAKER PELOSI: My pleasure.