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Soon Nancy Pelosi to Hold News Conference after Trump Says He Won't Work with Democrats until Investigations End, Democrats Call for Impeachment; Nancy Pelosi Gives Press Conference. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 23, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:08] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.
At any moment now, we'll be hearing from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She's facing fights on two fronts. Facing down the president, who declared yesterday during this show that he won't work with Congress on anything until the House ends its investigations into him.
He was lashing out after Nancy Pelosi declared publicly that the president is engaging in a cover-up. Remember these words, to quote the president, "I don't do cover-ups."
The other front for Nancy Pelosi right now is with her own party. House Democrats remain divided on whether or not to move toward impeachment of President Trump.
Are they now, after meeting this morning, are now closer together, are they now further apart? Where do things stand? And will any legislation be getting done any time soon in the midst of all this? We'll bring you Speaker Pelosi's remarks live. They should begin at any moment.
And if yesterday is any indication, friends, the president will likely be watching as well. So let us stay close to the Twitter feed.
CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill inside where the House speaker will be heading in any minute.
Manu, you're getting a read on what Pelosi has been telling fellow Democrats this morning in this meeting about how to deal with the president.
MANU RANU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's rights. She's still tamping down calls for impeachment. She said the president was goading them into impeachment. She's been saying that some time. What she said this morning, according to a person in the room, is make no mistake, he wants to be impeached. She also called his actions villainous into the constitution of the United States.
She made the case internally that their strategy that they're employing right now is working, pointing to two court victories this week that could lead two different House committees to get information related to the president's and the Trump Organization's finances, saying that's the route to go on.
They're still pursuing a plan to hold individuals in contempt. I'm told in the meeting this morning, Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary chairman, laid out a plan to expedite holding people in contempt.
What they would essentially do is authorize the committees to vote to hold individuals in contempt, to avoid the full House having to vote on individuals. This could, according to one Democratic member, claw, free up the floor so there would not be -- the full House wouldn't be tied up with voting on individual people being held in contempt. Instead, all these committees could move forward and hold these people who are defying subpoenas, not listening to the requests, to move in a much more expeditious fashion and essentially escalate this fight with the Trump administration if they were to move this route. And it sounds like they will in the first week of June.
We know already Bill Barr, the attorney general, some of the House Judiciary Committee has voted to hold in contempt. Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, skipped a hearing despite having a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee. Jerry Nadler wants to hold him in contempt as well. Undoubtedly, there will be others that want to do that.
Even as the president is telling them to back off, the speaker of the House, the Democrats are showing no signs they will do that. They're not moving forward on impeachment, but the investigations are continuing and Democrats plan to continue the push to punish these individuals who are not listening to their demands -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: All, Manu, it's going to be interesting to hear what she says when she comes to the podium. I think it's going to open up the next chapter between she and the caucus and the president, as we saw as evidenced yesterday. So let's stand by for that.
Whether it was a temper tantrum, as Nancy Pelosi describes it or cool, calm, and collected, as the president describes it, yesterday's meeting at the White House was the latest example of what has so far been a very bad week for the president. And when that happened yesterday, it was only Wednesday.
From defeats in court to subpoenas, as Manu was pointing out, to new subpoenas, as Manu was pointing out, to some of his closest aides, so it is more than just being accused. Is it more than just being accused of a cover-up by Nancy Pelosi getting to the president right now?
CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House, looking at this for us.
Sarah, what are you hearing about this?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOIUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it was, indeed, a rough week for the president, as House Democrats have been making progress in their investigations of the president and his inner circle.
So let's just take a look at this day by day. On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee released transcripts from two days-worth of closed-door testimony with Michael Cohen.
Also Monday, a judge upheld a congressional subpoena for the president's accounting firm to hand over financial records. That was a win for Democrats.
Then on Tuesday, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler vowed to take action against former White House counsel, Don McGahn, after the White House said he could not testify before Congress.
Then the Department of Justice said it would give the House Intelligence Committee underlying Mueller materials that committee had been asking for.
Also, Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee Subpoenaed Hope Hicks, the president's beloved former communications director.
Moving on to Wednesday, a federal court unsealed search warrants issued to Michael Cohen. We learned more details about Cohen's foreign contacts.
[11:05:01] Then a judge rejected Trump legal team's efforts to block a congressional subpoena of Deutsche Bank. Also House Democrats trying to get more financial records from that bank. A judge saying it was likely lawful.
New York State legislature, again, this on Wednesday, passed a bill allowing New York state to release to Congress if it requests them the president's state tax returns.
And finally, also Wednesday, the comment that sparked we have seen unfold in the last 24 hours, including Trump's ultimatum from Speaker Pelosi claiming the president engaged in a cover-up.
It's Thursday, and the president is continuing to rage against Democrats on Twitter, accusing them of being the do-nothing party. He and top White House aides are doubling down on this idea that the White House can't work with Congress while it's investigating the president.
So this gridlock is likely to persist into the near future, gridlock on everything from infrastructure to trade to drug prices -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: And just a point of fact, that's a choice. That's not necessarily the case that it's impossible to work together. That's a choice coming from one party or the other or, let's be honest, the president, if he doesn't want to work while there are investigations underway, look no further back than in Clinton days for evidence of that.
Sarah, thank you so much. Stand by. I'm sure there's a lot more coming.
Joining me now, though, is CNN political director, David Chalian, and Laura Barron-Lopez, a national political reporter for "Politico."
It's great to see you guys. Thanks for being here. Laura, you have been also speaking to a bunch of Democrats. Your
reporting has been in-depth on Democrats rank and file, about where they are right now on impeachment. It will be interesting to hear what comes out of this meeting this morning following yesterday's meeting with Speaker Pelosi and where she is. What is your sense, though, at this moment? Is Nancy Pelosi holding the caucus together?
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think right now, she is. But make no mistake, there are an increasing number of Democrats, not just from the progressive wing, but also some frontline Democrats, ones in the swing districts that Democrats are going to need to hold on to keep the majority, that are starting to warm to impeachment or an impeachment inquiry. The inquiry, because they say it doesn't necessarily mean we have to start proceedings. It just means we can use it to get more information.
So she very much this week has been having to quell some of that noise and trying to tell them, look, we're not going to move there yet. And she is dealing with an increasing amount of pressure.
BOLDUAN: I'm also still in the camp of skeptical on how you proceed to impeachment proceedings in this day and age and not move towards impeachment. The in-between, I know how it is laid out. I see how it goes. I just don't see how it's actually possible just in this political environment and what that would actually mean, but that's just me, maybe.
David, I'm still trying to figure out what it was about the speaker's comments about being involved in a cover-up yesterday that set the president off so much. A forceful statement, yes. It was news, but there's no shortage of statements like that that are flying around on a daily basis.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don't think you should look too much at the speaker's comments as the thing that set him off. Obviously, the signage was prepared to go into the Rose Garden. This was sort of a play in the playbook that was available to the president, that he clearly called, irrespective of what her actual words were.
I think what Sarah Westwood just went through, Kate, in showing the week that the president is having and some of the court battles he's losing, and how some of that then gets closer to his business finances, his family finances, his personal universe, is something that obviously the president, there's little doubt about it. He made it crystal clear in his own words about drawing red lines and what have you.
So that seems to me what is setting this off is that he is feeling the pressure and the heat from all of these investigations that are still existing even though Mueller has been put to bed.
And, Laura, if the president sticks by his words and there will be no work with Congress unless and until they stop investigating, I want to just list out, as you well know them, some of the things that will be held up.
Anything on infrastructure, obviously, the disaster relief bill, which is billions of dollars in help for Puerto Rico after the hurricane, California after the wildfires, the Midwest after flooding, humanitarian aid to help with the migrant crisis at the border. That's just that tranche, if you will.
Then the debt limit. The country is running up against their borrowing limit, and the country must act, and then the budget talks to avoid another shutdown. All that, according to President Trump, is now on hold. What are members saying about this?
BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. Democrats are saying look, he has to come to the table unless they want another shutdown, and then Democrats are going to blame him for this second shutdown. They already blamed him for the first because he took credit for it during that meeting that he held --
BOLDUAN: Literally said I will take credit for it.
[11:10:01] BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. He did. And so Democrats feel as though they're in a pretty strong position here.
And we did hear even after that meeting and this morning from some White House officials that, oh, the president didn't exactly mean it. He will come to the table on budget caps and come to the table on a spending agreement because Republicans also don't want a shutdown. That's the last thing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants.
BOLDUAN: I can absolutely see that.
Can't you, David?
CHALIAN: Yes. Without a doubt, I can see that.
Listen, I do think it is clear that you can, if you want, operate on two tracks at the same time. Right? Like the government functions in a way that that is feasible. The president is clearly trying to make a play here that I don't know why he thinks it's going to work for him.
CHALIAN: I haven't figured that piece out yet.
BOLDUAN: I don't see why that threat scares Democrats.
CHALIAN: Exactly. And in fact, what does it do? It gives Pelosi something to go back into her caucus, which we were just discussing, yes, there are growing numbers. Still, we're talking about a minority in her caucus calling for impeachment, a growing one at that. But when the president does something like this, Kate, it allows Nancy Pelosi to go back, and everybody, 100 percent of the caucus, can rally around this notion of the president should not be holding legislation hostage.
BOLDUAN: It's an interesting point.
You're seeing, and you were doing a lot of reporting, Laura, about cracks showing within the Democratic caucus on this issue. Maybe the president and what he said yesterday helps shore that up for her.
BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. I mean, well, the caucus is unified when it comes to wanting to hold the president accountable and wanting to continue with these investigations. There's no question about that.
And a lot of them all want to hear from Mueller. And a lot of them, we expect, are going to vote for that contempt vote that is going to be held, right now, they're saying, the first week of June. You know, with the understanding that maybe a few of those really, really frontline difficult district members are going to maybe not vote for contempt of Barr.
But whenever Pelosi goes into meetings with Trump and comes out looking the victor, that helps her. It helped her the last time when she was dealing with the speakership vote. And there was question whether or not too many Democrats were going to defect and not vote for her. She came out of that, and some members told me, oh, I'm totally behind her now because it's clear she can get under his skin and go toe to toe with Trump.
BOLDUAN: That's very interesting, very interesting.
As you can see, Nancy Pelosi walking to the podium now. Let us see what's next.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): -- took a little longer on the floor than I had anticipated. But the floor rules.
As we go into Memorial Day weekend, which is such a beautiful time for us to remember, respect, and honor, and we honor the service and sacrifice of our heroes in uniform and reaffirm our sacred duty to never forget the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The service of our veterans reminds us of our mission to build a future worthy of their sacrifice. We do so on the oath we take to support and defend the constitution and to protect the American people.
Honoring that oath this week, the House passed nine bills to support veterans, protecting their health benefits, the national security, and taking actions to end the crisis of veteran suicide.
This week, we're also passing urgently needed fix for military families facing tax hikes under the GOP tax scam. With the kitty tax, Republicans took half a billion dollars from working and middle-class families and gave it to big corporations and the wealthy. A half a billion dollars. The kitty tax. It's unacceptable that surviving children of our fallen heroes who have suffered so much are now forced to pay thousands of additional dollars in taxes on their benefits. They cannot be forced to sacrifice twice.
As Democrats take action to protect military families, we also are hard at work to protect our workers in stark contrast to Republican special interest agenda.
Today, in the same legislation that contains the kitty tax act, the tax fix, to fix what the Republicans did in their tax scam, we're passing the secure act. We're passing strong measures to help workers have a secure retirement.
And yesterday, Congressman Waters' Consumer First Act, reversing the administration's destruction of the consumer bureau, which the consumer bureau returned nearly $12 billion to 30 million seniors, servicemembers, and veterans before being gutted by the Trump administration.
[11:15:12] Also to honor our oath, we're hoping to have a disaster supplemental bill passed before we leave for the district work period. That was our hope, that's what we have been working on into the wee hours of the night last night.
However, we have sent legislation bipartisan legislation passed in the House to the Senate that would be helpful for those in the disaster- stricken areas if the Senate would just pass the bills and send it on to the president. We passed a bill a while back, months ago, and then in light of the other disasters that occurred in the spring, we then passed another bill that expanded the areas that were affected.
That's sitting over at the Senate. They could well just pass it. And send it to the president. That would send such a beautiful message to those areas that are affected and continue to be affected. You see what's happening in Missouri as we gather here.
What the problem is that the Trump administration has put in conditions for border funding that are just totally unacceptable. Really don't have anything to do with what we're trying to do for disaster assistance, and we have not been able to find common ground. We understand our responsibility to protect our border, but what they're doing is just not right.
And it's important to note that in the 10 years before this, not a single child died in the custody of the border -- at the border. Now, six children have died in the last several months. Six children have died in the last several months.
Further honoring our oath means honoring our constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight of the president and the Trump administration. That responsibility has been resoundingly affirmed again and again, making absolutely clear that the House has a responsibility to follow the facts, uncover the truth for the American people.
Yesterday, Deutsche Bank ruling concluded, and I quote, "Put simply, the power of Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process." And in the Mazars case, on Monday, the judge declares, "There can be
little doubt that Congress' interest in the accuracy of the president's financial disclosures falls within the legislative sphere. But the president's priority is his personal and political interests, not the public interests."
Yesterday, as you know, Democrats went to the White House prepared to offer the president the opportunity to launch an historic infrastructure initiative.
We had met three weeks before. The idea that it was a good, positive meeting, on how we build the infrastructure of our country, roads, bridges, mass transit, broadband in rural areas and in underserved urban areas as well, water systems, both wastewater and safe clean drinking water. Infrastructure for our satellites so that our technology works here. For all of these things, we were optimistic.
We also were hoping for housing and school construction as a further part of the conversation, but the question is, how is it paid for. And the president was going -- the plan was, as we agreed at the meeting three weeks ago, the president was to present his proposals at yesterday's meeting.
Well, they started sending signals he might not be ready or interested the night before he sent us a letter to Chuck Schumer and to me, saying that he doesn't want to do infrastructure until we do the U.S./Mexico/Canada, some people call it After NAFTA, some call it NAFTA 2.0, but anyway, that trade agreement. That was a strange juxtaposition.
But nonetheless, the next day you know what happened. I think what happened, he said it's because of cover-up, and that strikes a chord with him, and he's afraid of cover-up, but afraid of being accused of cover-up.
But I really think that what he knew the court decision was getting into territory he did not want touched and they did not allow the Mueller investigation to go into the president's personal financial finances. So Mazars was a setback for him and must have known the Deutsche Bank decision would be consistent, but in any event, to inoculate against its presentation, he pulled a stunt.
Now, I truly believe that the president has a bag of tricks and the White House has a bag of tricks that they save for certain occasions. They don't necessarily apply to the occasion, but they're a distraction, which is his master of distraction. We will all agree on that. That's something he does well, to distract from problems that he has. He changes, tries to change the subject. And while he tried to say it's because I said "cover-up, we have been saying cover-up for a while.
[11:20:19] And our 9:00 meeting was a meeting we have anyway. So it had nothing to do with him.
But I think what really got to him was that these court cases and the fact that the House Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment. That's where he wants us to be. When he saw that was not happening, that, again, with the cover-up, which he understands is true, just struck a chord.
It was really sad, because as I said to some of you yesterday, Thomas Jefferson, one of our -- our third president, had the first infrastructure initiative. He tasked Galtson (ph), who his secretary of the Treasury after he left the room.
And I said that to the secretary of the Treasury yesterday after the president left the room. That he tasked his secretary of the Treasury to put together a big infrastructure plan to follow the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Louisiana Purchase, to build into the infrastructure of America, Cumberland Road, Erie Canal, things like that, that's so important to our country in terms of commerce and mobility and the rest.
And then, 100 years later, 100 years later, Teddy Roosevelt, he initiated his infrastructure plan, which was green, the establishment of the National Park Service.
Later in the century, President Eisenhower put forth an interstate highway proposal with very bipartisan. The leader in the Senate was Lyndon Johnson. In the House, Sam Rayburn, and the president of the United States, a Republican president, Eisenhower, working together to pass that for the good of the country and its purpose under President Eisenhower was that it would unify America with a defense issue.
So what we're talking about now, infrastructure, the president says the "I" word, I thought he was talking about infrastructure, roads, bridges, mass transit. I said some of these things already.
I thought we could give him the opportunity to make a historic contribution to the safety, because it's the safety measure. It's about commerce, about safety, about mobility. Product to market and the rest. It's about clean air, clean water, it's about a better future for our country, much needed trillions of dollars in deficit in terms of low or no maintenance. It's never been partisan. We don't want it to be partisan now.
But I can only think that he wasn't up to the task of figuring out the difficult choices of how to cover the cost of the important infrastructure legislation that we had talked about three weeks before.
But the president, again, stormed out. First, pound the table, walk out the door. What? Next time have the TV cameras in there while I had my say. That didn't work for him either. Now this time, another temper tantrum.
Again, I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Madam Speaker, would you be prepared to change your rhetoric given the political landscape and the temperament. Your prayer comments almost suggest you're concerned about his wellbeing.
PELOSI: I am. And the wellbeing of the United States of America.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would you be prepared to do something differently to not use phrases like cover-up or to not perhaps provoke him? Would you be open to that?
PELOSI: You have bought into his excuse. That was not a reason that he did that yesterday. That was an excuse for him to do that.
PELOSI: And with all due respect to your question, I do not intend not to honor my oath of office nor do my colleagues in the House of Representatives to honor our oath of office, to protect and defend the Constitution, which has a system of checks and balances, separation of power, in it.
And again, there's a question of the American people understanding that what he's doing is an assault on the Constitution of the United States. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I hope he can, too.
RAJU: Yesterday, you said that the president may have engaged in impeachment offenses. Yet today, you're saying you're not on a path to impeachment. Can you explain why you're opposed to launching an impeachment inquiry as many of your members want to do.
[11:25:08] PELOSI: Let me be clear. The president's behavior in terms of his obstruction of justice, the things he's doing, it's clear. It's in plain sight. It cannot be denied. Ignoring subpoenas, obstruction of justice. Yes, these could be impeachment offenses.
But I intend not -- there are three things. That might understand it better if you know these three things. We want to follow the facts to get the truth to the American people. With a recognition, too, that no one is above the law, and three, that the president is engaged in a cover-up. And that is what my statement is.
PELOSI: How we deal with it is a decision that our caucus makes, and our caucus is very much saying, whatever we do, we need to be ready when we do it.
And I do think that impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country. And we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation, it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment or not. But we're not at that place.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you believe he committed a crime? Do you believe he committed a crime?
PELOSI: Yes, ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would you take another meeting with the president after what happened and can you work with him on anything?
PELOSI: Of course. Of course. We're dealing with a situation that is becoming more predictable. But I do think that we have a responsibility to try to find common ground.
It's funny you ask that question, Casey, because yesterday, I was going to start the meeting in terms of, of course, putting it into stark perspective as I have done here and also say we're very busy people. The leaders in the Congress, especially the president of the United States, I think. And a meeting between leaders of the Congress and the president is an historic meeting.
This is not a casual coming together of Democrats and Republicans. This is an historic meeting, the leadership of the legislative branch, the first branch of government, and the president of the United States. So let's make it count for something. Let's really make it count for something.
By dint of preparation, by dint of respect for other people's views, understanding we have to yield on points to get results for the American people.
But he obviously did not -- was not prepared by dint of preparation. He was not prepared so he used some excuse to go out the door.
PELOSI: And I will not take responsibility for his irresponsible behavior because we're pointing out the truth to the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You have a lot of history --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In the meeting, Kellyanne Conway made remarks at the end of the meeting. She's apparently expanded on her remarks.
PELOSI: I'm not going to talk about her. I responded as the speaker of the House to the president of the United States. Other conversations people have among themselves up to them.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Obviously, you guys have a lot of major legislative issues you need to address. The president was talking about raising the debt ceiling. There are going to be Democratic votes, you know, how do you go back and re-engineer this, might not be infrastructure, but you have to keep the government open and raise the debt ceiling and you have to have Democratic votes.
PELOSI: Why don't you ask that question of the president of the United States? We have always been responsible. Left to their own devices, our culture and appropriations, in those days, they were not partisan arenas.
So on disaster assistance, we could have gotten there, left to their own devices of the appropriators until the White House intervened. We will have to pass the appropriations bills, and we will. And hopefully, we will do them in a very timely fashion. The debt ceiling will have to be lifted, and that's a matter of a conversation we're having on the debt ceiling.
We're not saying, as the president said, if you don't stop investigating me, if you don't stop honoring your oath of office, I can't work with you. That's basically what he's saying. My he wants to take a leave of absence. I don't know.
But on the other hand, we understand what our responsibilities are. We're fully prepared to go forward. It really will be up to them to have some level of Cooperation.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You think this puts you in a better position to ask for more because of the blow-up yesterday?
PELOSI: We want to do what is right for the American people, respectful of all the equities that have to be weighed.
PELOSI: One more because we have to go back.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You suggested it today that the president wants on some level --
PELOSI: Of course. I told you that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you explain that a bit? Can you also explain about --