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Pelosi to talk about Trump's Racist Attack; Trump's Attack on Four Congresswomen; Nancy Pelosi's Press Conference. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 17, 2019 - 13:00   ET



[13:00:34] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, President Trump hitting the campaign trail today in North Carolina, one day after the House of Representatives, in a rarely used move, voted to rebuke Trump for his racist comments about four Democratic congresswomen.

In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaking any moment. But Trump, according to sources, has welcomed this as a political opportunity. Republicans have largely stood by him after he called for the four congresswomen to return to the countries from which they came, even though three of them were born here in America and all of them are citizens. Of note, they are all women of color.

Instead of retreating from his racist attack, Trump is now trying to tie the entire Democratic Party to the liberal positions of these freshmen members. And we are waiting to hear from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, tell us, how are Democrats balancing condemning the racist attack by the president without fully embracing the politics of the women that he's attacking and being labeled as he wants them to be?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're united on condemning what they're viewing as racist comments from this president. You saw that in that vote last night, the resolution that passed the House with Democratic votes and only four Republicans supporting that with one independent.

But Democrats are also divided about some of the tactics going forward, including whether or not to go as far as one Democratic congresswoman wants to go as soon as today, which is to impeach the president because of what Al Green, the Democratic congressman, says are racist views by this president. He says bigotry should not be allowed to occur by the occupant of the Oval Office and Democrats should take that extraordinary step and impeach the president. He is forcing a vote that could happen in just a matter of hours. And already we're seeing some division over that. Even supporters of an impeachment inquiry today are saying that they don't necessarily favor going this route at this moment.

And the Democratic leadership, Nancy Pelosi also opposes moving forward on this measure. We are told that they are -- hope -- they are planning to -- they would like to, at the moment, table that resolution, essentially kill it on the House floor a bit later. We expect Republicans also to vote to kill that resolution because, according to a source familiar with the matter, that the White House wants to have a strong vote, in their view a bipartisan vote opposing this measure to this resolution to impeach the president because of what's laid out in that articles of impeachment, the president essentially is racist, according to this allegation from Al Green.

But, nevertheless, that is what the Democrats want to essentially dispose of that, move forward on what -- things that unite them. That's a -- that was a subject of debate internally in a Democratic caucus meaning this morning. But we'll get a chance to hear from the speaker herself in just a matter of minutes about whether or not -- how she plans to proceed, what she wants to do next in the aftermath of these votes and this effort by this Democratic congressman to force his impeachment vote on the floor.


KEILAR: All right, Manu, thank you. And that's what we are looking at here on the right side of our screen as we await Speaker Pelosi. You can see report -- this is a big -- this is going to be a big weekly press conference. You see reporters lined up there to do their reports right now.

The House floor was just thrown into chaos last night during that rare rebuke of the president. So in case you missed the drama, it all began after Speaker Pelosi introduced this resolution to condemn the president.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president's racist tweets.


KEILAR: And Republicans objected.


REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): Can I ask the words be taken down?


COLLINS: I make a point of order the gentlewoman's words are unparliamentary and request the words (ph) to be taken down.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: So this spawned an hour-long review by the parliamentarian and an unpresented response by Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, who was presiding over the House.


REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO): We don't ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate. And that's what this is. I dare anybody to look at any of the footage and see if there was any unfairness. But unfairness is not enough, because we want to just fight. I abandon the chair.


KEILAR: And speaking to CNN this morning, Congressman Cleaver says this is why he stormed off.


REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO): I was embarrassed as a legislator in the United States House of Representatives. Can you imagine what the world is thinking as they watch this dysfunctionality here in Washington?


[13:05:10] KEILAR: Now, despite a ruling by the parliamentarian that Speaker Pelosi did violate a House rule by calling the president's tweets racist, Democrats voted to keep her remarks in the congressional record. So there they stay.

And as we await hearing from the speaker -- again, we're watching the right side of our screen, she'll be live any moment and we are awaiting that, but I want to talk now with Nadeam Elshami. He's a former chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi. Francesca Chambers with us as well, White House correspondent for, and CNN political director, David Chalian.

So the president walks away from this. It's the first rebuke of this kind in more than a century. But normally a politician, when they have -- when they make a mistake, when they say something like the president said, they'll retreat from that. He's not. He's trying to capitalize on it.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Which is completely in pattern with everything we've seen from Donald Trump from day one. He doesn't retreat. That's not his -- he doesn't believe that's a path to success. He believes doubling down, quadrupling down.

Now, you've seen the president and his aides try and reshape his words --


CHALIAN: From Sunday, which to me is an acknowledgement that they're -- they wanted to be on firmer ground, that this was about socialist views and not about race, gender and religion, because that was not clear in his tweet on Sunday at all. It was entirely about race and gender and religion. So you can see some movement among the president and his team to try to move this in a more ideological direction, which allows the full-on, partisan battle that you saw take place in the House of Representatives that this now -- this entire conversation from racist tweet from the president is now, as Donald Trump wanted to be, injected into sort of the daily to and fro of American politics.

KEILAR: And, Nadeam, this is the challenge the speaker is confronting. She doesn't want him to be able to capitalize on this. So how does she navigate this moment?

NADEAM ELSHAMI, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO NANCY PELOSI: Well, I think she goes back to 2018 and how Democrats won, right? We knew exactly what the president is, and was, and what his plan is for re-election. This is a re-election ploy. They're able to view this as it is.

And, you know, Democrats often say Democrats are dived and so on. But what's important to think about the Democratic caucus is, we don't have a purity test within the caucus, right? If something needs to be voted on, they vote on it. And they're going to continue.

And that is a discussion that's going on within that caucus. And having the president as continuing to be as the foil for the Democrats, he's not dividing Democrats, he's actually uniting Democrats.

Look, you're going to have these daily battles. That's fine. But, at the end of the day, you'll be able to go to the voters and say, look at -- you know, you have President Trump and you have Democrats. Who are you going to vote for? 2018 was certainly a barometer for that and we succeeded.

KEILAR: The president, Francesca, is going on the campaign trail. What are we expecting from him?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, DAILYMAIL.COM: Well, absolutely he'll be talking about this tonight, I guarantee that.

But I think it's -- what's really important here is that he had another opportunity yesterday to sort of clean this up. And he was asked, where is it that you want the women to go? And he was very defiant, looked straight to the camera and said, wherever, right? So he know exactly --

KEILAR: Or they can stay, he said.

CHAMBERS: Or they can stay or they can leave.

KEILAR: Leave. Stay.

CHAMBERS: So, he knows exactly what he's doing with his comments right now, particularly as he heads into this election, as he heads into this rally this evening.

The other day on the South Lawn, I was the person who had asked the original question about it, and he lectured media on, why don't they just ask about manufacturing? And then if you saw those photos, he came absolutely prepared to talk about this. All of his notes were absolutely on this topic. So he knows exactly what he's doing and where he wants to take it.

KEILAR: How much of a moment -- of an important moment was it for the speaker that this did unite her caucus?


KEILAR: When they'd been -- they'd been quibbling before. It was starting to feel like high school.

ELSHAMI: Yes, that's right. It was absolutely critical and it demonstrated something that is often kind of forgotten in all of this is that the speaker is willing to stand up for her members, no matter who you are, no matter what side of the political spectrum you are within the Democratic caucus. And having that vote yesterday that demonstrated that Democrats are not going to allow the president to go after four of their members and say what he said was very, very important for her.

And, look, we'll see what happens a week from now, but this is not going to be forgotten.

KEILAR: We are awaiting the House speaker. She is going to be speaking live and taking questions there on Capitol Hill. So, as soon as this begins, we are going to bring it to you. We're going to get in a quick break and be right back.


[13:12:19] REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Justice John Paul Stevens.

Justice Stevens was a true guardian of the Constitution. He made history not only as the longest serving justice, but as one of its finest. Our country mourns his loss. He will be lying in state Monday. His service will be Tuesday. And, again, it is a great loss to our country.

Today -- last night, I had a particular pleasant experience, which was to sign the legislation which enabled us to use the Washington Monument as a backdrop for the moon launch. Pretty exciting. I hope everyone will take advantage of observing that as we observe that historic event in our country's, the world's history. It's pretty exciting.

So here we are. As you know, we campaigned on a For the People agenda: lowering health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government. And to that end of bigger paychecks, this week, we will have three bills on the floor.

Raising the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage, it's -- we're going to increase wages for up to 33 million workers and lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty. It would help secure fairness and equality for women, many of whom are -- will be the beneficiaries of this, giving nearly 20 million working women a raise and help narrow the gender gap -- excuse me -- the wage gap that disproportionately impacts women.

We're also proud to pass this bill tomorrow on the anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, which America declared that all men and women were created equal.

We're also continuing to deliver (ph) our promises to workers. Today, we'll honor our promise to be -- to the hardworking men and women of the labor -- of labor as we lift the Cadillac tax protecting health benefits that workers have negotiated.

And next week, the House will move to pass the Butch Lewis Act, ensuring that millions of Americans who receive retirements will receive the retirement and benefit securities they have earned.

We've very pleased with the outcome of all those back-and-forth on the census. Proud of the testimony that our House Counsel made before the Supreme Court. Because the census is a pillar of our democracy, enshrined in our sacred Constitution to ensure that we are all equally counted and represented.

And so we will continue to follow the facts and hold the administration accountable for the policy decisions. This is not about partisanship; it's about patriotism. And now, having instilled fear, hopefully, we can allay that fear by having people sign up for the census.

[13:15:19] As we approach the 200-day mark of our transfer (ph) into (ph) the (ph) majority, which is coming up soon, House Democrats will build on the bold promise we have made, our For the People agenda.

We talked about lower health costs by preserving the prescription benefit. Lowering prescription drugs and preserving the pre-existing condition benefit. And some of that legislation will be coming up next week.

Raise workers' wages, I talked about that. Reduce the role of big dark money in Washington, H.R.1. But part of H.R. 1 -- we have to divide it into parts -- the Save (ph) Our Federal Elections, Voting Rights Act and the rest. And we're hoping to get some of these passed discretely.

As you know, Senator McConnell has called himself the Grim Reaper. We have news for him. As I've said before, these bills are alive and well with the public and public opinion, as Lincoln has said, can make almost anything happen. So we look forward to that.


QUESTION: (inaudible), Madam Speaker.

PELOSI: Yes, I'll come back to you.

QUESTION: Next week at this time, Robert Mueller will be here, testifying. What is your expectation for his testimony? And is there a chance that after his long-awaited appearance, there might not be any greater (ph) clarity on the findings of the special counsel's report? PELOSI: Well, I think that the report has brought some clarity. And

his own public statement brought further clarity. And now when he speaks about it, more people will know what is in the report.

I think we should approach it with all of the appropriateness and seriousness of purpose. This is about our country, our Constitution and the separation of powers, obstruction of justice, issues like that.

So I would say that, again, it's about patriotism. Let us listen. Let us see where the facts will take us and let us have this be as dignified as our Constitution would require. And then we'll see what happens after that. We go where the facts will lead us.


QUESTION: ... Green (ph) said today, talking about...


PELOSI: ... on the same subject.

QUESTION: ... evolution, he said that (inaudible) we have the opportunity to punish the president. We got to send him a message. We're not going to allow him to make America a racist country. Why is he wrong in the approach that he's taking?

PELOSI: Why -- you mean in terms of bringing up an impeachment -- well, for an impeachment, articles of impeachment to succeed -- I haven't really actually seen his articles of impeachment, but (inaudible) racism. We'll deal with that resolution on the floor.

But as I have said, over and over again, with all the respect in the world for Mr. Green -- he's a very prayerful person and he cares very much about our Constitution and our country. So as I say, with all due respect in the world for him, we have six committees who are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest that the president may have engaged in.

That is the serious path that we are on, not that Mr. Green is not serious. But we'll deal with that on the floor.


QUESTION: ... vote (ph) the table (ph) in?

PELOSI: I don't know what we will do but we will deal with it on the floor.


QUESTION: Thank you. On the debt ceiling here, you've been talking to Steven Mnuchin.

PELOSI: Yes. QUESTION: What is the pathway now on (ph) that (ph) (inaudible)

spending caps (ph)? What are the stumbling blocks to get this done before now and (inaudible)?

PELOSI: Well, let's start with next week and engineer back. We would like to have something on the floor next Thursday that -- so that we can send it in a timely fashion to the Senate so that they can go through their own, shall we say, particularly senatorial process to get it done in time before they leave.

So if we're talking about next Thursday being on the floor, we'd have to back up almost until this Friday to have an agreement reached so that we can duly note it, the -- cause under the new rules, we don't count weekends in the 72 hour notice.

So we'll have to have something that we can post sometime this weekend so that the time ticks away in order for us to go to rules -- to committee -- rules -- and to the floor. So when we have an agreement we'll write it up and we have to do all of that by Friday evening.

QUESTION: What are the policy issues that are stalling this (inaudible) have to resolve it?

PELOSI: It's all about money, right? It's -- it's ...

QUESTION: ... is there a certain number in terms of the non-defense side?

[13:20:19] PELOSI: No, I think I said yesterday -- I think if you read my letter, it was very clear. Our concern is that the additional initiatives that have been added for veterans, whether you approve of the policy or not, they have become the law and we need to cover them.

We don't think that that should be coming out of the regular base and so we don't want the veterans resources to be competing with each other or competing with other very valuable domestic priorities. So I think we're -- we're -- we are understanding each other and when we have an announcement, we'll let you -- you'll be the first to know.



QUESTION: On your House resolution condemning the president, were you surprised that more Republicans didn't side with Democrats and what do you think at the end of the day was achieved, given that it was essentially a party line vote?

PELOSI: Well the -- the fact is -- is that it was a resolution of the House and not some legislation that should go to the Senate or be signed by -- by the president. And it was for us to say -- and by the way, in the most gentle way, you have no idea the provisions that some people wanted to have in that resolution.

This was as benign -- it condemned the words of the president -- not the president, but the words of the president, and in doing so it anchored itself in the words of Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan -- beautiful speech by Ronald Reagan, which I reference all of the time.

And -- and so you would have thought that that benign approach might have appealed to them, but when you say were you surprised, were you disappointed? My expectations are not great but you always hope that they might do the right thing and say that that language that the president used was not -- was beneath the dignity of the president, beneath the dignity of the people he was criticizing.

And by the way, we were offended that he spoke in such a way about members of Congress, but we're offended that he says that about people across the country all of the time -- go back where you came from -- and that is -- by its definition, those words are racism.

Do -- go look in the AP and other places where they define certain words, that's what that is. But we weren't define -- saying that he was racist, we were saying that the words that he used were racist. So that was as gentle as it could be, considering the inappropriateness and the disgusting nature of what the president said.

So no, we -- we -- we did what our members wanted to do and had a very strong 100 percent vote on it.

QUESTION: The president is clearly trying to cast this broader debate as a choice between him and your more progressive members. This fight has now dominated the conversation this week. You've had your resolution, the Democrats are rallying behind these members.

Are you concerned that the president is goading you? Is there ...


PELOSI: ... with all due respect, let's not waste our time on that. We're talking about what we're going to do to help the American people. Our caucus is unified on all of that. Throughout the whole campaign, I said to the candidates don't even mention his name. Everybody knows who he is, you don't have to describe him to anybody.

Let's just talk about what we are going to do and we're going to devote the whole month of August to our For The People agenda, which was successful in terms of connecting with people and their concerns. It's still the cost of healthcare, the stagnation of wages and the distrust of -- of -- of government are still -- loom large as concerns for the American people and that's what we're going to be about.

We're not having him set our agenda, we're setting our own agenda.

QUESTION: Madam Speaker, do you have any concerns that the focus on impeachment today and the votes on the floor related to it could jeopardize Robert Mueller's appearance next week?

PELOSI: No, I think we'll get rid of all of this right now. We've done our -- we did our -- our resolution expeditiously. We'll deal with the -- Mr. Green's resolution, but we do have to have a clear path.

I do -- I do think that the president is trying to -- and we cannot -- and you cannot and we cannot buy into his fall that he wants to create over everything because he knows -- we all know the argument that can be made against us in terms of our philosophy, in terms of our -- our priorities and the rest, and the president knows the argument that can be made against him and therefore he wants to distract from them.

You have to give him credit, he's a great distractor and that's -- that's what this is about. So it is -- let's just take it to a better place -- let's take it to a better place, America. The president wants to make America great again, we all do. What does that mean? What is America?

So many times we've come together and we've talked about America -- America as our ideals and the Constitution (ph), an example to the world of a -- founding documents that rejected a monarch and -- and put forth separation of powers, Article One, the Legislative Branch, having that priority enlisting.

That is being under -- that's being dishonored by the president of the United States. What is America? We the people -- we the people, a nation of immigrants by and large, and he is denigrating every -- all of the newcomers that come to our country in complete opposition to the beautiful words of Ronald Reagan in the last speech that he made to the -- to the country as president of the United States.

What is America? This beautiful land from sea to shining sea and beyond and God's gift to us that he is almost every day but certainly every week degrading in saying that we're not going to deal with climate, with -- on the basis of any science.

Really? What is America? Our values and that is the debate we have all the time in the battle of the budget and the rest in terms of how we invest in our children's future and how these things all come together, that -- under the guidance of our founders.

We the people, they said in the preamble to the Constitution but they also said E pluribus unum, from many, one, could imagine how many or how different we'd be, but they knew we had to be one. And that beautiful guidance, it's something that we must constantly keep in mind as we engage in our differences.

So at the end of the day, we want to be unifying and not dividing. I wish the president would read that. Thank you all very much.


KEILAR: All right, Speaker Pelosi there wrapping up her remarks.

She said the president is the great distracter. I will say, she is the great filibusterer, because there was a lot more that we wanted to know that maybe we didn't get the answers to, but she basically said -- she didn't want to take the bait that she's being goaded by the president and she wanted to talk about legislation that was on the floor and other things before the Democrats.

CHALIAN: But she also made clear, which I thought was a revealing moment, that this resolution condemning the president, she said she was getting submissions from members that was a lot hotter in language, that this was the benign version of --

KEILAR: Can I read what she said?

CHALIAN: Yes, please do.

KEILAR: She said, we did it in the most gentle way. And then she said, you would not believe the provisions some members wanted.

CHALIAN: And I think that gets at -- remember, the president did the thing that he didn't want to do, which is unify the Democrats, right? They were at a moment of being split. And when he goes on the attack, it has this ability to unify.

But what -- what the speaker revealed there is what the split is really underneath. Many members of her caucus, and we're seeing this with the impeachment vote this afternoon that she's referring to. They are so fired up in their animosity toward Donald Trump that that -- that is the fuel of this fired-up energy that many in her caucus have. And that is not where the speaker necessarily thinks -- she understands the value of that, but that's not necessarily the message that she wants to be running on to maintain her majority. And I think you saw that in the way she revealed what did go to the floor, what was coming in, how she's dealing with this impeachment thing this afternoon. She's in this constant, constant battle of harnessing that energy but not letting it overrun the party and its message.

KEILAR: That's right, including, as David mentioned on the impeachment piece of this with Congressman Al Green. And she was very gentle in trying to be respectful --

ELSHAMI: Yes, absolutely.

KEILAR: To the congressman, but she wouldn't say what she was going to do. Are they going to proceed on this? Are they going to send it to committee? Are they going to table this impeachment resolution?

ELSHAMI: I'm sure discussions are ongoing about how to proceed with this. And they're going to have a plan --

KEILAR: You think they're not necessarily sure how -- exactly what the move is?

ELSHAMI: Well, I think -- I think they'll make the decision at the right time. Sometimes these things take a while. And like -- and you're right, David, to write a resolution that's going to unite the full caucus, that also takes a bit of, you know, of Nancy Pelosi skill.

[13:29:47] Look, the view her as the great unifier. And let me talk about this in the sense of history. Going back to when they first won -- when we first won the majority, right, we were dealing with the Iraq War, we were dealing with Social Security, we're dealing with impeachment of President Bush, who was able to unify the Democratic Party in an off-year election and bring them into