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CNN Special Reports

Town Hall with House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 21:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: All right. Live from Washington, D.C., this is CNN's town hall with the Democratic leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi. I'm Chris Cuomo. Madam Leader, welcome. Thank you for being here with us once again.


CUOMO: So, timing is everything tonight. You are less than six months until the November midterm elections. You want to be speaker again, I assume. We'll have that discussion tonight. Most -- most importantly though, you've got to figure out what way you're going to go into those midterms.

The audience tonight has questions for you that cover a range of topics. They want to know how you're going to help with your party to make their lives safer and better. So thanks to all of you for having this collective conversation and you at home.

Let's start with some news of the day, and then I'll get out of the way, OK?

PELOSI: All right.

CUOMO: Tomorrow is a big day, OK? President Trump is accusing the Obama administration of spying on him. Let's just call it what it is. That's what he's saying. Tomorrow, Republican leaders are going to go in for a confidential briefing. They're going to get information. They're going to come out. You will not be there. Democrats will not be there. They don't get to go until after Memorial Day.

We have seen this movie before with the memos. Are you concerned that once again we're going to have one narrative and then another narrative, and all of these good people are left not knowing what to believe?

PELOSI: Well, tomorrow shouldn't happen. There shouldn't be a Republican briefing. You know, I have over 20 years of experience in terms of intelligence. I've served on the committee. I was the top Democrat on the committee and ex officio as leader. And I've never seen anything like this.

This is highly unusual that you would have such a briefing in the middle of an investigation. Highly unusual. And that it should be partisan is just totally unacceptable.

So I don't think there will be -- we want this what we call the Gang of Eight. It's the four leaders and then the four top people on the committees, Intelligence Committees, House and Senate. That's the appropriate venue for this -- if you were to -- if it were proper at all. That would be the proper venue. But if they don't -- if they do that tomorrow, I think that puts a nix on the Gang of Eight briefing.

CUOMO: Now, because you have had so much time in and around the intelligence community, have you seen or heard anything that gives you legitimate concerns about what was done with investigations during the Trump campaign?

PELOSI: If I did, I couldn't tell you about it anyway. But -- but the fact...

CUOMO: That is highly unsatisfying.


PELOSI: No, but the fact is, I have not. I'll just tell you that. But what I will tell you is that I'm very concerned about the disruption of our elections by the Russians.

And it's so funny. In the last 24 hours, we've heard two things. We've heard Secretary Pompeo say I'm so proud of what the Trump administration has done to counter what happened in our elections. And at the same time, you had the secretary of homeland security, which has the jurisdiction over elections, the security of our elections, say I never heard that the -- I never heard of the intelligence assessment that the Republicans, who are -- that the Russians were involved in our election.

So it's -- I do think that the Trump administration should be doing more to protect the integrity of our elections, whatever else is happening.

CUOMO: Quick follow on that, and then let's go to the audience. The idea of what the homeland security secretary said, the specific point was I don't know that I've seen proof that the Russians were trying to help Trump with their meddling. Have you seen proof that that was their intention? Not the meddling; that's obvious. We all believe that now. But that they were out to help Trump specifically?

PELOSI: Let me just say -- and I'm happy to answer all these questions -- but you start out by talking about the election. And what we want to talk about is the future and what we propose to do to -- our purpose and making the future better for America's families, better jobs, better pay, better future, and a better deal.

All of these things, in my view, are important. They're our responsibility. But they're a distraction from what the American people are really concerned about.

The integrity of our elections is very important. The intelligence community made an assessment. They made it known January 2017 that spoke directly to that point. And I accept their assessment.

CUOMO: All right. So the Russian investigation is, of course, on people's minds. So let's go to the audience, and the first question --


-- comes from Joshua Gonzalez, a law student at Georgetown. Thank you for joining us. What's your question?

QUESTION: Hi, Nancy.

PELOSI: Hi, Joshua.

QUESTION: If Trump actually colluded with the Russians, why isn't he found guilty of it after a year of investigation? Wouldn't there be some type of concrete proof by now?

PELOSI: Well, you know that there is an investigation going on under Counsel Mueller, and that is where -- we wouldn't have any idea what's going on in that, and nor should we know what's going on in that investigation. But it is -- it takes time. And I trust Counsel Mueller and his work.

CUOMO: To Joshua's question, when we get closer to the election, you wind up having a new problem with the probe, which is, what does Mueller do? If he gets too close, there are DOJ guidelines that says he has to wait until after the elections before anything comes out. Do you believe that Mueller should put out whatever he has before the election to give voters some sense of where he is?

PELOSI: Well, I think that Mueller should do what he thinks is right. And, you know, there have been over -- I think there are 20 indictments, one directly associated with the campaign, Manafort, 13 Russians, three not only indictments, but convictions. So he has produced a great deal. In fact, quite a great deal for one year into an investigation.

But, again, what's important about this right now for the American people is, are we going to have an election that is not disrupted by any foreign power? And that I don't believe that the Trump administration has taken responsibility to ensure. And I think that's wrong.

And so that's one of the fights we're having, is to say we have to have the integrity of our elections. This is about our democracy. This is the oath that we take to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. And people should understand that when they vote, if they're eligible to vote, that their vote will be counted as cast by them, not distorted by a foreign power.

CUOMO: And, of course, there are lots of fights. There's lots of division going on right now. And our next question from the audience goes to culture. We have Mose Hogan, a recent graduate from Howard University Law School. I'm bringing the lawyers at you early on here as the first three lines. PELOSI: Hey, Mose.

CUOMO: Mose, congratulations on the graduation. What do you got?

QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Madam Leader.

PELOSI: Hi, Mose.

QUESTION: Thanks for being with us tonight.

PELOSI: My pleasure.

QUESTION: My question is about Donald Trump. And since he took office, there has been tremendous media coverage about his contradictory statements, allegations of sexual misconduct, his payments to a pornographic actress, the investigation with Counsel Mueller, the list goes on and on. How do you think about the image and the values that the president portrays and how it might affect the future leaders of the United States?

PELOSI: Mose, thank you so much for your very important question. But I would say that what is important to the American people is really what affects them in their lives.

Clearly, they have accepted whatever the president, whoever he is, they knew much of this during the campaign. But people really wonder, what is our purpose? When we go into these campaigns, we want our candidates and all of us to be talking about how we're going to understand their apprehension and their aspirations, so we have a better deal, better jobs, better pay, better future.

And that is for everyone. And it means also lowering costs. And I'll go into that in a moment.

But getting back to Mose's question and how it is relevant to all of this is, one of the things that the president did do during the campaign is make certain representations. He said that he was going to fight the pharmaceutical industry and negotiate like crazy to lower prescription drug prices, and he did not. He pulled his punch when he made his announcement the other day.

Don't take it from me. Just look at the stock market. The pharmaceutical industry stocks zoomed up because they knew that they were off the hook.

He said he was going to be tough on China. And what has he done but said to the Chinese, we have to protect jobs in China. What? And that is surrounding a company that -- that is a cyber threat to the United States? What? So, again, pulled his punch.

He said that he was going to not touch Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and he did just that in his budget. The list goes on and on of promises made and not kept.

But what's important about them is not what he made and kept, but what the hopes and aspirations were of the American people, they pin their hopes on some of those -- he said he was going to do a big infrastructure. Remember the infrastructure? Hasn't happened. He said we're going to negotiate --


-- like crazy on pharmaceuticals. Like crazy. I guess like crazy means not at all.


So what's important for people -- this is -- this is very personal. You know, Tip O'Neill, former speaker, said all politics is local. I believe it's personal. It's personal in people's lives. And they -- he did a good job of presenting his case during the campaign. He became president of the United States. But all of these things that he has taken a walk from and that we -- we have to hold him accountable there. But people want to know more about, what do we have to offer, not just to complain about him.

CUOMO: You're 100 percent right. And our next question comes from Kyle McDaniel. He says he left the Republican Party earlier this year because of President Trump. He now considers himself an independent, and he does want to ask you a question that goes to what you can do. Please go ahead.

PELOSI: Hey, Kyle. Hi, Kyle.

QUESTION: Good evening. So, what is the vision that the Democratic Party is putting forward, not only in the midterm elections, but beyond that? We've talked about the future. All I hear is, "We're not Donald Trump," or, "We don't support the Republican agenda." And that's a fair comment. But what new policies, what fresh ideas? What does the -- what do the Democrats want to accomplish if they win Congress or if they win the White House back in 2020?

PELOSI: Well, that's -- I feel very good about our prospects in 2018, because we're in a whole new arena. Women marched and now they're running for office and winning in record numbers. Young people marched for their lives and now they're registering in voters. So the public is kind of taking over the political process, and that's a very good thing.

But as I said earlier, we have a better -- we think the Republicans are giving the public and Trump -- President Trump giving the public a raw deal. We have a better deal. As I said, better jobs, better pay, better future. And part of that is lowering costs for families.

Now, when you look at that, you have to look at what the Republicans did, because you have to make the contrast. They passed a tax bill that gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent of the wealthiest people in our country. They have $1.5 trillion -- almost $1.5 trillion tax break for corporate America, some of which is used to send jobs overseas. And a lot of it to do buybacks and dividends, but not to share it with their workers and with the community.

And what's important about that, I mean, many things wrong that tax bill. But what's really important about it, what it does to our budget. They run up over $2 trillion debt, adding $2 trillion to the national debt. And that impact happens to our budget. The president just weeks later put out a budget and said we have a debt now, we're going got take a trillion dollars out of Medicaid, a half a trillion dollars out of Medicare. We're going to take money out of disability benefits of Social Security, food stamps, education, the rest, to pay for this debt. It's a dark -- that tax bill is a dark cloud that hangs over the Capitol, over the future.

And so to take it back to the Democrats, again, a budget should be a statement of our national values. What's important to us as a country should be how we invest in our investments, in our budget, and our investments are about tools for the 21st century, preparing people so they're not afraid of technology but they see how it can create jobs and that how families can be involved in it. I'm very excited about it.

CUOMO: Let's get a little deeper into taxes. The next question comes from John Anfinson. He runs a 100-year-old family business in Iowa and was invited to the White House because he says he benefited from the Republican tax plan. John, tell us your story. What's your question?

QUESTION: Good evening.

PELOSI: Hi, John.

QUESTION: Good evening. We are a small business of seven full-time employees that provide fertilizer and seed products to our farm customers.

PELOSI: In Iowa?

QUESTION: When the tax and jobs bill was passed, I gave my employees a $1,000 bonus, plus a 5 percent pay increase that they appreciated very much. Add to that the reduced withholding from their pay checks and it turned into a noticeable increase in income. This certainly was not crumbs to them. My question is, what can you add to this legislation that would also contribute to the growth of jobs and the wages in our country?

PELOSI: Thank you, John. And let me congratulate you and commend you, because you're a rarity. Not many business -- only a small percentage of businesses shared their tax advantage with their employees. So let us thank John for that.


But let me say this. In terms -- I believe that small businesses are, of course, the life blood of our economy. It's where jobs are created, capital is formed.


I think there's nothing more optimistic than any -- that anybody can do. Well, maybe except for getting married, then to start a small business. So thank you for the interest that you have in your workers.

But for many small businesses, this is a very -- we could have done more. Yes. Why should 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent? We should start with small business. We should start with small business.

And right now, many of the small businesses are saying to us, we're uncertain as to how we even benefit from what they call pass-throughs, because it's largely for businesses at the higher end and the rest. Not to get all the way down into the weeds, but we should have started with America's working families, with the middle class, with small businesses, rather than have it be a smaller part of what that tax break would be.

So we think that such a tax bill should be done in a bipartisan way, in an open way. Theirs was in the dark of night and the speed of light. Boom, this bill that could be much -- infinitely better. It just has the wrong values.

And that we should be doing, as we say, bipartisan, transparently, and unifying, so that people can come together around it, and not to place a big, dark cloud over the budget that says, OK, we have a tax break, now Medicare is going to pay the price. Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. They think it should wither on the vine. And this tax bill was just an excuse for them to cut Medicare, Medicaid, disabilities benefits and Social -- and the list goes on.

CUOMO: Two quick follow-ups for you on this. When people hear your better deal, they are translating it on the Republican side as Pelosi wants to raise taxes.


CUOMO: She's going to raise taxes on the rich and then we'll see what they do with the money, but she's going to raise taxes, so don't listen to what they say about deficits. Democrats love to tax and spend. Would you raise taxes if you get into the majority?

PELOSI: You know...

CUOMO: Assuming the president would sign it.

PELOSI: It's counterintuitive in people's minds that the Democrats are the deficit reduction folks. But the fact is, you look -- when there's a Democratic president, that the deficit goes down, when the Republicans are in power, they give tax cuts at the high end, all kinds of other things, and the deficit -- the debt, the national debt goes up. You just look at the record.

Bu the fact is, is that there are no more deficit hawks in the Republican Party. They're -- at least they're an endangered species, if they're not extinct. But you just look at how they were willing to take us $2 trillion in debt for this tax bill, that 83 percent of it went to the top 1 percent.

I keep repeating that because it's just not the right -- it isn't where this should start. So, no, we're not about raising taxes. In fact, we'd like to make the middle-class tax permanent. Maybe that's a thing to do? We have to subject it to what does that bring to the economy. Just let's put it all on the table.

What creates growth, generating good-paying jobs, that reduces the national debt? That's the direction we should go in. But what did they do? They gave tax breaks to corporate America permanently. And for the middle class, they said we'll give you a tax cut but it's only temporary.

CUOMO: But -- all right. So deal with the counter argument. The counter argument is, here's what we know about the tax cut. Very early stages, right? People just went through their filing. We'll see how it's made manifest. But unemployment below 4 percent in, what, 17 years? Trump's approval is higher nowhere than it is when it comes to the economy. Every metric of economic growth is up. The Republicans are saying, this worked. People like it. They say they're getting money. You called it crumbs. They like it. They say crumbs are better for their life than you said it was. What's your counter argument?

PELOSI: When I said crumbs, I said crumbs from the banquet of the table that they set for the top 1 percent, because it is small compared to what they gave to the top 1 percent. Why wouldn't we start the banquet for the middle class instead of the top 1 percent?

The -- what was your other point?

CUOMO: That was really it.


No, the economy is strong. It -- unemployment is at 17-year low, et cetera.

PELOSI: Let me talk about that. No, no, please, let me talk about that. Yeah. But you know what? The problem is, is wages are stagnated. And that is the problem. You would think that if wages, if unemployment is down, that wages would go up.

CUOMO: They are starting to move.

PELOSI: Some. But they aren't commensurate with it. And people's wages -- their purchasing power is nowhere where it needs to be related to the unemployment rate.

And let me also say another thing. This is one of the first times -- now, in the last few days it may have changed -- but before the weekend, this is one of the first times that --


-- you can say, well, unemployment is down and therefore so are our supports that we need to give to people, housing support, food stamps, all of these things. People are not making a living wage. They still qualify below the poverty level for assistance. If unemployment is low, you would think wages would be up and that

would be reduced in terms of the federal budget. But the fact is, that isn't. I myself am for 15, you know, $15 an hour, the fight for $15. We have to raise the minimum wage so that people...


And to meet the needs of the families. It's about the families.

CUOMO: All right, so let's hold it right there, take a break. We'll get deeper into some of these issues.


CUOMO: Specifically, we have a survivor from the Santa Fe, Texas, high school shooting. She has a very important question about how we can make this not happen again. Stay with CNN.



CUOMO: Welcome back to CNN's town hall. We have House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. We've been getting into issues, and there is no issue that matters more than what we're going to discuss right now.

A community, as we all know, once again, made victim by a school shooting. This time it was Santa Fe, Texas, the high school there. We have Alexis Wilson with us. Alexis is a senior. She was in the school last week. She was there during the shooting. Thank God for her and her family, she survived. But, Alexis, you care about this in a whole new way after seeing what happened to your friends and classmates. What do you want to ask?

QUESTION: Hi. I'd like to ask, where does the government stand on arming and training our teachers, much the way we use air marshals on airplanes?

PELOSI: Thank you, Alexis. Please accept my sympathy for the loss of friends that you may have lost at school and just the tragedy that befell your school.

QUESTION: Thank you.

PELOSI: I -- speaking for myself and most of my colleagues on the Democratic side, we do not think that that is the solution. We do think that -- we had testimony today. I was mentioning to Chris earlier, we had testimony today from children from a wide range of schools that had tragedies, or just even communities that have had tragedies, and they were asking us to have -- pass the commonsense background checks legislation, to pass legislation that if you know that someone is -- can be problematic, that you can report that in -- different aspects of it.

And I know that it may be regional. And again, this is a -- following a tragedy like this, all we want to do is pray and -- for your families. But I do not support arming teachers and the rest.

What some of the students would like to do, though, is say anyone who's going to be armed should be trained. And they came to my office last night, the kids from Florida, and said, can you help us get training? Veterans know about weapons. Maybe they could train people who want to buy a weapon so that they then have to pass the background check. But at least have passed the training. So I would not be supportive arming teachers. No.

CUOMO: You feel that there's a little bit of an either/or problem with how we're trying to approach solutions. First, let's be honest. We haven't gotten anything done. Right? What killed me when I had to go down to Santa Fe again was, it's getting so hard to look in the eyes of kids like Alexis. You're happy to meet her because she's a senior, she's going to go on with her life, thank God she survived, and she's got better days in front of her.

But there are families every time that are never going to be the same.

PELOSI: That's right. Never be the same.

CUOMO: And nothing gets done about it, because it seems that there's an either/or. Will you put armed guards in the schools? No, we don't want to talk about it. Let's not talk about hardening the schools. But the building we're in now, the building that you work in, the point of entry there is secure. You don't walk in with a trench coat with a shotgun underneath your jacket and get in. It doesn't happen. You know this.


Why can't that be part of the equation? Talk about universal background checks, fine. Talk about mental health, how to identify them. The money for treatment. But why either/or? Why not make the schools safer? I know it's a state issue, but they're going to ask for money...

PELOSI: It is a state issue.

CUOMO: And that's where the federal government comes in.

PELOSI: Federal.

CUOMO: That you could offer them money to make schools so that when you go there as a guest, and you walk in, of course, they'll have multiple points of egress for emergencies. But you're going to be looked at when you go in that school and you're not going to walk in with a gun under your coat.

PELOSI: In our omnibus bill that we passed a -- just a few weeks ago, we had $1.8 billion -- I think it was $1.8 billion, it could be $1.6 billion in there for this purpose, for schools to make -- to give them an opportunity to secure them. And those schools have to make those decisions.

But it isn't -- the children should not have to be worried about going to school as a place that violence can occur. That doesn't mean they shouldn't take the precautions, whether it's through infrastructure or whatever else they may decide that they need. But I don't think you should consider in any way an answer to what we have to do, to have responsible background checks for people who want to have a gun.

Most people -- most people in the -- the National Rifle Association have had background checks. They -- they -- they know what they're responsible for. But I don't know -- but the NRA is against background checks.

There are other things that we can do in terms of public policy and also in terms of -- of mental health that is very important in all this.


But it is not -- this is not a total smorgasbord. It is -- you have to get to systemically stop people from having guns who shouldn't have guns in the first place. And that's why we have to...


CUOMO: All right. So let's go to another question on this topic. This question comes from Michael Nevett. He's about to graduate from high school in Maryland. Michael, thank you for joining us.

PELOSI: Hi, Michael.

QUESTION: Thank you. Leader Pelosi, you've indicated that gun safety will be a top priority of House Democrats over the next two years.


QUESTION: However, while you served as speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011, gun safety was not a primary concern of your caucus or your party, and no meaningful gun reform was passed. As the American people cast their ballots for the House of Representatives this November, why should we believe that your priorities will have shifted?

PELOSI: Well, let me just say this, that we did do some things when we had the majority. This whole NICS program, do you know what that is? That's how the -- after Virginia Tech, that was, like, the big event at that time. What was suggested that they -- that we would have this program, the NICS program, the national -- how this -- how the localities give the information so that there is a database where people can check in to see if -- if somebody should or should not have a gun. We did that. We -- we, uh, strengthened it. We gave it more money. And we recently gave it more money, as well.

The world has changed since then. People are much more receptive to having gun legislation. You have to have 60 votes in the Senate. Remember that. You have to have 60 votes in the Senate. And that is a major obstacle to getting many things done. So if you -- unless you think you're going to have 60 votes in the Senate, it's hard to pass legislation. But the -- what was looked for then is was what we did, which was the

-- having the information of who had a gun or who hadn't -- shouldn't have a gun. And -- and that -- the NICS is a very important part of what we have now. But it certainly is not enough.

We only had a time when we had two years with President Obama and it was a priority. But we didn't win the election. And so -- so we didn't get something else passed. But that's -- you know, should -- we should have. We can now.

I will tell you this. Where did my friend go from Maryland? I'm from Maryland, too.

CUOMO: He's there.

PELOSI: I'll tell you this. And I tell this to the kids all the time. I would rather pass the background check in the Congress right now today than win the election. Because it would save -- doing it sooner would save...


CUOMO: All right. Let's get to another issue here that's on people's minds. Last year, President Trump...

PELOSI: That's usually Chris' question.

CUOMO: Well, no, listen, look, we had -- we had two questions on the shootings, because I don't know anything else that's consuming our culture with so much fear and a sense of helplessness. You know, I heard my own kid, she's 15 years old, talking with her friends about -- nonchalantly, OK, well, yeah, this -- would it happen at our school? And I wonder who would it be? And what would I do? I guess I'd run this way. And I wonder who would it be?

And they're talking, who would it be? And I'm sitting there...


CUOMO: What a failure as a parent I feel like in a moment like that when my kid sees this as something that's as likely to happen as, you know, anything else that happens in life. So obviously the need is great. But...

PELOSI: Let me just say this one thing. May 29th is a day when the students, starting in Florida students, but students across the country are going to have a national registration day. And it is -- if you're 17, but you're going to be 18 by election in November, you can register to vote.

So while they're still in school, they're having this massive registration drive across the country. So if you want your views to be heard and people to pay attention, if you vote, you count. And your voice is much more important than if you don't. So I urge everyone to vote. All of us. But especially the young people to give force to their voice by voting. CUOMO: Participation is power.


All right. Immigration. Big issue. President Trump ended DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a program offered protections to some 800,000 immigrants brought to the United States by their parents. One of them, Jesus Perez. He's a DACA recipient. He was originally from Mexico. Jesus, what's your question?

PELOSI: Hi, Jesus.

QUESTION: Hello, Madam Pelosi. Thank you all for having us. I'm a Dreamer. I've been living here in Baltimore, Maryland, for about 18 years now. And it's been a roller coaster ride for not just me, but people like myself across the country fighting to stay and fighting to keep our families together. And as you know, the government shut down -- we almost had a deal and we were so close. And my question to you is, what ---


-- what is your party going to do to protect us and our families?


PELOSI: Thank you, Jesus. I'm from Baltimore, too, originally. Now San Francisco. But I love Baltimore. Jesus -- and we are blessed in Baltimore and in San Francisco by many newcomers. Thank you.

The -- we have done -- we have taken the initiative. President Obama put DACA in place. President Trump removed it, which was most unfortunate, because you know what? He was the first Republican president to reject newcomers to our country.

President Reagan was absolutely great on immigration. President George Herbert Walker Bush, his vice president and successor, absolutely great. And when President Trump -- when President Obama did the executive order on Dreamers, on DACA, he acted because Congress did not act. When President Reagan was president, he acted after Congress acted. He said to Congress, you didn't go far enough. And so he and President -- and Vice President Bush in their executive orders protected a higher percentage of people than President Obama did with DACA. He had family fairness. He said you didn't go far enough to protect the families.

So this is quite different with President Trump coming in and then saying, I'm taking away this protection from the Dreamers. And why don't you go just pass a law and do something? But then he said -- has all kinds of things that he puts to it.

We know we have to protect our borders, and so we understand that that's part of what we would have in agreement. But I myself think a wall is immoral. I think it's ineffective. I think it's expensive.

(APPLAUSE) I'd rather spend -- I'd rather spend the money on education. I'd rather spend the money on infrastructure. I'd rather spend it on other things.

But the fact is, is that right now, Dreamer -- DACA, if you're a DACA -- Dreamers and are two -- almost two different categories. But if you're under DACA, you are protected at this time, and we are very close to having a bipartisan agreement. We have, like, 90-some percent of the Democrats and we're trying to get 10 percent of the Republicans to join us in this...

CUOMO: Do you think you can get to 100 percent of your own caucus?

PELOSI: Well, yeah, I think we should. I think we will. But that's not the point. The point is, we have to get 25 Republicans to sign up.

CUOMO: Right. But I said, you need more of them if you don't get 100 percent of your own. That's why I'm asking.

PELOSI: Well, we have -- you know, we -- I don't know how many people -- there are so many -- maybe one person is saying if there's a wall involved, I'm not doing anything. We don't know that there's any wall involved. So we have that -- maybe one person.

CUOMO: All right.

PELOSI: But I think we're pretty good -- that's why I said 90-some percent.

CUOMO: All right. So let's take a break right now. What do you say? As we all know, in 2018, everything is on the line for Leader Pelosi and the Democrats. If they win, what will they do? The issue of impeachment keeps coming up. Let's tackle that question, next.




CUOMO: Welcome back to the CNN town hall with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. It's good to have you here with us, Madam Leader.

All right. So we've talked a bit tonight about the problems with President Trump from the perspective of your party. Now you get to -- well, if you were to win the majority in the midterms, what would you do about it?

The issue of impeachment keeps coming out of the mouths of Democrats. And a recent poll shows that more than 70 percent of Democratic voters want impeachment pursued. You say slow down. You do not like this as a big point to campaign on, because?

PELOSI: Well, first of all, let me just say, our founders gave us our guidance. They said E Pluribus Unum, from many, one. They couldn't possibly have imagined how many we would be or how different we would be, but they knew that we had to be one. And I take it as a responsibility in choosing, just prioritizing as to what is unifying for our country.

And I have hesitated to use impeachment. People wanted me to impeach President Bush for going into Iraq. And they impeached President Clinton. We -- I -- there is an investigation. If it takes its course, let it take its course. But I do not think that impeachment is a policy agenda.

What I'd rather talk about is, if people have an unease about government and the rest, is an agenda we put forth on Monday, which is our agenda to save our democracy, which is about reducing the role of money in politics, which changes the revolving door of lobbyists coming in and out of government, which has something that says to -- to people, if you think that your voice is not as heard as well as the voice of others, then we have to satisfy your concern and change the system.

So let's focus on things like that, that I think are unifying for the American people. Impeachment is, to me, divisive. Again, if the facts are there, the facts are there, then this would have to be bipartisan to go forward. But if it is viewed as partisan, it will divide the country. And I just -- I just -- I just don't think that that's what we should do.

CUOMO: So what do you do with the fact that you have 7 in 10 Democrats disagreeing with you and you have a lot of people who are on the ballot from your party saying otherwise? They're not listening to you. Why?


PELOSI: Well, I do think that, in the places -- and our candidates -- where our candidates are running, they know that people want to know, what are you going to do that affects my life? My pay, my job, my pay, my pension, safety in the workplace, the prospects for my children to have a better life than I did, or maybe the same. That's what people are really concerned about in this campaign.

I think so many of these things are important, and we have a responsibility to do them, but I think they have their place. And the place that a campaign has is to talk about the future. Again, addressing the aspirations as well as the apprehensions of the American people.

One of the things that they're unhappy about is government. You see the statistics about Congress and the rest. And I think part of that is because we really need to address our electoral system, campaign laws, money in politics, overturn Citizens United, and that so that people feel that their...



CUOMO: I have something for you along these lines. You gave us a good segue there, Madam Leader. I want to bring in Mary Pat Linnan...

PELOSI: Hi, Mary.

CUOMO: ... retired, lives in Maryland. Mary Pat, what is your question? Beautiful scarf you have on tonight.

QUESTION: Thank you. It's from Ethiopia.

PELOSI: Ethiopia.

QUESTION: Leader Pelosi, tells us that more than half of the senators running for re-election this year are over 65 years old. If they win, their term of service will be six years. Their constituents are about 20 years younger. Isn't it time for some members to return to private service and to encourage younger folks to run for office, so they have...



PELOSI: Should I take that personally?


CUOMO: You're not in the Senate. You're good.

PELOSI: Let me say this. Two things. First of all, what I said earlier about money in -- if you reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility in politics, you will have more women, more young people, more people of color to elected office.


And nothing is more wholesome than that. The fact is that Congress has a seniority system, so people in different regions want to make sure that the people who represent them are in a senior position to help express their views, the -- the concerns of their region.

But I'll take it personally and say that as a woman who came to Congress later because I raised my five children before I decided that -- to accept the opportunity to run for Congress, so lots of times women are a bit older because they have been raising their children, now I'm happy because lots of young people, young women are running with young children and we're trying to make it as family-friendly as possible.

But I don't -- for me, I don't think age has that much to do with it. I think it's about -- and especially as a woman, you know I say I want women to know that whether they're going from college to Congress -- well, they can't really do that, but 25 years old to Congress, or in my case, from the kitchen to Congress after my kids were grown, that whatever you're bringing, it's new and fresh and different because you're a woman.

And that is with all the respect in the world for our male colleagues. But the important thing is to have the mix at the table, at the table. So I think that, again, reduce -- the whole -- as I said to you earlier, the whole environment is changing. These young people are registering, kids, 17 years old who are not even quite old enough to vote but will be by the time of the election. The women march and now they're running. And now they're running.

And so there's a whole -- people say to me, how are you going to use all that talent? I say, no, how are they going to use us? How are we going to incorporate their fresh enthusiasm? I've never seen mobilization like it.

And everybody has to justify their existence to their constituents, and that's the democratic way. But, again, don't -- some members come to Congress older and they're newer. Some people have been there 20 years and they're younger, but they just got a younger start.

So, anyway, that is all to say, we want to take the talent, the experience, the values where they are, and we want to have the mix in all of it. But if you have a problem with somebody who's older, run for office. Run for office. I say that, run for office.



CUOMO: All right. We'll give you -- we'll give you time to make your plans right now. We'll take a quick break. We'll decide who wants to run for office. When we come back, we'll get all the announcements. Stay with the town hall on CNN, please.


CUOMO: All right. Welcome back to the CNN town hall. We have the Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi. We've been getting through a lot of topics. And there's another big issue, we haven't touched it yet tonight, but now we must. Health care. Let's bring in Angela Perta, a cancer survivor. God bless you, Angela. It's great to have you here. What is your question?

QUESTION: Good evening, Leader Pelosi. I was wondering, as a teen cancer survivor and someone who lost a family member to cancer because they were underinsured, how will you and House Democrats work to ensure affordable health care as a human right as we enter the midterm elections?


PELOSI: Thank you. Well, I'm very proud of -- I'm sorry for your family's loss. And thank you, thank God that you've survived. We all pray for you. I -- with your permission.

QUESTION: That's fine. Thank you.


PELOSI: The -- I'm very, very proud of the Affordable Care Act. When we passed that bill, it was an opportunity of a generation for us to stand with those who did Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and now the Affordable Care Act.

It was a compromise. We knew we had to improve it as we went along. And we still have to do that. But our goal is that everyone will have access to affordable care.

What the administration has done is to make changes that are going to make premiums be more expensive, and that is going in the wrong direction. We spend lots of money on research in our country at the National Institutes of Health. We believe that those biblical powers to cure should be available to everyone, and that means that everyone should have access in an affordable way to health care.

Quite frankly, answer to your question earlier, one of the reasons I stayed, I thought if we had a Democratic president, a woman at the table, I could go home, be with my nine grandchildren, if they wanted me to be there, that is. They sometimes have plans of their own.

The -- but we didn't win. There wasn't a woman at the table. But more importantly, I knew I had to stay there to protect the Affordable Care Act, and that is my mission.


And so -- and so we know what we need to do to stabilize the markets. We know what we need to do to make it more affordable and more universally accepted. And what the administration is doing, sabotage, sabotage, sabotage, over and over again, and that's just really unfortunate, because this is not just about good health care, affordable health care. It's about a healthy America. It's about prevention, it's about nutrition, it's about wellness, it's about so many things, but it's also a recognition that health care is a right, not a privilege.

And I'll go further and say that the most privileged person in America with all the resources in the world, well, his or her health has a better chance of being the best if the poorest person in our country has access to quality, affordable health care.


Because -- because when everyone is in the loop, we learn more, we learn more. We learn more about how to prevent, how to care for and then hopefully how to cure. So, thank you for your question. This is a big value. And the fact that in the tax bill they stripped perhaps 13 million people out by eliminating the mandate is really almost sinful.

CUOMO: So now you'll have to see what you can do. Democrats are going to have to decide whether everybody in that party gets behind Medicare for all. And those are questions that will be answered as they go forward.



CUOMO: But those are suggestions that are on the table. We'll have to see...

PELOSI: Put it on the table.

CUOMO: ... what you want to make part of your party's platform. And it'll probably be different in different parts of the country, something that's also changing the game.

PELOSI: Well...

CUOMO: But I want to ask you something that's going to be relevant during the election. It may sound trivial, but I'm -- promise me, this is going to be a big deal during the election season.

It will be football season during the election season. OK? And on Sundays, you're going to have an issue that certainly Republican candidates are going to seize on every week. Now, we just had a rule change by the NFL today. OK? When the anthem comes on, you stand. If you do not want to stand, stay in the locker room. If you come out onto the field and you kneel, or you in other ways protest, you will be fined. Are you OK with this rule change by the NFL?

PELOSI: I would be more OK with it if they had consulted with the players. This was...


I don't think the players agreed to this. This is the owners. And by the way, it's the owners who would be fined.

I love the national anthem. I mentioned earlier to Jesus that I'm from Baltimore. That's where it was written during the War of 1812. So I'm very possessive of it. Sometimes people say maybe we should change the national anthem. Nope, I'm from Baltimore.

I love the national anthem, and I love the flag. Our homes are all decorated with flags. It's such a beautiful thing. And I love the First Amendment. And I'll just leave it at that. I love the First Amendment.


CUOMO: All right. All right. To end on a word of hope, you mentioned women having more seats at the table. You're going to have 400 women running for Congress this year.

PELOSI: That's right.

CUOMO: That's more than we have seen.


Of both parties. So let's see if they can win. Madam Leader, thank you very much for joining us. PELOSI: Oh...


CUOMO: Next time. There will be another town hall. Thank you. Thank you to the audience. Thank you for you at home.

We've also extended an offer to House Speaker Paul Ryan to join us for a town hall. We hope he accepts our invitation. Thank you for being with us. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.