Updated 1:09 p.m. | Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been unshakable as she’s guided her caucus toward the decision she announced Thursday that the House will vote on articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. But when a reporter questioned whether she was doing so because she hates Trump, Pelosi exploded.
The heated exchange, occurring at the end of Pelosi’s weekly press conference, culminated in a warning from the speaker that was directed at James Rosen from the Sinclair Broadcast Group but is a broader indication that she is ready to brush off any attacks that come her way as the House moves to impeach Trump.
“Don’t mess with me,” Pelosi said.
Rosen had shouted the question to Pelosi about whether she hates Trump after she had ended her press conference and was walking away from the podium. The speaker stopped and answered, clearly offended.
“I don’t hate anybody,” she said. “I was raised in a Catholic house. We don’t hate anybody, not anybody in the world.
“Don’t accuse me of hate,” she added.
Rosen said he did not accuse her, he asked a question.
“You did. You did,” Pelosi shot back.
Rosen clarified that he was asking because Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., had said Wednesday that Democrats are impeaching Trump because they don’t like him.
“I think it’s a fair point,” he said.
Pelosi said it has nothing to do with that and returned to the podium to address the matter further — an extremely rare, if not unprecedented move.
“As a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me,” she said. “I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love and always prayed for the president. And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time.”
“So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that,” Pelosi concluded, walking away. No reporters shouted questions that time as she exited the room.
Trump took to Twitter shortly after Pelosi’s remarks, accusing her of having a “nervous fit” and saying she hates some of the things he’s accomplished as president.
Nancy Pelosi just had a nervous fit. She hates that we will soon have 182 great new judges and sooo much more. Stock Market and employment records. She says she “prays for the President.” I don’t believe her, not even close. Help the homeless in your district Nancy. USMCA?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2019
Trump’s assessment of Pelosi’s blow-up with Rosen seemed designed to fit with the nickname he’s given her of “nervous Nancy,” although the speaker has not demonstrated any patterns of nervous behavior.
The president also said he doesn’t believe Pelosi’s statement that she prays for the president, even though the speaker has on several occasions recounted phone calls or meetings with Trump in which she said she’s told him directly she would pray for him.
Politics vs the Constitution
Earlier Thursday, Pelosi delivered a televised statement from the speaker’s balcony hallway just outside her office to announce that she’s asked her committee chairs who have been investigating Trump to draft articles of impeachment.
Later, in responding to Rosen’s question, she said her personal disagreements with the president aren’t driving that decision.
“I think the president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence. I think he is cruel when he doesn’t deal with helping our dreamers, of which we’re very proud. I think he’s in denial about the climate crisis,” she said. “However that’s about the election. Take it up in the election.”
“This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office,” she added.
Pelosi has insisted that Democrats’ impeachment inquiry was not about politics but about the Constitution. She reiterated that Thursday when asked if she was concerned about the impact her decision to have the House vote on articles of impeachment could have on Democrats considered vulnerable for reelection.
The speaker also defended her decision to proceed with an impeachment vote despite divisions among the American people.
“I said for two years an impeachment is not a pleasant experience; it can be divisive,” she said. “We don’t take any glee in this at all. It’s heartbreaking. But the president gave us no choice.”
Pelosi also reiterated her view that the Ukraine matter, brought to light by a whistleblower complaint, was the “a-ha moment” for Democrats on deciding to pursue impeachment despite concerns about the process being divisive.
“The facts of the Ukraine situation just changed everything,” she said. “The polls went from 59 [percent] opposed to impeachment, 34 [[percent] in favor to about even.”
Mixed messages about scope
Pelosi said the six chairs of the committees that have been investigating Trump will make recommendations about articles of impeachment. The chairs are expected to meet Thursday afternoon to begin those discussions.
The speaker declined to answer a question about whether the articles of impeachment should be focused on the Ukraine scandal or be broadened to include findings from former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report or other matters Democrats have been investigating.
“I’m not going to talk about that,” she said. “My chairmen will be making recommendations.”
Pelosi made some remarks in response to other questions that offered mixed messages about her personal views on whether the articles should include some of Mueller’s findings.
Responding to complaints about the speed of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Pelosi pointed out that investigations into the president’s conduct and whether he violated his oath of office began when Mueller was appointed to look into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any involvement Trump had in that.
“We are proceeding in a manner worthy of the Constitution,” she said. “We feel comfortable with all of the time that has gone into this — two and a half years since the appointment of Mueller and all that transpired since then.”
But Pelosi also seemed to question the strength of Mueller’s underlying conclusions about whether Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election compared to the case Democrats have built showing Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals. In both matters, Trump tried to obstruct the probes from proceeding.
“In other cases we had the obstruction of justice but we didn’t have as much information as to what he was obstructing justice of,” Pelosi said, referring to the Mueller report and referencing the administration trying to prevent the House from obtaining the grand jury materials from his investigation.
Pelosi did not specify Thursday how quickly the Judiciary Committee will mark up articles of impeachment nor when they would be brought to the floor for a vote. Most Democrats have said they expect action before the Christmas break.
The speaker said she will not be pressuring members of her caucus to vote for whatever articles are produced.
“If some people have some unease, we’ll catch them up,” Pelosi said. “And we haven’t asked anybody for a vote, nor will we. People will make their own minds up.”