If there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching this year’s new Democratic House majority, it’s that Speaker Nancy Pelosi can really get under President Donald Trump’s skin. A lot. Powerful women seem to have that affect on him.
And Pelosi, today in Iowa, seemed to drop little hints that she knows exactly how to press those buttons, and does so when the opportunity arises.
The first question asked of Pelosi at today’s Polk County Democrats event was about that infamous White House meeting last week that produced the iconic photo of the Speaker and President Donald Trump facing off over a table of top officials.
Addressing close to 700 Democrats and college students in Drake University’s Sheslow Auditorium, the Speaker relayed as much information as she could about how the White House gathering went so off the rails. Trump was described by many in attendance to have had a “meltdown.”
“He basically says, ‘I don’t even want to have this meeting, I don’t know who called this meeting,'” Pelsoi recalled the President saying at the outset. “We’re sitting there, we do not seek opportunities to be in the same room … That’s kind of how it went downhill from the start.”
The conference between the nation’s top Republicans and Democrats was ostensibly to discuss Trump’s much-criticized strategy in Syria, which has led to the Kurds, recent American allies, being attacked and losing large swaths of their territory. Pelosi said she started off by informing Trump what the House thought about it.
“As Speaker of the House, just before we came here, I’m reporting to you that the House voted 354 to 60 to oppose your decision on Syria,” Pelosi said. “That meant that by two to one, the Republicans had voted against the President’s decision in Syria.”
Pelosi added in a brief aside, “He knew that already, but it didn’t put him in a better mood.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer tried to talk about it some more, asking simply to know more about what the Syria strategy was. Pelosi said Schumer mentioned former Defense Secretary James Mattis, which quickly set Trump off.
“At that moment, the President interjected his view that General Mattis was one of the most over-rated secretaries of state,” Pelosi recalled.
“It was not very respectful,” she added of the entire discourse. “The time had come for us to go. You could put that to music. So, I stood up, and he, I think he called me a ‘third-grade politician.'”
At that point is presumably when the photo of Pelosi standing across the table and pointing at a recalcitrant Trump happened.
“Mr President, we’re very concerned,” Pelosi said she stated. “This latest decision gives Russia a strong foothold in the Middle East, and that is what they want. You’ve just given it to Russia. Your decision to withhold military assistance to Ukraine, that was to benefit Putin. All roads seem to lead to Putin.”
Again, Pelosi noted how her pointed words set off the President.
“All roads lead to Putin. He didn’t like that,” she said. “You’ve undermined our national security. You’ve undermined your oath of office to protect and defend the constitution, and you’ve jeopardized the integrity of our elections.”
It was almost as if, at multiple points in her story, Pelosi was subtly relishing how easily she can send Trump off the deep end. The reporting of the tumultuous meeting was certainly a coup for Democrats — it once again portrayed Trump as an erratic, unhinged president.
Of course, there are also things that bother the Speaker, which she also hinted at throughout the day’s conversation. Pelosi, who has served in the House since 1987, mentioned the separation of powers throughout her remarks and often and returned to Trump’s comments on his own constitutional powers.
“The current occupant of the White House has said, ‘Article II says I can do whatever I want.’ It doesn’t. It doesn’t,” Pelosi said. “And just that statement, again, is a violation of the oath of office.”
Pelosi emphasized often as she talked about the impeachment process that she only agreed to it after considerable thought and after new, even worse potential crimes came to light. She spoke solemnly about the House’s duty to hold the President accountable.
“Nobody comes to Congress to impeach the president,” the Speaker said. “But we do take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. That is under threat. We cannot ignore it.”
Outside of Trump, Pelosi also talked about the trade war, Iowa agriculture, the passing of Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, the prescription drug bill and biofuels.
“One of the fights we’ve been having is the Renewable Fuel Standard, which we’ve all been advocating for,” Pelosi said. “That’s a fight that Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne and Dave Loebsack have been fighting … So many jobs have been lost because of their not honoring the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
Republicans in Iowa and beyond have repeatedly pressed Pelosi and House Democrats on the passage of the United States Mexica Canada Agreement (USMCA). What Pelosi said on the topic may not satisfy them, if anything could.
“We are right now trying to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement. I feel pretty confident about the path we are on. We are on a path to yes. But we want it to be real,” Pelosi said. “I want whatever the new NAFTA is to not just be a PR thing to say we changed it, but to be really enforceable.”
This was Pelosi’s second visit to Iowa for a Polk County Democrats event in as many years. She traveled to Des Moines last year for the county party’s spring dinner in 2018, during which Pelosi also made a stop to a local farm to talk about the trade war and climate change.
Early on in her remarks, Pelosi highlighted the work of Iowa Democrats in the party’s majority in the House, and praised first-term Reps. Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer.
“These two have made a tremendous difference right from the star,” Pelosi said. “Iowa has been very important in taking back the House.”
by Pat Rynard