Pelosi lashes out at reporter: 'Don't mess with me'

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' Lies, damned lies and the truth about Joe Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday lashed out at a Capitol Hill reporter who had questioned whether she "hated" President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden slams Trump in new ad: 'The death toll is still rising.' 'The president is playing golf' Brazil surpasses Russia with second-highest coronavirus case count in the world Trump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' MORE following her decision to advance the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

"I don't hate anybody. I was raised in a Catholic house, we don't hate anybody — not anybody in the world. So don't you accuse me of any [hate]," Pelosi said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol.

"As a Catholic I resent you using the word 'hate' in a sentence that addresses me," she continued. "I pray for the president all the time. So don't mess with me when it comes to words like that."

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The tense and emotional exchange came at the end of Pelosi's weekly press conference in the Capitol basement, where the Speaker had wrapped up a round of questions and was walking off the stage, when a reporter, former Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen who is now with Sinclair Broadcast Group, asked Pelosi a final, pointed question: "Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?"

Pelosi stopped dead in her tracks and turned to address Rosen directly, her finger pointing straight at him. She then walked back to the podium to defend her position on impeachment.

Pelosi carved a distinction between Trump's positions on policy issues, which should be left to voters to judge, and the his dealings with Ukraine, which she framed as a constitutional violation that left Democrats "no choice" but to pursue their impeachment investigation.

"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. However, [those are] about the election," she said.

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Impeachment, she continued, "is about the Constitution of the United States, and the facts that lead to the president's violation of his oath of office."

The testy press conference came just hours after Pelosi announced that Democrats, after more than two months of investigation into Trump's handling of foreign policy in Kyiv, would shift gears and begin drafting articles of impeachment.

"If we did not act on this, the message to any future president — Democratic, Republican, whoever he or she may be — would be: you can do whatever you want," she said.

"And if we did not act on this we should amend the Constitution and remove impeachment — which was very important to our founders."

Trump accused Pelosi of having "a nervous fit" in a tweet posted shortly after her Thursday remarks, saying he doesn't "believe her, not even close" when she says she prays for him.

—Updated at 11:58 a.m.