Pelosi defends not speaking to Trump for almost a year
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday defended not speaking directly to President Trump for almost a year amid the current coronavirus pandemic and wildfire crises, maintaining that she finds it “in the interest of time” to speak to intermediaries.
The president and the Speaker haven’t had an extended, face-to-face conversation since Oct. 16, 2019, during a meeting at the White House about Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria.
Trump and Pelosi haven’t even been in the same room together since February at the National Prayer Breakfast. That came two days after Trump’s State of the Union address, where he appeared to ignore Pelosi’s attempt at a handshake and she ripped up a copy of his speech afterward.
Pelosi confirmed during an interview with MSNBC’s Craig Melvin that she hasn’t spoken to Trump about the wildfires ravaging her home state of California and other parts of the West. Any recent discussions about a coronavirus relief package — which have been stalled for more than a month — have also only been between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin or White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, not Trump.
“Well, I’ve spoken to his representatives and he says that they speak for him. And I take that to be true about the secretary of the Treasury and we have worked together,” Pelosi said, noting her deals with Mnuchin on past coronavirus aid measures and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact last year.
Pelosi said that she’s repeatedly found Trump to be unreliable, saying that “I don’t find it a good use of time.”
“Quite frankly, my experience with the president has been that it hasn’t been on the level. You know, he’ll say something and then it doesn’t really happen. So in the interest of time, we’ll work with who he sends over,” Pelosi said.
Trump said last week that he’s taking “the high road” by not meeting with Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) over coronavirus relief.
“I know Pelosi, I know Schumer very well. They don’t want to make a deal because they think it’s good for politics if they don’t make a deal,” Trump said. “I’m taking the high road by not seeing them. That’s the high road.”
The weekly $600 enhanced unemployment insurance benefits established by a coronavirus aid package in March expired at the end of July, but a bipartisan deal remains out of sight. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief package in May, while Senate Republicans were unable to overcome a Democratic filibuster against a $500 billion package last week.
In-person meetings between Trump and Pelosi have tended to turn into disasters.
Pelosi walked out of the October 2019 meeting with Trump, where the two sides couldn’t agree whether the president had called the Speaker a “third-rate” or “third grade” politician. Pelosi told Trump that “all roads with you lead to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” while Trump said that “I hate ISIS more than you do.”
Pelosi told reporters afterward that “we have to pray” for Trump’s health.
Five months before that, Trump walked out of a meeting with Pelosi and other Democrats on infrastructure legislation after she had said hours earlier that he was engaging in a “cover-up.”
When they were last in the same room together in February, Trump took veiled shots at Pelosi during the traditionally nonpartisan National Prayer Breakfast as she sat five seats away.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when they know that’s not so,” Trump said.
Their relations have only worsened since then. In May, Pelosi described Trump as “morbidly obese” while criticizing his decision to take an unproven coronavirus treatment.
Trump responded by saying that Pelosi is a “waste of time,” later adding that he thought she was a “sick woman” with “a lot of mental problems.”
Pelosi, meanwhile, claimed later that “I didn’t know that he would be so sensitive.”