Congress

Pelosi, Trump engage in real-time messaging war on impeachment, legislating

Speaker says she ‘hopes’ president will work with Democrats, but Trump claims she’s ‘incapable’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., joined by House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump engaged in a real-time messaging war Wednesday as the president live-tweeted his responses to the California Democrat’s weekly press conference.

Pelosi, who announced last week the House was conducting an “official” impeachment inquiry into Trump, opened the press conference by talking about legislation Democrats are crafting to address prescription drug prices. She said she hoped Trump would want to work on that despite the White House threatening to shut down the legislative process because of the impeachment inquiry.

“I hope he doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to work together to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” she said. 

Pelosi also talked about the Democrats’ efforts to get to “yes” on the trade agreement the administration brokered with Mexico and Canada, known as USMCA, and said she hoped that the president would work with them to add enforcement provisions. She also said she wanted to resume talks with Trump about an infrastructure plan — negotiations he shut down in May amid frustration about Democrats’ investigations and rhetoric about impeachment.

Trump quickly dashed any hope of cooperation in a series of angry tweets. 

He said the “impeachment nonsense” was going nowhere and accused Democrats of deliberately using it to drive the stock market down in the hope that a weaker economy would help them win the 2020 election. 

The president followed that tweet with one directly responding to Pelosi saying she wants to work on prescription drug prices and the USMCA. 

“She is incapable of working on either,” Trump claimed. “It is just camouflage for trying to win an election through impeachment. The Do Nothing Democrats are stuck in mud!”

[House Democrats divided on how much evidence they need to impeach Trump]

Pelosi largely avoided personal attacks on Trump during her press conference, noting that she has advised her Democratic colleagues to do the same as they talk about impeachment.

“We just have to look at the facts and the Constitution,” she said. “Any other objections people may have to the president have no place in this discussion. … Save that for the election. This is about the facts relating to the Constitution and that is how we proceed — with dignity, with respect.”

Pelosi said she had not spoken to Trump or anyone in the White House since her call with the president last Tuesday. The president phoned the speaker to talk about gun violence but he also brought up impeachment that morning, as Pelosi prepared to announce the start of the House’s official impeachment inquiry that afternoon. 

Trump admitted to Pelosi on that call that he asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, Pelosi said. The White House the next day released a partial transcript of the call with Zelenskiy showing that exchange, which is now the focus of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

When asked Wednesday whether Democrats were making too much out of that one call, as Republicans have claimed, Pelosi said, “Absolutely not.”

Trump also feuds with Schiff

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, appearing with Pelosi, was also the target of one of Trump’s tweets for his remarks updating reporters on the state of the impeachment inquiry.

Schiff spoke about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s letter Tuesday seeking to block current and former State Department officials from sitting for depositions with the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight panels. 

“We are deeply concerned about Secretary Pompeo’s effort now to potentially interfere with witnesses whose testimony is needed,” the California Democrat said.

Schiff noted that any effort to interfere with the impeachment inquiry, whether by Pompeo, the president or anyone else, would be considered evidence of obstruction of Congress. He noted that obstruction of Congress was an article of impeachment brought against former President Richard Nixon.

Trump responded to Schiff with taunts in what has become a pattern of trying to discredit him and other Democrats.

Adam Schiff should only be so lucky to have the brains, honor and strength of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,” the president wrote, calling Schiff a “lowlife.”

Schiff’s panel is proceeding with two of the five depositions that Pompeo sought to block. He said former U.S. ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, who recently resigned his role as the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine,  is expected to appear before the Intelligence Committee for a deposition on Thursday. Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is scheduled for a deposition next week, Schiff added.

“We are proceeding deliberately,” Schiff said. “But at the same time, we feel a real sense of urgency here.”

To that end, Schiff said his concern about the administration trying to stonewall the inquiry is why Democratic committee chairmen have warned officials that failure to comply with requests for documents or testimony would be considered obstruction of Congress. 

“We’ll have to decide whether to litigate or how to litigate,” Schiff said when asked whether the committees would go to court to enforce subpoenas.

“We’re not fooling around here though,” he added. “We don’t want this to drag on for months and months.”

Pelosi said Democrats are striving to “weigh the equities” and “be fair as we go forward.” Their effort to be fair to the president “is why this is an inquiry and not an outright impeachment,” she said.

“We have to give the president his chance to exonerate himself,” Pelosi said.

Trump has sought to do so on Twitter and through other means but has not been tempered in his defense. He concluded his Twitter rant responding to Pelosi and Schiff Wednesday with a curse.

“The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLS---” Trump wrote, using capital letters for a word for barnyard excrement, “which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306.”

He then taunted the Democratic Party: “Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!”

Shortly after the tweets, Trump continued his attacks from the Oval Office as he welcomed the president of Finland, a partner in countering Russia, to the White House. He again directly attacked Pelosi and “shifty” Schiff, calling on them to resign.

“They’ve been trying to impeach me since the day I got elected,” he said. “And you know what? They failed.”

John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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