BY JOHN T. BENNETT, REMA RAHMAN AND STEPHANIE AKIN
As the House prepared to skip town for its two-week April recess, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi used her get-out-of-town news conference to needle Republicans, in particular President Donald Trump, for unsubstantiated claims against senior Obama administration officials.
“How low can he go?” the California Democrat asked rhetorically.
Pelosi hit Trump for, without offering evidence, saying former national security adviser Susan Rice might have committed a crime by allegedly “unmasking” some of his associates in intelligence reports.
“It’s time for him to be president, to be the manager, to be the executive,” the minority leader told reporters Thursday. “He boasted what a good executive he was. … I still don’t know about that.”
Citing his Wednesday comments about Rice and his recent tweets accusing former President Barack Obama of ordering surveillance of Trump Tower, Pelosi said Trump’s behavior is often “beneath the dignity of the office.”
In a memorable dig, Pelosi said the 45th president “keeps doing a limbo dance — how low can you go.”
Trump made the claim about Rice during an interview Wednesday with The New York Times. He declined to provide details, saying only that he would disclose more information “at the right time.”
His assertions about Rice breaking the law is “totally unfounded,” Pelosi said. “What is weird is the president of the United States, with no information, is saying she committed a crime.”
“Mr. President, declassify the basis of your comment,” the House minority leader said. “First, he says the president of the United States, Barack Obama, committed a crime. Now it’s Susan Rice. It’s time for him to be the president.”
As White House officials and House Republicans attempt to craft a revised health care overhaul bill that can pass that chamber, Pelosi told reporters it’s possible the House could return over the recess to vote on the measure. And she let her views of the emerging bill show.
Pelosi accused House Republicans and the White House of trying to “put a Band-Aid” on their failed health care bill, which Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Trump pulled before a planned vote late last month because it lacked sufficient GOP support.
“Who knows … we may see each other again before those Holy holidays descend upon us,” she said. “But hopefully not.”
Congress is scheduled to return on April 25. Pelosi said she was “optimistic” that Republican and Democrat lawmakers could come to a bipartisan agreement to keep the government running after the current continuing resolution expires.
“My read on it is that members of Congress know what they can pass,” she said “Maybe the White House doesn’t, and that line of communication is where you might see more difference of opinion than even Democrats and Republicans in the Congress.”
Pelosi also weighed in on embattled House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, who is stepping away from the panel’s investigation of alleged Russian election meddling amid an Ethics Committee probe of allegations against him.
Several leading GOP members of the panel, including Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., whom Pelosi repeatedly criticized when he led a probe of the 2012 Benghazi attack, will take on larger roles.
Pelosi is taking a wait-and-see approach on Gowdy’s new role: “We’ll see how he proceeds. I think he understands his responsibilities there. … We’ll see.”
Other Democrats on Thursday commended Nunes for his decision to step away during the probe.
“He did so in the best interests of the committee and I respect that decision,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on Intelligence. The California Democrat had previously called on Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia inquiry.
Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is seeking its own investigation into Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, said Nunes engaged in suspicious behavior.
Cummings was among a host of lawmakers who criticized the California Republican for going to the White House to review information related to the alleged surveillance of Trump officials as the administration struggled to explain unsubstantiated claims made by the president that he was wiretapped by his predecessor.
The Oversight panel, Cummings said, is seeking answers from the administration about who gave Nunes the authority to be on White House grounds and review documents that showed Trump officials were incidentally caught in a surveillance net, a revelation unrelated to the Russia probe.
“He was involved in some deceptive activity,” Cummings said. “I don’t care how you look at it.”
For his part, Nunes said he was the victim of attacks by “left-wing activists,” which prompted the Ethics probe.
“The charges are entirely false and politically motivated, and are being leveled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of U.S. citizens and other abuses of power,” he said in a statement announcing he was stepping aside.