Nancy Pelosi gets scared too, believe it or not
Plus: Highlights from the former Speaker’s convo in NYC with Hillary Clinton and a reluctant preview of Trump’s arraignment in the hush money case.
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There’s an iconic photo from 2019 of a meeting between former President Donald Trump and congressional leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, surrounded by a table of white men, standing and pointing toward the president moments before she excused herself from the room.
It’s an image that added to Pelosi’s lore as a fearless legislative powerhouse who suffers no fools — even if one happens to be the leader of the free world.
And while that may be true, it turns out the former Speaker and top House Democrat for 20 years gets scared too.
During a conversation on Monday with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Columbia University in New York City, Pelosi spoke about two separate delegations she led to Taiwan and Ukraine in her final months as Speaker.
“To tell you the honest truth, it was pretty scary,” she told Clinton of the Ukraine visit. “I thought we could possibly die. But it’s for democracy because these people are fighting for democracy — not just their own, but ours.”
Pelosi added that she traveled to Taiwan — despite intense threats of retaliation from the Chinese government — because she didn’t want the country to be isolated by President Xi Jinping of China in the same way President Vladimir Putin of Russia has attempted to do so with Ukraine.
Speaking of Xi and Putin, the visits were seen as snubs to the two autocrats. But Pelosi gave a simple answer for why she made them: “I went to both of those places because I was invited to go.”
Democracy was at the center of the wide-ranging conversation to kick off a series at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, of which Clinton is now a part of the faculty.
“People have to know what’s at stake for them in these decisions [to strip their freedoms],” Pelosi said when asked how to fortify democracies abroad and at home. “For sentiment to matter, people have to know.”
Pelosi also shared how she approached standing up for the values of the House Democratic Caucus in her two decades as leader while also finding common ground with Republicans, a task that became harder as the party was reshaped in Trump’s image.
“Everybody is a resource to you,” she said. “Respect is a very important part of it.”
And while she says you can’t fold too soon in a negotiation, she tells her members that you can’t be so caught up in a “theoretical debate” that you lose the opportunity to make lives better.
Case in point: The bipartisan gun safety law Congress passed last year after the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York.
“It doesn’t go where we need to go, but it would have been a missed opportunity not to grasp the things that were in the bill,” she said while adding that if the bill was good enough for members like Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia who lost her son to gun violence in November 2012 who said the bill was good enough for her, which made it good enough for Pelosi.
It wouldn’t be a talk with Pelosi if she didn’t speak about the empowerment of women and girls.
When Clinton asked how the US can do more to reassert the rights and opportunities for women in the world, she said that the education of women and girls would be the one thing Pelosi did if she ruled the world.
She also argued that the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last summer sent a “fearful tremor” throughout the world and expressed outrage at how Russia has used rape and assault of women as a weapon of war in Ukraine.
And it wouldn’t be a talk with a current member of Congress if they weren’t asked about TikTok and the national security risks lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say the social app poses.
“The bad use of algorithms can create any reality,” she said. “The challenge is we’d like to buy the [TikTok] algorithm, the Chinese will not sell it.
Clinton said how the US deal with social apps is one of the most consequential decisions facing us.
“Democracy requires at least a minimum level of trust,” she said. “And how do you compromise with somebody unless you have some way to trust what they’re saying and what they will do?”
Watch the full conversation below:
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Supercreator’s reluctant Trump arraignment preview
If yesterday’s obsessive coverage of Trump traveling from Florida to New York City ahead of his arraignment on an indictment in connection with allegations he paid hush money to sex worker Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about an encounter they had years earlier, then today is about to be a doozy.
Obviously, I understand the significance of the story: Trump will become the first president to be indicted on criminal charges. And he’s a candidate for president in 2024. And he’s also under investigation in Georgia for alleged election interference and by the Justice Department for allegedly mishandling classified documents that should have been returned to the government at the end of his presidency.
But the lines, as they have been since 2015 when he declared his candidacy before going on to upset Secretary Clinton in the following year’s election, between news and spectacle are so blurry that it’s not unreasonable to wonder how flooding the zone with all things Trump serves the public interest.
So I’ll leave the wall-to-wall coverage to the cable networks and focus on the question I’ve received the most from readers since news of the indictment broke last Thursday: Will Trump supporters turn to violence again like they did on January 6th, 2021 as Congress was in session to certify the 2020 election?
As of now, probably not.
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that he was unaware of any known or specific threats in connection to the arraignment.
“We’ll be prepared should there be a need, but hopefully there won’t be that need,” Kirby said. “There should be no need for anybody to want to visit violence upon fellow citizens around this or any other legal proceeding.”
And Kirby and other White House officials reaffirmed the right of Trump supporters and critics to peaceful protest.
Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said that he also hasn’t received any indication that the protests would turn into mass violence.
Democratic Mayor Eric Adams of New York City warned Trump supporters ahead of the arraignment to be on their best behavior, including Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia who’s in the Big Apple to demonstrate solidarity with Trump in the same way she’s thrown her support behind those charged and convicted of crimes connected to January 6th.
Adams said the New York City Police Department hadn’t received any credible threats around the indictment.
But the city has heightened security on public transit and increased police presence around the Manhattan courthouse where Trump will be arraigned out of an abundance of caution.
And while the White House has continued to decline comment on the case itself, President Biden told reporters traveling with him to Minnesota yesterday that he was unconcerned about public unrest.
“No,” he said. “I have faith in the New York Police Department.”
Biden was then asked if he had faith in the legal system.
“Yes,” he said.
Here’s what else you need to know today:
President Biden later today is expected to call on Congress to pass bipartisan privacy legislation to protect kids and limit personal data collection by tech companies during a meeting with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, according to a White House official. The meeting will also focus on the risks and opportunities of artificial intelligence and responsible innovation.
Democratic Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York and Joaquin Castro of Texas and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office calling for a federal probe into the consequences of firearms trafficking from the United States to the Caribbean. “This new request, focused on the Caribbean, will allow us to obtain a more robust picture of the overall impact of the illicit trafficking and use of deadly weapons and munitions in the region,” the lawmakers, who expressed specific concern about the effects of illicit US firearms on the security situation in Haiti, wrote in the letter.
Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Republican Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas launched a bipartisan inquiry with the GAO to review current disaster response policies that impact mothers and young children. The senators asked GAO to also provide policy recommendations on how to update these policies to help protect these vulnerable populations after a natural disaster hits.
Democratic Rep. Katie Porter of California raised $4.5 million in the first quarter of her bid to succeed Dianne Feinstein in the US Senate. Porter’s campaign says she received more than 122,000 donations with an average of $36 from supporters in all 58 California counties and all 50 states. The enormous haul also outpaced Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Alex Padilla during a similar period in their senatorial campaigns. Porter is running against Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee in the deep-blue state and will likely need every dollar of those donations in what’s expected to be an expensive race.
In other Senate news, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona announced he raised $3.7 million from over 106,000 donations in the first quarter of his campaign to replace Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Gallego’s camp say the amount is the most any Latino running for Senate or any Latino Democrat running for any office has raised. Sinema, who hasn’t announced if she’ll run for re-election, reportedly has $9.9 million cash on hand heading into April.
The White House is projecting confidence after OPEC+ — a group of oil-exporting countries — announced on Sunday that it would cut oil production by more than 1.5 million barrels per day, which caused oil prices to surge. NSC spokesperson John Kirby said that while the administration didn’t think the cuts were advisable, the US is in a different place than last year in terms of the gas prices. “It’s not going to be as bad as you think,” President Biden told reporters as he boarded Air Force One to return back to the White House from Minnesota.
NASA announced Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Hammock Koch, and Jeremy Hansen as the four newest astronauts assigned to fly around the moon on the Artemis II mission later this year. The flight will set the stage for the first woman and first person of color on the moon through the program.
Related: President Biden called the astronauts to thank the astronauts for their service and for inspiring countless people around the US and the world, according to the White House.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Monday signed a law behind closed doors that allows guns to be carried almost anywhere without a permit after July 1. (Guns will be prohibited in airports, courthouses and other government buildings.) The Democratic National Committee said DeSantis signed the bill with none of his usual fanfare because he knows the legislation could be dangerous for Florida families. “This is the opposite of commonsense gun safety,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “The people of Florida — who have paid a steep price for state and congressional inaction on guns from Parkland to Pulse Nightclub to Pine Hills — deserve better.”
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden on Monday was scheduled to travel to Michigan to visit a community college to highlight its workforce training programs. But her trip was postponed to a later date due to an aircraft issue from Colorado en route to Michigan.
Related: Dr. Biden sparked controversy while in Denver yesterday to promote community colleges when she said that she would President Biden to invite Iowa, who lost to LSU 102-85 during the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship game on Sunday, to for an official White House visit. The suggestion that LSU’s mostly Black team should share space with Iowa’s mostly white team, despite losing teams never being invited to visit the White House, reinforced the racial trope of Black people having to be twice as good to get half of what white people receive simply for existing. A spokesperson for the first lady did not respond to a request for additional comment.
All times Eastern:
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing with Vice President Harris in the Oval Office (11:30 a.m.). He will then meet with President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in the State Dining Room to discuss their ongoing work (2:45 p.m.).
The vice president will also preside over a promotion ceremony for Jacob Middletonfrom Director of National Security Space Policy to the rank of Brigadier General in the Space Force in her ceremonial office (5:15 p.m.).
The House and Senate are out.
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