WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday blocked her CBS News interviewer from even mentioning the Republican case against impeaching President Donald Trump.
When “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan tried to bring up GOP objections to House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Pelosi refused to even hear the question. The California Democrat put up her hand in a stop motion.
“You know what, if we could just talk about what we wanted to, I really have a real discomfort level of responding to what Republicans say because they are in denial about what has happened in the country,” she said. “So, if you want to ask me about where we’re going on this, I’m happy to respond to that. But I find it a waste of my time and yours to just be talking about what Republicans say.”
Brennan tried to reframe the query, but Pelosi again interrupted: “But I don’t want to respond. Let it stand. Let their argument stand. Because it’s on such quicksand that I don’t even want to have it given any more visibility by my dignifying any of their misrepresentations of what they say.”
The moderator subsequently gave up and changed the subject.
Pelosi went on to suggest that Trump needs to prove he is innocent in the inquiry, rather than Democrats having an obligation to establish the president’s guilt.
Trump has “every opportunity to present his case,” including come before the House Intelligence Committee, she said.
“If the president has information that demonstrates his innocence in all of this, which we haven’t seen,” she continued. “If he has information that is exculpatory – that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame – then we look forward to seeing it.”
Pelosi made similar remarks on Thursday in response to a reporter who asked about the public’s belief that Democrats are “dead set” on impeaching Trump without seeing all the evidence.
“It’s called an inquiry,” Pelosi said. “And if the president has something that is exculpatory, Mr. President, that means you have anything that shows your innocence, then he should make that known and that’s part of the inquiry. And so far, we haven’t seen that, but we welcome it. And that’s what an inquiry’s about.”
Pelosi says Trump worse than Nixon
Making clear she has determined Trump is guilty of impeachable offenses, Pelosi went on to amplify her unfavorable comparison of Trump to fellow Republican Richard Nixon. At least Nixon cared enough about the country to leave office before his impeachment, she said.
The top Democrat in Congress told reporters last week that Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate one of his potential opponents in the 2020 election “makes what Nixon did look almost small.”
She alluded to Nixon’s resignation after the Watergate scandal involving a break-in at Democratic Party headquarters and the subsequent cover-up.
“I mean, what the president did was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did, that at some point Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognize that this could not continue,” Pelosi said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Nixon, whose name has become synonymous with scandal and ignominy for many Americans, resigned in 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him but before the full House voted on the issue, and he was not impeached.
He is the only U.S. president who has resigned from office.
Pelosi for months resisted calls from her more liberal Democratic lawmakers to initiate impeachment proceedings, but said Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy compelled her to open the inquiry against the president.
Since launching the proceedings on Sept. 24, Pelosi has not been in the room as the Intelligence Committee held public hearings on Trump’s impeachment. But she has driven messaging from the outside.
Her Nixon comparison came amid the trial of longtime Trump ally Roger Stone, a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” who worked for Nixon’s re-election campaign and has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back. Stone was convicted on Friday of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Trump fires back
Trump unleashed a daylong flurry of three dozen tweets and retweets on Sunday, most of them critical of the impeachment. “The Crazed, Do Nothing Democrats are turning Impeachment into a routine partisan weapon.” he wrote.
Pelosi accused Trump of bribery last week in having his aides dangle a White House meeting, then $400 million in suspended U.S. security assistance, if Zelenskiy announced an investigation into a Democratic 2020 political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Bribery is one of three articles of impeachment in the U.S. Constitution.
In the CBS interview, taped on Friday, the House speaker called Trump an “imposter” whose insecurity drove his real-time Twitter attack on former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she testified in the impeachment inquiry.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump said on Friday as she testified, an extraordinary moment that Democrats said amounted to witness intimidation.
“He made a mistake,” Pelosi told CBS. “He knows her strength. And he was trying to undermine it.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Mary Milliken; Lisa Shumaker and Tom Brown; Pluralist contributed to this report.)