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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Rep. Nancy Pelosi Interviewed. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired May 15, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Good evening. We are here in Washington, D.C., for a live special CNN town hall event with House Minority Leader Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California.
I'm Chris Cuomo. And we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Of course, we're continuing to bring you breaking news: The Washington Post reporting that President Trump revealed highly classified information to Russia in his Oval Office meeting with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador just last week.
The classified information involves potential terror plots by ISIS and the possible U.S. response. The White House denies these reports. But how they deny them has become very relevant. And to be sure, there are shockwaves reverberating around Washington.
We have one of the highest-ranking Democrats in Washington here to weigh in. Please welcome Leader Nancy Pelosi.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) MINORITY LEADER: Good evening.
CUOMO: Well, the timing and the importance of the conversation has changed in light of this Washington Post report. At the onset, what do you believe from what you've heard so far about the reports from the Washington Post and the response from the White House?
PELOSI: Well, let me first say, when you extended the invitation to have this town hall a couple of weeks ago, little did we know that the FBI director would be fired. And we thought, oh, my goodness, that's going to change the town hall. Little did we know we would have a matter of this consequence.
As you may know, I've for over 20 years been a member of the Intelligence Committee, or the "Gang of Eight." Longer than anybody, actually, in history. And our work there -- well, we had some differences over time -- has never been political. And hopefully this won't be, as well.
But from what we have heard -- and, again, the facts are what are important -- from what we have heard, this is a very serious matter. This is codeword source, highly classified information revealed to an adversarial country. And to do so in a way -- they're very sophisticated on intelligence. The Russians have never stopped. Putin was head of the KGB. This is what they do. And...
CUOMO: The concern would be what, exactly, if the report is true?
PELOSI: Well, that even if the president didn't reveal a source or method, that what he did reveal could be traced very directly to a source and method.
CUOMO: And what would that mean?
PELOSI: Well, that endangers a couple of things. It endangers the person or persons, the activity. It could undermine an operation that could be saving lives. And it undermines the trust that we would have with our allies, our liaison -- what they call liaison relationship, that's intelligence relationship -- that we have with other countries that they share carefully, not expecting the president of the United States to be wittingly -- and that would be unfortunate -- or unwittingly -- that would be fortunate. Both cases dangerous.
CUOMO: Do you share the concern that, if this is all true, it might accelerate a timeframe by ISIS?
PELOSI: Oh, it could. No...
CUOMO: We've heard that from different security experts. Do you agree with that?
PELOSI: Of course. Yes, you never want the target to know they're the target or that you're on to them in a certain way. And that has accelerated their actions in the past. So that's another danger.
CUOMO: Very important for reporting purposes, the Washington Post has their headline. They say it's well-sourced. The White House came out quickly and aggressively in the form of General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, of course, for President Trump. He gave a rejection of the story. Let me play it for you now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCMASTER: OK. Good evening, everybody. I just have a brief statement for the record.
There's nothing that the president takes more seriously than the -- the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time -- at no time -- were intelligence sources or methods discussed.
And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publically known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn't happen. Thanks, everybody.
Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, obviously, the general did not take any questions. The Washington Post says they stand by their story. Are you satisfied with what you heard from the White House?
PELOSI: No. What the general said that was very telling to me is the president did not reveal anything that was not in the public domain.
CUOMO: In terms of operations.
PELOSI: Yeah, he said in terms of -- did he say the public domain or in the public whatever?
CUOMO: Yes. Yes, publically known, military operations.
PELOSI: The fact is that anyone who has anything to do with intelligence, the one thing you always say is, I cannot confirm or deny that that is true. So the president could be saying something that's in the public domain, but confirming it to the Russians in a way that is very dangerous. As I say, if it was on purpose, that would be terrible. And if it was not, if it was accidental, that would be very terrible, too.
CUOMO: Well, all right, so let's talk about the impact of this on several different levels. The first one is, it seems as though General McMaster was saying, "The president didn't say anything about who was giving us this information." Which is a primary concern, you don't want to reveal a source or an ally.
However, that's not what the Washington Post is reporting. They're saying that he gave highly classified information about the what -- about what the threat is, what may be done, what may be the response. Are those different in your mind, as well?
PELOSI: Well, the fact is, is that -- I may not give you somebody's name, but if I describe a certain circumstance, you can engineer back and figure out by the process of elimination what the source or the method is. Sources and methods are very protected. And you don't -- the president of the United States is not likely to come out and say, "Chris Cuomo is the person." But if he describes a situation that by the process of elimination endangers you, that's a bad thing.
We have an expression. There are signs up in the intelligence rooms up there. It says, "Loose lips can sink ships." And it's really true. It's these, shall we say, accidental -- I don't know what word to describe for the president and this messy approach to intelligence that is very endangering.
Our intelligence people around the world are super-patriots. They work very hard to protect the American people. When I first went on Intelligence, it was about force protection, in case we were going into a military operation, how we avoid it in the first place, have the proper intelligence so that our military can succeed, and quickly.
Then it's expanded to all kinds of things -- terrorism, still, force protection very important. But they take -- what they and their families sacrifice is so much. And we have to have so much appreciation for what they do. And we cannot have the president of the United States being casually loose-lipped about confirming something, even if it's in the public domain, to an adversarial nation.
CUOMO: And by that you mean Russia and who he was meeting with there. In terms of getting to the bottom of it, have you reached out to the White House? Do you believe there is a need for the Gang of Eight to convene and find out from any existing transcript what was said, what it means, what must be done?
PELOSI: Well, you know, I'd hope that we will be able to proceed in a very nonpartisan way on this. This is about the security of our country, the oath we take to protect and defend. This is as serious as it gets. Our first responsibility to protect the American people.
The intelligence community is a very important part of that. And this really needs to be addressed. Now, my understanding from the report is they talked about something that has to do with aviation. And they have now scheduled an aviation briefing, classified briefing for Thursday. May be totally, totally coincidental. But nonetheless, they've scheduled an aviation briefing. But up until now, we had not received word from the White House that this had happened.
CUOMO: How do you read that?
PELOSI: I think there's really -- they're disorganized. It's pretty disorganized. I thought that the statement of McMaster's was sad for him, for him to be able to come out and speak in that way.
PELOSI: Well, because you have to know that to say nothing I -- the president said was anything that wasn't in the public domain completely opened the door to, "Well, what's that? What's that?"
But the other part of it is -- and I think it's really important to -- this is very serious business, with -- I'm not going to say business -- activity with other countries. What was revealed in that is highly classified, codeword source. This is, you know, about as high level of classification as it is. This is nothing casual, just stamp "secret" because you just assume people didn't talk about it. This is dangerous.
And I would hope that it would be a lesson to the president to have his daily intelligence briefings so he understands the connection from one report to the next about how thorough everyone else is on this, how important our liaison relationships are about information, intelligence we share with other countries, and that he has a higher respect for what the intelligence community does.
CUOMO: So you have what it means about the president and what it means for the president. The first question. Do you believe that if this is true, what is reported in the Washington Post, that this goes to the competency of Donald Trump to be president? PELOSI: I think it goes to the preparedness, or lack thereof, of
President Donald Trump to be president. I mean, this is sloppy, and he can correct it. But we have to know more about it, because it...
CUOMO: How does he correct it if he already told them the information?
PELOSI: No, he can't do it again. I mean, this can't be -- I don't know. Did he -- let's -- let's just put this in context. He is meeting with the Russian foreign minister. Usually a president meets with heads of state. He's meeting with the Russian foreign minister.
Two days before, he fired the director of the FBI with some suspicion that he did so because he didn't like, in his own words, the Russian investigation. Two days after that firing was the day when the director of the FBI was supposed to address the Intelligence Committee with the global threat report. May 11th is the day of global threats report. So why would he fire him two days before he's going to be making this very important presentation, with other intelligence and security people, to the Congress of the United States? What did he not want them to hear?
CUOMO: What is your suspicion?
PELOSI: And then, at the request of Putin, he meets with the foreign minister.
CUOMO: Do you think that there's a correlation?
PELOSI: Has loose lips. Well, as Yogi Berra said, it's too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence. There's just something wrong with this picture. All at the same time as people are saying -- and, you know, this you have to be careful, because this is its own incident -- but it's about Russia. And every day, I ask the question, what do the Russians have on Donald Trump -- financially, politically, or personally -- that he's always catering to them?
CUOMO: Well, that goes to the second question. What does this mean for the president? Members of your party have been very critical. They are using this as proof of his not being up to the job. Republicans, Senator Corker used the phrase "downward spiral" for the White House. Do you see a level of crisis? Or do you just see sloppiness in getting their sea legs in a new administration?
PELOSI: Well, in my work in the committee -- this is over 20 years in intelligence and a long time on the Ethics Committee, where we make judgments about people's behavior -- it's only about the facts, the rules, and the law. And so we have to see what the facts are in this situation and how far did he go and what this was about.
But I don't -- you know, I think that -- in some ways, I'm sorry that this is all so public, because it is very, very, very damaging. It's very damaging. But the fact is, it is public, and the president has to answer for this. We expect to have some briefings in the Congress about this. I would be on the Gang of Eight. The four leaders of the committee, House and Senate, Democratic and Republican, and the four leaders of the Congress. And we expect to have it soon. But again, to try to take us to a safer place. The president did not do that.
CUOMO: What do you need to hear from President Trump? Is this about an apology? Is this about a recognition of a need to do things differently? Do you expect to hear anything at all?
PELOSI: Well, I would hope that the president would say -- since this all centers around Russia -- let the investigation of the Russian connection continue. You cannot separate this behavior of trying to please the Russians from what are -- what is this? What is this?
So we have a call, over 75 percent of the American people support a commission -- an outside commission, not the Congress, to do the investigation. I think that Congress can do some investigating, or a special prosecutor, an outside counsel. But what -- this might be the place where the Republicans stop hiding the truth from the American people about the Russian connection.
CUOMO: Well, that is a good point to stop our one-on-one conversation. And let's bring in the audience, because the idea of what will our leaders in Washington, of all political stripes, do to ensure the safety of the American people. So let's bring in Jody Pratt (ph). She's a stay-at-home mom from Washington, D.C., and she's got a question about checks and balances. Thank you for being with us.
QUESTION: Thanks. I have lost faith in the willingness of the Republican-led Congress to stand up to President Trump, despite allegations of colluding with Russia, self-dealing, and conflicts of business interest. In this current hyper-partisan environment, can we have any assurances that our system of checks and balances is still working and that Congress is holding him to account?
PELOSI: Well, there were concerns about checks and balances before this issue came out tonight. This is in its own place; I mean, this is a very discrete, indiscreet happening.
On the checks and balances, there was very serious concern about the firing of Director Comey in the manner in which it happened. But you know what? You always have to be hopeful. When we had the majority and President Bush was president, we worked with him. I mean, what could be worse than starting a war in Iraq? But despite that, we worked very closely with President Bush on many issues. The biggest energy bill in the history of our country, PEPFAR, the AIDS drugs. He wanted PEPFAR, we wanted it big. With had our agreement on that. The list goes on and on of so many things that we did working with President Bush. He was one of the best presidents in terms of immigration in our country. His father was, too. All of our presidents had been, except President Trump.
But so the party -- we have a responsibility to the American people to find common ground where we can. When President Obama was president, the Republicans made clear when they took the majority the most important thing that we can do is to make sure he doesn't succeed. But again, we can't -- you know, we can't follow that example.
CUOMO: So what do you say... PELOSI: We want to work together, if it's an infrastructure bill, if it's legislation for work/home balance in terms of issues that relate to family leave, et cetera, some of the things that he said in the campaign. A tax reform simplification. More fairness in our tax code. Not that we've seen that from him. But nonetheless, to strive to get to that place. Because we have that responsibility to the American people. We always have to strive for that. And we did not make any declaration against him that the Republicans made against President Obama.
CUOMO: But what do you say about the practical effect of some of your members -- let's say, mostly recently Al Green, OK -- said this is time for impeachment. That word is getting thrown around.
CUOMO: Do you say to your members of your party, "slow down"? Because that is not a way to bridge any kind of divide with the Republicans.
PELOSI: No. But it's what they -- it's a reflection of what they're hearing in their own constituencies. But it's not -- you know, it -- we've been -- some of that has picked up this past week. We've been out of session. I'll see them tomorrow when I come back, but -- they come back. But they know I don't subscribe to that.
You know, in other words, again, if you're talking about impeachment, you're talking about, what are the facts? Not I don't like him and I don't like his hair and -- you know, I think, what are the facts? I don't like what he said about this. What are the facts that you would make a case on? What are the rules that he may have violated? If you don't have that case, you're just participating in more hearsay.
And that's not the basis of -- and we owe the American people the -- I mean, just some stability in all of this. This is the time where he is supposed to be having his honeymoon. What a marriage. The honeymoon -- the honeymoon of -- so we watch and see what he's going to do, what is his vision, how is he going to implement it, and the rest. And it's been sloppy.
CUOMO: All right, we're about 20 minutes in. Let's take a break. We have a lot more audience questions about a lot of topics, including the breaking news. We have an urgent question about the future of health care from an audience member who says her life may be at stake. Please, stay with us for more with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. CNN town hall continues.
CUOMO: All right. Welcome back to the CNN town hall. We have Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on such an important night, given the breaking news. We want to get back to our audience questions. We have Matthew Smlars (ph). He's a history professor from Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. And you have a question about Russian influence.
QUESTION: I do. Good evening, Leader Pelosi. PELOSI: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you for having me. My question is, is there any evidence that the political rhetoric of the Trump administration has been influenced by the views and practices of the Putin government?
PELOSI: Well, good question. And thank you for asking it. One of the concerns that we have is that Russia is an adversary to the United States. And yet, when the president became president-elect, he was putting Putin on a pedestal and he was questioning whether we should even have sanctions against Russia for their aggression in Ukraine and Crimea, et cetera, and questioning the -- undermining the relationship we have with NATO, which is our transatlantic friendship for security. And it was like, why on Earth is he undermining our allies and praising Putin?
And so that's one of the things that we want to see about the investigation, because it relates to if there have -- as I said, financial. What is the financial connection? Political. They did -- it's an absolute fact -- disrupt our election by hacking and leaking. The question is, was there collusion? And, third, personally. What is it that is making him do all these special things for the Russians?
You only know that if you're basing it on fact and not just rumor and hearsay if you have the investigation. And that's why we're saying, let's just find out the truth. Let the chips fall where they may. And if he has nothing to hide, he shouldn't be opposing, nor should my Republican colleagues in Congress, be opposing the release of his tax returns, any of the investigation into other aspects of the Trump- Russia connection. And that's why when something like this comes up, it's like predictable, almost, sadly.
CUOMO: And then you have, obviously, the connection to what happened with the dismissal of the director of the FBI. We have a question about that from the audience. Jake Lee, small-business owner from West Hollywood, California. Thank you for joining us. What's your question?
PELOSI: Hi, Jake.
QUESTION: Hello. Good evening, Madam Leader.
PELOSI: Thank you.
QUESTION: Before the election on November 8th, your side of the aisle were asking for the former head of the FBI to resign. Now that he has been let go, why the sudden and selective outrage from your side of the aisle?
PELOSI: Well, I appreciate that. Some people were asking to be let go. I said I thought it wasn't a good -- he wasn't well-suited to the heat that comes with the job. But I never said he should be fired. And for the president of the United States to fire somebody with his own self-admission that he didn't like -- he was tired of the Russia- Trump probe, is distressing. It's distressing. We believe in the FBI as being an independent law enforcement agency
to be respected and not to be fired by the president because he's tired of about an investigation they're doing. And that's really what was the nature and the timing of it. If he had these concerns about how Hillary Clinton was treated, he could have let him go a long time ago, not two days before he was supposed to do the global threat assessment that may have included Russia.
CUOMO: The window into potential motivations before the president gave his interview and basically said that everything we've been told by the White House was not so was a paragraph about how the director of the FBI, James Comey, had told him on three occasions that he was not a subject of the investigation. Do you believe that those conversations took place?
PELOSI: Well, I believe that the president putting that in a letter of dismissal, but thanking him for saying "I'm not" was weird. That was really weird.
We're talking weird. Weird means -- what? Highly unusual. Inappropriate for that. And why is he doing this? In the same way as I thought that the memo from the deputy attorney general was not a -- I'm not disagreeing factually with some of the things that he said about the behavior vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton, but to go on and on about -- and titling it, "Restoring the Reputation of the FBI." Well, that wasn't what -- the president asked him make a case against Comey. And that's what he did.
But he did it in a way that was not prosecutorial. It was more like, I think I'll do an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. And it was a very -- that was -- I felt sorry for -- as I felt sorry for McMaster. It's like, what? This is not professional. This is beneath your dignity of the service that you have both given to our country, to have the kinds of statements that they made. But your question is a good one. Thank you.
CUOMO: Speaking about service to the country, let's bring in retired Colonel Emily Buckman. We want to thank you for your service. She's a member of the military, and she has a question about North Korea. You and your husband served and were deployed, yes?
QUESTION: My husband, too.
CUOMO: Well, thank you to both.
QUESTION: So, Leader Pelosi, thank you so much for spending the evening with us tonight. As a 26-year veteran, as Chris mentioned, having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and actually having served when General McMasters (sic) was in Afghanistan at the same time, I have the utmost respect for him.
QUESTION: He is a man of integrity. So when he says what he says, I believe what he says. And that's from 26 years.
But I can tell you that having been in the military, there is no room for divisiveness or division when you're talking about national security. And given that, and the importance of unity when you're fighting or when you're fighting countries like ISIS, or the ISIS regime, and also when you look at North Korea and the threat that they represent, I think we have to really lean on your experience, and with the intelligence community, with leading in the Congress, to go across party lines and make things better.
So I'm just looking to you on how you're doing that. And given your experience, instead of being divisive, and -- and -- and just creating division, how are you changing that story for us?
PELOSI: Thank you, Colonel, for your service and your husband's, and for your family's patriotism. My -- when I said I was story about the general -- and I agree with you, I have seen him in Afghanistan. I know of his great service to our country. But all I said was he said one sentence that left the door open. He didn't say anything that wasn't in the public domain. So that kept him honest and left the door open for us to look further.
I've been to North Korea, by the way. I'm one of the few members of Congress that have been to Pyongyang as a member of the Intelligence Committee a number of years ago. You're playing with fire when you mess with them without a real plan, without listening to our military -- who, by the way, we're so proud of. And I advocate the use of force as a last resort. As a last resort. Even with the president cutting the State Department budget 30 percent, General Mattis said I'm going to have to have more ammunition. We have to have our diplomacy as part of our national security.
So in terms of these subjects, you're absolutely right. We take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and, of course, the American people. And we have to try to do that in the most non- partisan way.
I do not, though, think it's inappropriate for us to object to the militarization of our foreign policy, to cut diplomacy and increase the defense budget, without a -- what is the mission? If we need this money, we're all there for it. But show us the mission. Or is this just to cut investments in the alleviation of poverty, the eradication of disease, lowering the fury of despair that exists in some places that's fertile territory for terrorist recruitment and the rest?
So we have to have balance. And I think we do. I think we will have bipartisan cooperation to fight that budget cut on the State Department. And I think you would be pleased to see the collaboration that happens in the Congress in terms of respecting the work of our men and women in uniform. That's one of our -- we talk about honoring the vision of our founders, respecting the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, and recognizing the aspirations of our children. That is our purpose there. That is what guides us.
CUOMO: The colonel put her finger on a very important issue, though, which is, how do we bridge that gap? How do we get more out of Washington? That affects political culture, but also the impact on big issues like health care. Let's take a break. Let's talk about that when we come back. Please stay with us. We got House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. We're going to talk about the future of health care and a lot more when the CNN town hall continues.
CUOMO: Welcome back to the CNN town hall. It is a big night. We're handling a number of topics with the Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi. It is good to have you with us, especially with all this breaking news.
PELOSI: My pleasure.
CUOMO: Let's take on the topic of how to create positive change in Washington on the policy of health care. We have a question from the audience. Kati McFarland, college student from Springdale, Arkansas. She made headlines earlier this year. She confronted Senator Tom Cotton about health care at one of his town halls. The message was loud and clear to people. Kati, thank you for joining us. What's your question?
QUESTION: Thank you. Leader Pelosi, I was diagnosed with a rare, incurable genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome several years ago. And I keep getting worse. They're talking feeding tube, they're talking pacemaker. I have a chemo port to get fluids and nutrients. And basically, my parents are dead, I'm a college student, I can't work. And without the ACA that saved my life, without the protections of the ACA, I will die. That's not hyperbole: I'm going to die.
And I'm only 26 years old. I want to be a music teacher. I want to be maybe a doctor. I don't -- even with the pain and the operations, I don't want to die yet. So my question to you is, what will you do to ensure lower out-of-pocket expenses -- not higher -- with the same or better benefits regardless of age, income, or pre-existing condition and sustaining Medicare and Medicaid expansion, in short, going against everything that the current AHCA is standing for? What will you do, in short, Congresswoman, to save my life and the lives of Americans like myself?
PELOSI: Well, thank you, Katie, for sharing your story with us. It all gives us a solemn moment to pause and, again, thank God for the blessings that he's given others of us.
But so many people in our country, over -- about 123 million people, or more, have a pre-existing medical condition. Your case is, as you've described, something very exceptional. But nonetheless, a child born with a heart defect, this or that, it's the Kimmel baby, is -- that's repeated all over the country without the same kind of resources to care for it.
So the whole point right now is to defeat that bill, because that bill raises costs for fewer benefits, has an age tax for anyone 50 to 64, kicks 24 million people -- 24 million fewer people will not have access to health care, undermines Medicare. And the point that you made is, it has the essential benefits, like pre-existing conditions, et cetera, are left up to the states.
The way people have said it to me at town meetings and across the country and airports and wherever I see people is, they'll say, this is a death panel bill, because people will die. Martin Luther King said -- Martin Luther King said, of all the inequalities, the most unjust and stunning is the injustice of access to health care, because people will die.
And so what we're doing is to fight that legislation and to make it -- you know, now, it passed the house. And it's only gotten worse, because there is -- you have to understand, it's part of a deconstruction of government. They want to privatize Social Security, take the guarantee away from Medicare, devastate Medicaid, and not have the affordable health care as we know it, but some -- I call it Pontius Pilate. It's a cowardly act to say I'm going to take away your pre-existing conditions, I'm just going to say to the states, you do it, you make the judgement as to what pre-existing conditions you will cover or not.
So that's why across the country people are telling their stories. And their stories have sad endings, in many cases, without the Affordable Care Act. So what we're saying is, hey, once we can put this thing to bed, once and for all -- and let's hope that same kind of advocacy that prevailed at first in the House will prevail in the Senate -- then we can talk about how we expand the pool. The more people in the pool, the healthier the pool, the lower the cost, how we can have more middle-income people have access to the tax credits, et cetera, how we lower the cost of prescription drugs, because that's one of the biggest contributors to the increasing in costs in medical care, how we do this.
Much of this is already a part of the Affordable Care Act. But some of it has expired. And our colleagues who don't want the Affordable Care Act have not allowed some of that to continue. But you see when you pass a bill, and it's implemented, what things you can do better, and we are prepared to do that. We think this -- the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, has good bones. It needs some renewal of some of it and it needs some expansion of other of it.
CUOMO: Let's talk about that. We have a question that goes to that point specifically from Dave McDonald. He runs a bed and breakfast and is a fishing guide from Dutch John, Utah. Sir?
PELOSI: Tell me your name again. Let me see.
CUOMO: Dave McDonald.
PELOSI: Hi, Dave.
QUESTION: Leader Pelosi, Chris, thank you. Leader Pelosi, earlier this evening, you said that we all have a responsibility to pull together to govern the country.
PELOSI: That's right.
QUESTION: Can you commit to specific policy areas that the Democrats will work with Republicans on to make health care better for all Americans, even if that means that we have to repeal certain provisions of a law that you worked so hard to pass?
PELOSI: Well, I think that -- I know how we can improve the Affordable Care Act, but the bill that the Republicans have put forth is not a bill in good faith. As I say, it's called by many a death panel bill, because it's there to eliminate that access to affordable care.
If the president were to say to me, come in and see what we can do about this, we could get it done. But if your goal is the deconstruction of government and to say we're not going to have an Affordable Care Act, we're just going to have a death panel bill posing as a -- now, let me say this other thing, because I think it's really important for you to know this.
This bill -- this death panel bill is a tax bill disguised as a health care bill. It moves $600 billion from working-class families to the richest people in our country. So it's a tax bill in disguise as a health care bill. It's a very dangerous bill to people, children, and other living people. It is -- and it must be stopped.
And, again, you have to understand, there is no good faith in that bill. They don't want to expand Medicaid. Do you know how many people -- like, one in eight people in our country are dependent on Medicaid. Seniors take advantage of it for long-term health care. People with disabilities, poor children. There are many of them. They're the least costly of the whole bill.
Medicare, they want to -- in separate legislation, take away the guarantee of Medicare, because they want it to, in their words, "whither on the vine." So you have to -- you have to talk to both sides of this and say, are we ready to say that health care is a right for all Americans and not just available for the privileged few who could afford it?
CUOMO: The criticism of the ACA is you know it has problems. You said a moment ago it's got good bones, it needs to be fixed. The criticism is, yeah, but you know those bones have been broken for a while. You didn't make the fixes. And it allowed for there to be an animosity that grew towards the bill and created political currency with it.
And that now, yes, the Republicans are in control, but the Democrats have been content to sit back and watch their problems with the AHCA, instead of reaching across, doing what Dave and others are talking about, and maybe taking some losses in terms of what's in the ACA, but in the interest of bettering it for everybody. Are those fair criticisms?
PELOSI: Well, I think that you have to understand this. And now we're going to talk a little bit about how things are done. The only way to fix the Affordable Care Act is to kill the Republican bill. Because they can't mate. There is no reconciliation between the two, because one is for health care for all Americans, not just the privileged few, and the other one is a tax break for the wealthiest people in our country.
So when we say about the Affordable Care Act, no, some of these things have expired since -- the reinsurance provision of the bill. Some of these things were in the Affordable Care Act, but when they took the majority, they did not renew them.
CUOMO: But some of them weren't working. You have marketplaces where you have people leaving. You have spiking premiums. There are things that needed to be fixed.
PELOSI: Well, no, but if you have -- if you have an -- and by the way, you have to be agnostic. You got a good idea? Put it on the table. This is not about being wedded to something, because it's something we wrote. And I say to everybody, you go to a negotiation, you find every good idea you can, right, left, center, wherever it's from. So it's not about pride of ownership.
It's the simple fact that if you have a bill -- and the fundamental piece of it is to expand the pool to have newer, younger people in it, and the Republicans come in and say we're not going to do any more outreach to this, we're not going to have navigators to take care of it, then you have a problem.
So, yes, every bill that has ever been passed -- Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, they've all been subjected to scrutiny to see how they were implemented and the rest. But we haven't had the majority since the bill passed and it came into being in 2014. We haven't had the majority to see this works better than that works than the rest.
But, no, whatever works for the public. What does this mean in your life? That's how the bill should be interpreted. And what this means in your life is that 24 million people will no longer have access. Pre-existing conditions are very jeopardized by what they're doing. There's an age tax -- the -- and a tax for young people if they change premiums or policies. So it goes on and on.
So there's a philosophical disagreement as to whether we should have health care. And one of the things that's holding it up in the Senate is that some of the Republicans want to go even worse. Even worse.
So this is a tactic. You can't say, "Well, we'll put more money in for navigators. That's how we'll defeat this health care bill." You have to show this bill for what it is, the same way we did when President Bush wanted to privatize Social Security. Everybody said, well, why don't you have your own plan for Social Security? We said we do. It's called Social Security. If you want to talk about how we do that, we can sit down and talk about that. But if you want to talk about how we destroy it, then let's talk about what President Obama has done (ph).
CUOMO: We have another question for you. I want you to meet Norman Brown. He was sentenced to life in prison for drug crimes in the '90s. Served 20 years in prison. President Obama commuted his sentence. Norman, thank you for joining us. You want to talk about criminal justice. What do you have? QUESTION: Yes, good evening, Madam Pelosi. I'm concerned with the
latest statement from the Attorney General Sessions on rolling back the reform on mandatory minimum drug sentences. I served 24-1/2 years of a mandatory life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. Now we're for second chance, and I'm able to work with troubled youth and returning citizens coming home from prison. All of this is real in my life because of reform to the laws. What, if anything, you plan to do to prevent the attorney general from rolling back the helpful reform of President Obama's administration?
PELOSI: Well, thank you, Norman, for your question, and congratulations on your freedom. We work together in a bipartisan way to reform the disparity and sentencing that was in -- that existed before.
Just for the rest of you, if it was crack cocaine, you -- if it's crack, you spent a longer period of time, it was cocaine, a shorter period of time, and the disparity was in communities of color. Served longer sentences because of what they were accused of, crack or crack cocaine.
So, Democrats and Republicans worked together in good faith to lower the disparity. We want it even lower. So some of the people who had served the -- once the sentences were lowered, we want to make it retroactive. If you're -- you know, if you've got 10 years and now the person -- the mandatory sentence is six years, and you're in there eight -- you've served ten years, you should be released, and this gentleman was.
So I think that we can -- we will work together in a bipartisan way. What the attorney general did was irresponsible. And, again, while President Obama was president at the time, we had to do the bill. Bobby Scott of Virginia was very much a leader of this effort in reducing the disparity and having some people's sentences reduced because of that. But this is a very important issue in our country, because it's about justice. It's about fairness. And I think we will have bipartisan support to stave off what the attorney general did.
CUOMO: Well, it's one of the reasons that we seem to be at an important point in history, and we'll use that as a pivot to a question I'm going to tease. That's how good it is. I want you to meet Professor Peter Carmichael. He teaches history at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. He has a very interesting question for you that involves you and the president. I say we hold it, we take a break, and when we come back, we'll let Leader Pelosi take a thought about it and then we'll be right back. We'll hear the question and we'll get the answer here on the CNN town hall. Thank you for being with us. Stay with us.
CUOMO: All right. Welcome to this CNN town hall with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. We have Professor Peter Carmichael. He teaches history at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. What is your question?
QUESTION: It's a brief one. What lessons from presidential history would you convey to President Donald Trump?
PELOSI: Interesting, huh.
QUESTION: It's my job to stump.
PELOSI: Well, Professor, before you -- before I respond to that question, I just have to stay one more thing, because so many of the questions were about how we work together, how we defend our country, how we deal with Affordable Care Act.
One little thing I want you to know: Under the Republican health care bill, 7 million veterans will lose their tax credit for access to what else their families need for health care. Seven million veterans. Something I wanted you to know.
Lessons for president -- well, we've had such great presidents. I would just say that where the president probably needs some direction today is in the world scene. And I, and my -- Rita Meyer, we were at President Kennedy's inauguration. And in his speech, the whole world knows that he said to the citizens of America, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
But the very next sentence that most people don't remember is, "To the citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do working together for the freedom of mankind."
And I think that that's something President Trump should take into consideration, that we're talks about freedom, we're talking about peace, we're talking about working together. And that is about security, which is the oath we take to protect and defend.
But in our country, we've had so many great leaders. And the one I quote the most is President Lincoln. President Lincoln said, "Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything. Without it, practically -- almost nothing." Public sentiment is everything. And public sentiment can determine everything that happens here in Washington, D.C.
You're speaking out, Kati, about your situation in your town meeting. That has really changed everything in terms of how we intend to fight that Republican bill and take us to a place where we can work together, either starting from scratch or building on what we have, but being sincere about what we're going to do.
CUOMO: Our thanks to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Thank you for being with us.
And thank all of you. And thank you at home for watching the CNN town hall. We want you to join us tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern for CNN Debate Night, two former presidential debaters, potential 2020 candidates are going to face off in their first televised debate. You've got Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders versus Ohio Governor John Kasich. That's tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm Chris Cuomo. CNN Tonight starts right now. I'll see you in the morning. Thank you very much.