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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi D-CA. Aired 7:00-8:00p ET
Aired October 14, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:12] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Tonight on THE AXE FILES, a special conversation with leader Nancy Pelosi on her relationship with President Trump.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I would be the last person to understand what motivates him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic icon lays out her strategy on the budget battles ahead.
PELOSI: Republicans have the votes. It is up to them to keep government (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And her future, leaving the party she loves.
PELOSI: Do I think I'm in dispensable? Absolutely not. But I do think I have a responsibility which I intent to honor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to THE AXE FILES.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We are here at Trinity Washington University, which I know leader Pelosi has a great place in your heart and your history, but as I welcome you, I want to ask you about some more contemporary issues.
One being this famous meeting that you had with President Trump recently in the oval office, the leader's meeting, you and Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan at which you were discussing the budget. And you went in expecting one kind of meeting and it turned into a different kind of meeting. And it turned it to a different kind of meeting. What exactly happened in that office when you were able to strike a deal with the President?
PELOSI: Well, we knew -- Chuck Schumer and I knew what we would bring into the meeting. So that was no surprise. We said in advance and told them that we wanted three months for the debt ceiling. This is pretty inside baseball.
AXELROD: Yes, right. But a shorter deal on extending the debt and a shorter budget.
PELOSI: But what is different about the meeting was that instead of just being leadership of the Congress House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, Secretary Mnuchin, secretary of treasury was there and he made a pitch about why it was important to raise the debt ceiling, a lecture we didn't need because we have always been there to lift the ceiling.
AXELROD: He want a longer extension.
PELOSI: He want 18-month debt ceiling. And I said if you have the votes, you can have whatever you want. And said to the President, Mr. President, the vote is the currency of the realm. Maybe not on Wall Street and maybe not in New York real estate, but in Congress the vote is the currency of the realm. If you have the votes, you have 18 months. If you don't have the votes, three months.
AXELROD: It struck me reading about that that I had never seen -- I had sat in on a few of these meetings when I was at the White House. You were there. I have never seen a situation where the President kind of shut down his own side and sided with the opposition. And I was thinking to myself, well, what would Pelosi have said if she were sitting in their shoes?
PELOSI: Well, we would have had the votes. We always had the votes. They didn't have the votes. They were not happy with what the President did. In fact, I understand later that what the President was advised before the meeting is one thing you cannot agree to is three months, and he did.
AXELROD: They pretty much need your votes because there is a segment of the Republican caucus that generally opposes raising the debt ceiling, generally opposes spending.
AXELROD: So they need your votes.
PELOSI: Well, they need our votes. And basically what I was saying to the President was Mr. President, this is not considered a good vote for some of their members. They don't like it. So they are asking me just my numbers to take what would be a difficult vote for them and their districts to let their person off the hook. That's not going to happen.
AXELROD: And as you make these arguments, do you get the sense that you are educating the President about this process? Was he not aware of all of that?
PELOSI: I don't know what he was aware of, but it became clear to him that the vote is the currency of the realm. I keep saying the same thing. If he has the votes, that's really important. But you see, the importance of the Senate in all of this is also that they didn't have the votes in the House. That's why we were having this back and forth. But leader Schumer's role is very enhanced because even if they pass something in the house, by the time they get to the Senate they need 60 votes. So they are going to have to cooperate at some point. And we always want to cooperate.
You know, we understand that they had the signature. We had the signature before, even though they had the majority. But still, we had to cooperate. So anytime that we can bring people together, find our common ground, we have a responsibility to do that. If we can't find our common ground, we have to stand our ground, but let's try to find it first.
AXELROD: You know, a lot of Democrats have said that they are not that comfortable with what you just said.
AXELROD: Let's leave aside whether people entirely believe that each side is trying to find common ground. But there's a suggestion that maybe Democrats shouldn't cooperate with this President, that it ledge mates him, that it normal ice him, and there are people who are still angry about the lack of cooperation they felt that President Obama got. What do you say to those people?
[19:05:21] PELOSI: Well, what I say to them is what Mitch McConnell did to President Obama was completely wrong when Republicans took the majority and President Obama was President. They said -- Mitch said the most important thing we can do is make sure he doesn't succeed, that he is a one-term President. That's absolutely wrong. It wasn't what we did when we had the majority with President Bush.
AXELROD: You took pretty hard to beat President Bush.
PELOSI: No. But we -- on where we had disagreement, but where we could find common ground we did. Now, what could be worse than the war in Iraq. The Bush administration took us into the war on Iraq on the basis of a misrepresentation to the American people. That was wrong. But it didn't negate the reality that we had to find common ground. We passed the biggest energy bill in the history of our country, another bill that Barney Frank called the most progressive tax bill, refundable tax credits to poor families as you said related to Pet foreign aid struck. The list goes on and on with President Bush, even though we didn't agree on every subject. And they did not do that with President Bush and we believe we have a responsibility to find common ground.
AXELROD: Now, President Trump seemed pretty pleased with the deal that you cut and reportedly called you guys the next day.
AXELROD: What did he say after you cut this budget deal? I read somewhere that he said that the press was fantastic.
PELOSI: Something to that effect.
AXELROD: On this. Is that what motivates him? I mean, just he seems to watch a lot of TV.
PELOSI: I would be the last person to understand what motivates him.
AXELROD: But you have to think about that, right, because you need to try and motivate him to work with you on some of these issues like the issue of these children of undocumented immigrants, this DACA issue. He invited you over to dinner.
PELOSI: That's another meeting, now.
AXELROD: Another meeting. You and Chuck Schumer, not the Republican leaders.
AXELROD: And you came out of there and you said you had sort of a deal in principle.
PELOSI: An agreement, yes.
AXELROD: To legalize these kids who came here with their parents.
PELOSI: Yes. To support the DREAM act. Specifically to support the DREAM act which protects these dreamers, the DACA.
AXELROD: In exchange for --
PELOSI: Well, that we would then further discuss some issues that related to our security, and that's how we went forward. The next day when the President called, I said, Mr. President, you have to make sure that the DREAMERs know that we are not going after their families or this or that and he did tweet to that effect momentarily after that.
AXELROD: Were you surprised by that?
PELOSI: By surprised by what?
AXELROD: That he tweeted that you asked him to do it and he did?
PELOSI: No. He said he was going to do it. He has not told us yet that he is not doing the DREAM act, so. But it was not -- in other words, we did not agree to any terms in terms of the security except that we would discuss it and find our common ground. What the administration has put forth on this is so totally out of the question.
AXELROD: Since then.
AXELROD: This week, actually, they put out principles that were pretty tough that included the border wall and some other items that are unacceptable to you. And then the President himself tweeted out the problem with agreeing to a policy on immigration is that the Democrats don't want secure borders. They don't care about safety for the USA. The implication here is that the deal you thought you had may not be a deal.
PELOSI: Well, we will see. I mean, I think that you call them the principles they put out. They are very unprincipled list of proposals that they put out. And the President's tweet is irresponsible, of course. We have taken notes to protect and defend the American people, securing our border is our responsibility. And they know that. But it's key, but it's not real.
AXELROD: The clock is ticking on this because the President ended the order that President Obama signed in March. The status of a number of these young people is going to begin to change. I know I was there when Democrats hit Republicans very hard for threatening to shut down the government in 95, in 2013. Would you be willing to shut the government down over this issue?
PELOSI: Well, we don't want to shut down --
AXELROD: I didn't ask you whether you would want to. I said would you be willing to.
PELOSI: No. What I'm saying is the following. If they need our votes for keeping the government -- if they need our votes for what we call the omnibus again inside the omnibus.
[19:10:00] AXELROD: To keep the government running.
PELOSI: Well, if they want our votes for that, they have to share our values. That's the way it's always been and we have always won that fight. Even when they are winning elections, we won that fight last December. We won that fight at the end of April when we had to revisit it again and we will win it again.
AXELROD: Is this why they wanted to extend everything past 18 months, past the next election because they didn't want to give you leverage on issues like this?
PELOSI: No. It's because they want to give themselves leverage on issues like this.
AXELROD: Right. But my point is this. Would you be willing -- I'm picking through all your language here.
PELOSI: That's not our --
AXELROD: I know it's not your interest, it's not your goal.
PELOSI: No. What we are saying is we want to do this long before December. We would like to do it in the month of October before thanksgiving so that this is finished. If it has to go until December, then we will have it as part of a larger discussion, but we would rather get it done in advance. And there's no reason to wait. We know what the possibilities are. We know what the choices are. Let's just get it done so we can remove the fear that people have. And, again, address what the American people believe about this.
AXELROD: You are speaking in the demure language of Washington, but the question is would you take that off the table?
PELOSI: Would we take what off the table?
AXELROD: The shutdown of the government. Would you take that off the table as a point of discussion if this doesn't get done? PELOSI: Let me just make it clear since you are saying we are
speaking. The Republicans have the votes. They have the majority in the House. They have the majority in the Senate. And they have the signature of the President of the United States. It's up to them to keep government open.
AXELROD: OK. I also interpret that through the prism of Washington and I think that's a pretty direct --
PELOSI: Well, I think elections have ramifications.
AXELROD: Direct message.
Let me ask you a question. You say they have got the votes. They have got the White House. They have got the Senate and the House. Why hasn't more gotten done? You had the House and the Senate and a President. Now, larger majorities in both houses and a more popular President, but you got the affordable care act done, the Dodd-Frank financial reform done, the recovery act done. Big landmark pieces of legislation. This was when you were speaker of the House. What are they not doing that they should be doing?
PELOSI: Well, in our caucus we work from a consensus. We talk about what our goal is and what our possibilities are and then we are unified. And unity is not only a great message, it is a way to get things done. And that's how we built what we were doing on the recovery act, what we did on health care and the rest. It wasn't about saying, as the President does, this is what I want, vote on it, yes or no. We built it from our caucus and our consensus and then we go forward in a unified way and have the votes.
Now, one of the things I would say, because I think it's instructive about one comparison or another. When we did the affordable care act, this was major. We are talking Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the affordable care act. Pillars of economic and health security for our nation. Twenty million people getting health care access, but not only that, 125 or 30 million people getting improved benefits, essential benefits. No pre-existing --
AXELROD: That wasn't very popular, though. I mean, I was there.
PELOSI: I understand that because it wasn't messaged when you were there.
AXELROD: A lot of heads are turning in Washington this week about the exchange between Senator Bob Corker, who is a Republican, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and the President in which Corker described the White House as an adult day-care center and said that he was concerned that the President might be leading us to World War III with his intemperance.
PELOSI: A dare care center where the director was off that day.
AXELROD: Yes. Yes. You followed the discussion, I see.
PELOSI: Well, that was quite interesting that a senior Republican leader in the Senate would say that about --
AXELROD: Do you share that concern?
PELOSI: About what?
AXELROD: About the President's temperament and what the implications are in terms of the world? World War III, that's a --
PELOSI: That's a big charge. There could be initiation of serious military action, which would be most unfortunate. I would say this. I'm not sure that the President has understood that a President's words weigh a ton. You can't say things casually and then say, well, I was just putting way out there now and don't push me back. Those words weigh a ton. And nothing raises eyebrows, it raises serious concerns among our allies as to how far the President would be willing to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next on THE AXE FILES.
PELOSI: Politics is not exactly a day at the beach. You get in the arena. You take a punch and you are going to have to be able to throw one too.
[19:19:15] AXELROD: Let me take you back. You know, a lot of people say, well, I grew up in politics, but in your case you literally grew up in politics.
AXELROD: Your father. Tom D'Alessandro, was a legend in Baltimore, started off as an insurance salesman and a ballroom dancer.
PELOSI: Well, he ran -- when he ran for Congress -- when he ran for office the first time at 21 years old, he was running -- he voted for himself. So he has been -- he was in politics his whole life. Yes, a good dancer. He was a wonderful dancer.
AXELROD: Handy, talented politics. Tell me what it was like in your household. You were the youngest of five, the only girl.
AXELROD: But politics was all around you. Everybody was an enlistee.
PELOSI: Well, the thing is you have to understand that was one part of our lives. It was a very important part of our lives. But we were -- in our home, we were devoutly catholic, fiercely patriotic about America, deeply proud of our Italian-American heritage and strongly democratic. We saw a relationship among all of those things. And, again, some of our good friends were Republicans. So while we had disagreements on policy, it wasn't any politics of personal destruction, as you see now. [19:20:34] AXELROD: I come from Chicago, so I appreciate how politics
at the local level works. What did you learn in those elections? And you were involved in many of them a child, stuffing envelopes, answering the phone when constituents called, right?
PELOSI: Well, that would only be -- I did answer the phone if I thought I was getting a call myself. Here is the thing. Underlying it all was the idea that public service is a noble calling. That we all have a responsibility to each other.
I grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood, little Italy in Baltimore, Maryland, a sense of community was there. So if people needed help, they were like family to all of us. And some were newcomers to our country. That's why I feel so strongly about newcomers to our country. And so if they were hungry or if they needed a job or they need a place in the projects or they needed help with anything, you tried to direct them to where that would be.
AXELROD: At the end of the day, there also was a necessity to win elections.
PELOSI: Yes. But those people all voted Democratic. I mean, maybe two people didn't in the whole 500 and some that lived in that neighborhood.
AXELROD: Were there disciplines you learned then?
AXELROD: That you carried forward.
PELOSI: I didn't know. I mean, I had no interest in running for public office. Absolutely positively none. And my life at that time, when I was born, my father was in Congress. When I was in first grade he became mayor of Baltimore. When I was a freshman --
AXELROD: You held the bible when he got sworn in, yes.
PELOSI: And then when I was at Trinity College, he was still the mayor of Baltimore. So that was the life we led. And every election was exciting. You know, our beautiful home had in the front table there pamphlets, buttons, placards, we called them, bumper stickers. Whatever it was going to be. Whether it was the state races, the local races, the Presidential, whatever it was. It was always to be involved. It was pretty exciting.
AXELROD: I once asked you what you learned and you said I learned how to count.
PELOSI: Count, yes. That was it. I had to count, you know. That I remember just not wanting to learn, you know, just observing.
AXELROD: How you got the votes you need.
PELOSI: How you get the votes. You just have to make sure that you have the votes and your timing relates to when you have the votes. And that was a big important message. And also, treat everyone as your friend but know who your friends are so that you are not counting wrong.
AXELROD: Because people can nod. They can say I understand.
PELOSI: I bet you would be great.
AXELROD: But that doesn't --
PELOSI: That's a definite no.
AXELROD: Exactly. So you learn how to read that. That's probably still useful today.
PELOSI: Yes, it is.
AXELROD: Your mother was active.
AXELROD: But really as a kind of organizer behind the scenes.
PELOSI: Yes. Yes.
AXELROD: Of everything. In the first part of your adult life that's sort of the role you played in politics. You went out to California. You were the person who helped raise the money. You were the person who helped organize the party and so on. Was that the role that women were generally expected to play in politics?
PELOSI: Well, we always -- I remember as a little girl and growing up there that we always were hoping that more women would be in elected office. My mother had seven children, six boys, one girl. One passed away young, but she was a mom first and foremost. And also in terms of the sense of community beyond even our Italian-American neighborhood, she respected the role that other people played, shared our values about helping people. And even through our church, she was a very devout catholic.
AXELROD: But she wouldn't have imagined herself running for --
PELOSI: Oh, no.
AXELROD: And she probably wouldn't have manned you running for public office.
PELOSI: No, because I had no interest.
AXELROD: But your brothers --
PELOSI: She was an inventor. She was a poet. She was an astute business American, except that my father didn't dash you know, he kind of wanted to control the whole thing so that was that, you know. He didn't want her being entrepreneurial. This is an era. It was an era. And I think if she lived now, God knows what she could do. She would be President of the United States or something. But she would be a success at whatever it was. But she was content in her -- I mean, her family first and foremost. My father's suggestion, my brother's success.
[19:25:09] AXELROD: Your brother became mayor of Baltimore as well. I read somewhere when you ran for Congress the first time in 1987 that your father sent your brother out just to look around and make sure that you were doing it right.
AXELROD: Is that a true story?
PELOSI: Yes. What happened was my brother was coming himself anyway, but yes, dad, I'm going. And they wanted to make sure I had the grassroots operation, because if you have a grassroots, you are just sending a conversation. And you are not having an effective political action. So they came out and we had the butcher paper. I had the farm workers that the people who organized it, the farm workers were organizing my grassroots and I'm very close to them. Anyway, they put all the butcher paper up there and they calculate in the worst case scenario that I needed 5,000 more Pelosi identified voters or else I would lose by 1,500 votes.
AXELROD: This is in a primary.
PELOSI: This is in a primary. That I would lose by 1,500 votes. I needed 5,000 more. We got the 5,000. It was easy because I had many supporters, but I had to make sure they were voted, 5,000 votes.
AXELROD: This goes back to being able to count.
PELOSI: And I won by 3,500.
AXELROD: No kidding.
PELOSI: But 1,500, lose, 3,500 win. So then he said when he called my father, he said I don't know if she is going to win, dad, but I know she is making the effort, so.
AXELROD: Yes. Someone told me he said that she had a better organization than we ever had.
AXELROD: I don't know if he said that, but I do remember him telling the story when my father first ran for mayor. Now, you understand he is Italian-American, one of the earliest Italian Americans in Congress, so proud of that and then he was running for mayor. Now, we have never had a catholic mayor in Baltimore. So the frogged the Irish, I say this, I have Irish grandchildren. I am an Irish grandparent of an Irish grandchildren. Leap frogs over the Irish and runs for mayor, Italian-American. Imagine this in the 40s and wins. The late 40s and wins.
But the day of the election, my brother and he went to the roof of our house and little Italy and they looked to see if the people were going to the headquarters to pick up the packets. And they could see like 5:00 in the morning the lights in the dark, the lights converging and converging and converging. And they said to Tommy, my father said to my brother, Tommy, well, we have a shot.
AXELROD: Your mother, you said, could have been anything, could have been President of the United States.
AXELROD: You are still the most prominent, powerful woman in American political history.
PELOSI: Sad to say I was sure Hillary Clinton would take that place.
AXELROD: But she didn't. We will talk about that in a second. But what would it have meant to her to -- would she have been happy about that? Would she have been bewildered by it? Because it really does mark how much the country has changed?
PELOSI: My mother loved when women succeeded, forgetting that I was her daughter. And when President Clinton was President and I was in Congress at the time, anytime he would appoint a woman, whether it was mad ill in Albright, she would write me a note, be sure to tell them how happy we are, how happy we are, because she just thought that was the great under-utilized resource in our country.
AXELROD: But she wanted you to be a nun.
PELOSI: She wanted me to be a nun because, you know, politics is not exactly a day at the beach. You have to -- you know, you get in the arena. You take a punch and you are going to have to be able to throw one too. So it's tough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up next.
PELOSI: I think that the present occupant of the White House shows that experience counts for something because he has none and he has not accomplished anything.
[19:33:00] AXELROD: Let's talk -- you mentioned Hillary Clinton. Let's talk about the Democratic Party. Obviously that was an unexpected result in 2016, and there were a lot of factors. She has talked about them, you know, the Comey investigation and the Russians and so on. But it seems to me just looking at it as a practitioner that there were some real failings of the campaign and the party itself. And one of them was to have an overarching economic message that spoke to the entire country. It felt like the party was saying we have got women, we have got minorities. We have got young people, and so we don't really need you guys. And they heard that message and didn't vote for Democrats.
PELOSI: If I say just say this. We have a President in the White House for eight years who did a great deal for working families in our country.
AXELROD: I'm familiar with him.
PELOSI: So you are saying the party. So when you say the party --
AXELROD: I'm talking about the campaign.
PELOSI: Well, the campaign, then, we are talking about the campaign. And the Presidential campaign is it. That is the main event of politics. The rest of us were the lounge act.
AXELROD: You can't really drive a message without the President --
PELOSI: The Presidential is it.
PELOSI: And every four years that's the main event.
PELOSI: And that's about your vision.
PELOSI: Your judgment and knowledge about how this affects people. Your plan to get something done and how you connect with people. And I think that all of our Presidents and candidates as well have had great vision, knowledge, judgment and plans for success. They didn't all connect. President Obama connected. He became President.
Hillary Clinton, I think, would have connected, except for some of the obstacles you have said. But one thing I do kind of put up a wall and say, don't put it on the House and Senate Democrats that we didn't win the Presidential, because the last time we had the chance to be the voice was in 2005 and 2006, and Harry Reid and I went out there and said we are going to win the Congress. People said be ready for a permanent Republican majority. President Bush in January of 2005 was at 58 percent in the polls. We had to take his numbers down because he wanted to privatize Social Security. We had to make sure that the public was aware of that. Corruption, (INAUDIBLE) and incompetent that weighed in on Katrina and the rest by September.
[19:35:42] AXELROD: In San Francisco you were preaching the gospel of cooperation and mutual support.
PELOSI: I understand that. But you can't negotiate unless you have some strength. So you have to show your strength. It doesn't mean you cooperate by conceding. It means you cooperate by showing your strength. And so we won that election, and that was the last time that the congressional Democrats led the way --
AXELROD: No, I understand. I'm not indicting the congressional Democrats.
PELOSI: No. But you were saying the party. You were saying the party.
AXELROD: Well, let me just say I come from the industrial Midwest. A lot of people in rural areas -- I have a home in a rural area. They had Trump signs in their lawn.
AXELROD: Not all of them, you know, fit the caricature of the sort toothless, ignorant, racist --
PELOSI: Well, I don't think that's been --
AXELROD: I understand. I understand. But there was a sense of alienation that the economy was raved as the President said and there was a real jaundice not just among them, about Washington itself.
PELOSI: Yes. Justifiable, because people said it was gridlock. It wasn't gridlock. It was obstruction on the part of the Republicans. But let's look to the future, because that's then -- and as we look to the future, first of all, we have to reject any caricatures of who voted for Trump. I think that that was wrong.
AXELROD: It was.
PELOSI: Well, when people would say un-educated. No, they are educated. They are educated in raising their families, fighting our wars, building our country and the rest. So I don't subscribe to that. But I do agree that the message did not come across, and that's what we have to correct.
AXELROD: You have been here 30 years.
AXELROD: And you have been a leader for 15.
AXELROD: And you are sort of - you are an icon of official Washington, because you have just been here awhile. Some of your younger members, Linda Sanchez from your state in California, said in the last week that they thought the torch should be passed to new leaders. Is there a point when you think about the negative ads that are run, you have been lucky enough to be --?
PELOSI: I know this is one of your points that you like to make, but let me respond to it. Self-promotion is a terrible thing, but somebody has to do it, and so I will --
AXELROD: You have been given the opportunity.
PELOSI: Yes, I know that. I know and I'm glad you are because sometimes you make the point when I'm not there. But the point is this, I would have walked away if Hillary Clinton would have won or healthcare act would be intact. I thought the Senate would win. Things would be good. There would be a woman at the table, at the head of the table. She didn't. Affordable care act I feel very proprietary about.
PELOSI: And know it better than probably anybody. Not the staff, my staff.
AXELROD: I said it would not have passed without you.
PELOSI: So that was my mission to stay for that. I have the full confidence of overwhelming majority of my members in my caucus. Are there people who are ambitious and want to vie for who comes next? That's up to the caucus, whoever comes next. But I feel very proud to say, yes, there's a woman at the table and I'm fighting for the affordable care act, among other things.
I think that the present occupant of the White House shows that experience counts for something, because he has none, and he has not accomplished anything. While we have not won some of these special elections, we have won every legislative fight, and that's where I am in the fray.
So I feel very proud of myself. And I feel very proud of the support that I have for members. And it's not going to be up to a few people who have ambition to determine how long I stay. That's up to the majority of my caucus, not to a few. And, frankly, I owe them a debt of gratitude because every time they come after me, the support I have from our members and from our supporters outside just amplifies.
AXELROD: You don't sound that grateful, actually, even though you owe them a debt of gratitude.
PELOSI: Yes, I do. Thanks. But I don't think they are doing themselves any good because there are other people that -- their goal is to leap frog over those over people and I'm not sure that that's going to work. But that's neither here nor there. It's a waste of my time to even talk about it.
What is important is how we have a better deal. We have it put together by three of our members. David Cicilline, Hakim Jeffries (ph) and Cherri Bustos (ph), elected by the members to develop our message. We are working with the Senate a better deal, better jobs, better wages, better future. How you can make sure that our families have the tools to take them into the jobs of the 21st century.
[19:40:39] AXELROD: We were chatting about how long ago it seems that Barak Obama got elected President. We both remember that night in Grant Park, the night of the inauguration. There was a sense that America crossed a threshold in terms of race relations. In this past week we have seen a continuation of this debate about the pledge and the flag and NFL players and so on. And that seems like a subset a larger fissure that has widened over the course of the last couple of years and with the election of this President. Are we moving backward?
PELOSI: We can't be. We cannot be moving backward.
AXELROD: I get this question all the time. How does the same country elect Barak Obama and Donald Trump?
PELOSI: The election of Barak Obama as President of the United States was a source of great pride to our country, to our founders, to our constitution.
AXELROD: But not everyone.
PELOSI: But those who were opposed to that and part of that was what Mitch McConnell said in the Congress our goal was to make sure he is a one-term President. That was a terrible thing. It was fraught with a lot of meaning. Now some of those people were galvanized to support Donald Trump. Not only. He had other supporters as well. But we have taken those protect and defend the constitution of the United States. These football players are expressing their beliefs, and that's their right under the constitution of the United States, which we pledge to support.
AXELROD: How do we reconnect? We seem -- you have rural districts and urban districts and the parties seem to be separating out and people seem to be sorting themselves into sigh lows. That seemed very apparent in the last election. How do you get that back?
PELOSI: Well, we have to remember that America is a great country. And God is always with us. So we have a lot on the asset side of the ledger. We have also a responsibility as we weigh equities in terms of decisions we have to make to try to bring people together, to try to bring people together. That doesn't necessarily always mean in the Congress. It just means also in the country. And I -- you know, I just believe in the American people.
Abraham Lincoln said public sentiment is everything. With it you can accomplish you can almost anything. Without it nothing. And so we have to with clarity communicate with the American people about what the choices are. And by and large they make the right decision in terms of they support, as I say, our DREAMERs. They support gun safety in our country. They support equality for women in terms of equal pay for equal work. They support a lot of things. Minimum wage, raising minimum wage.
They don't always vote upon that. It's not dispositive of whom they vote for because they vote for a person. But as long as the people they vote for understand what they care about, whether it's a Democrat or Republican, the people are very wise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ahead, on THE AXE FILES.
PELOSI: This is the peoples' House.
For a woman to be speaker of the House, I always thought it would be easier for a woman to be President because the Congress is such a male dominated or at least it had been. Once you get the gavel, it's a different story.
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[19:48:31] AXELROD: So this is the extraordinary chapel at Trinity. You spent a lot of time here as a young woman.
PELOSI: A girl, yes.
AXELROD: And you said earlier that faith was one of the corner stones of your family, of your upbringing.
AXELROD: What does it mean to you and how did that help shape your choices?
PELOSI: It's about the gospel of Matthew. When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was homeless, you sheltered me and the list goes on. And that's who we were. And I think that I like the separation of church and state, but I do think that that's part of our agendas a country to meet the needs of the American people.
AXELROD: I don't want to mix the profane with the sacred, but right now the affordable care act has challenges legislatively, but it's also challenged because the administration is not supportive of it, and so some of the efforts that are needed to make it work, subsidies, promotion to get people to sign up for it. Are you worried about the affordable care act sort of being strangled --?
PELOSI: Sabotaged is the word we used. They are sabotaging it by placing doubt as to whether there will be the cost sharing funds. So they are sabotaging it by not doing outreach to increase the pool. The bigger the pool, the healthier the pool, the lower the cost. They are sabotaging it by using the money that is supposed to do the outreach to do the opposite, to do the opposite. We never did that.
[19:50:08] AXELROD: But that in a sense creating the reality they hope to create, which is of a failing --
PELOSI: Yes, just like a (INAUDIBLE) processing. And so, I was (INAUDIBLE) without mixing politics and church win the next election. But we also have to take it to American people.
And let me just say, God bless the American people, they are so great. And they are the ones -- the people speaking out, telling their stories are the once who defeated the Republican efforts to overturn the affordable care act. We did our inside maneuvering in counting our voter, but without the outside mobilization to get those votes, we would not have been successful. So God bless the storytellers.
AXELROD: When you are here, these pews were filled with girls from generally very refined backgrounds and from one place, which was sort of America, white America, so on. It's much different now, isn't it?
PELOSI: When I came here to see the young women, the students, it's nice that you are speaker, but we are going to be President of the United States. Each one of them would say I'm going to be President of the United States. Beautiful inner city, African-American, young women with all the confidence and self-esteem. Thank you to the sisters of (INAUDIBLE).
AXELROD: So tell me about this courtyard. We are right down north capitol from where you work today.
PELOSI: Well, here is the thing. When I was nominated by my caucus to be speaker, when I came up to accept the honor from Rahm, he said your parents would be so proud. And I said, no, because he was our chairman at the time. I said no, Rahm, my parents, they didn't raise me to be speaker. They raised me to be holy. And that's what they would have been proud of. This is nice, but no, I would have never had any thought of it. Although we all campaigned for John F. Kennedy when he ran for President.
AXELROD: You met him through your father.
PELOSI: I had met him before he was President, in the White House and after, yes, on a number of occasions.
AXELROD: What do you want to be remembered for? Your public career, how do you want people to think of you?
PELOSI: Well, the legacy of being the first speaker is a wonderful thing. Don't get me wrong. I think that that is probably what I will be remembered for. But I'm also the first Italian-American speaker of the House and I take great pride in that as well. But it is -- for a woman to be speaker of the House, I think -- I always thought it would be easier for a woman to be President because the Congress is such a male dominated -- or at least it had been. Once you get the gavel it's a different story.
PELOSI: So I guess my legacy would be that I got -- I was speaker of the House and used that for the children, including the good health.
AXELROD: Let me ask you about the faith. I asked you about the faith -- about your faith in the chapel. How does your faith sustain you during difficult moments in your political life?
PELOSI: Well, faith is -- you either have it or you don't. It's a gift. And so one of the things you have to remember is some people don't have the gift. And they may not respect it in you. But it's really important because it gives you respect for other people, that everybody is a child of God. That we are all in the image and likeness of God, that there's a spark of divinity in every person. So whether you disagree or not with someone, you believe in their goodness.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) [19:58:27] AXELROD: You said earlier that had Hillary Clinton won, you would have walked away.
AXELROD: How will you know when that time comes? I know you've got a (INAUDIBLE) of grandchildren who you like to be with and you have got other, but when will you know when this is it?
PELOSI: Well, it's about a mission. It's not about a shift. So when people ask me the three most important issues facing the Congress, I always say the same thing. Our children, our children, our children. Their health, their education. The economic security of their families. The pension security of their grandparents and world peace in which they can thrive a safe environment in which they can breathe. And that's the fight. You know, I have fabulous members in my caucus. I try to give them as much opportunity as possible so they have the standing on issues to make those fights.
AXELROD: Just reading between the lines that given the threats to some of these priorities that you care about, that you are not likely to leave before the next Presidential election.
PELOSI: How many men have you asked that question to?
AXELROD: I haven't had -- I would love to have senator McConnell sitting in that chair, speaker Ryan.
PELOSI: You know, that's really a girl question.
AXELROD: Do you think it is?
PELOSI: Yes, I think it is. Of course I think it is. And I think it was part of Hillary Clinton's election as well. But I do know why I'm there, what my purpose is, what a difference I can make, and do I think I'm indispensable? Absolutely not. But I do think I have a responsibility, which I intend to honor.
AXELROD: Honor Pelosi, thank you so much.
PELOSI: You are welcome.
AXELROD: it is great to be with you.
PELOSI: Nice to see you. Thank you.