Pelosi to Dem Candidates: "Do Whatever You Have To Do, Just Win"


On MSNBC, Nancy Pelosi encourages Democrats to do "whatever they have to do" to win and adds that she is the "best person for the job" of Speaker after they take back the majority.

JONTHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC: Why not, if the Democrats take back the House, give up the gavel, and give it to a new generation of leaders?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I know NBC has been on a jag, this is one of their priorities, to undermine my prospects as Speaker, but putting that aside. I have not asked one person for a vote. I have not asked one candidate or incumbent for a vote. I, better than anybody, know how important it is for us to win this election because I see up close and personal what the Republicans and this president are doing.

I do not think we should let our opponents, the Republicans, pick our leaders. The Republicans are spending millions, tens of millions of dollars, against me. Because they're afraid of me because I outraise them in the political arena, I outsmart them at the negotiating table, and because I'm a woman who is going to be a seat at that table.

That is very important to me. If Hillary Clinton had won and had sat at the head of that table it would be different, but I am not yielding that. None of us is indispensable, but I think I am the best person for the job.

And I won't let the Republican ads, which are just flooding these districts, I say to candidates: Do whatever you have to do, just win, baby.

More from Pelosi's interview on MSNBC:

Full transcript:

CAPEHART: Joining me now, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi. Leader Pelosi, thank you very much for being here.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CA: My pleasure, good morning.

CAPEHART: Good morning, before we get into the – the politics and the midterms and – and everything, on this one year of what happened in Charlottesville, what are – what are your reflections one year out?

PELOSI: It’s so terribly sad the year has gone by quickly, but it has not diminished the sorry this is for our country. We’ve gone (ph) backward. And the president with all of his statements is the master of the dog whistle.

Everything that he has done, whether it’s taking babies out of the arms of their – of their moms, whether it’s issues that relate to healthcare in our country, access to services and the rest is – is – it’s his whole thing is make America white again.

That’s his thing. And – and he can say a nice thing today in a tweet, but the fact is his actions speak louder than his words. And everyday in the Congress we have to fight those initiatives.

I’m very proud of our House Democrats on different committees who fight those initiatives again and again.

CAPEHART: And we’ll talk – we’ll talk about that in a minute. But I’m going to ask you the same question that I asked my previous panel in terms of we focused a lot of President Trump and what – and – and his culpability in sort of worsening race relations.

But you’ve been on a – on Capital Hill for a long time. You’ve worked with Speaker Ryan, you – you know Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Why do you think they haven’t spoken up as leaders in the United States against something as pernicious as white supremacy and racism?

PELOSI: Remind – let me remind you that when the Republicans took power when President Obama was president of the United States, what Mitch McConnell said is the most important thing we can do is to make sure he does not succeed.

If that wasn’t a racist statement, that is unthinkable. We worked with President Bush although we had our differences. You don’t make a statement to make sure that president doesn’t succeed.

Why did he say that? Why did he say that? So I think that when you ask that question, you’re attributing a better – higher set of values to the speaker and to Leader McConnell than is worthy of their actions.

CAPEHEART: Well, let's get into the midterm elections. The Democrats are hoping to reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives, which they lost in the 2010 midterm elections. There are a lot of people out there, particularly Democrats, who are saying the Democrats have no message. The Democrats -- they don't know what they're for. They know they're against President Trump, but they don't know what they're for? Is that a true statement? If it's not, what are Democrats for?

PELOSI: Democrats are for the people.

CAPEHEART: What does that mean?

PELOSI: Democrats are for the people. It means we are for the people having lower health care costs, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, Democrats are for bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America, creating good-paying jobs. Democrats are for making government work by reducing the role of big dark money in politics. All of these are connected, because the culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence that is prevalent in this congress, in this administration impedes the ability for us to raise the minimum wage, to clean the air, to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

So we have unified in our message. This came from the members. And it is being road tested now in August as we go forward.

I'm very proud of David Cicilline, Cheri Bustos and Hakeem Jeffreys who honchoed all of this.

And it's not that we don't know what we stand for, it's how do we convey the message? And every day we have a fight.

What we have to do is brag about it more. I was with Congresswoman Nita Lowey, our top Democrat on the appropriations committee yesterday, and we were talking about how 40 times in the last appropriations bill the Democrats had to fight back some nasty stuff the Republicans had in there that undermined our role to meet the needs of the American people, whether it's the air children our breathed, the education that they are entitled to, the opportunities for their families.

So what we have to do -- and campaigns give us that opportunity -- is to give clarity to the different between Democrats and Republicans and it's vast. You only need look at the budget. The budget is the statement of our values. What's important to a nation should be reflected in how we allocate our resources.

What do Republicans do? They have a scam, a tax scam, that gives -- takes us $2 trillion in debt, stealing from our children's future, putting us deeply in debt and then the president comes out with a budget that says we'll take $2 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid.

So just look, we have to make sure people see that distinction and the opportunity is vast. People are responding. We intend to win this election.

CAPEHEART: You used a phrase "culture of corruption" and I had a bit of a deja vu moment...

PELOSI: That's right.

CAPEHEART: Because culture of corruption was the mantra in the 2006 midterm campaign when the Democrats retook the House of Representatives.

Compare the culture of corruption that Democrats were campaigning against in 2006 versus the culture of corruption that Democrats are campaigning against in 2018.

PELOSI: Well, again then and now that was part of our message. At the time, we were also fighting President Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security, so that was our main theme. And then the culture of corruption because people were being indicted and subpoenaed and the rest, and then along came Katrina where you had cronyism, somebody's college roommate, heading up FEMA, incompetence, and a man-made disaster -- a natural disaster became exacerbated as a man-made disaster. And the president's numbers went down. We won the election.

In this case, it's a very similar situation, except it's so much more into the executive branch. President Trump's cabinet and the rest. And every day that culture of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence stands in the way of stopping the pollution of air, in fact, promoting it. The water our kids drink, safety of the food they eat, stopping the increase in prescription drug prices. The list goes on.

So there's a real clarity now in the obstacle that their culture of corruption is doing to impede better policy.

CAPTEHEART: Right, well let's talk about a specific example of corruption. Congressman Chris Collins here in New York, Republican, who was arrested, talk about corruption, for insider trading, among other things. There you see on the screen he's worth -- his estimated net worth $66 million.

What does it say to you that there's a member of Congress, Republican, who just sort with impunity flouting the laws of this country?

PELOSI: Well, actually, it hits right to the point. We have been fighting to have the secretary negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. The committee of jurisdiction for that is the Energy and Commerce Committee where Congressman Collins has served.

He sits on the board of a company that is in that business. It's all wrong. It's all wrong. Members of Congress should certainly not be sitting on boards of companies, especially those whose impact -- are impacted by policies...

CAPEHART: Policy decisions.

PELOSI: … in the government. So this is appalling but it just shows the brazenness of it all. You have to give the Republicans points for brazenness. Look at the cabinet, look at Pruitt. Look at what he did. Every day he was polluting the air, just making -- stealing from our children's good health to protect the vested interest, the dark special interest money.

And look at Collins, what he said -- what he said, he said during the tax debate he said, the donors are calling and saying unless you pass this, don't call me again.

So when we talk about lowering costs, increasing pay, and making government work, there's a direct relationship between reducing the role of that dark money in politics and improving the policy for the American

And I'll just add this, Martin Luther King said, the ballot, legislation, your life. His friend who marched with him, Walter Reuther, said, the lunchbox and the ballot box cannot be connected. What you gain at the negotiating table you can lose in the legislature depending on what happens at the ballot.

So there is a direct connection in all of this. It is winning votes across the country. We fully expect to win, but it will be very close races.

CAPEHART: Right. Well, now that I've got you fired up, can you stay -- we have to take a break, but
can you stay for one more block?

PELOSI: I can stay.

CAPEHART: OK, good. Leader Pelosi...

PELOSI: I can stay if you can stay.

CAPEHART: I can stay. Leader Pelosi is staying with us. We'll have more after a break.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They’re talking about this blue wave. I don’t think so. I don’t’ think so. Maxine Waters is leading the charge. Maxine. She’s a real beauty. Maxine. A seriously low-I.Q. person. Seriously. Maxine Waters. She’s leading the charge --


CAPEHART: Back with me on set, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi. Leader Pelosi, what’s your reaction to Donald Trump’s attacks on your colleague.

PELOSI: He’s afraid of Maxine. In fact, he’s afraid of me. He’s afraid of the women who are going to be coming into Congress. He -- he talks about there’s no place for racism and then he speaks that way. It’s really disgraceful. It’s disrespectful to Maxine, of course, to women, to minorities. But he’s -- I’m always guided by our founders. E pluribus unum. From many, one. They couldn’t imagine how many we would be or how different we would be, but they knew we had to be one.

We had to try to unite. He’s such a divider. And so he likes to make some statement in his tweet about no place for racism and engages in it constantly. It’s shameful.

CAPEHART: Before we went to a break I asked you about Congressman Chris Collins of New York, the Republican who -- who was arrested. Yesterday he announced he’s suspending his campaign, is going to try to get his name taken off the ballot. Cook Political Report put it as a likely Republican seat but who knows now that -- now that it’s -- he’s suspended his campaign. I think we just showed -- yes, that was a statement. I thought it was a -- a thought (ph).

But he says Democrats are laser-focused on taking back the House, electing Nancy Pelosi Speaker and then launching impeachment proceedings against President Trump. And then he goes on to talk about how he’s suspending his campaign. If the Democrats do take back the House, how likely -- are you going to impeach the president?

PELOSI: When Democrats take the House, we will seek the truth. We will have the power of subpoena. We want to get to the bottom of how the Russians undermined our elections. We want to protect the integrity of our electoral system. We have to know the truth. And Republicans refuse to seek the truth, by committee assignment, by establishing an outside independent commission. And the president, of course, kowtows to -- to Putin rather than respecting the consensus of his own intelligence.

So we will seek the truth. And where the truth takes us, well then we’ll see.

CAPEHART: So you’ll seek the truth. Does that -- will that require you to wait until Special Counsel Bob Mueller is done with his investigation, or if the Democrats take back the House, you will proceed accordingly?

PELOSI: Well I think they’re two different things. What is happening -- and (ph) we can’t possibly know what’s happening in that investigation and that will be own path. But in terms of our ability as the majority in the House, then, to investigate the destruction of our own elections, that’s a responsibility we have. We have a responsibility for oversight of the executive branch, not to protect the president, as Mr. Nunes says.

Oh, we’re there to protect the president. No, we’re there as the first branch of government, Article I, the legislative branch, with our own responsibilities. So I think that you will see a seeking of truth, fact, evidence, data, truth. And then we can make our decisions as we go forward.

CAPEHART: Now I’ve said it a couple of times, if Democrats take back the majority, you said when Democrats take back the majority. If the Democrats do take back the majority, they’re – they will be in need of a speaker.

And you are the – you are the – the focal point of that discussion because you were speaker of the House when Democrats took back control in – officially in 2007. You were the first woman speaker of the House.

Now though NBC News has a story about all the Democrats who are running – who are running for election this year. They interviewed, you can see it there, Democrats opposing Pelosi.

And these are the 51 people who were surveyed who are candidates. Forty-two of them are not Democratic nominees, nine of them are incumbents who have said that they will not support you in the run for speaker.

PELOSI: Well let me just say first –

CAPEHART: Well one, why not, if the Democrats take back the House, give up the gavel?

PELOSI: Well first of all, let me just say this, and I know NBC has been on a jag of this is one of their priorities to undermine my prospect as speaker. But putting that aside, the – I have not asked one person for a vote.

I haven’t asked a candidate or an incumbent for a vote. What’s important, and I know better than anybody how important it is for us to win this election because I see up close and personal what the Republicans and this president are doing.

I do not think our opponents should select the leaders of our party. The Republicans are spending millions – tens of millions of dollars against me because they’re afraid of me, because I outrage (ph) in the political arena, because I outsmart them at the negotiating table and because I’m a woman who’s going to be a seat at that table.

And that, for me, is very important. If Hillary Clinton had won and had sat at the head of that table, it’d be different. But I’m not yielding – I’m not yielding that. Now I do believe that none of us is indispensible, but I think I’m the best person for the job and I won’t let the Republican ads, which are just flooding these districts.

And I say to the candidates do whatever you have to do, just win, baby. I know one in five children in America lives in poverty. We must win this. Win the caucus decides, it will decide who’s name they will send to the floor of (ph) then – only then, after the election, will I ask people for their support.

CAPEHART: I want to zero in on something you said in that answer in that you said that it’s part of the reason is because you’re a woman. And in doing my research, your favorable rating among Democrats actually surprised me given – given the scuttlebutt. It’s 55 percent favorable rating among – among Democrats in the latest Gallup poll.

Your counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, his favorable rating is 48 percent among – among Republicans. Neither of you nationally is terribly popular, but you’re more popular than he is.

You are about the – about the same age. Do you think that the reason why there’s so much focus on you in opposition to you is based on – is based on your gender?

PELOSI: But first of all, let me say there’s a better poll than that.

CAPEHART: Of course you have a better poll.

PELOSI: It’s three to one Democrats favor within the party. So my numbers are better than any of the other leaders. But that point you – you reference it, but it’s better than that. But let me just say this, I have made some very powerful enemies.

Challenging the fossil fuel industry in terms of clean air, clean water, food safety and the rest, Wall Street with Dodd-Frank reform, healthcare, bringing in all of the anti-government idea logs.

Name any subject, whether it’s environment, whether it’s woman’s right to choose, whether it’s gun safety, whether it’s immigration fairness and the rest. There’s big – oh, labor right, so I (ph) named that.

There’s big money that comes in against the role of government, because many of them are anti-government, and specifically to these issues. So there’s big money out there against me.

The more they make this point, though, the more money I raise. If you see their letters, their fundraising letters, they said we have to stop her because she’s just a – a force (inaudible) is amassing the resources to win this election.

And that is what I will continue to do and they only help me when they go after me. But you know what? I’m the least important part of all of this. What’s important is what matters in people’s lives.

And I tell the – the candidates, don’t even mention Donald Trump. It’s not about him, he’s self-evident. It’s about your relationship to the constituents. Their financial security, which is related to healthcare, cost of prescription drugs, cost of premiums, Medicare, Medicaid, pre-existing condition as a benefit. It's about how they are not getting big raises in their pay even though we're giving big money to corporate
America. So it's about financial stability in their families. And they, the public, sees better than most other people in politics the connection between big money being an obstacle to big raises for them
and lower costs for them.

So I've amassed a good array of very wealthy people who do not want to see me as speaker because I'm effective.

CAPEHEART: Final question, do you foresee a situation or a possibility where you would
decide not to seek the speakership if Democrats were to win the majority in the midterms?

PELOSI: Again, that is the least important question of all, with all due respect. It's an NBC question, I know, because that's a jag you are on.

What's important is that I'm staying focused on winning this election. I'm not even thinking about what happens next, because what is important to the country is that we take it back for the American people and that means winning the House for the Democrats, and hopefully winning the Senate, the governorships and all the rest.

So, it's not important as to what happens about me after, what's important is what happens at the polls and what that means in the lives of the American people.

But they're afraid, they're afraid because we're going to have so many women coming in. It's going -- many more people of color. I remind you, that our House Democratic caucus is a majority women, people of color, and LGBTQ. And that number will only increase when we win in this
election. That's frightening to some people in our country.

CAPEHEART: And with that, Leader Pelosi, thank you very much for coming on the show today.

PELOSI: It's my pleasure. Thank you.

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