House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told The London School of Economics and Political Science that she doesn’t badmouth the president when she’s abroad, then proceeded to repeatedly criticize Trump on trade, the recent controversy about 9/11, and even his “sense of decency.”
Peter Trubowitz, director of the U.S. Center at LSE, spoke with Pelosi for about an hour Monday about a wide range of issues, including the Trump administration’s approach to trade. Pelosi, who was leading a congressional delegation abroad, made it clear she would not disparage the president, but then did exactly that repeatedly throughout the discussion, which was streamed live to Facebook.
Trubowitz suggested the Trump administration’s approach to China is driven by economics, rather than concerns about human rights, and asked whether Democrats can work with that “pretty tough” approach.
“Well, I don’t ever criticize the president outside the country,” Pelosi responded with a long pause.
“But I will say this,” she continued, laughing hysterically along with the audience. “I will say this … this isn’t a criticism, it’s a difference of opinion. …
“I thought one of the biggest opportunities was for the United States and the EU to join together — the hugest market in the world, right, the two combined — and use that leverage in negotiation with the Chinese,” the 79-year-old lawmaker continued.
“So I wasn’t pleased when the president put tariffs on the EU, started to kind of weaken that strength that could have been there,” she said. “The Chinese enjoyed it a lot because they knew what the opportunity was and they knew it was a missed one.”
Later in the talk, Pelosi took a question from a Financial Times reporter about Trump using freshmen Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and other socialists in Congress to paint Democrats as radicals and rile up his base. The reporter referenced Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent description of the September 11 terrorist attack as “some people did something” and Trump’s strong rebuke on Twitter and in public statements, and questioned how Democrat leaders can defend their colleague without playing into Trump’s alleged tactics.
Pelosi defended Omar and called for Capitol Police to investigate Trump’s Twitter comments. She also demanded Trump remove a video of Omar’s remarks that he posted that juxtaposes her insensitive comments at the Council on American-Islamic Relations with images and video from 9/11.
In London, Pelosi used the reporter’s question to take another jab at the president.
“I don’t think any president of the United States should use the tragedy of 9/11 as a political tool,” she said. “I think that is wrong. I think it’s beneath the dignity of the office, and I don’t think it plays that well.”
Shortly before concluding the event, Pelosi took a parting shot at the president, then patted herself on the back for not trashing Trump as much as she’d like to.
“If you have a president who is ignoring all sense of decency … then there is a real problem,” she said. “But our country is a great country that can withstand anything, maybe not two terms, though.”
“I want to get some points for restraint,” she said. “Right, my colleagues? Right?”