Pelosi: Is there ‘common ground’ with Trump?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in her office at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

One day last week, amid spiraling fallout over special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dialed up the president and requested a meeting.

She talked to President Donald Trump about working together on an infrastructure package.

It was the first phone call between the two since the testy days of the government shutdown earlier this year, and it seemed productive. They are planning to meet, she told The Associated Press in a Wednesday interview.

So goes the relationship between Washington’s two power centers — one in the White House, where Trump is slapping almost hourly at the investigations into his administration and running headlong into a climactic moment of his presidency, the other on Capitol Hill, where Pelosi is deliberately steering her gavel toward her party’s goals.

As the two cross the 100-day mark of the era of divided government, theirs is a relationship like almost none other in Washington.

Even as Trump derides Democrats as “unhinged” and claims they are a party taken over by “socialists,” he pulls his punches with Pelosi. And while Pelosi criticizes Trump as “unfit” for office — and hasn’t fully closed the door on impeachment — she wants to work with him on shared priorities.

She says 80 percent of their conversations, including the talk last Thursday, are about infrastructure. They’re trying, she said, to find areas of “common ground.”

Launching an infrastructure investment program is the kind of big bipartisan undertaking that seems all but impossible in times like these.

The Trump administration’s “infrastructure week” became a punchline around Washington when it fizzled amid the White House’s often shifting priorities. Trump promised on election night a $1 trillion investment in new roads and other projects but has never come close to achieving it. Democrats scoff at the $200 billion requests he’s made in his budget proposals as meager. Pelosi called it a “nonstarter.”

But infrastructure — like the effort on lowering prescription drug costs — is the kind of initiative that could benefit both of them as they head toward the 2020 campaign season. They could change the subject from the ongoing investigations that pose risks for both parties, and they could show voters they can deliver with building projects that improve communities and create jobs even at a time of divided government, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans controlling the Senate.

“We want dirt to fly,” Pelosi said.

After her talks with Trump, Pelosi thinks the president may be willing to do more than he’s put on the table. Trump’s latest budget proposed $200 billion in federal dollars that could be leveraged with private capital to cover the difference.

“I don’t think the president is wedded to that proposal,” she said. “It’s too small.”

Most of their phone call last week revolved around infrastructure, and she said the intention is to “get a dollar figure” as a starting point for the discussions.

Asked about infrastructure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also left open the possibility of a fresh bipartisan effort.

“We’ve all been talking about infrastructure, including the president, for a couple of years now,” McConnell told Fox News on Wednesday. “We need some straight talk from both sides on how we’re going to pay for it.”

The day after Trump and Pelosi spoke, Trump went to California to visit the southern border, where he is trying to build a long-promised border wall with Mexico after Democrats thwarted his demand for more wall funds during the shutdown.

That afternoon, House Democrats filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s national emergency declaration, which he invoked to circumvent Congress and to use military construction money to pay for the border wall.

“It’s so very self-evident that the president is very different from every other person that anybody ever served with,” Pelosi said in the AP interview Wednesday.

“He is not only unique, he’s … what would be the word?” she said, trailing off. “To be president of the United States is to have a very special personality. But there are shared values about commitment to our Constitution, to the vision of our founders to the Constitution of the United States. I don’t see those features yet in this president.”

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Follow Mascaro on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro

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Pelosi slams door on Senate compromise for Trump

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks at a memorial event for Kasur Gyari, former special envoy of Dalay Lama to the U.S., on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 12, 2019. (REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “no way” Wednesday to a last-minute Republican Senate deal that would leave President Donald Trump’s “emergency declaration” to use funding from other allocations to build his controversial “border wall.”

Pelosi said the House of Representatives will not consider a Republican bill to amend the federal national emergencies law to limit future presidencial claims of an emergency but would allow Trump’s one to stand.

“Republican Senators are proposing new legislation to allow the President to violate the Constitution just this once in order to give themselves cover,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The House will not take up this legislation to give President Trump a pass.”

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Saying ‘nada’ to Trump’s impeachment: A good move

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who seems more level-headed than some of her Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives, took impeachment of president Donald Trump off the table for the foreseeable future.

Unlike some of the “scorched earth” members of the party of the jackass, Pelosi knows impeachment of Trump, no matter how guilty he appears, is not possible with a Republican Senate that covers his political butt.

“Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post. “And he’s just not worth it.”

Her decision is upsetting Democrats anxious to get rid of Trump as quickly as possible but their desire for impeachment doesn’t realize removing a president, even if for cause, is a long-drawn-out process.  That is the nature of America’s constitutional and political system.

“Our founders gave us the strongest foundation,” Pelosi says. “All the challenges we have faced, we can withstand anything. But maybe not two [Trump] terms. So we have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Pelosi realizes that the best chance to get rid of Trump comes at the ballot box in 2020, when Americans decide whether or not to pick a new president or give the current one a second term.

But some Democrats aren’t happy that she took impeachment off the table so strongly.

“I felt that her statement did not leave much wiggle room, and on that part, I respectfully demur,” says Rep. Gerald D. Connolly (D-VA).  “I took an oath to the Constitution, not to the Democratic Party.”

Democratic committee chairman in the House will continue investigations into Trump’s ties to Russia, foreign financial leverage and questionable ties by his business and his administration as well as obstruction of justice, abuse of power or other corruption actions.

Democrats Al Green of Texas and Brad Sherman of California already had articles of impeachment drafted and want them considered by the House.

Trump also faces investigation by federal prosecutors in New York over is business operations and misuse of funds by his inaugural committee.

Is Trump unfit for office?

“Ethically unfit, intellectually unfit, curiosity-wise fit,” says Pelosi. “I don’t think he’s fit to be president of the United States.”

Pelosi and other Democrats feel the midterm elections show most Americans agree.  Voters overwhelmingly voted to remove Republicans from the House of Representatives and replace them if a majority of Democrats.  He hopes that tide will continue in the 2020 elections that will not only vote on the president but also for all members of the House of Representatives and about a third of the Senate.

With a large number of Democrats considering, or have already declaring, runs for president in 2020, strategists worry that too many candidates in touch-primaries will invite disparity, not unity, in the party.

“We learned in 2016 that our party needs a good candidate with broad appeal to voters nationwide,” says strategist Sam McNabb. “Hillary Clinton was not that candidate.  We have to offer more.”

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Pelosi pragmatic? Seems that way lately

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks with reporters during her weekly news conference, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republicans have vilified Nancy Pelosi for years as a San Francisco liberal and now they’re trying to portray her as a captive of resurgent left-wingers in her Democratic Party.

But in her early moves so far as House speaker, Pelosi is displaying her pragmatic streak. She’s set to endorse a split-the-differences deal on government funding that appears on track to give President Donald Trump at least some barriers on the border, after she had said Trump’s border wall idea was “immoral” and promised he wouldn’t get a penny for it.

And as the Democratic Party’s progressive wing pursues dreams such as “Medicare for all” and a “Green New Deal,” Pelosi is keeping her distance.

“We are results-oriented, values-based, and for the boldest common denominator,” Pelosi said in a brief interview on Friday. “Everybody has a path to make their case, to see what the options are. I’m wedded to the Affordable Care Act because I think it’s a path to health care for all Americans.”

Pelosi presides over a 235-member Democratic caucus that surged into power in last November’s midterm election, fueled by voters’ anger against Trump. The new majority includes young, high-profile and defiantly liberal lawmakers such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who’s a darling among Democratic activists and a social media phenomenon.

“There’s a new crop of Democrats that make Pelosi look moderate. I never thought I’d see that day,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. “You see this Green New Deal rollout, you see this Medicare for all rollout and you don’t see her buying into those proposals.”

While some on the left are demanding Trump’s impeachment, Pelosi is urging Democrats to take it slow, saying there needs to be a full vetting of any evidence. She’s against demanding Trump’s tax returns immediately, to the dismay of impatient lawmakers such as Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

There’s no denying Pelosi’s skills. She was a strong speaker when running the House in 2007-10, keeping Democrats unified and sometimes running roughshod over Republicans. But some in her caucus started to doubt her after punishing election cycles in 2010, 2014 and 2016.

Pelosi overpowered her doubters, however, in a leadership challenge last fall, emerging stronger than when she started. At age 78 she emerged from her shutdown victory over Trump as a hero in the party and is carrying greater leverage into the ongoing negotiations. So far, there’s little grousing among Democrats.

Pelosi’s more measured approach is playing out this weekend as talks grind on over border security money. Pelosi took a hard line during the recent 35-day partial federal shutdown, refusing to enter into negotiations while the government was shuttered, while dismissing Trump’s dream of a border wall.

“We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that? We are not doing a wall. So that’s that,” Pelosi said last month. She called the idea “an immorality.”

Those remarks led many Republicans to believe that Pelosi would become an obstacle in the talks, refusing to agree to enough concessions to win over Republicans controlling the Senate, much less Trump.

Instead, Pelosi is intent on pursuing a deal with Republicans on a $350 billion-plus appropriations bill that has been hung up for weeks over Trump’s border wall demands. She still opposes the idea of a wall but has signaled she’s open to vehicle barriers and other steps. She says she’s delegating most of the decision-making to allies on the House Appropriations Committee.

“I trust the appropriators,” Pelosi said, and she frequently reminds people that she was “forged” on that pragmatic committee. Predictions that she’d be hemmed in by her prior stance, or that she’d be unwilling to buck progressives, aren’t coming to fruition.

“Nobody hems in the speaker, OK?” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. “The speaker is quite secure in her position and is someone who doesn’t have to worry about what anyone chatters about.”

Part of that is the difference between making a political point and making a law. Must-pass legislation to fund the government, for example, which requires Trump’s approval, gets treated differently than do upcoming messaging measures on climate change, taxes and health care.

Pelosi also relies heavily on her committee chairmen, several of whom have decades of experience in the House dating to the Democratic majority of the early 1990s.

Issues where Democrats want an accomplishment this year, such as lowering prescription drug prices, probably require Democrats and Pelosi to cut deals that won’t please lots of liberals. Pelosi knows the ropes of divided government, often citing her work with the Bush administration in 2007 to pass legislation boosting automobile mileage standards and production of renewable energy.

But Pelosi hints that issue areas where Democrats are developing proposals to run on in the 2020 elections are more wide open.

“Everything’s on the table. Medicare for all is on the table,” Pelosi said. “Everybody knows they have a path. There’s no blocking of anything. Everybody has the path to make their case.”

While high-profile liberals such as Ocasio-Cortez, who won a safe seat in New York City, capture the attention of the party’s left wing, Pelosi is more focused on protecting the first-term members who really matter to holding the Democrats’ majority: lawmakers who took over GOP seats in areas won by Trump.

Republicans say Pelosi is still a stereotypical San Francisco liberal. It’s just that she looks relatively measured when compared with left-wing insurgents.

“She’s trying to hold them back from going over the cliff,” said the House’s top Republican, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy. “The party has moved beyond where she has philosophically been. So she is trying to rein that back.”

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Trump lost the shutdown war and a lot more

President Donald Trump (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump will emerge from the longest government shutdown in U.S. history politically weakened, his reputation questioned and his signature campaign promise still glaringly unfulfilled.

The 35-day partial shutdown over the president’s demand for billions of dollars to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border was, in the end, futile. Facing defections within his own party, sagging poll numbers and public criticism for interrupted services, the self-proclaimed master dealmaker accepted an agreement that he had previously spurned and set an ignominious record that will remain part of his legacy. Days after Trump marked the midpoint of his term, the shutdown highlighted the disquieting side effects of his unconventional governing style and the trials that lie ahead for him in dealing with emboldened Democrats.

The folly of the effort was readily apparent inside the White House, where aides had warned Trump even before the shutdown began that there was no avenue to success in the showdown with Capitol Hill. Democrats ran for office on preventing Trump from building the wall — and it’s hardly a popular idea even among Republican lawmakers. Advisers watched in shock as Trump declared in a December meeting with lawmakers that he would be “proud” to shut down the government.

And when he ultimately did just that, they feared the messaging war had already been lost.

“He was playing double-A ball against major leaguers,” said former Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, who once headed the House GOP’s campaign arm. By backing himself into the shutdown with no way out, Davis said, Trump displayed a lack of discipline from the start.

The strategic deficit was only magnified by what allies saw as tactical errors. Trump spent the holidays tweeting from the White House rather than making public appearances to showcase his readiness to negotiate. He didn’t deliver a public address or visit the border to make his case until weeks had already gone by. Perhaps most crucially, he underestimated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the unity of congressional Democrats, thinking the Californian would be more amenable to a deal on the wall once she won the speakership.

Trump’s message zigzagged sometimes by the hour. He maintained he was proud of shutting down the government and then tried to pin the blame on Democrats. One moment he signaled he was ready to concede the wall in favor of other barriers on the border, and the next he tweeted he was fighting for the wall as strongly as ever. It was emblematic of the dysfunctional White House culture he has fostered and the challenges that have been manifest on decisions big and small for two years.

By the end of the shutdown, West Wing aides and outside allies of the president began to look at the seminal promise of Trump’s 2016 campaign as an immense — and unachievable — burden on his presidency.

It was complaints that Trump appeared to be passing up his last, best opportunity to make good on his build-the-wall pledge that led Trump into the shutdown to begin with. Conservative commentators and House Freedom Caucus members fired off warnings that Trump’s base would sour on him if he didn’t use the last days of unified GOP control of Washington last year to try to get money for the barrier.

But in his quest to appease his base, the president tarnished his standing with the American public. Overall, 34 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance in a survey released this week by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s down from 42 percent a month earlier and nears the lowest mark of his two-year presidency.

“Hopefully now the president has learned his lesson,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a press conference with Pelosi.

The impasse was an early test for Pelosi after her return to the speakership, one that she appeared to pass handily. Democrats remained unified against White House efforts to divide the caucus, and they head into the next round of debate over border security funding determined to make good on their own 2018 promises to block Trump’s wall.

As White House aides suggested that the shutdown had brought Democrats to embrace border “barriers,” Pelosi make clear her party remained resolved against the wall.

“Have I not been clear?” she said. “No, I have been very clear.”

Trump, characteristically, refused to concede that he’d conceded. Instead, he insisted he hadn’t caved to Democrats, and he threatened yet another shutdown even while bemoaning the last one’s impact on Americans.

“This was in no way a concession,” Trump tweeted late Friday. “It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

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Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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Zeke Miller has covered the White House and politics in Washington since 2011. Follow him at http://twitter.com/zekejmiller

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A hot feud between Pelosi, Trump

Internal Revenue Service employees, front row from the left, Brian Lanouette, of Merrimack, N.H., Mary Maldonado, of Dracut, Mass., and Maria Zangari, of Haverhill, Mass., display placards during a rally by federal employees and supporters, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019, in front of the Statehouse, in Boston, held to call for an end of the partial shutdown of the federal government. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

She imperiled his State of the Union address. He denied her a plane to visit troops abroad.

The shutdown battle between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing out as a surreal game of constitutional brinkmanship, with both flexing political powers from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as the negotiations to end the monthlong partial government shutdown remain stalled.

In dramatic fashion, Trump issued a letter to Pelosi on Thursday, just before she and other lawmakers were set to depart on the previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan and Brussels. Trump belittled the trip as a “public relations event” — even though he had just made a similar warzone stop — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” wrote Trump, who had been smarting since Pelosi, the day before, called on him to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address due to the shutdown.

Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the White House, traveling to a combat region — is very rare. Lawmakers were caught off guard. A bus to ferry the legislators to their departure idled outside the Capitol on Thursday afternoon.

The political tit-for-tat between Trump and Pelosi laid bare how the government-wide crisis has devolved into an intensely pointed clash between two leaders determined to prevail. It took place as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without pay and Washington’s routine protocols — a president’s speech to Congress, a lawmaker’s official trip — became collateral damage.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker planned to travel to Afghanistan and Brussels to thank service members and obtain briefings on national security and intelligence “from those on the front lines.” He noted Trump had traveled to Iraq during the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, and said a Republican-led congressional trip also had taken place.

Trump’s move was the latest example of his extraordinary willingness to tether U.S. government resources to his political needs. He has publicly urged the Justice Department to investigate political opponents and threatened to cut disaster aid to Puerto Rico amid a spat with the island territory’s leaders.

Some Republicans expressed frustration. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, “One sophomoric response does not deserve another.” He called Pelosi’s State of the Union move “very irresponsible and blatantly political” but said Trump’s reaction was “also inappropriate.”

While there were few signs of progress Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner dashed to the Capitol late in the day for a meeting with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the State Department instructed all U.S. diplomats in Washington and elsewhere to return to work next week with pay, saying it had found money for their salaries at least temporarily.

For security reasons, Pelosi would normally make such a trip on a military aircraft supplied by the Pentagon. According to a defense official, Pelosi did request Defense Department support for overseas travel and it was initially approved. The official wasn’t authorized to speak by name about the matter, so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said the president does have the authority to cancel the use of military aircraft.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California slammed Trump for revealing the closely held travel plans.

“I think the president’s decision to disclose a trip the speaker’s making to a war zone was completely and utterly irresponsible in every way,” Schiff said.

Trump’s trip to Iraq after Christmas was not disclosed in advance for security reasons.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wanted Pelosi to stay in Washington before Tuesday, a deadline to prepare the next round of paychecks for federal workers.

“We want to keep her in Washington,” Sanders said. “The president wants her here to negotiate.”

The White House also canceled plans for a presidential delegation to travel to an economic forum in Switzerland next week, citing the shutdown. And they said future congressional trips would be postponed until the shutdown is resolved, though it was not immediately clear if any such travel — which often is not disclosed in advance — was coming up.

Trump was taken by surprise by Pelosi’s move to postpone his address and told one adviser it was the sort of disruptive move he would make himself, according to a Republican who is in frequent contact with the White House and was not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

While he maintained a public silence, Trump grew weary of how Pelosi’s move was being received on cable TV and reiterated fears that he was being outmaneuvered in the public eye. Trump was delighted at the idea of canceling Pelosi’s trip, believing the focus on the resources needed would highlight her hypocrisy for cancelling his speech, according to the Republican.

Trump has still not said how he will handle Pelosi’s attempt to have him postpone his State of the Union address until the government is reopened so workers can be paid for providing security for the grand Washington tradition.

Pelosi told reporters earlier Thursday: “Let’s get a date when government is open. Let’s pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it’s OK not to pay people who do work. I don’t.”

Trump declined to address the stalemate over the speech during a visit Thursday to the Pentagon, simply promising that the nation will have “powerful, strong border security.”

Pelosi reiterated she is willing to negotiate money for border security once the government is reopened, but she said Democrats remain opposed to Trump’s long-promised wall.

“I’m not for a wall,” Pelosi said twice, mouthing the statement a third time for effect.

The shutdown, the longest ever, entered its 28th day on Friday. The previous longest was 21 days in 1995-96, under President Bill Clinton.

In a notice to staff, the State Department said it can pay most of its employees beginning Sunday or Monday for their next pay period. They will not be paid for time worked since the shutdown began until the situation is resolved, said the notice.

The new White House travel ban did not extend to the first family.

About two hours after Trump grounded Pelosi and her delegation, an Air Force-modified Boeing 757 took off from Joint Base Andrews outside Washington with the call sign “Executive One Foxtrot,” reserved for the first family when the president is not traveling with them. It landed just before 7 p.m. at Palm Beach International Airport, less than 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the president’s private club.

A White House spokesperson did not answer questions about the flight.
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