Democratic Leader suggests Trump's 'alternative facts' will stymie deal-making
Jan. 25, 2017
WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has met President Trump twice in the past week, and on Wednesday she described the new president as “so insecure” that it might be difficult to get anything done.
“For a person who is newly elected president of the United States to be so insecure as to declare — he’s now the president, ensconced in the White House and saying, ‘I won the popular vote and 3 to 5 million Americans voted illegally in our country’ — to suggest and undermine the integrity of our voting system is really strange,” the San Francisco Democrat said.
“I frankly feel very sad about the president making this claim,” Pelosi said. “I felt sorry for him. I even prayed for him. But then I prayed for the United States of America.”
The Trump administration’s universe of false “alternative facts” now carries the imprimatur of the White House, presenting Pelosi and her party with a strange new foe that has Pelosi sounding wistful about her previous White House antagonist, former President George W. Bush.
“Dealing with President (George W.) Bush, dealing with Republicans across the aisle, we’ve always had ... a standard where you agree to a set of facts or some numbers or a baseline and then you go from there,” Pelosi said. “We respect each other’s opinion; we respect the position that someone has whether more conservative or more progressive.
“But at least when you try to negotiate, you’re dealing from a set of facts, instead of being in a fact-free zone or whatever they want to call their version of reality.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. responds to questions about President Donald Trump's actions and agenda during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. Calling him "so insecure," Pelosi says she feels "very sad" and "sorry" for President Donald Trump for falsely claiming he'd have won the presidential popular vote but for votes cast against him by millions of people in the U.S. illegally. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican National Committee representative from California, said Pelosi “is unfortunately mocking the serious issue of voter fraud in this country.”
While there may not be evidence of systematic voter fraud, she said, there have been instances of individuals voting illegally. “It’s not a joking matter for her to mock our president,” she said. “It’s a serious issue” that deserves to be investigated.
Pelosi said she met Trump once at his inauguration and then at a White House meeting with other congressional leaders that she described as more of a social gathering than a substantive discussion.
At that meeting, Trump made his claim of voter fraud to the congressional leaders, using numbers that would serve to erase Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote on Nov. 8. Official results of the presidential election show that Clinton beat Trump by nearly 2.9 million votes, but Trump surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
Pelosi said she confronted Trump over his claim, saying it was false.
On that front, Pelosi said she also urged Trump to read a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showing that repeal of the Affordable Care Act would cause 32 million people to lose their health insurance and lead to a 50 percent spike in premiums.
Trump ran on a campaign promise to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and on Friday signed an executive order taking a step in that direction.
Pelosi said she suggested the report from the budget office could provide a basis for discussions, as reports from that office had during the most contentious battles with Bush over the Iraq War and his plan to partially privatize Social Security.
Doug Elmets, a Republican political consultant in Sacramento who opposed Trump, said he would advise Democrats “to shine a bright light on truth versus fiction.” Even Trump’s voters “want somebody who is focused on his campaign promises, not on delusional folly,” he said.
“I would just lay it out: truth versus fiction,” Elmets said. “In many of these instances, there just is no there there.”
He said Democrats should also stick to their own policy messages “and allow Donald Trump to continue to isolate himself and his supporters.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, said in a telephone interview that Democrats were wrestling with how to deal with the new president.
“This is still evolving,” Lofgren said. “It’s pretty clear he doesn’t have a detailed knowledge of many of these things he’s talking about, but he has great sound bites for people who agree with him. So how to get to the reality instead of alternative facts ... is a challenge we face.”
Carolyn Lochhead was the Washington correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, where she covered national politics and policy for 27 years. She grew up in Paso Robles (San Luis Obispo County) and graduated from UC Berkeley cum laude in rhetoric and economics. She has a masters of journalism degree from Columbia University. Twitter: @carolynlochhead