WASHINGTON – At the end of a lunch Speaker Nancy Pelosi hosted for 13 journalists on Friday, she gestured toward the flowers on the table.
Of President Donald Trump, she said: “We could plant these flowers along the border” and he would say, “‘I got my wall.’”
Her remark speaks for itself about Trump, his inability to distinguish between his presidency and a contrived episode in a reality show and his sad compulsion to declare victory, no matter the facts.
The briefing over sandwiches and salads in the speaker’s suite in the Capitol – Pelosi favored chocolates for her meal – came on Day 35 of the shutdown and Day 22 of Pelosi’s reclaimed speakership.
Since Pelosi took the gavel on Jan. 3, she has demonstrated she is Trump’s first effective formidable opponent, the leader who simply said “no” to him. Trump has not even whipped up an insulting nickname for her that sticks, settling for what he incorrectly presumes is a diminutive: “Nancy.”
About 40 minutes into the lunch, Pelosi excused herself to take a call. Later, we would learn it was from Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. When Pelosi returned, we asked if there was an agreement to end the shutdown; she said she was “hopeful.”
The news broke shortly after. The federal government will fully reopen on Monday.
Trump caved on his resolve to keep government closed until he got $5.7 billion for his wall, the one he promised Mexico would pay for.
He caved in the wake of Pelosi’s insistence that any negotiations over border security would take place only after government reopened.
Trump stood down on his bravado declaration that he would deliver a State of the Union address this coming Tuesday in the House chamber.
The Senate, on a voice vote, soon followed by the House, sent Trump legislation to sign to temporarily end the partial federal government shutdown, with funding through Feb. 15. Congress also set a path for the House and Senate to discuss longer-term financing for border security and the Department of Homeland Security.
Pelosi had plenty to say during a wide-ranging discussion covering reopening government and other topics.
• On the shutdown and Republicans in Congress acquiescing to Trump, rather than acting as a co-equal branch of government:
“This should never be the case. Should we just abolish Congress and say there’s one person? Let’s just abolish it? Just say whatever he wants, that’s what he has? And we don’t have to weigh in and engage the public in that discussion about how we go forward on any issue, especially right now, where so many people are suffering?’
• On Trump’s style and approach:
“Far be it from me to psychoanalyze this president and what to expect from him, because he has moved the goalposts so many times they are out of the stadium. …. You have to be optimistic and you have to be respectful of the office that he holds. Perhaps even more respectful of the office he holds than he is.”
• On the State of the Union speech, Trump walked himself into a trap, it turned out.
The president and his team apparently did not realize that the House had to pass a “concurrent resolution” inviting him to the chamber – and Pelosi had never called for that vote. A letter Pelosi wrote asking him to the chamber on Jan. 29 (followed by another suggesting he not come because of the shutdown) was not the official invite.
“I don’t think they knew; they couldn’t possibly have known that. But again I don’t spend a whole lot of time psyching out what they know or don’t know in any given time.”
• What she told Trump when he became president:
“I will speak to you the way I would speak to Barack Obama. I will never ask you to do something that I don’t think is in your interest.”
• On the Trump/Pelosi relationship:
“He’s courteous. And I think, in his view, respectful. But he, like other men, sometimes don’t know their condescension might be showing through. But I won’t label him any differently than anybody else in that respect.”
• On Senate Leader Mitch McConnell:
“It’s particularly painful to see him be kowtowing to the president of the United States.”
• On Trump effectively canceling a congressional trip to Afghanistan by revealing the travel of Pelosi and other members to a war zone as part of their oversight duties:
• On Trump’s weakness:
“Whenever he’s making an accusation, you know, he’s projecting his own weakness. His own weakness. He does it all the time.”