House Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed Tuesday she has not spoken to Donald Trump since his early February State of the Union address, saying she sees no need for the two leaders to speak one-on-one during the coronavirus outbreak. The California Democrat, who is one of the president’s biggest critics, said she would rather negotiate with other administration officials.
“I don’t know what I would learn in a conversation with the president,” Ms Pelosi said. “We speak with each other” via “public” comments like those she made during a morning MSNBC interview, saying that is effective with the television-obsessed president because “he hears what people say publicly.”
“I’ve always spoken to presidents on an as-needed basis,” Ms Pelosi said, noting lawmakers “appreciate” that Mr Trump has “tasked his people to work with us on the legislation” to respond to the virus outbreak, noting other presidents, including GOP commander in chief George W. Bush, have done the same during her time as the top House Democrat.
“This person speaks for me,” Pelosi said in describing why she has been able to work with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has the blessing of Mr Trump to negotiate with House and Senate Democrats.
But she could not resist taking a jab at Mr Trump, whose skin she is able to penetrate like perhaps no other Democratic politician: “Though that was more so with President Bush.”
Mr Trump took to Twitter to critique the speaker’s morning cable news hit, and seemed mostly unaffected, saying she “wasn’t bad” despite “her usual complaining that I’m a terrible person.”
Congress has negotiated and passed three virus aid packages. During those talks, Ms Pelosi worked closely with Mr Mnuchin – though on the third, a $2.2trn economy recovery bill, Mr Mnuchin mostly negotiated with the Senate’s top Democrat, New York’s Chuck Schumer.
Ms Pelosi’s always-rocky relationship with the president hit a new low when he delivered his annual address to a joint session of Congress on 4 February, when she ripped her copy of the speech into pieces as he wrapped up his remarks in the House chamber. Ms Pelosi took offense to a number of claims he made in the address, especially about his healthcare policies.
On Monday, in his own morning television appearance, Mr Trump responded to a question about working with Ms Pelosi by telling Fox News he thinks she is a “sick puppy.”