U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday told a roaring crowd of New Jersey Democrats in Atlantic City — a town quite familiar with President Donald Trump — that none of her colleagues came to Congress to impeach a president.
But the California Democrat defended her recent decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump, saying America’s leaders need to defend the U.S. Constitution and protect the values of the country’s founding fathers.
“This is not a cause for any joy that we have to go down this path,” Pelosi said during the keynote speech of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee’s annual convention. “It’s a difficult decision to make. But we have that obligation.”
“I would never place ourselves in the category of greatness in the founders, but we do place ourselves in a time of urgency to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” she added.
Pelosi, the highest-ranking female elected official in American history, was greeted with a hero’s welcome as she walked on stage at a ballroom at Harrah’s hotel and casino, decked in a pink pantsuit and sparkly pink heels.
“Nancy! Nancy! Nancy!” the crowd of a few thousand cheered while “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera played over the loud speakers.
Pelosi was scheduled a while ago to speak at Friday’s convention. Coincidentally, her address came just a few days after she launched the inquiry into Trump after it was revealed the Republican president asked Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden — Trump’s potential Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential election — and Biden’s son. At the same time, Trump’s administration was withholding aid to the country.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, saying his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect” and that Democrats are simply starting a new “witch hunt.”
For months, Pelosi has faced a conundrum and avoided heeding calls to seek impeachment against Trump for other issues. If the president isn’t removed, he could use the matter to fire up his base in the upcoming election.
But Pelosi painted the Ukraine situation as being beyond the pale. “The last 10 days have been very difficult for our country,” the speaker told the A.C. audience. “It’s a very sad time.” She noted that she learned of the July 25 telephone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president on Sept. 17 — the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Pelosi said the founding fathers would “have thought that anyone would be so abusive of the system.”
“They knew that people might try to take advantage of this and that in the White House but never so abusive of the system,” she said. “So that whole thought that if you don’t have the checks and balances, you don’t have a republic.” Even if impeachment falls through, all of this comes as Democrats are hoping to oust Trump in next November’s election. Pelosi called it a “very crucial one for our country — four our values.”
And of course, she delivered all this in Atlantic City, a seaside gambling resort where Trump once owned multiple casinos — and his casino companies filed for multiple bankruptcies.
Gov. Phil Murphy brought that up. “We saw that he couldn’t cut it in Atlantic City,” Murphy told the crowd. “America, you should have asked us about his deal-making skills.” U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, the New Jersey Democrat who’s running for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, told the audience that “this is not a referendum” on Trump but “a referendum on who we are.” “It’s not left or right,” Booker told the audience. “It’s right or wrong.”
Booker told reporters after Pelosi’s speech he supports the impeachment inquiry. The senator, who has visited Ukraine, called it a “life and death” situation for the U.S. to withhold aid from the country as it fights against Russian aggression. “We’re seeing a very sobering reality,” Booker said. “That a president of the United States seems to be using his office for his own personal gain against national security interests.”
Murphy praised Pelosi for the “sober” and “calm” way she’s approaching this. Pelosi also thanked New Jersey for helping flip four congressional districts blue last November, helping Democrats retake control of the House and asked the state’s voters to help keep it that way next November. “What about the freshmen that you sent us?” she asked. “Four glorious, talented Democratic members of Congress we are especially blessed by the invigoration they give us.” When her speech was over, Pelosi walked off the stage to the sound of “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys blaring.