Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking

Posted 9 days ago


Friday marks a full year since Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Trump last spoke to each other.

The anniversary of sorts underscores the historic level of dysfunction and discord between two of the most powerful people in Washington.

Almost every occasion where Pelosi and Trump have crossed paths since Democrats won the House majority in 2018 has shown how much they can’t stand each other, let alone attempt to strike any legislative deals together like other past presidents and Speakers of opposing parties.

Their last extended conversation, during a sit-down meeting at the White House on Oct. 16, 2019, resulted in the two sides unable to agree on whether Trump called Pelosi a "third rate" or "third grade" politician and her telling reporters afterward that “we have to pray for his health.”

Their relations have only worsened since then.

While Pelosi has been able to negotiate bipartisan legislation with White House intermediaries like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, lawmakers say the open personal animosity between the president and the Speaker is emblematic of the entrenched partisanship in the Trump era.

“It's a sad commentary on the circumstances of our governance,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), a first-term lawmaker. “The more that politics becomes kind of a brutal sport rather than a public service, the more trouble we're going to be in. We're seeing the evidence of that right now.”

Pelosi has said that it's difficult to negotiate with someone as unpredictable as Trump, who in the last 10 days alone has changed positions at least three times on a long-stalled coronavirus relief package that at times even put him at odds with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Trump abruptly called off the bipartisan talks early last week, only to hours later call on Congress to pass standalone measures like stimulus checks and aid for the airline industry. And on Thursday, Trump said that he’d be willing to go higher than his administration’s current $1.8 trillion offer.

“I don't speak to the president. I speak to his representative,” Pelosi told CNN earlier this week.

"Quite frankly, my experience with the president has been that it hasn't been on the level. You know, he'll say something and then it doesn't really happen. So in the interest of time, we'll work with who he sends over," she said on MSNBC last month.

Trump, for his part, has defended opting out of speaking directly with Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), instead leaving it up to subordinates to work out the particulars of his legislative priorities.

"I know Pelosi, I know Schumer very well. They don't want to make a deal because they think it's good for politics if they don't make a deal," Trump said last month about the coronavirus relief talks. "I'm taking the high road by not seeing them. That's the high road."

It’s not unusual for presidents and congressional leaders of different parties to clash publicly or delegate aides and Cabinet officials to hammer out specific details of legislation. But they typically have been at least on speaking terms and at times even had warm personal relationships behind the scenes.

Pelosi herself has managed to work with a Republican president before. During her previous stint as Speaker, Pelosi collaborated with former President George W. Bush and members of his administration on issues like bailing out the financial industry during the 2008 crisis despite her party’s fierce opposition to the Iraq War and Bush’s Social Security reform plan.

Pelosi has since expressed nostalgia for his presidency compared to Trump, in stark contrast to when she called Bush a “total failure” in 2008.

“I never thought I'd pray for the day that you were president again,” Pelosi said of Bush during an interview with ABC in 2017.

More recently, former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), despite constantly facing pressure from Tea Party conservatives to tack to the right throughout his tenure, golfed with former President Obama and met with him secretly at the White House to strike an elusive “grand bargain” spending deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former Speake... (Read more)

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