If Donald Trump didn't realize that things are about to change for him when Nancy Pelosi is sworn in as for her second time as speaker of the House Thursday, a fiery appearance on the “Today” show broadcast just hours before the ceremony made her intentions perfectly clear.
Speaking to NBC's Savannah Guthrie, the incoming speaker—who has warned that President Trump will face a “different world” as Democrats take over the majority in the House—used her appearance to talk impeachment, indictments, and not handing over a cent for Trump's border wall.
It was Pelosi's cryptic comments on indicting a sitting president which grabbed most attention. Department of Justice guidelines advise against it, saying: “Indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
But Pelosi disagrees. “I do not think that that is conclusive. No, I do not,” Pelosi said when asked about the guidance. “I think that that is an open discussion. I think that is an open discussion in terms of the law,” she said, when asked directly if it would be legally possible for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to indict the president while he was in office.
It may be that potential option that lay behind her coy comments on the possibility of taking forward impeachment proceedings against Trump. She said that Democrats have discussed whether to do so—but that she thinks it's best to wait for Mueller's conclusions before going ahead.
“We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report. We shouldn't be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn't avoid impeachment for a political reason. So we'll just have to see how it comes,” said the incoming speaker.
While she only offered a “wait and see” answer on impeachment and indictment, she was absolutely clear on one thing: Democrats will not back a spending bill which includes funding for Trump's border wall. She blamed the partial government shutdown squarely on Trump, making it unclear how the current impasse can be overcome in the near future.
“No, no. Nothing for the wall. We're talking about border security,” Pelosi told NBC. “There is no amount of persuasion he can do to say to us, ‘We want you to do something that is not effective, that costs billions of dollars.’ That sends the wrong message about who we are as a country.”
She went on: “This is the Trump shutdown, through and through. That’s why he has proudly taken, in his view, proudly taken ownership of it. There’s no escaping that for him... That doesn’t mean we take any joy in the fact that there is a Trump shutdown. We want government to open.”
Pelosi denied that the Democrats had any responsibility for the shutdown, saying it was “nothing to do with us,” and was solely down to Trump's campaign promise that he would build a wall and force Mexico to pay for it. “That is so ridiculous,” she said, adding: “The President either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or doesn’t want to know what he’s talking about.”
One of the most striking attacks from Pelosi on Trump since the mid-terms was when she questioned Trump's “manhood” in December in relation to the wall funding, saying: “It's like a manhood thing for him... As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing.”
Asked about the quote, Pelosi only said: “I wish that my members had not repeated that outside the room.”
On her personal relationship with Trump, and whether she believes he treats her differently than he would if she was a male politician, she said that she's unsure if Trump “knows how to deal with women in power and women with strength, but we'll see.”
She said: “We'll see how he will deal with the speaker of the House and it doesn't matter whether you're a woman or not. But I hope he recognizes that a new day has dawned in America.”
Even in the unlikely event he was watching NBC rather than his beloved Fox & Friends, Trump is unlikely to have recognized that. But he may well have been left knowing that his life is about to get a little bit tougher.