“At a minimum, you have to have a trial ’cause I wanna see this evidence put out here, I wanna see this evidence laid bare,” Steele told me when I asked him if Trump should be impeached. “This is the problem I have, though: The Democrats are running the show.” He doesn’t have faith in the party to handle this inherently political process the right way. But that jaundiced view does not extend to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“Look, I’m just telling them, would you please just trust Nancy? And that’s something for me to say, okay? Just so we’re clear, America, that’s something for me to say,” Steele said as we both burst out laughing.
That’s because it was Steele, during the 2010 midterm elections, who rode around the country in a bus that implored America to “Fire Pelosi.” “I have such respect for this woman. She is a formidable political presence today. Trump knows it,” he says now.
Steele believes the president is “so cocksure of where he is” that his mentality is that he’s untouchable. Imitating Trump, Steele said, “Look, I literally can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, or guess what, I can stand in front of the United States Congress and just tear at the Constitution, and they won’t do anything.”
And then came Pelosi. My sit-down with Steele came days after the release of the now-infamous photo of the Trump-Pelosi showdown at the White House.
“[Trump] is self-absorbed to the point where he thinks he’s Superman, invulnerable. . . . But what I like to remind folks [is that] Kryptonite’s a funny thing. And Nancy’s got Kryptonite,” Steele said. “The Constitution is the ultimate Kryptonite. And I think that moment is rapidly approaching, where — . Taking that picture of Nancy standing in that room. She takes that Kryptonite out of her purse and puts it on the table and walks out of the room. And homeboy can’t get up ’cause he’s now too weak. And I think that’s her play, I think that’s — . That’s why I’m saying: ‘Trust Nancy’.”
As for Republicans, Steele is unsparing.
“The Republican Party has figured it is better to put on its Trump attitude than its constitutional attitude. And what I mean by that is it is better for the party to spend its time as a supplicant of the cult of personality that sits inside the White House than it is to stand on those very foundational ideals that define the party, and that we ultimately would define ourselves individually as Republicans,” explained Steele.
This got us into a discussion about what happened to the moral underpinnings of the Republicans. Steele’s response was equally bracing.
“Morally, how do you reconcile putting children in cages? Because if your moral compass is off on that in the first instance, your political answer is gonna be what we saw,” Steele said. “And that’s the space the party finds itself in right now. It is so disoriented in its moral compass; in other words, it can’t even right itself on the very fundamental things that it is easy to right oneself on: Charlottesville. Baltimore. Children in cages. Allies left on the battlefield.”
Listen to the podcast to hear more of Steele on the GOP, what happens to the party in 2024, and on the Greek chorus, as I call them, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). And hear Steele pay tribute to the late Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.).
“I called him a servant leader, because, yes, he was a leader. He led big committees . . . he was the power in the room, but he was not afraid as a leader to understand that he was also in service to others,” Steele said. “And in that service, speak truth to that very power that he represented.”