After a historic and somber announcement signaling her approval to begin drafting articles of impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) changed venues and tone, appearing at her regularly scheduled weekly news conference.

She began, as she often does, reciting the legislative accomplishments of the House, a rebuttal to the accusation that impeachment is impeding legislation. H.R. 3 on drug prices and H.R. 4 on voting rights, she explained, will be coming up for votes. She noted that the House has passed 275 bills that now sit on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) desk — including measures on background checks for firearms purchases, equal pay and political reform. “Legislate, investigate, litigate,” she recited. The House is doing all three, she wanted to make crystal clear.

The questions from the media were, naturally, all about impeachment. She was unequivocal. “This isn’t about Ukraine. It’s about Russia. Who benefited from our withholding that military assistance? Russia. She added: “Our adversary in this is Russia. All roads lead to Putin.”

She declined to comment on the scope of the impeachment articles, but during her discussion of the president’s wrongdoing she repeatedly went back to the original sin: Russian help for Donald Trump in the 2016 election and his obstruction of investigation into the same. In her words, Congress has been dealing with this for 2½ years, not just a few weeks.

Asked whether impeachment might hurt some of her members, she replied sternly, "This has absolutely nothing to do with politics. It isn’t about politics. It’s not about partisanship, Democrats, Republicans. . . . It’s about the Constitution of the United States.”

She emphasized that it is the president’s actions that leave Congress “no choice.” If the House were to do nothing, she explained, it would signal to future presidents, “You can do whatever you want.”

It was the coda to the main part of her Q&A that went viral. James Rosen, a reporter for the right-wing and Trump-loving Sinclair Broadcast Group, asked whether Pelosi hated the president. She turned sharply to confront Rosen. “I don’t hate anybody,” she said. “Not anybody in the world. Don’t you accuse me of . . .” Rosen pleaded that he was simply repeating the accusation of Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), one of Trump’s more hysterical defenders. At that point, she went back to the podium. What she said next, in a fierce but deliberate fashion, was something to behold:

I think the president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids, who are afraid of gun violence. I think he is cruel when he doesn’t deal with helping our “dreamers,” of whom we are very proud. I think he is in denial about the Constitution — about the climate crisis. However, that’s about the election. Take it up in the election.
This [impeachment] is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office.
And as a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone. . . . I pray for the president all the time. So, don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.

I don’t suspect many reporters will “mess” with her in this fashion again (essentially acting as a mouthpiece for talking points delivered by Trump’s unhinged allies in Congress).

Trump falsely deemed her performance a “nervous fit” which, as is often the case, best describes his own diatribes against the media and his political opponents. He once again seems unable to cope with a strong, defiant woman. (Recall that he lashed out by tweet while Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, was still testifying.)

Indeed, some of Trump’s most agreeable toadies channel his obvious dislike of the speaker. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), speaking Thursday before Pelosi’s news conference, tried to diminish her leadership. “I think the most radical people in the country are running, driving the impeachment process and either she gets on the train or she’s going to get run over by it.” No one should doubt her iron grip on the process. Senator Graham, I really don’t think you should mess with her.

Read more: