MEDIA, Pa. — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has pushed back against impeaching President Trump, shared a stage Friday with two freshman Democrats who favor launching an inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.
Any divisions were hardly evident at a planned discussion on college affordability and debt relief from student loans. In fact, few in attendance focused on impeachment or even Trump.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) emphasized the value of education, saying that “nothing brings more money to the treasury than investing in education,” primarily public education opportunities. “It’s about people reaching their self-fulfillment and being able to economically lift their lives,” she said.
The name “Trump” was uttered only once during the 60-minute panel discussion — by Pelosi, who mentioned “Trump University, DeVos University” — the latter a reference to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — when the conversation turned to for-profit colleges. When some in the audience of about 400 jeered, Pelosi nodded solemnly and said, “They’re in business.”
Pelosi appeared at Delaware County Community College with Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon and Madeleine Dean, both of Pennsylvania and both members of the House Judiciary Committee, which has the authority to begin impeachment proceedings.
Scanlon has said that “no one is above the law” and pressed for an impeachment inquiry “because the American people deserve to know the truth and to have the opportunity to judge the gravity of the evidence and charges leveled against the president.”
Dean has said she favors launching an inquiry.
The event in this city outside Philadelphia underscored how Democrats succeeded in the 2018 election and captured the House majority, focusing heavily on issues such as health care, education and gun control that appealed to suburban voters.
Pelosi has repeatedly argued that attention to policy, rather than a fixation on Trump, will help lift Democrats in next year’s election.
The break from Washington politics was welcomed by Sara Atkins, 39, a mother of five from Lower Merion who is running for a seat in the Pennsylvania House as a Democrat in 2020.
“It just shows that Democrats didn’t fight for seats . . . to resist Trump. They came to get work done,” Atkins said. “While they are dealing with the issue of impeachment and the Mueller report, they are also working on legislation that will change our lives
“I personally have mounting student loans. My husband has mounting student loans,” she said, adding, “We are looking at three college tuitions while we’re still paying off our student loans.”
While Pelosi barely mentioned Trump, the president continued his criticism of the speaker a day after the two traded insults. Trump had called her “crazy” at a White House event and questioned her mental ability; Pelosi had complained about his “temper tantrum” this week and suggested his family and staff “stage an intervention” for the good of the country.
Before leaving on a trip to Japan on Friday, Trump objected to a reporter’s characterization that he had leveled a “personal attack” against Pelosi.
“Did you hear what she said about me long before I went after her?” Trump said. “She made horrible statements. She knows they’re not true. She said terrible things, so I just responded in kind.”
Trump, 72, also repeated his contention that Pelosi, 79, is not as spry as she has been.
“Look, you think Nancy’s the same as she was?” Trump said. “She’s not. Maybe we could all say that.”
Trump insisted he is still willing to work with Pelosi and other Democrats on legislation once they end their investigations of him and his administration.
“I want to do what’s good for the country,” Trump said. “I think Nancy Pelosi is not helping this country. I think the Democrats are obstructionists. They’re hurting our country very, very badly. We could pass so many different bills right now, but all they want to do is investigate. . . . They want to try to get a do-over of the Mueller report. It doesn’t work that way.”
Trump has maintained that the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election cleared him of any wrongdoing. Mueller identified 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president.
Abby Jones, who is Atkins’s campaign director, said she was impressed the three elected officials, on the first full day of a 10-day Memorial Day break, were able to put Washington behind them.
“Think about the week that Mary Gay Scanlon and obviously the speaker had, and they were able to come here and focus on the issue that mattered to the people in the room,” said Jones, 44, of Philadelphia. “Nobody wanted to talk about impeachment here. That’s a D.C. issue.”
While the panelists stayed on topic while taking audience questions or responding to queries submitted in advance, the crowd’s actions indicated they had been following the news. When Pelosi stepped onto the stage, most in the crowd stood and applauded before she had even said a word. Mention of DeVos consistently got jeers.
At one point, Pelosi praised Scanlon and Dean for their leadership on educational issues as members of the Judiciary Committee — “in the eye of the storm.”
The comment drew applause and a few cheers, but Pelosi was not done speaking.
“But more importantly, they took the lead in passing the Equality Act in Congress,” she said, referring to legislation that bans anti-LGBT discrimination.
Monica Taylor, 36, of Upper Darby asked the panel a question about dual enrollment programs for high school students and was pleased to hear proposed legislation would help students finance those opportunities. She brought her 6-year-old daughter, Maya, to the event.
“I like her to see amazing women leaders in our Congress who are fighting for the things we want in our community,” said Taylor, a school board director, “and she was off school today.”
Wagner reported from Washington.