Rep. Nancy Pelosi is off the bench as former President Trump’s top adversary on Capitol Hill.
After stepping down as Speaker last year, Pelosi (D-Calif.) has flown largely under the radar in the Democratic caucus, allowing a crop of new leaders to take control of the group she steered for two decades.
But the California Democrat — now with the title of “Speaker Emerita” — resumed her role of top Trump antagonist following his latest indictment, landing blows on the former president, praising the charges, and showcasing her unique ability to get under the skin of the man with whom she went toe-to-toe during the four years he occupied the White House.
The bitter dynamics between the two leaders were on full display as Trump was indicted on charges stemming from his efforts to overturn the 2020 election ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol rampage — a day for which Pelosi has said she would “never forgive” Trump.
“I wasn’t in the courtroom, of course, but when I saw his coming out of his car and this or that, I saw a scared puppy,” Pelosi on Friday told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell of Trump arriving at his arraignment. “He looked very, very, very concerned about the fate.”
“I didn’t see any bravado or confidence or anything like that,” she continued. “He knows the truth — that he lost the election and now he’s got to face the music.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, June 21, 2023 to introduce the Equality Act.
Trump responded to the remarks on Tuesday, tearing into Pelosi — “She is a Wicked Witch” — while referencing last year’s violent attack on her husband, Paul Pelosi. An assailant looking for the then-Speaker entered the couple’s San Francisco residence and hit Paul Pelosi in the head with a hammer, leaving him with serious injuries.
Trump at the time called the attack “a terrible thing” without remarking further.
“I purposely didn’t comment on Nancy Pelosi’s very weird story concerning her husband, but now I can because she said something about me, with glee, that was really quite vicious. ‘I saw a scared puppy,’ she said, as she watched me on television, like millions of others, that didn’t see that. I wasn’t ‘scared,’” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
“Nevertheless, how mean a thing to say! She is a Wicked Witch whose husbands journey from hell starts and finishes with her. She is a sick & demented psycho who will someday live in HELL!” he added.
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The verbal tit-for-tat is nothing new for Trump and Pelosi, who engaged in name-calling while sparring across Pennsylvania Avenue during Trump’s presidency.
Pelosi labeled Trump a “coward” and said he was “morbidly obese.” She once referred to him as an “impostor” who “knows full well he’s in that office way over his head,” and she famously tore up Trump’s State of the Union speech while standing behind the president on the dais.
Trump, meanwhile, frequently referred to Pelosi as “crazy Nancy” and once called her “a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.”
The acrimonious relationship between the two leaders hit a fever pitch with Trump’s second impeachment, which Pelosi, as Speaker, staged a vote on shortly after the Capitol riot and just days before the president was set to leave office — making Trump the only U.S. president to be impeached twice. The Senate acquitted him both times.
Pelosi, whose office rioters broke into and whose name they chanted in the Capitol’s halls, also established the select committee that went on to probe the rampage and present its findings to the public through a series of high-profile hearings — a group that Trump criticized time and time again. She created the select committee after Senate Republicans blocked legislation to create an independent panel similar to the 9/11 Commission to probe the Capitol riot.
That panel helped lay the groundwork for the Justice Department’s indictment, which bore several similarities to testimony the Jan. 6 committee received during its year-plus investigation. And the list of charges Trump now faces includes two crimes the committee recommended — conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
Before the select committee dissolved, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and then-Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the ranking member, said the panel “made an enormous volume of material available to the Special Counsel.”
Pelosi has maintained a relatively low profile since bowing out of leadership — she told reporters after announcing her plans to step down that she did not want to be “the mother-in-law in the kitchen saying ‘my son doesn’t like the stuffing that way.’”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) greets Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) before a hearing to discuss the President’s FY 2024 budget for the Department of Homeland Security with Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.
But the Speaker Emerita did several media interviews following Trump’s latest indictment, giving herself an opportunity to comment on the charges against her top political opponent which, in a way, were set in motion by the panel she established.
“The indictments against the president are exquisite,” Pelosi told New York Magazine in an interview published this week, referring to the recent charges connected to Jan. 6 and the indictment against Trump pertaining to his handling of classified documents.
“They’re beautiful and intricate, and they probably have a better chance of conviction than anything that I would come up with,” she added.
And the California Democrat — who told New York Magazine, “I knew on Jan. 6 that he had committed a crime” — was not shy to point out the resemblance between the select committee’s work and the indictment against Trump.
“I just want to commend the Jan. 6 Committee, the House committee, bipartisan committee, Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney and all the members of the committee and the staff for the work that they did,” Pelosi told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview last week. “They laid a foundation of facts, about facts and the law, and made a criminal referral to the Justice Department.”
“It wasn’t our role to know what the Justice Department would do, if anything,” she later added. “So, when it became clear that there would be criminal charges made, it’s interesting to see how similar they are to some of the charges recommended by the Jan. 6 Committee.”
Pelosi’s reemergence as Trump’s fiercest foe comes as the former president is mounting a comeback bid for the White House, during which he has continued to call the 2020 election “rigged” and “stolen.”
She is airing warnings about another Trump term.
“Don’t even think of that,” Pelosi told New York Magazine. “Don’t think of the world being on fire. It cannot happen, or we will not be the United States of America.”
“If he were to be president,” she added, “it would be a criminal enterprise in the White House.”
But as for Trump’s legal fate, Pelosi is waiting patiently for the legal process to play out.
“Now it’s in the court of law,” Pelosi told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. “He’s innocent until proven guilty, he is not above the law, the facts and the law will determine the outcome.”