House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaves the Democratic leadership after the Republicans win the majority. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer remains at the helm of a chamber still controlled by the Democrats.
But both said President Joe Biden should run for a second term in 2024 after what they described as an “excellent” first two years in office.
The comments from the Democratic congressional leaders came in their first joint sit-down interview with CNN’s Jamie Gangel over lunch at Hunan Dynasty, a Chinese restaurant on Washington’s Capitol Hill where the two have eaten together for years.
Pelosi said Biden, who at 80 is already the oldest president in the country, has “done an outstanding job” at the White House.
“I hope he seeks re-election. He is a person with a great vision for our country. He’s been involved for a long time, so he’s very knowledgeable about the issues and challenges we face,” she said.
Pelosi also said Biden is “the most empathetic president. He interacts with people.”
“The vision, the knowledge, the strategic thinking is all there,” she said, pointing to her head. “Empathy comes from the heart. And I think he’s a great president.”
When asked if Biden should run again, Schumer said, “Yes. He did an excellent, excellent job. And if he runs, I will support him all the way.”
The interview took place less than three weeks before Pelosi steps down as speaker after Republicans won a narrow majority in the November midterm elections. The California Democrat plans to stay in the House and represent her district in San Francisco, but is leaving her caucus leaders.
Schumer and Pelosi reminisced about past battles with Donald Trump in the interview — and both predicted the former president will lose his third bid for the White House.
“The American people have grown wise to him. It took a while, but they did it,” Schumer said.
The New York Democrat said Americans watched as pro-Trump rioters attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying voters’ understanding of the “danger to democracy” is partly responsible for the stronger-than-expected display of the Democrats in this year’s midterm elections. .
“I don’t think we should talk about him while we’re eating,” Pelosi said of Trump.
The comments from the Democratic duo come amid the possibility of a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024. Trump has already announced his 2024 candidacy, though he likely faces a competitive GOP primary; Biden has not made a formal announcement, but has long insisted he will seek re-election and says he will officially decide early next year.
A new CNN poll conducted by SSRS found little appetite for a rematch between the 2020 rivals. About 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican independents say they want their party to nominate someone other than Trump in 2024 (62%), while one a similar 59% of Democrats and Democratic-oriented independents say they would like to see someone other than Trump. Biden at the top of their ticket in the next presidential election.
In the interview, Pelosi and Schumer described their actions on January 6, 2021, when Trump-supporting insurgents attacked the Capitol.
Schumer said he asked Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to get him on the phone with Trump — but Rosen wouldn’t do that.
“He wouldn’t put it on,” Schumer said.
When asked if Trump would not answer their call, Schumer said, “Right. Right.”
Those calls came three days after a high-stakes Oval Office meeting at which Trump considered replacing Rosen as acting attorney general with loyalist Jeffrey Clark so Clark could use his powers to try to overturn the 2020 election. At that meeting, Trump was told that if he carried out that plan, top Justice Department officials, including Rosen, would resign.
Pelosi contrasted Trump with the Republicans she had worked with as leader of the House Democrats, including former Speaker John Boehner. She described Trump as insane.
“I think there is a need for his family to step in or something. I don’t think he’s at the level right now,” Pelosi said.
In the interview, the two described a close relationship spanning more than three decades — “almost like brother and sister,” Schumer said.
That relationship includes regular dinners and four phone calls a day — too many, Pelosi joked — all because Schumer has a flip phone.
“If he had a regular smartphone, we could reduce the number of calls because I could just text him,” she said.
The two discussed a heated Oval Office meeting with Trump in December 2018, in which Trump said on news cameras that he would shut down the government over lawmakers’ refusal to fund his US-Mexico border wall.
“Chuck was masterful,” Pelosi said of the rally, in which Schumer pushed Trump to make the statement that he would shut down the government.
“She set him up so I could commit the murder,” Schumer said.
Schumer said Pelosi was able to successfully navigate the Trump presidency because she treated the Republican like a child.
“I tell people that Nancy instinctively knew how to deal with Trump because she raised five kids in her first 35-40 years of life,” he said.
Schumer said that despite Pelosi’s departure from the House Democratic leadership, the two will continue to speak regularly.
“I’ll definitely call,” he said, “and ask her for advice and get an idea of what’s going on in the House and what we can get done.”