Facebook Twitter Tumblr Close Skip to main content
A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Trump Misquotes Pelosi

In an early morning tweet, President Donald Trump falsely attributed a quote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The quote was actually a Fox News reporter’s characterization of Pelosi’s words. Trump then distorted what she actually said.

The president’s tweet echoes a Republican talking point that the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry is designed to subvert the outcome of a 2020 presidential election that Democrats are convinced they cannot win.

In his speeches, Trump frequently says of Democrats, “They know they can’t win, so let’s try and impeach him.” Or, as he put it during a speech in Florida on Oct. 3, “And that’s why they do the impeachment crap, because they know they can’t beat us fairly.”

Despite the quote marks in the tweet indicating that those were Pelosi’s exact words, they are not. Rather, they are the words of Fox News Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emanuel, who said on air about an hour before Trump sent his tweet: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi circulating a memo to Democrats tonight telling them it would be dangerous to let voters decide President Trump’s fate when it comes to the Ukraine investigation.” (You can view the video as captured by Mediaite.)

The memo Emanuel was referring to was one Pelosi addressed to her Democratic colleagues, and released publicly, to update them on the latest developments in the House impeachment inquiry.

“The facts are uncontested: that the President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit, at the expense of our national security interests,” Pelosi wrote.

“The weak response to these hearings has been, ‘Let the election decide,’” Pelosi added. “That dangerous position only adds to the urgency of our action, because the President is jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections.”

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, told us in a phone interview that the Fox News reporter’s summary of that statement distorts Pelosi’s actual words and meaning.

Pelosi’s comment spoke to “the urgency of needing to hold the president accountable for his actions,” Hammill said. The facts are “uncontested” that Trump attempted to get a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election. Congress, he said, had “no choice but to hold him accountable.”

The full quote shows Pelosi said the Republican position to “let the election decide” is dangerous, in part, “because the President is jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections.”

In a White House-released memo of a July 25 phone call that Trump placed to the recently elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Several witnesses in the impeachment inquiry have said the request was accompanied by a pressure campaign that included the withholding of U.S. security aid, and the dangling of a White House visit for Zelensky.

In her “Dear Colleague” memo, Pelosi made no reference to wanting to “change our voting system,” as Trump put it. Rather, Pelosi has argued that it is Congress’ responsibility to determine whether the president committed an impeachable offense.

In a press conference on Oct. 17, Pelosi made clear that she views the impeachment and the election as separate events.

“I keep saying to people impeachment is about the truth and the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi said. She then went on to list several differences she has with the president on policy issues, but added, “that’s about the election.”

“That [policy difference] has nothing to do with what is happening in terms of our honoring our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution and the facts that might support,” Pelosi said. “We don’t know where this path will take us, but could take us down a further path, but the two are completely separate.”

A reporter then asked Pelosi at what point she might decide to just let the voters decide whether Trump committed an impeachable offense.

“No, no,” Pelosi said. “The voters are not going to decide whether we honor our oath of office. They already decided that in the last election.”