Although she insisted that no decision has been made about whether to impeach President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lit into the president at an event in Gaithersburg on Sunday evening, saying he has “dishonored the oath of office [and] demeaned who we are as a people.”
With the House entering the second week of its public impeachment inquiry, Pelosi was the star attraction at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser held by first-term Congressman David J. Trone (D).
[Disclosure: The David and June Trone Family Foundation is a financial supporter of Maryland Matters.]
The central thrust of the inquiry is whether Trump committed impeachable offenses by withholding congressionally-approved foreign aid to Ukraine unless that country’s new president agreed to start an investigation of a potential Trump rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Pelosi accused the president of not understanding the limits on his power, which she referred to as the “exquisite formula” of checks and balances created by the nation’s founders.
“The current resident of the White House says Article II says he can do whatever he wants. It doesn’t,” she said, as the audience booed the reference to Trump. “That would be a monarchy. We are not a monarchy.”
“What is America?” Pelosi asked rhetorically. “It is that Constitution with all of our rights contained therein. And some of us believe the current occupant of the White House has violated the Constitution by his actions, violated his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.”
She made no reference to the controversial phone call Trump made to Ukraine’s newly-elected president or the pressure he is said to have applied to American diplomats, nor did she discuss in detail the testimony House committees have heard or the depositions given by potential future witnesses.
The campaign event, which drew more than 1,200 people, was held in the cafeteria of Gaithersburg High School in Montgomery County. Residents ate spaghetti off paper plates at tables in the school’s cafeteria. The air was thick with political buzz and anticipation before the program began.
Pelosi was introduced by Trone, a businessman-turned-politician who will be seeking his second term in 2020. He was introduced by Del. Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), who made history in May when she became the first woman and the first African-American elected speaker of the House of Delegates.
Trone noted that Pelosi, a native of Baltimore, is the highest-ranking woman ever elected in American history, a remark that triggered one of several standing ovations.
He and Pelosi spoke at length about the issues that the House has been working on, including opioid abuse, gun violence, climate change, “paycheck fairness,” and LGBTQ rights.
In a conversation with reporters after her speech, Pelosi conceded that some Americans think Congress is focused only on impeachment.
“As I travel across the country, people really do not have the fullest idea of all the legislation that we are passing, and they are glad to hear it,” she said. “Quite frankly, the press has only been interested in one subject for a very long time.”
“It’s important to note that we’ve passed over 300 bills,” said Trone. “And [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has only passed four bills to this point. So the House is really working hard on substantive issues.”
Sunday marked the second time that Pelosi traveled to her native Maryland to speak at a Trone event. She spoke on his behalf at a rally a year ago in Potomac.
His district, the 6th, is the most competitive congressional district in the state. A wealthy self-funder who set records for campaign spending, Trone, who travels frequently though his district, has through his short political career been criticized by members of both parties for his willingness to spend millions of dollars on his campaigns.
Supporters attending Sunday night’s spaghetti dinner were charged $10 a ticket. Many were plainly ecstatic to hear Pelosi speak in the middle of an impeachment inquiry that has sharply divided the nation. Trump is a reviled figure for many in Montgomery County.
In her invocation, Rev. Dr. Lora Hargrove, interim minister at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Rockville, said Pelosi “stands to fight against wickedness in high places. We stand with Nancy as she fights the good fight.”
Hargrove drew loud applause when she prayed that the speaker be granted “the continued tenacity and the due diligence to impeach the imposter who resides on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
When it was her turn to speak, Pelosi pledged to “bring back that message to my colleagues in the Congress,” to laughter and cheers from the crowd.