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Nancy Pelosi: Trump's Mexico tariffs are a 'distraction' from the Mueller report

Key Points
  • Nancy Pelosi says that President Trump's threat to slap tariffs on all Mexican imports is a "distraction" from the findings in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report.
  • The Senate, Pelosi says, "probably" has enough votes to override a presidential veto of a resolution disapproving of the proposal to impose 5% tariffs on all Mexican goods.
  • The goal should not be "punishing Mexico," the speaker says, "because in punishing Mexico, we'll be punishing America as well."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addresses the Center for American Progress (CAP) 2019 Ideas Conference in Washington, May 22, 2019.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday that President Donald Trump's looming threat to slap tariffs on all Mexican imports is a "distraction" from the findings in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report.

The Senate, Pelosi added, "probably" has enough votes to override a presidential veto of a resolution disapproving of the proposal to impose 5% tariffs on all Mexican goods, which will steadily increase to 25% until Mexico can stem the flow of migration to the U.S. southern border. But it's far from clear if the Republican-held chamber would take that step.

The top Democrat in the House, speaking at a news conference Wednesday morning, called the tariffs "bad policy" and took a cynical view of the White House's proposal. "I don't even think it rises to the level of policy, I think it's notion mongering, again," Pelosi said.

She added: "Let's face what it is, it's a distraction from the Mueller report, and it's served its purpose, right? Here we are."

In April, Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of Mueller's report on Russian election meddling, possible coordination between the Kremlin and Trump's campaign, and possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself.

The special counsel found after 22 months of investigation that there was insufficient evidence to suggest coordination between Trump's associates and Russia. But the report made no determination on whether Trump obstructed justice; in rare public remarks in late May, Mueller cited a long-standing Justice Department policy barring the prosecution of a sitting president for a federal crime.

Barr and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the determination based on the report that there was not enough evidence to support an obstruction offense. But Democrats in Congress have raised alarms about the findings in the 448-page report, including multiple examples of Trump possibly obstructing the Russia probe. Dozens of Democrats in Congress — and one Republican — have come out in favor of impeaching Trump.

Pelosi, however, has said she doesn't support impeachment, and has previously claimed that Trump is "goading" Democrats to impeach him as a political tactic.

But despite her insistence Wednesday that Trump's tariffs are a mere "distraction" from the Russia report, Trump has continued to repeat the refrain of "no collusion" that was a regular feature of his public remarks throughout Mueller's investigation.

Most Republicans in the Senate have yet to comment on the prospect of the Trump administration slapping tariffs on Mexico — a threat that spooked markets and could jeopardize the new trade pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday after a lunch meeting between GOP senators and White House officials that there was "not much support in my conference for tariffs, that's for sure. "

Asked if the Senate would vote on a resolution to block the tariffs, McConnell said, "Our hope is that the tariffs will be avoided and we won't have to answer any hypotheticals such as you suggest."

Congress may try and schedule a vote to block the tariffs if Trump uses his emergency powers to impose them.

Pelosi acknowledged the "problem" at the border, but suggested working with Mexico to "find a comprehensive immigration reform" to address it, along with having "humanitarian assistance at the border to help meet the needs of the people coming in."

The goal should not be "punishing Mexico," the speaker said, "because in punishing Mexico, we'll be punishing America as well."

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on Pelosi's remarks.