On 23 July, a group of women organised a meeting with staff of the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss their concerns about the Trump administration’s various policies and Trump’s 2016 election campaign. They are keen to see the president impeached for numerous felonious and perjurious activities undertaken by the Trump team, both while he has served as president and prior to his inauguration. Their story is recounted below.
(For privacy reasons, the following was written with first names only)
Here’s a brief background of how we came together. During a popular resistance broadcast last month, Lynn simply wrote in the comments, “Does anyone want to come with me to Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco office?” Several people replied, and we created a FB group. Margaret grasped the idea, as well as a few others, and we began planning how to get the San Francisco office to let us speak to staffers since we weren’t constituents.
On June 24th, three of us were allowed into the San Francisco office reception area—no video permitted—to speak with two blank-faced interns. The scheduler called twenty minutes after we left and offered us a meeting with the Chief-of-Staff in July.
By the time of our July 23rd meeting, we had six people armed with prepared questions and comments we worked on together in advance. Four of us are a part of a leadership and activism program (Margaret, Lynn, Katharine (constituent), and Nancy (constituent) and we were joined by Lee Ann and Linda). We sent in our questions ahead of time so the staffers could not tell us, we don’t know, we’ll have to research that. With a late in the day appointment (4:30 pm), we were concerned about being pushed out after half an hour. Later, we found the office didn’t close until 5:30.
The Chief-of-Staff had to go out-of-town. Instead, we spoke with an aide, Gary, and District Scheduler/Executive Assistant to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Adriana. They gave us each a tidy folder with the Congressional seal on the front (nice souvenirs). Inside were pages of explanations of what they were doing as far as legislation and oversight.
Gary went through a laundry list of the bills they were working on and the oversight actions taken by various committees, some harkening to the questions we emailed them. He didn’t have a good response to the question about whether any items on that laundry list of subpoenas were actually being obeyed, nor what consequences they could use to give their subpoenas more teeth given an unwilling Attorney General in Barr. Gary seemed to think that this oversight served the same purpose as impeachment hearings would in airing the dirty laundry and holding folks to account.
Adriana explained why it was important that each of us go to our own representatives to ask for impeachment. She had some valid points. It’s a numbers game. The process should work from constituents up. Adriana expressed that Pelosi is worried about vulnerable Democrats in deep purple areas, where impeachment isn’t yet popular, who might lose their seats if they do move forward on impeachment. She is concerned she doesn’t have the votes in the house. She didn’t speak to being concerned about the possible vote in the Senate.
Basically, every topic we brought up was met with “We are working on it, there’s a process, or read the website to inform yourselves.” When they started to turn out the lights in the conference room, we got up and thanked them; however, we continued the conversation in the main office. Leaving the conference room seemed to loosen them up, and we all spoke more candidly. They said that their partners and friends have also asked the questions we did.
Adriana, who works closely with Pelosi, said that Pelosi is not afraid of the GOP or Trump. Apparently, behind closed doors she’s far less demure. Adriana inadvertently let it slip that the action that needs to be taken to start persuading folks is mass civil disobedience, as with the fight over the ACA repeal [ACA is the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”] and as with the fight against Kavanaugh [a Justice of the Supreme Court who was contentiously nominated by Trump]. She didn’t specifically tell us to do this, but she did make it clear that those actions are hard to ignore. She also said that staffers and interns listen to every voicemail message received and jot down the relevant issue in the tally for the day, whether the caller is a constituent or not. She said that the angry “F YOU” messages don’t get tallied, but if you are clear about asking for impeachment you will be heard and counted. Just don’t forget to contact your local reps and make them feel the pressure as well. Adriana also reminded us that the upcoming August recess is not a vacation, but a time specifically devoted to let representatives go home and host town halls and hear from their constituents. So we should all be demanding the schedules for town halls from our reps and making plans to attend those meetings and be sure that impeachment is one of the issues discussed.
Katharine gave Adriana a copy of a picture showing roughly 600 people spelling out IMPEACH with their bodies on Ocean Beach in the San Francisco from June 1st, and Adriana seemed happy to receive it, mentioning that she was surprised that this was the first she’d heard of it, especially since Indivisible the San Francisco has monthly meetings with the office.
As mentioned above, initially we expected our meeting to be brief due to the end of the day scheduling but in total we spend 100 minutes in good conversation. Overall, we felt heard, respected and understood. Gary and Adriana are our peers and although they are working in an office that must maintain a non-political stance, we could tell that they struggle with the same issues in our current administration. We didn’t expect to change Nancy’s mind if/when she learned of our visit, but we hoped that lending our voices to the impeachment cries would help. All-in-all, it was an excellent learning experience and worth the effort.