Jun 15, 2022

Weekly House Democrats Press Conference 6/14/22 Transcript

Weekly House Democrats Press Conference 6/14/22 Transcript
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Weekly House Democrats Press Conference 6/14/22. Read the transcript here.

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Hakeem Jeffries: (10:33)
Good morning, everyone. Before I begin my opening remarks and yield to Pete, I just wanted to express our heartfelt prayers and condolences to our colleague, Sean Casten, and to the entire Casten family on the tragic loss of his 17 year old daughter, unspeakable tragedy. And we’re asking everyone to respect the privacy that the family of course has requested, but we want to make it entirely clear that his House Democratic Caucus family stands with the Casten family during this hour of greatest need. And we ask that God continue to watch over Sean and the Casten family.

Hakeem Jeffries: (11:19)
Now we had a very robust discussion earlier today. House Democrats have been focused like a laser beam on making sure that we can continue to create good paying jobs, 8.7 million jobs have been created during the Biden presidency, keep unemployment low, it remains at 3.6%. Wages have begun to increase, that is very positive and we need to keep that going. We also of course have to lower costs for everyday Americans and create an economy that works for the people.

Hakeem Jeffries: (11:58)
And so consistent with that effort, this week, led by representative Abigail Spanberger, the Lower Food and Fuel Cost Act will be on the House floor explicitly to try to lower costs in two critical areas that the American people are feeling in their pocketbook, of course, gas prices as well as food prices. We’re hopeful that the effort will secure bipartisan support on the floor and that the Senate will see its way toward acting in this incredibly critical area at this particular point in time. We want to keep the aspects of the economy foundationally around unemployment and job creation going while at the same time working to lower costs for everyday Americans. That is our commitment as House Democrats. That is what we will continue to do.

Hakeem Jeffries: (13:02)
We, of course, are also monitoring the developments in the Senate with respect to the gun violence prevention legislative agreement. We look forward to the text becoming publicly available, hopefully sooner rather than later, but I think many of us, certainly the people I represent back at home heartened by the apparent breakthrough and doing something to address the gun violence crisis that we have been afflicted with here in the United States of America. Now yield to my distinguished colleague, our Vice Chair, Pete Aguilar.

Pete Aguilar: (13:42)
Thank you, Mr Chairman. When the January 6th committee started, we said very clearly that we would tell the full and complete story about what happened on January 6th and what were the causes that led up to it. Through two hearings so far and more ahead, we are on our way to complete that task and to share what we’ve learned with the American public. But it’s very clear that what we have laid out so far is that Donald Trump was at the center of a coordinated strategy to overturn the results of a free and fair election. We’ll continue to tell the next chapter in that story on Thursday. We look forward to the continuing work of the committee, sharing the results that we have learned and, most importantly, ensuring that this never happens again. With that, the chairman will answer all your questions.

Speaker 1: (14:39)
Over the weekend. There was an announcement from a group of senators that there has been an agreement reached on legislation to address recent shootings. Understanding that obviously we haven’t seen the legislative text yet and that this doesn’t go quite as far as Democrats might hope, do you all expect that the house and the Democrat Caucus will be able to approve whatever comes out of the Senate?

Hakeem Jeffries: (15:07)
Well, many of the advocacy groups, the families afflicted by the violence, the people on the ground who have been working to get some progress in this area of gun violence prevention in the face of what we know to be an epidemic, have expressed publicly their support for the agreement, at least as we understand it, as a strong, a meaningful, positive step in the right direction, and I share that view. I certainly believe that the overwhelming majority of House Democrats share that view as well.

Pete Aguilar: (15:45)
[inaudible 00:15:45]

Speaker 2: (15:45)
Thank you. Just to follow up on that point, though what is your argument to those who say it doesn’t go as far? I mean, Chris Murphy’s conceded that this was a pretty modest proposal, many Democrats want to go much, much further, and there are some who would say, “Look, there’s nothing in there about assault weapons, nothing in there about raising the age to 21.” They will say, “You guys have-”

Speaker 1: (16:03)
There’s nothing in there about raising the age to 21, they will say, “You guys have, have taken too little.” How do you counter that?

Hakeem Jeffries: (16:07)
Well, we’re going to wait for the legislative text to be presented, but I stand by the comment that I just made, that many of our advocacy groups and families, people I’ve talked to on the ground, have embraced this development as a meaningful step in the right direction. There will always be work to do.

Hakeem Jeffries: (16:24)
The leading cause of death for children and young people in America is gun violence. This is in the greatest country, I would argue, in the history of the world; that can’t be. So there’s always going to be work to do in this area and in other areas. But I think there is reason to be optimistic that the Senate appears to be coming together in a positive way to take steps that are necessary, and that will have an impact on reducing gun violence.

Pete Aguilar: (17:01)
We’re going to wait. We’re going to support the framework that the Senate has put forward so far while we await the full legislative text to see the details. But Senator Murphy himself said, “The metric that we’re going to use here is will this save lives?” That’s what the House Democratic Caucus is concerned about, will this save lives of young people who are affected by gun violence? We know that there are many things that we can do to address gun violence in our communities.

Pete Aguilar: (17:34)
The chairman serving on judiciary committee has sent the House numerous proposals that do that. These so far, don’t go as far as our proposals, but the metric that we’re going to use is, “Will this help save lives? Will this help move the needle and protect our communities, even just a little bit?” That’s something that we have to be mindful of in these days. Thanks [inaudible 00:17:57].

Speaker 1: (17:59)
How [inaudible 00:17:59] explain that chasm between the deal that the House passed last week, which had some sweeping things in it, and again, this more modest proposal. I mean, somebody’s going to say, “Wait a minute, [inaudible 00:18:08].”

Hakeem Jeffries: (18:07)
It’s very interesting that the people who are actually impacted by this the most on the ground, victims, people who have suffered, those who live in communities afflicted by gun violence in parts of Brooklyn or other parts of America, or have been tragically impacted as Pete has indicated, are supportive of the framework that is in the public domain. We’ll wait to see what the legislative text is, but as Vice Chair Aguilar has indicated, the metric, the basis of evaluation will be, will the steps that the Senate takes in its proposal save American lives? Based on the framework, as I can see it, lives will be saved.

Speaker 1: (18:56)
As [inaudible 00:18:57] security. Do you think that The Department of Justice should actually prosecute some of these people who are protesting outside of the homes with existing laws, and even some Republicans are calling that President Biden should do more before the country to tell people not to protest in front of justice’s homes.

Hakeem Jeffries: (19:20)
I don’t know who these Republicans are. I’d be interested in their perspectives. I’d be interested in their perspectives on sort of the violent insurrection and what actually has unfolded before our very eyes in terms of halting, at least temporarily, the peaceful transfer of power violently. We’re going to continue to take steps necessary to keep all public servants safe. And that of course includes, as leader Hoyer has announced, bringing the Senate Supreme Court Bill to the floor today.

Speaker 1: (19:58)
This question is for Vice Chair Aguilar. On the January 6th select committee, why was tomorrow’s hearing [inaudible 00:20:07] rescheduled? And how does that affect the schedule of future hearings to come next week and in the future possibly. And additionally, it seems that there was some disagreement between the chairman, Chairman Thompson and Vice Chair Cheney, on whether or not a [inaudible 00:20:22] referral regarding former President Trump is even on the table. Where is the committee on that? And where do you personally stand on [inaudible 00:04:31?

Pete Aguilar: (20:31)
The schedule has always been fluid. So we’re going to move forward and have a Thursday hearing and then get ready for hearings next week as well. So the hearing will be just postponed and moved to likely next week.

Pete Aguilar: (20:49)
The chairman and the committee will put out the balance of the calendar. But as we’ve said, it continues to be fluid and we’re getting ready for Thursday. We just want to make sure that you all have the time and space to digest all the information that we’re putting out there. But this is about telling that story and sharing what we’ve learned. And we feel that we can accomplish that by moving forward with the Thursday hearing.

Pete Aguilar: (21:15)
With respect to your second question, our job is to tell the full and complete story; that’s what I heard the chairman say yesterday. That’s what we’re focused on. We’re focused on the hearings in front of us, telling the full and complete story, as the vice chair laid out in her opening statements last week, she detailed some of the evidence that we’ve received, and also the hearings ahead in the seven-point plan that we’ve discussed, but she’s also right that the members haven’t had this conversation.

Pete Aguilar: (21:50)
When our hearings are complete, we’ll have a conversation on next steps, which includes ultimately the final report that we will put together, but also any other material that we seek, or any other letters that we send, the committee will have those discussions and deliberations.

Pete Aguilar: (22:06)
But I think I viewed the chairman’s comments as just being hyperfocused on the hearings ahead. That’s our focus, that’s our responsibility. That’s what we’ve been getting ready for. That’s what we’ve taken 1,000 to get to this point. And so that’s where we are. But we’ll have that conversation as a committee moving forward.

Speaker 3: (22:28)
[inaudible 00:22:28] question, following the January 6th [inaudible 00:22:31]. So the committee [inaudible 00:22:33] June 2nd, was a relatively short deposition, two-and-a-half hours. We’ve already seen his testimony play such a pivotal role in the hearings, how important is he to your case [inaudible 00:22:48]?

Pete Aguilar: (22:48)
Well, I think what we laid out, you saw some ample clips of the former attorney general in hearings one and two, I think it’s an important piece of the story that we’re seeking to tell, which to date has shown that the president knew he lost; he had been told by trusted advisors time and time again that he lost, that the basis for the lawsuits were frivolous. He ended up losing over 60 lawsuits related to the election.

Pete Aguilar: (23:17)
So we felt it was important to have the attorney general talk about their conversations, which he had written about in his book and detailed in the press. So our desire to have him on camera for a deposition was important for this story, but we knew elements of the story that he had shared in public and in other ways.

Pete Aguilar: (23:38)
So that’s how the attorney general’s testimony came before us, but it’s clearly important. We’re seeking to lay the foundation and to tell the American public that the people in and around the president knew this, that there were only a small group of people around him who didn’t know it, or who told him what he wanted to hear. And those people-

Pete Aguilar: (24:02)
… Told him what he wanted to hear, and those people endangered democracy. Those individuals who were in his ear endangered the American democracy by continuing to perpetuate the lies that he espoused after the election about the outcome of the 2020 election.

Speaker 4: (24:22)
I also got a question for Mr. Aguilar.

Pete Aguilar: (24:25)
Let’s get the chairman here, man. Come on, [inaudible 00:24:27].

Hakeem Jeffries: (24:26)
All right. Yeah, yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 4: (24:26)
So, Congressman Rodney Davis, the ranking member on the House Administration Committee, just released a letter to Capitol Police Chief Manger confirming that he did in fact bring a group into the Capitol Complex on January 5th. Is the committee still interested in Mr Loudermilk’s testimony, and for that matter, the other Republican lawmakers who are subpoenaed?

Pete Aguilar: (24:50)
Yes, we think that each of them has a duty and an obligation to respond to a lawful subpoena. In each of those letters, we laid out some of the questions that we have for our colleagues. I hope in the next few weeks, we can add more detail to the Loudermilk letter as well. And my personal belief is we should show the video. I understand what Mr Davis’s letter indicates, but I think the evidence speaks to the prior comments, what Rodney Davis said last year, and what the House Administration Republicans said last year, that there were no tours, no MAGA hats, that that was just false. It was a lie. And so now they’re saying, “Well, it wasn’t that dangerous. We didn’t go into the Capitol. We were just in the Capitol Complex.” I’m sorry if I don’t distinguish between the two, because those rioters tried to get in every corner of these buildings. So spare me, Rodney Davis, the technicality of the Capitol Complex versus the Capitol Building, because he should know better. And what he said and what he authorized House Republicans saying in the House Administration Committee was a lie.

Chad: (26:10)
[inaudible 00:26:10], so you’re-

Hakeem Jeffries: (26:10)
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on. Chad, Chad, Chad, Chad, Chad, Chad, Chad, Chad. Just want to make sure we get the opportunity for other people who haven’t spoken to answer questions yet.

Speaker 4: (26:19)
Still on my SCOTUS … I mean, my SCOTUS.

Hakeem Jeffries: (26:23)
Hold on, hold on, hold on one second. We went to you already. Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on.

Speaker 5: (26:28)
Chairman Jeffries, my question’s in regards to the gun reform legislation. I mean, Senator Joe Manchin said yesterday that House Democrats, more specifically the House progressives, need to understand that an outright ban on assault rifles, it’s almost impossible to do because of where a majority of Republicans stand, but I want to hear from you. I mean, what happens if, even with this framework, yes, we haven’t seen the actual text of the legislation come down, but what do we do if the framework from this, come from this groundbreaking legislation, come down and something in the future still ends up happening at a school or even not at a school, at a nightclub at a music festival. What do we do then?

Hakeem Jeffries: (27:04)
Well, it’s been 30 years since we’ve been able to secure in Congress any meaningful steps to deal with the gun violence epidemic that we have in America, and so let’s take it one step at a time. And the step that is in front of us right now relates to the framework agreement and we are waiting to see the legislative text. We’ll go to the fifth row. Yeah.

Speaker 7: (27:29)
Question on the Supreme court. So it’s expected to [inaudible 00:27:33] a set of rulings to know which could have be the one that could overturn Roe versus Wade, so more protests are planned in DC and the planners, the organizers, said that they’re not ruling out violence. Are you concerned about that?

Hakeem Jeffries: (27:46)
Well, we denounce violence in any form, whether it comes from whatever particular ideological perspective. And I haven’t seen any comments in terms of folks not ruling out violence, but we’ve been very clear. Violence is not a form of legitimate political discourse. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Apparently believe that it is. Last question.

Speaker 6: (28:15)
Where are you on wind energy profit taxes? There’s been a lot of talk about that within the caucus. Has there been any progress on that? Some progressives have really pushed for that to come to the floor.

Hakeem Jeffries: (28:26)
We continue to have conversations with the variety of members within the House Democratic Caucus in terms of how we are going to address the moment that we’re in relative to the inflationary pressures that we’re experiencing, certainly in terms of food prices and gas prices. And what is in front of us this week relates to the Lower Food and Fuel Costs, Act thankful for the leadership of Chairman Scott, Abigail Spanberger, members of the Ag Committee. Hopefully it will be supported in a bipartisan way when it hits the floor on Thursday. Thank everyone.

Speaker 6: (29:01)
Can we just get clarity from Mr Aguilar on the point, are you … the letter that Tom Manger sent to Barry Loudermilk. I just want to have clarity here because you said, “Spare me what Rodney Davis said about people being in the Capitol or the office.” But looking at the Manger, I just want to make sure we’re clear on where … Are you disputing what the letter that Manger sent to Loudermilk?

Pete Aguilar: (29:19)
I read the New York Times article. I didn’t read the Manger letter. But what I can tell you is that what Republicans from the House Administration Committee said last year was false. What they said was, “There were no tours, no MAGA hats.” That was patently false. So I’m happy to read any letter that the Capitol Police Chief sends to us, but I hope that we also have a real conversation about that because tours were not authorized at that time and there were many individuals in and around the Capitol Complex who talked a lot about violence in those times. That’s all I’ll say. Thanks.

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