By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she’s “done” with talking about President Donald Trump and called him the “diverter in chief,” saying he manufactured controversies to distract attention from more important issues.
“I’m done with him. I don’t even want to talk about him,” Pelosi, a Democrat, said at a Washington conference in reply to a question about Trump’s latest barrage of personal insults.
Last week Trump called Pelosi, the most powerful U.S. Democrat, “a disgrace … a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.”
At a U.S. war cemetery in France, with the gravestones of fallen soldiers in the background, Trump said in a Fox News interview, “I call her Nervous Nancy … Nancy Pelosi’s a disaster, okay. She’s a disaster.”
Asked at the conference how she works with Republican Trump when he throws such insults her way, Pelosi said:
“I just consider the source. My stock goes up every time he attacks me, so what can I say, but let’s not spend too much time on that because that’s his victory, the diverter-in-chief, the diverter-of-attention-in-chief.”
For part of Trump’s presidency, he generally refrained from trash-talking Pelosi as he does many others, but that ended in recent weeks as Democrats intensified their investigations of the president and discussed possibly impeaching him.
Pelosi declined to confirm recent media reports that she had told fellow Democrats that Trump should be in prison, rather than impeached, because of his behaviour as outlined in U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s efforts to impede that probe.
However, she said of impeachment: “It’s not off the table.”
White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, speaking to the same conference later Tuesday, expressed scepticism that Pelosi was “done” with Trump. “We’re not done with her. I doubt she’s done with us,” Mulvaney said. “We’ll see how long that holds up.”
Pelosi has previously talked about Trump’s comments and threats being a diversion from the issues. Last week, the Speaker said that Trump’s threatened tariffs on Mexico were both bad policy and a distraction from the Mueller report.
“What bothers me more is that we’re talking about that (Trump’s insults) instead of how to reduce national debt,” Pelosi said at the conference on Tuesday.
She said that even on the question of rebuilding U.S. infrastructure, which Trump had often said he wanted to do, “when it came to pay for it, he diverted attention to personal matters.” Trump last month torpedoed a meeting with Democrats on infrastructure, saying he could not work with them as long as they were conducting multiple investigations of him.
Pelosi noted that she had declined to criticise Trump during a television interview in France because she does not criticise the president when overseas. She and Trump both attended ceremonies in France marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day operation that helped end World War Two.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Cynthia Osterman)