D.C.’S NEW KEY RE­LA­TION­SHIP

Tri-City Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY LISA MAS­CARO, JONATHAN LEMIRE AND CATHER­INE LUCEY

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and in­com­ing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be will­ing to strike deals on leg­is­la­tion.

They haven’t spo­ken in days, not since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump called to con­grat­u­late Nancy Pelosi on Democrats’ elec­tion night win.

But they don’t re­ally need to. Trump and Pelosi go way back, from the time she first showed up at Trump Tower fundrais­ing for the Democrats long be­fore he would be­come pres­i­dent or she the House speaker. Two big­name heirs to big-city honchos – Trump and Pelosi each had fathers who were po­lit­i­cal power play­ers in their home towns – they’ve rubbed el­bows on the Man­hat­tan so­cial scene for years.

And de­spite daily barbs in Wash­ing­ton, he’s al­ways “Mr. Pres­i­dent” to her, and she’s one prom­i­nent politi­cian he has not la­beled with a de­ri­sive nick­name.

Not quite friends, nor en­e­mies, theirs is now per­haps the most im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship in Wash­ing­ton. If any­thing is to come of the new era of di­vided gov­ern­ment, with a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent and Demo­cratic con­trol of the House, it will hap­pen in the deal-mak­ing space be­tween two of the coun­try’s most po­lar­iz­ing politi­cians.

The day af­ter their elec­tion night phone call, Trump and Pelosi did speak again, in­di­rectly, across Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue.

“I re­ally re­spected what Nancy said last night about bi­par­ti­san­ship and get­ting to­gether and unit­ing,” Trump said in a press con­fer­ence at the White House. “That’s what we should be do­ing.”

Pressed af­ter his un­usual pub­lic lob­by­ing for Pelosi to be­come House speaker, Trump in­sisted he was sin­cere.

“A lot of peo­ple thought I was be­ing sar­cas­tic or I was kid­ding. I wasn’t. I think she de­serves it,” he said. “I also be­lieve that Nancy Pelosi and I could work to­gether and get a lot of things done.”

Pelosi sent word back a few min­utes later from her own press con­fer­ence at the Capi­tol, which she de­layed for nearly an hour as the pres­i­dent con­ducted his.

“Last night, I had a con­ver­sa­tion with Pres­i­dent Trump about how we could work to­gether,” Pelosi said, not­ing that “build­ing in­fra­struc­ture” was one of the items they dis­cussed.

“He talked about it dur­ing his cam­paign and re­ally didn’t come through with it in his first two years in of­fice,” she nudged. “I hope that we can do

‘‘

I RE­ALLY RE­SPECTED WHAT NANCY SAID LAST NIGHT ABOUT BI­PAR­TI­SAN­SHIP AND GET­TING TO­GETHER AND UNIT­ING. THAT’S WHAT WE SHOULD BE DO­ING.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump

that be­cause we want to cre­ate jobs from sea to shin­ing sea.”

De­spite all the cam­paign trail trash talk, both Trump and Pelosi have in­cen­tive to make some deals.

The pres­i­dent could use a do­mes­tic pol­icy win head­ing into his own re­elec­tion in 2020, along­side his reg­u­lar rail­ing against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, the “witch hunt” of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion or other is­sues that emerge from his tweets.

Democrats, too, need to show Amer­i­cans they can do more than re­sist the Trump White House. It’s no sur­prise that two of the top Demo­cratic pri­or­i­ties in the new Congress, in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment and low­er­ing health care costs, dove­tail with prom­ises Trump made to vot­ers, but has not yet ful­filled.

“I do think there’s op­por­tu­ni­ties to pass leg­is­la­tion,” said for­mer White House leg­isla­tive di­rec­tor Marc Short.

Trump has long viewed Pelosi as both a foil and a pos­si­ble part­ner, and she sees in him the one who can sign leg­is­la­tion into law.

The pres­i­dent has told con­fi­dants that he re­spects Pelosi’s deal-mak­ing prow­ess and her abil­ity to hang on to power in the face of a se­ries of chal­lenges from the left wing of the party, ac­cord­ing to four White House of­fi­cials and Repub­li­cans close to the White House. The of­fi­cials were not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions and re­quested anonymity.

He told one ally this month that he re­spected Pelosi “as a fighter” and that he viewed her as some­one with whom he could ne­go­ti­ate.

“The pres­i­dent re­spects her,” said Short.

Short de­scribed the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Pelosi and Trump dur­ing a 2017 meet­ing with other con­gres­sional lead­ers at the White House to pre­vent a gov­ern­ment shut­down. “They were throw­ing pros and cons back at each other,” he said.

“The ques­tion I can’t an­swer is to what ex­tent will Democrats give Pelosi po­lit­i­cal band­width” to strike deals, Short said. He pointed to po­ten­tial ar­eas of agree­ment like in­fra­struc­ture, drug prices and prison re­form.

But part of Trump’s push for Pelosi to re­turn to power was more nakedly po­lit­i­cal. Pelosi has long been a pop­u­lar Repub­li­can tar­get, spurring count­less fundrais­ing ef­forts and at­tack ads. And Trump has told ad­vis­ers that, if needed, he would make her the face of the op­po­si­tion in the Demo­cratic party un­til the 2020 pres­i­den­tial field sorts it­self out.

Pelosi’s name draws some of the biggest jeers at his ral­lies and he be­lieves that “she could be Hil­lary” in terms of a Clin­ton-like fig­ure to rally Repub­li­cans against, ac­cord­ing to one of the ad­vis­ers fa­mil­iar with the pres­i­dent’s pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions.

At the same time, Trump has not pub­licly branded Pelosi with a mock­ing nick­name. She’s no “Cryin’ ” Chuck Schumer, as he calls the top Se­nate Demo­crat, or “Lit­tle” Adam Schiff at the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee or “Low IQ” Rep. Max­ine Waters of Cal­i­for­nia, who will chair the Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

On whether Trump likes Pelosi as ally or ad­ver­sary, Short said, “I don’t think those are mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive.”

Pelosi, per­haps more than her Repub­li­can coun­ter­parts – out­go­ing Speaker Paul Ryan or Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell – be­came an early ob­server, and adapter, to the Trump style of gov­ern­ing.

When Trump and Democrats were try­ing to bro­ker an im­mi­gra­tion deal in Septem­ber 2017, she sug­gested he could tweet his as­sur­ances to the young Dream­ers. And he did.

Around the same time when Trump and con­gres­sional lead­ers con­vened at the White House to avoid a fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down, Repub­li­cans and Trump’s own Cab­i­net team pressed for their pre­ferred so­lu­tion. But Pelosi kept ask­ing a sim­ple ques­tion: How many Repub­li­can votes could they bring to the ta­ble? When it was clear they could not bring enough for pas­sage, Trump in­ter­vened and agreed with Democrats –Chuck and Nancy,” as he came to call them.

Votes, Pelosi ex­plained later, were the “cur­rency of the realm.” Trump, as a busi­ness­man, she said, got it.

Pelosi is poised to be­come House speaker again if she wins her elec­tion in Jan­uary. Asked this week how Trump might re­act to hav­ing a woman in power, Pelosi re­called the first time she held the of­fice, when Ge­orge W. Bush was pres­i­dent, in 2007.

Bush would call her “No. 3,” she said, a ref­er­ence to the speaker’s spot in the pres­i­den­tial suc­ces­sion line, af­ter the pres­i­dent and the vice pres­i­dent.

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE AP file

Then Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump greets Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other con­gres­sional lead­ers as he ar­rives for his in­au­gu­ra­tion Jan. 20, 2017. If any­thing is to come of the new era of di­vided gov­ern­ment, it will hap­pen in the deal-mak­ing space be­tween Pelosi and Trump.

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