Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Former Pelosi Staffer On Trump Impeachment inquiry


Now we're going to take a deeper look at the Democratic strategy behind the impeachment inquiry. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had resisted impeachment efforts against President Trump since her party took over the chamber last year, but that clearly has changed. We wanted to better understand what motivated her thinking and what we might expect from her as this inquiry moves forward, so we've called her former chief of staff, Nadeam Elshami.

Nadeam Elshami, welcome. Thank you so much for talking with us.

NADEAM ELSHAMI: Thank you so much for having me on.

MARTIN: House Speaker Pelosi said many times she considered impeachment bad for the country, and she didn't back an inquiry after the Mueller investigation. Why do you think she decided to go ahead now? What factors do you think led her to shift her thinking on this?

ELSHAMI: Well, clearly, the latest episode by the president was too much to bear for the speaker and for the leadership and many across the country as well. It is understandable that the president on a phone call with a foreign leader asked for help against a political opponent. That is unprecedented, yet President Trump dismisses it. I think Democrats looked at it and said, the time is now to really dig into this. This is something that is easily explained, that is clear as day, and it's in the president's own words.

MARTIN: Are you aware of her thinking about whatever strategies were employed in the circumstance of President Clinton's impeachment? Even though obviously the underlying facts are completely different, the circumstances...


MARTIN: ...Are completely different - but is there something that she observed in the circumstances around President Clinton's impeachment that she's drawing upon now?

ELSHAMI: She always continues to say throughout is public sentiment is everything. And at the time of the - of President Clinton's impeachment, while what he did was reprehensible, he was impeached for political reasons. I don't think - Democrats do not believe that they're going down this road for political reasons. This is not about politics. This is strictly about the Constitution and the right of Congress to do its job for the American people.

MARTIN: Can I ask you about her ability to deal with strong personalities? I mean, she's very often been one of the few women in the room. She's small in stature, but clearly, she has an ability to hold her own with big personalities, loud personalities. And was just wondering, you know, where does that come from? How does she do it?

ELSHAMI: Everyone always tries to underestimate her, but they've learned their lesson. And what she brings is she brings power, real power, whether as the Democratic leader where Republicans needed Democratic votes to pass certain things, whether the speaker of the House. Being speaker of the House provides an enormous amount of power. And I think all these men across the past and currently now know it and understand it. And they should never underestimate her.

MARTIN: What do you think is Speaker Pelosi's major skill as speaker? What do you think is the secret to her success as speaker?

ELSHAMI: Well, one is that she completely understands her caucus, respects her caucus - but also her leadership ability within the caucus to say, this is the direction we're going. This is what we're going to do, and let's do it together. Additionally, she has the power, and she's not afraid to use it.

MARTIN: That was the former chief of staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Nadeam Elshami. He's currently a policy director at the consulting firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. That's in Washington, D.C.

Nadeam Elshami, thank you so much for talking to us.

ELSHAMI: It was a pleasure. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.