Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
June 8, 2020
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:13 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Hello everyone. The transition to greatness has officially begun. Friday's jobs report was encouraging, to say the absolute least. The jobs in this country – we had more than 2.5 million added. The prediction was that 7.5 million jobs would be lost. This was a 10 million swing toward the positive side and, in fact, the greatest number of jobs created in a single month on record. That is extraordinary. 225,000 manufacturing jobs, 464,000 thousand construction jobs, and 1.2 million leisure and hospitality jobs were all added in May.
Beyond that, the number of workers who reported being on temporary layoffs decreased by 2.7 million in May. And more than that – and this was a great number that was pointed out to me today by the CEA – 300- – 300,000 jobs were created for black Americans in particular. That's in May, and that was a 1.7 percent increase. So very encouraging numbers there from the CEA that they highlighted for me – BLS numbers that they highlighted.
May's jump in average weekly hours also was an encouraging sign because increasing hours is a sign that employees need to hire – employers need to hire more workers to meet demand. For all private-sector employees, average weekly hours increased by 0.5 percent to 34.7 hours – the highest level since the series began in 2006. Seventy-three percent of small businesses are open. That is up from the 52 percent right before the April jobs report reference period. Also, workplace visits are up roughly 40 percent from its pandemic low.
The stock market is absolutely soaring. We saw with the S&P that it had its greatest 50-day rally in history. The Dow, likewise, is also booming. The markets clearly have confidence in President Trump – the jobs President who created the hottest economy in modern history once and will do it again.
Also commentators and economists have noted how great this jobs report was. Yesterday, we saw Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic advisor at Allianz, say this will go down in history as the biggest positive data shock for the markets and the economy. And you saw how surprised the markets were. They surged on Friday, capping a strong week, with the NASDAQ closing at a record high. He said it was also very surprising to the economists – not a single one thought that we would create jobs; everybody expected the unemployment rate would go up. It did not.
Also, senior economic correspondent at the New York Times Neil Irwin noted that we have to think that the May unemploy- – the May employment numbers count as a strong win for PPP supporters. Obviously, the President signed that into law and has been a – been a big cheerleader of the PPP.
Typical economists missed it by 10 million, as I noted at the top of the briefing. Ten million. That's bigger than the entire state of Michigan, nearly, and that's how much economists were off.
Why is this happening? Well, it's happening because America has taken note of the fact that we have a President who ushered in the hottest economy in modern history. Record-low unemployment for black Americans, for Hispanic Americans, for the disabled, for our veterans. Paychecks were beginning to rise under the President Donald Trump economy. We have the great jobs creator in office, and America clearly has confidence in this President.
You have a President who fundamentally understands how to put this country back to work, and we saw that in action with the Friday jobs report.
And with that, I'll take questions. So, I'll start with John.
Q Kayleigh, what's the President's thinking on this growing movement to either defund or dismantle police forces across the country? And what reforms does the President think would be appropriate in the wake of the George Floyd killing?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, it's a really good question. The President is appalled by the Defund the Police movement. The fact that you have sitting congresswomen wanting to defund the police – notably Rashida Tlaib; notably Biden advisor AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; former Clinton and Eric Holder spokesperson Brian Fallon wanting to defund our police across this country – it is extraordinary.
And when you think the left has gone far and they couldn't possibly go farther, because we all remember the Defund ICE movement – they want to defund Immigration and Custom Enforcement and now they want to defund the police. This is extraordinary. This is rolling back the protective layers that protect Americans in their homes and in their places of business. He's appalled by it, and it's remarkable to hear this coming from today's Democrat Party.
As for solutions, he's talking through a number of proposals. No announcements on that. But he definitely, as he's noted, recognizes the horrid injustice done to George Floyd and is taking a look at various proposals.
Q Does the President agree with any of the mayors across the country who are saying, "I think we can take some of the money from policing and put it toward other programs that could be effective in community development," which could lead to the potential for a less- – a lesser need for policing?
MS. MCENANY: Well, let's be clear: The mayor of L.A. wants to defund police, take money away from police. Mayor de Blasio, the mayor of New York, wants to take money away from police. That means cutting of police. That means reducing police departments. That means defunding police departments, if not getting rid of them entirely. No, he does not agree with that, and the rest of America does not agree with that.
Q I have two questions for you. As you are going over your reforms and what you think is needed, does the President feel that there is systemic racism in law enforcement?
MS. MCENANY: The President has been very clear: There are injustices in society. I've noted several for you that he's pointed out as a Republican primary candidate: noting the Sandra Bland video was absolutely horrible; noting George Floyd – there's a civil rights investigation into that. He definitely believes there are instances of racism.
But, look, he believes our law enforcement are the best in the world. He believes that, by and large, they are good people. The 750 who were injured defending this country from rioters and Antifa in the streets – as to be distinguished from the peaceful protesters – those 750 officers who were hurt defending our country were heroes – as was David Dorn, a police officer who lost his life, and Patrick Underwood, who also lost his life in the last week or so.
Q But he doesn't think that there is systemic racism in law enforcement?
MS. MCENANY: He believes most of our police officers are good, hardworking people – there's a lot of evidence of that – and he has great faith in our police department.
Q Okay, my second question: Does he still believe that NFL players who kneel as a form of protest against police brutality should be fired?
MS. MCENANY: The President is very much against kneeling in general. The President has made clear for years that kneeling is tied to our National Anthem, that it does not respect our military men and women across this country. He's not a fan of the kneeling movement. He's made that very clear, particularly because he thinks it's disrespectful to our military, as the kneeling originated at the kneeling during the National Anthem.
Q But does he think they should be fired?
MS. MCENANY: I have no comments on that. He is against the kneeling movement, though, as he's noted on Twitter as recently as a few days ago.
Q But you can't say, yes, he does still –
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q – think they should be fired?
MS. MCENANY: I have no information on that, and I have not talked to him about that.
Q Is there anything in the Democrats' Policing Act that the administration supports?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, that legislation – first of all, the text of it hasn't even been giving – given to us. I have not talked with the President about that yet. He hasn't reviewed it yet.
He's looking at a number of proposals, but there are some nonstarters in there, I would say – particularly on the immunity issue. You had AG Barr saying – this weekend, he was asked about reduced immunity, and he said, "I don't think we need to reduce immunity to go after the bad cops because that would result, certainly, in police pulling back, which is not advisable."
So he hasn't reviewed the legislation, but AG Barr, as a member of the administration, noted this prior to the proposal coming out.
Q Does the administration support the banning of the use of chokeholds?
MS. MCENANY: Look, the President, again, hasn't reviewed this piece of legislation. The President is looking at what's a state issue, what's a federal issue right now. He's currently reviewing proposals, actually, on this very topic about police reform. So I'll leave it to him and not get ahead of him on that.
But, certainly, we believe that the appropriate amount of force should be used in any police interaction with an individual.
Q But two weeks after all of this civil unrest, why does the White – the White House not have a plan? The President said on Friday that his plan for combating racism is a strong economy. How does that work?
MS. MCENANY: Look, that's an important part of combating racism is making sure that there's equal opportunity for black Americans in this country. This President – you know, we hear a lot of words from Democrats about criminal justice reform – that they wanted this. Well, they got it with President Trump reducing racial sentencing disparities via the FIRST STEP Act.
You know, Democrats talk about economic opportunity for black Americans and people in vulnerable communities, and this President has done that with Opportunity Zones. It was a good start: more than 900 places creating private investment to help people get on their feet, to start businesses in this country, HBCUs' record funding. This President has repeatedly, through his actions, stood up for the black community, and a big piece of that is absolutely economic reform.
And I'd finally note, on the point of economic reform: The USMCA – these trade deals; the TPP, making sure that didn't take place – that directly advantaged hardworking men and women in Detroit who wanted their auto jobs. So the – his reformation with trade – reformation with trade and also Opportunity Zones is helping to ensure that Americans of all races have the same opportunity in the economic playing field.
Q But you're saying he will eventually have a police reform plan?
MS. MCENANY: He is looking at various proposals. So I won't get ahead of him. No announcements on that front. But he has been looking at them over the last few days.
Q Kayleigh, there are reports that the administration is going to be pulling troops from Germany. Can you say how many? And when and where are they going?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, what I would say on that is: First, we have no announcements at this time. I know there's reporting out there, but, as of this moment, there are no announcements. The President is continually reassessing the best posture for the United States Military forces and our presence overseas. I mean, we remain committed to working with our strong allies.
Q Will he consult Angela Merkel before making a final decision?
MS. MCENANY: I'll leave that to the President. Again, no announcements at this time.
Q Okay. And just one final: the new Lafayette Square fencing. Do you have any indication on when that might be removed or taken down, since the protests have become more peaceful? And who makes that decision?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, you know, I don't have any announcements with regard to the fencing. That's not something that's in White House control, in terms of securing the perimeter.
But what I would say is the President has recognized that the protests have largely been peaceful. Why have they been peaceful? It's because of the actions taken by this administration.
If you'll notice, Minneapolis was in chaos until the National Guard came in, and then it was secure. You had outside, here in Lafayette Park – I had noted the 750 law enforcement officers that were injured across the country. Well, one fifth of those were in D.C. and the vast majority in Lafayette Park. And once the National Guard came – came in, D.C. was secure. That Monday decision by the President of encouraging governors to surge National Guard made the difference.
And the President has recognized – now that the protests are peaceful, he's recommended a winding down of the National Guard. Very peaceful protests over the weekend. So with regard to the security of the building: not a decision for the White House. Would refer you to Secret Service and Park Services on that. But the President has recognized the peaceful protesting and is encouraged by that.
Q Kayleigh, on Hong Kong: Can you say when will the administration revoke Hong Kong's trade status? And also, do you think that that move will be the only thing the administration does? Is there something else planned? And do you think that China will listen? Are you seeing any signs of China relenting on Hong Kong?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, we haven't seen any updates from China thus far. No announcements with regard to the timing of that. But the President has been very clear that China has replaced its promise of "one country, two systems" with "one country, one system," which is what led the administration to make the announcement that it would begin eliminating policy exemptions that were given to Hong Kong – the special treatment that they once had.
MS. MCENANY: Yes, Steven.
Q Is there any – a week after what we saw at Lafayette Park last Monday night, are there any people here in this building who believe that – or does the President believe that perhaps things went the way they shouldn't have gone? Is there any regret on the part of the President or anyone here about how people were treated – people who were peacefully protesting – and how they were rushed out so violently?
MS. MCENANY: No. There is no regrets on the part of this White House because – look, I'd note that many of those decisions were not made here within the White House. It was AG Barr who made the decision to move the perimeter Monday night. Park Police also had made that decision independently when they saw the violence in Lafayette Square.
And when – before these protesters were moved by Park Police and they issued that tactical order, there were three loud warnings, and – as I believe, it was AG Barr on "Face the Nation" noted – that some of those protesters moved back and adhered to the warning, but others of those protesters started hurling objects, and that was unacceptable. And Park Police acted as they felt they needed to at that time, in response, and we stand by those actions.
Q The country and the world saw this violent clash between the people who were otherwise peacefully protesting. But really, the President is not sorry for the way things went?
MS. MCENANY: No. The President is sorry about the fact that Antifa wreaked havoc in our streets and the failure of some members of the media to note that. Like CNN's Chris Cuomo said, "Show me where it says protesters are supposed to be peaceful." Well, I'd point him to the First Amendment, where it says that you have the right to, quote, "peaceably assemble." He should go back and read the Constitution.
There are many others out there, like Don Lemon saying that rioting is a mechanism to restructure our country. Burning down St. John's, using a pick to – to literally, like, carve out, as we saw in that video, concrete from the sidewalk to hurl at officers, that's not peacefully protesting. The act- – the actions of the rioters were not in keeping with the First Amendment.
And I think the media needs to recognize there's a discernment between the peaceful protesters, many of whom I've seen, and the rioters. And, yes, America will act against rioters. And, yes, under President Trump, he will not allow burning buildings, 150 federal buildings to be defaced, and 750 law enforcement officers to be injured in our country.
Q Can I ask you one more –
MS. MCENANY: Yes, Brian.
Q – about the President?
MS. MCENANY: Oh, I like the blue suit.
Q Oh, thank you.
MS. MCENANY: That's a really snazzy look.
Q Thank you.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah.
Q Just to follow up on that: You do know that the burning of St. John's happened on Sunday night, and a lot of the violence that you're talking about, that happened on Sunday night.
What he was asking about was Monday, when, as anyone who was down there knows, it was almost exlusively peaceful, especially the moments before the chemical munitions were used on those protesters. So do you just want to clarify that about the burning of St. John's? Because that happened on a different day.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah. The burning of St John's is what prompted the decision to move the perimeter. It's what prompted Park Police to say, that evening, the perimeter must be moved.
MS. MCENANY: It's what prompted – yes. It's what prompted AG Barr to agree with that decision on Monday morning that the perimeter needed to be moved.
But when you hurl objects at Park Police, when you don't move after three orders are given – Park Police acted appropriately. When the shield of Park Police was batted down, when one person tried to grab a Park Police officer's weapon – that's not peaceful, by any definition of the word.
Q And one question on –
MS. MCENANY: Yeah.
Q – the area in front of the White House is now officially known as "Black Lives Matter Plaza." Does the President agree with that decision?
MS. MCENANY: I haven't talked to him about it. I haven't mentioned that to him.
Q Finally, Kayleigh, does he agree, in general, the way that Mitt Romney stated over the weekend he does, with the core message of Black Lives Matter?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah – Mitt Romney can say three words outside on Pennsylvania Avenue, but I would note this: that President Trump won 8 percent of the black vote; Mitt Romney won 2 percent of the black vote.
I believe President Trump – people across the country recognize that, while Mitt Romney has a lot of words – notably, he said that 47 percent of the nation is "dependent upon government, [who] believes they are victims, [who] believes that the government has a responsibility to care for them." Those were Mitt Romney's words not too long ago.
The President takes great offense to those words. That's not America. Guess what America is? It's when, given opportunity via a Trump Opportunity Zone, belief that Americans of all races can rise to the occasion and achieve; belief in HBCUs and giving funding – record funding to HBCUs because we need to enable education in our country and school choice. Those kind of actions on the part of the President stand in stark contrast with the very empty words of Senator Romney.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. As you had noted, the President has talked about the protests, he's talked about the death of George Floyd, but he still hasn't given a formal address to the nation. Why is that? And are there plans for him to do that anytime soon?
MS. MCENANY: So, the President has addressed the nation on this. I know several media outlets chose not to cover it. But when he was down at – in Florida last Saturday, he said – and I have the whole thing here – as he said many times, "The death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis was a grave tragedy. It should never [ever] have happened." He spent several minutes going through this – in fact, half of his speech – saying, "I understand the pain that people are feeling. We support the right of peaceful protesters… we hear their pleas." And he went on and on and on.
He said, on Monday, "I am your President of law and order, and an ally of…peaceful protesters."
So, he has said it. Some in the media have chosen not to cover it, but those words are out there, and they're documented.
Q Thank you. Obviously, we're hearing a very optimistic message from the President about the jobs numbers and the stock market recovery. But in an executive order on Thursday night, the President said that he had determined that, without intervention, the U.S. faced the likelihood of a long economic recovery with persistent high unemployment. I'm just wondering why are we hearing two messages from the President and how the American people are supposed to feel about the economy for the rest of the year.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah. Well, the President sees Friday as a great stride toward what he ultimately wants, which is this rearing economy that we had, where paychecks were growing and at the fastest for low-income workers. We were at a very good place before he chose to stop the economy to save 2.1 million lives potentially. So he took the action that was necessary at the time. He wants to get us back to that place we were at. He's the one who can do it. He's noted there's going to be a time of recovery. He thinks that, you know, Q4 will be good; next year will be great.
Monday was a great – an unexpected note that the market believes in this President, that employers believe in this President, that they – they believe they can open their doors in the Trump economy. So it was a note of a great first step of progress. But rest assured there are many more steps that we have to take to get back to the hottest economy in modern history, but we will get there under President Trump.
Q Sure, Kayleigh. Sticking with the economy, New York City began reopening its economy today after a very long lockdown. Does President Trump think we need another coronavirus stimulus package? And if so, what would he want to see in it before he signs it?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, he's remained open to a phase four. There was some discussion about this. There was a meeting last week at the White House about that actually. So, won't get ahead of him, but he has said there are several things he wants.
Payroll tax holiday was one of them because that directly advantages low-income workers. Several other things that he would like to see in the package. I won't get ahead of him, but he's certainly still open to a phase four. But it can't be, as he's noted, just state and local bailouts for blue states that have run their states into the ground because of decades of Democrat policies.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. Would President Trump support an actual increase in police funding to help offset some of the damage that's – that could be waged on departments that are defunded across the country?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah. So again, that would be getting ahead of the President on that exact proposal, but he's been very clear: He does not support defunding the police in any way, shape, or form. He noted, in fact, just a little bit ago, to me, that we have seen violent crime come down in this country. And why – at the time when violent crimes coming down, why would we defund the police who are, in large part, responsible for helping America to get to a place where our streets are safe?
So, I would point you to that before getting ahead of the President on a specific policy.
Q Kayleigh, can I ask a follow-up to that?
MS. MCENANY: Lalit.
Q I wanted to ask you about the Defunding the Police movement that's going on. How does it impact the crime scenario here?
MS. MCENANY: You said – sorry, I didn't hear the last part?
Q The Defunding the Police movement – how does it impact the crime scenario here? The crimes that – crime (inaudible) are going up. Do you think that will impact the crime here?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, absolutely. Look, our police officers are the ones who are defending this country and making sure that we have law and order in our streets, and there's no more evidence of that than just taking a look at the raw numbers.
Our police our described as the Blue Line in American society between peace and chaos, between order and anarchy. And that Thin Blue Line has done quite a bit. Just looking at 2018 numbers: murder arrests, 11,970; robbery arrests, 88,130; aggravated assault, 395,800; violent crime arrests, 495,900. That's police officers who are doing the arresting.
You eliminate police officers, you will have chaos, crime, and anarchy in the streets, and that's something that's unacceptable to the President.
Q Do you think this is political in nature?
MS. MCENANY: Sorry?
Q The entire movement is political in nature – is politically motivated, this movement?
MS. MCENANY: This movement? What the President believes is: Look, when you look at – I would just take, at their own words, Black Lives Matter D.C. And Black Lives Matter D.C. said "Black Lives Matter" means "defund the police."
So if that's what the movement means, of course the President stands against defunding the police. All black lives matter, including the life of David Dorn, who perished in the last week and a half; including Patrick Underwood, who also lost his life this week.
All black lives matter, but in terms of the movement Black Lives Matter, they define themselves as "defund the police," and that's something this President stands against.
Q Yes. Blacks are disproportionately arrested and disproportionally incarcerated in this country. And when they return to society, they are often denied the right to vote, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Is the President concerned about this disparity – disparity? And does the President favor restoring the rights of all those who complete their sentences so that they can participate in the 2020 election?
MS. MCENANY: So, I haven't spoken to him on that issue specifically. But what I would note is your question does edge on the notion of criminal justice reform. Obviously, someone who's wrongfully incarcerated – that we need to address that situation.
And the President has with the FIRST STEP Act – a great piece of legislation that says pregnant women can't be shackled when they're having their baby in jail. These are basic, commonsense, human decency reforms that the President put in place. The sentencing disparities that are at play because of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 –that crime bill which has been derided, and rightfully so, by civil rights leaders – this President helped, in part, to rectify that. And I'd note that the FIRST STEP Act, the beneficiaries – more than 90 percent have been black Americans.
So this is a President who's always stood on the side of justice, but I have not spoken to him about that specifically.
Is there anyone who –
Q Could you ask him about –
MS. MCENANY: – I haven't gotten to?
Q Could you ask him about that?
MS. MCENANY: Emilie.
Q Thank you. I'd like to ask a question on behalf of myself and then one from a colleague who couldn't be here.
MS. MCENANY: Sure.
Q So, many complaints were made against Derek Chauvin prior to the death of George Floyd. And I was wondering if President Trump believes that disciplinary records and complaints against police, as well as police personnel files, should be accessible to the public. States have differing laws on this, but should there be a minimum national standard on police transparency with respect to these complaints and records?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, it's a good question. But again, it would get to what the President is going to propose going forward, so I won't address that or get ahead of that. But the particular incident you referenced of George Floyd, it was egregious, and that needs to be looked at and is being looked at – not just at the state level, but at the level of the DOJ, as well.
Q Thank you. And from a colleague: Does President Trump urge Prince Andrew to comply with his Department of Justice's request for an interview in the case against Jeffrey Epstein?
MS. MCENANY: I haven't spoken to him about that, so I would not get ahead of him on that.
Q Kayleigh, a couple questions on coronavirus, if I could. Is there any thought being given to returning to, if not a daily coronavirus briefing, frequent coronavirus briefings?
And on the reopenings, the President said some weeks back that he would continue to monitor the situation and that if any states were doing things that he didn't think were appropriate, he would step in to intervene. Has the President, in any of these reopenings, particularly as coronavirus cases are increasing – which could be due, in part, due to increased testing – is he seeing anything that gives him concern?
MS. MCENANY: So I would note this: First, Dr. Birx sent me some new information before coming out here that new cases have stabilized, and many of the new cases are being identified through proactive monitoring and finding asymptomatic cases.
Today we saw the lowest new mortality report since the end of March – less than 500. And testing continues to expand, with over 20 million done and more than 6 percent of Americans being tested, and in seven states, nearly 10 percent of the population.
So we are heading in a positive direction, even as we begin to safely reopen.
Q But again, has the President seen anything that causes him concern?
MS. MCENANY: I would note, again, the encouraging signs put forward by Dr. Birx. He's seeing the country safely reopen.
And I would also just note some of the media contradictions here – certainly not referring to you specifically, John, but just a little more broadly – that there isn't an outcry about social distancing among the protests. And, I mean, I saw one network with footage of the Ozarks and complaining about social distancing in the Ozarks, and then seamlessly transitioning into protest footage and not suggesting that there was a problem with the lack of social distancing. So I think we have to be very consistent here.
And one note that I really wanted to get in – I should have weaved it in earlier, but I think it's important – is just there's so much focus on our police officers right now. There are absolute cases of injustices. Our heart breaks for those cases. But I just want to note some of the great things our police have done last year alone:
In Alaska, retired cop Kim Castro jumped in freezing water to help victims to safety after a plane crash.
In Idaho, a woman said, "He saved my son's life," commenting on a cop who saved her disabled son.
In Maine, a detective, was killed while helping a motorist.
In Rhode Island, a baby who was choking was saved by an officer.
In Maryland, an officer was hailed for intervening in an active shooting incident.
In North Carolina, police thwarted a mass shooting.
In Ohio, police took down a mass shooter at a bar.
In Wisconsin, a terminally – terminally ill girl was visited by 40 officers and canines.
In New York, Officers Baez and Officer Roman of the NYPD responded to an incident involving a homeless man. They bought him new glasses, a haircut, and a new suit, and they helped him to find a job.
In Detroit, Michigan, an officer helped a homeless man struggling to shave in the streets.
In Virginia, officers could be seen playing with little girls – playing dolls with them on the street.
And in Arizona, Charlie called 911 asking for a Happy Meal, mistakingly – mistakenly, and police delivered.
This is who our great law enforcement officers are, and we should remember that.
Thank you so much.
2:41 P.M. EDT
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|