Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
June 19, 2020
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:34 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Good afternoon everyone. The great American comeback is underway. Just before joining you all, we learned from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that unemployment has fallen in 43 states in May, as Americans are going back to work.
Also, I would like to reemphasize the numbers that Director of the NEC Larry Kudlow shared with you all yesterday that the CBO predicted that, in the third quarter, we will get plus-20 percent GDP. They've predicted in Q4, we will be at plus-20 percent GDP. And top economist Ed Hyman says that, in Q1 of 2021, he is predicting plus-5 in GDP. And this would put GDP above its 2019 peak. That's right. So pre-coronavirus numbers, should those predictions pan out. We are back and we will be booming.
Finally – well, second to finally, we are encouraged that we continue to gather positive data on a number of therapeutics. Heparin, dexamethasone – or steroids, is as it's more commonly known; convalescent plasma; and remdesivir have all shown promise in treating coronavirus. Preliminary findings in a large, UK-based recovery trial found that when steroids were used, there was a 30 percent reduction in death for coronavirus patients on ventilators. The FDA is reviewing this recovery trial data now.
Additionally, on convalescent plasma, there is more encouraging news. In partnership with Mayo Clinic, the Trump administration moved very quickly on this therapy in its earliest days, recognizing that it showed promise. Though the – through the FDA, Mayo Clinic, and the administration's work and our hand-in-hand partnership, we've found that this treatment is very promising. This has shown that the administration has left no stone unturned in looking at every possible treatment at the very earliest stages.
The lead investigator of this Mayo Clinic study, Dr. Michael Joyner, summed up his work, in saying that convalescent plasma, quote, "continues to look promising," end quote, noting the, quote, "excellent news" of this study, which covered a diverse population of patients. About 20 percent were African American, nearly 35 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian, and 40 percent women.
Prior experience with respiratory viruses in some data that have emerged globally suggest that convalescent plasma has the potential to lessen the severity or shorten the length of the illness caused by COVID-19. The results from Mayo underscore that promise.
As you can see, the Trump administration and FDA lead on identifying convalescent plasma as a therapeutic and the results are encouraging.
Finally, I wanted to share some words from President Trump: Juneteenth reminds us of both the unimaginable injustice of slavery and the incomparable – incomparable joy that must have attended emancipation. It is both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our nation's unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness. That ability is rooted in the fundamental goodness of America, in the truths upon which we, as a nation, declared an end to our status as the subjects of a monarch and emerged as a free and independent people – those truths that all men are created equal by the hand of God, endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
And, with that, I'll take questions.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. I'm wondering, given what we're seeing in markets – and they're a little bit jittery, given a rise in cases – any reason why the Coronavirus Task Force hasn't been coming out to update us? Will they?
And then also, have they been consulted on the rally for tomorrow?
MS. MCENANY: So the Coronavirus Task Force meets regularly. They're constantly reviewing data. They're constantly working with governors to ensure that we have safe reopenings across the nation.
As for Coronavirus Task Force briefings, those happened in the very early days of COVID-19 in the pandemic. We were making major decisions on travel bans, major decisions on supplies and PPE and therapeutics. It was very important that those decisions be shared with the nation.
Now we're in a more regular routine where, when we see a spike or an "ember," as the President calls them, we're able to quickly go and put it out. And we have that system in place. We don't have regular updates for you, other than the updates I give you as news merits. And I'm regularly in consultation with Dr. Birx and the others.
Q Kayleigh, two questions for you. First on the President's tweet this morning regarding the Tulsa rally, when he said – what did he mean when he said any protesters wouldn't be "treated" like they were in New York, Seattle, and Minneapolis? Is the President indicating that the right – the right to peaceably assemble should not apply to his rally?
MS. MCENANY: No, that's not at all what he was saying. What the President was noting is that there were inexcusable scenes that we saw play out in New York and Seattle and Minneapolis, and that we would not see Tulsa, Oklahoma, look that way.
As the mayor, Mayor Bynum, noted, individuals from organized groups who have been involved in destructive and violent behavior in other states are planning to travel to the city of Tulsa for the purposes of causing unrest in and around the rally, and that was an unacceptable proposition.
We will not see things like what we saw in Minne- – Minnesota, where rioters lit an AutoZone on fire; or, also in Minnesota, where protesters torched a police precinct; or, in Seattle, where they've now set up a place called "CHOP" – they've taken over part of the city, anarchists have; or the pillaging or the ambushing of two NYPD police officers who were on looting watch. One was stabbed in the neck and then shot two other officers who later arrived on the scene. So those kinds of scenes are unacceptable, and we will not see that in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Q So he doesn't mean all protesters?
MS. MCENANY: No, what he was meaning are violent protestors, anarchists, looters – the kind of lawlessness that we saw play out before President Trump came in with the National Guard and calmed our streets with law and order.
Q And just the second quick question, sorry. On DACA, the President, again, tweeted this morning that he was going to move ahead with – with trying to end that program. What is the timeframe on that? When should we expect to see something from the Department of Homeland Security on that? And why is the President doing that even when he has conceded that he believes that the immigrants who were brought here as children on no fault of their own should be taken care of?
MS. MCENANY: So first, one note on DACA: One thing I would say about yesterday's ruling is that, really, this was a situation where you had all of the justices saying that President Trump was essentially right on the law on DACA. But you had the majority, in the majority opinion, quote, "the dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may…" be rescinded. "The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so."
So in other words, President Trump was right on the law here. It was unlawful the way President Obama went about this. But as for the way forward, I just was in and was speaking with the President and the Chief of Staff about this, and we're looking at documents currently. And we're going to move forward in a responsible way and cure some of the remedies and the unlawfulness that we see with the previous memo that brought DACA into place, but we want to find a compassionate way to do this.
So that's the notes I have as to how we'll be moving forward.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. Now that we're about 24 hours away from this rally tomorrow in Tulsa, you have the World Health Organization Director saying that the world is in a "new and dangerous phase," in terms of COVID cases. You have cases rising in Oklahoma. You have the Tulsa mayor declaring a civil emergency.
Given all of this together, are there any discussions, any reservations within the West Wing about going forward with this indoor rally tomorrow in a state where COVID cases are on the rise?
MS. MCENANY: Well, first, let me note about the civil emergency: Bynum declared a civil emergency after law enforcement informed the mayor about the individuals from the organized groups that I just noted who are intent on engaging in destruction.
But with regard to Oklahoma, I would refer you to Governor Stitt's comments. He said yesterday, "We went to phase three on June 1st, so we're 56 days into our reopening plan, and currently we have under 200 people in the hospital across Oklahoma." And he welcomed the President and his supporters for coming.
Q But I guess – I guess my question is: Behind the scenes, are there any White House officials, you know, just expressing a bit of reservation about going forward 24 hours out?
MS. MCENANY: So we are all onboard with going to Oklahoma. We're taking appropriate measures like hand sanitizing and temperature checks and masks being provided at the door. But I'd also note to you from the Governor of Oklahoma, that he says that most of the cases he's seeing are in the 18-to-35 group, where they're seeing a slight increase. And they are asymptomatic individuals – a lot of what they're seeing.
And in addition to that, I would also just note that he said that this slight increase was expected as they began to safely reopen 56 days prior.
MS. MCENANY: Jim, yes. Hopefully – I'll limit you to 20 questions today. How about that?
Q Thanks, Kayleigh. Will any White House officials be at the rally tomorrow?
MS. MCENANY: There will be several White House officials at the rally tomorrow.
Q And will those officials – or will you be there, for example?
MS. MCENANY: I will be there.
Q Will you and other White House officials be wearing masks at the rally?
MS. MCENANY: It's a personal choice. I won't be wearing a mask. I can't speak for my colleagues.
Q And why won't you wear a mask? Is it sort of a personal political statement? Is it because the President would be disappointed in you if you don't wear a mask? Why is that?
MS. MCENANY: It's a personal – it's a personal decision. I'm tested regularly. I feel that it's safe for me not to be wearing a mask, and I'm in compliance with CDC guidelines, which are recommended, but not required.
Q And if I can ask you about last night: The President tweeted out some fake videos, one of which was labeled "manipulated media" by Twitter. Why is the President sharing fake videos on Twitter about two toddlers who are obviously showing a lot of love for one another? It seems as though he's exploiting children to make some sort of crass political point.
MS. MCENANY: No –
Q Why is he sharing fake videos?
MS. MCENANY: He was making a point about CNN, specifically. He was making a point that CNN has regularly taken him out of context. That, in 2019, CNN misleadingly aired a clip from one viewpoint repeatedly to falsely accuse the Covington boys of being, quote, "students in MAGA gear harassing a Native American elder." That's a harassing video, a misleading video about children that had really grave consequences for their futures.
Q So to – so you're saying it's okay to exploit two toddlers hugging one another on a sidewalk to make some sort of political point? You – I mean, as you know, the President has described members of the press as "fake news" during the course of this administration. When you share fake videos like that, doesn't that make you fake news?
MS. MCENANY: I think the President was making a satirical point that was quite funny if you go and actually watch the video. I think he was making a –
Q What's funny about these two toddlers –
MS. MCENANY: He was a satirical –
Q – hugging one another?
MS. MCENANY: The – the point is that it was a play on CNN repeatedly taking the President out of context, like the time when you guys had a chyron that read, "Trump slams some illegal immigrants: They're animals". Well, guess what? The people he called animals were MS-13 illegal immigrants who regularly mutilate people in this country.
Q Well –
MS. MCENANY: Those things are entirely misleading.
Q If you don't mind me pointing out, the President has referred to some Mexican immigrants as "rapists." He has tried to pass a Muslim ban in this country. He has described black NFL players –
MS. MCENANY: That's –
Q – as "sons of bitches" if they take a knee during a football game.
MS. MCENANY: That's an absurd att- – that's an absurd attempt to justify the misleading headlines that are regularly on your network. Like I was just walking in, watching CNN as they lauded the –
Q Are you saying the President never stokes –
MS. MCENANY: – quote, "rallies in the streets."
Q Are you – are you saying that the President never stokes this sort of –
MS. MCENANY: You got to let me finish, Jim. This isn't a cable news segment. I'm answering your question right now –
MS. MCENANY: – from the White House podium.
Q Well, you're – you're answering the question by trying to turn it around and throw it in – at CNN.
MS. MCENANY: When I walk out here, Jim –
Q You're not answering the gist of the question, which is: Why –
MS. MCENANY: When I walk out here, Jim, and I see on your –
Q – is the President putting out fake news?
MS. MCENANY: – and I see on your network celebratory headlines about the rallies and the protests outside – you actually said protests and rallies. So, in light of the protests, if these gatherings happen in light of a protest or a rally, as you say, that rally is to be condoned, but the not the President's rally.
I mean, it's appalling. You have one person on your network saying that this is a celebration in the streets, a carnival-like atmosphere. There's a guy with a sign that says, "Free Hugs." It's beautiful what's happening in the streets.
Q Kayleigh, haven't some of the protests been peaceful? Haven't some of the –
MS. MCENANY: There is music. People are hugging. You celebrate hugging in the context of a protest. But at a Trump rally, where we celebrate historic-low African American unemployment, criminal justice reform, HBCUs, that rally is not allowed to –
Q You also chant "build the wall" and "lock her up." And there –
MS. MCENANY: – guess what, Jim? It doesn't fit the ideological agenda of CNN.
Q There are occasionally confederate flags on display and QAnon signs.
MS. MCENANY: Peter Alexander.
Q Let me ask, if I can, Kayleigh: Why does the President keep hiring people who are "dumb as a rock," "overrated," "way over their heads," "wacko," and "incompetent"?
MS. MCENANY: So the President makes hiring decisions based on the fact that he likes to have countervailing viewpoints.
I spoke to him this morning about the hiring of John Bolton, in particular, and he said, "I like to counterbalance my opinion with individuals that oftentimes have the very opposite opinion of my own." He likes the model of having a team of rivals, like what we saw in President Lincoln's administration.
I've been a part of that. I often see rigorous debate, and the President uses his gut and makes the best decision as to how to move forward. So that's what goes into his hiring practices. And I think the team of rivals with President Lincoln worked quite well.
Q There's obviously value in hiring of a team of rivals. It's worked well in the past. But then, if you're going to hire rivals, why hire rivals who are "dumb as a rock," "overrated," "way over their heads," "wacko," and "incompetent"? How does that help the President govern the country?
MS. MCENANY: Well, sometimes those rivals prove those labels to be true. And that's particularly true in the –
Q But you said he hires the "best people." So does it reflect on the President, Kayleigh?
MS. MCENANY: That's particularly true in the case of John Bolton, who repeatedly praised the President then turned. He's been widely criticized by the New York Times for his book. I think John proven – John Bolton has proven himself to have those labels as true.
Q Let me follow up just because Jim had several – just on Juneteenth, Kayleigh. It's important. If I could follow up quickly, just on Juneteenth, if I may?
MS. MCENANY: We're not going to get to everyone in the room. The 20-question rule applies to everyone.
Q Oh, okay. So I'll take the 20 questions if it applies to everyone then. I've only done two so far. For my third one, I'd like to ask: Does the President support Juneteenth as a federal holiday?
And yesterday – and in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, the President was speaking about Juneteenth, and he said nobody had ever heard of Juneteenth. What does that say about the President's relationship to the black community, if he would say that when millions of African Americans in this country commemorate it each year?
MS. MCENANY: Well, look, what I would say is this President has routinely commemorated Juneteenth. The President, what he said is –
Q But you say he learned about it this week, Kayleigh.
MS. MCENANY: What the President – no, he did not say that. As Secretary Carson emphasized, "I talked to the President about the Juneteenth event. I was pleasantly surprised about how much he knew about it, the whole history of it." He did not just learn about Juneteenth that – this week. That's simply not true.
And as to Juneteenth, there were a lot of people who didn't know what Juneteenth was, and Google search has proved that. And you can see I looked at the chart on Google searches on Juneteenth – and this year, they went like this. (Motions upward.) And that's thanks to President Trump.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. I wanted to ask if the White House is planning to issue an executive order in the coming days to suspend visas for foreign workers, and any detail you can provide in terms of what types of visas, for how long that would last, et cetera.
MS. MCENANY: So I have no announcements on that front today. I'm aware of the reporting, but no announcements.
Q Okay. Could I follow up quickly and ask if the President plans to take any health precautions at the rally tomorrow?
MS. MCENANY: We are administering hand sanitizer, masks to those who are in attendance should they decide to wear them, and we are taking temperature checks.
Q Hi, Kayleigh. Arizona has seen surging coronavirus cases, as well as Texas and Florida. Does the President think that they should all keep doing what they're doing? Or is he concerned about, you know, the rise in cases and how to stop that?
MS. MCENANY: This is state-led reopening with the assistance of the federal government and our medical experts, so we're regularly consulting with each state. It's their decision as to whether they remain their reopening processes, but we're very confident that they will be able to get it under control.
We've had CDC deploy teams to four states. And when we see these spikes in cases, a lot of times, we're able to isolate them and stop the spread further. So with the help of the federal government, these states should be able to safely continue reopening, though it is their decision whether to do so.
Q What does the President think of his niece Mary Trump's new book that's coming out?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah. So on the Mary Trump book, what I would say is this: I haven't seen the book. The President hasn't seen the book. So I'm not going to sit here and speculate about what it may say or what it may not say.
Q Thank you. Given all of the hoo-ha over Tulsa, I mean, isn't the President taking a big risk this weekend? Because if things go south on Saturday, isn't that going to make it harder for him to schedule rallies in the future?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I think that we are confident that we can operate safely in Tulsa. There are – as I noted at the beginning of this, Governor Stitt said under 200 people are in hospitals across Oklahoma – most of those, a lot of those between the ages of 18 and 35. So we're confident that we can do this safely, and we're very much looking forward to going to Oklahoma.
Q Why aren't you all schedule more rallies? Are you all waiting to see how things turn out on Saturday?
MS. MCENANY: That would be a question for the campaign.
Q Yes, thank you, Kayleigh. Two quick questions. In an interview on NPR on Tuesday, Dr. Fauci said he hasn't spoken to the President in, quote, "two weeks." Why have they gone so long without talking? And is this still a priority for the President – the virus?
MS. MCENANY: Absolutely it's still a priority. It's why the Task Force meets regularly. The President is given that information. The Vice President has been leading on the Task Force, and the President ultimately makes the decision – its decisions and is constantly kept up to date with the latest numbers.
Q And then the second question: Obviously, you know, the President is very against violent protests. He's spoken out specifically against anti-fascists who've been responsible for some of this violence. But in terms of his personal ideology, is the President an anti-fascist?
MS. MCENANY: The President is absolutely anti-fascist. What he's against also is lawlessness. He's against anarchy. He's against what we've seen in our streets. He's against the fact that you have, in a city block in Seattle – multiple city blocks taken over by anarchists. It's amazing. You have the Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best saying, quote, "Our 911 response times have tripled in the area. They've gone from just over five minutes to about 18 minutes. There have been rapes, robberies, and all sorts of violent acts that have been occurring."
He's against fascism, he's against anarchism, and he is for rule of law and the American way.
Q Thanks, Kayleigh. The EU nations are starting to ease their travels restrictions between their own borders. Is the President planning on rolling back EU travel restrictions? He said back in May that that he'll probably ease them out sometime in the future.
MS. MCENANY: The President knows that the travel restrictions were a very important component to saving lives. Almost 3 million could have been – could have perished, and those travel restrictions were instrumental in taking early action and saving American lives. He monitors the data constantly.
No plans now as to lifting those, but it's ultimately the decision of the President. He's guided by data and the safety and – and the health of the American people.
Q And then on China – on China, sorry. They just announced that, during the negotiations with Secretary Pompeo, they're going to accelerate their ag buys. They weren't meeting the phase one ag buys. Does this mean anything for a potential phase two deal? Obviously, this (inaudible) the coronavirus, but –
MS. MCENANY: I have no announcements on that front. I haven't spoken to the President on that specific matter.
Q Back to DACA, if you would, please. After the Supreme Court decision the other day, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement. I'll just read it briefly. "Next, we urge the President – President Trump to strongly reconsider terminating DACA. Immigrant communities are really hurting now amidst COVID-19. Moving forward with this action needlessly places many families into further anxiety and chaos." Will the President consider the bishops appealing this?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President said to me, "I'm going to take care of DACA far better than the Democrats ever did." Democrats had two and a half years to make a deal on DACA. They didn't do it. He wants to take care of these individuals, but it needs to be done in a lawful way and it needs to be done in accordance with assuring that our border is safe, that it's protected, that we have an end to lawless immigration and MS-13 and the havoc that we've seen wreaked in this country.
So he's for a measured response. And he's offered deals to Democrats previously that have been rejected, so Democrats really seem to be using the DACA recipients as pawns and that is despicable.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. Given that the campaign had attendees of the rally on Saturday sign a waiver to indemnify the campaign if they should get sick with coronavirus, would the President consider starting or contributing to a fund for the sick or the bereaved if we see a spike in cases come out of the rally Saturday night?
MS. MCENANY: I think that's a hypothetical and that's a speculative question.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. Looking towards the election, we know that the Biden campaign is pushing back on adding any additional debates to this schedule. How many debates would the President be willing to participate in?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so the President talked about this yesterday. The President is happy to debate when given the opportunity. Right now, there are three debates, and he's happy with that. But certainly, if others were proposed, he'd be willing to look at them, and he very much looks forward to those debates.
One thing I would note – and I think it's just very important, especially as we go into the weekend and we begin to look at some of the news coverage out there – is that I would encourage all of you to cover the protests in the same way that you cover the rallygoers.
It's really quite something when you look at this extraordinary video by Media Research Center and NewsBusters, where you have multiple hosts on MSNBC, CNN, and CBS boasting about the, quote, "massive crowd." "I mean, massive – tens of thousands of people. Thousands and thousands. Up to 200,000 people," they exuberantly exclaim. But then they have grave concerns about the size of the Trump rallies.
You have MSNBC contributors saying, "Social justice over social distancing." But when the President looks to celebrate the accomplishments for minority and communities in this country, our rallies are derided as breeding grounds for coronavirus while Lawrence O'Donnell celebrates arm-in-arm protests.
So I really think that we should have internal consistency here in the way we cover large crowds. We should be guided by science, not cherry-picking science, as I see it all too often on the airwaves, especially from CNN.
Q Stay safe.
Q Happy Father's Day to all.
Q Have a good weekend.
MS. MCENANY: Thank you. You too, Jim.
END 1:56 P.M. EDT
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