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Pool Reports of December 18, 2020

December 18, 2020

Pool Reports by Brett Samuels, The Hill

Sent: Reports:
December 18, 2020

WH pool report #1: Checking in, no news

Good morning from the White House, where the sky is gray and the president once again has nothing on his schedule that is open to the press. Pool has been given COVID-19 tests, but things are otherwise quiet here.

The president has been tweeting/retweeting this morning about Brian Kemp, Tommy Tuberville and the coronavirus. The only item listed on his schedule at the moment is a 3:30 p.m. meeting with the acting Defense secretary, which is closed to the press as of now. Reach out with any questions, and I'll pass along any updates as they come in.

December 18, 2020

WH pool report #2a: Pool no longer gathering

After being called to gather at about 11:30 a.m., the pool was told a few minutes later that it was a false alarm and that there was no longer a need for us. We were given no further details other than being told whatever the president is doing is remaining closed to the press. We did not make it past upper press. I've asked if there's any additional info on what the president is doing and will pass along updates.

December 18, 2020

WH pool report #3: Kudlow gaggle

Larry Kudlow was gaggling with reporters outside when press staff came out to alert the pool that we'd been called. He spoke for about 4 minutes before your pooler had to bail. As always, check quotes against video:

Kudlow first wished reporters happy holidays and said "I appreciate our discussions and relationships these past three years."

Q: How would you assess the economic impact of the government hack?

A: "Nothing immediate. I'm not the expert on that… it's just, look, I don't know the whole story, and I don't know totally who's responsible. People are saying Russia. I don't know that. It could be other countries. I just don't know. But, we have to always, you've got to recover this and do the best best we can.

"America's got the greatest technology in the world, including in this area. So we'll have to double back and try to cover tracks and see. But no, I don't see any immediate economic impact."

Q: Are we going to hear from the president on the government hack?

A: "I don't know, actually. I don't know."

Q: Reports overnight that the president wanted more money in direct payments, anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000. Does President Trump want more money in direct payments, is he going to push for that?

A: "The president's going to go with Sen. McConnell, and that will be a Republican position. Our view is pretty much mailed down. We're waiting for the Democrats to sign off. To tell you the truth, as you look at this thing, first of call… it's come together nicely, point number one.

"Point number two, still some sticking points, absolutely. Without relying too much on numbers, but you're look—and again, give me some running room, elbow room here—you're looking at a $300 federal unemployment plus up, and you're looking at a $600 rescue assistance direct mail check, which would come to $2,400 for a typical family of four. We are united on that point. I won't confirm or deny any of these rumors.

"We are strongly in support of Sen. Toomey's view with respect to the Treasury emergency funds. As you know, Steve Mnuchin prompted that several weeks ago. The WSJ editorial said it was Mnuchin's best moment," he said with a laugh.

"So, we have to get through that. There's disagreements there. The state and local stuff's not going to fly. Liability limits are not going to fly. But we'll give plenty of money. Anything to do with vaccines, distribution, we'll give plenty of money."

Q: Why have we not seen the president been this week?
[At this point the pool was being called and Kudlow did not get a chance to respond. As noted in a previous report, pool did not get to see the president after being called to gather.]

December 18, 2020

WH pool report #4: Lunch lid

The White House called a lunch lid until 2 p.m.

The White House also declined to provide any additional info on what the president was doing when the pool was abruptly called and quickly dispersed an hour ago.

December 18, 2020

WH pool report #5: Morgenstern gaggle

Deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern took several questions from reporters on the driveway after a Fox News hit. Quotes below, check against video:

Q: When was the last time the president was briefed on the cybersecurity hack and when will we hear from President Trump on it?

A: "I wouldn't get into private national security briefings of the president, but I will say he's up to speed, and his team is working very hard on it. If he wants to speak directly as opposed to through his team, of course that's the president's prerogative."

Q: Where has the president been this week?

A: "President Trump is working very hard. He is of course being briefed as needed. He is leading this government as always."

Q: Why hasn't the public heard from President Trump?

A: "There's a lot of work that goes on that isn't necessarily public, but he is hard at work, and when it's the appropriate time for him to come speak publicly, of course that's his right, his prerogative to do. But at this point the administration continues to work very hard behind the scenes, and to the extent we have to speak publicly we do that. But the work is being done whether or not he's coming in front of you."

Q: Response to Biden transition team's statement criticizing inclusion of provisions that would hamper Fed measures?

A: "There are a lot of funds that were appropriated in the CARES Act that have not necessarily come into play in terms of addressing the needs of small businesses and the American people… These funds can be used in really beneficial ways. I also want to give the negotiators a little space to do their jobs. I know there's ongoing conversations. We're supportive of getting a deal done. But to say that winding down the funds would lead to more harm I think is not correct. Those funds can be spent in a way that help the American people, help workers, help families, and help small businesses."

Q: Worried that this is eventually going to be used to give money to the states?

A: "There are municipal lending facilities included in those funds, so I don't think that's really that sort of thought is applicable necessarily. And there are certain of those funds that have been extended for a number of months. I'm getting really into the weeds here, but the bottom line is the president supports getting money to families, getting money to small businesses, getting schools open."

Q: What is the timing on the veto of the NDAA?

A: (Noted Trump has 10 days from time it was passed, which would give him until Dec. 23.) "We have no announcements at this time. The statement of administration position remains I believe public and consistent with our position at this point. Section 230 is very important."

Q: When will President Trump get the vaccine?

A: "I believe Kayleigh addressed this in her briefing early in the week, that he's in discussion with his medical team about the appropriate time to take it. He's expressed publicly his willingness to take it. And when the time is right I'm sure he will remain willing to take it. As you know, he had the disease and had the antibody cocktail."

Q: Are there concerns about getting the vaccine too close to the antibody cocktail?

A: "I don't know about concerns… There are medical professionals I think providing advice, and there's some public reporting on that that says that for someone who's recently recovered and had the antibodies, it may not be as immediate a need for that person to be vaccinated. Now, the president's perfectly willing to get it, and if the advice is that it is fine, it will be effective if he talks it sooner rather than later, he'll do that."

Q: Are we going to see some pardons today?

A: "I saw the reporting. Pardons, clemency issues are not something we're able to comment on or speculate on in advance. That's the kind of thing where if there is any decision made it will be made public."

Q: Why was Rudy Giuliani here?

A: "I'm not going to make any comment on the mayor."

Q: Have others in the White House been vaccinated?

A: "I wouldn't have any comment on any particular member of the government or the public frankly on when they were to get vaccinated. That's sort of a personal issue. And if someone gives consent that their own medical situation be made public, they can do that. For instance, the vice president, the second lady and the surgeon general of course all were publicly vaccinated. They're delighted to do that of course for the purposes of public confidence."

Q: Will he sign legislation delisting Chinese companies that don't comply with auditing standards by tomorrow?

A: I don't have any updates on that at this time.

Q: Any retaliation expected in response to the hack?

A: "The federal government has stood up inter-agency groups. There are incident response teams. Some of the lead agencies include the FBI, DHS, ODNI and the NSA. Amb. O'Brien, the national security adviser, is convening meetings daily, if not more than once a day… to mitigate the effects of any incident and to make sure our country is secure going forward. And we will not forecast any kind of action that we may take to combat our adversaries and sort of tip them off."

Q: Does President Trump maintain that Ric Grenell was the first openly LGBTQ Cabinet official?

A: "Yes, the president does agree with that. He's very proud of it. In fact he as a gift gave the ceremonial Cabinet room chair that Amb. Grenell used during his time as acting ODNI to kind of signify how meaningful it was to him to break through that barrier."

Q: Does the WH believe a stimulus deal will get done by the end of this weekend?

A: "We are hopeful and confident. We need our negotiators on the Hill and committee chairs and leadership to continue. I believe Leader McConnell referenced the one-yard line. We're really hoping to punch it in across the goal line. We'll give them space to do their work, but we are very hopeful and confident that they'll be able to get it done."

December 18, 2020

WH pool report #6: Call with Macron

>From deputy press secretary Judd Deere:

Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Emmanuel Macron of France. President Trump wished President Macron a speedy recovery and quick return to his full duties. President Trump also extended his best wishes for a Merry Christmas to President Macron, his family, and the People of France.

December 18, 2020

WH pool report #7: UAE call

?Deputy press secretary Judd Deere passes along the following statement:

Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. President Trump congratulated the Crown Prince on UAE's progress in implementing the Abraham Accords. The two leaders also discussed bilateral security issues and ways to work collaboratively on future initiatives. Additionally, President Trump and the Crown Prince highlighted the progress the two countries have made to defeat the coronavirus and reopen economies. Both leaders conveyed that they looked forward to UAE's hosting of the World Expo next year.

December 18, 2020

WH pool report #8: Lid

?At long last, the White House called a travel/photo lid at 10:02 p.m. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Donald J. Trump, Pool Reports of December 18, 2020 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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