Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:38 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Good afternoon. Today marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day, a triumphant milestone in our nation's history and indeed in world history. Seventy-five years ago today, our brave American forces defeated fascism in Europe. And through the selfless devotion of thousands of patriots, they saved the world.
Over 180,000 Americans gave their lives in the European theater during World War Two. And I want to take just a moment to honor their service and their sacrifice. Thank you to all of our veterans. You are truly, truly our heroes.
Now, as I move to my next subject, I want to begin by saying this: Look, our rank-and-file men and women at the FBI are heroes in their own right. They protect this country from domestic crime, and we thank them for their service. They work hard. And once again, we owe them a debt of gratitude. But that is separate and apart from what I'm about to address right now.
The FBI exists to investigate crimes. But in the case of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, it appears that they might have existed to manufacture one. As the motion filed by the Department of Justice yesterday explained, the FBI set out to interview General Michael Flynn, when they had no predigate [sic] — predicate for any investigation of any crime.
Over the past week, we learned, from a handwritten note, the true intent behind the FBI's investigation of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. The very day that then-FBI Director Jim Comey sent agents to the White House to interview Flynn, the FBI discussed what their intent was beforehand. This is what they said: "What is our goal? Truth, admission? Or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired?" These notes, in addition to other evidence, raise serious questions about the handling of the — of the FBI's handling of Michael Flynn's case.
Did the FBI confront Flynn with the intent to get him to lie so that we can prosecute him and fire him? Did the FBI manufacture a crime against Lieutenant General Michael Flynn?
Federal investigators appear to paint a target on the back of General Michael Flynn. Kimberley Strassel of The Wall Street Journal laid out, point by point, the very concerning aspects of this case, and I'm going to reiterate them as outlined in her column over the weekend:
In December 2016, Flynn spoke as the incoming national security advisor to the Russian ambassador. This call, as is customary, was recorded by the United States government. They record calls with foreigners. But in a highly irregular move, the intelligence community, under the Obama administration, unmasked the identity of Michael Flynn, a United States citizen, who is entitled to Fourth Amendment rights and to due process. But Lieutenant General Michael Flynn received none of that.
The intelligence community was hunting for evidence against General Flynn — evidence they did not find. We learned from newly released transcripts that in stark contrast to what former DNI James Clapper had been saying publicly, and contrary to what he was saying publicly, here's what he was saying privately with regard to Russian collusion: "I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting [or] conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election." Sounds awfully different from what he just said 10 days prior in a public capacity.
Having found no evidence of Russian collusion, the FBI came up with a new absurd theory that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act, a statute from 1799 that, in its 200 years of existence, had never been used to convict an American citizen, but it was resurrected in the case of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.
Michael Flynn didn't violate the Logan Act. Even the FBI did not think that General Flynn's telephone call provided the predicate for a criminal investigation. In fact, in January of 2017, an internal FBI document concluded that Flynn was, quote, "no longer a valid viable candidate for investigation." Disgraced FBI agent and noted Trump hater, Peter Strzok, disagreed, texting this: "Hey, if you haven't closed that Flynn case yet, don't do so yet." End quote. So the Flynn case remained active. This was a good thing for Peter Strzok, but it was a bad thing for justice. It was a bad thing for the rule of law.
According to yesterday's motion to dismiss the case against Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, it said this: Mr. Strzok immediately relayed the, quote, "serendipitously good" news to Lisa Page, special counsel at the FBI, remarking, quote, "our utter incompetence actually helps us." That's right. Their utter incompetence to close the case against Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was something to be serendipitously celebrated.
The scheme to manufacture a case against Michael Flynn continued. After President Trump entered office, the FBI's partisan pursuit of General Flynn proceeded under Jim Comey's FBI. Despite possessing a transcript of Flynn's entire conversation, the FBI decided it was somehow necessary to go ask General Flynn what happened on the call, despite having a transcript in their possession. The only motive would have been to, quote, "get him to lie."
They advised him he didn't need a lawyer present. Imagine that: "You're an American citizen. You don't need a lawyer. We're just coming in to have a chat." They didn't inform their superiors at the Department of Justice about their intent to interview Flynn, despite their own attorney at the FBI saying, "If we usually tell the White House, then I think we need to do what we normally do." But they ignored the advice of FBI counsel, and they went in to interrogate Michael Flynn.
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, no fan of President Trump, said she was "flabbergasted." She was "dumbfounded" by the decision to not inform DOJ officials who, quote, "hit the roof." This is all outlined in a legal document that you can find.
Additionally, when the FBI arrived at the White House, they did not even warn lawyer-less Flynn about the consequences for providing an inaccurate response. The interrogation of Michael Flynn was not an inquiry. Make no mistake: It was a trap. Even more troubling was the fact that after the interrogation of Flynn, former Deputy Director of the FBI Andy McCabe concluded that he, quote, "didn't think Flynn was lying." But the case against Flynn continued.
We were pleased to learn yesterday that the Justice Department moved to drop the case against General Michael Flynn. Though it took several years, it is encouraging to see that justice finally prevailed. As we move forward as a country, it's important to take these revelations very seriously in order for Americans to have faith in our justice system.
If the top leadership of the FBI can target a three-star general who served this country for three decades, make no mistake, they can target you. It's hard to believe that this happened in the United States of America.
General Michael Flynn's life was forever changed. He had to sell his home. He faced financial ruin. His family was even threatened with prosecution. But despite all of that, here's what Michael Flynn put out yesterday in his first reaction to the motion to dismiss. If we can play the video, let's go ahead and play it.
I don't think we have the video queued, but I encourage you all to go on General Twynn's [sic] — Flynn's Twitter feed, and what you'll see is a really beautiful video of his grandson talking about how much he loves this country and how everyone deserves justice for all. And how commendable that is for General Flynn, at a time when he was so gravely wronged to say this: I still believe in this country. I still believe in America. I still believe in the principles that make this country the greatest on Earth.
And in the words of renowned political philosopher Baron de Montesquieu, "There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice."
I hope the media will take these questions very seriously, will report the facts. There was heavy interest in the first iteration of Flynn news from many years ago that got four times the coverage that the exoneration of Michael Flynn got today. That was a report by Media Research Center. So these facts are important, and thank you very much for those who have taken interest in reporting.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q: Thank you.
MS. MCENANY: Jim, you were so kind on the trip the other day to Honeywell, so you get the first one.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. And congratulations on becoming Press Secretary.
MS. MCENANY: Thank you.
Q: I wanted to ask you, putting aside the situation with Michael Flynn: Today, the unemployment rate hit the highest point since the Great Depression. What is the President's plan to get this country out of this ditch?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, you know, this President is the "jobs President." This President got us to a place where we had the lowest [un]employment rate in the history of this country, historic lows for black Americans, Hispanic Americans, the disabled veterans.
As the President has noted, and I think this is right: We had to put a stop to the economy. It was a pause. This wasn't some, you know, economic catastrophe that organically happened. It was decided upon by the President of the United States to stop the United States economy because we had to save 2.2 million lives — perhaps more, somewhere in that range — because American lives, that's what mattered most.
And so this President, when faced with this very tough decision to put a pause on the hottest economy in modern history, said American lives matter most. And that's what he did.
And I can tell you this: The President that got us to the hottest economy in modern history, he's done it once, and he can do it again.
Q: What's the plan?
MS. MCENANY: We're going to work with Congress. We're going to come up with hopefully a phase four. We encourage the House to maybe reconvene soon. It'd be helpful if Nancy Pelosi was here.
But thus far, what we've done is the PPP, of course — Paycheck Protection Program — that has really kept a lot of employees on the payroll. Sixty million employees, roughly half of the workforce and private sector in this country, have been kept on payroll thanks to that measure.
But going forward, you know, principles like deregulation, principles like lowering taxes — the President has mentioned a payroll tax pause, which would be a great thing for the American people. There are a lot of proposals being entertained. I don't want to get ahead of the President, but I can tell you —
Q: Isn't there a problem with — isn't there a problem though — the President wants people to get back to work; he wants these governors to reopen their states. But if Americans aren't comfortable going to restaurants and movie theaters, or the beach or whatever, how do you get this economy moving again? What's the plan?
MS. MCENANY: I can tell you there's a lot of pent-up demand in this country. There's a lot of people who do want to go out to restaurants, who do want to go out to movies, who do want to go back to their jobs. We see it and we hear about it every day.
I don't think that that's a problem. I think people can trust that we have a President who wants to reopen and reopen safely. These are data-driven guidelines to reopening. The President has those in place, so there's no reason to be concerned because we have a President who always looks at the data, as Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx have repeatedly noted.
Q: Kayleigh, there was a second confirmed case of COVID-19 here at the White House today. Apparently, a member of the Vice President's staff. That's two in two days in a building where people are being tested now — including the President and the Vice President — every day, and they've had their temperature checked for months here. Why should the average American, whose workplace doesn't have access to these rapid tests, feel comfortable going to work if the White House isn't even safe for people?
MS. MCENANY: Well, look, this individual — there is a member of the Vice President's team who is positive for coronavirus. We have put in place the guidelines that our experts have — experts have put forward to keep this building safe, which means contact tracing. All of the recommended guidelines we have for businesses that have essential workers, we're now putting in place here in the White House. So as America reopens safely, the White House is continuing to operate safely.
Q: Kayleigh, the President, of course, we saw him go down to the World War II Memorial with a group of seven American heroes, all in their 90s. Did he give any consideration to wearing a mask, given that his valet just tested positive and he's with some of those in the most vulnerable population? Did he — did he consider wearing a mask while he was with these veterans?
MS. MCENANY: Well, this President is regularly tested. This President will make the decision as to whether to wear a mask or not.
I can tell you that those veterans are protected. They made the choice to come here because they've chosen to put their nation first. They wanted to be with their Commander-in-Chief on this momentous day. And it was their choice to come here, and I can tell you that the President always puts the safety of our veterans first and of the American people first.
Q: Well, how much time — how much exposure has he had to his — his valet? Can you give us a sense of —
MS. MCENANY: I can just tell you that we've taken every single precaution to protect the President. The same guidelines that our experts have put in place: We clean the facility, we social distance, we keep people six feet away from one another. So we've done every single thing that Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci have asked us to do. And I can assure the American people that their Commander-in-Chief is protected.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. I want to ask you about the Gilead drug, remdesivir. Which government agency is in charge of distributing that drug? And is the White House satisfied with how that drug is being distributed around the country?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, we're — I actually just spoke with Dr. Birx about this. She is going to be working and consulting as to where this drug should go. She's the person who's constantly reviewing the numbers, constantly reviewing the data. I'm in task force with her every day, and she really has the best grasp as to how that should be distributed.
So she will be one of the chief consultants as to how that drug is distributed, which I would note, 1.5 million vials donated by Gilead. We're so thankful for that. This drug is promising, and we want to get it to the American people and to the areas that need it most.
Q: Hi. Thanks so much for — and congratulations on the new gig.
MS. MCENANY: Thank you.
Q: This is my first time seeing you at the podium. I have two quick questions. The first one is about, what's the possibility of the federal government getting involved in the Ahmaud Arbery case, given that Georgia doesn't have any hate crime laws? If it's proven that these men chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery because he was an African American and they racially profiled him, would the Justice Department consider getting involved?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I — first, I want to say that my heart goes out to the family of Ahmaud. I can't imagine what they're going through right now. My heart breaks for this family. I know the President's heart breaks. I've spoken to him about that.
And I can tell you we will follow the facts. Right now, as you know, it's in the court in Georgia. It's a state matter. But, absolutely, we will be following every detail. I'd refer you to DOJ. But as the facts merit, I'm certain that they'll be following those facts.
And you had a second question?
Q: The second question I have is: In 2015, shortly after the President said that some Mexican immigrants were rapists and criminals, you said that that language was racist and hateful. Do you still believe that today?
MS. MCENANY: Well, I'm actually glad you asked that because for about the first four weeks of the election, I was watching CNN, and I was naively believing some of the headlines that I saw on CNN and —
Q: I think you're probably going to start reading headlines, but that's fine. I just want to know if you also personally still believe that.
MS. MCENANY: I'm actually not — I'm actually not going to read the headlines. So I very quickly came around and supported the President. In fact, CNN hired me. I was on many eight-on-one panels where I proudly supported this President who I believe is one of the best presidents, if not the best president this country will ever have.
But I would encourage the individual who did that analysis of my past, rather than focusing on me, he really should be focused on some of the very guests CNN chose to have on their network. He should be focused on — I mean, my — over here, Jim — Jim Clapper who said, you know, 10 days before he privately told investigators there was no evidence of collusion, that Watergate pales in comparison to the Russia probe. I'd encourage them to look at Samantha Powers who's privately saying: I'm not in possession of any evidence of collusion. Ambassador Rice: I don't recall intelligence or evidence of any collusion. Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch: I do not recall that being briefed to me.
And for three years — two years — probably more than that — CNN ran with the collusion narrative. And if the American people are watching right now, you're probably very confused as to some of the quotes I read, because those individuals were saying much different things publicly than they were saying privately. And I'm very grateful that those transcripts were released yesterday. And perhaps the KFile should do an analysis of that.
Q: Respectfully, are you walking back those comments today at all?
MS. MCENANY: I support —
Q: Or do you stand by those comments that you made?
MS. MCENANY: I support this President. There is no questioning that. I'm so honored to work for him.
And, Ebony, next question.
Q: Thank you. On the Michael Flynn case, Kayleigh, documents released yesterday suggest members of the intelligence community tried to keep the case against Michael Flynn ongoing. I'm wondering if you think there should be an investigation and whether the administration is considering bringing charges against people like James Clapper and Peter Strzok.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I'd refer you to the DOJ on that, but I would say there were some very, very questionable actions that happened in this case, and I took you through a number of them. And I do think the American people deserve answers, but I leave it to the Justice Department as to how to get those answers.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Has the President spoken to Michael Flynn since this news yesterday? And do you expect that he will visit the White House? Is that something that's being planned?
MS. MCENANY: I'm not aware of any conversations that have taken place and not aware of any future plans that would regard Michael Flynn.
Q: Could I ask one more? Larry Kudlow said today that negotiations on the next stimulus are at a lull right now. Given where the numbers are on unemployment, from your perspective, from the White House perspective, why is it at a lull right now?
MS. MCENANY: Well, look, I think Nancy Pelosi should explore coming back and having the House come back and having those discussions. We know the Senate is here. I think it's important for us to move and look at a phase four. The President thinks so too.
So those negotiations will happen. But a big part of that is, you know, we need the House; we need Nancy Pelosi to come back from California and get to Washington, D.C., and to work for the American people.
Q: Thank you. And congratulations on your new role.
MS. MCENANY: Thank you very much.
Q: Yeah. Following up on Jim's questions about getting back the economy — getting the economy started again, does the President see the CDC guidelines as an obstacle to getting the company — getting the country back up and running again? And if it does not see the CDC guidelines as an obstacle, why not release those guidelines to the public and also follow them as we move forward?
MS. MCENANY: So, I assume you're talking about the guidelines that were widely reported about yesterday, about daycares —
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so I would ask you, you know, what's the definition of CDC guidelines? Is it something that the CDC director has actually seen? I would endeavor to say yes. Is it something that a rogue CDC employee leaks to you guys? No, those aren't CDC guidelines; those are guidelines in draft form that a rogue employee has given you for whatever personal reason they've decided to do that. Those guidelines are in the editing process.
We want the American people to get as much information as they can possibly have at this time. That's why we have the phased reopening guidelines, the data-driven guidelines. Those CDC guidelines are going through an editing process. And when we have those, you guys will be the first to know.
How are we on time, Alyssa?
MS. MCENANY: Okay. What — sorry —
AIDE: Two to one. Two minutes to one.
MS. MCENANY: Oh, two minutes to one. I'm sorry to cut this short, but as you know, you guys were supposed to be, three minutes ago, with the President of the United States. So I will leave you guys with that.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend. And thanks so much everyone.
Q: Why did you spend the first part of this briefing talking about Mike Flynn —
MS. MCENANY: Justice matters.
Q: — when both the President and Vice President were exposed to coronavirus and we have historic unemployment?
END 12:58 P.M. EDT
Donald J. Trump, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/341839