Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:48 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: So, I'm sorry we are very late, you guys. I'm sorry to keep you waiting. I was working with the President on something, and he wanted me to hand this out to you all. And I have it here, so I want to read it to the American public, directly from the President:
"It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our legendary military bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort Hood in Texas; Fort Benning in Georgia." And the list goes on. "These monumental and very powerful bases have become part of a great American heritage and a history of winning, victory, and freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our heroes [here]…and won two world wars. Therefore, my administration will not even consider the renaming of these magnificent and fabled military installations. Our history, as the greatest nation in the world, will not be tampered with. Respect our military!"
So that was directly from the President. And we spent some time working on that, and I wanted to deliver that to you.
Also, I wanted to take us through a few other things relating to the coronavirus. First, the coronavirus task force briefing was held yesterday. I was in it, and there was some very good news that I'd like to share with you. I don't know if you all saw; there were two studies that came out — very strong studies — in the journal, Nature. And in Europe, which had a very similar epidemic profile to the United States, 3.1 million lives were saved due to mitigation and the efforts taken by the European governments. And as Dr. Birx noted to me — she sent this to me just before I walked out here — she said it suggests that the United States also prevented over 3 million deaths, thanks to the efforts of President Trump and the American people.
Another study found that the shutdown efforts prevented 50 million additional coronavirus cases. So those are two very encouraging studies underscoring the work of the American people.
Also, the Washington Post noted that these two reports use completely different methods to reach similar conclusions. They suggest that the aggressive and unprecedented shutdowns were effective at halting the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus. So thank you, Washington Post, for that good reporting.
The Department of Agriculture, Secretary Sonny Perdue also had some very good news in the task force briefing I was at yesterday. America's meatpacking facilities — at one time, it looked like they were going to need to close; that was unacceptable to the administration. So we took action — the coronavirus task force took action — and now I'm pleased to report that these meatpacking facilities are operating at 95 percent capacity compared to 2019. We have beef operating at 98 percent capacity, pork at 95 percent, and poultry at 98 percent.
Throughout America's extraordinary efforts to slow the spread, President Trump ensured that the meat supply chain stayed functional and robust by directing these meatpacking facilities to safely operate in accordance with the CDC and OSHA guidelines. His efforts secured America's continual access to a steady food supply chain.
And then, finally, and very importantly, I have some great data points to share on coronavirus testing capacity and minority communities. Admiral Brett Giroir shared this with me yesterday and last night as well: He said that when we look at testing sites, President Trump's public-private partnership with retail companies has proven quite successful. Testing sites are operating in 49 states with 70 percent of these sites located in communities with moderate to high social vulnerabilities. And social vulnerability takes into account race, ethnicity, housing and economics, language barriers, and other factors.
Also, federally qualified health centers — they're FQHCs — serve 29 million patients in 12,000 communities across the nation. They provide care to one in five of those uninsured, one in five rural Americans, one in five of — one in three of individuals below the poverty line, and more than 1.3 million homeless men and women, and nearly a million migrant agricultural workers. And 92 percent of these FQHCs now offer COVID test. And we've awarded them $583 million to 1,385 of these facilities.
And finally, finally — I promise my last announcement: The HHS Office of Minority Health issued a competitive funding opportunity to build a strategic network of national, state, territory, tribal, local, and community-based organizations that deliver vital health information and support linkages to services for racial and ethnic minorities. And this — this announcement — this network is scheduled to be awarded at the end of June and is expected to reach at least 40 million individuals from racial and ethnic minorities.
These updates, I was told by Brett Giroir, were received very well at the Senate hearings. And we thank the Vice President, Mike Pence, for doing an amazing job leading our coronavirus task force, and to President Trump, who has led in bringing America through the coronavirus pandemic.
And, with that, I'll take questions.
Q: Kayleigh —
MS. MCENANY: Kristen.
Q: Kayleigh, thank you so much. Does the President regret tweeting out a baseless conspiracy theory about a 75-year-old protester on the morning of George Floyd's funeral?
MS. MCENANY: The President was asking questions about an interaction in a video clip he saw. And the President has the right to ask those questions.
Q: But does he regret tweeting out this protester was assaulted?
MS. MCENANY: The President does not regret standing up for law enforcement men and women across this country.
And let me say this and just give you a little bit about the mindset behind the President's tweet: Look, we are living in a moment that is — it seems to be reflexively anti-police officer, and it's unacceptable to the President. In this tweet that he sent out, he was in no way condoning violence, he was not passing judgement on these two officers in particular, but what he was saying is this: When we see a brief snippet of a video, it's incumbent upon reporters and those who are surveying the situation to ask questions, rather —
Q: But isn't it incumbent upon the President to have facts before he tweets anything out? He's the President of the United States.
MS. MCENANY: The President did have facts, before he tweeted it out, that undergirded his questions.
Q: But it's a baseless conspiracy theory. Do you acknowledge that?
MS. MCENANY: It's not a baseless conspiracy — no, not at all. I won't acknowledge that. Because, look, you had — let's contrast this to the George Floyd situation, which — that horrific video that we all saw. Every single police officer that I saw across the country came out and said, "This is an inexcusable action, and I condemn this police officer."
In this case, there were 57 police officers who said, "I resign in protest over the way these two officers were handled." And the President says those law enforcement officers have a right to be heard.
Q: But does the President think that anything justifies that 75-year-old man being pushed down to the ground, like we all saw in the video?
MS. MCENANY: The President does not condone violence. He wants to see the appropriate amount of police force used in any given situation, including this one, but he believes that the officers have a right to be heard.
Q: And very quickly: George Floyd's brother is here testifying. Has the White House invited him here to meet with the President?
MS. MCENANY: The President has repeatedly acknowledged George Floyd, his passing, the egregiousness of that atrocity, and has called the family by phone, as he did last week.
Q: The President has got an event tomorrow in Dallas at a church, in which he'll meet with faith leaders. He'll also meet with law enforcement officials, small-business owners. The theme is a plan for "holistic revitalization and recovery." Will the President be announcing any policy in regards to police reform tomorrow? And what might that policy form?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so that's a very important question. And as it stands currently, the President has spent the last 10 days quietly and diligently working on proposals to address the issues that the protesters have raised across the country — legitimate issues. And that body of work, I'm told, is reaching its final edits, and we hope to produce it for you in the coming days. I can't promise you it's tomorrow, but in the coming days, we look to deliver that.
Q: So then — what then will tomorrow be about? Will it be a listening session, as he had on Monday with law enforcement? Or might there actually be some concrete policy proposals —
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, it will be a round- —
Q: — that could, at least, be done at the executive level?
MS. MCENANY: It will be a roundtable, much like what you saw with law enforcement officers earlier in the week.
Q: And if I could just stay on that theme for a second: In terms of reform ideas that the President could support, Democrats have floated some in the House; Senate Republicans, led by Tim Scott, are working on others — things like banning chokeholds, banning no-knock warrants, independent process to investigate misconduct. Could the President support issues like that?
MS. MCENANY: So, again, don't want to get ahead of the announcements. What I would say is: Each issue is being looked at as to what would make a difference. Everything that you've suggested has certain ramifications, so he has to look at each of these in great detail, as he's done over the last few days.
And I would just note: One thing that AG Barr said was that, in the Democrat bill, they talked about needing to reduce immunity to go after bad cops, but that would result in police pulling back, so that is one thing that is a nonstarter.
Q: So is that — it's called "qualified immunity."
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: Is that a red line for the President?
MS. MCENANY: That's a nonstarter in the Democrat legislation.
Q: Does the President believe there's a problem with institutional racism in this country and institutional racism in law enforcement?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I've answered this question. I think this is the fourth time I've been asked it, and I've said each and every time: There are injustices that we have seen. Clearly, that tape of George Floyd was inexcusable, gut wrenching, difficult to watch. And it was really a beautiful funeral yesterday — all the great testimonies to his life. We recognize those injustices. Sandra Bland, another example.
But this President knows, fundamentally, that most police officers in this country are good — that the 750 men and women that have been injured; that David Dorn, the police officer who was killed; and Patrick Underwood, the law enforcement officer who was killed are emblematic of what police in this country stand for. That is the best, that is the brightest, and that is our domestic heroes.
Q: But the reason why I'm asking it now is: Does he believe that action needs to be taken to fundamentally change the way law enforcement is done in this country, to make fundamental changes so that there isn't the kind of disparities that we see along racial lines?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President is looking at various proposals. And I would say this President has done a whole lot more than Democrats have ever done when it comes to rectifying injustices — where you had the crime bill of the '90s, which created great racial disparities in our justice system, and President Trump rectified some of those with the FIRST STEP Act.
So, President Trump is about action, and he's shown that. And he recognizes injustices and acts promptly when he sees them.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh —
Q: Kayleigh, does the President agree with the recent announcements from the Marines and Navy about their policies banning the display of the Confederate flag?
MS. MCENANY: So I haven't spoken to him on that specific one. He does, as I noted at the top of this briefing, fervently stand against the renaming of our forts — these great American fortresses where, literally, some of these men and women who lost their lives, as they went out to Europe and Afghanistan and Iraq and all across this world to win world wars on behalf of freedom, a lot of times the very last place they saw was one of these forts.
And to suggest that these forts were somehow inherently racist and their names need to be changed is a complete disrespect to the men and women who the last bit of American land they saw before they went overseas and lost their lives were these forts.
Q: So an ex-judge appointed to review the Flynn case said the Justice Department "has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President," and he urged the presiding judge in the case to deny attempt by the government to dismiss the charges. What is the White House reaction?
MS. MCENANY: That's the first I'm hearing about it. I'd pointed to DOJ on that.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. Congressional Republicans, including Congresswoman Liz Cheney, have criticized the President's decision to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Germany, some saying that it will embolden Russia if we — if the United States does that. Did the President make that decision to punish Chancellor Merkel for deciding not to come to the G7 in June?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I have no announcements on that front, and he never makes decisions to punish certain world leaders; he acts in the best interests of the United States.
Q: Just one follow-up on another issue on Kristen's —
MS. MCENANY: Yeah.
Q: — with regard to the tweet: One of the things that the President said in his tweet was that the gentleman "fell harder than [he] was pushed." How is — how does that work in terms of physics?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I — the President raised several questions based on a report he saw. He has a right to ask those questions. And where he stands is squarely with law enforcement. He was making no judgments — not condoning violence, not saying what happened in this case with these two officers was right or wrong — but he's standing back and saying we need to ask questions before we destroy lives and convict people in the court of public opinion.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. Two questions on the economy. First of all, both the chair of the Federal Reserve and Steve Mnuchin said today the U.S. will definitely need another round of stimulus. How urgent is that for the President? I mean, how soon do we expect him to meet with Democrats to discuss the next legislation?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, it's a good question. He met on a potential phase four policy last week. It was a very promising discussion with his economic advisors. So that's in the works, as to when and if we see that, but it is a topic of discussion.
He was encouraged by the jobs report. We were supposed to lose 7.5 million jobs. We ended up gaining 2.5 million — a swing by 10 million. It was described to me as one of the — by one famed economist — as one of the worst miscalculations of economists in history to be off by 10 million. That's the size of Michigan.
So the President is encouraged because what we're seeing is a belief in the Trump economy and the Trump presidency. What we're seeing is the market soar. We're seeing the S&P have its best 50-day track record in history, because they believe in a President that has free-market policies that got us to the hottest economy in modern history and will get us there again.
Q: Just to follow up on that: The Federal Reserve today offered a pretty grim economic outlook, saying unemployment is going to be elevated for years. And also this week, we heard from the National Bureau of Economic Research, saying that the U.S. officially entered a recession. What is the White House response to that?
MS. MCENANY: We believe that next month's jobs report will be robust. The President has been clear that Q4 — he expects Q3 to be a transition period, Q4 to be robust, and next year to be a very hot year. And I would note that those in the prediction business, they were off by 10 million. That's not too good.
So I'd go back and look at some of the models that were off and how extraordinary the jobs report was last time, including 300,000 new jobs for black Americans.
Q: Thank you so much. The President met with Mitch McConnell today, we understand. Can you kind of fill us in on what that discussion was about? Any updates?
MS. MCENANY: So I have no announcements on that front. Those were his private meetings, so no announcements out of that.
Q: Can I just add to Jonathan's question? You know a lot of people are concerned that there is — you mentioned justice disparities. There's a lot of concern of some Americans that police officers treat black individuals and people of color differently than white individuals. Does the President share those specific concerns?
MS. MCENANY: Here's what he's concerned about: He's concerned about what the — and I've told you he's addressed injustices with Sandra Bland and George Floyd, and has repeatedly acknowledged that.
But here is, in addition to that, his concern, put very well by New York's Police Benevolent Association president Mike O'Meara: "Our legislators are failing us. Our press is vilifying us." He's saying "us" as police officers. "Stop treating us like animals and thugs. We've been vilified, and it's disgusting."
When you have a sitting congressman, Ilhan Omar, calling cops "cancer," what do you think that leads to? The AP reported on a shooting in front of a police department today in California.
Let's stop vilifying our officers. Let's recognize injustice where we see it, but recognize all of us in here are safe because of our police officers doing their job each and every day.
Q: I understand that. But there are concerns among many Americans that — that people of color are not treated the same by police, and that is what many of the protests have been about. Does the President share those specific concerns?
MS. MCENANY: The President believes most of our police officers are good, hardworking men and women, like David Dorn, who was killed among these riots; like Patrick Underwood, who was killed among these riots. Those are our police officers. They are our best. They are our brightest.
There are absolute places of injustice; we're addressing those. We're looking at legislative proposals and EOs. And, you know, what ultimately is determined, we'll see in the coming days as to what will work as a policy prescription.
But stop vilifying our officers, because they deserve better than that. They're out there; they're working hard. Seven hundred and fifty injured just in the last week and a half, and we need to recognize that.
Q: Kayleigh, back on the Buffalo protester: Is the President disappointed that more Republicans have not lined up to support the questions he asked, to use your characterization of it, which many people also characterize it as a conspiracy theory?
And secondly, has the President reached out either to the injured gentleman or to the police officers involved?
MS. MCENANY: So, first of all, President Trump, I would say, he's not focused on what Republicans are saying or not saying on the Hill; he's focused on making changes. As I said, he's been diligently hard at work the last 10 days, and that is where his focus squarely lies at the moment.
Q: And has he reached out to either the gentleman or the —
MS. MCENANY: Not — not that I'm aware of, no.
Q: Will he consider it?
MS. MCENANY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. You started this briefing reading off some statistics about success of mitigation efforts on the spread of COVID, but we're now seeing a spike in cases in more than a dozen states and increased hospitalizations in a lot of those as well. So — and many public health experts attribute these spikes to Memorial Day weekend gatherings and other aspects of the reopening process before these mass protests.
So why is President Trump continuing to urge reopening, giving — given this trend? And should we be slowing down a little bit on the reopening process as we see cases spike?
MS. MCENANY: First, let me note, as it pertains to Memorial Day: A week ago today, the Vice President's team told me — I wasn't in task force that day, but that it was said — that, in fact, that there was no linkage to Memorial Day as being some point of spurring wild outbreaks and rises across the nation.
What I would say, though — I talked to Dr. Birx and she said: What we've seen is that, in general, April averaged out to be about 30,000 cases a day; May was about 25,000 cases a day; currently, we're at around 20,000 cases a day. And you've got to look in a nuanced way at each of these states. Like, for instance, Texas is one of the places where they're saying we're seeing a steady slope, not a huge rise, but part of it's in — due to the fact that they're testing in long-term care facilities and in prisons. And the more testing you do, the more cases you identify.
Q: And can I ask a follow-up?
MS. MCENANY: Sure.
Q: President Trump is planning to restart campaign rallies within the next few weeks. What sort of precautions is he going to be taking at his rallies for the safety of the rally-goers?
MS. MCENANY: So we have no rallies announced just yet. You're right about the two-week timeline that was put forward. But we will ensure that everyone who goes is safe. But no specific announcements on that front. And I would direct you to the campaign for more information on that.
Q: Yes. Thanks for taking my question. Owen Jenson with EWTN News. We've seen thousands of people in the streets protesting, exercising their constitutional right — those, of course, doing it peacefully. At the same time, churches, in many cases, told to limit their gatherings — in some cases, to 10 or no more. Does the President see a double standard there, constitutionally speaking? And if, you know, can you explain, please?
MS. MCENANY: There are absolute double standards that we've seen. And that's why the Justice Department set up a task force, if you will, or a group to look at civil liberties as — during coronavirus shutdowns. You know, I read about one case where you had an allowance of outside gathering and protest, but indoor, churches could not gather even with socially-distance protocols.
He absolutely sees an issue. There have been several cases pointed to where people attending church in their cars were targeted by law enforcement officers. So, that — that's unacceptable.
You know, people should be allowed to worship. We have a First Amendment in this country. There's a way to safely do it. I went to mass and was able to safely attend, distance from people. And there were appropriate protocols that were taken in that case. And that's what we hope to see, as the President made eminently clear a few weeks ago.
Q: And just a quick follow-up on that. Not too long ago, he asked for all churches to reopen. Is he happy with the progress, or no?
MS. MCENANY: He's happy with the progress. I've seen — in fact, that very week, a church that I visited reopened — a church down the road from me. So I think he gave a lot of courage to the faith community to reopen, to do so safely.
And, look, here we are, I think four weeks later, and we haven't been hearing about, you know, rampant outbreaks in places of worship. The First Amendment is a beautiful thing. People have a right to go to church or mosque or synagogue.
Q: Yes. Hi, Kayleigh. Thanks. Still COVID: The President seems pretty unconcerned so far about November and the COVID situation, and whether people are going to be afraid to go to the polls or whether it's going to be a lot of delays because of the COVID. He recently said it's a "long way off," I think meaning, the — the pandemic will have died down by then, essentially.
But given that it hasn't actually gone away and people are still dying every day and there are some spikes — and it's not that far away: five months — are any measures being taken at all to guarantee that this election is going to go smoothly and everybody who wants to vote can vote?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, well, I — you know, I've not seen much criticism of the protest and socially distance and mitigation efforts.
Q: I was talking about — asking about the elections, not the protests.
MS. MCENANY: I think there's a way to safely vote if you can safely protest. And that's what the President would like to see. There's a way to safely vote. There's a way to safely go to church.
And you're asking a hypothetical about something five months from now, at a time, ironically, when the media hasn't expressed much outrage about a lack of mitigation efforts taken by some of the protesters.
Q: Kayleigh —
MS. MCENANY: Raquel.
Q: Thank you so much, Kayleigh. Two questions: First, is the President concerned the protests could lead to another outbreak of coronavirus?
And the second question: President Trump said that he does not believe that the death toll and coronavirus case figures shown in some countries. Does he trust the figure from Brazil? Is the White House concerned that the Brazilian government is hiding information about COVID-19?
MS. MCENANY: So, I haven't spoken to him about the Brazil numbers. But I have heard him, on several cases — probably at least five — mention that he'd seen what's going on in Brazil, and he was hurt to see how many people have been affected by COVID down there. So he has mentioned Brazil specifically. I believe he even sent some ventilators to Brazil because we had such an overflow of ventilators here because America really, under the leadership of President Trump, snapped into action and shored up what was supposed to be a ventilator shortage and delivered. This administration delivered.
So I would just note that: that he has mentioned great concern for the people of Brazil.
Q: Kayleigh, just the first question that I asked: Is the President concerned the protests could lead to another outbreak of coronavirus?
MS. MCENANY: We're monitoring that. You know, right now we're encouraged to see that cases have declined month over month. But, you know, the Vice President, as I walked out here, said the task force is well aware and monitoring individual situations in particular states.
Q: Kayleigh, thank you. Thank you. Going back to where you started, with the statement about renaming the military bases: If Congress were to send over, say, the defense authorization with language that were to rename one of these bases for someone who, say, was a general who won the Civil War, would the President veto the defense authorization?
MS. MCENANY: The President will not be signing legislation that renames America's forts. It's important to note — you know, Fort Bragg, for example: It's one of the largest military installations. It's home to tens of thousands of brave American soldiers. And when you think of Fort Bragg, we think of the brave soldiers that deployed from there. We think of all five World War Two airborne divisions — the 82nd, the 101st, the 11th, 13th, and the 17th — all trained at Fort Bragg. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion — this was the first black parachute battalion trained at this fort.
We must recognize the sacrifices made by these men and women, some of whom saw Fort Bragg for the last time before they went overseas. We've got to think of the Fort Bragg soldiers that have led humanitarian option — operations, like in Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti.
We've got to honor what has happened there, not rename it. So that is an absolute nonstarter for the President.
And I would also note —
Q: Kayleigh, and then one more question on that, if I could.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah. John.
Q: One more question on that. General David Petraeus is one of those people who went through Fort Bragg a number of times, even though his first command was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He penned a quite lengthy and detailed editorial about the reasons why those bases should be renamed, saying it's ironic that American soldiers and Marines are being trained at bases named for people who fought against the Union back in the Civil War; that many of the people for whom these bases are named were leaders held in questionable regard but who were elevated during the Lost Cause movement.
He goes on to say, "We do not live in a country to which Braxton Bragg, Henry L. Benning, or Robert E. Lee can serve as an inspiration." What does the White House say to that particular point of view?
MS. MCENANY: Fort Bragg is known for the heroes within it that trained there, that deployed from there. And it's an insult to say to the men and women who left there, the last thing they saw on American soil before going overseas — and in some cases, losing their lives — to tell them that what they left was inherently a racist institution because of a name. That's unacceptable to the President, and rightfully so.
And I would also note: Where do you draw the line here? I'm told that no longer can you find on HBO "Gone with the Wind," because somehow that is now offensive. Where do you draw the line? Is it — should George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison be erased from history? What about FDR and his internment camps? Should he be erased from history? Or Lyndon Johnson, who has a history of documented racist statements.
And, finally, what about people that are alleged by the media to be segregationists? NBC tells us Joe Biden didn't just compromise with segregationists; he fought for their causes in schools, experts say. CNN tells us letters from Joe Biden reveal how he sought support of segregationists in the fight against busing. The Washington Post tells us that Biden's tough talk on 1970s schools' desegregation plans could get him new scrutiny. And there are several more where that came from.
So, I'll leave you with a question: Should we then rename the Biden Welcome Center?
Thanks very much, guys.
END 3:14 P.M. EDT
Kayleigh McEnany, 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/342087