Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:25 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Hello, everyone. Law and order are the building blocks to the American Dream, but if anarchy prevails, this dream comes crum- — comes crumbling down. Anarchy in our streets is unacceptable, and anger is not enough. You have a President committed to action.
The DOJ has arrested over 100 anarchists for rioting and destruction of federal property. The DOJ has also charged four men in federal court for attempting to tear down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square. The FBI has over 200 open domestic terrorism investigations ongoing. AG Barr has created a task force on violent anti-government extremists led by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Northern Texas.
With 200 Trump-appointed judges confirmed, the rule of law will be upheld. Democrats at all lev- — at all levels — federal, state, and local — have done nothing. Senate Democrats blocked bipartisan police reform. Minnesota's Democrat governor failed to urgently deploy the National Guard — it took President Trump for that to eventually happen; his suggestion — and the ultimate descendance into chaos there in Minneapolis.
Three Democrat Minneapolis councilmembers voted to abolish the police, while they themselves were getting a private security detail. That's quite rich.
Democrat mayor of Seattle called the CHOP zone — the autonomous zone — "the summer of love." It is anything but that with one dead, multiple shootings, and desperate pleas for help unanswered by business owners and others.
Eleven people were shot in 12 hours this weekend in the Democrat-run New York City. And 61 people were shot in Democrat-run Chicago, and 15 fatally killed — a Democrat state, a Democrat city.
President Trump stands against defunding our brave police officers, caving to mob rule, and cancel culture which seeks to erase our history.
Let's be clear: The rampant destruction of statues is not a part of any ideology, but this anarchy is aided by failed Democrat leadership. And as President Trump has tweeted, these statues, quote, "are great works of art, but all represent our History & Heritage, both the good and the bad. It is important for us to understand and remember, even in turbulent and difficult times, and to learn from them."
So let's stand for law and order, for peace in our streets, and against anarchy. This is President Trump's vision for the future.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. I know you said that President Trump was never briefed on these reports about the Russian bounties and whatnot, but can you say that he was briefed today?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I'll say this: that the U.S. receives thousands of reports a day on intelligence, and they are subject to strict scrutiny. While the White House does not routinely comment on alleged intelligence or internal deliberations, the CIA Director; NSA — National Security Advisor; and the Chief of Staff can all confirm that neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on the alleged Russia — Russian bounty intelligence.
Q: But has he been since briefed since all of these reports came out?
MS. MCENANY: So, let me back up and say this: that there is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations, and, in effect, there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community with regards to the veracity of what's being reported. And the veracity of the underlying allegations continue to be evaluated.
Q: And one more question, if I could: Was he upset that this intelligence was reportedly shared with the British government, but not him?
MS. MCENANY: I have no further comment on that, other than to just point you back to the two assertions that I made previously.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. How could the President not be briefed on the Russia bounty story? Was he out of the loop by his own intelligence community?
MS. MCENANY: No. As I noted, there was not a consensus among the intelligence community. And, in fact, there were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community, and it would not be elevated to the President until it was verified.
Q: President Trump tweeted overnight, "Intel just
spoke[reported] to me..." What specifically does that mean? Who spoke to him? Did that person, in fact, give the President a full briefing in that conversation?
MS. MCENANY: So, I have no further details on the President's private correspondence.
Q: And can you tell us who is coming to the White House today, and who is going to brief those lawmakers?
MS. MCENANY: So, what I can tell you about that is that, last night, the Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, called both Senator McConnell and Congressman Hoyer and bri- — and said that he would be briefing eight members from the committees of jurisdiction.
So there was a bipartisan invitation extended, but no further details other than that.
Q: Is that briefing going to happen today, Kayleigh?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, it was ongoing at the time when I came out here — at least it had started, I think, 30 minutes prior to me coming out here.
Q: But they're going to come to the White — just — I just want to be clear about what's happening. Members of Congress have come or are coming to the White House?
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: Okay, I have two questions. One: Isn't it concerning that there was even a hint of credibility to this report that the Russians were offering to pay Taliban-linked militants to kill American troops, and the President was not told about it? Has the National Security Advisor or anyone explained why they didn't think it rose to the level that the Commander-in- Chief should find out about it?
MS. MCENANY: So, intelligence is verified before it reaches the President of the United States. And in this case, it was not verified.
I would note this, though: When the President — there is no stronger advocate for our servicemen and women than President Trump. He never hesitates to act when there is a threat to our servicemen and women — for example, in Syria, in 2018, when dozens — dozens of Russian mercenaries were killed in retaliatory defensive U.S.-led strikes.
So when our adversaries have directly targeted U.S. or coalition partners, the President has not hesitated to act. But this was not briefed up to the President because it was not, in fact, verified.
Q: So I understand it has to be verified, but not everything in his daily briefings or in the Presidential Daily Brief — that's the written document — is airtight. They let the President know about what they are hearing. That's why it's intelligence. So why would that not have been something that rose to that level if, you know, we're sharing it with other countries?
MS. MCENANY: The National Security Council and the intelligence community constantly evaluate intelligence reports, and they brief the President as necessary.
Q: Okay, so my other —
MS. MCENANY: Darlene
Q: — question is: If this does be borne out to where the President believes that it is true, what is he going to do to hold Russia accountable? And is he still going to invite Vladimir Putin to the G7, G8 — whatever he's thinking about — in the fall?
MS. MCENANY: I won't speculate on whether this intelligence is verified or not verified, and I won't get ahead of the President on further actions. But I would just point out that no one is —
Q: But the intelligence officials are not disputing that —
MS. MCENANY: No one —
Q: — this is not true.
MS. MCENANY: No one — there are —
Q: Ratcliffe is not disputing this.
MS. MCENANY: There are dissenting opinions within the intelligence community, and I can confirm with you right now that there is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations. And further, I would just point out — I won't get ahead of the President on actions, but with regard to Russia, this President has been extremely strong on Russia: imposing sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals, expelling dozens of diplomats, closing two Russian consulates, withdrawing from the INF Treaty, and several other actions.
Q: So, who is disputing it in the intelligence community?
MS. MCENANY: I have no further — no further notifications for you, other than to tell you there's no consensus and there are dissenting opinions from some within the intelligence community.
Q: So you guys do not think this is true? You don't think this report is true?
MS. MCENANY: I'm telling you this: that there is no consensus in the intelligence community, and that the dissenting opinions from some of the intelligence community exists.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. I wanted to go back to the tweet the President tweeted yesterday and then removed. This morning, you said that he didn't hear the phrase "white power" in a portion of the video, and that when it was signaled to him that that was there, he took the tweet down. So does the President retweet other people's tweets and videos without knowing the full contents of what he's retweeting?
MS. MCENANY: No, he did not hear that particular phrase when he tweeted out the video, and —
Q: Did he listen to the video before retweeting it?
MS. MCENANY: He did, and he did not hear that particular phrase.
Q: Also, given your opening, do you have any comment on Mississippi taking steps to remove the Confederate emblem on the state flag?
MS. MCENANY: I would say that that's a decision for Mississippi to make. And it's commendable that they took this action in a lawful manner and took the appropriate steps rather than trying to tear down statues and monuments.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. One follow-up on the Russia and then on another issue. Does the President have a specific message for Moscow, given these reports?
MS. MCENANY: A specific message for Moscow? No, because he has not been briefed on the matter. As I noted, there's no consensus among the intelligence community and there are, in fact, dissenting opinions.
Q: All right. And on a separate issue: Jacksonville, Florida, today apparently is issuing a mask order. That, of course, is where the — at least part of the RNC will be held later this summer. Has the President's thinking about wearing a mask changed at all given that order and given the increased coronavirus cases in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and elsewhere?
MS. MCENANY: So I talked to the President before coming out here. He — it's his choice to wear a mask. It's the personal choice of any individual as to whether to wear a mask or not. He encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety, but he did say to me he has no problem with masks and to do whatever your local jurisdiction requests of you.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. There have been reports that some American service members actually were killed as a result of this Russian bounty. What information do you have on that?
MS. MCENANY: Look, again, I'm pointing you back to the fact that there's no consensus within the intelligence community.
And I would also note that, for those of you that are always taking the New York Times at their word, they erroneously reported that the President was briefed on this. He was not briefed on this and neither was the Vice President.
So before buying into, full-fledged, a narrative from the New York Times that falsely stated something about the President, that you would wait for the facts to come out and note once again: There's no consensus in the intel community, and, in fact, there are dissenting opinions from some within it.
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: So you say that he wasn't briefed. Does that mean it wasn't in the PDB either?
MS. MCENANY: He was not personally briefed on the matter. That is all I can share with you today, is that both the CIA Director, the National Security Advisor, and the Chief of Staff can all confirm neither the President or the Vice President was briefed.
Q: Okay. And I have a —
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: I have coronavirus question as well, please.
MS. MCENANY: Sure.
Q: Secretary Azar said that the "window is closing." This is — cases are on the rise. This is a very serious time obviously. The Vice President held — held a briefing on Friday. What is the President's message to the American people? And why aren't we seeing him publicly talk to the public, encourage them to do things to stay safe?
MS. MCENANY: I would note that there was a whole Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Friday where all of these questions that the American public had were addressed.
We're encouraged to see that fatalities are coming down; that this Sunday, I believe, we had our lowest fatality rate since — I believe it was March 22nd — so, late March. What that signals to us is we're catching people in the communities. The people who are being infected tend to be those — as Vice President Pence has noted, half of those testing positive are under the age of 35. This means we're catching people in their communities.
We're aware that there are embers that need to be put out, but these signs of decreasing fatality, increased and enhanced therapeutics that we've identified — four of them: dexamethasone, convalescent plasma, and remdesivir, and one other — that they are working. Remdesivir, in particular, reduces hospital time by a third. So these things make us uniquely equipped to handle the increasing cases that we've seen.
Q: Kayleigh, there's a national conversation going on right now about the proper place of symbols of the Confederacy — statues, memorials, names — and that the President tends to repeatedly insert himself into this debate. And I think a lot of people are trying to understand what his view of memorializing the Confederacy is and the proper place for the Confederate flag.
So, a couple of questions: One, does he believe — does President Trump believe that it was a good thing that the South lost the Civil War? And then, two, is he interested in following NASCAR's example — of him banning the Confederate flag at his own events?
MS. MCENANY: Well, your first question is absolutely absurd. He's proud of the United States of America.
Second, with regard to our statues, Americans oppose tearing down our statues. There is a Harvard/Harris poll released just last week that shows 60 percent of respondents said the statue should remain, and 71 percent said local governments should block groups from physically destroying the statues. So he stands on the side of preserving our history.
Q: The question is actually about the Confederate flag at his rallies. Will he — is he interested in banning the Confederate flag at his rallies?
MS. MCENANY: That would be a question for his campaign. But look, this President is focused on taking action, on fixing problems. It's why he had his executive order, just a few weeks ago, to keep our streets safe and secure. That's where his focus lies.
And I think that those who are tearing down statues, they do appear to have no ideology when there's tearing down statues and defacing statues of Matthias Baldwin, an abolitionist; Hans Christian Heg, who died fighting for the Union Army during the Civil War. A memorial for African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War was damaged in Boston, and a monument to fallen police officers was vandalized in Sacramento.
This is unacceptable. It's why the President took strong action. It's why there's an executive order saying: Those tearing down statues will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. It's why four people will be charged.
He will not stand for lawlessness and chaos; he stands with the 71 percent of Americans who say there is no place for tearing down statues, as these anarchists are doing across the nation.
Q: (Inaudible) the White House think that it's okay to display —
MS. MCENANY: Christian.
Q: — the Confederate flag at his events?
MS. MCENANY: Christian.
Q: Yeah, thanks, Kayleigh. I got a couple. First off, the President has been talking about this big infrastructure push. I'm curious if we're ever going to get a look at the proposal that DOT has been working on.
And then, secondly, I'm curious if you could give us a little info on how the phase four negotiations are going. Do you get a sense that Congress is open to the “back-to-work bonus” that the President said he's in favor of?
MS. MCENANY: I don't have any updates for you on phase four or infrastructure, but the President has mentioned, for the last three years, he's very keen on Democrats coming to the table and working with us on infrastructure. He's keen on, in a phase four, seeing a payroll tax holiday, which helps low-wage workers and those who need it most. These are real, effective measures that could help the American people, but the onus is really on Democrats to come to the negotiating table.
Q: Well, is there any indication that this is going be different than infrastructure in February? I mean, that was roundly denounced by all the Democrats.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I won't get ahead of the President or those negotiations.
Q: Thank you. I have two questions. First about the statues. I covered pretty closely the Trump inauguration rioting trials, and those all ended in, essentially, jury nullification, and no one was convicted. And I was wondering if President Trump is concerned about the possibility that the same will happen with the people who were charged — the four — trying to topple the Jackson statue, particularly given his personal role helping to apprehend suspects.
MS. MCENANY: Look, that'll be a decision for the courts to make and for juries to make. But the President is very keen on seeing these actions brought to justice, because tearing down American monuments, and defacing federal property, and defacing the Lincoln Memorial are not things the American public want to see, as noted with that 71 percent poll.
Q: Got it. And my second question is: Over the weekend, President Trump retweeted a contrast of his presidency and President Obama's, and there was a chart of the different things that President Obama did and President Trump did. And one of the differences was President Obama approving the extrajudicial killings of Americans overseas. There was a little bit of confusion earlier in President Trump's presidency about his position on that. Are you able to clarify whether he opposes that?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I would just say this: The President will always point to the difference between his record and that of President Obama, which is what he was getting at with his tweet. You had, on the one hand, the Obama-Biden presidency, the weakest economic recovery since World War Two. With President Trump, we got to the hottest economy in modern history. With President Trump, you saw ISIS defeated. With Vice President Biden and President Obama, the so-called JV team of ISIS became the varsity team and overran two separate countries.
So the President will always draw a contrast with President Obama, and those are just two of the many, and he was drawing a contrast in that tweet.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. I have two questions on COVID-19. First off, remdesivir, we found out today the pricing of it, going forward: For roughly a five-day trial, $2,300 for government-backed programs; $3,100 in the commercial marketplace. Does the White House, does President Trump approve of that pricing — of that price point, considering there's been some criticism as to whether or not that's too high?
MS. MCENANY: So, Blake, that's a really good, important, and substantive question that I think deserves a good answer to.
And, first, the wholesale acquisition costs or the Federal Supply Schedule is about $3,200 for a course of remdesivir. But remdesivir is an inpatient drug done by infusion. And because it is an inpatient drug, the patient would be very unlikely to see the cost of the drug and to pay the cost of the drug, because the way that hospitals get reimbursed for inpatient drugs is that they are paid flat fees for admission.
And as Secretary Azar explained to me, this means, in layman terms, that hospitals have to eat the cost of treatment use. But if they buy remdesivir for, let's say, $3,200, which is the wholesale acquisition cost, and that remdesivir drug saves that patient time in the hospital — they only spend a third of the time in the hospital as a patient without remdesivir — that would mean that the hospitals are actually profiting because they're getting the patient out early. So that basically all comes down to saying that the patient will not see that cost.
Q: So, no issue with the price point.
MS. MCENANY: Right.
Q: And then, second- —
Q: Kayleigh —
Q: And then, secondly, just picking up where — what Jeff had asked about masks: You said the President had no problem with masks and that individuals should do whatever their local jurisdiction requests. However, the HHS Secretary, Alex Azar, said this weekend, quote, "We've got to practice social distancing. We've got to use face coverings when we can't practice social distancing."
So if individuals are going into an area, and social distancing cannot be practiced, should they listen to the local jurisdiction in which face masks might not necessarily be mandated, or should they listen to the HHS Secretary who says wear a face mask?
MS. MCENANY: So the CDC guidelines are: They are recommended but not required. And we've — the President would encourage everyone to follow the orders of their local jurisdiction and CDC guidelines.
Q: Thank you. So one Russia follow-up and then a separate issue. I just want to be clear: There are congressional leaders who are being briefed on the Russia situation, but the President has still not been briefed on the situation?
MS. MCENANY: Look, this has been asked and answered. The President is briefed on verified intelligence.
Q: And how does he know — if he hasn't been briefed, how is he certain that Russia didn't put out these bounties?
MS. MCENANY: The President is briefed on verified intelligence. And again, I would just point you back to the absolutely irresponsible decision of the New York Times to falsely report that he was briefed on something that he, in fact, was not briefed on.
And I really think that it's time for the New York Times to step back and ask themselves why they've been wrong — so wrong, so often.
The New York Times falsely claimed Paul Manafort asked for polling data to be passed along to Oleg — Oleg Deripaska before having to issue a correction.
In June of 2017, the New York Times falsely wrote all 17 intel agencies had agreed on Russian interference, before having to issue a correction that it was only four agencies.
In 2017, February of that year, the New York Times published a story claiming Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence — which even James Comey had said was almost entirely wrong, New York Times.
New York Times published a column in March of 2019 by a former Times executive editor that asserted the Trump campaign and Russia "had an overarcing [sic] deal" that the "quid of help in the campaign against Hillary...for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy." That's what we call the "Russia hoax," which was investigated for three years with taxpayer dollars before ultimately getting an exoneration in the Mueller report.
It is inexcusable, the failed Russia reporting of the New York Times. And I think it's time that the New York Times, and also the Washington Post, hand back their Pulitzers.
END 1:47 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/342146