Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:25 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Hello, everyone. President Trump will participate in a roundtable to hear stories of families positively impacted by law enforcement. That will be taking place shortly after this briefing concludes. The President stands with our police officers, our men and women across this country who valiantly patrol our streets and protect our protect our citizenry.
This President stands on the side of law and order to secure peace in our streets. That has always been his priority, and remains so today.
Tragically, this weekend, we saw a devastating ambush attack against brave law enforcement officers in McAllen, Texas: Officer Edelmiro Garza, Jr., who was 45 years old, and Officer Ismael Chavez, who was 39 years old. And while responding to a domestic disturbance call, Officers Garza and Chavez arrived on scene to protect the people that they serve. They were met with gunfire. They were ambushed by a violent and dangerous suspect who horrifically shot before they even drew their weapon or had a chance to call for backup.
We honor the lives and the service of Officer Garza and Officer Chavez. This President will always stand on the side of law enforcement and the heroes who protect and serve.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q: Hey, Kayleigh. Thanks so much.
MS. MCENANY: No problem.
Q: As the number of cases and fatalities continues to break records, in the most recent interview President Trump did, he said, "We are going to be in really good shape," in the next two to four weeks. Can you share what evidence he's using to draw that conclusion? And what is the administration going to do differently in the next two to four weeks to stop the spread?
MS. MCENANY: So the one thing I would note is that when you look at the mortality rate, we're seeing that our efforts here at the federal government have been working. And to give you an example of that, when you look at New York and New Jersey, there were 21 deaths for every thousand cases; 20 deaths for every thousand cases, in the case of New Jersey. Those were the ratios we were seeing just a few months ago.
Now, New York and New Jersey are down 1.7 per 1,000 and 1.8 per 1,000, respectively. And moving beyond New York and New Jersey, we're seeing in Florida, for example — though they have 12 cases for every 1,000, it is 0.2 mortality for every thousand cases. In Arizona, 0.3 deaths for every thousand cases. So we are seeing that our therapeutics are working, that dexamethasone and convalescent plasma and remdesivir are working. And that's something good and something that the President takes note of.
Q: But two to four weeks is such a short time period. I mean, what specifically are you doing to stop the spread?
MS. MCENANY: There's a lot. And I'm very glad that you asked that because it is worth highlighting the work that we're doing each and every day. For one, we're surging personnel to Arizona, Texas, California; we already have people working in Florida. Surging remdesivir to states that are seeing rising case numbers. We're also surging testing supplies to decrease turnaround time. These are several action items that Dr. Birx briefed me on before coming out here.
And the White House will be going to several states this week. Dr. Birx, in particular, to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina. We've sent 19 HHS teams to metroplexes; eight more coming this week. So we are aggressively on the ground reacting to this virus, and we're encouraged to see the declining mortality compared to a few months ago.
Jim, I haven't seen you in a few weeks. I'm glad you're back.
Q: Yeah. Thanks. Kayleigh, why is the White House trashing Dr. Fauci and sending out opposition research, like memos, to reporters?
The President has gone off on anonymous sources in the past. Why not have the guts to trash Dr. Fauci with your own names?
MS. MCENANY: So, President Trump — I'll refer you back. There is no opposition research being dumped to reporters. We were asked a very specific question by the Washington Post, and that question was President Trump noted that Dr. Fauci had made some mistakes, and we provided a direct answer to what was a direct question.
Q: Hasn't the President made mistakes? He suggested at one point that Americans inject themselves with disinfectants, that sort of thing. Why not send out these notes to reporters, about what Dr. Fauci said in the past, with your names on it? They were sent out by a White House official. The President has said he doesn't trust anonymous sources, and yet you were sending out these notes to reporters, anonymously.
MS. MCENANY: Look, I would note that in terms of the President and his record on coronavirus, he stands by the actions and the steps he's taken in this historic response. You have Dr. Fauci who said that "the record of this President is impressive. I can't imagine that, under any circumstance, that anybody could be doing more." And those are the words of Dr. Fauci.
We provided a direct response to a direct question, and that's about it. And to the notion that there's opposition research and that there's Fauci versus the President, it couldn't be further from the truth. Dr. Fauci and the President have always had a very good working relationship.
Q: And on just a separate subject, very quickly: Does the President or the administration plan to make it very clear to the Russian Federation that there should not be bounties placed on the heads of American soldiers serving in Afghanistan?
MS. MCENANY: We make that clear each and every day to every country around the world that this President will always stand by our law enforcement. No one has been tougher on Russia. What you're —
Q: Not law enforcement. I'm talking about military soldiers.
MS. MCENANY: What you're talking —
Q: U.S. forces overseas.
MS. MCENANY: Yes, of course. That's what I'm saying. Our U.S. forces.
Q: Not just any country. The Russians. Will you tell the Kremlin and President Putin —
MS. MCENANY: Each and every country. But what you're getting at —
Q: — not to put bounties on the heads of American soldiers?
MS. MCENANY: Of course. We tell each and every country that. But what you're getting at is uncorroborated intelligence, and you're treating it as if it were true. To this day, there are varying views on the Russian bounty intelligence — DOD, NSC, and the ODNI all pointing that out.
You know, I'm not going to answer a question based on unverified intelligence, but rest assured, every country in this world is put on notice that bounties on the heads of U.S. troops is unacceptable, and this President will stand for U.S. troops at home and abroad.
Q: Including the Kremlin? Including the Russians?
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Another — mentioned a quote from Dr. Fauci — another quote from him: "When you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great." Is there any reaction to that from the White House?
MS. MCENANY: When you compare us to other countries, we have the most testing in the world. When you compare us to other countries on case fatality rate, other industrialized nations, we're very low and beating most countries, if not all, in Europe.
So we're doing a lot on the world stage and a lot right. Noted that we were supposed to have a ventilator shortage, and as it turned out, the U.S. actually sent ventilators all around the world. So the U.S. response has been historic. And by several metrics, including the three I just mentioned, we're beating the rest of the world.
Q: Is Anthony Fauci —
MS. MCENANY: Kristin.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Could you just clarify the scope of Roger Stone's clemency? A federal judge is asking for this. Does it only apply to prison time or does it also include the two-year period of supervised release?
MS. MCENANY: I don't have the exact details for you on that, but I can follow up. What I will say is that the Roger Stone clemency was a very important moment for justice in this country. You had a completely bogus Russia witch hunt that found nothing. And in order to justify the waste of taxpayer dollars, you had Robert Mueller charging people with process crimes.
And it's really curious to me that with Roger Stone — you know, he's charged of false statements, but McCabe was charged of false statements, lying to federal investigators; Brennan, false statements to Congress; Clapper, false statements to Congress. But last time I checked, they didn't have 29 FBI agents wearing tactical gear showing up there at their house in a pre-dawn raid wielding M4 rifles, sweeping across their lawn, as happened to Roger Stone. They didn't have four agents using battering rams breaking down their front door over false statements. And they didn't have helicopters hovering over their houses and two police boats that roared up.
Instead, McCabe and Clapper and Brennan and these guys are given lucrative contracts, books, contributorships. So there are really two standards of justice in this country, as Adam Schiff noted. Fortunately, he doesn't have the facts to back up the way he meant that term.
Q: But one more — one more question, if I could.
MS. MCENANY: Yes, Kristin.
Q: The President retweeted something this morning, implying that he believes that — he retweeted something, saying that the CDC is lying about the coronavirus in order to hurt his chances of getting reelected. Does the President believe that the CDC is lying about COVID-19?
MS. MCENANY: The President, with his intent in that retweet, expresses displeasure with the CDC, some rogue individuals leaking guidelines prematurely. You had a 63-page plan that was leaked prematurely. He believes that that misleads the American public when there are planning materials released that are not in their fullest form and their best form. So that's what he was getting at.
But overall, the notion of the tweet was to point out the fact that when we use science, we have to use it in a way that is not political. When you had 1,300 health experts sign a letter not to condemn large crowds of protesters, but some same health experts say churches need to stay shut down, or lockdown protests somehow don't get the same First Amendment rights as the protest that we saw on our streets, we need to use science, lean into science, but not use it and cherry-pick it to fit whatever particular political persuasion is.
Q: So he has confidence in the CDC?
MS. MCENANY: He does.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Given what we're seeing in Florida with the cases rising, is the President anticipating a scaled-down version of the convention next month? And if so, is that something that he would be content with?
MS. MCENANY: That would be a question for the campaign, but we still plan to move forward with the convention here at the White House. But for particularities, I would point you to the RNC and to the campaign.
Q: Just to close the loop on Dr. Fauci, does the President still appreciate the advice that he gets from him?
MS. MCENANY: Certainly. Dr. Fauci is one of many on the task force who provides advice. And I would note, you know, Dr. Fauci is an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert, and he provides his — his opinion there. You also have other experts like Dr. McCance-Katz who are behavioral — behavioral health experts who provide opinions about the holistic health of the child. And she's been a voice for reopening schools, and the damage long-term lockdowns can do. You have Dr. Moncef Slaoui who is working on the vaccines.
So there are a number of scientists who are experts in various issues and various specialties. But the President takes the full opinions of the task force, and the varying opinion sometimes, and moves forward in a way he thinks is best for this country, like he did with the China travel ban.
Q: And secondly, Kayleigh, the travel ban with Canada expires in about a week. Is that going to be extended? Are you talking about — talking with Canada about that?
MS. MCENANY: So no announcements now for our plans with Canada.
Q: Yes, Arizona has more new cases of coronavirus than any country in the world — more than the European Union as a whole. So isn't, by that metric, the United States not doing as well as other countries in handling this?
MS. MCENANY: No, because when you lead the world in testing, that means that you identify more cases.
Q: But hospitalizations are up. Deaths are starting to rise.
MS. MCENANY: And I would note — well, you talk about deaths; I can give you that particular information, which Dr. Birx gave to me before running out here, which is: In Arizona, you have 17 cases per 1,000 population, and 0.3 deaths per population, which means our therapeutics are working and we're in a better place today than we were before.
Q: Kimberly Byrd, a schoolteacher in Arizona, died, however, when she as following all the rules. She wore a mask. She wore gloves. She was teaching summer school. She got it and died. Two other teachers got it and are ill. Her family, her husband, her daughter. I mean, how do you tell parents of schoolchildren that it's safe to send their kids to back to school when something like that happens?
MS. MCENANY: Well, I would point you to the words of the CDC director, who said children are not very affected by this and typically are not spreaders in this. But I would also point to the consequences of staying closed. We have to look at the holistic health of the child.
And when you have, according to HHS, one-fifth of all child abuse cases being reported by teachers and educational staff, we cannot stay closed. When you have DC Family and Child Agency talking about a 62 percent decrease in abuse cases being reported, you cannot stay closed.
When even the AAP, American Academy of Pediatrics, talked about morbidity and mortality if school stays shut down, and 70 to 80 percent of mental — children with mental health diagnoses receive their care in schools, the consequences are grave if we stay shut down.
And there's a way for essential workers to go back to work, just as our meatpacking facilities did. Just as you all in the media are essential workers, we believe our teachers are as well.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. The administration has said that the goal of maximum pressure is to force Iran back to the negotiating table so we can get a better deal. Is that still the goal of maximum pressure? And in light of the reported new trade and military partnership between Iran and China, what evidence is there that the policy is succeeding?
MS. MCENANY: I have no information today to update you on our Iran relationship, which stays the same today as it has been.
Q: Hi, Kayleigh. I have two quick questions. President Trump's former Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who still has a role in this administration, he said in an op-ed today that we still have a testing problem in this country and that he and his son had to wait for five to seven days for results. If even President Trump's former chief of staff levels this criticism, doesn't that indicate we do have a problem with testing? Do you have a reaction to his op-ed?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah. A reaction is that we've tested — we lead the world in testing. We've done more than 40 million tests — that's an extraordinary number. Admiral Giroir gave us an update yesterday that, on Friday, we did over 800,000 tests. We tripled — quadrupled the number of tests. This is his exact quote: We have — "And we also have 12,000 retail test sites that are there, and we're surging testing in basically every specific county that's having a problem."
And Dr. Birx was just walking me through pooled testing, which will be a way to process tests at an even faster rate. So leading the world in testing, I would say, means we're doing a pretty good job.
Q: Does the President have any reaction to the Washington Redskins dropping their name today?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, it's a good question. You know, he made — I haven't talked to him since this specific announcement has been made. I have talked to him, but not specifically on that.
But last week, his tweet made it clear that these teams — these teams' name — their team is out of strength, not weakness. And he talked about the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians looking at changing their names. And he says that he believes that the Native American community would be very angry at this, and he does have polling to back him up. There was a Washington Post poll from a few years ago that 90 percent of Native Americans say they're not offended by the name. It is reflective of a 2004 poll.
And the Washington Post notes that many of these Native Americans voiced admiration for the team name, like Barbara Bruce who said, "I'm proud of being Native American and of the Redskins. I'm not ashamed of that at all. I like that name." Gabriel Nez, another 39 — 29-year-old from the Navajo community: "I really don't mind it. I like it." And there were several other comments like this in the Washington Post.
MS. MCENANY: Debra.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. I have a question myself, and then, as the print pooler, I'd like to ask a question from a news organization that can't be here because of social distancing.
My question: In February, when he was in Las Vegas speaking to Hope for Prisoners, the President said he didn't want to use his pardon power on Roger Stone because he thought he'd be exonerated. That didn't happen, and the President commuted the sentence. During the same event, the President said that he might give a full pardon to Jon Ponder, a convicted bank robber who served his time, turned his life around, and started Hope for Prisoners. Is there going to be a pardon for Jon Ponder?
And what about the more than 1,300 pardon applications sitting in the Pardon Attorney's Office? Because there's talk now that people don't go to the Pardon Attorney's Office; they go through the White House. Is that a good thing, or does it mean that only politically connected people can get pardons?
MS. MCENANY: So I have no update on Jon Ponder. It's absolutely not the case that only those who are politically connected get a pardon. This President is the president of criminal justice reform. This President did the FIRST STEP Act. This President has fought for those who are given unduly harsh sentences more than any Democrat who like to talk about it but never actually did it.
And, in fact, when you compare the pardoning record of this President with past presidents, it's quite striking that this President has given 36 pardons and commutations. President Obama gave 1,927. And when you look at the nature of some of the pardons given — let's say, under President Clinton — you talk about politically connected pardons. Oh, it can't get more politically connected with pardons than pardoning your brother, Roger Clinton, as President Clinton did; Susan McDougal, one of your associates who was pardoned for her role in Whitewater; Marc Rich, who gave $450,000 to the Clinton Library, or at least his wife did, donated $1 million to Democrat campaigns, and then he gets a pardon from President Clinton. And notably, a lot of these pardons were when he was going out the door.
So, this President has used it sparingly, and instead focused on criminal justice reform, helping those helping to rectify racial disparities in our sentencing. And Clinton and Obama, it appears, did a whole lot of pardoning and, in some cases, politically motivated, it seems, but didn't do a whole lot to help the innocent people who have served their time and been given unduly harsh sentences.
Q: I have a follow-up for someone who has —
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: — who asked me to ask a question because of social distancing.
This is from Jackson Richman at the Jewish News Syndicate: What's the President's stance on Israel planning to apply sovereignty at parts of the West Bank, and to Democrats — from Nancy Pelosi to AOC — who warned that such a move would undermine U.S. national security in the U.S.-Israel alliance?
MS. MCENANY: So I have no update today on the current status, but just other than the President has been a strong supporter of Israel.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. We're coming up on the three-year anniversary of the President tweeting he'd ban transgender people from the military in any capacity, which led to the policy currently in place. Last week, a group of 116 lawmakers, led by Congresswoman DelBene, wrote the administration urging them to lift the policy. Would the President reconsider the policy?
MS. MCENANY: I haven't talked to him about that specific policy, but this President is proud that, in 2019, we launched a global initiative to end the criminalization of homosexuality throughout the world. He has a great record when it comes to the LGBT community. The Trump administration eased a ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, and he launched a plan to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. So we're very proud of our achievements.
Q: Nonetheless — but nonetheless, the ban on transgenders in the military is still in place.
MS. MCENANY: John.
Q: Thank you very much.
Q: You have a Supreme Court ruling that anti-trans discrimination is a form of sex discrimination. We have an estimated 14,700 people in the military who identify as transgender. We have a poll showing upwards of 70 percent of Americans support transgender service. And we have major medical and psychological groups saying there's no problem with transgender people in the military. So what is the reason for having the policy currently in place?
MS. MCENANY: I have no updates for you, but several of the events that you cited, like the Supreme Court ruling, I would refer you back to Justice Kavanaugh who has said, "We are judges; we're not Members of Congress. Instead of a hard-earned victory won through the democratic process, today's victory is brought about by judicial dictates." So we'll always stand on the side of correct statutory interpretation.
Q: Kayleigh, thank you.
MS. MCENANY: Yes. John.
Q: Kayleigh, thank you very much. Can you really — can you really say that the rise in testing accounts for the rise in the number of cases? Because the percentage of those testing positive has risen sharply.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so I would say to this, as we've always said: that there would be embers; there would be fires.
Q: Is it still an ember?
MS. MCENANY: So we — we readily acknowledge the embers and the fires that are around the country, but we also note that it's logic, basic common sense: When you're testing more than any country in the world, you're going to identify more cases. We've tested more than 40 million. That means we will identify more cases.
But when you see the fact that mortality has come down per thousand population, and in a way that it was — it was not months ago in New York and New Jersey, it means that we have become very adept at our therapeutics and our ways of finding people in communities rather than in hospitals, catching things early, and moving forward in a way that we know how to aggressively attack this virus and keep the American people safe.
Q: And can I just follow up with the travel ban?
MS. MCENANY: Chanel.
Q: Just, can I ask on the travel ban?
MS. MCENANY: Sure.
Q: What is the rationale now for keeping people from Europe, Ireland, and the UK from the United States when they have a fraction of the number of cases that you do in the U.S.?
MS. MCENANY: The argument is we will always put America first.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. If you will expand on the difference between this time last month and now, when it comes to framing the discussion about law enforcement — last month, the President hosted a law enforcement roundtable, and at that roundtable, he said that he would not support defunding the police. And yet, one month later, we still have Democrat cities doing so — disbanding their police, defunding the police. How does the White House feel it should frame the debate now, with regards to defunding the police, so that a reasonable discussion can be had with these Democrat cities who are trying to do so?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, it's a very good question. We know that in Los Angeles, when they announced they would be defunding their police department by 150 million, they basically, immediately after, saw a 250 percent increase in homicides. When you have people out there, like Representative Ilhan Omar, saying, "We have to completely dismantle the police" and "police are cancer," this is not how we should be talking about our heroes.
You have, most egregious of all, really, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying, Defund[ing] the police means defund[ing] the police." She criticized, of course, the announcement of $1.5 billion being taken down from NYPD.
And this weekend, you know, when faced with — there were 28 shootings in New York, a 600 percent increase from this time last year — you have Representative Ocasio-Cortez saying this is just because people are trying to get food with their families. That is preposterous.
The reality is 63 percent of Americans in this country fear that criticism of our police departments will lead to no public safety in their streets, and 69 percent of black Americans. This is a real issue when you call our police "cancer," when you talk about dismantling them. And then this weekend, in New York, you see a one-year-old killed in his stroller. His name was Davell Gardner, Jr. And that one-year- old will be in our prayers. Not only that — you see officers Garza and Chavez.
And to your question about how we should talk about the police and defund the police movement, the President stands against.
The two officers ambushed this weekend, one of them — Officer Chavez's daughter wrote a very touching tribute online. She said, "Words cannot describe the pain I'm in, but I'm glad my dad is at peace. You were an amazing man and anyone who ever came across you knew that. I'm going to miss you so much. You died doing what you loved most. You died a hero." And those touching words were written by Savannah Chavez, and I know she received vile and outrageous comments online that were absolutely atrocious for her touching sentiment to her dad.
I want Savannah to know: Your dad is a hero. His police department should never be defunded because most of our police officers are good, hardworking men and women, and heroes — much like Savannah's dad. We'll be praying for you, Savannah.
Thank you, guys.
END 1:49 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/343101