Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
10:54 A.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Good morning, everyone. We're going to begin with some brief remarks from Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and he'll be giving you all an update on phase four negotiations.
MR. MEADOWS: Good morning. As you know, over the last several days, we've been having conversations on Capitol Hill, Secretary Mnuchin and myself, with Democrat and Republican leaders, both in the House and the Senate.
Last night, we concluded a meeting with Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi a little bit before 10 o'clock, and at the President's direction, we have made no less than four different offers to Democrats on Capitol Hill on how we can make sure that the enhanced unemployment that is set to expire today, along with eviction protection that is set to expire as well, is protected. And those four different offers have been actually rejected, but more importantly than that, they've not even been countered with a proposal.
So the Democrats are certainly willing, today, to allow some of the American citizens who are struggling the most under this pandemic to go unprotected. And the President has been very clear for us to be aggressive and forward leaning to make sure that they get protected. And yet, what we're seeing is politics as usual from Democrats up on Capitol Hill.
It surprises me that when we talk about compassion and caring about those that — that truly are in need, that a temporary solution to make sure that unemployment — enhanced unemployment continues has been rejected not once but multiple times.
The Democrats believe that they have all the cards on their side, and they're willing to play those cards at the expense of those that are hurting. And we'll continue on with additional discussions today with Senator Schumer and Senator — and Speaker Pelosi, perhaps an in-person meeting tomorrow on Capitol Hill, as we — we stay engaged.
But I'm — I'm disappointed. And what we've — what we've experienced over the last three days — and I want to stress that the Democrats have made zero offers over the last three days. Zero. And so, in a spirit of compromise, the President has sent us back not once, not twice, but three different times to try to find some common ground. And what we found from our Democrat negotiators is that they are bumping the price higher than the very bill that they passed out of the House several weeks ago.
And to give you a particular example of that is: In their HEROES bill, they have $100 billion for schools. We matched that offer and actually put forth a proposal for $105 billion for schools for K-through-12 and higher institutions. And yet, what did they say to that? "Oh, no, that was two months ago. We want to increase the amount of money that we send to schools to $400 billion." We're going in the wrong direction. They're going in the wrong direction because of partisan politics. It is very disappointing.
And so we call on Capitol Hill to get serious about their negotiations. The President is serious about the negotiations. We're willing to engage.
As you know, Leader McConnell, yesterday, put forth a one-week extension at the current level for enhanced unemployment. And what did we see? Senator Schumer objected to that. So there's no clear message that the American people should receive, other than the fact that the Democrats are willing to pay — play politics at a critical time in our nation's very dire circumstances as we deal with this pandemic.
So I wanted to give you that brief update so that you can have it straight from the negotiations, as they've happened over the last three days, and as we work.
I'm going to — I'm going to turn it over to — to the Press Secretary. And I think she's prepared to answer all the questions.
Q: Liability insurance — is that a red line for you guys? McConnell said it was.
MS. MCENANY: Thank you, guys.
MR. MEADOWS: I think she'll address that.
MS. MCENANY: The — I'll take your questions in just a moment. The Chief has to run to a meeting.
But earlier this week — I just wanted to start off with an overview of what we've been doing on COVID, the President rather — President Trump visited the great state of North Carolina to highlight the important work being done as part of Operation Warp Speed.
And thanks to President Trump's leadership, the Trump administration has made substantial investments, including investing in multiple vaccine candidates with several entering phase three clinical trials, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Pfizer; providing financial infrastructure for mass manufacturing of potential vaccines; guaranteeing doses of a vaccine will be available for distribution shortly after approval. The race for a coronavirus vaccine is truly moving at warp speed under President Trump.
In addition, President Trump is leading on therapeutics. Over 140 clinical trials are now underway: remdesivir, dexamethasone, convalescent plasma, and monoclonal antibody treatments.
Yesterday, President Trump visited the American Red Cross Headquarters to hold a roundtable on donating plasma. This initiative will empower Americans to help their fellow Americans in battling the virus. These critical investments in a coronavirus vaccine are due to the fact that we have a businessman in the White House.
And according to The Wall Street Journal, quote, "Democrats blame the U.S. case surge on inadequate testing and contact tracing. But the U.S. has averaged two to three times more tests per capita than most European and Asian countries."
Indeed, we've done more than five- — 59 million tests; with India at number two, with just about 14 million tests. So quite a difference there.
Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas all were doing more tests per capita when they lifted their lockdowns, more per capita than Germany, Spain, France, and South Korea have averaged. The U.S. is the undisputed world leader in testing.
And on top of the more than 59 million tests that we've done, the FDA has authorized more than 193 tests under emergency use authorizations, including molecular and antibody tests. Under the leadership of President Trump, the U.S. is leading the world in safe and effective therapeutics and the rapid development of a potential vaccine. Together, as one American people, we will defeat the invisible enemy.
And with that, I will take questions. Paula.
Q: Kayleigh, thank you. On Mark's — on Mark's comments about how it's Democrats who won't compromise: Democrats came up with a plan two months ago. The Republican plan was just presented on Monday, and in that time, the President has contradicted the Republican plan on the amount of stimulus checks, on student loans. Mitch McConnell threw you guys under the bus on funding for the FBI building.
What do you say to the tens of millions of people who are going to lose their benefits when it appears that the real issue is that the Republicans cannot agree among themselves even though they've had months?
MS. MCENANY: That's not it at all. In fact, Democrats offered a $3 trillion plan. We have a very specific focus right now, and it's not this comprehensive plan, whether it be the HEROES Act the Democrats proposed that wasn't serious, or the HEALS Act.
That narrow focus is this: that Americans are about to lose their unemployment insurance, and this White House, this Chief of Staff, this President, this Secretary of the Treasury have offered several iterations to make sure that Americans, who through no fault of their own lost their jobs during this pandemic, do not also lose these checks.
We've made several proposals, as Mark Meadows just said to you. And how many proposals have the Democrats made? Zero. And if you want to know where the Democrats' true intentions lie, look no further than the Martha McSally bill that was presented, that would have extended the $600 unemployment insurance. It was rejected by Chuck Schumer. And that was a plan that the President was willing to endorse.
Q: Kayleigh, what do you say to those that are going to lose $600 a week in unemployment payments that need that money? And also, why didn't you start negotiating earlier? And why only the offer of an extension of one week?
MS. MCENANY: Well, what I would say to them is that this is unacceptable; that the Democrats have been fundamentally unserious. And the — you just heard the Chief of Staff say a great example of that is they had this massive $3 trillion bill that called for $100 billion in school funding. We then gave $105 billion, which then was deemed insufficient.
So if Democrats were interested in extending unemployment insurance and helping the American people, they would have endorsed the Martha McSally bill and extended this by a week to give us time as we try to extend this in perpetuity while we also focus on evictions as well.
Q: So what do you say to those Americans that are about to lose $600 a week?
MS. MCENANY: That they need to be calling the offices of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and say, "Get to work and stop engaging in politics on the backs of hardworking Americans who deserve these checks, who lost their jobs through no fault of their own."
Q: Are you willing to pass on the liability protection?
MS. MCENANY: That's a — that's a question for Mitch McConnell. He said that that's going to be a part of any bill. But that's Mitch McConnell's. That's his priority. This President is very keenly focused on unemployment insurance, and the Martha McSally bill is a great example of what Democrats are focused on.
Q: Kayleigh, if the President is so worried about how long it'll take to count ballots in the election, then why isn't the President and this White House doing everything it can to secure more funding for staffing and other resources to make sure that we can have a safe and proper election?
MS. MCENANY: Look, what this White House is focused on is making sure that our election is not riddled with voting fraud and that the timetable is not hung up here. We are — there are several lawsuits that the campaign is engaged on, and I would point you to the campaign for specifics on those.
Q: That doesn't ask — answer my question, though. My question is: What is the White House doing to get more resources for funding and staff to make sure, as the President says, that it will be a secure and safe election?
MS. MCENANY: Well, as you know, Peter, states run their elections, and it is up to states to make sure that they have the capacity.
Q: And they're asking for more money.
MS. MCENANY: But what this White House is focused on is ensuring that what Jeffrey Toobin has said over at the New Yorker, a CNN contributor, notably: "New York's Primary-Vote- Count Chaos Signals Trouble for November." And as he noted, you want to talk about the President, but Jeffrey Toobin himself: "Democrats control the state government of New York, [and] they are responsible for creating the fiasco that is unfolding now — and that is certain to get worse in November."
States need to get their acts together when it comes to elections. And as we see in New York, where we're five weeks out from that election — and, in fact, we still don't know the outcome of a congressional race, and that is certainly not what we want to see in November.
Q: And I'm asking you about the President.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Darlene.
Q: You asked why I was asking about the President. I'm asking about the President because you work for the President.
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: I guess, the question is —
MS. MCENANY: OAN.
Q: — what specific —
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. So the President is meeting this morning, in a few minutes, with the National Association of Police Organizations. In 2008 and 2012, they supported Barack Obama and Joe Biden. In 2016, they didn't support either candidate. And now, in 2020, they're endorsing President Trump. To what does the White House attribute this change in support?
MS. MCENANY: Well, it's clearly a change in the Democrat Party, Jen. When you look at the polling on defunding the police: ABC News/Ipsos poll, 64 percent oppose defunding the police; Huffington Post, 57 percent oppose; Rasmussen, 59 percent oppose.
But make no mistake, Democrats want to defund our law enforcement, and it comes at a time where 64 percent of Americans say they are concerned that growing criticism of America's police will lead to a shortage of police officers and reduce public safety in the community where they live.
The American people have seen very clearly where the Democrat Party of today stands. It's at an unacceptable place. And I think that this administration has shown great respect for our law enforcement who every day are out there defending and protecting our streets in Democrat-run cities that have turned abundantly chaotic because of their lack of support and respect for law enforcement.
Q: Can you explain why the White House did not counter with a comprehensive plan of its own? You said the White House was focused on two things: the unemployment insurance and evictions. Why not — why not have a more comprehensive proposal to counter what the Democrats have put on the table?
MS. MCENANY: So I've walked through at this podium the more comprehensive plan that this White House was hoping to see in our priorities, like tax rebates, unemployment benefits, enhanced hiring and retention payroll credits, workplace tax credits, restaurant donations, and others. Those are all part of the HEALS Act. So there is a comprehensive plan that was put forward by Republicans on the Hill with several White House priorities in it.
But right now, at this day, at this moment, our focus is making sure that Americans who have lost their jobs get their paychecks. It's why, as you heard the Chief of Staff say, we've made four proposals; Democrats have made precisely zero.
Q: Can I ask about the nomination of General Tata? Is the White House still behind that?
MS. MCENANY: The President still supports General Tata.
Q: Kayleigh, so is there anything that you agree with on the Democrats? After all these negotiations, are there any points of unity so far?
MS. MCENANY: Well, look, they've presented zero plans. So we've presented four and they've presented zero. So do we agree with them? It seems that they don't agree with us. The White House supports unemployment insurance benefits. The White House supports ensuring Americans don't get evicted. But what do the Democrats support? What do they stand for? So far, they've offered zero, nothing, except rejecting Martha McSally's bill to ensure that those who are receiving those checks continue receiving them.
Q: Is there an upper limit, Kayleigh, for the amount that you're willing to go to? Has the White House decided on some sort of a cap for how much you're willing to spend this round?
MS. MCENANY: Not that I'm aware of. The President has said, you know, he wants to make sure money gets to the American people.
Q: Kayleigh, the Trump administration wants $377 million in the coronavirus relief bill for the long-delayed modernization of the West Wing. How is that a priority in terms of the coronavirus pandemic? You guys talk about priorities. You had the FBI bill, which doesn't seem to have much support from Capitol Hill as well.
MS. MCENANY: So, two things. And I'm glad you asked that because I do want to give you some details about those two items in particular.
When it comes to the FBI building, this has been a long-discussed issue. I would note that the three previous COVID bills that have been passed had plenty of other things in them that were not related to COVID. One of those examples is the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. This is not a red line for us. It was a part of the initial bill, but it is certainly not a red line. The priority, as I've said several times so far, is unemployment insurance, making sure Americans do not get evicted.
And then, as it pertains to White House renovations, many of those pertain to safety protocols, filtration systems, enhanced communication ability, and needs that we saw that were highlighted during the pandemic.
But make no mistake, you know, a $377 million proposal will not stand in the way of ensuring that the American people get their checks. That is the priority — ensuring that Americans do not get evicted. That is our number one, number two goals.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. I just wanted to confirm reports that Mark Meadows actually made an offer to extend unemployment insurance by four months.
MS. MCENANY: I have not — I haven't spoken to him on that precise proposal. But as he's mentioned, there were four that were made.
Q: Maybe a follow-up question then. I want to change gears and talk to you about Twitter. We reported yesterday that the Israeli government wrote to Twitter's CEO, asking him to remove tweets from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini calling for the genocide of the Israeli people. The company refused to do that because they said that the tweets were, quote, "comments on current affairs."
I'm wondering if the White House has a response, given that Twitter has recently begun restricting the President's own tweets for glorifying violence — quote, "glorifying violence" and spreading misinformation — and if you have spoken to the President about any further action perhaps he's taking on social media companies.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, it's a great question, Ebony. I did see that New York Post story, and I thought it was very eye-opening. And it tells you where these social media company stands, where they're not willing to assess the Ayatollah Khomeini's tweets, but they are willing to assess President Trump's tweets.
It's really appalling, and it just speaks to their overwhelming, blinding bias against conservatives and against this President. And we are taking action. The administration is submitting a petition to the FCC for proposed regulatory changes to hold social media companies accountable for their censorship.
And this petition that was previously reported on earlier in the week asked the FCC to end the loophole that allows social media companies to escape civil lawsuits for their own speech, fact checks, and de-platforming. And the petition seeks to expose social media companies to liability as a speaker or a publisher if they act as editors of content on their platforms or remove lawful speech based on politics.
And very good work by the New York Post in highlighting that issue.
Q: Thanks. Can I follow up on Darlene's question on Tata for a minute? You said that the administration is still behind him, but is — are you guys considering putting him in an acting role?
MS. MCENANY: I have no personnel announcements, other to say that the President still supports him.
Q: Thank you. It's been a month since the reports of Russian bounties upon American military forces, and yet the White House has done nothing to push back on Putin. What is the — what is the delay?
MS. MCENANY: So, as I've answered probably a dozen times from this podium, that intelligence is unverified. There are dissenting opinions.
Q: But why hasn't it been verified?
MS. MCENANY: The media — I would point to the Department of Defense, saying there's no corroborating evidence to validate recent allegations. NSC allegations and recent press articles have not been verified or substantiated by the intelligence community, and ODNI has a similar statement.
But, look, this President acts. He is not afraid to stand up to Russia. He's done so repeatedly. When our adversaries have directly targeted U.S. or coalition — coalition partners, the President did not hesitate to act.
Q: But why didn't he speak to Putin?
MS. MCENANY: Look at Syria in 2018, when dozens of Russian mercenaries were killed in a retaliatory defensive strike. He has continually stood up to Russia and will continue to do so. And this President will always protect our troops and our men and women overseas, and he will act on verified intelligence.
Q: Thank you, ma'am. So, Colorado Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington all have automatic mail-in ballot systems. The White House has made its position clear on absentee ballots and also the concern over these universal systems. Does the White House think that those elections are fraudulent or are more at risk of fraud?
MS. MCENANY: Always, a mail-in ballot system, mass mail-out ballots are going to be more at risk of fraud. Look at L.A. County, where 112 percent of L.A. County is registered. That means you have 12 percent of excess ballots floating around that are — we know at least 12 percent that are that are not accurate ballots that were mailed out.
This is a very basic concept, and it's one that the media has done a very good job reporting on — not just Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker; you also had the Washington Post article on this that the President held up yesterday that says the results that they — that they've seen in a study have showed that there's "an unexpected stress test of mail balloting systems, many of which were designed to handle only a small portion of the vote and are not ready to scale up in response to a pandemic." That was the Washington Post.
There was another great ABC piece: "Mail-in voting delays in primary cause Pennsylvania to sound alarm about November. Expansion of mail-in voting will likely delay the state's presidential [race]."
A great CBS report: "Pennsylvania's mail-in votes still weren't all tallied up after one week. Officials fear election ‘nightmare' in November."
So, mass mail-in voting is certainly subject to fraud, and good work on the part of ABC, CBS, Washington Post, and the New Yorker for highlighting the fraud that is at play, the delays that are at play — because those are, after all, the facts.
Q: And then just another quick one. The Chief sounded quite frustrated a second ago. Is there any situation in which the White House would walk away from negotiations on phase four?
MS. MCENANY: I won't get into the middle of the negotiations, and I'll leave that to the Chief and to the Secretary of Treasury.
But, yeah, there's — there's a lot of passion because we're passionate about making sure Americans are taken care of. I've heard the President personally talk about this. It is — it is his goal to make sure that those who have lost their job get these payments and those, who through no fault of their own, do not get evicted from their homes.
So those — again, two big priorities for the President.
Q: Yes, thank you, Kayleigh, so much. I have two questions. One, you are here saying that — how well the administration is doing in responding to different things, but the facts don't show that, and Americans are struggling and scared. How do you — what do you tell them, the American people?
MS. MCENANY: So the one thing I would say is: The President has made clear that we're at a place where we want all Americans to make sure that they socially distance and that they make sure they engage in mitigation tactics. And the President has been clear on that.
But, you know, one of the things I think as — when you look at the United States response, you look at the fact that we were supposed to have a ventilator shortage. In fact, we had a ventilator surplus. We were — we were told that there is a testing shortage. Well, it turns out we've done, at this point, almost 60 million tests.
This President led on the development of remdesivir. We just saw, this week, promising signs from convalescent plasma. Our therapeutics are advanced; I would argue the best in the world.
And that's why, when you look at, in particular, at the case fatality rate — which the President often talks about — you see that that tells — that tells a big story. When the U.S. case fatality rate is at 3.4 percent, the world's is at 4 percent average, and the EU at 9.7 percent, that is a testament to our therapeutics.
But we encourage every American to engage in mitigation efforts. And it's patriotic, as the President said, to wear a mask, especially when you can't socially distance.
Q: Can I ask another question on the travel ban?
MS. MCENANY: Hunter.
On the travel ban? Sure.
Q: Travel ban. Yes, there is a movement (inaudible), called "Love is not tourism." They are families and couples separated for a month because of the travel ban — couples who couldn't be together on their childbirth, or mothers and sons who are separated during illness. They are asking if the administration could consider a waiver in their cases.
MS. MCENANY: I haven't spoken to the President about those specific cases. But this President will always put America first. This President put in place the travel bans to protect American lives, and they've done that. Dr. Fauci acknowledging that the travel bans have saved American lives, and that — that is our goal at this moment.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. I have two quick questions for you. Herman Cain passed away yesterday, and obviously he had tested positive for COVID nine days after attending the President's rally in Tulsa. Officials there have connected the rally to a spike in cases. Is there any concern that Herman Cain may have contracted coronavirus at the President's rally? And is the task force doing any follow-up to track other potential cases from that event?
MS. MCENANY: Look, Herman Cain is the absolute embodiment of the American Dream. We are grieved and we are very saddened by his passing. He was raised in Atlanta, Georgia, on a small farm. He left with just the clothes on his back. His mother was a housekeeper. And he rose to be an extremely successful businessman and someone who was — who contended for the nomination of our Party.
And I would refer you to a post on Herman Cain's website, and he says "I realize…" — or his website rather — "I realize people will speculate about the Tulsa rally, but Herman did a lot of traveling the past week. I don't think there's any way to trace this to one specific contact that caused the infection. We'll never know."
So that — and I will not politicize Herman Cain's passing, and I would just note the great contributions he's made to our society. We'll always remember him, and his legacy will stand.
Q: And then to follow up on another point: Obviously, the President's tweets yesterday seemed to float the idea of delaying the election. He later said, you know, he supports no date change whatsoever.
Given a little bit of the ambiguity and confusion there, can you just state unequivocally whether or not the White House wants to see the date changed and state, 100 percent, that that is not something that you support?
MS. MCENANY: The President answered this three times yesterday. He said, "I want the date more than anyone. I don't want to delay. I want to have the election." And in a local interview he did, he said, "No one wants the date of the election more than me," because he believes November 3rd will be a moment where the American people acknowledge the great successes of this administration.
Q: Kayleigh, thank you. Does the President support the Chinese-backed Hong Kong government in delaying their elections?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so I do have an answer for you on the Hong Kong elections: We condemn the Hong Kong government's decision to postpone for one year its legislative council elections and to disqualify opposition candidates. This action undermines the democratic processes and freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong's prosperity. And this is only the most recent in a growing list of broken promises by Beijing, which promised autonomy and freedoms to the Hong Kong people until 2047 in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
I think it's appropriate, as we see this play out on the Hill — this testimony by our doctors — to just acknowledge the real successes and work of this administration. I acknowledged the ventilators, and I talked about testing and just great American industry coming together, the American people coming together and working to get us through this tragic pandemic. And we grieve when even one life is lost.
But I do want to point out just the early actions of this administration. When there were zero reported cases in the United States on January 6th, the CDC issued Wuhan travel notice before any U.S. confirmed cases. But what were Pelosi and Chuck Schumer doing? They were calling on the GOP to support Bolton testifying.
Zero reported cases in the United States; on January 17th, the CDC implements public health entry screenings at three major U.S. airports receiving the greatest volume of Wuhan passengers. What were Democrats doing? Oh, House Democrats were preparing to file their first brief in the impeachment — sham impeachment inquiry.
When there was one reported case in the United States on January 21st, CDC activated Emergency Operations Center. What were Democrats doing? Oh, Chuck Schumer was calling for witnesses in the impeachment trial, and Pelosi released a statement criticizing Mitch McConnell for his trial rules.
And finally, when there were seven reported cases in the United States on January 31st, President Trump issued travel restrictions on China and the first mandatory quarantine in more than 50 years, and those travel restrictions saved American lives. But what were Democrats doing? Pelosi was introducing the NO BAN Act, which would have imposed undue limitations on the President's authority to restrict entry of aliens into the United States.
And what are Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi doing now? Stopping Americans from getting their unemployment insurance. And it's despicable, and it's time for them to come to the negotiating table.
Thank you very much.
END 11:23 A.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/343109