Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
4:37 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. Today, President Trump welcomed to the White House President López Obrador of Mexico. The meeting reaffirmed the incredibly strong ties between President Obrador and President Trump. The leaders noted that many people have bet against their ability to work together in a strong and productive fashion. But rest assured, they work together, and they work together well. The U.S.-Mexico relationship has never been stronger or more productive, thanks to the leadership of President Trump.
The USMCA, in particular, is a major win for our two countries and for America's workers. Under the U.S.-Mexico- Canada Agreement, more than 4 million man — manu- — excuse me, more than 4 million manufacturing jobs will be regained that were lost under NAFTA. This will be a huge influx of American jobs that were lost under the failed NAFTA trade deal that went into effect.
In addition, tens of thousands of manufacturing plants were lost because of NAFTA; we want to bring those on shore. And the USMCA will go a long way in bringing back those manufacturing plants and those millions of jobs that were lost under NAFTA.
NAFTA was a bad deal for the American worker because it left American workers behind. Many politicians forgot the damage wrought by disastrous trade deals such as NAFTA, but President Trump did not forget. It took this President to change the status quo, renegotiate NAFTA, and secure a better deal for the American worker.
And here's why: The USMCA alone will create 176,000 American jobs. We believe the other trade deals that this President has negotiated will add to that number and help undo a lot of what NAFTA has done. The USMCA will boost American manufacturing, including wages, new jobs, and exports. And the USMCA will create 76,000 auto manufacturing jobs, crucial to the wellbeing of this country.
The USMCA is good for business, as President Trump rebuilds the strongest, most inclusive economy in history. The USMCA will help jumpstart our economy. The USMCA is projected to increase GDP by $235 billion. This means jobs, jobs, jobs.
And during today's meeting between the presidents, one official from Mexico noted that many considered the USMCA an 80/20 probability. Now, it is 100 percent certainty.
And with that, I'll take questions. Yes.
Q: Kayleigh, two questions for you. The first is, President Trump hasn't taken questions from White House reporters in two weeks. While we always enjoy talking to you, this White House likes to say the President is "the most accessible in history." So why hasn't he answered questions for two weeks amid a pandemic?
MS. MCENANY: This President routinely answers questions. He's more accessible than any of his predecessors. I'm sure you'll be hearing from him soon. He's always up to the job, but he's hard at work in the Oval Office.
Q: And also, is the administration retaliating against Dr. Fauci for publicly contradicting the President? Today he was told to come here to the White House for the task force meeting, which meant he could not answer questions from reporters.
MS. MCENANY: Look, that's a decision for the task force as to who appears at the briefings. But you've heard from a lot of our doctors today. You've heard from Dr. Birx. Dr. Fauci has appeared on six TV programs since June 1st. You just heard from him in a task force briefing on June 26th. And he participated in the Vice President's governors briefing on COVID-19 on June 29th. So you've heard from him recently, along with the rest of our doctors, in the past five days. Dr. Hahn has been on TV six times as well.
Q: Does the President still have confidence in Dr. Fauci?
MS. MCENANY: The President has confidence — confidence in the conclusions of our medical experts, but it's up to him to determine what to do with that information, and to take what we hear from Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, and others, and take what he values in their opinion and come to the ultimate consensus that's best for this country.
Q: I have two questions as well. One, what is it exactly in the CDC guidelines that the President doesn't like?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so the CDC guidelines that the President mentioned today, I would note that it was emphasized by Dr. Redfield that he doesn't want these guidelines to be a reason for schools to not reopen. They're not requirements and they're not prescriptive. And that's per the CDC Director.
Q: Right. But what is it that the President thinks is too strict and too expensive and too impractical, is I think the word used?
MS. MCENANY: So, one of the things is, in the guidelines, which I would note that, in these guidelines, there are 28 implicit acknowledgments that these guidelines aren't even feasible. Eighteen times it's mentioned that some of this might not be possible, and nine times it's mentioned that some of this might not be feasible. So that's embedded into the guidelines.
And one specific example I'll give you is on food services: "Have children bring their own meals as feasible." Well, there are 22 million children in this country who depend on these meals at schools, who depend on access to nutrition in schools. So that's one example.
Q: So is that just one thing that the President doesn't like? Is there anything else?
MS. MCENANY: Well, there are — there are several that are in there, but we need to make sure as the American —
Q: But I'm, kind of, wondering what they're going to change, is my point, really.
MS. MCENANY: Well, you'll see, because, as the Vice President said, the CDC will come out with new guidelines — additional guidelines. There will be, I think, five, he said. And you'll see those when they come out.
Q: Okay, and so my second question —
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: — just really quickly is: The President and the CDC clearly don't seem to be on the same page about what the guidance is and what he is hoping they put out and what the CDC is actually putting out. So why doesn't the President just go to these task force meetings so then he can talk about it with them? Because our reporting is that he hasn't been to one since April.
MS. MCENANY: So I would note that the CDC is very much on the same page as the President, which is why you heard the CDC Director today underscore these are not prescriptive, these are not requirements, and that there will be supplemental guidelines. So they are on the same page. The President is routinely briefed about the coronavirus each and every day. The relevant information is brought to him on the big decisions, and then he moves forward in the way that's best for our country.
Q: Who briefs him every day?
MS. MCENANY: Jill.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. So just following up on those new CDC guidelines that we're told are coming out next week: Did the White House pressure the CDC to change public health guidelines that were reached in accordance with medical professionals because the President doesn't like them?
MS. MCENANY: No, not at all. But the President made his opinion quite clear publicly this morning, on Twitter, for all to see. And we would note that guidelines — and I would underscore the American Academy of Pediatrics, because it is an organization that's made up of 67,000 pediatricians that they represent, they are very adamant about kids needing to go back to school, and they said, "School policies must be flexible and nimble in responding to new information, and administrators must be willing to refine approaches when specific policies are not working." "Policies should be practical, feasible, and appropriate for child and adolescent's development stage."
Q: And can I ask: Is the President against social distancing guidelines in school — things that are included in those guidelines now, like placing desks apart from each other, staggering school times? Is he against those elements of it?
MS. MCENANY: So, I'm not going to get into each and every element and where he stands. And the President wants us to go back to school safely. Our children depend on it. These schools are essential, and I think he stands on the side of parents across this country who want to see their kids back in school, who want to see — make sure that their kids don't fall behind in education.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. By this point in the 2016 campaign, President Trump had been talking about what would ultimately become the USMCA for more than nine months. So when do you think we can expect President Trump to detail his priorities for a second term?
MS. MCENANY: I think you hear him talk about it quite often. More trade deals are on the horizon from this President; lower taxes; more funding for our schools.
One announcement that I do have for you is that, in CARES Act 4, he's looking to substantially bump up money for education, but at the same time understand that this money should go to students. So that's one priority we're looking at more in the immediate term: supporting our schools, supporting our families.
He's talked about payouts — stimulus payouts to Americans that worked very well the first time. It's something he's mentioned for a phase four. He's talked about a payroll tax holiday, which would be a big tax break for America's workers.
So those are a few in the immediate term, and you'll be hearing a lot more about his second term in the coming months.
Q: Do you think he might detail some of those priorities in his speech this Saturday at the rally in New Hampshire?
MS. MCENANY: So I don't want to get ahead of his speech this Saturday, but you'll certainly be hearing in coming speeches more about the President's vision for the second term.
Building the economy is one thing that he mentioned just this week. You know, he brought the hottest economy in modern history once. He wants to do it again. He did that through deregulation, through lower taxes, and that led to historic low unemployment for black Americans, Hispanic Americans, disabled, our veterans. And those are the kind of policies — conservative policies he's looking at for a second term.
Q: And anything that you can say to Republicans on Capitol Hill who have talked to reporters and said that they would like President Trump to perhaps be a bit more forceful about what exactly he would intend to do?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President has been very clear. I mean, I just mentioned to you what he wants in CARES Act 4. He's mentioned some other things, so I think he's very vocal about what he wants, and you'll be hearing more from him.
Q: Thanks. I had one on Hong Kong, but I first wanted to just follow on the rally question.
Just before you came out, the director of the Tulsa Health Department said that the President's rally very likely contributed to a surge in coronavirus cases in the city. We know that allies and advisors of the President also have tested positive since Tulsa. And in New Hampshire, masks are recommended, but not required.
So I'm wondering, first, why the President continues not to require masks at his rallies, considering we've seen the public health outcomes that come from it, and whether that or other changes are something that he might look at, going forward?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President has been operating in accordance with CDC guidelines: recommended, but not required. But as he said recently, if he weren't tested every day, and he was in a situation where he couldn't distance, he would wear a mask. We hand them out. They are handed out by the campaign, rather, at these events, and there's ample hand sanitizer. And it's people's individual choice as to whether to go.
Q: Do you have a response to the Tulsa health director, sort of, pointing in that direction?
MS. MCENANY: I would just — I would just say that I have no data to indicate that on my end, but it's the decision of individuals whether to go. We encourage the wearing of masks. As the President said, if he couldn't distance, he would. But it's the individual choice of the person.
Q: And then, on Hong Kong, I know that the Chief of Staff and the National Security Advisor have talked in the last couple days, indicating that the President might both sign the bill that was passed by Congress earlier — last week, and in it, additional actions.
So I'm wondering, both, if you have any updated guidance on the timing of those things, but also we've heard concern from U.S. companies that, sort of, aggressive sanctions that would be unlocked under the latest bill could hurt their businesses in Hong Kong and China. And so I'm wondering if you could, kind of, talk through the administration's thoughts about balancing, you know, how aggressively you would be sanctioning Chinese officials versus U.S. business interests.
MS. MCENANY: So I'm not going to get ahead of the President on what our actions on China will be. But you will be hearing about some upcoming actions that pertain to China, so I can confirm that.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. So, still on Hong Kong: This morning, Robert O'Brien said that China has basically annexed Hong Kong. Can you explain what he means by that and what the administration plans to do about it?
MS. MCENANY: I think his words are quite clear. We've been quite clear from this podium that Hong Kong's special status is at risk because of the Chinese actions.
Q: So — and just to follow up on annexation: What are the administration's plans — actual plans on annexation from the Israeli on parts of the West Bank?
MS. MCENANY: So, I won't get ahead of the President on those actions.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. You mentioned education before, and the President said in his tweet this morning that he might take funding away. First of all, what — why would he want to funding away from schools? Second of all, which funding is he referring to specifically? And thirdly, what authority does he have to do that, given that most public schools are funded by local property taxes?
MS. MCENANY: So I would note that what I said to Kristin just a bit ago: He wants to increase funding in CARES 4 for education. But he is looking at potentially redirecting that to make sure it goes to the student, and it is most likely tied to the student and not to a district where schools are closed.
And I would note that he said this is something he may consider in the tweet.
Q: No, I heard what you said with regard to CARES. But with regard to the President, he was saying it as a, I guess, a threat, if Democratic governors or officials don't open schools in the way that he wants them. I'm just wondering, again, what authority he would use to do that and which specific funds he's targeting.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, not in the ways that he'd want them to open. He wants them to reopen altogether. He wants students to be welcomed back to these schools because there are real consequences.
Let's be clear about what we're talking about here: We're talking about a situation where you have the American Academy of Pediatrics talking about the negative impacts of children not in schools; learning deficits is among them. There's increases in child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse because you don't have people reporting and notifying, like teachers and, you know, PE teachers and school personnel notifying health departments when they see signs of this. You have increased substance abuse, depression, and suicidal ideation. And this is from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
So the President, he's going to push schools to reopen. These are grave consequences. Even CNN reporting that experts believe that the recent decline in calls to child abuse and neglect hotlines might really mean more cases are going unnoticed. This is unacceptable. And our schools are essential, and our teachers are essential workers. And he wants them to open, and that's why he's speaking out so strongly about this.
Q: But would he accept, Kayleigh, that the schools and the districts that are looking at this want to do it in the safest way possible, and that's why there seems to be some disagreement on how to do that most safely?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President will always stand up to teachers unions who want to keep these schools closed, because what is best for the child is for the schools to be open. That is pretty clear.
Q: Do you think teachers unions want to keep the schools closed?
MS. MCENANY: Ebony.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Just following on from Jeff's question: New York City officials today said that schools would go back in the fall on a staggered schedule of two, three days a week. I'm wondering if that's something that the administration — the President supports.
MS. MCENANY: So I haven't spoken to him about that plan in particular, but it's encouraging anytime you see that some kids will be welcomed back onto the campus. I haven't spoken to him specifically about the New York scenario.
Q: And another question. The Supreme Court is expected to rule tomorrow on whether or not the President can keep his financial records secret. I'm wondering, if the court rules against the President, he will be happy to hand over his records to Congress and the Manhattan district attorney.
MS. MCENANY: So, since that's a hypothetical, I won't answer that, and I'll wait to get back with you guys tomorrow after we see that ruling, which we hope is in the favor of the President.
Q: Yes. Two questions for you, Kayleigh. Thank you. Did the President ask the President of Mexico if he would pay for the wall? And what happened to that threat?
MS. MCENANY: So that discussion did not come up when I was in the room.
Q: And the second question: Is the President still filed — filing documents this week to be able to re-sign DACA once again and start the legal process?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, no announcements on that front, but when we have an announcement, you'll be the first to know.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Going back to the executive orders that Meadows had mentioned earlier this week, is President Trump going to discuss with President Obrador any details about this executive order as he drafts it up? Or is he (inaudible)?
MS. MCENANY: So in the discussions I was a part of, there was not an executive order discussed, but there will be some executive orders this week.
Q: Can you give us a preview of what they might entail?
MS. MCENANY: No preview, but there will be some this week. Yeah.
Q: What about Justin Trudeau and his nonappearance today?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, Jus- —
Q: What messaging does that give to the rest of the world, as they're watching this USMCA progress?
MS. MCENANY: Well, Canada was unable to travel because of their restrictions they have in their country, with regard to COVID.
Q: Kayleigh —
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: Yes. I wanted to — I'm Lucia Leal with EFE. I wanted to ask you to confirm if President Trump and President López Obrador talked about immigration at all in their meeting today.
MS. MCENANY: It came up briefly, and just noting the great cooperation that has been had between Mexico and the United States. Mexico mobilizing those troops to the border went a very long way. President Obrador has been a great partner to this country, both on the USMCA and with regard to immigration, and with regard to drug interdiction. A lot of lives have been saved thanks to President Trump and President Obrador's cooperation.
Q: But there was nothing new that President Trump asked President López Obrador to do on immigration or the border?
MS. MCENANY: So I won't get into their private details and private conversations, other than to note that there's been great cooperation and that was noted today. Yeah.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. Two questions. Following up on Jeff's question: You have, from behind the podium, talked about the importance of federalism — local and state officials being able to decide what to do with their own residents. How come, when it comes to schools, the President is threatening schools, saying that if they don't follow his guidance, in terms of what they should do in reopening, that he's going to threaten their funding? Why is that not — that federalism principle not being followed?
MS. MCENANY: Because he thinks that funding should go to the child. It should be there for children who are going to school. Keeping schools closed down is an untenable prospect. And if this administration is going to stand for anything, it's going to be standing against child abuse, which reporting falls when schools are closed.
It's going to be standing for educational equality, because as noted by McKinsey & Company — I was reading some very detailed studies today that learning loss will probably be greatest if stools [sic] — if schools stay closed among low-income, black, and Hispanic students.
This President fights for school choice, he fights for opportunity, and he'll fight for schools to stay open because those disproportionately impacted are minority communities.
High school dropout rates — that's another thing. We know that in the wake of school closures after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria, 14 to 20 percent of students never returned to school. And there's an estimate that 2 to 9 percent of high school students could drop out as a result of a permanent shutdown in schools.
Our schools are important. They have to stay open. They are essential. And the President will stand on the side of our children.
Q: And a second question: There has been a recent book that was that was written with a quote attributed to one of your colleagues, Katie Miller, saying, "If you come to America, you should assimilate. Why do we need to have Little Havana?"
Is that a statement that this administration, the white House stands behind?
MS. MCENANY: So I spoke to Katie before coming out here, and she says that her — those quotes are not true as described in the book. And I'll tell you this: that there is no greater ally of the Cuban community than President Trump. He loves the Cuban community. He's moved his residence down to Florida — South Florida, in particular — and there's no greater advocate against socialism than the Cuban community in this country and in this President who said, "America will never be a socialist country."
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. So the city of Houston, just a little while ago, canceled the Texas Republican Convention because of COVID concerns. Are there any fresh thoughts about scaling back Jacksonville?
MS. MCENANY: No, we're still moving forward with Jacksonville. It'll be a safe event. It will be a good event. And it will be up to the RNC as to how those details are hashed out.
Q: Can I ask an education question, not lower school, but colleges and universities? A couple of them, at least, are challenging the ICE ruling having to do with visas for foreign students where the universities are not holding in-person classes. And I'm wondering if that is aimed at pressuring colleges to fully open, that feel maybe that it's not safe to do so.
MS. MCENANY: I think the policy speaks for itself. You know, you don't get a visa for taking online classes from, let's say, University of Phoenix. So why would you if you were just taking online classes, generally?
And I would note, with regard to Harvard and MIT suing over this — and all due respect to my former alma mater — perhaps the better lawsuit would be coming from students who have to pay full tuition with no access to in-person classes to attend.
Q: When it comes to the flexibility with the Jacksonville event, could that flexibility include moving events elsewhere if case counts continue to rise in Florida, even possibly back to Charlotte if the cases stabilize there or go down?
MS. MCENANY: You know, I'll leave that to the President and not engage in hypotheticals. But he's very excited to go to Florida. It's his home state. Jacksonville is the designation and the designated place of the Republican National Convention.
Q: And as schools consider how to proceed forward, is — as schools are potentially considering perhaps a middle-of-the-road approach that, for example, New York is looking at, is that something that is acceptable to the President, this half — half home, half in the building, as opposed to opening them up fully?
MS. MCENANY: I'll leave that to the President. I haven't spoken to him specifically about the middle-of-the-road approach, but I will talk to him about that and get an answer for you.
One thing I want to leave you with — and thank you all. These were very good and very thoughtful questions, so I appreciated them.
This is a bit of a news item: The Kansas City mayor and the governor — wrote to the governor, rather, a letter that said this: "We are at a crisis point," he said, "and additional help was needed to provide more tools for law enforcement and prosecutors to interrupt conspiracies to commit murder and the violent acts, particularly offenses committed by felons using deadly weapons in the streets of Kansas City."
And as of yesterday, Kansas City had reached 100 homicides — a 40 percent increase from last year, according to the mayor's office. Absolutely tragic numbers. And Attorney General Barr is — has announced that the launch — there will be a launch of what's going to be called "Operation LeGend." It's a new initiative designated to fight the surge of violent crime that we've seen in Kansas City, directly in response to those requests by the mayor and by the governor.
And specifically, Operation LeGend is going to focus on a federal effort to increase law enforcement presence in the city. Attorney General Barr has directed agents from the Department of Justice's law enforcement agencies — the FBI, U.S. Marshal, DEA, and ATF — to be on the ground in Kansas City within the next 10 days to help state and local officials fight the surge of violent crime.
Operation LeGend is named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who tragically died on June 29th as a result of being shot in the face while he slept in his home. Taliferro survived a heart surgery as an infant and he tragically lost his life. And we at the federal government want to make sure that that never happens and use our resources to the fullest extent of the law to ensure that individuals and young children like LeGend are able to live their lives and live so peacefully.
Thank you so much.
END 4:59 P.M. EDT
Donald J. Trump, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/343136