Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
4:43 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: So I am pleased to inform everyone that Seattle has been liberated. The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, otherwise known as "CHAZ" — I think they switched their name to "CHOP," but I'm told they went back to "CHAZ" — was a failed four-week Democrat experiment by the radical left. And the results are in: Anarchy is anti-American, law and order is essential, peace in our streets will be secured.
While the Democrat mayor of Seattle proclaimed that CHAZ was to be, quote, "the summer of love," in fact, it was not. And other failed Democrat politicians also remained passive, or even silent, in the face of anarchy. But while that happened, President Trump set the tone: Law and order must prevail to preserve peace in our streets.
The President is not the Democrat governor of the state of Washington. The President is not the Democrat mayor of Seattle. But, nevertheless, the President must lead by example and be prepared to act in the face of failed Democrat leadership, which is what we saw in Democrat Seattle and Democrat Wisconsin.
President Trump has always stood on the side of law and order, and we are pleased to report that law and order has prevailed, and Seattle has been liberated from the anarchists.
In President Trump's America, autonomous zones will have no sanctuary. The BHAZ, B-H-A-Z — which stood for the Black House Autonomous Zone, across from the White House — was swiftly dismantled. One hundred anarchists were arrested for rioting and destruction of federal property here in D.C; I believe that number is now above 300. Four men have been charged in federal court for attempting to tear down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square. And there are 200 open domestic terrorism investigations.
You contrast the President's vision of law and order to that of the failed CHAZ experiments and anarchy, and here's what you find in the failed Democratic experiment that took place out in Seattle: The Seattle Times said the shooting at Seattle's CHOP protest tragically killed a 16-year-old boy, leaving a 14-year-old "seriously injured." That's what happens in an autonomous zone.
The police chief, Carmen Best, who did a marvelous job winding down the CHOP zone noted that CHOP has become "lawless and brutal" and "enough is enough," and she took action. According to reports, quote, "Police also investigated several vehicles circling the CHOP zone" with "people inside carrying firearms and wearing body armor." This was no, quote, "summer of love," as the Democrat mayor in Seattle said.
And President Trump compelled action. He has said, "Take back your city NOW. If you don't do it, I will." He has said, "This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!"
And finally, the Democrat mayor in Seattle, who was long delayed, finally gave the order to dismantle the CHAZ. And it was an admission — it was an admission that President Trump's vision is right, that anarchy is wrong, and that law and order bring peace.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q: Kayleigh, thank you so much. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said that the intelligence about the alleged Russia plot was being taken so seriously that U.S. allies were alerted and that it could impact military tactics. So how is that a hoax?
MS. MCENANY: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, what happens when any intelligence comes in unverified — if there is any way that it could affect American troops or allies — it is immediately communicated on the ground to ensure that troops and commanders and generals can make the best decisions, tactically speaking. So that's the way it's done.
But what I would say is: At the same time, until there's a strategic decision for the President to make, until it is verified, it is not briefed up to the President of the United States. That's how intelligence works.
Q: Is he angry or frustrated or upset about the fact that he was not in the loop on this when members of Congress were briefed and U.S. allies were briefed?
MS. MCENANY: No, the President believes that — and has great faith in Ambassador O'Brien and the others who made the decision — that this shouldn't be risen to his desk. It was a career CIA officer with more than 30 years of tenure who made the decision not to brief it up. And the National Security Advisor agreed with that decision — she's an excellent officer and does great work — and made the decision not to brief it up. It was the right decision to make. And at this moment, as I speak to you, it is still unverified.
Q: And, Kayleigh, just to follow very quickly, I've heard you and Robert O'Brien and others express real outrage about the leaks. Is there outrage about what the intelligence community is investigating, which is the possibility of these Russian bounties targeting U.S. troops?
MS. MCENANY: Make no mistake that this administration has acted tough on Russia; always makes the decision that's in the best interest of protecting our troops, like killing General Soleimani — who killed 600 American troops, maimed thousands others — and al-Baghdadi. We always act in the best interest of our troops, but this is unverified still at this very moment.
Q: Kayleigh, why is the President calling "Black Lives Matter" a symbol of hate?
MS. MCENANY: Well, what the President was noting is that that symbol, when you look at some of the things that have been chanted by Black Lives Matter, like "Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon," that's not an acceptable phrase to paint on our streets.
Look, he agrees that all black lives matter, including that of Officer David Dorn, Patrick Underwood, two officers whose lives were tragically taken amid at these riots. All black lives do matter; he agrees with that sentiment. But what he doesn't agree with is an organization that chants, "Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon," about our police officers, our valiant heroes, who are out on the street protecting us each and every day.
Q: Kayleigh, Americans of all races have protested in all 50 states around that phrase, "black lives matter." And the President is here calling it a symbol of hate?
MS. MCENANY: He is talking about the organization. I would note to you that the —
Q: He didn't say organization in his tweet.
MS. MCENANY: — Greater New York BLM president has said, "If this country doesn't give us what we want, [that] we will burn down [the] system…And I could be speaking…literally." I'd call that a pretty hateful statement.
Q: But, Kayleigh, he's not —
MS. MCENANY: Yes. Ben.
Q: — talking about the organization in his tweet. He says the words —
MS. MCENANY: Yes, Ben.
Q: — he says the words, "Black Lives Matter."
MS. MCENANY: Which — what's the name of the organization again?
Q: Black Lives Matter.
MS. MCENANY: There you go. You just answered my question.
Q: Those are words that are going to be on Fifth Avenue.
MS. MCENANY: Go ahead, Ben.
Q: A question on coronavirus. Earlier today, the President said, "I think that, at some point, that's going to, sort of, just disappear — I hope." Is hoping that it will disappear, the President's strategy at this point?
MS. MCENANY: No. The President is confident that it will disappear. He's confident that he's put together a revolutionary first-class team that is going to break through bureaucracy and get us a vaccine. He's confident that that will lead us to a place where we won't have COVID on our hands.
And, in fact, there was very pleasing news today from Pfizer and BioNTech that showed positive results for their vaccines.
Q: Dr. Fauci says that we're heading towards 100,000 cases per day, so why does the President have evidence that it would just disappear?
MS. MCENANY: Well, one —
Q: He distinguished between a vaccine and it just disappearing.
MS. MCENANY: One thing I would note, with regard to cases: We're aware that there are embers in the country. We're aware that there are places with rising cases, and that's why Dr. Birx is on the ground and others. We're continually assessing that.
But one thing I would note is just that when you do test more people, you do identify more cases. And that is rapidly ongoing. We're testing more than a half a million a day. To give you an example: On April 6th, really, the height of the pandemic, we were doing 151,525 tests. One day, you know — Thursday is the number that I have here — we conducted 637,587 tests. So when you have more than a five-fold increase in tests, you have greater identification of cases.
Q: But do you consider what's happening in Florida, in Texas, and Arizona as "embers"?
MS. MCENANY: I would say that those are — we see rising cases, we see embers around the country. We always knew that would come with reopening. But those who are identifying as positive cases do tend to be younger individuals, as the Vice President noted. And I think the increase in testing is part of the contribution to what we're seeing.
Q: Today, Mayor Bowser said her office has communicated with Department of Interior about the Fourth of July celebration, and it's not, in her mind, in keeping with CDC guidelines, as well as D.C. Department of Health guidelines. The White House has said over and over again we should look to our local authorities for how we should act. Should the administration be following the local guidelines for this?
MS. MCENANY: The President has said that we should follow our local authorities with masks, so that's the decision — that he encourages people to follow those authorities. The CDC guidelines, I'd also note, say "recommended," but not required. And we are very much looking forward to the Fourth of July celebration.
Q: Are you preparing some options for the President to consider for retaliation against Russia, should this intelligence prove to be true?
MS. MCENANY: You know, I won't get ahead of the President on action. I also won't get ahead of the intelligence which, at this moment, is unverified.
Q: Does the President want this intelligence to be corroborated or not? Or — I mean, what has he told his advisors on this front?
MS. MCENANY: The President — it's unverified; it's being assessed. It's going through the same process normal intelligence would go through. But what's unfortunate is we're having this discussion because of the New York Times deciding to run with this erroneous information about the President being briefed, which was not true, and the erroneous information that there was a conclusion when, in fact, there was not a conclusion.
Q: Yeah. Kayleigh, can you confirm that the CIA director and the NSA director will brief the congressional Gang of Eight tomorrow about the Russia bounties?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, that is the plan.
Q: Okay, so two of them? Anyone else that will be briefing the Gang of Eight?
MS. MCENANY: I'm not entirely sure who else will be in that briefing.
Q: And can you also say, does the President generally have confidence in the intelligence community's findings and conclusions about Russia?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, he does confidence. And he has, many times, acted on verified intelligence. And there's times he's decided that it's in our strategic interest not to act. I gave you the example of Soleimani and al-Baghdadi, and then the example of Iran shooting down — when Iran engaged in actions and the President said it's not time to engage because shooting down a — shooting down an entity is not the same as losing — loss of civilian lives.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh.
MS. MCENANY: Shooting down a drone, excuse me.
Q: The President has come under criticism this week for statements that he has made, that his detractors say are "dog whistles" to a certain segment of his base that he's trying to gin up for reelection. Those include comments like "Kung flu," "our heritage" while talking about Confederate statues, and most recently they include the video — that I know you discussed in here the other day — but the video of a supporter of his using the term "white power." So why hasn't the President denounced that video and called that a hateful statement?
MS. MCENANY: The President took down that video. That deletion speaks strongly. And what I would note: The President has repeatedly condemned hate.
August of 2019: "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America."
In April of 2019: "We have no tolerance for those who disrupt this peace, and we condemn all hate and violence, [especially] in our places of worship."
August of 2018: "I condemn all types of racism."
He's repeatedly done this.
Q: But why hasn't he denounced that specific video and said that that is hateful language that was used in it?
MS. MCENANY: He deleted it. The deletion speaks for itself. His repeated condemnations of hate speak for themselves. And this is a President who has repeatedly condemned hate and repeatedly encouraged for us all to come together.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Did the President meet today with Senate Republican Leader McConnell about the future recovery-aid package? And is there any sort of agreement on additional unemployment insurance or stimulus payments?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so I have no announcements with regard to his meetings. But what I would say is: He did mention that, in a phase four, he would be open to direct payments.
On the point of unemployment insurance, one thing that he is concerned about is he does not want to see an incentive not to work. And enhanced unemployment benefits that Senator Schumer has suggested would be an incentive for people not to get back to work, and he wants to encourage people to get back to work.
And at the same time, he's mentioned a payroll tax holiday — a big win for our workers — that helps those who are on the lowest end of the payroll would help the Americans who need it most. So those are some things he's talked about for phase four.
Q: Kayleigh, you used the word "embers" to describe the coronavirus, but yesterday, another all-time record of 47,000 cases, and four times this week a new record. Why do you use the word "embers" when many people would say it's been more like a wildfire?
MS. MCENANY: So I use the word "embers" because that is what the President has acknowledged that would happen around the country. You would see spikes across the country. He said, at times, you would see a fire across the country — embers, fires. But at the same time, I would note the increase in cases — or the increase in testing. You know, a six-fold increase in testing; you identify more cases.
I'd also note that Secretary Azar said that we've seen nationwide that fatality is at a two-month low. So this is a different situation when those who are testing positive are younger. We have increased tests. We're aware where there are surges. That's why Dr. Birx is on the ground. But we believe we are equipped to handle what we see on the horizon.
Q: Has the President made a conscious decision to talk less about the virus? You know, I think in his town hall with Sean Hannity, someone mentioned it was only three minutes that he discussed it. He tweets about it far less often than he used to.
MS. MCENANY: The President is not focused on talking; he's focused on action. And this administration has taken historic action with regard to the coronavirus. We have an excess amount of PPE, surge — a huge amount of ventilators in the stockpile. Things that could never be done, we were told, have been done under this administration. Testing more than 600,000 a day. This President has done a historic job with regard to coronavirus.
Q: Thank you. The President yesterday tweeted that he is angry against China. There is anger against China in India also. So India has banned 59 apps from China, including TikTok. How — does the President know about this? And what are his views on this?
MS. MCENANY: So with regard to India and China, we're closely monitoring the situation; he is as well. Both India and China have expressed a desire to deescalate, and we support a peaceful resolution of the current situation. And he said that China's aggressive stance along the India-China border fits with the larger pattern of Chinese aggression in other parts of the world. And these actions only confirm the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party.
Q: And on TikTok — with India banning the TikTok app?
MS. MCENANY: No announcements on that. I would just point you to what Secretary Pompeo said earlier. Yeah.
Q: When can we expect the President to weigh in on Israel's plan to annex parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley? And how much does this delay, perhaps, have to do with the concern about (inaudible) evangelicals here in the United States, who, of course, are a really important part of the President's base in the election?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so I've not spoken to him about that specific issue, but he's a great supporter of Israel, and I would just leave it at that.
Q: But Kellyanne said that there could be something this week, so I'm just wondering what the delay is. And maybe you could weigh in on — you know, there are concerns this could be the final nail in the coffin on a Palestinian state. Like, what is the President thinking about?
MS. MCENANY: So no announcements on that front, and I won't get ahead of him on anything that would happen this week or beyond.
Q: The President has said, in this room, that he wants to meet the Taliban leadership. Now that world leaders are coming here again, is that on the cards? Is that going to happen soon? Is there a timetable?
MS. MCENANY: So, again, I won't get ahead of the President on that. What the President wants is to see our troops come home from Afghanistan. He has been on the record being against keeping a sustained presence in Afghanistan. He does not believe in foreign adventurism and wars that drag on. He believes the ultimate way to secure our troops is to bring them home.
Q: But has the report of the Russian bounties and Taliban fighters affected that calculus?
MS. MCENANY: That's unverified intelligence that's currently being assessed.
Q: Hi. Thanks, Kayleigh. The first question I have — two questions. The first is: On Monday, the President went after stripping racist names on buildings. On Tuesday, he went after a rule to combat racial segregation. And then today, he said that he described the words "Black Lives Matters" as a symbol of hate. Why is he digging in on race in this way?
MS. MCENANY: So, first, I mean, if you're saying that the fact that he does not want to rename our bases — if you're considering that racist, then apparently 56 percent of America is as well, because 56 percent of America is against changing the name —
Q: I just was (inaudible) things that he did just this week.
MS. MCENANY: — of U.S. military bases. He believes that our young men and women who left these bases overseas — many of whom lost their lives, and the last thing they saw was being on one of these military bases — that they should not be told that the base that they trained in, the last place they saw on American soil was a racist institution.
Q: (Inaudible) I just listed three —
MS. MCENANY: And that's a proposition the vast majority of America agrees with.
Q: I just listed three (inaudible), including him saying that the words "Black Lives Matter" — as you noted, it has been chanted in 50 states — why is he saying that that's a symbol of hate, on top of all the other things that he's done just this week alone, in terms of race?
MS. MCENANY: Well, is "Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon" racist? I mean, is that — is that hateful? That is a hateful thing to say, I would argue. I would think the vast majority of America would agree with that, too.
I think the vast majority of America would think it's hateful to say that "We will burn down this system." And I could be speaking literally.
I think the vast majority of America would agree with him, yet again, that holding up a severed pig's head is unacceptable. He —
Q: If you're not going to engage on that, I have a second question. Since you're not —
MS. MCENANY: I did engage on that.
Q: The second question I have is —
MS. MCENANY: I engaged on that, Yamiche, and I said we agree all black lives matter, with that sentiment, but we will not stand with an organization that exhibits that kind of hate against our police officers.
Q: My second question is: What does the President have to say to military service — the families of service members who are really afraid that their loved ones might have been killed in connection to this to this Russia bounty? There are families that are already saying, "We want the United States to — and federal government to call us and settle us up." Kristen had an interview with a father saying that, just this week. What is this President's message to the military families in this country?
MS. MCENANY: So that — it's unverified intelligence. It's continually being assessed. And the Department of Defense has said they do not know of any Americans that have been killed in relation to this unverified intelligence that's currently being assessed.
Q: Quick follow-up.
MS. MCENANY: Yes. Chanel.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. The President has stated in the past that he will not tolerate defunding police, and he said this multiple times. Considering that many Democrat-led cities have now done so — including New York City, as of this morning — what does not tolerating this move look like from the President's vantage at this time?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I mean, speaking out fervently against it. And what it means is — you know, this executive order gives additional funding to police departments if they meet certain standards.
We want safe policing. We want to make sure that police officers are trained to de-escalate. That's why there is this supplementary funding in the EO that incentivizes and rewards police departments that train their officers in de-escalation; that get rid of chokeholds, except when there's an incident of lethal force.
But, look, he stands firmly with America yet again on this, with 64 percent op- — opposing defunding the police. That's a huge number. Fifty-seven percent, according to another HuffPost/YouGov poll, stand against it.
And, look, they — where America stands is here, where — we're at a place where 64 percent of the nation are concerned that the growing criticism of America's police will lead to a shortage of police officers. That will harm all Americans. It's an untenable principle. And it's unacceptable when you have people like Representative Ocasio-Cortez really suggesting where the Democrat Party stands today — because taking a billion away from NYPD police officers wasn't enough for her. She wants to take it all away. She doesn't want police officers. And that's a really unacceptable proposition.
Q: On the USMCA also: It takes effect at midnight. What immediate changes is the White House hoping to see immediately starting tomorrow? And then, are there any elements of the USMCA that may be hindered because of COVID-19?
MS. MCENANY: The USMCA — today, that goes into effect. It's a huge deal. For years, for decades, NAFTA wreaked havoc on American society — closing our factories, hemorrhaging American manufacturing jobs.
And the USMCA is a massive win. It will create 176,000 jobs, add $68 billion to the U.S. economy, 28,000 manufacturing jobs are expected to be added, and agricultural — agricultural and food exports will increase by 2.2 billion — a big win for our farmer — farmers.
So we expect to see that start to take effect. It's a big deal, and it's a reversal of decades of failed U.S. policy, with the USMCA [NAFTA], the Trans-Pacific Partnership — horrible trade deals that betrayed America's workers. Under President Trump, the forgotten man and woman is forgotten no longer.
Thank you, guys.
END 5:04 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/343150