Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:16 A.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Good morning, everyone. By any objective standard, the violence, chaos, and anarchy in Portland is unacceptable, yet Democrats continue to put politics above peace while this President seeks to restore law and order.
Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat — Governor of Oregon — said that the President should, quote, "stop playing politics," called law enforcement officers "secret police," and likened it to, quote, a "dictatorship." The governor also called on the president to get his officers off the streets.
Democrat mayor of Portland, Todd Wheeler, said the President is "trying to look strong for his base" while you had Democrats on the Hill, Nancy Pelosi, calling these officers stormtroopers and Jim Clyburn calling them the Gestapo.
This rhetoric is unhelpful and gives the violence we have seen a pass. But President Trump will not give the violence a pass. He will restore order where the Democrat governor and the Democrat mayor are unwilling to admit that they have lost control of their city.
The well-organized mob in Portland has become increasingly aggressive, especially against law enforcement officers. Individuals have thrown bricks, chunks of concrete, glass bottles, feces, balloons filled with paint, pig's feet, slingshots to hurl ball bearings and batteries at federal agents and the courthouse. Multiple attempts to barricade officers in the Hatfield Courthouse have occurred; attempts to start the structure on fire as well. Use of eyesight-damaging laser devices have been used, and strobe lights against federal agents as well. But according to Speaker Pelosi, when asked about the violent removal of statues, "people will do what they do."
The Trump administration urges state and local officials to work cooperatively to restore law and order. Operation LeGend is a great example of this. At the governor's request, we went into Kansas City and surged the area with federal assets — FBI, DEA, ATF, and U.S. Marshals. This was named after LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old young boy who lost his life and was shot in his bed tragically.
This has been a successful operation that has been waged in his name, including the arrest of wanted fugitives. Similarly, President Trump is taking action in Portland, even though you have a Democrat mayor and Democrat governor unwilling to work with us in this situation. We are surging resources, along with Secretary Wolf at DHS, and augmenting the Federal Protective Service to safeguard federal property.
The bottom line is that this President stands with law and order, which leads to peace. And we will not allow Portland to become the new CHOP, like what we saw in Seattle. And with that, I'll take questions.
Q: Kayleigh, two questions on Portland. One, the case of Navy veteran Christopher David, who went down because he said he wanted to talk to the law enforcement officers and ask them about the oath of office that they took. He was — as people saw on videotape, he was beaten with a baton. He had pepper spray sprayed on his face. He now has two broken bones in his hand. Is the President aware of what happened to this Navy veteran graduate of the Naval Academy? And does he condone that kind of action by these law enforcement officers?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I'm aware of the details of that situation. I haven't heard the audio of the video, though I've seen it. And I'd refer you to DHS about the extenuating details. We always encourage the appropriate use of force, and we always also encourage those in the area to remain peaceful towards our law enforcement officers.
Q: And my second question is: Where in the Constitution does the President derive the authority to send federal law enforcement officers to the streets of American cities against the will of the elected officials in those cities?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, well, what you're referring to is Portland. And 40 U.S. Code 1315 gives DHS the ability to deputize officers in any department or agency, like ICE, Customs and Border Patrol, and Secret Service. Quote, "As officers and agents," they can be deputized for the duty of — "in connection with the protection of property owned or occupied by the federal government and persons on that property." And when a federal courthouse is being lit on fire, commercial fireworks being shot at it, being shot at the officers, I think that that falls pretty well within the limits of 40 U.S. Code 1315.
Q: So that's a matter of protecting federal property, like a federal courthouse, in the case of Portland. Does he see limitations to that power? How much — how far does that power extend into the streets of the city of Portland? How — you know, what — are their limitations on that —
MS. MCENANY: So, under the —
Q: — that authority to protect a federal property?
MS. MCENANY: Under the law, we believe that agents can conduct investigations of crimes committed against federal property or federal officers. And in the case where you have someone shooting off a commercial-grade firework and then running across the street, we don't believe that that extends past our jurisdiction.
Q: Kayleigh, thank you. Yesterday, the President tweeted out an image of himself wearing a mask. He said that wearing a mask is an act of patriotism; no one is more patriotic than him. Then, just hours later, he was spotted at the Trump Hotel not wearing a mask. Why did it take him so long, first of all, to be seen wearing a mask in public? And why the mixed messaging on this critical health issue that his own top health officials have said is critical to fighting this pandemic?
MS. MCENANY: The President has always been consistent on this: that masks, according to the CDC, are recommended but not required. He has said that he would wear one in the case he couldn't appropriately socially distance. And he wore one and put up the picture on Twitter, as you saw.
Q: Does he think that it's important to lead by example on this issue?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President has led. He's been consistent, even going back to March 31st, when he said then, "My feeling is, if people want to do it, there's certainly no harm to it."
Q: But he hasn't done it, Kayleigh. He hasn't worn a mask. And so it's sending — is it not mixed signals?
THE PRESIDENT: The President wore a mask in May. The president wore a mask at Walter Reed, out of an abundance of caution. But as I've made clear from this podium, the President is the most tested man in America. He's tested more than anyone, multiple times a day. And we believe that he's acting appropriately.
Q: Let me ask you about the federal stimulus, if I might. Negotiations are ongoing. Why is the White House blocking Republicans' requests for more funding for testing and contact tracing? Senator Roy Blunt saying, "It just doesn't make sense. I think that's just wrong."
MS. MCENANY: So, no one is blocking any money from testing. One of the things I would add is that this is an ongoing negotiation. We're just in the early days of that. Currently, in federal coffers, we have $10 billion — that's with a "B" — unspent, that is allocated for testing. And we want to ensure that in phase four there is money that is targeted for testing in the way that makes most sense.
Q: But Republican says they need that money. Is the President willing to come to the table (inaudible)?
MS. MCENANY: We're willing to put in money for targeted testing that makes sense, not just dumping money into a pot that already contains $10 billion.
Q: Kayleigh, there's very little support in Congress for a payroll tax cut, but the President keeps pushing for it. Why is that so important to him? How does a payroll tax cut help the 25 million Americans out of work when they're not getting a paycheck?
MS. MCENANY: Well, there are a number of things we're looking at for phase four, and one of those things is unemployment benefits, where as Secretary Mnuchin said, we want this to be completed before July 31st, the date that that runs out. We don't want something to be an incentive where someone gets overpaid and has a disincentive from going back to work, or they get paid more on unemployment benefits than at work. So we want to be cautious about that while making sure that those unemployed are taken care of.
But the payroll tax in particular goes to some of our hardest-working Americans. The people that it benefits, if you look at the tax structure, are middle-income and low-income workers. And not only that: There's an incentive on the employer side with a payroll tax holiday that encourages them to hire more too because it reduces their burden. So it's a very smart policy.
Q: But those are people who still have jobs. So wouldn't it be more important to focus on the people who don't, if you're worried about the overall cost of this stimulus?
MS. MCENANY: We can focus on a number of things at once, and part of that is a payroll tax for middle and income — low-income Americans who are out there working each and every day and making their way through as best they can. It also means unemployment benefits; it also means direct payments to Americans. So we're looking at all of that, and we would like to see all of that.
Q: Just a second question on the briefing today at 5 o'clock: Should we expect to see members of the Coronavirus Task Force? Will Dr. Fauci, will Dr. Birx be there?
MS. MCENANY: You'll have to tune in to see.
Q: Thank you. On Portland — on sending agents to Portland, as well as plans for Chicago: Why are these the right people to send? It's my understanding these agents often work on human smuggling, drug trafficking, things like that. Do they have the right skillset, whether it's gun violence in Chicago or quelling unrest in Portland?
MS. MCENANY: Well, first let me add, they haven't been sent to Chicago. These DHS officials are currently in Portland protecting a courthouse. We do believe they're the right individuals for that, as does 40 U.S.C. 1315, the United States Code. It's egregious what's happening: the frequency jammers, the pellet and air rifles in Portland. It's being depicted as this peaceful scene. I can assure you it's anything but that, where you've had barricades, trying to keep officers in the Hartfield — Hatfield, excuse me, Courthouse; injury to a Border Patrol team member's leg; injuries to the head, shoulder, and back of a deputy U.S. Marshal; U.S. Marshal impaled his right hand on a board filled with nails set out by the protesters.
This is not a peaceful scene. And I'm very thankful to our U.S. Marshals and ATF and others who are acting in accordance with a statute in protecting a federal building, and doing so at great cost to themselves.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. I have two questions for you on the stimulus. First, since you guys are committed to the payroll tax cut, that seems to be driving up the price tag of the whole package. So does the White House view the $1 trillion figure that's been cited by GOP leaders as a hard cap? Are you willing to sign something that would spend more than that?
MS. MCENANY: These are all preliminary discussions. So, you know, I'll leave it to the negotiators to decide. The trillion-dollar number was cited by Secretary Mnuchin yesterday.
But, look, this is the beginning stages. We're looking at a number of things. But the President was very clear that he would like to see a payroll tax in there, along with liability protections, tax credits for businesses to bring people back to work and to have safe work environments, and of course, the $70 billion for schools to reopen safely — at least $70 billion.
Q: And then on the testing piece: What did the wait time — the long wait times that we're seeing for tests around the country suggest that we do need a massive influx of testing beyond what's unspent, and that the federal government should take more control of the federal — of the country's testing program?
MS. MCENANY: So we do want to see more testing funding, but we want it to be targeted in a way that it gets to the right people who need testing at the right time, not just dumping money into a bucket. So we want more money, and we want it to be targeted.
But I'm glad you brought up the timing of the testing. I talked to Dr. Birx, and she's very encouraged by the pool testing that's being worked on. You can run four to five times as many tests in the same period of time by decreasing turnaround times at a minimum of two thirds. So if you took three days to get a test result, it goes down to less than one. If it took six days, it goes down to less than two. And it's more labor intensive, so they would need to hire additional personnel. But CMS is funding the test at about four times the actual test cost to ensure technicians and PPE requirements can be met. So we are seeing encouraging signs on that front.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Just going back to the Portland situation: What is, sort of, the policy justification for federal officers not identifying their agency and their arrest authority when they take a protester into custody?
MS. MCENANY: So I've been told by DHS that there is insignia indicating that they're law enforcement. They, in the case you're referencing, did identify themselves to the individual being obtained, but that they don't identify themselves to crowds because it would put them at great risk, and I think you can see that, as I noted, when they're sticking their hands into boards left out by some of the rioters.
Q: Hey, Kayleigh. You know, on June 16th — so a little more than a month ago — the White House, via the Vice President, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. The op-ed said that "the media has tried to scare the American people" about the coronavirus. It talked about low positivity rates and declining case numbers in half of the states. There have been 25,000 additional deaths since that was published. Does the White House still stand by that op-ed?
And then, just more generally, what happened here at the White House and the administration in the last month when the message was that this was a problem that was on the mend and being addressed, until now, with the exploding cases we've seen and 141,000 deaths?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the White House has always been very clear-eyed that as we reopened, we would see embers and, in some cases, fires. We've been very aggressive in addressing that; sent out 19 teams to go to emerging hotspots. Dr. Birx has been to nine states. She does a lot of extraordinary work on that front.
So we've been clear-eyed that as we reopened, we would see embers and sometimes fires. But we're encouraged that when you look at case fatality, for instance, we're below the European Union, we're below the average of the world, and I think that that speaks to our incredible work with therapeutics and our incredible work with testing: 46 million tests. The number two in testing in the world is India at 13.79 million.
Q: Do you still see the main problem, as the op-ed pointed out, as the "media trying to scare the American people" over coronavirus?
MS. MCENANY: I think, in many cases, the media has tried to scare the American people. I think there's been a deficit in reporting about the cost of staying shut down, for instance.
When you have the fact that the American Cancer Society saying that, during the pandemic, we saw an 80 percent drop in cancer cases being identified, there are real costs to a draconian extended shutdown. And you never heard the other side of the health equation. You never heard that mammograms were down by 87 percent and colonoscopies down by 90 percent and drug overdoses going up month after month through the lockdown.
So it was the right decision to make. The President saved 3 to 4 million lives, but it's important to note the other side of the health equation about what extended lockdowns do to the American people.
Q: Yeah, the President says he wants to send these forces to other cities like Chicago, cities where the federal property isn't necessarily under attack. What are they going to do when they get to Chicago and these other cities with higher crime rates, higher shooting rates, higher murder rates, if the President is worried about that? What are they going to do? What are they going to arrest people of -– with?
MS. MCENANY: I think you're getting ahead of the President here. He's —
Q: What federal charges?
MS. MCENANY: He's made no announcements as to who's going where. He's very discouraged by the violence that he's seen in Chicago. It's why he sent a very strong letter to Mayor Lightfoot offering help, because she's clearly unable to control her streets, and the governor as well, unable to control that area.
When you see the fact that there were 49 officers who were injured in this egregious video of them being lambasted with rioters with umbrellas shielding from view that they were throwing projectiles, and 49 officers injured. Not only that: The poor citizenry of Chicago where 12 were murdered this weekend, 70 shot alone.
It's incredible what we're seeing in Chicago. He's offered his help, and we encourage the mayor to take it and to be forthright about the situation in her state, much like the governor of Missouri was in working with us on Operation LeGend to protect the people of Missouri.
Q: But the leaders of these cities don't necessarily want unmarked police officers patrolling their streets the way we've seen in Portland, with the premise that they're protecting federal property there. The leaders in these cities don't want this, sort of, paramilitary police force.
MS. MCENANY: They're offered the assistance of DOJ, as was done, where you've had FBI surge in the case of Operation LeGend. So when you have, each weekend, more than a dozen people getting shot in your city, perhaps it's time — more than a dozen killed, I should say, and children — perhaps it's time to say, "I need the help of the federal government because what I'm doing is simply not working." When more people are dying on the streets of Chicago than Afghanistan and Iraq, it's a tragedy.
Q: What if they don't say that, though?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, Steven.
Q: Thank you. Well, I have a question about New York on a similar topic. Yesterday, President Trump mentioned the spike in violent crime in New York and said, quote, "If the governor is not going to do something about it, we'll do something about it." And I'm curious if you could explain why he is saying that the governors should do something about it rather than the mayor, and if you could also elaborate on what President Trump would be willing to do.
MS. MCENANY: Well, he thinks the mayor and the governors should work together to take control of the streets of New York City where, in some places, we've seen 600 percent surge in violence over last year. So he thinks they should work together.
It's ultimately the power of the mayor to enforce and the governor to enforce the police power of their states. That power rests with them, but they can partner with the federal government in the event that they're unable to control the violence in their cities. And that's certainly what we've seen from Mayor de Blasio, who seems to have not a hard time criticizing police officers but an awfully hard time controlling the streets of New York City.
Q: Thanks so much. I have two questions. I'm the print pooler for today. One for myself and one for a colleague who cannot be here because of the social distancing. Governor Gavin Newsom was one of the few Democratic governors to bring in the National Guard and arm them after the riots and moving in early June, as compared to Seattle, where they didn't arm the National Guard. The Guard was posted at Los Angeles City Hall as a show of force, and within days, the violence had quelled. Why not just invoke the Insurrection Act and have a big show of force rather than these more secretive operations?
MS. MCENANY: So I'll leave that to the President. We don't have secretive operations going on. It's very clear what's going on in Portland. It's very clear what's happening in Kansas City.
But with regard to the Insurrection Act, look, we believe that it should be governors and mayors doing what they have the constitutional power to do. The police power rests with them. So it's up to this President whether he ever decides to invoke that, but governors and mayors really need to step it up, particularly in Democrat cities where Democrat streets are out of control.
Q: And then the one from my colleague. John Gizzi at Newsmax is asking: What are the President's thoughts on John Kasich supporting Joe Biden and his plans to appear at the convention in Florida?
MS. MCENANY: What was that? I didn't hear the last part.
Q: John Kasich is supporting Joe Biden, and he plans to attend the convention and support the Democratic Convention.
MS. MCENANY: So that would be a question for the campaign. But this President is quite proud of his record in the Republican Party and quite proud to have the support of 96 percent of the party — more than any predecessor in the history of the Republican Party.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. You said earlier that the President was tested multiple times a day. We knew he was tested daily, but can you elaborate on that? How many times a day is he tested?
MS. MCENANY: He's tested often. I'm not going to read out exactly how many times he's tested a day, but sometimes it is more than one time a day.
Q: Yesterday, the President said that when he was previously doing briefings, we had a lot of people watching — record numbers watching in the history of cable television. And I was wondering if ratings are factoring into his decision to restart the briefing and if he is the best person to get accurate information about the virus out to the public, given previous statements at briefings, like the speculation that disinfectants inside the body could work as a treatment, which medical experts say is not the case, and claims that the virus will just disappear.
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President is the right person to give information to the American people. He was elected by the American people. He's been a leader on this. The fact that we've outproduced on ventilators so much so that we have an extraordinary number in our stockpile, and we're giving ventilators out to the rest of the world; that we lead the world in testing: 46 million tests — more than that.
At this point, the fact that he's broken down bureaucracy to get a vaccine into a phase three clinical trial, that because of him, we have remdesivir and convalescent plasma and dexamethasone and other therapeutics, he's the right person to give the information to the American people. And, boy, does he get the information to a lot of the American people during his briefings, as noted by the ratings, as he himself pointed out.
Q: The U.S. Trade Representative is planning an additional set of tariffs against Europe in the old dispute about aerospace subsidies. Has the President committed to impose additional sanctions, considering that Europe would answer with additional sanctions — tariffs, as well?
MS. MCENANY: So, since that's pre-decisional, I won't get ahead of — on any administration announcements on that front.
Q: Kayleigh, I have a couple of questions. The first one is: The President, in the last few hours, tweeted about the concerns about mail-in voting. So he's obviously concerned about the integrity of the U.S. election and certainly internal sabotage. But why are we not hearing from the President about fears about external sabotage?
For example, coming out of the UK today, there is a Parliamentary Committee report that says that Russia influenced the Scottish referendum; there are questions about Brexit. But we've really not heard the President put the Kremlin on notice with respect to the U.S. election. Will we hear from him today on that?
MS. MCENANY: The President today has put the world on notice that our election systems must be secure. This is — under this President, in 2018, he articulated the first full cyber strategy for the United States since 2003. In 2019, he extended the National Emergency Declaration on Foreign Election Interference. He routinely engages with Congress on election security, particularly in at least 26 —
Q: Right. But we had fresh reports.
MS. MCENANY: — elections, security-specific hearings. He signed legislation — $71 million — and so on and so forth. And that's quite a contrast to the O Biden [sic] — the Obama-Biden administration, who when told of meddling in 2016, did nothing. And, in fact, Susan Rice told the White House cyber team to stand down and, quote, "knock it off" when they floated — when they floated options to combat Russian cyberattacks. And even Obama's cyber chief, Michael Daniel, has confirmed the stand-down order.
Q: The President has been in office now more than three years. I'm asking what has been done now. And given these fresh concerns, when are we going to hear from the President on that?
MS. MCENANY: So what's been done now — I just listed off three or four things for you, and I'm happy to go through more. We can talk about the $71 million —
Q: You know, actually, I have follow-up question with respect to Russia.
MS. MCENANY: — in legislation on election security. We can talk about the $15 million for election reform activities. We can talk about legislation making more than $805 million available to states. And —
Q: So, Joe Biden put the Kremlin and others on notice.
MS. MCENANY: And when it comes to mail-in voting, I would point you to the fact that there's a Wall Street Journal article just out today, and it talks about the dark omen for November and the absolute catastrophe in New York City that we are a month into the election after the voting, and we still don't know who the winners are of some of those races.
And Governor Cuomo decided that he would pre-pay postage for the ballots. And what that meant was that the Post Office didn't put a postage stamp noting the date of the ballots. So as they're collecting these ballots in — for a month —
Q: I think this is getting off track. Let's —
MS. MCENANY: You asked me about this, so I'm going to answer. So, for a month, they've collecting ballots with no postmark date. And, in fact, what they found is 19 percent of ballots have been rejected in Queens, 28 percent rejected in Brooklyn.
There are questions about mail — mass mail-out [sic] voting.
Q: Yeah, that's one of (inaudible). I'm asking about foreign interference.
MS. MCENANY: And I know you don't want to hear them, which is why you talk over me.
MS. MCENANY: But I encourage you to read the op-ed.
Q: Okay, let me just redirect on the China vaccine research. Russia has interfered —
MS. MCENANY: Yes, you've gotten two questions, which is more than some of your colleagues.
Q: Okay, you don't want to engage.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. In St. Louis, the McCloskeys have been charged with felonies for waving guns at protesters. The Missouri Attorney General is vowing to dismiss these charges. Where does the President stand on this?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, the President — I asked him about that this morning, and he said it is absolutely absurd what is happening to the McCloskeys. He noted that this is an extreme abuse of power by the prosecutor and noteworthy that the prosecutor — there have been many cases brought to her attention of violent rioters that she's failed to charge, but instead she's charging the individuals who were defending themselves from violent protesters. You have 300 to 500 protesters who stormed the gates, tore down the gates, and trespassed on their property.
And you have Patricia McCloskey who said that they were telling her they were going to kill them, these protesters, at the moment they were waving their guns to protect themselves. "They were going to come in here," she said. "They were going to burn down the house. They were going to be living in our house after I was dead and they were pointing to different rooms of the house saying, ‘That's going to be my bedroom.' ‘That's going to be my living room.' And ‘I'm going to be taking a shower in that room.'" So they were completely within their right. And it's an egregious abuse of power on the part of the McCloskeys.
Turning to a different note: I just wanted to highlight some — some great work being done by senior advisor Ivanka Trump. There are nearly 40 million boxes that have been put together by the Farmers to Family Food Box Program, a great partnership to help families in need in this country. And yesterday, you had Ivanka Trump visiting the D.C. Dream Center and personally distributing a number of food boxes. The distribution resulted in 1,000 boxes delivered to the D.C. community. And we thank Ivanka for the great work that she has done there.
And finally, I just wanted to note something on COVID. Dr. Birx is an extraordinary doctor who has served this country, dedicated her time to serving our country as an Army colonel. She has served as an ambassador to PEPFAR where she spent her life fighting AIDS and HIV abroad. And it is appalling the attack that I saw on her in the New York Times, based on no facts.
And Dr. Birx, for weeks, has been sending out this data to governors — 400 pages of data to our governors — so that they have the best information to make the best decisions for their people in their respective states. I've not seen anyone pouring over data the way Dr. Birx has, and the attack on her was, frankly, appalling and egregious, and the New York Times should be very ashamed of themselves.
END 11:42 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/343185