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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany

September 16, 2020

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:30 P.M. EDT

MS. MCENANY: Good afternoon, everyone. I just spoke with the President, and he wanted to thank the commissioner of Big 10 football, Kevin Warren, and all of the players, parents, coaches, and fans who wanted more than anything to play football.

The President was happy to get this thing going. And now you will have players in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Nebraska who will now have access to football, which is very good to see.

Transitioning to a much more somber topic and one that is very important to the President, I want to talk a little bit about our police officers.

Fourteen months ago, two deputies with the Los Angeles Police Department were sworn in to protect and serve their community. This past Saturday, these two deputies were ambushed. While sitting in their patrol car in Compton, California, a suspect approached the passenger-side window, took aim, and fired multiple shots at point-blank range into the patrol car.

"I've been shot. Send help," begged one of the deputies over 911. This was a cowardly, brazen, and unprovoked attack against law enforcement. One of the deputies attacked was a 31-year-old mother of a 6-year-old boy. She was seen on security footage attending to the wounds of her partner, despite being shot in the jaw and arm herself. She is a true hero.

Rushed to the hospital, these two deputies were targeted yet again. The L.A. County Sheriffs tweeted this: "To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling ‘We hope they die' referring to 2 LA Sheriff's ambushed today in #Compton..." they said this: "DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL. People's lives are at stake." Truly despicable behavior from those protesters.

People's lives are indeed at stake. And it is truly, quote, "a double miracle," as the Los Angeles Sheriff, Alex Villanueva, described it, that these two deputies are alive today.

Targeting a police officer is an assault against your community. It is an assault against law and order. It is antithetical to what we value as Americans.

We all remember the disastrous impact of the Ferguson effect. We do not want to see a repeat today. "Defund the police" is not just dangerous policy; it is a poisonous ideology. We must respect our police, not revolt against them.

In the past 24 hours alone, we've seen law enforcement targeted across the country — this is in 24 hours: In Phoenix — in Phoenix, a U.S. Marshal was ambushed and shot outside a federal courthouse in a drive-by shooting. In Lynwood, California, a suspect approached a patrol car and fired a handgun into the passenger-side window. In Suffolk, Virginia, a suspect opened fire on a marked police car, hitting the vehicle three times. This is within 24 hours.

These acts are despicable. Rhetoric such as "defund the police" is likely to have negative consequences for law enforcement across the country, threatening the safety of our communities.

As Los Angeles Sheriff Villanueva warned, the ambush in Compton is a, quote, "sober reminder. It's a dangerous job." "Actions, words have consequences," he said. "Our job does not get any easier because people do not like law enforcement. It pisses me off," he said. "It dismays me at the same time. There's no pretty way to say it."

The President wants law and order, which is the best way to ensure peace on our streets. And he wants our police to be respected and protected.

And with that, I'll take questions. Yes.

Q: Kayleigh, thank you so much. I have two questions, if you don't mind. The first one is about masks. This morning, CDC Director Robert Redfield testified that masks are more guaranteed to protect people from COVID than a vaccine.

Last night, the President continued to question their use. So why is he sending mixed messages about something that doctors say can save lives?

MS. MCENANY: The President has always supported mask wearing, and he's made many comments to that effect from this podium.

Yesterday, he was pointing to a quote that even Dr. Fauci has noted, which is that masks can have unintended consequences. While we support wearing them and they're — it's patriotic to do so, the unintended consequences can be inappropriate usage, touching the mask, and then going on and touching something else. So the President very vividly described that unintended consequence that can come if not worn appropriately.

Q: And secondly, on September 3rd, you said, "The herd immunity so-called theory was something made up by the fanciful minds of the media. That was never something that was ever considered here at the White House." But last night, the President said that the country would eventually achieve "herd mentality" — I believe he meant immunity — to explain how the virus would, quote, "go away."

So did the White House shift its position about this in the past two weeks since you made those comments? And what is the position about using it as a strategy?

MS. MCENANY: Herd immunity has never been a strategy here at the White House. The President last night was noting herd immunity is over a period of time. A country, a society, can reach herd immunity. It's a fact. It was not a strategy ever presented here at the White House. And, in fact, he went on in that very same exchange to say, with the vaccine, this "will go away very quickly," noting our strategy is to get a vaccine. And we will do so at the fastest rate for a novel pathogen.

Q: So he doesn't agree with Dr. Atlas's view that everyone should just catch it and then we'll move on?

MS. MCENANY: That's not Dr. Atlas's view. Dr. Atlas — I'm with him every day. He's never proposed herd immunity as a strategy, nor has the President.


Q: A couple of other questions on COVID, if I could. Have any members of the White House staff recently tested positive for coronavirus?

MS. MCENANY: I don't share people's personal medical information.

Q: But we have had — we've heard in the past when that has been the case. Why the change?

MS. MCENANY: I've seen the reporting out there, but again, I'm not here to give people's personal identities. In the past, when I've discussed a case, unfortunately, that individual's name was leaked to the media.

Q: Okay. Secondly, something else that Dr. Redfield said was that while some people in high-risk categories may receive a vaccine by the end of the year, it would likely not be until the end of the second quarter or the third quarter before vaccinations were widely available. Is the President okay with that timeline, or does he want to see a vaccine more widely available earlier than that?

MS. MCENANY: We're still of the belief that we will have a vaccine by the end of the year. Operation Warp Speed has made it clear that their goal is to have more than 100 million doses. We're manufacturing in advance to make that a possibility. So —

Q: Right, and he indicated that. But it was the idea of the vaccine being more widely available, like the flu vaccine, not until possibly next summer or maybe even early fall.

MS. MCENANY: We do believe that it will be widely available by the end of the year. It's why we partnered with Sanofi, GSK, Pfizer, and now Johnson & Johnson with the billion- dollar contracts to manufacture 100 million doses. So we still feel that we're on the right timeline.

Q: Right. When you say "widely available," do you mean to everyone or just people in high-risk groups?

MS. MCENANY: Look, I'm not going to engage in a hypothetical, but it's our goal to have at least 100 million in production by the end of the year.

Yes. Kaitlan.

Q: I have two questions. You said that the President was talking about wearing a mask improperly last night, touching it, referring to what Dr. Fauci has said. But he said, quote, "There are people that don't think masks are good." That's clearly not what the CDC director thinks, since he said today that masks are an "important, powerful public health tool we have. They could be even more protective against COVID than a vaccine."

So have any medical experts told the President that masks aren't good? Or is he only citing non-medical experts, like he did last night?

MS. MCENANY: He's referring to the fact that, when used appropriately, they can have unintended consequences, much like what Dr. Fauci said. It's not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is, and oftentimes there are unintended consequences.

So the President agrees with Dr. Fauci that mask wearing is good; it's recommended. The President has continually recommended it from this podium, but he was just pointing out some of the unintended consequences if not used appropriately.

Q: Okay. But he didn't say that. He just said there are people that think masks aren't —

MS. MCENANY: No, he did. Go on — do you have his whole exchange? Would you like to read it out?

Q: There — I mean, I watched it last night.

MS. MCENANY: Where he went and talked about —

Q: There — he said there are people who don't think masks are good. He didn't say "improperly" or anything like that.

MS. MCENANY: Kaitlan, he went on and very — unfortunately, a bunch of you are very keen on doing selective editing of the President's quotes and not referring to the second half.

Directly under that statement, he talked about a waiter touching the mask and then touching a plate, and that being an unintended effect of wearing a mask that is an example of a mask not being used to appropriately.

Q: Yeah, he said waiters don't think masks are good, but he didn't cite any medical experts.

MS. MCENANY: And he described — he described the exact scenario in which a mask can have an unintended consequence if not used appropriately. And we can send you the clip; we'll put it up on Twitter for you.

Q: No, I watched it. That's okay. I was just wanted to see if there was any medical experts who have said that.

On the health- —

MS. MCENANY: And they have, and I just read Dr. Fauci's quote. So, go ahead.

Q: Yes, I've read Dr. Fauci's quotes.

On the healthcare plan, the Chief of Staff said today that there is going to be one unveiled before the election — the one that the President has been promising for over a year now, long before then. But today, on Capitol Hill, the three top medical experts in this administration said they have no idea of any kind of plan that's being formulated. So who is it that is working on the healthcare plan that's going to be introduced before the election?

MS. MCENANY: So, here at the White House, we have a wide array of people working on it. There have been elements of it that have already come out, like that telemedicine plan, the drug importation EO. The "most favored nations" were elements of what is an overarching plan. There's more that will be forthcoming.

And, in aggregate, it's going to be a very comprehensive strategy — one where we're saving healthcare while Democrats are trying to take healthcare away. We're making healthcare better and cheaper, guaranteeing protections for people with preexisting conditions, stopping surprise medical billing, increasing transparency, defending the right to keep your doctor and your plan, fighting lobbyists and special interests, and making healthier and making — finding cures to diseases. And those are the principles that will animate multiple stakeholders —

Q: But who is working on it is my question.

MS. MCENANY: — multiple stakeholders here at the White House who work on policies.

Q: But not the CDC director or —

MS. MCENANY: So our Domestic Policy Council and others are working on a healthcare plan.


Q: Not the CDC director? Not Bob Kadlec? Not Admiral Giroir? None of them have any idea about the healthcare plan, they said.

MS. MCENANY: I'm not going to give you a readout of what our healthcare plan looks like and who's working on it.

Q: I'm just wondering who is working on it.

MS. MCENANY: If you want to know — if you want to know, come work here at the White House.


Q: Kayleigh, I just wanted to know who's working on it.

MS. MCENANY: Yes. Stakeholders here in the White House. And, as I told you, our Domestic Policy Council and others in the White House are working on a healthcare plan, the President's vision for the next five years.


And if you want more, come join us here.


Q: Thank you.

Q: No, that's not the point why I asked the question. I think you know that.

MS. MCENANY: Okay, I've called on your four times. So, Mario, go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. When should we expect the President to make a decision on TikTok? And to what degree is that decision delayed by just disagreement among his senior advisors?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so we will have a decision here in short order. I'm not going to get too far into it because I don't want to get ahead of the President, but obviously we care deeply about protecting the data and security of American citizens.


Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Two questions. One is, is about vaccines. Some people within the Trump administration indicate that there might be a vaccine within a few weeks. Right now, we're all being tested for COVID. Are there going to — are you going to require vaccine — that we'd be vaccinated to enter the White House complex?

MS. MCENANY: I'm not going to get ahead of any hypothetical. Right now, we're hard at work at actually getting the vaccine, and then plans for distribution will be determined thereafter. There were some guidelines put out today to that effect, about how they'll be distributed by HHS and DOD.

Q: Okay. Okay. And also, one thing is that Bob Woodward said that the President's response to COVID was, quote, "a monumental, catastrophic leadership failure." That this is a "tragedy for Trump and for the country." What is your response to that?

MS. MCENANY: That it's absolutely preposterous and absurd. Look at the facts, look at the data. Look at the fact that Europe, for instance, has experienced a 28 percent higher excess mortality rate than the United States. Look at the fact that we have one of the lowest case fatalities in the world. Look at the fact that, from scratch, we developed the largest and most advanced testing system in the entire world, testing more than every country in Europe put together and more than every nation in the Western Hemisphere combined. Look at the fact that we have three vaccines in phase three clinical trial.

That is a historic response. Mobilizing the private sector, the fastest — or mobilizing the private sector to the greatest degree since World War Two. This President has broken through barriers. He's a businessman. He's the Commander-in- Chief. He's the leader of the country, and he has done a "phenomenal" job, to quote none other than Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Q: Yeah, I was letting a colleague finish. Can I ask my question?

MS. MCENANY: No, I'm not going to reward not speaking up and asking your question.

Go ahead.

Anyone else? Yes.

Q: Go ahead.

Q: Okay, thanks. And the President said on Twitter today that Republicans should go for a much higher number when it comes to the stimulus. What did he mean by that exactly? And has he spoken to Senator McConnell or Speaker Pelosi about what number he has in mind?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so what the President was referring to was the $500 billion bill that passed the Senate. The phase four plan that didn't include — excuse me, it didn't — it got 50 votes in the Senate. It's that $500 billion "skinny" proposal. But it didn't include direct payments. So he wants more than the $500 billion, and he is very keen to see these direct stimulus payments, and we hope that Nancy Pelosi will work with us in good faith.

There are many bipartisan proposals out there that have merit. And a clear example of where Nancy stands is that everyone wants to be — in D.C., seems to want to make a deal, except Nancy Pelosi. She wants to play politics. Look at the letter she wrote condemning the Problem Solvers group proposal. That was a $1.5 trillion plan that, if the priorities were modified and made sure that there was not bailout that bailed out states that didn't have COVID-related issues, that just were blanket bailouts to blue states, that's something that we would entertain and look at. But Nancy Pelosi immediately decried that proposal in a letter because she's not interested in a deal.


Q: Kayleigh, could I just ask really briefly, following up on Mario's question: You know, Trump has said that he wants to see TikTok's U.S. operations being sold to a U.S. company, and our reporting suggests that under proposals submitted to CFIUS, ByteDance would retain a majority stake in TikTok. So does the President still want TikTok to be sold to a U.S. company? Or is he now with okay with TikTok potentially remaining under Chinese ownership?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, this is an ongoing negotiation, and I'm not going to offer any further comment beyond any of the President's public remarks.


Q: Hi, Kayleigh. I pulled up, I think, that quote that you were talking about. The President said last night: "They come over, they serve you" — he's talking about waiters — "and they have a mask." "I saw it the other day where they were serving me, they're playing the mask. I'm not blaming them; I'm just saying it happens." And then he starts talking about Dr. Fauci.

My question is: Why is he quoting Dr. Fauci's guidance from like five months ago, instead of what the head of the CDC is saying today on masks?

MS. MCENANY: Well, both propositions he agrees with. And thank you very much for reading the second part of the quote.

First, he agrees with the consensus that mask wearing is important and recommended. I have here, and I'll make sure you all get a copy of all of the times he has said that from this podium, and I can read them, but it would probably bore you. He's called it "patriotic" to wear a mask, but he also recognizes that mask needs to be worn appropriately, which is the point Dr. Fauci was making. He was making that point in March, but it was an important point to make that we should all wear our mask appropriately.

Q: And then it's totally unrelated, but Roger Stone said on a radio show the other day — he said U.S. Marshals should seize the ballots in Nevada on Election Day because he's called it corrupted. Is that something the President is comfortable with — using federal power to seize ballots during the count?

MS. MCENANY: I have not spoken to him about that, nor do I think he's ever seen those comments.


Q: Yes, if you'll allow me, I have a question from a colleague because I'm the pooler today, and then I'd like to ask my own.

From a colleague: In lifting tariffs on Canadian aluminum, the USTR announced yesterday it would review shipment levels six weeks after the end of September — a timeline that extends beyond the election. Was the President worried that those tariffs and the anticipated retaliatory action from Canada would endanger his reelection chances?

MS. MCENANY: I've not spoken to the President about Canadian tariffs. I haven't followed up on that matter.

What was your other question?

Q: The second one is: Does the President have any evidence to back up his suggestions that Joe Biden is a pedophile or taking drugs? And without such evidence, if he's simply speculating, why should the public trust him on anything else?

MS. MCENANY: I'd have to refer you to the campaign. I'm not here to talk about Joe Biden.


Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. With Hurricane Sally making landfall in Alabama and hitting the Florida Panhandle, a couple of questions related to that: Has the President spoken directly to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis or any of the other governors affected by this storm? And, at the same time, has the federal government made any changes to its programs since Hurricane Michael or the way it communicates with the state of Florida?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I haven't asked the President about who he's called specifically. I know the White House — I've spoken with IGA. I know the White House has certainly been in contact and the Chief of Staff.

But in terms of the hurricane, we — this President is engaging on an important response. FEMA is active. We have high-water rescue teams, IMAT teams, disaster medical assistance, generators, 1.8 million meals, 1.5 million bottles of water. And as FEMA Administrator Gaynor has said, we are coordinating with the states right now. We have a significant footprint in Louisiana because of Hurricane Laura, so we are well postured. We're leaning into it to make sure that we meet all the needs of all three of those states.

Q: Are you aware, though, of any changes since Hurricane Michael that are being applied to this specific response?

MS. MCENANY: I've not looked at changes with hurricane response. But this President knows how to respond and will do so, and protect the men and women of those three states.

Q: And if I may, I also have the transcript from last night. I just wanted to ask about one other line —


Q: — and get clarification. The President did say, "There are a lot of people that think masks are not good." Who are the people he's referring to? The "lot of people."

MS. MCENANY: He was meaning that they're not — there are people who think they're not good when not used appropriately, as I've mentioned several times in this briefing.


Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Two questions, if I may. One is — I suppose has to be a hypothetical: But if someone who was at the ceremony the other day for the signing of the accords tested positive for coronavirus subsequently, would everyone who was present at the signing of the accords be notified through contact tracing?

MS. MCENANY: We do contact tracing, so close contacts are always notified.

Q: And, secondly, on the stimulus questions, where are you on additional assistance for airlines and maybe more of the pandemic unemployment insurance, since both of those things are urgent priorities and it doesn't look like Congress is going to act? What's the President prepared to do on both of those issues?

MS. MCENANY: The President has mentioned previously that he wanted to take a good look at airlines and help where he can. Of course, we need Congress in a lot of this. He's always made clear that his big priority, number one, is unemployed Americans and Americans who have been hurt by this pandemic. His EO really clarified his priorities — the four EOs on eviction; and the payroll tax, which helps low- and middle-income Americans primarily; and unemployment insurance; and student loan debt relief. That's his priority, unlike Nancy Pelosi, who took a vacation and went to a hair salon when the men and women of San Francisco did not have the access that she did.

Q: Can I follow up on payroll taxes, actually —


Q: — since we've mentioned payroll taxes? Is the President disappointed with the large number of employers who are not taking up him and the Treasury Secretary on the payroll tax deferral?

MS. MCENANY: The President believes that companies should take him up on that. He has always said that he's interested in giving a payroll tax forgiveness for those who do participate, because it's very important that those making less than $100,000 have this relief at this time.


Q: Hi, Kayleigh. Thank you. I've got two questions, if I may. One, is the White House aware of the allegations of healthcare abuse in ICE detention centers?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I have not followed up on that. I'd have to refer you to DHS. I did see that report just before coming out here, but I refer you to DHS.

Q: Okay, and another question: A new survey showed that the image of the U.S. in the world is the worst in 20 years, and President Trump is less trusted than Putin or Xi Jinping after COVID response. So why do you think many countries don't trust President Trump right now?

MS. MCENANY: Look, this President has led the greatest responseto COVID. I've already walked through how well we're doing vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

Also worth noting, U.S. — we had the smallest economic contraction of any major Western country in the first half of the year.

Also want to note that, in 2019, real median household income grew by more — this is last year alone — real median household income grew by more than all eight years of Obama-Biden. And in 2019 — so, last year — real median household income for African Americans rose 8 percent. And that is more than double the gains of Obama-Biden in eight years.

So this President has led economically. He's led on COVID. And when you look at what he did just yesterday with these landmark peace agreements that haven't been done in a quarter of a century but President Trump made it happen, he is a great diplomat, a great peacemaker, and I think him being nominated for two Nobel prizes says it all.


Q: Can I ask a question on —

Q: Yeah, just on — just, can I ask you, on the great success story you've talked about, about COVID: In the richest country in the world, you have 4 percent of the global population and 24 percent of the coronavirus deaths. How is that a success story?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, when you look at — again, we have — Europe has 28 percent higher excess mortality rate, and —

Q: Yes, but — no, look at the global numbers that I'm giving you, which is 4 percent of the population, 24 percent of the deaths from COVID. Isn't that — how can that be a success?

MS. MCENANY: Yes, and I'm giving you the numbers that we believe are very indicative of where we stand vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Excess mortality is an indicator that takes into account the percent deaths above what would occur without a pandemic. It counts the excess mortality.

And what we see is that we are 28 percent —

Q: But what about the numbers I gave you?

MS. MCENANY: — under Europe. You have to look at this holistically. You have to look at total and aggregate —

Q: But (inaudible) global number.

MS. MCENANY: — how many deaths have occurred in this country, and compare that to Europe and the excess mortality rate and case fatality and testing. We have exceeded in our response, and this President is very proud of the great work that this administration has done.


Q: Is Michael Caputo welcome back after his 60-day leave after encouraging his followers on Facebook to stock up on ammunition?

MS. MCENANY: I'm not going to weigh into any personnel matters. As you know, he has taken a leave of absence. That was announced just before I came out here.

But what I will weigh into is the Middle East peal [sic] — the Middle East peace deal signed yesterday that I did not receive a single question about. That was the first time it's happened in a quarter of a century.

If Obama and Biden had achieved this, there would — it would look a lot different. You wouldn't have Chuck Todd saying he's uncomfortable with a deal that brings peace between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and Bahrain. You wouldn't have CBS calling it, quote, a "business deal." And you wouldn't have Nancy Pelosi calling it a "distraction." Maybe it's a distraction from her visits to the hair salon, but those were significant agreements. First time in a quarter of a century; three peace deals in 29 days. It took 26 years for the prior peace deals.

So this — the Nobel Peace Prize nomination for the President — two of them — very well deserved.

Thank you.

END 1:54 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

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