Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:05 P.M. EST
MS. MCENANY: Good afternoon, everyone. The United States Constitution matters even during a pandemic. While Democrat politicians seek to impose draconian restrictions against their citizens, this past week the Supreme Court of the United States had their say on New York State's capacity restrictions, which restricted the number of attendees allowed in places of worship but not other government-deemed essential businesses.
Justice Gorsuch, in the ruling, said this as he rolled back Governor Cuomo's restrictions on places of worship. He said, quote, "It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques."
Behind me, you will see displayed images of Democrat hypocrisy playing on loop. These images depict the following:
They show Governor Gavin Newsom of California dining both mask-less and indoors at the fancy French Laundry restaurant despite severe lockdown restrictions against indoor dining for the very people he governs.
You'll see Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot celebrating in the non-socially distanced streets of her city.
You will see Speaker Nancy Pelosi indoors at a hair salon in San Francisco when salons in California were only open for outdoor services.
And you will see CNN's Chris Cuomo staging his emergence from quarantine in a made-for-television moment, coming out of the basement. And this was after Cuomo was spotted breaking his brother, Governor Cuomo's quarantine rules to go for a bike ride in the Hamptons.
Also notable is San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who followed Governor Newsom's lead in dining at the French Laundry with a group of eight people.
And, finally, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl dining outdoors at her favorite Santa Monica restaurant after voting to ban outdoor dining at 31,000 restaurants throughout LA, calling outdoor dining "a most dangerous situation."
Quite clearly, these Democrats do not follow their own edicts. They act in a way that their own citizens are barred from acting.
Governor Cuomo's decision to impose restrictions on the size of religious gatherings was rebuked by the highest court in the land. But what was Cuomo's response? Instead of showing deference to the Constitution, he attacked the legitimacy of the Court. Governor Cuomo said this: "You have a different Court, and I think that was the statement that the court was making. We know who he appointed to the court. We know their ideology."
Well, in fact, the ideology of those on the Supreme Court who made the decision to support the First Amendment are in favor of freedom, the Constitution that survives even during a pandemic.
This statement from Governor Cuomo strikes at the heart of the issue: Democrats seek control. These images behind me make clear Democrats' mindset: rules for thee but not for me.
The President stands with you, your freedom, your ability to decide how to best protect your health. We all know how to protect ourselves from COVID-19: wash your hands, socially distance, wear a mask.
But as one federal court put it, "There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution."
And with that, I'll take questions.
Welcome back, Kristen. Good to have you back.
Q: Thank you so much. Good to see you. Thank you. Appreciate it.
I want to ask you about comments that the Attorney General made to the Associated Press. He said, quote, "To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could've affected a different outcome in the election." Given that, why hasn't President Trump conceded?
MS. MCENANY: So, first, he went on to say this. It was in an AP interview where he made that initial comment, but in that same AP interview, he went on to say that he thinks a lot of people are confusing the use of the federal criminal justice system with allegations that should be made in civil lawsuits. And he discerned the fact that — he said, quote, "There's a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all." And the campaign's litigation is all civil ligation, which is apart from something that the DOJ would be involved in.
Q: To follow up with you on that: Of more than 40 cases that have been brought by the President's legal team, the majority have been denied or dismissed. The election results have been certified in all of the battleground states. Does the President still think he has a path to win?
MS. MCENANY: The President has said that he believes all legal votes should be counted and all illegal votes should not be counted. And, in fact, the campaign is pursuing that litigation. I can't get into the details of that litigation here, but they still do have active cases in Nevada and Wisconsin.
Q: But how does he overturn the results when they've already been certified in these battleground states, Kayleigh?
MS. MCENANY: Again, the President is just looking for every legal vote to be counted, and I will leave it to the campaign to pursue their end.
Q: And one more. Does he have faith in Attorney General Bill Barr? Does he still have confidence in Bill Barr?
MS. MCENANY: The President, if he has any personnel announcements, you will be the first to know it.
Yeah. We'll go for Janet.
Q: Thank you. Two questions. Has the President spoken to Attorney General Bill Barr since his comments came out yesterday?
MS. MCENANY: I'm not aware if they've spoken. I know the Attorney General was here yesterday for a pre-planned meeting with the Chief of Staff, and they discussed an array of issues. But I'm not aware if the President has spoken to him directly.
Q: And has the President considered any preemptive pardons to any of his kids? Has he been talking to Attorney Giuliani about this?
MS. MCENANY: I've heard no mention of any pardons in any conversations I've had in the White House other than the pardon of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a three-star general, who I've discussed from this podium before, who had his life ruined. He was a valiant hero who served his country both on the battlefield and then came to work in government.
And what happened to him was there was an FBI note that said they wanted to get Lieutenant General Michael Flynn to lie. There then was a criminal leak of his identity in a phone call he had. He was told no lawyers were needed in the discussion the FBI was having with him. FBI investigators then after said they did not think that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was lying, but yet he was still pursued in an unjust manner, and the government failed to provide the original FBI 302s from that interview. It was an egregious miscarriage of justice, and we're finally glad that justice was served for a war hero, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.
Q: Is the President planning to announce his 2024 candidacy in a formal event here at the White House before January 20th or even on January 20th?
MS. MCENANY: I've not heard any discussions of that. I'm aware of the reporting, but the President's campaign is currently pursuing active litigation, and that is the focus, at least at the moment.
Q: You heard his comments last night. It sounds like he's planning to run again. Do you know if that's a fact?
MS. MCENANY: I haven't spoken to him about that again. His campaign is pursuing litigation. I would redirect you to the campaign. Yeah.
Q: Mark Meadows has been meeting with Commissioner Hahn. What is being discussed? And also, did the White House get a heads up that the UK was going to be approving the Pfizer vaccine?
MS. MCENANY: I do — I'm not aware of any heads up that we were given. But what I will say about Dr. Hahn is: It is par for the course for the Chief of Staff to meet with him as we're trying to save American lives with a vaccine in record time — in fact, two vaccines, not only a vaccine in record time.
You heard Moncef Slaoui say a vaccine normally takes anywhere from 4 years to 25 years. He said that in an interview last week, and this was in 10 months. It's remarkable progress, but we still want to make sure that it comes as fast — as expeditiously, but as safely as possible, because we know by — that each day that passes, there are more American lives at stake. So we want to make sure it comes out as quickly as the data allows it to.
And we will have 40 million doses by the end of the year, which is a tremendous achievement — not just to have gotten a vaccine in this time, but to have produced 40 million in advance. It's — having a businessman as President, it's the Trump vaccine.
Q: Thanks. I had a couple of policy things, but first I just wanted to go back to what you said about personnel. Right before the election, in a rally, the President suggested that he might fire Dr. Fauci after — after the vote had happened. And so I was wondering if you could comment on what Dr. Fauci's status is and if you have any (inaudible).
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I've had — I've heard no discussions of that. Dr. Fauci is still hard at work on the task force.
Q: And then there were two things that the President mentioned as policy goals that would happen before the election that we haven't seen any sort of obvious progress on, so I wanted to check in on those.
The first is the 200-dollar Medicare Prescription Drug Card; that was supposed to happen before the election. It seems to have sort of vanished, so I was wondering if you could give an update on that.
MS. MCENANY: Let me follow up with the Chief of Staff on that. I haven't heard any current discussions about it, but I will follow up with you.
Q: And then, he had also promised an immigration order — an executive order on immigration that would protect DREAMers. Again, he promised that before the election. Do you have any update?
MS. MCENANY: He put forth many different immigration packages on HB1 [sic] visas and others to protect American workers. I'll circle back, but there were many iterations of immigration EOs prior to the election.
Q: Are those — is that work progressing at this point? Or are you sort of throwing in the towel?
MS. MCENANY: I think right now the focus is making sure that there is stimulus relief for Americans who are hurting right now. So that is the current active policy priority that we are working on moment by moment, along with COVID.
Q: Kayleigh, as demonstrated by the large red ribbon out here on the White House, yesterday was World AIDS Day. The President issued his proclamation yesterday, but, consistent with his previous three proclamations, omitted any reference to LGBTQ: people, even though they bear the brunt of HIV/AIDS. The President included a reference to racial and ethnic minorities, so why not LGBTQ: people?
MS. MCENANY: The President honored World AIDS Day yesterday in a way that no President has before, with the red ribbon there. And I think that he commemorated the day as he should have.
Q: But that doesn't explain why there's no reference to LGBTQ: people in the proclamation.
MS. MCENANY: Charlotte, go ahead.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. I wanted to ask about Section 230. Is President Trump wanting to allow a government shutdown over that and the national defense bill?
MS. MCENANY: The President has made clear the importance of 230, and he — I would point you to his tweet about how that pertains to the NDAA.
One thing I would say: When you look at 230 — just to explain for the American public exactly what that is, it's essentially a shield that is given to social media networks because they claim to be the public square. But in the case of Twitter, Twitter has become a publisher, choosing to fact-check certain content.
And when you're a publisher, there are certain responsibilities with that. You should not be immune from liability. And when you look at what Twitter has done, on the Ayatollah Khamenei — we were just looking at his Twitter account before coming out here. And just a few weeks ago, the Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran tweeted, quote, "Why is it a crime to raise doubts about the Holocaust?" — something not worthy of a flag by Twitter, which is despicable when you think about it.
Also, the Ayatollah has tweeted that Israel is a "deadly, cancerous growth" that should be "uprooted and destroyed" — something that Twitter did not deem worthy of flagging or blocking in its entirety. And, in fact, Twitter executives defended that move in front of the Knesset.
This is a very important issue — one that there's even bipartisan agreement that something needs to be done. So the President will be unashamed and fighting against that kind of vitriol that we see and very hateful language that Twitter is publishing.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. Just one more question about Section 230. The Democratic Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, he put out a statement essentially saying that these two things are not related — Section 230 and something as big and important for our national security as the NDAA.
So is — I just want to be clear here: Is President Trump seriously considering and talking about vetoing the NDAA over Section 230?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, the President is serious about it.
And I noted, you know, when you have other world leaders that are making calls for genocide and Twitter not finding that worthy of flagging or blocking.
Beyond that, you look at China who is putting out disinformation. China tweeted out — I believe it was six days ago — I think it was November 25th — that "COVID-19 did not originate in Wuhan," something that was not deemed worthy of flagging by Twitter. There are real grave concerns here, and the President stands by that.
And it also is worth noting that the President will always defend our military and ensure that we get adequate defense funding, as he's gotten $2.9 trillion so far. But he is going to put the pressure on Congress to step up on this.
Q: And one more question about Attorney General Bill Barr's comments. I believe you said that President — you're not sure if President Trump and the Attorney General have spoken since he made those comments. Was that right?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, I'm not sure if they've spoken.
Q: But can you at least tell me, was President Trump upset when he heard the Attorney General say that he has not seen, or the DOJ has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud enough to overturn the outcome of the election?
MS. MCENANY: I haven't spoken with the President specifically about AG Barr or that comment.
And I would also just point everyone to the revised — or the supplemental, I should say, not revised, comment that was put out by AG Barr in the wake of media reporting that seemed to misconstrue his statement. He said this: That "some media outlets have" — not he; I should say the DOJ spokesperson. "Some media outlets have incorrectly reported that the Department has concluded its investigation of election fraud and announced an affirmative finding of no fraud. [And] that is not what the AP reported nor what the AG stated."
I think a lot of the media didn't read beyond that one comment: the civil part versus the criminal part.
Q: Well, I think maybe the discrepancy is, you know, you have members of the Trump campaign coming forward and saying that there is hard evidence of widespread voter fraud, enough to overturn the outcome of the election, and then you have the nation's top law enforcement officer, the Attorney General, saying, if there is, he hasn't seen it.
MS. MCENANY: Well, the Attorney General was speaking to what has come before his desk. And, again, I'd point you to the campaign for specific questions on this. But I would just say, generally, they are pursuing civil litigation, which, in fact, the Attorney General explicitly said some of this is meant more for civil litigation, which is what the campaign is currently pursuing.
Q: Kayleigh, is the President seriously considering skipping the inauguration?
MS. MCENANY: I'll leave that to the President to make his announcement. He tweeted something to the effect of "he knows what his decision is, and he'll make his decision at the right time."
Q: But what rationale could he possibly have for skipping it?
MS. MCENANY: I'm not going to speculate on the President's decision. I'll leave that to him to announce it.
Q: And just one follow-up.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah.
Q: There was a report yesterday on federal officials investigating a potential "bribe for pardon" scheme. Has anybody at the White House been questioned by federal law enforcement officials regarding potential bribes for pardon?
MS. MCENANY: No. And, in fact, a DOJ official said yesterday that, "No government official was or is currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing."
Q: Yeah. So, thanks for taking my question. I wanted to ask about FBI Director Wray, though it looks like President- Elect Biden wants to keep him in his job. Does that change the President's perspective on FBI Director Wray? And is — does he retain full confidence in him?
And I have just a quick follow-up.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, he's made no assessments, at least in my presence, about that. And if we have any personnel announcements, we'll let you know.
Q: Okay, great. And can I just follow up on the — on the vaccine issue? You said "40 million doses." I recall the President saying, and perhaps even you saying that you were looking for 100 million doses by the end of the year. That 40 million is quite a bit short. So can you just clarify that number?
MS. MCENANY: So, there are currently six vaccines that we have identified as vaccines that we were hopeful would come to fruition. And with each — with several of those, if not each of them — I can follow up with you on the exact number — we have manufacturing contracts. We have manufactured doses with several of these.
But it is — we — they have to come to completion. So, with each new vaccine that comes, along with that will come millions and millions of doses that have already been manufactured in time.
But, currently, of the four vaccines in phase three clinical trial — Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Janssen — two of those have gotten to the point of applying for an EUA. So, really, it's incumbent on the manufacturer and those going through the phase three clinical trial to get that data to us, and then it's manufactured and ready to go.
So the moment someone else gets to a 94 percent effectiveness rate, or whatever the barometer is, we will have those doses.
Q: Yeah. Thanks, Kayleigh. I have just two quick questions, if I could. Georgia officials have said election workers there are facing threats because of the President's false claims on winning the state and his rhetoric around the election. Does the President condemn threats against election workers, or does he take any responsibility for those threats?
MS. MCENANY: We condemn any threats against anyone. There's no place for violence. What I will say, though, too, is that the President's lawyers — they were doxed by a left organization; their private information put out. So we're seeing that happen to people on both sides of the argument, and there's no place for that ever, anywhere.
Q: And then just real quick: The CDC Director today said that the next few months could be among the worst public health months in American history. I wondered, does the White House — is it setting a good example for the public — for White House to be doing in-person holiday parties at a time when the CDC and other organizations are asking Americans to forego those kinds of celebrations for their own safety?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so, you know, if you can loot businesses, burn down buildings, engage in protest, you can also go to a Christmas party, you can celebrate the holiday of Christmas, and you can do it responsibly, which is why the East Wing has noted that they'll have smaller guest lists, masks are going to be available, social distancing is going to be encouraged, hand sanitizing stations, among other measures. But we will engage in the celebration of Christmas, and there will be a Hanukkah celebration as well.
Yes. Yes, Meridith.
Q: Thanks. Does President Trump — has he had any kind of conversations with allies on Capitol Hill about challenging Joe Biden's Electoral College votes? With Congress, we saw one of his allies today said he plans to do that. Is that a conversation that the President has had at all?
MS. MCENANY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: Yes. The White House Coronavirus Task Force is privately telling governors that Americans under the age of 40 who gathered with people outside their households at Thanksgiving are dangerous to others and should isolate immediately. Why is the White House not publicly sharing that same information with Americans?
MS. MCENANY: You said that was in a — what document was that?
Q: The White House Coronavirus Task Force is privately telling governors.
MS. MCENANY: That those that had Thanksgiving celebrations —
Q: That Americans under 40 — yeah.
MS. MCENANY: There is CDC guidance out there as to when you should and should not isolate, so I would point you to that. That's all been publicly available since the beginning of all this.
Q: Yeah, thanks, Kayleigh. So if some version of the Defense Authorization makes it to the President's desk with language that terminates Section 230, will he sign it into law, even if there's language in there that renames bases bearing Confederate, you know, names or — named after Confederate officials?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, he said before he's very much against the Warren amendment, and public polling is with him on that. How that intersects with the 230 tweet, I will have to follow up with him about. I don't know if that position has changed given what he tweeted recently, but I will follow up on that.
Q: And then on China —
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: — Joe Biden told the Times that he doesn't want to roll back the China tariffs or the phase one trade deal. Do you know if the President plans on reaching out to Mr. Biden to talk about, you know, China trade, since it's been such a hot policy issue — or any other policy really — before January 20th?
MS. MCENANY: I'm not aware of any plans of that at the moment, but if I — if I do, I'll let you know.
Q: You gave some examples of, you know, lawmakers who've been talking about COVID. But I am curious, where has President Trump been in offering public leadership on this topic of the coronavirus, especially as we've seen cases surge? We haven't seen the President make any sort of public comments, or even tweets, about this surge in cases. So I'm curious what sort of examples you have.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, quite a bit. I mean, he's created the greatest testing system in the world. He gave a press conference about two weeks ago, I believe, on the vaccine, which he has done at warp speed because he's torn down bureaucratic barriers. He's been hard at work. He's done I don't know how many coronavirus task force briefings from this podium. But the work he's done speaks for itself.
The fact that now the case fatality rate in this country is 2 percent; it was 6 percent in April. And what that means is, it's a testament to our therapeutics.
Another thing that happened recently, in fact, mid-November — it got almost no attention but it's, again, a testament to the President — is the two new therapeutics. They are renditions of mon- — one is a monoclonal antibody, another one is a Regeneron therapeutic. And these two therapeutics are given to people with mild to moderate COVID symptoms that are at high risk for severe COVID or hospitalization.
So the fact that we've got to the point where we now have therapeutics we can give you in advance to try to prevent you from going to a hospital, and we've sent out 169,000 vials of one and 36,000 vials of another just in a few weeks — he's hard at work at this with the task force behind the scenes.
And when we talk about, you know, his public leadership, just on COVID generally, I think it's a fitting time, given your question, to note Dr. Fauci now says that we should keep the schools open. He said that this Sunday. This is something the President has said for months.
It caused me to go back to July and look at one of my briefing books from July 16th, 2020. And what I found in there was this: The science was always on our side about keeping schools open way back in July. It's being acknowledged now, but in July you had Dr. Redfield saying, "Unlike flu, kids are not driving the transmission cycle." You had Dr. Atlas, who has been a leading voice on keeping the schools open, saying everyone else in the Western world — "our peer nations are doing it. We can do it." This is back in July.
We had a study from the Netherlands, about few reports of infections from schools that had stayed open. This was back in July. You had a Yale School of Public Health professor, named Albert Koh, saying that the bottom line is the impacts of COVID-19 on children is "minimal or very low compared to other groups." There was a Lancet quote to that same effect — this was back in July — when the President was saying, "Keep the schools open. I'm looking at the science. It's detrimental to keep kids out of school."
But what were Democrats saying? When the President was following the science, here is what Democrats were saying: You had Governor Gavin Newsom say this: "I'm not taking pressure from Trump on opening schools." You had Governor Cuomo saying, "It's not up to the President about opening schools," as schools were shut down. You had Mayor de Blasio — who, interestingly, reversed himself this week, and now kids can go back to school. But back in July, when the science was on our side, he was saying, "What we won't do is ignore the science and recklessly charge ahead like our President," who was always following the science.
You had Jennifer Rubin tweeting that "Now he wants to kill your kids." I'm not sure how that's responsible reporting.
And then you had Anderson Cooper saying that he actually just doesn't care about kids at all, nor the health of their teachers and parents.
And you had the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association railing against the President as well.
The President has followed the science. He's also kept in mind we have a Constitution. And he will be unashamed in always advocating for the science and the best interest of the children of this country.
Thank you very much.
END 1:30 P.M. EST
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/347202