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Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for Allentown, Pennsylvania

May 14, 2020

The President. Hello, everybody. So we're going to Pennsylvania, and we will have a great time in Pennsylvania. It's a tremendous State. They ought to start thinking about opening it up. You have a lot of people want their freedom, and they'll get their freedom very soon.

We've been doing very well in the numbers. And I'm going to have Kayleigh say a couple of words.

Kayleigh, please.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Hi, there. I just wanted to outline our pandemic preparedness. The Obama-Biden plan that has been referenced was insufficient; it wasn't going to work. So what our administration did, under the leadership of President Trump, is do an entire 2018 Pandemic Preparedness Report.

Beyond that, we did a whole exercise on pandemic preparedness in August of last year and had an entire after-action report put together. In other words, the Obama-Biden paper packet was superseded by a President Trump-style Pandemic Preparedness Response plan.

The President. Which was much better, which was much more complete, and which was a lot tougher. We were given very little when we came into this administration. And they've done a fantastic job. And I think we're going to have a vaccine by the end of the year, and I think distribution will take place almost simultaneously, because we've geared up the military. And you'll see that tomorrow.

All right. Anything else? Kayleigh?

Press Secretary McEnany. We'll have a full update tomorrow for you guys at the briefing, line by line, of how prepared we were for this pandemic, thanks to the leadership of President Trump.

The President. Thank you. And, Alex, you're going with us.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II. Yes. Do you want me to talk about our——

The President. Sure.

Secretary Azar. Yes. So you know, Dr. Bright is up there testifying today. Everything he's complaining about was achieved. Everything he talked about was done. He talked about—he says he talked about the need for respirators. We worked to—we procured respirators, under the President's direction. He said we needed a Manhattan Project for vaccines; this President initiates a vaccine "Manhattan Project," diagnostic "Manhattan Project," therapeutic "Manhattan Project."

Oh, and by the way, whose job was it to actually lead the development of vaccines? Dr. Bright. So while we're launching Operation Warp Speed, he's not showing up for work to be part of that.

So this is like somebody who was in a choir and is now trying to say he was a soloist back then. What he was saying is what every single member of this administration and the President was saying: "We need more personal protective equipment. We need more ventilators. We need therapeutics. We need vaccines." Every single thing this President was on, this President achieved. And Dr. Bright was part of a team and was simply saying what everybody else at the White House and at HHS was saying. Not one bit of difference.

And on hydroxychloroquine, Dr. Bright literally signed the application for an FDA authorization of it. Literally, he's the sponsor of it. So this just—his allegations do not hold water. They do not hold water.

Q. Mr. President——

The President. So we have had some great response in terms of doctors writing letters and people calling on the hydroxychloroquine. And this guy is fighting it. No reason to fight it. There's no reason. But more importantly than that, we've had tremendous response to the hydroxy. We've had the great response to zinc, along with it, and the Z-Pak. So a lot of people have sworn by it. And we'll see.

But I'll tell you what: To me—I watched this guy for a little while this morning—to me, he's nothing more than a really disgruntled, unhappy person. And I'm not just talking about Alex, because Alex said it strongly, but there are a lot of people that do not like the job he did. I don't know him. I never met him. I don't want to meet him. But I watched him, and he looks like an angry, disgruntled employee, who, frankly, according to some people, didn't do a very good job.

All right. Any other questions?

Senator Richard M. Burr

Q. Chairman Burr just announced he's stepping down. Your reaction?

The President. Who is stepping?

Q. Chairman Burr. Senator Burr.

The President. He announced he's stepping down?

Q. Temporarily. During the——

The President. I didn't know that. No.

Q. Have you ever discussed the investigation into Senator Burr with anyone at the Justice Department?

The President. No, I never have. No, I didn't know. When did he announce he's stepping down?

Q. A short time ago—temporarily, from his chairmanship.

The President. I don't know anything about it. Nothing about it. No, I never discussed it with anybody. That's too bad. That's too bad.

Go ahead.

China-U.S. Relations

Q. What do you mean by cutting relations with China? What would that look like?

The President. We'll see. We'll see. We've got a lot of things going with China. We're not happy about China, I will tell you that. The ink wasn't dry on a great trade deal, and all of a sudden, the plague comes in from China. We're not happy about it.

World Trade Organization/China

Q. Sir, the WH—WTO chief is stepping down a year early. What do you think that means for—— The President. I'm okay with it. I'm okay with it. The WT—if you look at the World Trade, not only the World Health—and we'll be making an announcement on the World Health Organization shortly, soon. Probably next week sometime.

But the World Trade Organization is horrible. We've been treated very badly. I've been saying it for a long time. And we act on it. When I talk, we act on it. The World Trade, they treat China as a developing nation. Therefore, China gets a lot of the benefits that the U.S. doesn't get. They have other countries that are developing nations. And the people sitting in the Oval Office should never have let that happen.

I'm going to Pennsylvania.

Yes.

Coronavirus Mortality Rates/Coronavirus Testing Access

Q. Mr. President, do you think the CDC is overcounting death—death counts?

The President. I don't know how they're counting. I never discussed it with them. Death is death. We don't want people dying in this country. And we've done a great job. We've done a great job.

I'll tell you what: What we've done on ventilators and what we've done on testing—except the press doesn't write it that way, because you have all this fake news. But what we've done on testing, we've now tested more than the entire world put together. The entire world put together, we have many more tests than they do and better tests. And the reason we have more cases is because we have more testing.

We've done a great job, and the people—the men and women—that have done this great job should be acknowledged by the press.

Q. Sir, do you have a succession plan?

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Sir——

Q. Sir, is there a succession plan in place?

The President. I can't hear a word you're saying. Go ahead.

Q. Is there a succession plan——

The President. I can't hear.

Q. ——in place in case something happens?

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Sir——

Q. Is that why——

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:23 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House prior to boarding Marine One. In his remarks, he referred to former Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority Director Rick A. Bright. A reporter referred to Director-General Roberto Azevêdo of the World Trade Organization.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for Allentown, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/341955

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