Photo of Donald Trump

The President's News Conference

August 04, 2020

The President. Hello, everybody. Thank you very much. Let me begin by sending America's deepest sympathies to the people of Lebanon, where reports indicate that many, many people were killed, hundreds more were very badly wounded in a large explosion in Beirut. Our prayers go out to all the victims and their families. The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon. We have a very good relationship with the people of Lebanon, and we will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack.

I also want to provide the latest on Tropical Storm Isaias. Approximately 600,000 are without power along the East Coast, and utility companies are working around the clock to restore service as quickly as possible. I spoke to Governor Cooper, I spoke to Governor DeSantis, and I spoke to all of the people at FEMA, and they're working very hard.

Coastal areas in the storm's path can expect to see the storm surge and rip currents, while inland areas could see flooding and very, very high winds. FEMA is responding to States that have requested the assistance. We have a list of those States; we can give them to you in a little while. And my administration is monitoring the situation very closely.

We have the military on guard, but we have—FEMA is there, in all cases. The Corps of Engineer is ready if needed—the Army Corps of Engineers. Very talented people. I urge everyone in the storm's path to remain alert and to follow the guidance of your State and local authorities.

I now want to update you on the path forward, having to do with the China virus. Before I do that, I want to give you some numbers, which are rather spectacular, that just came out. The manufacturing index of the Institute for Supply Management—that's "ISM"; most of you know it by "ISM"—increased for the third month in a row, rising nearly 2 points in July to 54.2—that's fantastic—the highest reading since March of 2019.

This is remarkable, considering the survey was conducted throughout July and showed significant improvement despite the Southwest, in particular, virus hotspots. The ISM measures—and it's a very strong measure of new orders. It rose 5 points in July, to 61.5, in its highest rating, that would be, since September of 2018. That's a big number.

Since the April low, new orders are up over 34 points, which is the largest increase in the history of the ISM, dating back all the way to 1948. So 34 points—that's the largest since 1948. Similarly, the ISM's measure of production is up 35 points from its April low to a reading of 62.1, which is the largest 3-month gain in over 70 years. That's some number. These were somewhat surprising, but I've been saying we're doing well, and those numbers are really spectacular.

Automobile sales, likewise, are a key factor in the resurgence of manufacturing since the March low of 8.8 million units with sales and all of the numbers that are going up, stunningly. Its 65-percent increase since then, to 14.5 million units, which is a massive number.

The great strength and great news is really for States like—in particular, Michigan; and Ohio; South Carolina; Pennsylvania, very good; Florida, a little bit. These are great numbers, record-setting numbers.

The strength in new car sales is also evident in the used car market, where soaring demand—literally, soaring demand—is putting upward pressure on the used car prices. This is a leading indicator of the motor vehicle industry. The need to restock depleted shelves will further galvanize the factory sector—and, we think, very substantially, based on the numbers. We're very, very happy with these numbers. And I think most people are anywhere from surprised to shocked by these numbers, in a very positive way.

Economy-wide, inventories crashed at a near $320 billion annualized rate last quarter. A crash, in that case, means a good thing, not a bad thing. That's the largest drop ever on record—ever.

Homebuilder sentiment, likewise, is soaring, as our home sales sentiment is now higher than last year. And new homes recently made a 13-year high. So we have a 13-year high in new home construction.

New business applications are very strong. That just came out. The widely followed Atlanta Fed GDP—and it's something that they have just come out with—now forecasts the new data point and incorporates it into quarterly estimates. It looks like it's showing a 20-percent annualized growth in the current quarter. So 20 percent in the current quarter; we'll take that all day long. I—let's see if that's right. That's a projection. So we'll see if that's right. The Atlanta Fed, very respected.

The virus—back to that—we are continuing to monitor and monitor, in particular, hotspots across the South, Southwest, and the West. And we're seeing indications that our strong mitigation efforts are working very well, actually, especially to protect those who are most at risk, which has really been our primary focus for—ever since we've gotten to understand this horrible, horrible plague that's been unleashed on our country by China.

As of yesterday, cases are declining in 70 percent of the jurisdictions, compared to 36 percent last Monday. That's a big, big number. Eleven out of 13 States with the positive rate above 10 percent have seen a decline in daily cases since mid-July. In other States, the data suggests that the need for continuing vigilance always is strong, even though the numbers are getting very good—States that have a test positivity rate between 5 and 10 percent. And in the States with the lowest positivity rates, we also see slight increases in daily cases in a couple of them.

We must ensure that these States do not become new flareups, so we're watching them very, very closely. Fortunately, thanks to substantial improvements in treatment and the knowledge we have gained about the disease itself, the recent rise in cases has not been accompanied by a significant increase in deaths.

Fatalities nationwide are at roughly half the level of the April peak. So the death—the number of deaths or fatalities are at half the level. One is too much—one death—because this should have never happened to us. It should have been stopped at—very easily, by China, in Wuhan.

Thanks to our major advances in treatment, we've seen vast improvements in recovery rates across all age groups. Compared to April, mortality rates are 85-percent lower among individuals aged 18 to 69, and 70-percent lower among individuals over 70 years old.

We've also made significant strides in sheltering those at highest risk, especially the elderly. Approximately 85 percent of all current cases are individuals under the age of 65—just getting some very accurate numbers on this. And these are people who are generally at a much lower risk of complications.

Since the pandemic began, nearly half of all fatalities have been at nursing homes or assisted living centers. That's an incredible statistic, when you hear that number. This data underscores that the best path forward is an aggressive strategy focused on protecting Americans at highest risk.

As we race toward the development of a vaccine, we must continue to take extraordinary precautions to shield the elderly, and we're doing that. We're doing that at a level that we've never even dreamt possible, both with testing and with common sense. And those with underlining [underlying]* conditions, especially the elderly with the underlining—whether it's heart or diabetes—they seem to be the two most predominant conditions that cause tremendous problems. While allowing those at lowest risk to carefully return to work and to school.

Where embers flare up, we must engage immediately, and that's what we're doing. This is the science-based approach, and that's good with us. Working very hard on that. An extended lockdown would fail to target resources at the highest risk populations, while inflicting massive economic pain, long-lasting damage on society and public health as a whole.

So there won't be lockdowns, but we watch specific areas. We're very careful, and we're putting out embers. We're putting out flames. When you look at what's happening with Miami, and it's going—the numbers are going down. But Florida is going down very significantly. Texas and California are going down rather significantly.

On telemedicine, as we discussed the last time, as—and as I said numerous times during this day, it's an incredible thing that's happening. A central part of our effort to protect the elderly is to greatly expand access to telehealth, so seniors can be treated from the safety of their homes. And that's what's happening. The number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth increased from roughly 14,000 a week to nearly 1.7 million—so from 14,000 to 1.7 million per week. In total, 10 million Medicare beneficiaries have accessed telehealth services since the pandemic began. That's a tremendous thing that's happened with telehealth.

As we shelter those at high risk, we are also pouring every resource at our disposal into the development of therapies and vaccines. Two vaccine candidates are currently in the final stage of clinical trials, with several more vaccine candidates entering phase three in the coming weeks. And you've read and seen what's happened today. Today's news was very exciting.

Through Operation Warp Speed, we're also mass producing all of the most promising vaccine candidates, and we're determined to have a vaccine very quickly. We think we're going to have something very soon.

We have great companies. These are the—among the greatest companies in the world. But right now they don't like me so much because I'm forcing them to drop drug prices—prescription drug prices—very massively. Some of these companies are involved in that; some of them aren't. We're having a tremendous—you'll see a tremendous drop in price. We're using favored nations; we're using the rebates. We're using everything.

For so long, I've heard about how wealthy the middlemen are. They call them "the middlemen." And they are very wealthy. Nobody even knows who they are, but they're very wealthy people.

And we're doing the rebates. We're doing purchases from other countries, like Canada, which buys drugs for much less money than the United States is allowed to, under a very bad system. I don't call it "archaic"; I call it "bad" because it's meant, really, for drug companies to get higher prices.

But under the system of matching that we have, if Germany has a pill for 10 cents and ours is $2, we're allowed to say we want favored nations, and we want the pill for the same—the same as the lowest country in the world. If they sell to one country lower than anybody else, that's the price we're going to get. Drug companies aren't too happy about that, Big Pharma. We've also dramatically accelerated the availability of plasma therapies, steroid treatments, antivirals, and other therapies to treat the illness. Today the NIH—we're—very exciting—announced that they're beginning the trial of two new antibody treatments, which will take place in 40 cities across the country. We're going to move very quickly. Results look very good already. Incredible results.

More than 230 clinical trials for potential treatments are underway, and we've secured 500,000 courses of treatment for remdesivir—of remdesivir. We're really doing a job with it, and it's helping a lot of people. That's why you see the fatalities and mortality numbers looking very good, relatively speaking, that is. But that's for American hospitals through the month of September. So we have remdesivir at a very high level for hospitals through the month of September. That's big news.

The United States also has far and away the most robust testing capacity in the world. Testing has been incredible, what we've been able to do. Nobody is even close. Since March 12, we've increased daily testing by 32,000 percent. How's that? Thirty-two thousand percent. Somebody would say, "That must be a typo." It's not a typo. Thirty-two thousand percent.

We now have conducted over 61 million tests nationwide, averaging over 820,000 tests per day and nearly 5 million tests per week. And now that we're understanding the virus, we're understanding very much what we're doing with respect to who it affects, who it's destroying, and who gets away with it, like young people, very young people. We'll be having some interesting statements having to do a testing and focus testing. I call it "focus testing."

By comparison, Mexico—so we're doing numbers that are incredible. But by comparison, Mexico—as you know, the President was here; he's a great guy—but their numbers are much different. They do about 1 million tests. France has done 2.9 million tests. Canada is around the 4 million mark. Australia is around the 4 million mark. The United States is testing more people in a single week than, in many cases, large segments or large, well-known countries all put together. It's been an amazing achievement: the testing and the quality of the testing also. And now we're doing testing where you can have results in 5 minutes, in 7 minutes, and 15 minutes, as opposed to waiting to come back from labs—for it to come back from labs.

Over the last several weeks, HHS has opened surging testing sites in Baton Rouge; New Orleans; Phoenix; Miami; Jacksonville, Florida; McAllen, Texas; Bakersfield, California. And this week, we're opening new surge sites in Houston, Texas; Atlanta. To date, more than 130,000 tests have been conducted at these sites.

Last week, the FDA also authorized the first two tests that display an estimated quantity of antibodies present in the individual's blood, which is a big deal, allowing us to learn more about the immune response.

FEMA and HHS has worked with the private sector to deliver more than—we have new numbers—more than 200 million N95 masks, 855 million surgical masks, 36 million goggles and face shields, 364 million gowns and coveralls, and 21 billion gloves—billion. Can you believe that? Billion gloves.

And we distribute that to the Governors, different States. And they're—when we get on the phone with them, they're very happy, that I can tell you. No complaints from any of them. They're very, very happy. What they say to you separately maybe will change for political reasons, but they are very happy with the job we've done.

In our National Stockpile, we've tripled the number of N95 masks on hand to more than 40 million; tripled the number of gowns to 15 million; and quadrupled the number of ventilators to nearly 70,000. These numbers are growing every day, and we're now making thousands of ventilators—many thousands of ventilators—a month. And we're getting them to other countries who are desperately in need of ventilators. They're very hard to produce. They're very complicated machines. So we're fully stocked here, and we've made sure that every State is fully stocked, but we're getting them to a lot of countries that need help.

We'll continue to work with the Governors and local authorities to help them ensure significant hospital capacity, protective equipment, supplies, and medicine. I'm more confident than ever that we will get a vaccine very soon and we will defeat the virus.

And I want to thank you all for being here. We'll take a few questions.

Yes, please.

Eastman Kodak Company

Q. Mr. President, I wanted to ask you about Kodak. You had a big announcement the other day about getting Kodak into the pharmaceutical business, but the SEC is now investigating what happened. Can you say a word or two whether you think that there might have been some kind of a problem in terms of how those arrangements were made? Is there any grounds for concern, from your perspective?

The President. Well, I don't know. I wasn't involved in the deal. The concept of the deal is good, but I'll let you know. We'll do a little study on that, and we'll find out.

Q. Okay. And——

The President. If there's—if there is any problem, we'll let you know about it very quickly, but I wasn't involved in it.

It's a big deal. It's a way of bringing back a great area too, in addition to the pharmaceuticals. Kodak has been a great name, but obviously pretty much in a different business. And so we'll see what that's all about, but we'll let you know very quickly.

Yes, please.

Explosion in Beirut, Lebanon

Q. I just wanted to follow up, before I ask a coronavirus question, on Lebanon. You called this an "attack." Are you confident that this was an attack and not an accident?

The President. Well, it would seem like it, based on the explosion. I've met with some of our great generals, and they just seem to feel that it was. This was not a—some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event. This was a—seems to be, according to them—they would know better than I would, but they seem to think it was a attack. It was a bomb of some kind, yes.

Coronavirus Mortality Rates

Q. Interesting. And, on coronavirus, you've talked a lot about—when you talk about the mortality rate, the deaths as a proportion of cases, which—I understand that is significant when you look at how deadly the virus is or how good a country does at keeping people alive———

The President. Right.

Q. ——who get infected. But when you're talking about the scope of this virus, when you look at the percentage of the population that's died, there's only three countries that have more deaths than the U.S. So how do you explain that: that—why the percentage of the population who has died is so much higher in the U.S.? The President. Well, I think, actually, the numbers are lower than others. I'll get back to you on that. But we, proportionately, are lower than almost all countries. We're at the bottom of the list.

And we're—relative to cases, also, we're at the bottom of the list, which is a good thing, being at the bottom of the list. But I can get back to you. We have about four or five different lists on that. And we're, generally speaking, at the very bottom of the list. So I'll get back to you.

Q. Because when I—when I look at the Johns Hopkins, you know, Coronavirus Resource Center on their website, it says the most affected countries, when you look at deaths per 100,000 people of the population—so how many people in the population have died—you have the U.K., Peru, Chile, and then the U.S.

You know, Canada has 8,000, 9,000 deaths. Obviously, they're smaller than us, but that's only 6 percent of the population—you know, that's 6 percent of our total cases. So why are the deaths so much higher in the U.S.?

The President. Well, a lot of our numbers were based on the—New York had a very tough time, as you know. New York, New Jersey—that area. And when you take them out—just as an example, take a look at Florida, relative to New York.

That's not to say anything wrong with New York. It was just a very tough place. People are close together. It's crowded. It's not easy.

But when you take that out, our numbers are among the lowest. And even with it in—I will get back to you, but we have among the lowest numbers. They've done a fantastic job on it.

Yes, please. Go ahead.

Economic Stimulus Legislation/Deployment of Federal Law Enforcement Personnel to Portland, Oregon/The President's Executive Authority/Moratorium on Evictions

Q. Yes, Mr. President. I would like to ask a question about the election, but one thing on unemployment first. Are you considering taking executive action to extend or, rather, reinstate the unemployment benefits that expired last week, if Congress can't get a deal by the end of the week?

The President. Yes.

Q. And, as a general point, what rate, then, would you want in there: a percentage or a flat rate?

The President. We are looking at it. We're also looking at various other things that I'm allowed to do under the system, and—such as the payroll tax suspension. And so we're allowed to do things.

We're talking with the Democrats. They seem to be much more interested in solving the problems of some of the Democrat-run States and cities that have suffered greatly through bad management. I mean, really bad management. So that seems to be where they're looking for a trillion dollars to help out with cities that are run by Democrats, in some cases, radical-left Democrats that have not done a good job.

I appreciate—today the Wall Street Journal said very good things—that we did a great job in Portland by having our people go in. Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, and the folks—we went into Portland, and we've done a great job. And they had that in an editorial, that we really won that situation. But we want the whole—we did save the courthouse. The courthouse was going to be burned down or knocked down. It was in tremendous danger. We went in. We took care of it. And we appreciated what the Wall Street Journal said.

As far as the various things that I may or may not sign: I may not have to sign. I mean, progress is being made, as you know very well, on the Hill. We'll see what happens. But I have the right—including the payroll tax suspension. We may do some things.

We want to take care of the eviction problem. People are being evicted very unfairly. It's not their fault. It's China's fault; it's not their fault. And people are being evicted, and we can do that with an Executive order. So if we don't get—and we want to do it relatively quickly.

I mean, even from the standpoint of COVID, people get evicted, and then they go into shelters, and there are thousands of people in the shelters. And this is not a time—you never want to be in a shelter, but this is not a time to be in a shelter with the COVID. They catch it, they get it, and it's no good.

So I may have to do something on evictions too, because the Democrats, amazingly, don't want to do it. We offered them short-term deals, and we offered them lots of alternatives. But so far, the only thing they really want to do is bail out States that have been poorly managed by Democrats.

Okay. Please, go ahead.

Q. And if I could, on the election, sir—can I——

TikTok/Microsoft Corporation

Q. President Trump, on the sale of TikTok, you're basically arguing that the U.S. Government is going to collect a cut from a—of a transaction including two companies, in which it doesn't hold a stake in.

That's unprecedented. That's never happened in U.S. history before, and the administration has offered very little explanation about how that's going to work. Can you back your statement up and provide specifics about how that would work?

The President. Did you say, "That's impressive"? Did you actually use that term?

Q. I said it's "unprecedented."

The President. Oh, unprecedented—well, it's almost the same thing. Not quite. [Laughter] I like "impressive." I like "impressive" much better. Not quite, but close.

So TikTok—TikTok is very successful. It does tremendous business in the United States. People are riveted by it. I mean, I have many friends—when they saw that announcement, they're calling. And I think their kids love it; they don't. Because they don't get to see their kids anymore, but they are—it's an amazing thing, whatever it may be.

And I told Microsoft—and frankly, others—if they want to do it, if they make a deal for TikTok—whether it's the 30 percent in the United States or the whole company, I say: "It's okay. But if you do that, we're really making it possible, because we're letting you operate here."

So the United States Treasury would have to benefit also, not just the sellers. And I said, "Inform"——

Q. [Inaudible]—through a tax, or how?

The President. Very simple. I mean we have—we have all the cards because, without us, you can't come into the United States. It's like if you're a landlord, and you have a tenant. The tenant's business needs a rent; it needs a lease. And so what I said to them is, "Whatever the price is, a very big proportion of that price would have to go to the Treasury of the United States."

And they understood that. And actually, they agreed with me. I mean, I think they agreed with me very much.

Yes, please. In the back.

Q. Thank you, sir.

The President. So that deal may or may not happen. We've given them until September 15 or so, and we'll see.

If we can have it and there can be great security—meaning, the obvious security—Microsoft would be a company that would be good in that respect. They're approved in that respect at many levels, including working with the Department of Defense. And you know, they're very high-level approvals. So it would be good, but there are other companies also.

Yes, please.

TikTok/Security Risks of Foreign Technology Companies/Coronavirus Outbreak in China

Q. Thank you, sir. Have you or the—anyone in the administration reached out to other companies, aside from Microsoft, to see if they're interested in maybe buying——

The President. No, we've had other companies call us, and Microsoft called me directly. And we've had other companies call. I don't know where they are. It sounds like Microsoft is along the way of doing something. I don't blame them. It'd be—you know, it's great company. It's really a great company.

But we cannot take the security risks of any of those companies, including Huawei, which as you know, we put a halt to. But we can't take the security risk.

I think our attitude on China has changed greatly since the China virus hit us. I think it changed greatly. It hit the world, and it shouldn't have. They should have been able to stop it. So we feel differently. I just don't know. When you lose——

Q. Can you say what other companies?

The President. ——when you lose so many thousands of people, and—you know, ultimately, it'll be millions of people around the world. It's a terrible thing that happened to the United States and Europe and the entire world. Really a terrible thing.

Yes, please. Go ahead.

Coronavirus Testing Access and Technology

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. I have two quick questions: one on the virus and one on policing. On the virus, you said recently that there can be "too much testing." Can you explain what the downside would be from testing too many Americans for the virus and why you haven't provided a date by which all Americans might have the same kind of testing that we have here at the White House?

The President. Well, we do more testing than anybody in the world, as I explained—and I don't mean just a little bit. If you look at India, they're at about 11 million, and we're at 61 million. And there comes a point when you just—you want to focus your testing in a different way. And we'll be announcing some—what we've done is incredible with the testing. Not only the testing——

Q. Is there a downside though? The President. ——not only the number of tests, but also, very importantly, the quality of the test and the machinery itself to do the testing.

Nobody thought it would be possible to get a 5-minute and a 15-minute result that's a very accurate result, and we do, with Abbott. Abbott Laboratories has done a great job. Many of these companies have done an incredible job.

So we're looking at that very strongly. And we're looking at doing something that if we do—if we do it—look, right now what the testing is doing is helpful, but we're spending massive amounts of money, and we want to have it—we want to have it channeled very accurately. We want to be able to help the most people we can.

But we are testing at a level that no country in the world—and I've spoken to the leaders of the world, and they'll ask me about it—no country in the world thought it would be—it's even believable that we're able to test so much. Sixty-one million versus—you know, most countries don't even test. You know when they test? When somebody is feeling badly. If somebody is feeling badly, they're symptomatic, that's when they test. And that's a big difference.

With us, we go around and—looking, because if we find—we find spots. We find hotspots. One problem is, from the standpoint of the media, we end up with far more cases than we would normally show. So it's—you know, as I called it the other day in a statement, I said it's called "media gold." You know, for the media, it's gold.

But the truth is, it's—we've done an incredible job on testing. Nobody in the world has done the job. Other leaders have told me the same thing; they can't believe we're able to do it.

Q. And—[inaudible].

The President. And we will continue, but we want to really be able to test, very specifically, the people that are in most danger, most in need.

All right. Please, go ahead.

Q. And, on policing, sir——

Absentee Voting Policies/Florida/New York Democratic Primary Election/Nevada

Q. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask you first about what you tweeted out earlier today, in regards to Florida, and your comfortableness, as it relates to mail-in ballots——

The President. Yes.

Q. ——for Florida. What——

The President. Okay, I'm glad you're asking.

Q. Why does that apply to Florida and it doesn't apply to mail-in balloting across the country?

The President. So Florida has got a great Republican Governor, and it had a great Republican Governor. It's got Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott—two great Governors. And over a long period of time, they've been able to get the absentee ballots done extremely professionally. Florida is different from other States.

I mean, in Nevada, where you have a Governor—he said, "Let's just send out millions of ballots," and the Post Office cannot be prepared; I haven't spoken to the Post Office about it, but I don't know how they could possibly be prepared. Florida has been working on this for years. And they have a very good system of mail-in—and that would be absentee or even beyond absentee. So, in the case of Florida, there aren't too many people that would qualify.

They're so well run. Florida is a very well-run State: low taxes, low everything. They've done a great job, really a great job. And the two Governors, between the both of them, they've really got a great system of absentee ballots and even the—even in the case of mail-in ballots, the postal services have built up their—you know, it takes a long time.

When you look at the Carolyn Maloney election, I think they—and I'll give you the story: I think you have to do that election over. That election is no good. You have to take a look.

In New York, they have thousands of ballots. They don't know what happened to them. Is there fraud? Is there—it's a disaster. And that's only for a relatively small number of ballots. But I think they have to do the election in New York over.

The Times wrote a big story about it yesterday, front page story. It's a disaster. It's a mess. And they have to do that—I think they have to do that election over. Nobody can know what the election result is.

So, in the case of Florida, they've done a great job, and they've had tremendous success with it. But they've been doing this over many years, and they've made it really terrific. So, for Florida, you can mail in your ballots. You don't have to go. In maybe a couple of other States, they've worked out a system, but this took years to do. This doesn't take weeks or months.

In the case of Nevada, they're going to be voting in a matter of weeks. And you can't do that. I can't imagine the Post Office could do it. All of sudden, they're supposed to be dealing in millions of ballots?

But Florida has done a great job, and we have total confidence that if you mail in your ballot in Florida, it's going to matter.

Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 6:07 p.m. in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Gov. Roy A. Cooper III of North Carolina; President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf, Gov. Stephen F. Sisolak of Nevada; and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney.

* White House correction.

Donald J. Trump, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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