Photo of Donald Trump

The President's News Conference

September 23, 2020

The President. Hello. Thank you very much. Thank you. Today Johnson and Johnson announced that their vaccine candidate has reached the final stage of clinical trials. This is record time. This is the fourth vaccine candidate in the United States to reach the final stage of trial. So we have four candidates already at a very late date. "Late" being a very positive word, in this case.

Earlier this year, Johnson and Johnson anticipated that they would reach phase one trials by September. But due to our support under Operation Warp Speed, and to some of the incredible scientists involved, they've reached phase three trials by September, far ahead of schedule. We encourage Americans to enroll in the vaccine trial. It's not only interesting, it will be a terrific thing for our country. We encourage everybody to enroll, as many people as we can.

Today my administration announced that we are awarding $200 million of CARES Act funding to all 50 States to prepare to distribute the vaccine to high-risk residents, and we want to do that the instant it is approved, not the following day, but the following moment. And so we're going to be doing that, and we'll be distributing, getting it ready, because we have some great vaccines going to be coming out.

Through Operation Warp Speed, we also continue to accelerate lifesaving therapies. We're seeing promising results that our monoclonal antibody treatments—which help the immune system fight the virus and help very significantly—we're finding can reduce hospitalizations now by more than 70 percent.

By cutting the redtape and unleashing America's medical genius, we've reduced the fatality rate 85 percent since April. For individuals under 50, they have a 99.98-percent rate of survival from the China virus. And that's a number that's been really increasing substantially with time.

As children go back to school, we're encouraged that early research shows only a small degree of spread. Brown University conducted a study of more than 550 schools across 46 States and found that only 0.076 percent of students had confirmed cases of the virus—that's a tiny percentage—and only 0.15 percent of teachers had confirmed cases.

Patients coming to the emergency room due to the virus is down to only 1.6 percent of all emergency room visits, the lowest since the pandemic began—1.6 percent emergency room visits.

As far as protecting the vulnerable is concerned, we provided over $21 billion to our nursing homes, and we are really focused on the nursing homes. Everybody, including our Governors—we have Governors who are working very closely with the Task Force and with the Vice President and everybody involved. We've sent rapid-testing devices to nearly 14,000 certified nursing homes in the country.

This week, we're sending hundreds of thousands of additional rapid tests to nursing homes to ensure they can test staff regularly. And the staff now is being tested on a very, very powerful and on a regular basis, but very strongly at the finest level, the highest level, and the best tests.

We're encouraged that the number of Americans getting the flu vaccine is increasing by roughly 50 percent compared to last year. It's substantially up. The flu, when it's mixed with COVID, or China virus, is going to be very interesting to see what happens. But that can drive numbers. And we just don't know what that will be yet, but you'll have flu numbers, and you'll have some COVID numbers.

I think we're rounding the turn very much. You see what's happening in Europe, however. They have a very big spike. Countries that we thought were doing well aren't doing well. They had some very big spikes. Very—a very big surge.

Months ago, we increased our Nation's procurement of the flu vaccine by 66 percent, and we ask Americans to go get their annual flu shot as early as possible. It's possible, I would imagine, Scott, that the flu can get mixed up with the virus, and people can think it's the virus when actually it's another flu season coming on. I don't know, it's—I hope they can keep them separate. Can they keep them separate?

White House COVID-19 Pandemic Adviser Scott W. Atlas. We hope so.

The President. Huh? I doubt they will. [Laughter] It's going to be a very interesting time.

But we have a flu season coming up. We've had some flu seasons, which are really massive over the years—over many years. And we have some that are much less so. But it's still significant, so I hope they can separate them, because it's pretty close.

In the past 4 months, we've created 10.6 million jobs. We cut unemployment rate nearly in half. The unemployment rate is cut nearly in half. Larry Kudlow is here. He'll be discussing that in a little while. Retail sales are up 121 percent; that's far above what we thought. Manufacturing is up 61 percent; that's above—also above our schedule, and our schedule is a heavy schedule. Automobile production is up six-fold. Homebuilder sentiment is at the highest level in history. That's an amazing statement, Larry, the highest level in history. That means people are thinking good thoughts.

Home sales are at the highest level in nearly 15 years. Small-business optimism is higher than any time under the last administration, substantially higher. Small-business optimism—higher than at any time over the last—more than the last administration.

Today I was proud to award nine companies and organizations with the first-ever Pledge to America's Workers Presidential Award. This award recognizes outstanding training programs that are giving Americans the skills to hone a trade and earn a great living. They're great people. Over 400 companies have competed and committed to 16 million training opportunities for the American worker, and it's really been amazing.

We've created the fastest economic recovery in American history. You are witnessing it. You are a part of it. Our approach is proscience. Biden's approach is antiscience. If you look, it's—I don't think they know what their approach is, although a lot of it's copied from what we've done.

Biden opposed the China travel ban and the Europe travel ban. And the strategy that they have was just never-ending lockdowns. We're not locking down. We're actually growing at a rate that we've never experienced before. But they're talking about—if you have a question, just lock it down. We're not doing that, and you can't do that.

Our plan will crush the virus. And actually, Biden's plan will crush America, if you think about it. You can't lock down. Again, we're growing at levels that nobody has ever seen before. Our plan is unleashing a rapid recovery. Our opponent's plan would hurt America very badly. It would send us into a depression.

And with all of that being said, we are going to be having a very exciting Saturday at 5 o'clock in the Rose Garden, where I'll be putting forth my nominee for Supreme Court Justice. And I think it will be a great nominee, a brilliant nominee. As you know, it's a woman. We brought it down to five women. It's time for a woman to be chosen, with everything that's happened and with Justice Ginsburg's passing.

We are going to go sometime tomorrow morning, as I understand it, to pay our respects. And we'll be over there, and I guess they probably put that announcement out. But that will be done tomorrow morning. The Vice President was there today.

And so, if you have any questions, we'll take a few questions.

Yes. Please go ahead. Please.

2020 Presidential Election/Vote-by-Mail Policies

Q. Mr. President, real quickly: Win, lose, or draw in this election, will you commit here, today, for a peaceful transferal of power after the election? And there has been rioting in Louisville. There's been rioting in many cities across this country—red and—your so-called red and blue States. Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power after the election?

The President. Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster. And—and——

Q. I understand that, but people are rioting. Do you commit to making sure that——

The President. Oh, I know. I know. Yes, no, we want——

Q. ——there's a peaceful transferal of power?

The President. We want to have—get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very transfer—we'll have a very peaceful—there won't be a transfer, frankly; there'll be a continuation.

The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than——

Q. No, sir. I don't know that.

The President. ——anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.

Go ahead.

Q. No, sir. Mr. President, the second question is, will you also——

Q. Thank you. Will you——

The President. Please, go ahead. Please, go ahead.

Q. Why won't you commit—why won't you——

The President. You asked a question.

Go ahead, please.

Q. Mr. President, why won't you——

Q. Mr. President, do you plan to——

The President. Say it.

Supreme Court Nomination Process

Q. Mr. President, do you plan to meet with Barbara Lagoa at the White House?

The President. Can you—I cannot hear you through your mask.

Q. I'm sorry. Do you plan to meet with Barbara Lagoa in Washington? And is she still on your shortlist?

The President. She is on my list. I don't have a meeting planned, but she is on my list.

Q. Do you—do you have a——

The President. But I don't really talk about the meetings planned. I— speak to people. I talk to people. But I don't have a meeting planned. No.

Q. Do you have a response to the Governor of Missouri testing positive for coronavirus?

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

Yes, John [John Roberts, Fox News], please.

Kentucky Grand Jury Decision on the Police-Involved Death of Breonna Taylor/Protests in Louisville, Kentucky

Q. Mr. President, we asked you earlier today about the Breonna Taylor case.

The President. Yes.

Q. Could you comment now? I assume you've been briefed on the——

The President. I have.

Q. ——charges in the Breonna Taylor case?

The President. Well, I thought it was really brilliant. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is doing a fantastic job, I think he's a star. And he made a statement that I'll just read: "Justice is not often easy. It does not fit the mold of public opinion and it does not conform to shifting standards. It answers only to the facts and to the law. If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice. Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice—it just becomes revenge."

I mean, I heard that, I said, "Write that down for me, please." Because I think it's—it was a terrific statement. He's handling it very well. You know who he is, right? You—I think you know. I think everyone now knows who he is.

I will be speaking to the Governor. And we have a call scheduled to make very shortly with the Governor. I understand he's called up the National Guard, which is a good thing. I think it's a very positive thing. And it will all work out.

Q. Mr. President, on that——

Supreme Court Nomination Process

Q. And could I—can I just—following on your Supreme Court nominee? It's highly unlikely that any Democrats will vote for your nominee if and when it comes to a vote in the Senate.

The President. Well, we don't know that. I mean——

Q. Given the—well, given the——

The President. ——it's an awfully good——

Q. Given the posture, I think——

The President. ——awfully good candidate.

Q. ——that's a pretty safe assumption. But, on that point, would you want to nominate someone who, in their confirmation to the appellate court, received broad bipartisan support? Or would you be more inclined to put forward somebody whose confirmation fell along party lines? The President. I can't tell you what's going to happen with the Democrats. I can say this: The person that I will be putting up—and I won't say that I've even chosen that person yet; I could say any one of the five. They're outstanding women.

But the person I'll be putting up is highly qualified, totally brilliant, top-of-the-line academic student, the highest credentials. All of them have that, but the highest credentials. And you'll see on Saturday who that is.

I can't imagine why a Democrat wouldn't vote for this person, but you may be right.

Q. Mr. President, to follow——

The President. Frankly, I'd bet on you.

Q. Mr. President——

The President. I'd probably bet on you.

Yes, please, go ahead.

Q. Thank you very much.

The President. No, I didn't—not you. Right here.

Q. Okay.

Duchess Meghan Markle of Sussex and Prince Harry of the United Kingdom

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle chimed in on the U.S. election and essentially encouraged people to vote for Joe Biden. I wanted to get your reaction to that.

The President. I'm not a fan of hers. [Laughter] And I would say this—and she has probably has heard that—but, I wish a lot of luck to Harry, because he's going to need it. [Laughter]

Yes, please. Go ahead.

Coronavirus Vaccine Development

Q. Mr. President, the FDA is reportedly considering stricter guidelines for the emergency authorization of a COVID vaccine. Are you okay with that?

The President. Well, I'll tell you what, we're looking at that, and that has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move, because when you have Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, these great companies coming up with these—the vaccines, and they've done testing and everything else, I'm saying, "Why would they have to be, you know, adding great length to the process?"

We want to have people not get sick. The vaccine is very important. It's the final step. I believe it's going to be the final step. And no, we're looking at that, but I think it's—that was a political move more than anything else.

Q. One follow-up on that, sir. It's designed to improve trust in the vaccine. Do you think that's not needed?

The President. Well, I have tremendous trust in these massive companies that are so brilliantly organized, in terms of what they've been doing with the tests. I mean, I don't know that a government, as big as we are, could do tests like this. We've made it possible for them to do the tests in rapid fashion.

But when they come back, and they say that we have something that works and absolutely works, and they're coming back with great numbers and statistics and tests and everything else that they have to come back with, I don't see any reason why it should be delayed further. Because if they delay it a week or 2 weeks or 3 weeks, you know, that's a lot of lives you're talking about.

Scott, would you agree with that or how do you feel about that? Please, Scott.

Pandemic Adviser Atlas. Yes, thanks. Yes, I mean there is no—I think that people don't understand what's going on with Operation Warp Speed. It's unprecedented what's happened here.

A typical vaccine takes roughly 4 years or so, and now we're going to have a vaccine—highly likely—in far less than 1 year, but without cutting any safety corners, because the President has done things concomitant to the development of the vaccine: that is, the manufacturing and the logistics. Everything is being done at the same time, and that's never been done before.

But there is zero cutting of safety concerns. There is—there should be no hesitation about the safety. You shouldn't be punished by doing something faster than other people could have done or thought; it's the opposite. We have a pandemic. The urgency is the pandemic, not politics.

Q. Are you amending——

The President. It sounded to me—it sounded extremely political. Why would they do this when we come back with these great results? And I think you will have those great results, because why would we——

Coronavirus Vaccine Development

Q. Well, when do you expect this vaccine then?

The President. Why would we be delaying it? But we're going to look at it. We're going to take a look at it. And ultimately, the White House has to approve it. And maybe we will, and maybe we won't. But we'll be taking——

Q. Mr. President——

The President. Look, I have to leave for an emergency phone call. I'm going to let Scott and Larry finish up. Larry is going to talk about the economy.

Q. Mr. President, just one more question on Breonna Taylor, if I can?

Q. What's the emergency phone call about?

The President. So I'll be—I'll be back. I will see you tomorrow. A big day.

Q. Mr. President, if you can, just one more question on Breonna Taylor.

The President. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me.

Q. We're at a time right now where Americans——

Q. Who's the call?

Q. ——feel like we are on this carousel——

The President. Say it?

Q. Who's the call?

The President. I have a—a big call. A very big call.

Q. Mr. President, just one more question, if I can, on Breonna Taylor?

The President. So I'll let you take over. Q. People are protesting in the streets. What is your message to them? People feel like we are on this carousel where another Black life is being taken.

[At this point, the President left the press briefing. Pandemic Adviser Atlas and National Economic Council Director Lawrence A. Kudlow resumed the briefing and responded to questions from reporters.]

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:16 p.m. in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Democratic Presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; Amy Coney Barrett, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; Barbara Lagoa, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit; Joan Larsen, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; Allison Jones Rushing, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; Deputy White House Counsel Kate Comerford Todd; and Gov. Andrew G. Beshear of Kentucky. A reporter referred to Gov. Michael L. Parson of Missouri.

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

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