Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany 18 June

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:15 P.M. EDT

MS. MCENANY: Good afternoon, everyone. Great to join you today. So, five years ago today, nine innocent parishioners of a historically black church were killed during an evening Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. We all remember that tragedy, and this was a despicable act of evil that happened five years ago today. So we remember that somber day at that Charleston church, as our hearts still break for the victims and our prayers go out to the families.

Yesterday, President Trump led and brought our nation together behind real, meaningful, substantial change to ensure that we have safe streets and safe policing. Part of that was having an incentive structure to implement the highest professional standards in our police departments through an accreditation process.

This accreditation entails making sure you have de-escalation practices in place, use of force tactics in place. Part of that is prohibiting chokehold, except in the event where lethal force is used. It also incentivizes information sharing and makes sure that if they have an officer who’s had multiple uses of excessive force, that that information is sent to a national database.

And then, finally, another prong of this was having co-responders, who are experts in mental health, going alongside law enforcement, because we know law enforcement officials often have to deal with mental health, homelessness, and addiction. And having a co-responder, who is an expert in this process, will go a long way.

This is project — progress. It’s tangible action. And it’s solutions.

And today, Senator Tim Scott said this is “not a binary choice” between supporting police officers and between supporting victims of grave injustices, like George Floyd. It’s not a binary choice. There are not sides here. This is about America coming together. This is about human decency. And this is about justice. And when we see injustices, we recognize them.

As President Trump said yesterday, all children deserve equal opportunity because we are all made equal by God. That is so true.

First, let me point out that I have sat across from a police officer family that lost their loved one. I saw a little girl named Charlie, who will forever grow up without a father; who will forever grow up without a father for prom, for the father-daughter dance. And it was heartbreaking to know that she lost her father, who was a valiant hero.

But yesterday, I sat across from families who lost their loved ones in mass instances of injustice. And it was heartbreaking to hear their stories. It was a real tragedy. It was a tearful moment. It was an emotional moment. And it’s one that the President, when I asked him in the Oval Office about it afterwards, he said this: “I love those families. I want to help those families.” And President Trump means that. Because this is about humanity. That is ultimately what this is about.

And Senator Scott shared a very beautiful Bible verse with those families yesterday, and I just want to read it here, to close. Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He shared that Bible verse with those families, and it was particularly meaningful to me and, I think, to the families, as well.

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

Q First of all, you did a great job dealing with that feedback. I know that’s not — that’s not —

MS. MCENANY: Mix-minus.

Q Mix-minus — it’s the worst.

MS. MCENANY: Yes. Thank you.

Q All right. So the Trump administration — the Trump Justice Department has appointment six U.S. attorneys to examine the actions of the President’s political adversaries, but they’ve only opened one federal investigation into systemic bias in policing. So my question to you is: Why are so many resources being allocated to make sure the President and his allies were treated fairly by law enforcement and not the same for millions of black Americans?

MS. MCENANY: So I think you’re comparing two things that it’s not accurate to compare on the level of the number of —

Q They’re Justice Department investigations.

MS. MCENANY: — attorneys looking into.

First, we all know that this administration was dragged four years through a bogus investigation founded upon a dossier full of lies, funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. It was an injustice to the American people who elected President Trump as President of the United States, who was then bogged down by an investigation, which ended up with two words: no collusion.

That’s one —

Q But there were convictions. There were guilty pleas.

MS. MCENANY: That’s the first part of your question.

But as to the second part, this President has taken real, tangible, concrete action on the issue of policing. We saw that yesterday. Guess who hasn’t led? Democrats. They’ve engaged in meaningless symbolism as we saw them, you know, kneeling for minutes on end. But this President isn’t about gestures. It’s not about symbolism. It’s about action. It’s about making sure someone like George Floyd never dies in that manner ever again in this country.

Q He did not mention racial bias yesterday, nor does that executive order.

MS. MCENANY: This — first of all, this executive order addresses the issue at hand. And I thought my colleague Ja’Ron Smith handled this really well yesterday when he said this about the executive order on this very question from you. He said, “A lot of people want to make it about race, but it’s about communities and individuals. You’re trying to fix something that — you can’t really fix the heart of people, but you can fix individual pieces that deal with the real problem, which is access [to] opportunity.”

You can fix schools and remedy the disparities we see in schooling. You can fix policing to the degree we can, at the federal level, to incentivize good behavior and fair practices. You can fix the economy, as President Trump has done. He brought about the lowest economic unemployment rate for African American individuals, and paychecks going up prior to this pandemic when we had to artificially shut down the economy. You can fix the individual pieces, but it’s up to our country to change hearts.


Q Does the President — the President talked about chokeholds yesterday. The bill that’s been unveiled by the Republican Senator Scott and other Republicans does not ban chokeholds. Does he think it should?

MS. MCENANY: The President is fully in support of the Scott bill. They are working closely on that. And our EO puts an end to that, or incentivizes through the accreditation process to put an end to chokeholds in the — unless there’s lethal force used. We fully support the Scott bill and every element of it.

And one thing I would note about the Scott bill is: For years, we’ve tried to make lynching a federal crime in this country, and the Scott bill does it. It’s a great bill. It’s more great action from Republicans, and we hope we can have bipartisan support on that.

Q But to be clear, the executive order does not ban chokeholds. I mean, you can’t actually do that, I don’t believe, through an executive order. And this bill does not ban chokeholds. Do you think, does the President think that chokeholds simply should be banned?

MS. MCENANY: So what I have from the Justice Act here is that this will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds. And I would underscore the executive order does that through an incentivizing process. So we’ve done what we can, and we’ll continue to do more and we’ll continue to work with the Scott bill. And there might be amendments to it, there might not. But we want to see this come to fruition.


Q Because it does incentives; it doesn’t actually ban the practice? It encourages, but it doesn’t not actually ban the practice?

MS. MCENANY: Yes. Well, that is —

Q (Inaudible) Democrats (inaudible).

MS. MCENANY: We’re incentivizing to ban chokeholds and lessen the case of where lethal force is used. That’s the process that we’re using, and I’ll tell you this: It’s a much better process than the Democrats who, so far, have offered zero — nothing — except a lot of bad ideas about this that would ultimately, I would note, defund the police department.


Q Kayleigh, in the last day, 96 people in Tulsa have contracted the coronavirus. I’m wondering about this rally coming up on Saturday. Will the President or the White House take responsibility if people get sick and catch the coronavirus at this rally on Saturday?

MS. MCENANY: So the campaign has taken certain measures to make sure this is a safe rally: temperature checks, hand sanitizers, and masks. So we are taking precautions.

Q But you’re not requiring people to wear masks.

MS. MCENANY: They will be given a mask. It’s up to them whether to make that decision. CDC guidelines are recommended but not required.

Q And the CDC guidelines suggest that people practice social distancing. You’re not going to be able to practice social distancing in a rally with thousands of people. So aren’t you, in essence, bringing people to a rally where they won’t be abiding by those guidelines, adhering to those guidelines?

MS. MCENANY: It’s the personal choice of individuals as to what to do. But if we want to talk about internal coherence, I believe that the media needs to work on internal coherence.

This wonderful New York Post story — I don’t think Steven Nelson is here, but good job to the New York Post — highlights the hypocrisy of the media where this is okay: protesting; this is not okay: Trump rallies.

It’s really remarkable, and I think the American people have taken notice when, for instance, NBC tweets at 4:05 p.m. on June 14th: “Rally for Black trans lives draws [packed] crowds,” in Brooklyn Museum Plaza, seeming to be lauding the protests. And then, less than an hour and a half later, they say, “President Trump plans to rally…but health experts are questioning that decision.” CBS had a similar logically inconsistent tweet.

Q Kayleigh, these are protesters protesting against injustice, against racism and police brutality. This is a rally — a political rally. They’re — they’re not going to be demonstrating for any kind of cause other than supporting the President. And I go back to my original question: Will the White House, will the President take responsibility if there are people who catch the coronavirus and get sick? As you know, you’ve been to these rallies.

MS. MCENANY: So have you, by the way.

Q Many of the people who go to the rallies — I’ve been to them too —


Q — are elderly. Probably half, preexisting conditions that put them at risk for serious complications if they catch this virus.

MS. MCENANY: So, first, let me note, you’ve been to rallies — these Trump rallies. We do rally in support of something. We rally in support of the President who got us the lowest number of black unemployment in the history of our country and paychecks going up. We rally that HBCU funding for historically black colleges and universities is permanent because of President Trump.

Q Right. But you’re not answering my question.

MS. MCENANY: We rally — but to say —

Q Will the President, will the White House take responsibility if people get sick?

MS. MCENANY: No, because you — Jim, you suggested —

Q Can you answer that question?

MS. MCENANY: You suggested that we don’t rally on behalf of anything. So let me note one more thing: We rally on behalf of —

Q I said you rally on behalf of the President. That’s why you’re going.

MS. MCENANY: We rally on behalf of criminal justice reform and the FIRST STEP Act, which President Obama and Vice President Biden talked about, but we did.

And I would note this: If we want to talk about the efficacy of what we’re doing, 1,300 health experts signed a letter about the protest, saying, “We do not condemn these gatherings. We support them as vital.” So you have the health experts on one side saying this, and then, all of a sudden, a Trump rally is different.

Q Okay. You’re dancing around — you’re dancing around the question. You’re holding up a newspaper headline. That’s very nice.

MS. MCENANY: And I’ve taken five of your questions. Work on your internal cohesion, and get back to me, Jim.

Yes, please.

Q Ms. McEnany, you have not answered the question. Will the President, will the White House —

MS. MCENANY: I answered five of your questions. And last —

Q But my first question has not been answered. Will the President, will the White House take responsibility —

MS. MCENANY: I said to you we are taking precautions.

Q — if people get sick?

MS. MCENANY: I said to you we are taking precautions: masks, hand sanitizer.

Q So you’re not going to take responsibility?


Q Kayleigh, so for attendees at this rally, the campaign is requiring them to sign a waiver to waive them of liability, acknowledging that there’s an assumed risk with going to that rally. Does not the President have some responsibility himself to ensure — to set an example of for the nation to stop — you know, to prevent these larger gatherings or ensuring social distancing so that the American people — and people around the world, for that matter — follow his example and (inaudible) the most safe environment? Why is the President not following CDC guidance in doing that?

MS. MCENANY: We are doing temperature checks, hand sanitizers, masks. When you come to the rally, as with any event, you assume a personal risk. That is just what you do. When you go to a baseball game, you assume a risk. That’s part of life. It’s the personal decision of Americans as to whether to go to the rally or whether or not to go to the rally.

But I would note that this concern for the rallies has been largely absent when it came to the protesters. People really note when CBS says, “Thousands participate in a rally in a silent march for black trans lives,” and then less than — this more than an hour and a half later, “President Trump moving ahead with the rally. Serious risk of spreading coronavirus.” It’s really inconsistent. The media seems to not be interested in health so much as the ideology behind certain events.

So, you know, for instance, you go and the lockdown protesters were widely condemned by the media — who were protesting the lockdown — but then, all of a sudden, this protest for Black Lives Matter is lauded. It makes no sense. Ideology is driving the line of questioning in many of these cases, when it should be — if you’re focused on science, you should be out there asking these same questions about the protests.

Q Well, Kayleigh, public health officials here, local officials, mayors in large — many of the cities where there have been protests have encouraged those who attended those large gatherings and others to get tested four or five days after their attendance at the event. Does the President want attendees at his own rally on Saturday to get tested four or five days later to make sure that they didn’t get the virus there? And who should they inform if they do come down with the virus after the rally?

MS. MCENANY: It’s their personal decision as to whether they want to get tested after, but I’d note testing capability is, thanks to President Trump, 23.7 million people tested in this country so far. That’s an extraordinary number.

So, testing is out there and available if someone chooses to do that.


Q Sorry, Kayleigh, just one more. Excuse me — sorry. Has the White House been monitoring this outbreak of violence between Indian and Chinese troops? And does the White House have any reaction? Is the President getting on the phone and talking to the relevant countries there?

MS. MCENANY: So the President is aware of it. We’re monitoring the situation between Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.

So we’ve seen that the Indian Army statement that 20 Indian soldiers died as a result of the confrontation today, and we extend our deepest condolences on that.


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