Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany 25 July

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:36 P.M. EDT

MS. MCENANY: Hello, everyone. The first duty of government is to protect the safety of our citizens. That’s what Attorney General Barr said when he was here at the White House just a few days ago. For 55 days in Portland, Oregon, we’ve seen lawlessness, anarchy, and destruction that threatens peace in our streets and the safety of our fellow American citizens and the safety of our brave law enforcement officers.

Yet some Democrats and some in the media continue to ignore reality. As Portland’s — Portland’s Democrat Mayor Ted Wheeler tweeted, quote, “What I saw last night was powerful in many ways. I listened, heard, and stood with [the] protesters. And I saw what it means when the federal government unleashes paramilitary forces against its own people.” That was a quote from the Democrat mayor who quite literally stood in the middle of a riot as violent protestors attacked a federal building. That is appalling, and Mayor Wheeler is clearly failing at his duty to protect his streets and his city there in Portland.

The federal government has a sworn duty to uphold the laws of the United States through field offices and federal facilities across the country. These agents protect and serve the American people. Yet the rhetoric of the left undermines our justice system, with Nancy Pelosi calling them “stormtroopers,” Jim Clyburn calling them the “Gestapo,” and Wheeler using the term “paramilitary forces.”

Under President Trump, violent crime rates in America finally began to fall. Rhetoric like this cannot be allowed to set us back. Augmenting the Federal Protective Service, guarding federal property in Portland, our brave officers have — since — since augmenting them, I should say, our brave officers have faced all of these various things — like rioters barricading officers inside the Hatfield federal courthouse, trapping officers inside. A, quote, “commercial-grade mortar firework” was launched by rioters. A federal agents hand was impaled by planted nails. Another federal agent was shot with a pellet gun, leaving a wound deep to the bone. And tragically, three federal officers were likely left permanently blinded by the rioters using lasers pointed directly at their eyes.

These are not the actions of so-called peaceful protesters, and the Trump administration will not stand by and allow anarchy in our streets. Law and order will prevail.

And I have a short video for you because I want it to be real what is happening right now in Portland. So if we could play that video, that’d be great.

(A video clip is played.)

As you can see, that is anything but a peaceful protest. And this President will always stand on the side of law and order.

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

Q Kayleigh, thank you so much. I want to ask you about the convention, and then I have another question on foreign policy.

First of all, has President Trump determined where he’s going to or how he’s going to deliver his speech? He said he was working on that yesterday.

MS. MCENANY: So he hasn’t decided that just yet, but we have a number of really creative, exciting options that he’s looking at. It’s a question more for the RNC. But he’s very excited about the prospect of what will come with the convention.

Q And I want to ask you about something that he tweeted back in April. He said, “Joe Biden wanted the date for the Democrat National Convention moved to a later time period. Now he wants a ‘Virtual’ Convention, one where he doesn’t have to show up. Gee, I wonder why?” Does the President regret that now?

MS. MCENANY: Well, as you know, I can’t respond to Joe Biden. You’d have to ask the campaign about that. But the President — the circumstances changed in Florida, where we intended to have the convention. As the circumstances on the ground changed, the President changed his viewpoint on having the convention in Jacksonville at that particular location.

Q I wanted to ask you about the President’s phone call with Vladimir Putin. Did the President raise the issue of Russian bounties on the lives of American troops during that phone call?

MS. MCENANY: So, as you know, that intelligence is unverified still to this day. There are dissenting opinions within the intel community. I won’t get into the President’s private discussions with a foreign leader. I was not on that call, but that intelligence is still unverified.

But rest assured our President will always stand with our military and protect them against any and every foreign adversary.

Yes.

Q Has he made a determination, Kayleigh, about what happened? He’s been briefed now, right?

MS. MCENANY: (Pointing to a journalist.) Yes.

Q Yes, thank you, Kayleigh.

Q Kayleigh, thank you —

Q Yes, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell announced that John Lewis —

MS. MCENANY: I’ll come back to you next. Yes.

Q — will be lying in state at the Capitol on Monday and Tuesday. Does the President plan to go to the Capitol to visit John Lewis on one of those days?

MS. MCENANY: I have no announcements about the President’s upcoming plans. But John Lewis was a civil rights icon; we lowered the flag at the White House here to signify that. So I have no future announcements of the President’s plans, other than to make that one note.

Yes.

Q Thank you, Kayleigh. So the Senate has approved overwhelmingly a bill that would require the renaming of bases that are named after Confederate leaders. How — and how is it that Senator Inhofe assured the President he was going to be able to remove that from legislation that has passed both chambers of Congress?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I’ll leave that to Senator Inhofe, as to how that works, legislatively speaking. But the President was assured by Senator Inhofe that that would be changing, and that Republicans stood with the President on this and stood with the rest of America. Fifty-six percent, according to an ABC/Ipsos poll, are opposed to the changing of the U.S. base names.

Kevin.

Q Kayleigh, thanks. Two quick questions. I think you probably hear this often: When can Americans expect some money in their pockets by way of stimulus? What’s the President’s plan to get that money to them as quickly as possible?

And just a question about COVID reporting: Is the White House at all concerned about inaccuracies or inconsistencies with respect to COVID death reporting?

MS. MCENANY: So, first, let me note: When it looks — when we look at numbers, we want the most accurate reporting. And I went through, last week, the CDC numbers. We want to make sure hospitals are truly reporting all of the information they’re getting. One of the systems of data gathering, only 81 percent of hospitals were reporting into. Another HHS system was getting a more full picture of what we’re seeing in hospitals. So we want to ensure all of our information is accurate, and we trust the numbers that we’re getting from HHS and CDC.

And with regard to phase four, those negotiations are ongoing. These are long and extended negotiations. We feel that it’s very important, from the White House, to address unemployment insurance, in particular, and also money for schools and ensuring that the money for schools enables students to make school choices, like actually going to a physically open school. So, right now, that’s where the discussions lie at the moment.

Q One other quick one very quickly: Drug pricing is so critical to America’s seniors. Often, you hear terrible stories, frankly, about people having to ration drugs because of the incredible cost. What exactly, practically, can the American public expect the President to do to lower the cost of prescription drugs?

MS. MCENANY: That’s a great question. The President — today, at 3:00 p.m. — will be talking about drug pricing, and he’ll be announcing some actions he’s taking on that front, so I’ll leave it to him to announce those future actions.

But, you know, in 2018, he released a landmark blueprint to lower prescription drug prices. It’s an issue he has been very passionate about, which is why he signed legislation ending the gag clauses that stop pharmacists from informing patients about lower drug prices. And aver- — average basic premiums for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans have actually fallen by 13.5 percent since 2017.

So he’s done a lot already, but more to come this afternoon, actually.

Kaitlan.

Q I have two questions for you. This morning, Dr. Birx said that it is still an open question how rapidly children under 10 can actually spread COVID-19. But the other day, the President said “they don’t bring it home [very] easily” and “they don’t transmit very easily.” So shouldn’t we figure out which one of those it is before kids go back to school?

MS. MCENANY: So let me give you two answers to this. You know, first, I would point you to CDC guidelines that said, based on current data, the rate of infection among younger schoolchildren and from students to teachers has been low, especially if proper precautions are followed. There have also been few reports of children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members. That’s where the data currently stands.

But that being said — even if there is transmission and later studies come out, let’s say — we believe that students should be going back to school because the effect on a child — we know, scientifically, they are not affected in the same way as an adult.

Again, I’d point you to CDC guidelines on this that says the best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms. Death rates among school-aged children are much lower than among adults, and far lower than during the H1N1 pandemic, for instance, when schools remained open.

Q Yeah. And Dr. Birx noted that today — unless kids have an underlying condition. But she said they do not know how rapidly they can spread it still for if they’re under 10. And that’s one of the President’s top advisors.

MS. MCENANY: So on the transmission point, I’d point you again to the CDC. But I would also say that it is our firm belief that the — that our schools are essential places of business, if you will; that our teachers are essential personnel. You all here are considered essential workers, which is why you are coming into the briefing room every day during the pandemic. Our meatpackers were meatpacking because they were essential workers. Our doctors were out there treating because they’re essential workers. And we believe our teachers are essential.

Particularly, I pour over the data on — on schools often. And the one thing that really stuck out to me — I read through the entirety of the CDC guidelines — was that — I talk about child abuse often and one in five cases being reported in schools. Well, the CDC guidelines went on to say, there has not just been “a sharp decline in reports of suspected maltreatment, but tragically a notable increase in evidence of child abuse when children are seen for services” during the pandemic.

For example, in Washington, D.C., Child and Family Service Services Agency recorded a 62 percent decrease in child abuse reporting calls between mid-March and April, compared to the same time period in 2019, but saw more severe presentation of child abuse cases in emergency rooms. That’s a tragedy and our schools must reopen.

Yes.

Q Okay. My question was about transmission rates.

But anyway, my second question is also on the President’s call —

MS. MCENANY: And I answered that.

Q — with the Russian President yesterday. Today, the nation’s top counterintelligence official said that Russia is one of three countries that is actively working to interfere in our election. Did the President bring up election interference on the call with the Russian President yesterday?

MS. MCENANY: Again, I wasn’t on the call. But the President —

Q But you get read up on those calls.

MS. MCENANY: I was not on the call. The Pres- —

Q But you get read up on the calls.

MS. MCENANY: The President has taken more actions for election security than his predecessor, who gave a stand down order when he learned about election interference. Susan Rice gave that stand down order. Obama’s intel chief even confirmed that stand down order was given.

By contrast, we’ve given innumer- — a ton of funding to election security. We take our elections seriously —

Q My question is did President Trump bring it —

MS. MCENANY: — and we believe in election integrity.

Justin.

Q My question is did President Trump —

MS. MCENANY: Justin.

Q — bring it up on the call yesterday?

MS. MCENANY: Justin.

Q You’re not answering.

MS. MCENANY: I was not on the call, Kaitlan. Stop filibustering.

Q So yes or no?

MS. MCENANY: Justin.

Let your colleagues ask questions

Q That’s not filibustering. You’re not answering my question.

MS. MCENANY: Justin.

Q Did he bring it up?

MS. MCENANY: Okay, Justin no longer has a question.

Anyone else?

Q Kayleigh —

MS. MCENANY: Okay.

Q Kayleigh, around 20 million Americans —

Q It’s not answering.

Q — are receiving the expanded uninsurance benefits, and some are going to receive the last of those checks tomorrow. Have Senate Republicans in the White House settled on a plan yet to extend UI? If so, can you explain what that plan is? And if not, did you wait too long to try to sort this out?

MS. MCENANY: Those discussions are still ongoing, and I’m not going to get in the middle of the negotiation, other than to say: When I answered Kevin’s question up here, I said that our priority right now is we feel it’s very important to address extending on those unemployment insurances. And how that looks, I’ll leave it to them. But that is — unemployment insurance is a top priority for us right now.

Q And then China ordered the closing of one of our diplomatic facilities there in retaliation for what happened in Texas. We haven’t really heard from the White House, so if you could spell out specifically why you guys decided to close the Houston facility. I know that there’s obviously broad complaints that you’ve raised for weeks with China, but why Houston specifically?

And secondly, if you had a reaction to the steps China took.

MS. MCENANY: Yes, our action to direct the closure of the PRC Consulate General in Houston was taken to protect American — and to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information.

For years, the CCP has undertaken a whole-of-society effort to steal American technology and intellectual property for commercial gain, and many of those activities are directed from PRC diplomatic facilities. And we urge the CCP to cease these malign actions rather than engage in tit-for-tat retaliation.

That’s where we stand on that.

Jeff.

Q Kayleigh, the President’s tone on the virus this week seems to have changed. He’s advocated a few different times for Americans to wear masks. He said that the virus would — or the pandemic would get worse before it gets better. He cancelled most of the convention — or certainly the Florida part — yesterday.

All of these things were bad two months ago — even longer than that — and the science on masking has been clear for several months. What changed this week? Why did his tone change?

MS. MCENANY: There has been no change. The President said, on March 31st, before there was even a recommended but not required guidance given by the CDC on mask wearing — the President already said, if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. It doesn’t harm anyone. And that was before — that was when our scientists even were — some of them were saying don’t wear masks.

So the President has been consistent on this. He wore a mask back at the Ford facility. He carries it around in his pocket. He showed it to you multiple times. He hasn’t changed. In fact — and just speaking on COVID, generally — the way I’ve heard him talk privately in the Oval Office is the way he’s talking out here.

The only thing that’s changed is the President taking dozens and dozens and dozens of your questions each and every day because he felt the best way to get information to the American people was for him to be out here, answering your questions and providing this directly.

Q The other part of the question though wasn’t just about masking — although, I would argue that if you look back and see when he called it “politically correct,” for example, that wasn’t exactly agreeing with the science of wearing masks.

But setting that aside, he —

MS. MCENANY: No, but let’s not set that aside. Because in that incident, when he used the words “politically correct,” it was in reference — I believe you were asking him a question — was it?

Q I was.

MS. MCENANY: And — right. And you were standing outside, and you’d been tested, and you were wearing a mask, and he couldn’t hear your questions, so he asked for you momentarily to pull down the mask. So that was the specific context, and context does matter here.

Q Okay, well, I didn’t mean to engage on that, but I was standing around other reporters and using the same mic that other people were using. That’s why I left my mask on.

MS. MCENANY: Right. Well, he could not hear your question, and he asked for you temporarily to pull it down. Everyone in the press pool is tested, so, scientifically, you were not in a compromising position. But he — he hasn’t changed his tone.

But this President — the reason he wants to bring back these briefings is get information out there like: We’ve done 52.9 million tests nationwide, 187 emergency use authorations [sic] — use auth- — use authorizations, excuse me, for test manufacturing, 20 million swabs per month, used the DPA over 20 times — all of these great successes of this administration, like distributing 31,000 cases of remdesivir, enough to treat nearly 200,000 patients. None of this is getting covered.

And you’ve got the best messenger, the duly elected President of the United States, talking directly to the American people and getting extraordinary ratings as they tune in to get information from their leader.

Q But my question wasn’t —

MS. MCENANY: Yes, Jon.

Q My question wasn’t about —

MS. MCENANY: Jon.

Q — that last piece. I just want to clarify —

Q Thank you, Kayleigh.

Q — one thing, Kayleigh.

MS. MCENANY: Okay, Jon no longer has a question. Anyone else?

Q No, I do, Kayleigh. I do, Kayleigh.

Q I just want to — I just want to clarify —

MS. MCENANY: Jon.

Q I don’t want to talk over, if — let me — if you don’t mind, Jeff, maybe we can come back to you?

Q I would like to finish my question.

Q Yes, well, let me — let me ask my question —

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, but the — when everyone in the front rows get five questions, people in the back row don’t even get the opportunity to ask questions.

Q It’s just that you’re not answering the questions, Kayleigh.

Q Thanks, Kayleigh. I want to ask about the Senate Defense Authorization bill, which passed by a veto-proof majority yesterday; and the House earlier this week also passed their version of the Defense bill also by a veto-proof majority. And both of those bills contain mandates that the Pentagon rename these military bases, which are named in honor of Confederate generals.

I want to ask you: Does the President believe that his position — which we’re all familiar with — it’s helpful in terms of recruitment, specifically for African Americans? Explain how that position will help recruit African Americans in an all-volunteer military force?

MS. MCENANY: The President stands with the American people; 56 percent don’t want to see the bases’ names changed. Where he stands is in a place where — many soldiers who have lost their lives overseas, the last ground that they saw were these bases. And by changing their names, he believes that — that it is not appropriate that those soldiers who lost their lives, to be told that the ground that they left —

Q I’m — I’m familiar with his position; I think you just restated it very well. But I’m asking you, specifically: How is this helpful for an African American which — who wants to volunteer for our all-volunteer military forces to go to a base that’s named for a Confederate general that worked to still put and keep it in place slavery, which impacted their ancestors?

MS. MCENANY: Because the bases are not known for the generals they’re named after. The bases are known for the heroes within it: the great Americans — black, white, Hispanic — of every race who have died on behalf of this great country. And 56 percent of the nation agrees with the President.

Q So it’s your position that —

MS. MCENANY: (Pointing to a journalist.) Yes.

Q — that it won’t impact — it won’t impact then —

MS. MCENANY: (Pointing to a journalist.) Yes.

Q — in any way recruitment, is what your position is?

MS. MCENANY: Next question.

Q Is that a yes or a no?

MS. MCENANY: I already answered that one twice.

Q It’s just a yes or a no.

Q Kayleigh — Kayleigh, I want to circle back to school choice, which you mentioned a few minutes ago. So, that means shifting — the potential for shifting federal funds away from schools that don’t open so that parents can use it — use those funds for homeschooling or for private schooling.

The President vehemently opposes defunding police. Why — why is defunding public schools okay?

MS. MCENANY: So the President has never wanted to take money away from schools, take money away from education. It is about keeping it with the child. The purpose of school funding is to educate a child. The child, if a school is closed, loses the opportunity to receive education and needed social services.

I put up the chart a few weeks ago from McKinsey & Co. that showed that the student most impacted is the low-income student who is in a low-income community and doesn’t have the resources of — as some other students. So that student should not be deprived of an educational opportunity and forever never be able to recover. The deficit that that child has had by being out of school for an entire year or more —

Q The schools in those — in those underserved communities also are the ones that, generally, have terrible ventilation; they need the most money for upgrading. If this money is shifted away from the schools, how will they ever get into a situation where they could, in the case of a pandemic, properly serve their populations?

MS. MCENANY: Well, your question is a bit befuddling because if the problem is ventilation in schools, and the schools close and you’re fixing the ventilation, the student isn’t even in the facility because the school isn’t even open.

The whole point is the student deserves an educational opportunity and a good educational opportunity, which is why the money must follow the student.

And I would also note, in the CDC guidelines, that they said — with regards to food, in particular — that there are 15 million children participating in the School Breakfast Program, 30 million in the School Lunch Program. And they said, quote, “It is difficult to maintain this type of school nutrition program over the long term.” And they were talking about how we’ve managed to get meal servants — meal services throughout the periods of school closures, but they went on to say it’s difficult to maintain this type of program over the long term.

There are severe consequences. I’ve mentioned the child abuse, the loss in education, and also when it comes to nutrition services, as well.

Yes.

Q Kayleigh, the pa- — the payroll tax cut now at the table, is there anything that the White House considers a red line in negotiations with Democrats? And then, also, I have another question.

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, there are — I’m not going to get into red lines. These negotiations are ongoing, and I’m not in the middle of them, so I’ll wait to find out what the conclusions of those negotiations are. But I would just signal what I said at the top of this briefing about unemployment insurance being very important.

Q And then, President Trump called off the convention in Florida, citing safety. Does that give him pause for any of his future upcoming travel, like to Texas next week, which is a hotspot?

MS. MCENANY: We take all necessary precautions, and we protect the President, his staff, and we make sure that we’re following the guidelines in social distancing. And so we don’t have concern about future travel.

Yes.

Q The accusations that China is stealing intellectual property are not new. But why (inaudible) order to shut down the consulate in Houston now, roughly 100 days before the election?

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