James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:14 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: So, I want to start by acknowledging the horrific tragedy in Minnesota of George Floyd. The death of George Floyd is absolutely tragic — that video that we saw, that I saw, that my staff saw, that the President saw.
And the President put out a statement last night that, “At [his] request, the FBI and the Department of Justice are already well into an investigation as to the very sad and tragic death in Minnesota of George Floyd. I have asked for this investigation to be expedited and greatly appreciate all of the work done by law enforcement. My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!”
I can tell you that as I’m briefing you at this moment, the President is receiving a briefing from the Attorney General, Bill Barr, on this and the Deputy Director of the FBI, as that is ongoing on as I began this briefing.
Secondly, I want to transition into some news from SBA and Treasury that was announced, that today, the U.S. Small Business Administration, in consultation with the U.S. Treasury Department, announced that it is setting aside $10 billion of round two funding for the Paycheck Protection Program to be lent exclusively to CDFIs. Those are community development financial institutions. CDFIs work to expand economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing access to financial products and services for local residents and businesses. So we’re encouraged to see that.
And then, finally, before taking your questions, I wanted to address what has been going on on Twitter and with social media. I believe it is time to, quote, “get the facts” about Twitter and other social media platforms targeting their bias against President Trump and conservatives online.
If we were to judge the bias of Twitter and its top employees by their own words, the case would be an easy one to make. Twitter’s head of site integrity has tweeted that there are, quote, “actual Nazis” in the White House, and no fact-check label was ever applied to this absolutely outrageous, offensive, and false claim made against the White House and its employees.
But let’s judge Twitter based on their actions, not based on the words of its top employees. And its actions are no better. President Trump recently received a so-called “fact check” label for a tweet. It was a false fact check, an inaccurate fact check, but nevertheless, Twitter moved forward with it.
Dan Scavino, the Deputy Chief of Staff here, was the first user in the history of Twitter to receive a so-called, quote, “manipulated media” label for posting a video that played a verbatim clip. It is no coincidence that these two unbelievable interventions by Twitter were targeted against the President of the United States and one of the President’s top advisors. This is bias in action.
And while big tech is quick to censor the President, quick to censor some of his top employees, they — they are very reluctant, it seems, to label some of the actions by Chinese officials, some of the misinformation that has been spread by China. For example, to move off of Twitter and move to Google, they created a search engine for the Chinese Communist Party, which blacklisted searches for human rights and allowed for easy surveillance.
Facebook and Twitter have both taken paid advertising that spread disinformation about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities. And Twitter has allowed Chinese officials to use its platforms to spread misinformation about the coronavirus, undermine the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and more.
And then, back in March, a Chinese official began spreading a conspiracy theory on Twitter — an egregious one — that our U.S. military was responsible for the spread of the coronavirus. And that tweet, that disinformation, it took all the way until today, when we raised concerns about it, to get a fact check.
So they appear to be very hastily eager to censor President Trump and some of his employees but a little reluctant when it comes to China. It’s a bit befuddling.
But no one believes in the First Amendment more than the President. The President will take action to ensure that big tech does not stifle free speech and that the rights of all Americans to speak, tweet, and post are protected.
And finally, I just want to note one other action of Twitter that I learned just before walking out here: that, on the Mueller report, their anti-Trump headlines were anti-Trump by a ratio of 76 to 1. That’s extraordinary. And it’s not just bias aimed at President Trump and his employees, it’s also aimed at everyday Americans. It’s aimed at the movie “Unplanned,” as Twitter suspended their account and then came up with an excuse in the aftermath.
And then, just another example that liberals are allowed to incite violence against the Covington kids who were, in the end, proven right and their video was taken out of context, and yet these individuals were led — were allowed by Twitter to incite violence. It’s very disturbing to see.
So those are some of the President’s concerns. And with that, I will take questions.
Jim. That’s a very nice tie, Jim, by the way.
Q Thank you very much.
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q Yesterday, the U.S. hit 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. That happened at around 6 o’clock yesterday evening. It took until about nine in the morning for the President to recognize that on Twitter. What took him so long?
MS. MCENANY: Look, the President recognized that landmark before we even hit it. The President — that was — after all, it was the impetus behind him lowering the flag to half-staff. He did that for several days. And that was an acknowledgment of that number approaching, and he acknowledged it in a tweet this morning.
Q But we hit 100,000 yesterday evening, and it took 13 hours — some-odd hours to for him to recognize that and tweet
MS. MCENANY: And far in advance of that benchmark, as I noted, he lowered the flag to half-staff. The President has said — you know, you mention 100,000, but the President has said, “One death is too many.” He takes this very seriously. He said, before, this is the hardest part of his presidency; it’s something that no one wanted to see happen.
Q And, on Twitter, shouldn’t the President be fact-checked, especially this President who has made so many false and misleading statements that has put, you know, fact-checkers to work across the world? I mean, he’s uttered some 18,000 false or misleading statements, according to The Washington Post. If there’s any President out there who should be fact-checked — any political leader out there who should be fact- checked, isn’t it President Trump? And aren’t you trying to silence fact-checking by going after Twitter like this?
MS. MCENANY: Look, well, first I would say I disagree with all, if not almost all, of those assertions that you’re making there because, look, if you’re going to get into the fact-checking business —
Q The President doesn’t lie?
MS. MCENANY: — there’s no one that should be fact-checked more than the mainstream media that has been continually wrong about a number of things.
To give you a list of some of the most egregious ones: that ABC News, in December of 2017, falsely reported that Flynn would testify that the President directed him, during the campaign, to make contact with the Russians. That was false.
In 2017, your network, CNN, botched their WikiLeaks email exclusive and were forced to make on-air corrections.
CNN’s Jim Sciutto — another CNN one — dropped a fictional bombshell in 2018, July, claiming that Michael Cohen would tell federal investigators that the President knew of the Trump Tower meeting.
And there are many more — not to just put the onus on CNN there.
So if anyone needs to be fact-checked, I think it should be the media.
Q Kayleigh, there are news outlets that make mistakes from time to time. We own up to those mistakes. We corrected those mistakes.
MS. MCENANY: Not always. I have many that you guys haven’t owned up to I could get to.
Q We do, on a regular basis. The President never owns up to any of his false or misleading statements or outright lies.
You have pledged, in this briefing room, to never lie to the American people. Are you saying that the President of the United States has never lied to the public before?
MS. MCENANY: I’m around the President. His intent is always to give truthful information to the American people.
And you mentioned that the media apologizes for their mistruths. I mean, I’m sitting here looking at their headlines. The New York Times saying, “There Aren’t Enough Ventilators to Cope With the Coronavirus.” In fact, we had an excess of ventilators we’ve shipped around the world. Washington Post, “U.S. health system is showing why it’s not ready for a coronavirus pandemic.” We were ready.
There’s many more I could get to. I could — on the coronavirus specifically, I could spend the time going through these, but I don’t think that’s what the American people want to hear.
Q On the Minnesota case, does the President agree with the firings of the four police officers? And does he believe that they should be prosecuted?
MS. MCENANY: I haven’t talked to him about that specifically, but let me tell you this: That, you know, his — he was very upset when he saw that video. I was on Air Force One. I don’t know if it was the first time he saw it, but he certainly saw it again on Air Force One. He was very upset by it. It was egregious, appalling, tragic, and it prompted him to pick up the phone — or the chief of staff to pick up the phone and say, “we need to expedite” what was already an FBI investigation. He wants justice to be served.
Q Thanks, Kayleigh. Can you give us an update on when the President plans to sign the EO on Twitter and social media? And can you also give us an update on his plans for China and Hong Kong? Is there an order coming on that as well?
MS. MCENANY: So, thank you for the question. First, I would note, with regard to the timing of the EO, that should be later this afternoon, is what we’re hoping for, hopefully before 5:00 p.m. But again, it could change. It’s still under — in the works, but we are getting closer.
With regard to Hong Kong, I would just say — reiterate what I said last — two days ago, but I would also say that China’s decision to impose a new national security law in Hong Kong lies in direct conflat [sic] — conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally binding UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration, and that Secretary Pompeo determined that Hong Kong does not warrant different treatment under U.S. laws because Hong Kong no longer remains sufficiently autonomous from the PRC.
And then, anything further, I’d refer you to the State Department for now.
Q And just one more, somewhat related. The House recently passed a bill about a minority group in China, the Uyghurs — if I said that correctly. Does the President plan to sign that? And is the White House going to treat bills — or does the White House see any concerns about bills that have been passed by proxy as not being constitutional?
MS. MCENANY: So we would — first, let me say, we’d encourage Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats and others to come back to the Hill. It’s more productive to have those members here. The Senate has convened; the House can do the same, and they can do it in person.
But with regard to the Uyghurs, that’s a very important question. We haven’t received the bill yet, so the President hasn’t been able to look through it. And I won’t get ahead of him on announcing one way or the other on that, but I would note that the Trump administration continues to take actions to hold the CCP accountable for its highly repressive campaign against the Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities.
Q Hi, Kayleigh. Thank you. On vaccines: In order to achieve herd immunity, you need about 80 percent of people to get this vaccine. Currently, only about 50 percent of Americans say they’ll receive it. So will the administration make the vaccine mandatory?
MS. MCENANY: So the vaccine — let me just note that we’re working aggressively to get one, and we would like to get one by the end of the year. Everything does not depend on a vaccine. Vaccine is an important component of this, but there are also therapeutics. We’re seeing there’s not necessarily a tie to reopening and an increase in cases. So that’s encouraging.
And I would refer you further to Alex Azar, who’s made extensive comments on a vaccine and the necessity —
Q But I don’t think it’s clear if you guys will make it mandatory. If you’ll use your federal powers, how you’ll use them, potentially, to encourage people to get this vaccine. Because if you don’t have herd immunity, elderly people, immunocompromised folks, they may not be able to go about their business again.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I would have to talk to the President. I haven’t talked to him about his views on making it mandatory or not. So I’d have to talk to him and get back to you on that.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. I wanted to ask you a question, first of all, about the comments in your statement that you made. At the conclusion of your comments in regards to George Floyd, you said that “justice will be served.” What do you mean by that? Do you mean that those officers who have been fired should be arrested? Do you mean, by that, that those officers who have been fired should be prosecuted? Do you mean that those officers who’ve been fired should be convicted? What do you mean by “justice should be served” — “will be served”? “Will be served.”
MS. MCENANY: I’ll leave that to the justice system to work out. But the President —
Q But what did you mean — what did you mean when you said “justice will be served”?
MS. MCENANY: Those were — that’s in the President’s statement, so I’d refer you back to his statement. But he’s being briefed on this right now. And, you know, we’ll have more announcements as they come.
Q And then on another matter, in regards to what you said in your statement, in regards to the executive order: I realize it hasn’t come out yet and I realize that we haven’t seen the language, but we have seen reports — I work for Fox — and we have seen reports that it relates to the Section 230, the Communications Decency Act.
And interestingly enough, former Vice President Joe Biden has also called for the repeal of Section 230. He says that it should be “revoked immediately.” But, as you know, an executive order does not trump the law. An executive order can’t, for instance, repeal the law, it can’t in any way amend the law. So what would be the intent behind this executive order, without getting ahead of what the President intends to sign?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I don’t want to get ahead of that. But the one thing I will say more broadly — you reference that section; I think that that would be included in what I’m about to say: There are various shields in place that essentially shield some of these social media companies and allow them to censor conservative users. And we’re not able to see what happens behind those shields. That section was one of those shields you mentioned.
So we’re looking at ways to remove those shields to shed some light on what is happening and some of the decision making behind the scenes. That’s generally and broadly the idea, but I won’t get ahead on any specific announcements that should come hopefully before 5:00 p.m.
Q Kayleigh, I want to follow up on Jim’s question on fact checking and Twitter, but first, a clarification: Has the President spoken to the family of George Floyd?
MS. MCENANY: Not to my knowledge. If he did without my knowledge, that could have happened. But not to my knowledge.
Q Do you know if he intends to, or will you get back to us on that?
MS. MCENANY: I can ask him, and I can get back to you on that.
Q Okay. And regarding the fact checking, the President clearly said things in these tweets that are not true. Do you not acknowledge that?
MS. MCENANY: No, I don’t acknowledge that. He —
Q He said, for instance, that, “The Governor of California is sending out ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.” That is not true. California is sending out absentee ballots to registered voters, not to “anybody.”
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so —
Q That’s just not true.
MS. MCENANY: So let me address this in detail, on the issue of ballots. And I’m going to lay out some of the President’s concerns. And, in that, I will get to the California example.
First, I want to note that there was a Pew study done that shows there is plenty of reason to believe that mass — in the mass mail-in system, that there is fraud. They estimated that approximately 24 million — one out of every eight voters registered in the U.S. — are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate. So these are people who are on voter registrations that have not been maintained, that have not been kept up. More than 1.8 million have been deceased, they estimated.
And then, when you look and drill down into some of the examples that we’ve seen in states, Nevada just — I read about this last week and it just really struck me as a perfect example of what the President is concerned about with mail-in ballots and the fraud that can be inherent in that. There were ballots — because Nevada mass mailed them out to voter rolls that were piling up in apartment complexes — outside of apartment complexes in Las Vegas, sitting around in trash cans. This is how we’re protecting ballots? It’s extraordinary.
Postal workers — one 36-year-old — a 36-year veteran carrier said she’s never seen anything like these influx of absentee ballots. All of the people had moved or died when she set out to deliver on her first delivery route. And this happened just recently. You can go read the articles from last week. She found 65 ballots of people who had moved or died. On her second carry, 100. And then as the week progressed, thousands just sitting in crates. I mean, this is extraordinary. This is not how we should be protecting U.S. ballots.
In South Carolina, Dems — the Democrats sued to force a rush transfer of mail-in voting. And this happened again recently; I think it was last week. And mail-in ballots for South Carolina turned up in Maryland.
There’s another example of 700 suspicious mail-in ballots in Dallas and an individual charged with second-degree felony, illegal voting. And he’s accused of visiting a woman in April to collect her blank absentee ballot, filling it out and forging her signature. I mean, this is extraordinary.
And then you go on: There’s a New Jersey example of over 3,000 ballots that were seemingly set aside. And going to California — you mentioned — California is one of those states that’s notorious for ballot harvesting. And in 2018, the registrar in Orange County said that they reported that his office had people dropping off maybe 100 or 200 ballots at a time. And somehow, in LA County, 112 percent of LA County is registered to vote.
So the problem is this: When you don’t clean your register and you send out your entire register, auto-send out these ballots, they end up in trash cans, like in Nevada. they are subject to fraud, and that is extremely troubling.
Q So — but, Kayleigh, I asked you a very specific question. The President said that California was sending out ballots to everybody in the state. That is a false statement. It is not correct. Will the President correct that, acknowledge what he said is simply not true?
MS. MCENANY: There is an executive order that was put into place recently by Gavin Newsom that would auto-send to voter rolls, and that would lead to what the President was suggesting.
Q No, but to — excuse me, Kayleigh, to registered voters, those — it’s not to everybody; it’s to registered voters.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, to everyone, including —
Q It is — it is —
MS. MCENANY: — dead people on the voter rolls; including to the mysterious 112 percent in LA County. That’s — that is does not just everyone. That’s everyone plus an extra 12 percent. And if you’re not concerned about that, I’m sorry.
I mean, the media is very concerned about the security of our elections, but when it comes to mail-in ballots, all of a sudden, the concern for election security just melts away.
Q But, Kayleigh, you yourself have voted by mail.
Q Kayleigh —
MS. MCENANY: Yes. Brian.
Q Thank you very much. Research — on mail-in ballots — research has shown that, one, it doesn’t benefit either party. It increases voter participation. Secretaries of state of both parties are still pursuing it. And fraud is — is not widespread.
And so why is the President continuing to tweet about this and to give the impression that there’s widespread fraud in the use of mail-in ballots when he himself used a mail-in ballot? The big question is: Some are concerned that the President may be laying the groundwork to cast doubt on the election. Is that what he’s doing by bringing this up?
MS. MCENANY: Well, I appreciate you bringing up this question and, specifically, the component about the President using mail-in ballots.
There’s an important distinction, and I think it’s lost upon a lot of people, but it’s important to make: is that the President is okay with mail-in voting so long as you have a reason. He’s not okay with mass mail-in voting where you auto-send, as I said, to all of these voter rolls with people who are dead, that are subject to fraud. That is the case.
We saw — I listed off for you — I think three of the five examples I gave you were from just this week and last week. So this does happen. And —
Q Well, then why is it that research has shown –Stanford University did a research study that showed that there wasn’t widespread fraud in these vote-by-mail and that it didn’t benefit either party and increased voter participation. So why would the President be against that?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, it is subject to both parties. This can hurt both parties. I would note that a bipartisan commission — led in part by President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat — concluded that mail-in ballots, quote, “remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”
So moving the entire country to that system doesn’t make sense, and doing so in a hurried fashion ahead of November — just go look at the Democrat Iowa caucus and how it worked out when they tried to move to a new system.
And then, finally —
Q Is the President trying to lay groundwork to cast doubt on the results of the election in November?
MS. MCENANY: Finally, I —
Q Is he laying groundwork to try to cast doubt on the results of the election in November?
MS. MCENANY: No, he’s certainly not doing that. And I would finally note there’s an additional concern that was very well laid out by the Wall Street Journal editorial board that, in 2016, minorities and first-time voters were more likely to have mail-in ballots thrown out. So that is another troubling concern. In fact, 319,000 of those total votes were rejected.
Q Thank you. Back in November, President Trump went up to Walter Reed, said it was for phase one of his physical. When does he plan to complete phase two and release the results to the public?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I don’t have an update on the physical, but because you asked that, I’ll specifically inquire about that today and try to get back to you.
Q But is he planning to do it?
MS. MCENANY: You what?
Q He does plan to do it?
MS. MCENANY: Yes, he does. Yes.
Q Thank you. Thank you for doing this. I wanted to ask you about — President has completed his two weeks of hydroxychloroquine. Have you spoken to him what his feeling about? Is he feeling better? What’s his feedback about that?
MS. MCENANY: I did. And thank you. I know that you emailed me a question to that effect, and I didn’t have time to follow up with you via email. But because I saw that, I went to him just before coming out here and I asked him that. And he said, quote, he’s “feeling perfect.” Quote, he’s “feeling absolutely great” after taking this regimen. And, quote, he “would take it again” if he thought that he was exposed. So he is feeling very good.
And I also would point, folks, there’s a very, very well done piece. It’s very thorough with a lot of medical experts laying out about prophylaxis use of hydroxychloroquine by Tina Hesman Saey at ScienceNews.org. It’s very well done. She talks about the nearly 200 clinical trials around the world, including 28 involving healthcare workers. In fact, at Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan, 3,000 healthcare workers are taking it as part of a trial. And there’s some really excellent information there about some — you know, the use of prophylaxis for this.
Q A number of Indian American doctors have been writing — have seen some of those letters. They are supporting the President taking hydroxychloroquine. Some of them have themselves taken it. Have you seen those too?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah. Yeah, absolu- — well, there’s a lot. It’s not specific to the President, these doctors. But they just talk in general about what they’ve seen. For instance, Sarah Lofgren, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis — they’re testing hydroxychloroquine there to prevent COVID-19. And she said, “When used alone, we’re not seeing major issues. Out of the thousands of patients, we’re not seeing things that some people are concerned about.”
And I would just note that it’s important — of course, always, if taking hydroxychloroquine, get a prescription from your doctor. Doctors are the ones that need to be prescribing this.
But that being said, I think that some of the hyperbole around this drug that has been on the market for 65 years — been approved for use in three other maladies and has been approved for off-label use — when there’s a lot of hyperbole about this being unsafe — some of the things I’ve seen reported out there — there are consequences, deterring people from being recruited into actual clinical trials.
I have some quotes from a New York epidemiologist and others conducting trials, saying they’re having trouble recruiting people because some of the myths that are out there. So it’s important to note that this drug has been safely used by millions of people for a long time.
Q I have one more on China.
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q President yesterday tweeted about he wants to mediate between U.S. and — sorry, India and China on the border dispute. You know China has been behaving very (inaudible), very aggressive with its neighbors in the last few weeks, in particular the South China Sea, (inaudible) on the India border side. What is the message the President has to these countries?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I’d refer you back to the President’s tweet on that one.
Q Thanks, Kayleigh. We saw reports that, before swearing in John Ratcliffe as DNI, Ric Grenell declassified a trove of documents related to the Russia investigation. The President hinted that those could be made public sometime soon. Does the director plan on doing that anytime in the near future?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so those, I believe, are under a process of review by the DOJ, so I’ll refer to them on that.
Yes, Tom. Do you have a question? I thought I saw you had your hand raised. No?
Q Kayleigh —
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, back there.
Q Yes, hi. Thank you. I want to ask you about Russia’s recent actions in Libya. The U.S. AFRICOM has been issuing statements recently about U.S. actions there. And in their statements, they’re saying that Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favor in Libya, just like it did in Syria, by deploying military aircraft likely to provide close air support and offensive fires for their Wagner Group that is supporting Libya’s LNA fight against the internationally recognized government.
Do you have — what is the White House position on this? And do you agree with the U.S. AFRICOM assessment that their actions — the Russian actions — in Libya are destabilizing the region?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, we encourage de-escal- — de-escalation in Libya. And for more, I’d refer you to the DOD.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. If Joe Scarborough were innocent, couldn’t he sue the President for defamation? And then, in turn, couldn’t President Trump’s attorneys immediately depose Joe Scarborough for — and allow him to go under oath and explain how, you know, this 28-year-old woman was found dead by his desk with multiple skull fractures? Would the President welcome a defamation suit from Joe Scarborough?
MS. MCENANY: So, on that, I would just refer you back to some of my previous comments that the audio on the Don Imus show was very disturbing, where there was a lot of laughing and joking about this matter. That certainly is not a laughing and joking matter.
Q I mean, do you think that Scarborough has grounds to do so?