Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:35 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Good afternoon, everyone. I’d like to begin by detailing the historic private-public partnership effort launched by the Trump administration to combat the coronavirus. As both a businessman and as President, you’ll all remember then-candidate Donald Trump, now President Donald Trump, being adamant about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America.
President Obama and the Democrats had given up on manufacturing with President Obama’s erroneously prediction that Trump would need a magic wand in order to bring back American jobs. Not so.
The reality is President Trump revived manufacturing in this country, and he tore up disastrous trade deals that hemorrhaged American jobs, like NAFTA and like the plan that was in work, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Instead, he put in place better trade deals to bring back American jobs and to bring back American manufacturing.
And in the battle against the invisible enemy, President Trump took action to shore up our domestic supply chains in order to deliver the necessary PPE and other medical equipment to the states.
Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats are currently promoting a 3-trillion-dollar liberal wish list, among a litany of Democrat priorities immaterial to the coronavirus crisis, are embedded in this, and one would require the President to appoint a, quote, “medical supplies response coordinator” who would, quote, “serve as the point of contact for the healthcare system, supply chain officials, and the states on medical supplies.”
I’m happy to report this individual already exists. This bill ignores reality, because the medical supplies official is in existence; he’s been working on this since March to deliver, to date, over billions and billions — more than 1 billion, I should say, pieces of PPE to countries and hospitals across the country.
Since March 29th, Rear Admiral John Polowczyk, Vice Director for Logistics for the Joint Chiefs, has been on the job as the head of FEMA’s Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force. This is a historic partnership with the private sector, and under the leadership of President Trump, FEMA directed the greatest mobilization of the private sector since World War Two.
Rear Admiral Polowczyk and FEMA quickly realized the power of the private sector in addressing the coronavirus, recognizing that the six largest private sector medical distributors would have the ability to source, procure, manufacture, and deliver as many as 1 billion pieces of PPE in a single week. That is an extraordinary volume by our private sector. And at the direction of President Trump, Rear Admiral Polowczyk and FEMA were able to harness this power.
Every day at 9:00 a.m., Rear Admiral Polowczyk’s team huddles with these six large private sector medical distributors and, together, they review data compiled by Dr. Birx, as well as information provided by the CDC, to set priorities and ensure sufficient levels of supplies go down not just to the county level but to the hospital level.
After focusing geographically, Rear Admiral Polowczyk and his team orients the data to set point-of-care distribution priorities for public hospitals, VA and DOD facilities, private hospitals, nursing homes, acute cli- — excuse me, acute care clinics, first responders, and labs.
In just two and a half weeks, Rear Admiral Polowczyk and his team were able to combine data streams, utilize supply chain visualization tools from DOD, and input data into the cloud. This system is now available to generate reports for governors showing what their state received from the federal government and commercial partners all the way down to the hospital level, as I noted.
And thanks to President Trump and his administration, governors now have visibility as to where their supplies are sent and where they’re received. And from March 1st through May 10th, this public-private partnership has led to the delivery — and these are extraordinary numbers — of over 113 million N95 respirator masks, nearly half a billion surgical masks, nearly 18 million face shields, and over 12 billion gloves. That is a lot of PPE, and we thank our private sector partners for engaging in this effort with us.
Also, I just wanted to note that, earlier today, the President held an hour-long call with thousands of Hispanic community, business, and faith leaders across the country. He recognized the many contributions of the Hispanic community to our country and addressed important issues, like how to reopen their businesses and build the greatest economy in history again.
And finally, before I take questions, I just wanted to note on a separate note that I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Ravi Zacharias, a renowned Christian apologist who left this world yesterday. Our prayers are with Ravi’s family during this time. He meant a lot to a lot of people around this administration. And as my father said, Billy Graham was the great evangelist and Ravi Zacharias was the great apologist. And we are all thinking about him and holding him close to our hearts and his family today.
And with that, I’ll take questions. John.
Q Kayleigh, what does the President believe is illegal about the Secretary of State of Michigan sending out absentee ballot applications? And what federal funding is he considering withholding from the state of Michigan as a result?
MS. MCENANY: So, you know, I won’t get into exactly what the funding considerations are. I would note that his tweets were meant to alert Secretary Mnuchin and Mr. Vought about — head of OMB — about his concerns with trillions of dollars going to these states and his noted concerns about a lot of fraud that is potentially at play when you have mass mail-in voting.
So with regard to the illegality and legality of it, that’s a question for the campaign as to their voting and ballot practices. But I would just note that his tweet was meant to alert OMB. He wanted to be very careful, as we send trillions of dollars to states, that we keep this important point in mind and we ensure that there’s fairness in our voting system and absolute accuracy.
Q But the President himself has voted, just two months ago, via a mail-in ballot. There are several Republican states that are also doing these mail-in applications for ballots. And so I’m confused, what is it that he thinks is illegal that’s happening in Michigan? He doesn’t really specify.
MS. MCENANY: So, first, with regard to the President doing a mail-in vote, the President is, after all, the President, which means he’s here in Washington; he’s unable to cast his vote down in Florida, his state of residence. So, for him, that’s why he had to do a mail-in vote. But he supports mail-in voting for a reason, when you have a reason that you are unable to be present.
Q But there’s a pandemic going on.
MS. MCENANY: There’s — right now. We’re very far from November 3rd. I would —
Q But there’s a primary coming up in June.
MS. MCENANY: I’m glad that you have the prediction tool and you can tell us what will be happening on November 3rd, 2020. I certainly don’t, nor does the President.
Q I’m just saying because there’s primaries coming up, and that’s like what’s happening in Nevada and whatnot.
MS. MCENANY: I would — I would also — I assume you care about fairness and accuracy in our elections. Do you not?
Q Of course I do.
MS. MCENANY: Of course.
Q But there’s not evidence that there’s widespread voter fraud from mail-in votes.
MS. MCENANY: So, there — so, there’s evidence. You can go look this up on ProPublica. There was a bipartisan consensus on the fact that mass mail-in voting can lead to fraud. There was a 2005 commission by none other than President Carter, who’s not a member of the Republican Party, and also James Baker about this, concluding that these ballots, quote, “remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”
So this is a concern. The President is right to look at this. We want a free and fair election, and that’s his concern.
Q Kayleigh, on this subject and one other on a different one: The President deleted his first tweet, which alleged falsely that the state of Michigan was sending out absentee ballots to every voter. In fact, they sent out absentee ballot requests. Was the President misinformed this morning? And why is he only directing this message toward Michigan and not other states like Georgia and others that are sending similar absentee ballot requests to their citizens?
MS. MCENANY: So the President corrected his tweet, as you noted.
And with regard to going state by state and looking at ballots in the way they’re distributed, that would be a question for the Trump campaign, and I’d refer you to the campaign on that point.
Q And on the G7, do you have any more details on the timing, when the President would like to schedule that here in Washington? And does that mean that travel restrictions that are currently in place on travel from Europe, from China, and other places would potentially be relaxed before that meeting would take place here?
MS. MCENANY: So I won’t get into the mechanics of how that would happen. I would note that the President really wants to see the G7 happen here in Washington as we begin not just to reopen the country but as the world begins to reopen. He’d like to see it happen sometime in June, but as to a particular date, I don’t have any announcement on that front or to the mechanisms of how we’d make that work.
Q Thanks, Kayleigh. A couple of questions for you. One, does President Trump support the CDC guidelines that were released over the weekend? And if so, why were they released so quietly? Why not talk about them, roll them out here from the podium?
MS. MCENANY: So the CDC guidelines — there was a 60-page document that came out last night that I assume you’re referencing. That document, I talked to Dr. Redfield earlier today about it, and much of that was already out there.
So appendixes A, B, C, and D had been out there for a while. Appendix E, he said he thinks it got posted sometime late last week. And again, these were his rough estimates he was giving me. Appendix F was being discussed, and there was constructive criticism of it through the task force and interagency process. So that was refined.
And my point in sharing that with you is that the 60-page document was merely an aggregation of a lot of what was already out there, so it’s not as if this was new information that we were announcing, but it was more guidance pursuant to our “reopening of America” guidance that was issued several weeks ago.
Q And does the President support the guidelines? Does he think Americans should follow those guidelines, or should they be following the initial guidelines that you rolled out here from the podium?
MS. MCENANY: So the President has been very clear he supports the “reopening of America” guidelines. The CDC guidelines are in concert with those guidelines. He wants to safely reopen this country. It’s very important we do so. And it’s good to see that most states — I think basically all of them have plans at this point to reopen, and we’re starting to see the safe reopening of several states and Americans getting back to work.
Q And let me just get your reaction to something we just got moments ago, a statement from the American Nurses Association, which says, quote, “The American Nurses Association has not received reports from nurses or other frontline healthcare workers utilizing hydroxychloroquine as a preventative treatment for COVID-19.” Why does the President continue to say that many or thousands of frontline workers are using it as a prophylactic?
MS. MCENANY: Well, there is — Henry Ford Hospital is doing a study on this now where 3,000 frontline workers will be taking hydroxychloroquine to look at its use as a prophylactic. I believe there is a few hundred or 190 workers in Tampa General Hospital. So this is being used by some.
And one thing I want to note with regard to hydroxychloroquine, because I think it’s very important that we’re as accurate as we can be with our reporting on this: Hydroxychloroquine has been a drug that has been in use for 65 years for lupus, arthritis, and malaria. It has a very good safety profile.
But as with any drug and as with any prescription, it should be given by a doctor to a patient in that context. So no one should be taking this without a prescription from their doctor.
But that being said, I’ve seen a lot of apoplectic coverage of hydroxychloroquine. You had Jimmy Kimmel saying the President is, quote, “trying to kill himself by taking it.” You had Joe Scarborough saying, quote, “This will kill you.” Neil Cavuto saying, “What have you got to lose? One thing you have to lose are lives.” And you had Chris Cuomo saying, “The President knows that hydroxychloroquine is not supported by science. He knows it has been flagged by his own people and he’s using it.”
Well, Cuomo mocked the President for this. And interestingly, I found this out just before coming here: Hydroxychloroquine, of course, is an FDA-approved medication with a long-proven track record for safety. And it turns out that Chris Cuomo took a less safe version of it called quinine, which the FDA removed from the market in 2006 because of its serious side effects, including death. So, really interesting to have that criticism of the President.
And on that note to Chris Cuomo, I’d like to redirect him to his brother, the Governor of New York, Governor Cuomo, who has several on-the-record statements about hydroxychloroquine, saying, “I’m an optimist. I’m hopeful about the drug, and that’s why we’ll try it here in New York as soon as we get it. There has been anecdotal evidence that it’s promising. That’s why we’re going ahead.” And I have about eight other quotes from Governor Cuomo should any of you have interest in that.
Q Kayleigh, what you just cited are studies though. They’re are trials that are in their early phases. Do you have any evidence that thousands of frontline workers are currently using it because they believe it actually will prevent them from getting COVID-19?
MS. MCENANY: So the FDA — the FDA has approved this for off-label use. You know, this President is a big believer in Right to Try legislation, people who are on their last —
Q But any proof of thousands of workers using it?
MS. MCENANY: There are several studies that have been brought up, that the President has actually mentioned, that I’d refer you to. There was one out of France — a French study involving more than 1,000 patients that found that the vast majority had, quote, “good clinical outcomes.” And by the vast majority, that was more than 90 percent.
There was an Italian study of more than 65,000 patients that demonstrated only 20 tested positive of those who are taking it prophylactically. And a South Korea study, as well. So there are several studies.
And if you’re someone out there — and this is a safe drug to use — and your doctor — importantly to underscore that — and your doctor prescribes it for your use as a prophylaxis or after coming into contact with COVID, then it’s something you should take if it’s prescribed by the doctor and that’s your personal medical choice.
Q Kayleigh, Governor DeSantis just suggested that the President may be going down to Florida for the SpaceX NASA launch next week. Is that accurate?
MS. MCENANY: So we have no news on scheduling at that front. But if I — if I get news in the future, I will certainly provide that for you.
Q Kayleigh, how often does the President talk to Director Vought — or Acting Director Vought from the OMB?
MS. MCENANY: To who?
Q To the Acting Director of OMB.
MS. MCENANY: Often. He just was in the Oval Office with the President, so they do speak often. I don’t have a readout of the President’s schedule, but they do speak regularly.
Q So if he wanted to flag to him his concerns about Michigan, why didn’t he just tell him instead of sending a tweet?
MS. MCENANY: Because the President believes in unprecedented transparency. And I’m sure you, as a journalist, are very eager and excited when you learn about the President’s decision-making process in real time, whether that’s on Twitter or from me here up at the podium.
Q But you just said that was — that was the reasoning for him expressing his concerns?
MS. MCENANY: I didn’t say that was the reasoning, but I’m saying this a transparent President. And I think that that’s something that you should be lauding rather than questioning as to why he decided to tweet this.
Q Do you — apart from President Macron, do you have any other answers from G7 leaders that they are willing — definitely willing to come here?
MS. MCENANY: So I won’t get into the President’s private conversations and correspondences with world leaders, but we do hope to see this happen. We hope that —
Q What response — how can you characterize the response: as being great, as a good idea, or thinking about it?
MS. MCENANY: So I don’t have any information about the response from world leaders, but we certainly hope to see this happen.
Q Yes, thank you. Could you clarify, please, President Trump’s comments about saying that it was a good idea — it was good that there were so many positive tests for COVID-19? Whereas, a lot of people look at that and say that this was actually terrible that we have actually one third of all the cases in the world.
MS. MCENANY: Well, look, I would note this: That, the President, what he was saying there is that we are testing. When you have more cases, in order to identify those cases, you have to have tested a high volume of people. So, the more you test, the more cases numerically — not necessarily as a percent positive, but numerically — you will see just by volume — sheer volume of your testing.
And the President has done an extraordinary job on this front. Washington Post surveyed governors’ offices and state health departments and found that at least a dozen states have testing capacity that outstrips the supply of patients. That’s a very good job done by our federal government in supporting the states. To cite the Governor of New York, again, quote, “We have more sites and more testing capacity than we’re using.” So we’re testing a lot, and thus we’re finding a number of cases.
But as we safely reopen, we do have some encouraging numbers on that front: that we continue to see a week-over-week decline, a 15 percent decline in deaths in just the last week. April 1st to mid-May, 50 percent decline in new hospitalization, and under 25,000 cases today. So we are seeing progress.
Q Kayleigh, can you tell us what law, specifically, the President thinks the Secretary of State in Michigan broke by sending out the applications? And did the Secretary of State in Georgia also break that law by sending out applications for their primary?
MS. MCENANY: Again, I’d reference you to the campaign. These are ballot questions, and I reference you to the campaign on that.
Q But he is the President and you’re his spokesperson.
MS. MCENANY: That’s my former employer. My current employer is the White House. So, thank you.
Q Yes, but —
MS. MCENANY: Yes?
Q But that’s not a campaign question. That’s the President of the United States saying that a state broke the law.
MS. MCENANY: It’s a campaign question on ballot initiatives —
Q It’s not.
MS. MCENANY: — that you have and absentee ballots. So I would refer you to the campaign on that front.
And I would note to you that many of those ballots that are submitted via mail can be fraudulent. I cited to you the bipartisan study. I can read it again. Maybe you weren’t paying attention when I read it the first time, so I’ll read it again: President Carter — a Democrat, not a Republican — and James Baker concluded that these ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud. So if you cast a ballot via mail and you do so fraudulently, that would be an illegal act. And I’d point you to that. And for further, I’d point you to my former employer, which is the Trump campaign.
Q Is the President concerned about fraud in Georgia?
MS. MCENANY: Any other questions? Yes, sir.
Q Yes, thank you, Kayleigh. Two questions, if I may. Firstly, on airports. The TSA is reportedly considering setting up temperature checks at airports. Given the numbers of people who can be asymptomatic or sick without a fever, do you think that’s sufficient? And why wasn’t more done to have screening at airports sooner, particularly in light of the House Oversight investigation that called screening from international hotspots, in March, “limited and stagnant”?
MS. MCENANY: So, the President is working with TSA. He’s working with airlines. We want to ensure that our TSA employees are safe, that those who are traveling are safe. And he has had those conversations, and we are keeping people safe at the TSA and the passengers as well.
Q Over 500 TSA employees have become sick, and 6 are dead. So again, you know, do you think this has been enough action and soon enough?
MS. MCENANY: We’ve taken action. We’re working with the TSA. We’re keeping America’s essential workers safe. And we are praying for all of those who have been affected by coronavirus.
Q And then, on another front, I wanted to ask about the President’s son and business partner, Eric Trump. He recently said of coronavirus that, quote, “The Democrats are trying to milk this,” and predicted it will, quote, “magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear and everyone will be able to reopen after the election in November.” Do you think Eric Trump’s comments are accurate and also appropriate?
MS. MCENANY: I think we all hope coronavirus goes away. And I think as we continue to take the President and his family out of context, we should endeavor to —
Q That was a direct quote.
MS. MCENANY: — quote them accuracy. And I think we should all hope that the coronavirus goes —
Q Are you saying the quote was inaccurate? Because it was correct.
MS. MCENANY: We should all hope that the coronavirus goes away.
Q Is there — is there a timeline for when UK and European Union citizens and visitors are allowed to come back into the United States? And will all European countries be included or could it be a case-by-case basis?
MS. MCENANY: So we don’t have a timeline on that just yet. I can tell you the President’s preeminent concern is keeping Americans safe. His travel restrictions have saved lives, as Dr. Fauci and others have noted. So we don’t have an announcement as to when we’ll be rolling those back, but his priority, his number one concern is America first and the health and wellbeing of the nation first.
Q Thanks, Kayleigh. A spokesman for Governor Whitmer said that she’s been planning to meet with the President and wasn’t given any invitation tomorrow. I was wondering if there’s a reason why —
MS. MCENANY: That Governor Whitner — Whitmer said —
Q Whitmer, in Michigan, wasn’t extended an invitation to the President’s appearance in Michigan tomorrow. And I was wondering if there is a reason why he wasn’t going to meet with her like other governors.
MS. MCENANY: I don’t think there was a particular reason. I — it didn’t come up. But, you know, while I — on that note, I would point to Governor Whitmer. It sounds like she’s curious about an invitation, but she should be quite happy that thanks to this federal government, FEMA obligated more than $216.2 million to Michigan, 8.6 million N95 respirators, 740,018 surgical masks, 311,571 face shields — I should round these up or we’ll be here all day — 760,000 gloves, 700 ventilators.
The President has done quite a bit for Michigan. And her concern is an invitation, but she should be thanking the President for all the supplies that he’s delivered to her state.
Q Yes, Kayleigh, the President has made clear that he’s concerned about liability issues as companies reopen now. Is the White House engaged with Republican senators about this issue? And would the President sign another bill — another COVID bill without liability being addressed in that?
MS. MCENANY: So I won’t lay out the President’s conditions, or lack thereof, for any upcoming legislation. He has mentioned it — that it’s something that needs to be looked at closely — and he is looking at closely, and he is discussing with members of the Hill about that. But he has made clear, in terms of a phase four, that he wants to be slow as we approach a phase four and not rush forward with spending trillions more dollars of taxpayer money.
We’ve done a lot so far, and he’ll look at doing more in the future. And liability is definitely something that he’s concerned about and working on.
Yes. Right back there.
Q One more on G7. Do you — do you think that it would be appropriate to hold a G7 summit in the U.S. while ordinary citizens are still not allowed to travel freely, for example, from Europe?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, you know, the President wants us to start reopening. Travel restrictions are something that, you know, he wants to make sure American lives are protected before those are lifted. But that being said, I do think it’s entirely appropriate, and so does the President, to have a G7 here. America is reopening; the world is reopening.
And what a show of strength and optimism to have all of the leaders of these countries come together at the White House and pursue business as usual as we move forward through this pandemic.
Is there anyone I haven’t gotten to? Just — I guess not. Okay. So we’ll do — we’ll do a few more.
MS. MCENANY: I had a brief answer to your question, so you go ahead.
Q Kayleigh, Susan Rice wrote an op-ed yesterday in the New York Times that said that President Trump has “kowtowed” to President Xi, and also has said that — called his response to the coronavirus “deadly” — classified as a deadly mishandling. What’s the White House’s response to that?
MS. MCENANY: So you said that that came from Susan Rice, was it?
MS. MCENANY: Okay. So, first, I would want to take a moment to address the President’s response, because the President has had an extraordinary and early response to the coronavirus. I would note Dr. Birx: “The early work of President Trump, both with travel restrictions and quarantine, has bought us the time and space necessary to have this task force be very effective.”
Dr. Fauci saying that the President’s response has been impressive. He can’t imagine under any circumstance that anyone could be doing anything more.
I can go through the actions. There’s a detailed timeline out there of: January 6th, Wuhan issuing a travel — a travel notice issued on Wuhan when there were zero cases in the United States. The 17th, zero reported U.S. cases, and there were public health entry screenings at major U.S. airports. Of course, the infamous travel restrictions that were called xenophobic by Democrats on January 31st. A lot of action in February on developing a test and making sure we were moving forward as speedily as possible on that.
Keep in mind, only — in February, Pelosi was saying, “Come to Chinatown. It’s very safe.” But the President had already taken very early action.
And I know you brought up Susan Rice in that context, but I’m going to bring her up in another context that’s equally as newsworthy, and that is the email that was declassified from Susan Rice on Inauguration Day, which is so peculiar.
To set the scene, it’s Inauguration Day, you’re moving out of the White House. This is the most powerful building on planet Earth. Susan Rice is moving out, reflecting on her time here, and what is she doing? She’s not packing her boxes. She’s not being nostalgic about her time in the White House. What she’s doing is writing an email where three times she writes that President Obama emphasized to conduct the investigation into Michael Flynn, “by the book, by the book, by the book.” She writes it three times. As Shakespeare said, “Thou doth protest too much,” Susan Rice. He didn’t have the Susan Rice part in there, but I’ll add that in.
Two, she was asked specifically about the unmasking of Michael Flynn after she discussed it on January 5th in the Oval Office with Obama, after she wrote this email to herself on Inauguration Day. She was asked by a good journalist, Judy Woodruff, about this email and she sa- — and about the unmasking of Michael Flynn. Not the email, but the unmasking. She was asked specifically about Nunes’s claim specifically.
So let me clarify, it was Nunes’s claim. And she said, “I know nothing about this, so it was a lie.” And then Susan Rice — since no one brought it up to me, I will bring it up to you. Her attorney said that this was the first opportunity, three weeks after this Oval Office meeting, that she had to write this email memorializing her Oval Office meeting with Barack Obama discussing Michael Flynn. It was her first opportunity, she said.
Ah, interesting, because she had an opportunity in those three weeks on January 10th to do a passing-of-the-baton event with none other than Michael Flynn, where she praised him, wished him success, and talked about the great transition into the White House.
And then, on January 12th, she was able to participate in a story that published on that date in the lifestyle section of the Washington Post. So she never had time to write this email until Inauguration Day, as she’s rushing out the door, when, in fact, she had an opportunity to do all of those things.
I’ll leave that with you. Thank you for bringing up Susan Rice, not in the context that I wish, but for allowing me to share that with you.