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Thu Sep 10, 2020, 07:17 AM

Press Briefing by Kayleigh McEnany; September 9, 2020


Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany | 9/9/2020
Issued on: September 9, 2020
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:01 P.M. EDT

MS. MCENANY: Hello, everyone. Today, President Trump was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his work in brokering an Israel-United Arab Emirates peace deal. It was a historic deal and the first such deal in over two decades. This is a hard-earned and well-deserved honor for this President.


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

Q Kayleigh, thank you. I’d like to ask you about the Woodward interviews. Did President Trump intentionally mislead the American people about the threat of COVID, a pandemic that has now cost the lives of nearly 200,000 Americans?

MS. MCENANY: Absolutely not. This President — at a time when you’re facing insurmountable challenges, it’s important to express confidence, it’s important to express calm.

Q He said specifically, “I wanted to always play it down.” Is “playing it down,” is that — is that expressing calm? It seems dishonest. It seems like a lie.

MS. MCENANY: Can you read the rest of the quote?

Q That’s how much they put in there. He said, “I wanted to play it down.”

MS. MCENANY: Oh, you excluded the last part.

Q We’ll play the full thing on “60 Minutes” on Sunday.

MS. MCENANY: Please — please do.

Q Do you deny —

MS. MCENANY: Please do. Please do explain —

Q — that he misled the American people —

MS. MCENANY: Of course, I deny that.

Q — about the threat of this pandemic?

MS. MCENANY: And he makes clear that he doesn’t want to see chaos, by the way, is the second part of the quote, which you failed to read.

The President, just days after having this discussion with Bob Woodward, said this, from this podium. On March 30th, he said, “I do want them to stay calm…We are doing a great job. If you look at the individual statements, they’re all true. Stay calm. It will go away,” but it’s important to stay calm.

So this President does what leaders do — good leaders: It’s stay calm and resolute at a time when you face an unsurmountable challenge. That’s what this President has done.

Q So when we hear these tapes, it will not appear that the President lied to the American public about the threat posed by COVID?

MS. MCENANY: The President has never lied to the American public on COVID. The President has been very —

Q You said it was (inaudible).

MS. MCENANY: The President was expressing calm, and his actions reflect that.

On January 6th, the CDC issued a Wuhan travel notice before any confirmed U.S. cases, among another — a number of other actions. And I’d refer you to Dr. Fauci who said that this President has an impressive response. “I can’t imagine under any circumstance that [anyone] could be doing [anything] more.” That is the record of this President.


Q Kayleigh, but how do you square the President’s words to Woodward when he said, “This is a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.” And then, just two weeks after he told Woodward that, he said, “This is a flu. This is like a flu.” And of course, he also said it was going to quickly go to zero. But that seems to be in direct contradiction of what he told Woodward.

MS. MCENANY: Well, the President was listening to his medical experts because you also have, at the same time period, Dr. Fauci who said this. Asking — asked if the seasonal flu was a bigger concern, he said this on February 17th: “So right now at the same time people are worrying about going to a Chinese restaurant, the threat is that [what] we have in this country, we’re having a pretty bad influenza season, particularly dangerous for our children.” So he was reflecting that point.

And again, days later, in a briefing, he said, “The statements I made are [this]: I want to keep the country calm.” That is what leaders do, and that’s what President Trump does.

Q But in that statement, Fauci is not comparing the two. He’s not saying coronavirus was like a flu.

MS. MCENANY: He was at — it was a COVID interview, and he was asked about seasonal flu vis-à-vis COVID, saying exactly what the President said.

And, in fact, the President was taking it more seriously because, on the tape, he noted that flu could be worse and he was taking action to address it.

Once again, context matters. That zero reported COVID cases, the CDC was implementing public health screenings, House Dems were preparing to file their first briefs in impeachment. One reported case, CDC — when there was one reported case, the CDC was activating an emergency operation center while Pelosi was releasing a statement criticizing McConnell over impeachment.

On January 31st, the President issued a travel ban on China, one that the former Vice President called xenophobic. That’s what Democrats were doing while this President was acting. And his actions reflect the seriousness with which he took COVID-19.

Yes, Jeff.

Q Kayleigh, you quoted Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci is also apparently on the record saying of President Trump that his “attention span is like a minus number, and his sole purpose is to get reelected.” That’s according to veteran journalist Bob Woodward.

I think the bottom line here is that the President, by his own admission, in private, on the record, acknowledged the depth of this crisis, and yet told the American people something very different. How is that, at its core, not an abject betrayal of the public trust?

MS. MCENANY: The President has always been clear-eyed with the American people. He was always clear-eyed about the lives we could lose. Again, from this podium, he acknowledged that this was serious — back in March — that 100,000, 200,000 lives could be lost.

And with regard to Dr. Fauci, you’re referring to a quote he allegedly told Bob Woodward, and I can give you quotes that we can all play on loop and video of him saying that his response was impressive and he can’t imagine anyone under any circumstance doing anything better.

Dr. Fauci saying this: “I can just tell you” — the President — “the first and only time I went and said [you need to] do mitigation strongly, the response was, ‘Yes, we will do it.’” “The second time…I went with Dr. Birx to the President and said, ‘Fifteen days [to slow the spread] are not enough. We need to go to 30 days,’ obviously, there were [a lot of] people who had problems with that because of potential secondary effects. Nonetheless…the President went with the health recommendations…”

So there’s a long litany of praise from Dr. Fauci, and you’re referencing something he allegedly told Bob Woodward.

Q It’s on tape. It’s on tape, Kayleigh.

MS. MCENANY: Well, I’m reading —

Q The President is on tape.

MS. MCENANY: I’m reading to you what Dr. Fauci has said very publicly for all to see. And we can all play those video clips. I can get them in your inbox.

Q But President Trump —

MS. MCENANY: Yes, Zeke.

Q — on February 7th, said, “It’s deadly stuff” — about coronavirus — in private, on the record.

In public though, February 28th, he says, “One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” It’s — it’s one thing to, as a public figure, not to try to incite panic. It’s a very different thing, respectfully, to lie and mislead the American people about — about a crisis that has claimed nearly 200,000 American lives.

MS. MCENANY: No one is lying to the American people. One day, COVID will go away. I think we can all hope for that day. We will have a vaccine because of this President tearing through bureaucracy to get a safe and effective vaccine.

One day, it will go away. That is a fact. It is not inciting fear. This President has expressed calmness from this podium; mobilized the greatest mobilization of the private sector since World War Two; got more tests than any country in the world on COVID; a vaccine which, by the way, will be a record for a novel pathogen — the timing of this vaccine –should we get it by the end of the year or should we get it even three years, which was the timing of Ebola.

This President has done an unprecedented job dealing with COVID — one that Dr. Fauci even acknowledged. And like I said, I will get you that clip to your inbox.


Q Kayleigh, just — you mentioned, a few minutes ago, that this is an insurmountable problem. I think that’s quite a point of dispute. If you look around the world, the United States leads the world in — for cases — in deaths from COVID-19. So doesn’t the President have — bear responsibility for that record, as well as the testing and the vaccine development that you were just talking about?

MS. MCENANY: No. When you’ve looked at the rest of the world — in particular, the case fatality rate in the United States is about 3 percent — the world is 3.3 percent. The UK 11.9 percent; France, 8.8 percent; Belgium, 11.2. And you can go through the various Western world countries that have dealt with COVID, and we’ve done a very good job.

The case fatality rate notes that, and that’s a testament to our therapeutics that the President has navigated —

Q But if you look at the per capita rate, the U.S. is still — towards the very top of that.

MS. MCENANY: The case fatality is the metric that shows how well our response has done with therapeutics, and we are leading the world in having the lowest case fatality rate. It’s a very important metric, and one that’s a testament, once again, to a President who ripped through barriers getting us remdesivir, convalescent plasma, and other very good, working therapeutics.

Q And, Kayleigh, you mentioned the President is very focused on a response there. Then why did the President have thousands of people, many not wearing masks, at a rally last night in what — you know, in a state that has limited outdoor gatherings to 50 people? Why is he going to Nevada this weekend to hold similar outdoor rallies? Gatherings of large numbers of people in violation of his administration’s own guidance and of the best advice and guidance of local officials, who he has said should have the final say in these matters?

MS. MCENANY: People have a First Amendment right, if they so choose, to show up and express their political opinion in the form of a peaceful protest, which is what the President held. And there is a real double standard here.

CNN had on a guest — apparently a doctor — Rob Davidson, who said, “Now, true, there are social distancing issues” — with regard to the protests we’ve seen around the country — “however, this is a public health crisis. They are marching against systemic racism.”

So if you’re allowed to march in aggregate in those protests, you are also allowed to show up at a political rally.

Q We’re not suggesting you can’t.

MS. MCENANY: You have a First Amendment right in this country.

Q But doesn’t the President have a responsibility to keep people safe?


Q Thank you, Kayleigh. How can the President bear no responsibility for the 200- — almost 200,000 lives lost when he downplayed the virus initially and he knew that how contagious and deadly it was? I don’t understand how that can —

MS. MCENANY: The President never downplayed the virus. Once again, the President expressed calm. The President was serious about this. When Democrats were pursuing their sham impeachment, he was expressing calm and he was taking early action. And his actions are reflective of how seriously he took COVID.

Q But does he regret the tact that he took, the language that he used?


Q You said that he used hopeful language. Does — does he regret that, given the way we are now?

MS. MCENANY: No, this President embodied the American spirit: that when we face a challenge, a crisis, a pandemic, we come together. We can be optimistic. We can be serious about it; we can take it seriously with our actions, which is exactly what this President does. It’s why we lead the world in testing, doing far more than the number two, which is India.

He took this seriously, but he still expressed calm. Our food supply chains were at risk — that we could not have mass runs on grocery stores. The markets. Also, the economy was in play here. We didn’t want there to be a huge crash and panic. He expressed calmness from this podium, but he has always taken it seriously. And the response — an unprecedented response — really reflects that.



Q Kayleigh, how is the President keeping his promise of ending endless wars if this announcement on Iraq is just a drawdown not a withdrawal? There are still troops in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. There are still troops. It’s not really keeping the 2016 promise, is it?

MS. MCENANY: The President is drawing down our troops. These things take time. We want to ensure that the Iraqi security forces are well trained, and our U.S. troops have done a magnificent job doing just that.

We believe that now is the time when we can make this drawdown, keep the country stable, because of the training that our troops have done. So —

Q But isn’t it, kind of, an attempt to, kind of, try and make it look like the promise is being kept in advance of the election?

MS. MCENANY: No, not at all. This is an expression that we believe that Iraqi Security Forces can do this alongside the troops that will remain there. And the facts tell the story that this President broke the 39-year-old streak of American presidents either starting a war or bringing the United States into an international armed conflict.

So unlike past presidents, this President has prioritized peace through strength, which is his foreign policy.


Q But just one really quick, to follow up —

MS. MCENANY: Yes. Chanel.

Q — just a really, really quick follow-up.

Q Thank you, Kayleigh.

MS. MCENANY: Chanel.

Q Sorry, just on the breaking the 39-year trend: How does that work if the President sent troops into Saudi Arabia?

MS. MCENANY: Chanel.

Q Kayleigh, thank you. With Kosovo and United Arab Emirates, these are Muslim-majority countries spanning two continents now, each bringing some kind of agreement with Israel towards peace.

{snip the rest}

Thank you.


1:27 P.M. EDT

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