Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany - September 22, 2020
That's what the President does: He takes this seriously. And the fact that you've seen the fatality rate that has fallen 85 percent since April and the fact that only 1.5 percent of emergency room visits are now people sick with COVID is a real testament to the hard work done by the task force and President Trump.
Q Just one follow-up: Could you speak a bit about why the President prefers to have the confirmation vote before the election? How does he think this is going to help Cory Gardner and Joni Ernst and Republicans keep the majority in the Senate?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President would like to see a confirmation process that is fair. I think one of the low points for this process was the Kavanaugh hearings and what Democrats did there - making baseless al- - allegations against Justice Kavanaugh, someone respected, prior to President Trump appointing him, by everyone.
And Democrats really dragged his name through the mud. What happened there is a travesty. I mean, the President wants to see a fair confirmation process. He wants to see one that does not look like what - what happened to Kavanaugh. That was a real low point for Democrats.
Q So he thinks Democratic stumbles in the Kavanaugh confirmation process will help Republicans if it's repealed?
MS. MCENANY: He thinks - look, Democrats really showed them- - themselves at the lowest point in that confirmation process.
I think the American people saw Democrats for the partisan games that they play. And I think the American people are looking now and seeing Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer talking about impeachment for executing your power in Article Two, Section Two. It's really inane and outlandish the things they're suggesting. And once again, they seem to be doubling down on their Kavanaugh approach. Didn't work out too well with Justice Kavanaugh; won't work out too well this time, in an election year.
Q Kayleigh, one on COVID and one of the Court. First on COVID, if I can. The President recently gave himself an "A-plus" for his handling of COVID-19 but a "D" for his PR. What would good PR look like when 200,000 American are dead?
MS. MCENANY: What the President was saying is that he wants to make sure that we get good information to the American people. That's something that I think we've done. And this President -
Q But hasn't he admitted that he's provided information at times that was not true?
MS. MCENANY: That's -
Q He said he was - he said he was "downplaying" it. So, purposefully, he was providing information at times that was not fully true.
MS. MCENANY: That's absolutely inaccurate. The President never downplayed critical health information. The President never downplayed -
Q He said he did.
MS. MCENANY: - our COVID response. And you can just see that by the historic effort that we've put forward.
And I would also point you to Dr. Fauci, who said, "I don't recall anything different in our discussions with the President that he said things quite similarly in public." And he was asked directly by none other than John Roberts, "Did you ever get the sense that he was or wasn't playing this down?" "No, no, I didn't." And that's an assertion echoed by the Vice President.
Our response: When you look, that 100 million tests that we've exceeded, the vaccine on record pace, the therapeutics, the fact that we brought fatality down by 85 percent. This was a novel pathogen that came in, for which there were no test and there were no identified therapeutics, but they were identified very quickly.
And also, with regard to the vaccine, when you look at the notion that we are manufacturing this at commercial levels, which I was told by Dr. Slaoui that that normally takes years to do, and we're already producing - the goal is 100 million doses by the end of the year. That's a testament to this President and his response.
Q If none of these vaccines are effective, what is plan B for the White House?
MS. MCENANY: Look, you're asking a hypothetical. We have six vaccines.
Q Well, it's a hypothetical with a lot of lives at stake.
MS. MCENANY: We have six American vaccines that we've identified, three of them in phase three clinical trial. There's also one -
Q And none approved.
MS. MCENANY: There's - well, we're getting there. And by the end of the year is the goal.
Q So the point is -
MS. MCENANY: And when you say -
Q - that they aren't approved. What would - what would we do if they're not approved? We all hope for good news, but what if they're not approved? What will the White House do?
MS. MCENANY: They have - we have six candidates. We are a strong belief that we will identify one, hopefully more than one working vaccine, by the end of the year. Producing them in advance; we already have a distribution plan.
And when you compare this - I think context matters - Ebola taking 14 months to get to phase three clinical trial. We already have two candidates in phase three clinical trial. Ebola took three years to get to completion. We will have done this in under a year, the fastest rate for a novel pathogen in history.
Q Can I ask about the Court? Just really quick - a quick follow-up on the Court.
MS. MCENANY: Sure.
Q The President did retweet today a segment from Rush Limbaugh where Limbaugh suggested, quote, "It would be great if Republicans skipped committee hearings on this pick altogether." Does the President want Republicans to skip committee hearings? They're a co-equal branch of government. Why is he directing them to do anything?
MS. MCENANY: The President is a fan of Rush Limbaugh, appreciates his commentary, and therefore retweeted it.
But we're working with the Senate right now on that confirmation process. And Senator Graham has said it looks like it will be on a three-day timeline.
Q So he wants that? He wants the committee to go forward?
MS. MCENANY: Justin.
Q Thanks, Kayleigh. One on SCOTUS and then one on the stimulus. Can you confirm that the President is planning to meet with Judge Lagoa in Florida while he's down there this week?
And he said yesterday that he had spoken to some candidates beforehand. I know that Judge Barrett was in here yesterday, but I was wondering if you could talk about any of the others that he may have already had contact with.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I won't get into his private meetings. You will find out which Constitution-abiding textualist and originalist he is appointing on Saturday.
Q And then, on the stimulus: It's been kind of a rocky couple days on Wall Street. I think there's concern that the Supreme Court fight may, sort of, kill the last gasps of getting a stimulus bill done before the election. Does the White House agree that that's probably not going to happen until after the election, if at all? Or if you are still hopeful - you know, the President said "when the time is right," he'd be willing to reach out to Speaker Pelosi. It seems like we're getting down into the last legislative days before the election. Is the time now right?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, we've wanted to see a phase four relief bill get to the American people. It's why the Chief of Staff and Secretary Mnuchin have been in negotiations.
Unfortunately, though, they've been in negotiations with a fundamentally unserious partisan named Speaker Pelosi, who, when we would exceed what she asked for - with school funding, let's say - she then would reject the money that was in excess of what she had previously asked for.
Democrats, I think, showed what they were about when they filibustered a bill that would have provided $300 a week to the American people through December 27th. They filibustered that, I believe, last week.
So at this point, the onus is really on Speaker Pelosi. We encourage her to send one-off bills, perhaps airline funding, or other elements that we could work through the process to get to the American people. It's always been this President's priority to do that.
Q So you don't see a, kind of, big stimulus bill, but you might see one-off bills before Election Day?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, the onus is on Nancy Pelosi. You know, we've come up in our number to $1.5 trillion. So it's possible, should she become serious in these negotiations. But, at this point, if she doesn't want to deliver relief to the American people to that degree, then she can one-off some bills that we would look at and be happy to move forward with, because the priority has always been getting money to the American people, which is why the President has had those EOs on evictions and unemployment insurance and student loans and evictions.
Q The first presidential debate is a week from today. How do you expect the Supreme Court issue to impact that debate?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so, you know, a lot of that is for the campaign with regards to the debate, so I'd have to refer you there.
But I think the American people are going to get a very clear-eyed look - as they have with the previous two nominees we've made - of what this President stands for: that we wants a judge who will protect our fundamental rights, our essential liberties; who looks at the Constitution as written, not trying to fancifully interpret that document; who looks at the plain meaning of statutes and implements that and rules in a way that a true textualist would.
This is a President who will protect the Second Amendment, who will protect the First Amendment. And these fundamental rights are at stake should another - should another party have their way with the judiciary. But this President will continue to appoint justices in the mold of Gorsuch and of Justice Kavanaugh.
Q And, separately, the Democrats are threatening to add justices to the Supreme Court, as you mentioned. Does that concern you at all as you go about this process?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, that's - it's unfortunately another example of trying to blow up the system. If you don't get your way, Democrats will blow up the system; they will change the system; they will trample on the Constitution. And, you know, I would point them to the words of Justice Ginsburg, who called court-packing a "bad idea"; she called it "partisan." She said, "Nine seems to be a good number. I think packing the Court was a bad idea when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried it, and I'm not in favor of all of that."
Q I had a question on the virus, but I wanted just to follow up on Justin. He asked about the Speaker. Has the President called the Speaker about the recovery bill? And why not, if he wants to get this done? And is he calling other lawmakers as well?