Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany - September 22, 2020
MS. MCENANY: I'm not aware of any conversation that they've had. There have been communications through the Chief of Staff, through the Secretary of Treasury. But until Speaker Pelosi becomes serious in her negotiating instead of - she's engaging in political drama, we're really at a stalemate. So it's really - the ball is in her court to become serious in these negotiations.
Q But it would carry more weight if the President called in than Mark Meadows, correct?
MS. MCENANY: They've - they've been negotiating, and when we believe the Speaker is in a serious spot, we can move forward with other conversations. But at this point, when you ask for a certain amount of school funding, we exceed that, and then you reject the excess for school funding - I mean, it just really shows where her mindset is at.
Q Okay. And my question on the virus was that some polls are showing that a majority of Americans don't trust what the President is saying on the virus vaccine. And I wondered, you keep - you all keep talking about the vaccine possibly coming out. How are you going to get people to believe that the vaccine is safe and that people should go get it when it does come out? What are you - what is the process going to be looking like?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so I think - first, I want to point out that several of the doctors have been on the record and have said that this vaccine is going through the same rigorous process it should.
As Dr. Hahn has said, "I've repeatedly said that all FDA decisions have been and will continue to be based solely on good science and data." As Dr. Fauci said, "Certainly there are no corners being cut here." And several others, like Secretary Azar, have been on the record on this.
So the members of the task force have all said this is going through the rigorous FDA process, and it will be a good, safe, and effective vaccine.
Q Just following up to Anita's question on the vaccine: How soon would the President feel comfortable taking a vaccine himself? And would he support a non-American vaccine, perhaps even from China or Russia?
MS. MCENANY: So first, I would say this: that the President has been on the record saying, "I'm happy to be the first person to take the vaccine or the last person - whatever is best for the American people." He believes it'll be a safe and effective vaccine and one he would certainly be open to taking. And he said this: "I'm going to really say something that is not like me: I don't care - I just want to get a vaccine that works. I really don't care if it's another country. I'll take my hat off to them." But currently, I think the other vaccine in phase three clinical trial is the one in Oxford.
MS. MCENANY: Kayleigh, just to clarify on the Mitt Romney development: With Senator Romney's announcement, does the President think he actually has a bulletproof group of Republicans who will vote no matter what, even before the nominee is named? Or does he fear some defections after that nominee is named and the confirmation hearings begin?
MS. MCENANY: No, he thinks his nominee is going to be someone with a stellar track record; someone who, as I've mentioned several of the qualities, will be a textualist, who will be an originalist, and someone who we believe Republicans will really rally around. And Senator Graham said that he believes that he'll have the votes. And, you know, we'll leave it to the senators at this point. But this will be a nominee that will really, I think, unify Republicans.
Q Well, the President has been a pretty nose counter. Does he think he has 51?
MS. MCENANY: He was - I missed the first part of what you said.
Q The President has been a pretty good nose counter. Does he think he has 51?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I think at this point, he's just trying to select the nominee. I haven't spoken to him about the vote count. But we believe that Republicans will remain unified, and we believe that this nominee will get across the finish line.
Q The President is giving a healthcare speech on Thursday. Is this finally going to be his long-awaited comprehensive healthcare policy? Because there were doubts that such a thing actually exists.
MS. MCENANY: No, it certainly does exist. The President, in the next week or so, will be laying out his vision for healthcare. Some of that has already been put out there, like telemedicine and lowering the cost of drugs. But the President - and protecting preexisting conditions. But the President will be laying out some additional healthcare steps in the coming, I would say, two weeks.
Q Thanks so much, Kayleigh. I have two questions. The first is: The President has said Roe v. Wade would be overturned if he got a chance to change the balance on the Court. He said, in 2016, quote, "If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that will happen." Is that the ultimate goal here, to overturn Roe v. Wade?
MS. MCENANY: The President and the administration would not ask a judge to prejudge a case. And I would point you to the rule set by none other than Senator Joe Biden at the confirmation hearing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when he instructed no questions on how Ginsburg will decide any specific case that would come before her.
And as Justice Ginsburg said in her confirmation, "No hints, no forecast, no previews." And Canon 5 of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct also reflects that a judge should refrain from giving specific viewpoints on cases, controversies, or issues.
Q I'm asking you whether or not the President's quote in 2016, whether he still stands by that - that he would like to see it overturned.
MS. MCENANY: The President's philosophy, as he's moving forward with this nomination process, is he's looking at a judge that has certain qualities, and that is someone who looks at the Constitution and interprets it as written, interprets the plain meaning of statutes as written, and will be a textualist and an originalist.
Q Can I ask you the second question about the virus?
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q Again, we've marked the fact that 200,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. Could you again try to reconcile the President telling Bob Woodward that "plenty of young people" - quote, his words - "plenty of young people" are affected by the coronavirus, with him saying last night, in front of a crowd, that "virtually nobody" young dies or is affected by this virus?
I'm wondering if you could just reconcile those two. Why did he tell Bob Woodward that "plenty of young people" are impacted by this virus, but not say that in front of a crowd?
MS. MCENANY: Well, as you know, this was a novel pathogen. We now know a lot more about COVID today. And the President actually said that in a speech last night, right before the comments he made. He said we now know a lot more about the virus, and we know that elderly people, particularly those with comorbidities, are affected by it, and we know that young people are, by and large - and in some states, there's been no young people that have succumbed to this disease. And I've listed off a few of the states for you.
We know that a very, very small percentage of those under 18 have actually perished because of COVID. And it was a novel pathogen, and now we know a lot more about it, who it affects, who our most vulnerable are, which is why we've surged testing to communities that are vulnerable and will continue to make sure that our elderly and those with comorbidities are protected.
Q But he's not continuing to downplay it and not - not continue to try to, like, not have panic? He told Bob Woodward that he wanted to downplay and play it down to not cause panic. You don't think he's doing that still?
MS. MCENANY: The President has never downplayed critical health information.
Q He said that to Bob Woodward.
MS. MCENANY: Dr. Fauci, as I noted to you, said, point blank, "No, he didn't." And that an assertion the Vice Pre- - that Vice President Pence, who led the task force, made as well.
Q Thanks, Kayleigh. The administration has filed an appeal to the Supreme Court on apportionment, trying to make sure that people in the country illegally are not counted when congressional seats are handed out. Sorry, I'm a little muffled. Texas is one of the states that would lose a seat if those people are not counted.
The Constitution says that the people in a state are the number that are used for apportionment. Are those - are people in the country illegally not people? And why does the President not want Texas to have more seats rather than fewer in the U.S. House?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I haven't done a particular - a deep dive into that legal case. I can look into it and get back to you.
Q Can I ask you a separate question?
MS. MCENANY: Sure.
Q At the top of this, you mentioned that Democrats have talked about impeachment, and you also said that a President doesn't stop being President in the last year.
Is there any - not that they're actually going through the impeachment at the moment, but is there anything to prevent an impeachment in the final months of a presidency?
MS. MCENANY: Well, first, I mean, to pursue impeachment based on someone executing their lawful duty, their constitutional duty, is just preposterous. And it told us a whole lot about what Democrats use impeachment for. It shows that they've always viewed impeachment - at least in the Nancy Pelosi era - as a partisan tool to take down a sitting President, to disempower the American people who voted to empower President Trump. They've used impeachment as a political tool. And that is - that will be the history and the record of Nancy Pelosi.
Now, she's on the record saying that she would even use impeachment to try to undo the Constitution, particularly Article Two, Section Two. That is shameful but unsurprising from the Speaker.
Q In his U.N. speech, President Trump mentioned the reduction of carbon emission in the U.S.
MS. MCENANY: Of what? Sorry.
Q Carbon emission in the U.S.
MS. MCENANY: Okay. I can't really hear you.
Q Carbon emission.
MS. MCENANY: Oh, carbon emission. Okay.
Q Saying it was a good thing because it's connected with the reduction of use of coal. Is it to say that decline of coal is a good thing?
MS. MCENANY: I would just note that, on greenhouse gas emissions, we have decreased them as the U.S. has become number one in the oil - in the oil and natural gas production. But we've simultaneously reduced greenhouse emissions.
Q I also wanted to follow up on the speech the President prepared for the U.N. General Assembly. He hit China really hard. And the Chinese ambassador introducing President Xi responded, accusing the President of bullying, protectionism, and unilateralism. I'm wondering what the White House response is to that.