Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany - September 22, 2020
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington, DC September 22, 2020 1:23 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Hello, everyone. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have officially shown their blatant disregard for the United States Constitution. Apparently, it is now a high crime and misdemeanor worthy of impeachment for a lawfully elected President of the United States to exercise his constitutional duty.
Article Two, Section Two of the Constitu- - of the Constitution clearly states that the President, quote, "shall nominate," end quote, justices of the Supreme Court when a vacancy occurs. No matter the time, no matter the politics of the day, the President is the President. There is nothing in the Constitution that says the President stops being the President in an election year.
The President has already appointed two strong, conservative justices to the Supreme Court - justices who will interpret the Constitution as written. Now he will nominate a third.
As Senator Ted Cruz reminds us, "We're one vote away from seeing our religious liberty votes [rights] stripped away, from our free speech stripped away, from our Second Amendment [being] stripped away." Just one vote. Contrast the President's solemn constitutional duty with Democrats' "search and destroy" politics.
Nancy Pelosi has vowed to attack the President with, quote, "arrows." Speaker Pelosi will not rule out impeaching this President for doing his job for fulfill- - for fulfilling his constitutional obligation.
AOC said that impeachment is an option, quote, "on the table," while Chuck Schumer stood by, nodding approvingly.
The plan of House Democrats is so rabidly radical that even Democrat Senator Tim Kaine has rebuked the idea, calling the idea of using impeachment to delay a Supreme Court vote, quote, "foolish."
Some Democrats already have a backup plan if they don't get their way on this nomination. Congressman Joe Kennedy said, "If he holds a vote in 2020, we pack the court in 2021. It's that simple."
Senator Ed Markey went further. "No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year," he said. "If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress, we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court."
Senator, the President is elected to a four-year term. You cannot unilaterally reduce it to three years. The President is the President.
Democrats cannot win their argument on the merits. They cannot win on precedent. So they must search and destroy.
Don Lemon said the quiet - the quiet part out loud last night. He said this: "We're going to have to blow up the entire system" if the President does his job as outlined in the Constitution.
That's the difference between Republicans and Democrats. We fight to protect the system. We fight to protect the Constitution when Democrats say outright, "We are going to blow up the entire system because we do not get our way."
This President will proceed undaunted by Democrat threats. President Trump will fulfill his duty. President Trump will appoint the next Supreme Court justice. President Trump will protect religious liberty. President Trump will protect our freedom of speech. President Trump will protect our Second Amendment.
Under this President, our rights will be upheld, our Constitution safeguarded, and this President will fill that seat.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q Kayleigh, as you know, the country has hit 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus. What do you say to Americans who are outraged over this and blame this administration for so many lives lost in this country?
MS. MCENANY: Well, as you've heard several doctors in the task force - task force note from this podium, we were looking at the prospect of 2 million people potentially perishing from the coronavirus in this country.
We grieve when even one life is lost. But the fact that we have no -
Q But there could have been a lot less than 200,000.
MS. MCENANY: - the fact that we have come nowhere near that number is a testament to this President taking immediate action - to shutting down travel from China when the other party, Democrats, were saying that was "xenophobic"; for shutting down travel for Europe; for developing landmark therapeutics that are working, like remdesivir.
And when you look at the fact that excess mortality - Europe has experienced a 28 percent higher excess mortality rate than the United States - it's a testament to the hard work done by the task force and this President.
Q And if you don't mind, if I could follow up: Last night, the President said at one of his rallies, about the virus - and I think he was talking about younger Americans - he said it affects "virtually nobody." "By the way, open your schools. Everybody open your schools."
But he said to Bob Woodward: It's not just old - it's not just older people, it's young people, too.
At 200,000 deaths, shouldn't the President be telling people the truth about this virus at his rallies?
MS. MCENANY: The President is telling people the truth. And you're right, Jim, that he was talking about -
Q No, he's not. He's saying that it affects "virtually nobody" and that it doesn't affect young people. He's not telling the truth.
MS. MCENANY: Jim, but you're again taking the President out of context. I have his full quote here. And you're right that he was referring to young people. He said this -
Q Well, then I'm not taking it out of context. If I said he was talking about younger people, then I'm not taking it out of context.
MS. MCENANY: You're - you are taking it out of context because you're making an assertion that he's not giving critical information, when, in fact, he is. And I will underscore exactly what he said. And he said this: "You know, in some states, thousands of people - [and they've had] nobody young. Below the age of 18 - like nobody. They have a strong immune system." And that is factually true. You can go to the American Academy of Pediatrics website, the Children's Hospital Association, and they list out -
Q But, Kayleigh, as you know, younger people can contract -
MS. MCENANY: - a number of states that have had zero pediatric deaths.
Q - younger people can contract the coronavirus and then spread it to older people.
MS. MCENANY: And as -
Q And you've known this since the very beginning. And for the President of the United States - at 200,000 deaths - to go out to his rallies and say something like, "It virtually affects nobody," and that, in some states, it's not affecting young people, that is glossing over the fact and - and really diminishing the fact that young people can catch this virus and spread it to older people.
MS. MCENANY: Do you -
Q Younger people can also be sickened and killed by this virus.
MS. MCENANY: Jim, do you have the quote there with you?
Q I have the - I have the quote here, yes.
MS. MCENANY: Yes, it is exactly as I just read it to you - that in several states, they have had zero pediatric deaths. I've - have the entire list here - Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Iowa, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas - and the list goes on.
And as you may not know, Jim, this - the COVID has a 0.01 percent mortality rate for people under the age of 18. So it does - it is not a disease that affects young people in the same way as older people, which is the exact point -
Q But they can catch it -
MS. MCENANY: - the President was making last night.
Q But they can catch the virus and spread it to older people, Kayleigh.
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q One person, Kayleigh, who does believe that the President has the constitutional authority to make a nomination for the Supreme Court and that the Senate has the constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent is Utah Senator Mitt Romney. In the course of the last three and a half years, the President and Romney have often found themselves at odd - odds; have said unkind, if not intemperate, things about each other. How is the President feeling about Mitt Romney today?
MS. MCENANY: I haven't spoken to him about Senator Romney. But Senator Romney is recognizing what any of us who take a clear-eyed look at prec- - at precedent recognize: that the precedent is on our side here. Twenty-nine times has there been an appointment during an election year. Twenty-nine times.
And when you break down those numbers, 19 times when those nominations were made, the Senate and the President were of the same party; 17 of those 19 times, that nominee went on to be confirmed. The 10 times when it was a difference in party between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the presidency, only two went on to be confirmed.
So precedent is on our side. The Democrats are trying to have it both ways here. And I would cite Dan McLaughlin at National Review, who said this - and he's exactly right: "Choosing not to fill a vacancy would be a historically unprecedented act of unilateral disarmament."
Q So, let me just follow up on that, if I could. So, timing now is the next issue. The President will have 37 or 38 days from the time he makes the announcement to the last time that he could have a vote before the election.
In past years, John Paul Stevens was nominated and confirmed in 19 days; Chief Justice John Roberts, 24; Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in 33. Times were different back then than they are now. Can you do it in 37 days?
MS. MCENANY: We certainly believe we can. You've heard very optimistic words from Senator Graham.
Q And how - and how will you do it?
MS. MCENANY: Well, we will go about this the way we always have: by putting forward a Constitution-abiding textualist, originalist that we believe the American people will appreciate and we believe will get through the approval process - the nomination and confirmation process, I should say - quite quickly.
Q Two quick questions. On the 200,000 deaths, will the - will the President recognize that publicly today at his speech or on Twitter? I mean, is this something that he would like to express remorse over or simply to people who have lost -
MS. MCENANY: The President, throughout this pandemic, has done just that. He has said before that it keeps him up at night thinking of even one life lost. This President has taken this incredibly seriously. And what he's done is he's worked harder, each and every day. He works hard, puts his head down, and I think that's very evident in the administration's historic response: the largest mobilization of the private sector since World War Two; the fact that we got working therapeutics delivered to the American people; the fact that a vaccine, frankly - this will be the fastest pace for a vaccine for a novel pathogen in history as we seek to reach that goal by the end of the year.