May 22, 2020
Donald Trump Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript May 22: Says Places of Worship Must Open Immediately
President Donald Trump’s May 22 Coronavirus Task Force White House briefing. He said that places of worship must open immediately, saying they are essential and he will override closures by governors if they resist. Dr. Deborah Birx and Kayleigh McEnany also spoke at the briefing. Read the full transcript here.
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President Donald Trump: (00:03)
Thank you very much. At my direction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing guidance for communities of faith. I want to thank Dr. Redfield and the CDC for their work on this matter and all the other work they’ve been doing over the past what now seems like a long period of time. Today I’m identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogue and mosques as essential places that provide essential services. Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential. I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now.
President Donald Trump: (01:06)
If there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me, but they’re not going to be successful in that call. These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united. The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue, go to their mosque. Many millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life. The ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe as they gather and pray. I know them well. They love their congregations. They love their people. They don’t want anything bad to happen to them or to anybody else. The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now for this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (02:15)
Mr. President [crosstalk 00:02:16]-
Speaker 3: (02:15)
Mr President [crosstalk 00:02:16]-
Kayleigh McEnany: (02:24)
All right. Everyone. It’s a pleasure to join you today. That was a great announcement from President Trump. I’d like to introduce Dr. Birx right now. She has a wonderful presentation pursuant to reopening American some great data to share with you. So I’ll let her kick this off.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (02:42)
Thank you, Kayleigh. If we can have the first slide, please. I wanted to start out with a summary of the number of Americans we have lost to date. But the exciting thing for all of us is the decreasing mortality over time. I think it both is a real aspect of the amazing healthcare workers on the frontline, the ability of people to share at the frontline, how best to care for the patients and the continuous decrease in mortality over time. Next slide. The other thing that has decreased significantly over the last month is new hospitalizations. We can see now that there’s over a 50% decline in new hospitalizations. Although every region of the country is different. We are encouraged to see these new hospitalizations declining.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (03:30)
Next slide. I’ve talked before about the extensive surveillance that CDC has made available to this country. This is looking at their syndromic surveillance from emergency rooms. You can see that both COVID like illnesses shown in the orange and shown in the blue influenza like illness, taking up both of those cases together. You can see significant declines week over week. A number of people coming to the emergency room with these illnesses that goes along with our new hospitalizations. What we like to do is triangulate data, but data together from multiple sources to see if we’re seeing the same trends so that we can ensure that we’re making progress together.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (04:13)
Next slide. This is their influenza like illness surveillance system that has been up and running for more than a decade now. You can see each of the influenza peaks of this last year. I think that’s very important to remind people of, because we had influenza A and influenza B, and then we had COVID like illness. And while we know it’s, COVID, that’s the last orange peak. What we really find encouraging is across the country. We are below baseline. Why is that particularly important? Now these are reported state by state, county by county. So each county will be able to see precisely where they are. And then if there’s changes in this, it becomes yet again, an early alert system. So I’ve showed you two early alert systems. One of them emergency rooms visits based on our syndromic illness qualifications that the CDC has up on their website and then the influenza like illness. And again, to the American people, all of these are available on the CDC website under COVID-19 cases and surveillance.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (05:15)
Next slide. Now want to show you… I’m going to go through these very quickly. This is where we started. This is influenza like illness, the red and the darker, the red, the more significant the influenza like illness is in that state. So you want to get to green. So this is the week ending, March 28th. I think many of us can remember what that week was. And this was when we were at the very beginning of our acceleration into logarithmic phase. Next slide. This is April 4th. You’re starting to see some of the states already turned green. Next slide. April 11, more of the country. Next slide, April. Next slide, April 25th. Next slide, May 2nd. You can see, and I really call your attention to there’s an orange area on this slide, and you can see that it’s the Maryland area. And we’ve been calling that out for a while. The high plateau in Maryland. You can also see Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (06:21)
Next slide. And then you can see Wisconsin still. You can see Maryland is yellow. Next slide. I want to turn just a moment. I know that took you through a lot of slides quickly, but I think we can see as a country, we have decreasing amount of illness, both at the emergency room and reported through the influenza like illness to of the surveillance systems that the CDC has up and running. These come from the states. They come from the counties and many of the states have these also on their websites. We talked earlier about how we had prioritized testings to the area that had the most significant disease. And you can see now Rhode Island is led all of the states. It’s almost up to testing 12% of all of their citizens. That’s followed by a New York and you can’t see New York, but that’s the very next one, New York and then North Dakota.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (07:13)
So you can see that. Well, you could see that most of the high burdens areas of the United States had more than 6% testing. That’s when I think you heard from Admiral Gerard, we wanted every state to test at least 2% of their population. During May. You can see 100% of the states now are over 2% of their population and we’ll fix this slide so you can see every state, but many of the states now are over 4%. this is just after getting all the materials to ensure that they have adequate transport, media, and swabs. So we’re encouraged by the progress that many of the governors and states have made in their testing of their population. It is also why we took the opportunity to really encourage governors. And it was to encourage governors, to test 100% of the nursing home residents and staff. Because many of our outbreaks that we have seen over the last two months have started in nursing homes.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (08:10)
Next slide. Now this is a complicated slide, but this is trying to show you how we triangulate data. So I took you through our surveillance systems. I’ve taken you now into the start of how we use laboratory data to really understand what’s happening both in the metros and at the state level. This is every single state. And you can see the triangles, the top part that you can see the little triangle pieces are the diamonds. That is where the states were in the number of positive tests. This is the nucleic acid test. This is diagnosing virus in your nose. You can see where it was 30 days ago and where it is now by the red squares. You can see a dramatic decline across the states. And indeed New York City just six weeks ago was almost 40%. It is now for the first time as a New York state under 10%.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (09:06)
So this is the progress that we’re making in both expanding, testing, finding more people, but ensuring that we’re getting testing rates at about 10%. this line is 10%. So 42 states are now have less than 10% test positive on a rolling seven day average. Now, again, I’m going to call your attention to the top three states. The top three states with the largest percent. And this is so you can all make your decisions about going outside and social distancing, potentially playing golf. If you’re very careful and you don’t touch the flags and all of those issues, playing tennis with marked balls with just one other person. So you’re only touching your ball. We found really people who enjoy sports have been able to really adjust to social distancing, but you can see the top three states are Maryland, the District, and Virginia. So there is still significant virus circulating here that is followed by Nebraska, Illinois, because of Chicago and what we’ve talked about before, about Minnesota.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (10:19)
So those are our top states, as far as still having high number of test positives. When I say high number of test positives, they’re all under 20%. If I had shown you this slide four weeks ago, half of the country would have been over 20%. So this also shows progress, but also very clearly about the region we’re living in right now with disease. Next slide. Now, I wanted you to see this as a metro because that’s as a state level. So we look at this in multiple different ways. The number one metro with the highest positivity rate is the District of Columbia, which includes Northern Virginia and Maryland Montgomery County and PG County that is followed by Baltimore…
Dr. Deborah Birx: (11:02)
G County. That is followed by Baltimore, Chicago and Minneapolis. And so these are the places where we have seen really a stalling or an increase of cases as in Minneapolis. You can see all the other metros, all the other metros are almost all exclusively below 10%. So we see this as great progress across the board in the metro areas. Next slide.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (11:28)
So we also look at daily cases and daily case numbers, and I know that you all know that that’s very erratic, and it depends sometimes on how the tests were reported, how the case were reported. And so you often have to look at it over a three or a seven day period. This is looking at daily cases on a seven day rolling average. You can see the number one at the top peak that has now come down dramatically is the New York Metro area. Underneath that, you can see our concerns about Chicago and our concern in the yellow line at the Washington, D.C. area, because these are two areas that went through their logarithmic phase and are now at a high plateau with an unchanging number of cases day over day, that’s the orange line and the yellow line.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (12:20)
You can see that the daily case numbers per 100,000 are below the yellow line and the orange line of Washington, D.C. and Chicago, and that’s New York and Boston, and many of the others. Providence is also up as a per 100,000 and that’s the way we like to look at it because we can really then understand it in relationship to populations. The other groups that have very low levels that once had a peak, this is Detroit, very low level now. This is Boston in the gray. It has come way down. Also, as you can see down here, is Atlanta and Miami. Next slide.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (13:03)
Now sometimes and I think recently, there have been publications about where the world was before we started the stop the spread and before many states shut down. And just to take you back to that moment, on March 14th before stop the spread, this is showing New York. I didn’t even put March 14th on there because New York on March 14th had less than 50 cases reported. Chicago had less than 10. Washington had less than 10. LA had less than 20. The large state at that time that had a significant number of cases was the Washington area, Washington state, which had 100 cases. On March 14th, we had about 500 cases distributed around the United States, not in any dramatic hotspot per se, but the majority of those cases and the hotspot at that moment was Washington state.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (14:01)
This is how the New York Metro area, which includes obviously Northern New Jersey, Northern parts of Pennsylvania, parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island and the dramatic decline that they’ve had in the number of cases. And I know you know that also mortality has started to decrease in that Northern New Jersey and New York area. Next slide.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (14:22)
But I wanted you to see how we bring all this information together on a daily basis. The red line in this graphic are the emergency room visits. So those are the syndromic visits that I discussed with you at the beginning. The blue line is the test positive. And again, it’s very erratic because of the reporting of when cases sometimes from the entire weekend are added on a Monday morning. And then you can see the actual case numbers in the black bars. And so that’s how we bring everything together, and what we want to see is all of the items trending down. We want to see the number of positives that you find because we really have states now looking for asymptomatic cases. So we want to ensure that both asymptomatic cases, symptomatic cases are all declining as shown in the blue line, that emergency room visits are declining and the actual case numbers are declining together. And then of course, then there’s mortality behind that in the green bars that are hard for you to see. Next slide.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (15:25)
But this is the Washington area, and so that’s why I want you to see that contrast. You can see there’s not been that dramatic decline in the blue line. There’s not been that dramatic decline in the black bars of cases, and there’s not been a dramatic decline in the emergency room visits with COVID like illnesses. So even though Washington has remained closed, LA has remained closed, Chicago has remained closed, we still see these ongoing cases. And I’ve asked the CDC and the CDC is working with the local areas in Chicago and this area in LA to really understand where are these new cases coming from and what do we need to do to prevent them in the future. Next slide.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (16:07)
This is Chicago again, just to show you going up and to this high plateau. That has been fairly persistent. Next slide. And this is Los Angeles. So you can get a flavor of where we have concerns, of where cities have remained close and metros that have remained close, but have still persistent high number of cases. Next slide. So then I wanted to talk to you about outbreaks because throughout this all, there’s been a large part of America that has been in many states that have been really finding their outbreaks, containing those outbreaks by testing everyone and doing contact tracing and then stopping them and stopping those outbreaks in their tracks. What we have been talking about, everybody being able to do across the United States. And so this illustrates the counties that have had 100% increase in new cases over the last three days.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (17:03)
Now the reason I wanted to show this because I see more and more graphics out there that talk about cases going up versus cases going down. Just to give you an example of Wyoming, and I think many of the groups now have Wyoming as a red state of cases going up. Wyoming three days ago had five cases confirmed and yesterday had nine. So they qualify almost and has show up as this large increase. It’s a good alert for us. We immediately look and look and see what exactly is happening at the state website. But you can see when you have very low number of cases, you can have a doubling from five to 10 number of cases and show up as a 100% increase. And so each of these have to be investigated separately to really understand what this is. It is the way we find outbreaks in prisons. It’s the way we have been finding outbreaks in nursing homes, and we have this graphic that goes through all of the counties as well as, next slide.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (18:10)
So this is one state’s analysis and what they have shown, and they have been able to find each of their outbreaks, contain every one of their outbreaks, close those outbreaks and call them closed cases. In this case, the dark blue is community spread. The rest of it, 50% of their cases, have been coming from outbreaks that they’ve been able to contain. The largest group, and this is meat packing plants, and what they’ve been doing is going in and testing 100% of the individuals in the meat packing plant, and also finding 100% of the individuals that are associated with those individuals in the meatpacking plant. They’ve been able to go into group housing, social gatherings. So just as we discuss all of this and when you go out for this weekend or Memorial day and you want to do some kind of social gathering, it’s very important to maintain that six feet distance and very important to have your mask with you in case that’s six feet distance can not be maintained.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (19:12)
But it also talks about longterm care facilities. Now interestingly enough, 50% of their total cases, since they’ve been tracking, came from these outbreaks. Almost 70+ percent, 76 of all their mortality though came from these outbreaks. And this is why we have been really pushing both in the original opening up the America again. In the testing blueprint, we talk about proactive surveillance, proactive monitoring and testing in areas that you know are particularly susceptible to outbreaks.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (19:47)
Every state has this knowledge now and this type of analysis. And so when they have these kinds of analysis, what we’re asking them to do is proactively go and test everyone in meat packing plants, to proactively go and test 100% of the residents and workers, and then a follow up of the workers in every single longterm care facilities. And this is defined the asymptomatic cases. I know CDC yesterday released that they thought 35%. We started with the understanding that we thought it was around 11 to 15% based on the experience with one of the Princesses, but now we know it’s at least 35. It may be greater than that because it may be so age dependent that there may be a lot of people under 30 that have the virus and are shedding the virus and aren’t aware that they have the virus. And so proactive monitoring, proactive testing will become absolutely critical to find these asymptomatic cases. Next slide.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (20:49)
So this is my last slide and this is just to show you what an outbreak looks like. So if you look at this axis, it’s normalized through 100,000 population, but you can see this is what we want to see. We want to see very low case number. We want to see that they’ve identified an outbreak, they’ve tested 100%, they’ve contained 100% and then they don’t find any more cases. And so this is what’s happening across the country county by county. This is a county map to really show you the work that’s going on. And since the last two months, we’ve gone from I think less than 4,000 contact tracers to nearly 50,000 contact tracers. And this is what’s been happening behind the scenes, but I really want to applaud the governors and state and the health and local, the health commissioners and the local health departments who have really been working quietly, in unassuming way to really find these cases, track these traces, isolate these cases and ensure there’s no additional spread.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (21:58)
And you can see in many of these instances, they’ve gone more than two weeks without any additional-
Dr. Deborah Birx: (22:03)
… these instances they’ve gone more than two weeks without any additional spread. This is what we are hoping goes across the United States. Now we all have to admit it’s going to be much more difficult in metro areas because you have to really identify where are those asymptomatic cases and how will you find them? It’s why there’s been a lot of additional resources going into disadvantaged areas and to the federal community clinics to be able to proactively be able to test for this virus and find asymptomatic individuals.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (22:34)
When someone gets sick with COVID, excuse me. When someone gets sick with COVID, you’ve heard the cases, some of them have very high fevers. They’re not out walking around. They may have been shedding virus for one or two days before they got significantly ill and they had to be in bed because they felt so terrible. Now think of that. They were maybe out two days. If they’re 50% of the cases, they’re only out for two of the days that they may be spreading virus. An asymptomatic individual that doesn’t know they have COVID, they may be spreading and shedding the entire time that they’re in the community. Instead of two days, it may be six days or it may be seven days. When we talk about proportions, 35% that are asymptomatic that are out in the community, it’s much more opportunity for transmission than someone who is getting sick and is only out in the community for two days.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (23:40)
We know we have to find both, and we’ve been working with States about what proactive surveillance would look like in this case to find people who are asymptomatic, but it’s also why we continue to recommend to the public very clearly that you can’t tell who’s infected. That’s why you have to continue to social distance. That’s why you need to continue to maintain six feet apart.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (24:06)
I remember in the early days of HIV, people told me all the time that they knew who was infected. I would say, “You don’t know who’s infected. I could be infected. You’re just saying you don’t think I’m infected because I look healthy.”
Dr. Deborah Birx: (24:20)
There’s a lot of healthy people out there with COVID that look healthy. We’re asking continuously for you all to be outside, to enjoy your Memorial day weekend, to play golf, to hike, as Dr. Fauci said, to play tennis with marked balls and to be out with your families that you have been in the household with and to even consider sharing social distance space as long as you have utensils that belong to individuals and that maybe can be thrown out immediately. There’s a lot of things to think through. I know you can do this. I know the American people can do it. Please, as you go out this weekend, understand you can go out. You can be outside, you can play golf, you can play tennis with marked balls, you can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart. But remember that that is your space, and that’s a space that you need to protect and ensure that your social distance for others.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (25:18)
Speaker 9: (25:22)
Kayleigh McEnany: (25:23)
Dr. Birx, if I could have you stay here for just a moment or two.
Kayleigh McEnany: (25:25)
Zeke, I believe you emailed me a question about nursing homes and testing this morning. If you want to ask it, I’ll have Dr. Birx give you an answer.
[inaudible 00:25:32] great. Thank you.
Dr. Birx, last week, or I’m sorry, two weeks ago, you and the vice president [inaudible 00:25:39] you wanted 100% of nursing home, residents and staff, tested within two weeks. Most states [inaudible 00:25:45] some two weeks later haven’t even started to try, saying it’s impractical and infeasible. Are you disappointed? Also what are the consequences of that inaction?
Dr. Deborah Birx: (25:54)
No. I know many of you don’t know me. I’m a very aspirational and hopeful person that just put out challenges because I think that’s what needs to be done. We’ve had it in the Open Up America guidance, where we ask them to test all the nursing homes and nursing home residents and workers. We know that that group is very susceptible and has significant mortality, and so we continue to ask the states.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (26:20)
We always look at the side of the ones who haven’t been able to get it done. There are some that are getting it done. I think what we will learn is from those who are able to get it done, how to do this more efficiently and effectively so that we can work together to ensure that not only we have the baseline testing, but we continuously test the workers within the homes to prevent any asymptomatic spread back to the residents once we show they’re negative. We only have a million nursing home residents. We’re testing way over a million people per week, getting closer to over two million people a week. Over that four million per two weeks, I was hoping that a million of those could be our nursing home residents.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (27:08)
I think week over week, as we see testing expand, it’s not going to just be, and it’s why I keep coming back to this, it’s not the number of people you have tested. We see this all the time with other diseases. We have a lot of worried well that will come back frequently to get tested. We want to test and we want states testing in areas where we know there’s higher vulnerability to susceptibility to worse outcomes, like our nursing homes, areas where we know there have been outbreaks, such as prisons, meat-packing plants, particularly areas where people are transported to plants together or live together in a single residence or multiple residents, but there’s multiple group home kind of housing situations and among our inner cities where know people may have not as much access to testing. It’s why money has gone to the federal clinics for testing. It’s why money and working with others have really improved testing through the pharmacies and ensuring more accessibility.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (28:13)
I know it’s a long answer, but we should never be discouraged by those who can’t get it done. We should be encouraged by those who have shown us that it can be done. Then on the governor’s calls, we have those governors present to the other governors, how they did it.
Following up on the president’s announcement regarding places of worship, deeming them essential and then having them all reopen. What guidelines and encouragement do you have for pastors, rabbis and imams as they prepare to reopen? Is that appropriate nationwide right now? What precautions do they need to follow if they are going to reopen their houses of worship?
Dr. Deborah Birx: (28:50)
I’ve checked, all 50 States have on their website what their new cases were over the last 24 or 48 hours. We’re trying to get every state to do that by community, by zip code, because I really firmly believe a knowledgeable community can really make judgements for themselves. I think each one of the leaders in the faith community should be in touch with their local health departments so that they can communicate to their congregates.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (29:20)
Certainly people that have significant comorbidities, we want them protected. I know those houses of worship want to protect them, and so really ensuring that maybe they can’t go this week if there’s high number of COVID cases, maybe they wait another week. But there is way to social distance, like you are here, in places of worship. I think what we’re trying to say with the CDC guidance is there is a way for us to work together to have social distances and safety for people so that we decrease the amount of exposure that anyone would have to an asymptomatic. I say it that way, because I know all of you and all of Americans, if they didn’t feel well, they wouldn’t go to church that day.
Kayleigh McEnany: (30:13)
One more for Dr. Birx. John?
Jonathan Karl: (30:14)
Yeah, Dr. Birx, can you comment on the latest study on hydroxychloroquine? There’s this Lancet study that suggests, again, that the drug could cause heart problems and even increased mortality. The president obviously said that he’s been taking it. What’s your recommendation? What’s your recommendation on using that drug as a prophylactic?
Dr. Deborah Birx: (30:35)
Well, first, I think the FDA has been very clear on their website about their concerns about hydroxychloroquine, particularly when it’s combined with a macrolide. I think you see that in the study. I think the study, although it is open label and it is … I tell you what I take home from the Lancet study, and I hope everyone here does in addition to what you just commented on, it clearly shows the comorbidity that puts individuals at more risk. I think it’s one of our clearest study because there were so many, tens of thousands of individuals involved that the doctors clearly annotated who had heart disease and who had obesity. You can see dramatically the increase risk for that.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (31:26)
There are still controlled trials going on, both for prophylaxis and pre-exposure prophylaxis, as well as controlled trials looking at, in a hospital setting, how these drugs do. I think those are still pending, but I hope everyone looks at those comorbidities. For all of our millennials out there, they get data like this, look at that. Go through and see if your parents or your grandparents have any of those things and make sure you’re helping protect them.
Dr. Deborah Birx: (31:54)
I’m really worried about people in my generation because we’re very social at times. We have a habit of forgetting social distancing or forgetting that glasses and when you’re eating, you can’t eat in a mask, so even if you’re far enough apart, you have to watch every utensil, everything you touch. I really am asking our great generation of millennials to get some YouTube videos about how to do picnics outside with your friends and still protect everyone and still ensure that there’s no co-contamination of food and utensils. I think there’s a way to do it, but I wanted explained in a YouTube video.
Kayleigh McEnany: (32:33)
Thank you very much, Dr. Birx. I know you need to get back to work, so thank you very much. You can do a follow-up with me.
Speaker 10: (32:42)
Dr. Birx, is it possible to do a quick follow-up?
Kayleigh McEnany: (32:45)
Okay. You can go ahead.
Speaker 10: (32:46)
Kayleigh McEnany: (32:46)
But before I start my portion of the briefing, there are just a few things I wanted to note for you all. Pursuant to those, some of those very encouraging graphs we saw where the states moved from red and orange to green, and we saw the United States increasingly become green. It’s encouraging to see that America’s reopening alongside that-
Kayleigh McEnany: (33:03)
It’s encouraging to see that America is reopening alongside that with Homebase, data from Homebase, noting that two thirds of America’s small businesses are opening. An Open Table study said Americans are now starting to dine out again. Another Homebase study, 67% of local food and drink businesses are open. Apple is saying Americans are driving and walking at near normal levels, and Google Mobility data reflects the same. So it’s encouraging to see America start to reopen and the great work President Trump has done for the faith community going into this weekend. We have a First Amendment, it’s very important that we protect that and these churches, these synagogues, these mosques, they are essential. And President Trump underscored that.
Kayleigh McEnany: (33:43)
And finally, before getting started, I wanted to note that the President, as you all are well aware, donates his salary to various initiative and parts across the federal government. And this quarter, he will be donating his salary to HHS, Health and Human Services, to develop new therapies for treating and preventing COVID-19 so that we can safely reopen. Here’s the check amounted to $100,000 that will go directly from President Trump in his paycheck that he does not take, but rather donates it to various noble initiatives, including in honor of COVID this time and those who have passed and the studies underway, he’ll be donating it to HHS. And with that, I will take questions from you all.
Kayleigh McEnany: (34:30)
Couple of questions to follow up on the President’s announcement. First, just to clarify, he came out and said, “I’m calling upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open up right now.” Dr. Birx just said, in areas where they have high cases of COVID-19, maybe they should think about waiting a week. So which is it, and why the mixed messaging?
Kayleigh McEnany: (34:51)
That’s up to the governors. As it said in our guidance, we note that while many types of gatherings are important for civic and economic wellbeing, religious worship has particularly profound significance to communities and individuals, including as a right protected by the First Amendment. The President wants to see these communities open. Dr. Birx was integral to making these guidelines and they lay out a pretty clear path for faith communities to reopen.
The President said he’s going to override the governors. Under what authority would he do that? And to your point, he said several weeks ago, this is all up to the governors.
Kayleigh McEnany: (35:25)
You’re posing a hypothetical and I think we can all hope that we see governors-
No, he said he would override the governors.
Kayleigh McEnany: (35:29)
You’re posing a hypothetical, though. You’re assuming that governors are going to keep churches shut down and keep mosques shut down and keep synagogues shut down. That is a hypothetical question and we will leave it to these faith communities to reopen.
[crosstalk 00:35:42] The President stood there and said if governors don’t listen to him, he’s going to override their authority.
Kayleigh McEnany: (35:42)
We’ll leave it to faith communities to reopen, and Kristen, I think we can all hope that this Sunday people are allowed to pray to their Gods across this country. That’s a good thing.
[crosstalk 00:35:52] what authority would he use to override governors?
Kayleigh McEnany: (35:52)
And I’d also note there’s detailed guidance in here about the way that you can clean your facilities, promote social distancing. So this is something that we should all look at and be thankful that we are encouraging these faith communities to reopen and do so in a safe way. And we’ll leave it to parishes to open in a safe fashion. Yes.
But just, what authority is the President referencing here?
Kayleigh, does the White House now support these churches that are defying governors orders in opening up?
Kayleigh McEnany: (36:18)
The President has been very clear. He wants churches to reopen. He wants them to do it safely. He wants them to do it in accordance with our guidance. It’s laid out very detailed. It’s posted now, so you can all take a look through it. And he wants to see all of those churches open in a safe fashion.
But if a governor does not allow that, does the White House support churches defying these executive orders?
Kayleigh McEnany: (36:37)
The President has been very clear. He wants to see churches reopen in accordance with his guidelines.
So the answer is yes?
Kayleigh McEnany: (36:42)
I just gave you an answer. The President would like churches to reopen and do it in accordance with the guidelines.
Just to follow up what Kristen asked… What specific provision of federal law allows the President to override a governor’s decision?
Kayleigh McEnany: (36:50)
The President will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen. And boy, it’s interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed.
No, but the President said that he [crosstalk 00:37:00].
Kayleigh McEnany: (37:06)
Kayleigh, I object to that. I mean, I go to church. I’m dying to go back to church. The question that we’re asking you, and would like to have asked the President and Dr. Birx is, is it safe? And if it’s not safe, is the President is trying to encourage that, or does the President agree with Dr. Birx that people should wait?
Kayleigh McEnany: (37:18)
Jeff, it is safe to reopen your churches if you do so in accordance with the guidelines, which are laid out very stringent detail here about promoting hygiene practices, and there are five bullet points, and cloth face coverings. If social distancing is not possible, it’s recommended intensifying cleanings, promoting social distance. We lay them out meticulously. So I am thankful that we have a President that celebrates the First Amendment, the same amendment that gives you all the ability to ask me questions is there to have the freedom of worship. So moms and pastors can go to their churches, can go to their places of worship, and can celebrate what is a first amendment right in this country, which is to pray to your God and to practice your faith. [Chanel 00:05:04].
And we celebrate that too. I just want to follow up by saying we celebrate that too. Certainly the First Amendment part-
Kayleigh McEnany: (38:07)
So we should be thankful that there are guidelines to allow us to reengage in that behavior.
But we’re not asking you if the President or people are allowing Americans to pray. That’s not the question.
Kayleigh McEnany: (38:18)
To gather in their places of worship. To attend church services. To pray together. And the President has laid out a clear path. The CDC has laid out a clear path for this to take place, for our First Amendment to be exercised in a way that is safe and robust. And that is something that is a good thing, and I’m thankful that we have a President who celebrates the First Amendment and helps it to be celebrated in its fullest and most robust way possible. Chanel.
Thank you, Kayleigh. I’d like to switch gears, asking about President Obama. We had an interesting article from Joel Pollak this morning. And I would like to ask you if the President has considered pardoning President Obama for illegally wiretapping on Trump Towers, illegally spying on US citizens, and other potential crimes out there. Has he considered that?
Kayleigh McEnany: (39:12)
So, I have not spoken to the President about that, but who I did speak to about President Obama and then masking Michael Flynn, were the men and women in this room. I haven’t spoken to him on that specific point. Have spoken to him about the matter generally. And I laid out a series of questions that any good journalist would want to answer about why people were unmasked, and all sorts of questions. And I just wanted to follow up with you guys on that. Did anyone take it upon themselves to pose any questions about Michael Flynn and unmasking the President Obama spokesperson? Oh, not a single journalist has posed that question. Okay.
But Michael Flynn’s name wasn’t matched to-
Kayleigh McEnany: (39:45)
So I would like-
Kayleigh McEnany: (39:47)
… to lay out a series of questions and perhaps if I write them out in a slide format, maybe we’re visual learners and you guys will follow up with journalistic curiosity. So number one, why did the Obama administration use opposition research funded by a political organization and filled with foreign dirt to surveil members of the Trump campaign?
Kayleigh McEnany: (40:09)
Number two, why was Lieutenant General Michael Flynn unmasked? Not by the Intel community entirely, but by Obama’s Chief of Staff, by the former Vice President, Joe Biden, by Susan Rice, by the Treasury Secretary. I mean, this is extraordinary. And you know, if it were political appointees in the Trump administration, I can guarantee you I’d have questions in my inbox right now, but apparently Obama’s spokesperson does not.
Kayleigh McEnany: (40:35)
Why was Flynn’s identity leaked in a criminal act? It is a criminal act to leak the identity of Michael Flynn to the press, but it happened. Where are the questions to Obama’s spokesperson? Because my team would be running around this building should this have happened under the Trump administration.
Kayleigh McEnany: (40:51)
Why did the DOJ, Sally Yates, learn about the unmasking from President Obama? So much for going by the book as Susan Rice said three times. Thou doth protest too much, Susan Rice.
Kayleigh McEnany: (41:05)
And then finally, question number five. Why did James Clapper, John Brennan, Samantha Power and Susan Rice privately admit under oath they had no evidence of collusion while saying the opposite publicly? It’s a long weekend. You guys have three days to follow up on those questions, and I certainly hope the next time I ask, some hands go up because Obama’s spokesperson should be asked those questions. Because President Trump’s spokespeople certainly would be.