Jun 1, 2020
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Press Conference Transcript June 1
June 1 press conference with White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She answered several questions about the recent George Floyd protests and President Trump’s recent statements & tweets about the protests. Read the full news briefing here.
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Kayleigh McEnany: (00:01)
Good afternoon, everyone. The president has made clear that what we are seeing on America’s streets is unacceptable. Violence, looting, anarchy, lawlessness are not to be tolerated. Plain and simple. These criminal acts are not protest, they are not statements. These are crimes that harm innocent American citizens.
Kayleigh McEnany: (00:24)
The first amendment guarantees the right of the people to peaceably assemble. What we saw last night in Washington and across the country was not that. To that end, President Trump is demanding action to protect American citizens, to protect American businesses. 17,000 National Guard are deployed in 24 states, but according to General Milley, only two States have deployed more than 1000. There are 350,000 National Guard available overall, and for the lawlessness we are seeing, far more needs to be done.
Kayleigh McEnany: (00:58)
Governors across the country must act, deploy the National Guard as it’s fit and protect American communities. As President Trump has said repeatedly, it’s very important that we have peaceful protesters and support the rights of peaceful protesters, but we cannot allow a situation like what happened in Minneapolis to descend further into lawless, anarchy, and chaos. And we understand that very well. And with that, I’ll take questions. Yes.
Speaker 2: (01:27)
To your point, the country is in crisis. There’s a global pandemic that has claimed more than 100,000 lives. At least 40 million people are unemployed, there are now protests and racial tensions ripping apart many cities. Where is the president? Why has he not delivered an address to the nation, as many of his predecessors have in a time of domestic crisis?
Kayleigh McEnany: (01:46)
The president has delivered multiple statements on this. The president, as recently as 48 hours ago, was out talking about what a tragedy, the death of George Floyd was, how it has weighed on his heart. On how he encourages peace and lawfulness in our streets, and peaceful protest. He has said that repeatedly. He’s made many statements to this effect, but what I would note is continual statements as he’s made day, and day, and day, and day, again, they don’t stop anarchy. What stops anarchy is action. And that’s what the president is working on right now.
Speaker 3: (02:17)
You said this morning that the president is focused right now on looting out Antifa. George Floyd did not die in Antifa custody, he died in police custody. What’s the president doing to reform policing tactics and excessive use of force by police?
Kayleigh McEnany: (02:31)
Yeah. it’s an important question, for sure. And this president, if you look at the actions his DOJ has taken, there’s a civil rights investigation into the death of Ahmaud Arbery, there’s a civil rights investigation into the death of George Floyd. It is a tragedy what we saw. I mentioned to you that the president was extremely upset when he saw that video and the DOJ continues to pursue those charges.
Kayleigh McEnany: (02:53)
And he’s recognized Injustices for a long time, since he was a candidate, he talked about Sandra bland and what a terrible video that was too. He recognizes injustices where they are. But at the same time, he also recognizes that we can’t allow organized groups like Antifa to commit some of the heinous acts that we’ve seen. John.
In this call with the governors, the president said that he had put General Milley in charge of all this. What does that mean? [crosstalk 00:03:21] in charge of policing American streets, what did he mean?
Kayleigh McEnany: (03:25)
I’m not going to get ahead of any actions that will be announced. But what I will say to you is this, that he has had two briefings today with Secretary Esper and AG Barr and General Milley was there. And there will be additional federal assets deployed across the nation. There will be a central command center in conjunction with the state and local governments that will include General Milley, Secretary Esper and AG Barr. But I won’t go any further in announcing what Actions.
Can you explain what the president meant when he told the governors, “I am putting General Milley in charge? What does that mean? Because that sounds like a total break here. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff being in charge of a domestic issue.
Kayleigh McEnany: (04:02)
In ensuring that as the president has said, and this has been taken out of context, by the way, that our streets are dominated with a police force and with a National Guard presence, so that… Let me explain a little bit about how this works. If there’s a peaceful protest, police will form a line. And what we’ve seen are those lines have been overwhelmed by massive protests that have turned into riots. The peaceful protest to be distinguished from the riots we’ve seen.
Kayleigh McEnany: (04:26)
And when those lines are overwhelmed, law enforcement gets on the defense. So what the president has said is he wants to dominate the streets with National Guard, with a police presence. And what studies have shown, as General Milley noted, he was in that governor’s call, and his points all pertained to the National Guard. And he noted that there were several studies that when there’s an overwhelming National Guard presence, it actually deescalates the situation and causes less civil unrest. General Milley has really been on point in talking about the National Guard, the effectiveness and ensuring that they’re utilized to great effect across the country.
What’s been taken out of context, because I have the exact quote. It’s a very simple one. He just says that he has put General Milley in charge.
Kayleigh McEnany: (05:05)
No, no, I wasn’t suggesting that quote was out of context. The dominate. I’ve seen some networks that have talked about dominating protesters and I’ve been around the president all day. Anytime he’s used the word dominate, it was with regard to dominating the streets and ensuring that we have peace in our streets. Yes? Yes, go ahead.
Speaker 5: (05:22)
In addition to the tough talk the president has been talking about taking action against looters and some of the violent elements in the protests that we’ve seen, why isn’t he also supplementing that message by calling on these people to remain calm, to go home, to not destroy property, businesses, so on.
Kayleigh McEnany: (05:42)
Yeah, he has done that repeatedly. Look, he talked about understanding the pain that people are feeling, and he does understand that pain. He’s talked several times about the right to peacefully protest. And I’ve seen some of these peaceful protests, some of these sit-ins. And it’s a real shame when you have anarchy and anarchist come in and you have Antifa come in and it really dilutes the message of the protesters. And it’s a legitimate reason they’re protesting.
Kayleigh McEnany: (06:06)
He hates to see Antifa come in and really dampen that message, which has been in many cases, peaceful. But has been overtaken and overwhelmed by an organized effort of people from out of state coming in and causing havoc.
Speaker 5: (06:17)
Is he traveling on Friday? Is he going to Maine?
Kayleigh McEnany: (06:21)
He still plans on going to Maine. I haven’t heard any other changes to that effect. Yeah, [inaudible 00:00:06:25]. I like your mask that’s really cool.
Speaker 6: (06:27)
Thank you. I have a quick followup about police reform. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien says he does not think there is systemic racism among law enforcement in the US, does President Trump share that view?
Kayleigh McEnany: (06:40)
Look, I think where the president stands, is he does not believe, he fundamentally rejects the idea that these egregious actions of these four Minnesota officers are representative of our police force as a whole. Most of our officers in this country are good, hardworking men and women who work every day to police our streets. He’s recognized cases of injustice. I noted Sandra Bland, back when he was in the primary, I’ve noted more recently, Ahmaud Arbery and then George Floyd. he recognizes these injustices. He puts a focus on them, but he also recognizes our valiant police officers who have taken to the streets each and every night over the last six nights and protected our communities.
Speaker 6: (07:21)
Can you explain what the legal authority the president has is for designating Antifa as a terrorist organization? And can you also talk about why he does not want to label white supremacist groups that are domestically located as terrorist organizations as well?
Kayleigh McEnany: (07:42)
Let me address the first part about legal authority. Title 18, section 2331, it defines domestic terrorism as evolving acts dangerous to human life that appear intended to influence the policy of a government and other elements are laid out. And it allows the Department of Justice when utilizing this statute to invoke greater investigatory authority and to invoke harsher penalties.
Kayleigh McEnany: (08:06)
I would note that the justice department has in the past used domestic terrorism in consultation with acts of white supremacy, or what were racially motivated acts. Like on April 2020, a Florida man pled guilty to threatening an African American Charlottesville City Council candidate. And at that time, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force was utilized. Same in the case of February 2020, where it was used in connection to four racially motivated violent extremists.
Kayleigh McEnany: (08:33)
I would also note the president’s long history of condemning white supremacy and racism. There is no place in society for these egregious, egregious despicable ideologies. Yeah.
Speaker 6: (08:44)
Has he designated any white nationalist groups as terrorist organizations?
Kayleigh McEnany: (08:48)
I explained how in this case that domestic terrorism will be used as a way that the crime is prosecuted. It’s a prosecutorial method and it was utilized in the same exact way with regard to white supremacy. Yes?
Speaker 7: (09:03)
On the Minnesota police officers, is he suggesting that they should be charged as well as the officer who’s already been charged, the other three? And also on Antifa, can you explain a little bit about how would he know, or is he talking about how you would identify members of Antifa? Since they’re a very loose organization, it would be very difficult to tell who is part of Antifa.
Kayleigh McEnany: (09:24)
First I was just on the call with the president where he expressed his dismay with those three officers who watched. I’ll leave it to the state to pursue those charges if they decide to. It was the state that pursued the initial charge. But the president has expressed his complete dismay with those actions.
Kayleigh McEnany: (09:40)
With Antifa, I do think it’s important to note that they are a big element of this protest. AG Barr has noted that, Ambassador O’Brien has noted that. We have ample evidence that DOJ has received indicating that Antifa is responsible for that unrest. But as to exactly how Antifa’s identified, that would be more of a question for DOJ. Yeah.
Speaker 8: (10:07)
When you talk about additional federal assets, does the president have the authority to deploy force across the country, beyond the National Guard?
Kayleigh McEnany: (10:08)
He does. And look, we’re looking at every tool in the federal toolkit available to us. Ideally this would have been resolved at the state level. The States after all have the police power embedded in the 10th Amendment. And it is their responsibility to patrol their streets. But you’re right to say that there are many federal authorities, including the one you cited, available to us.
Speaker 8: (10:27)
Did he bring this up with the governors, in the phone call today?
Kayleigh McEnany: (10:31)
The focus of the call with the governor’s was really the National Guard. Not that specific tool and the toolkit that you mentioned, but the national guard and how it should be utilized much stronger than it’s currently being utilized. Yes, I will go to… Let’s see, Jeff.
Okay. Thanks. Following up on what Tom was asking earlier, Governor Whitmer, she said she found the president’s call deeply disturbing. And she said, the president told the governors, they need to put it down, or they would be overwritten. Is it a specific authority he’s using? Because as you knows, [inaudible 00:11:06] really prevents the Army to put down domestic insurrection of anybody.
Kayleigh McEnany: (11:09)
Yeah, I don’t know why Governor Whitmer would be dismayed at the president telling governors to do their job. It is their responsibility to police their streets. They have the police power embedded in the constitution. They have quite clearly, many of them, failed to do their job. Look at the scenes we have seen. And it’s gotten to the point where today the president has said, “Enough is enough. There are tools I can use, namely deploying National Guard.”
Kayleigh McEnany: (11:34)
Many others, Steve cited one, the Insurrection Act. It’s one of the tools available, whether the president decides to pursue that, that’s his prerogative. Right now, we’re looking at a focus on the National Guard. That’s where it currently stands. And there’s a distinction between the National Guard and military forces in the street, I would note. The National Guard are the friends and neighbors in these communities who are used.
Kayleigh McEnany: (11:55)
And as I noted the study from General Milley, I use to great effect when they are deployed. The focus of the call was the National Guard, encouraging the deployment, far more than the 17,000 out there and utilizing them this evening, certainly.
… would you like to see 100,000 National Guard on the street, or 200,000?
Kayleigh McEnany: (12:11)
I won’t put a number on it. I think it’s incumbent on governors to look at the situation. A case in Texas might not merit the same thing as New York city. He’s encouraging the governors to up those levels, but there’s not a specific number that he has in mind. David.
Kayleigh, there is a perception that the president is hiding in the bunker on the racial protest issue. He was literally put in a bunker on Friday night by the Secret Service. Would you agree that he is hiding out on this issue and is that a good posture to be in?
Kayleigh McEnany: (12:41)
I would not. I would not agree with that at all. Look, I was on the phone with the president at least half a dozen times yesterday. And every time I talked to him, he was telling me about a different action he had taken, whether it was talking to a governor about this, or a foreign leader about ventilators. This president has been leading. He met with generals yesterday. He’s each and every moment on taking another action to try to solve and resolve what we’ve seen in our streets, where the governors have failed. He stepped in.
Kayleigh McEnany: (13:07)
He’s acting, he’s hard at work. You’ve heard from him on this issue, any number of times, and he’s working because that’s the job of the president is to keep this country safe.
Well he haven’t heard him on camera that much, is he going to get some kind of speech, or a specific event about all these disturbances in hundreds of cities?
Kayleigh McEnany: (13:22)
I really think that that’s a misnomer in the media. It was really appalling some of the coverage I saw, like the New York Times yesterday made no mention of the myriad times that the president has spoken on this issue. Instead, in paragraph 14, they made a cursory mention of his remarks at Space Force. Most of which, at least half of which, pertained to George Floyd.
Kayleigh McEnany: (13:43)
There was a Washington Post article with an egregious headline about Trump staying silent. He hasn’t been silent on this. I have a whole list of his remarks there. And instead, paragraph 23, they note, “Oh wait, we’re contradicting our own headline. The president did, in fact, make remarks.”
Kayleigh McEnany: (13:58)
Contrary to the silent headline. You had Don Lemon on CNN saying at 9:38 PM on Saturday night, “The president’s been silent.” Ironically, that comment came four afters, after the president was quite audibly speaking at this issue, I was there for the remarks. And then you had CNN double down the next day, Sunday afternoon, saying the president was silent. And I don’t want to bore you with reading out all of the statements, but it sounds like I should read a few.
Kayleigh McEnany: (14:21)
Like the president saying, “It’s a grave tragedy that filled Americans all over the country with horror, anger, and grief. And I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice.” He said, “I understand the pain that people are feeling.” I can go on and on, but I would just be repeating what the president has already said, because make no mistake, this president has not been silent. And at this moment he is acting to protect this country from the lawlessness we saw just out here in Lafayette Park last night. Yes?
Speaker 11: (14:53)
A particularly egregious act, St. John’s Church, Church of the Presidents was targeted last night. Graffiti all over it, set on fire. What is the president’s reaction to that please?
Kayleigh McEnany: (15:03)
It’s hurtful. Honestly, I think it’s hurtful on a number of levels. Look, the VA was defaced, literally the word veteran spray painted out of the placard in front of the Department of Veteran Affairs. The Lincoln Memorial defaced. How does that make much sense? The place where the March on Washington began. That momentous occasion in the history of civil rights. That Memorial was defaced last night. That doesn’t honor the legacy of George Floyd. It doesn’t.
Kayleigh McEnany: (15:31)
And certainly not the burning of St. John’s Church. Look, St. John’s, I think it’s important to go through a little bit of this, but Reverend John C. Harper was the Saint John’s rector many centuries ago, decades. Centuries, and a few decades ago. And here’s what he was told. He was told he needed to close St. John’s because he couldn’t leave it open for the March on Washington, because “It might be a bloodbath.”
Kayleigh McEnany: (15:56)
But he stood boldly. He stood boldly and he stood on the side of justice. And on the day, the March on Washington happened, here’s what was sung from that church. “One family on earth are we, throughout its widest span, oh, help us everywhere to see the brotherhood of man.” And of course we know that the March on Washington ended with Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., giving that incredible speech, I Have a Dream.
Kayleigh McEnany: (16:20)
And that church, the same church that was burning last night, here’s what they said, taking that bold stance to support Martin Luther King. They said this, “This church building is open as it has always been, so all who want to worship here, the ministry of this parish is extended to any who seek it. Our fellowship with one another has no limitations whatsoever.” That church supported the bold civil rights moments of the March on Washington, which began at the Lincoln Memorial. That doesn’t honor the legacy of George Floyd. It doesn’t further the cause. And those are violent anarchists, Antifa who are taking advantage of the pain of people, the pain of the peaceful protesters.
Kayleigh McEnany: (17:02)
It’s inexcusable. And we have to stand as one America against the burning of the church and the defacement of the Lincoln Memorial. Chanel?
Kayleigh, is it possible that DC will be placed under martial law, in order to protect these national monuments from further destruction? And second, under the Civil Rights Act of ’68, will this administration investigate either members of Congress, or political organizations who are funding, or tied to Antifa moving forward?
Kayleigh McEnany: (17:30)
Yeah. You know what, Antifa, I think, at this point, we’re pursuing the domestic terrorism angle. That’s what the DOJ has decided. And what was your first question was about martial law?
Martial law to protect national monuments in DC.
Kayleigh McEnany: (17:41)
Yes. I have not heard that discussed. Any other questions. Yes?
Speaker 13: (17:46)
Thank you. You confirmed a phone call earlier today between President’s Trump and Putin. And if so, considering what the president said to governors later in the day, did he ask President Putin for advice on how to quell unrest in his own country?
Kayleigh McEnany: (18:02)
I don’t have any details on that call. I wasn’t a part of it. I’m not entirely certain what was discussed, but the call did take place. Yes?
Speaker 14: (18:14)
Does the president regrets using phrases like, “When the looting starts the shooting starts”, and phrases like vicious dogs. Is he considering apologizing?
Kayleigh McEnany: (18:24)
The president, on the looting point, he was taken wildly out of context. Twitter, it’s interesting to watch. I’ve seen multiple instances of real incitement of violence on Twitter, but they’ve never penalized those users. Like for instance, Iran. And we’ve seen horrific tweets from the Iranian regime about the elimination of the “Zionist regime”, to quote them. And that was never flagged. Interesting that their gut instinct was to flag the president.
Kayleigh McEnany: (18:50)
And they did so in an inaccurate way. The president very clearly laid out what he meant by that tweet, that looting leads to shooting. And we have seen the unfortunate killing of one person in Minneapolis. There were seven people shot in a St. Louis riot a few nights ago, and the president clearly laid out what he meant. But it is interesting to watch the gut instinct of Twitter to go ahead and label what the president said as somehow inciting violence, which it absolutely was not.
Kayleigh McEnany: (19:18)
But look, I want to say this, we cannot let violence and we cannot let looting and a few bad actors divide us as an American people. The American spirit is defined by love and mutual acceptance and kindness. And despite the horrific scenes we’ve seen play throughout the media, there’s some things that we haven’t seen. And I think it’s important for the American people to see them. And Judd, I’m going to call for that sound bite. Now of some video that I think it’s very important for us all to watch.
Speaker 15: (19:51)
We want to be with you all, for real. Stook my helmet off and laid the batons down. I want to make this a parade, not a protest. [crosstalk 00:20:07].
Speaker 15: (20:12)
Not one ounce of damage. Nobody’s arrested. Nobody got hurt. This is the way it’s supposed to be. [crosstalk 00:20:27]. [inaudible 00:20:45].
Speaker 16: (21:03)
A human chain protecting an officer separated from his unit. [inaudible 00:21:13].
Speaker 17: (21:06)
It’s all right. We’re all here together, okay?
Kayleigh McEnany: (21:26)
Across the country. We’ve seen examples of police protecting protestors, and protestors embracing police. And it’s been beautiful to watch, though those images have not been played all that often. And I just want to leave you with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., that we must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools. Thank you.