Jun 17, 2020
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Press Conference Transcript June 17
June 17 press conference with White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She defended the decision by Donald Trump to hold his rally amid coronavirus concerns, saying attendees “assume a personal risk.” She also said masks are no longer required in the West Wing. Read her full news briefing transcript here.
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Kayleigh McEnany: (00:00)
We all remember that tragedy, and this was a despicable act of evil that happened five years ago today. So we remember that somber day at that Charleston church as our hearts still break for the victims and our prayers go out to the families.
Kayleigh McEnany: (00:16)
Yesterday, President Trump led and brought our nation together behind real, meaningful, substantial change to ensure that we have safe streets and safe policing. Part of that was having an incentive structure to implement the highest professional standards in our police departments through an accreditation process. This accreditation entails making sure you have deescalation practices in place, use of force tactics in place. Part of that is prohibiting chokeholds, except in the event where lethal force is used. It also incentivizes information sharing and makes sure that if you have an officer who’s had multiple uses of excessive force that that information is sent to a national database.
Kayleigh McEnany: (00:59)
Then, finally, another prong of this was having co-responders who are … (Silence) … officials often have to deal with mental health, homelessness, and addiction, and having a co-responder who is an expert in this process will go a long way. This is progress, it’s tangible action, and it’s solutions.
Kayleigh McEnany: (01:21)
Today … (silence) … As President Trump said yesterday, all children deserve equal opportunity, because we are all made equal by God. That is so true. First, let me point out that I have sat across from a police officer’s family that lost their loved one. I saw a little girl named Charlie who will forever grow up without a father, who will forever grow up without a father for prom, for the father-daughter dance, and it was heartbreaking to know that she lost her father, who was a valiant hero.
Kayleigh McEnany: (02:14)
But yesterday, I sat across from families who lost their loved ones in mass instances of injustice, and it was heartbreaking. It was a real tearful moment, it was an emotional moment, and it’s one that the President, when I asked him the Oval Office about afterwards, he said this: “I love those families. I want to help those families,” and President Trump means that, because this is about humanity. That is ultimately what this is about.
Kayleigh McEnany: (02:43)
Senator Scott shared a very beautiful Bible verse with those families yesterday, and I just want to read it here to close. Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” He shared that Bible verse with those families, and it was particularly meaningful to me and I think to the families as well. With that, I’ll take questions. Yes.
First of all, you did a great job dealing with that feedback. I know that’s not [crosstalk 00:03:09] is the worst.
Kayleigh McEnany: (03:11)
Yes. Thank you.
All right. So the Trump administration, the Trump Justice Department has appointed six US attorneys to examine the actions of the President’s political adversaries, but they’ve only opened one federal investigation [inaudible 00:03:23] in policing. So my question to you is why are so many resources being allocated to make sure the President and his allies were treated fairly by law enforcement and not the same for millions of black Americans?
Kayleigh McEnany: (03:35)
So I think you’re comparing two things that it’s not accurate to compare on the level of the number of attorneys looking … (silence) … full of lies, funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. It was an injustice to the American people, who elected President Trump as President of the United States, who … (silence) … pandemic to artificially shut down the economy. You can fix the individual pieces, but it’s up to our country to change hearts. Yes.
The President talked about chokeholds yesterday [inaudible 00:05:36].
Kayleigh McEnany: (05:43)
The President is fully in support of the Scott bill. They are working closely on that, and REO puts an end to that or incentivizes through the accreditation process to put and end to chokeholds unless there is lethal force used. We fully support on this Scott bill and every element of it, and one thing I would note about the Scott bill is, for years, we’ve tried to make lynching a federal crime in this country, and the Scott bill does it does. It’s a great bill. It’s more great action from Republicans, and we hope we can have bipartisan support on that.
The executive order was not to ban chokeholds [inaudible 00:06:15]. Do you think or the President think that chokeholds simply should be banned?
Kayleigh McEnany: (06:25)
So what I have from the Justice Act here is that this will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds, And I would underscore the executive order does that through an incentivizing process. So we’ve done what we can, and we’ll continue to do more. We’ll continue to work with the Scott bill, and there might be amendments to it. There might not. But we want to see this come to fruition. Yes.
[inaudible 00:06:46] understanding this correctly. It’s a deterrent, but it does not actually ban [inaudible 00:06:50].
Kayleigh McEnany: (06:50)
Yes. Well, that is … We’re incentivizing to ban chokeholds unless than the case of where lethal force is used. That’s the process that we’re using, and I’ll tell you this: It’s a much better process than the Democrats, who so far have offered zero, nothing, except a lot of bad ideas about this that would ultimately, I would note, defund the police department. Yes.
In the last day, you had 96 people in Tulsa have contracted the coronavirus. I’m wondering about this rally coming up on Saturday. Will the President or the White House take responsibility if people get sick and catch the coronavirus at this rally on Saturday?
Kayleigh McEnany: (07:25)
So the campaign has taken certain measures to make sure this is a safe rally, temperature checks, hand sanitizers, and masks. So we are taking precautions.
But you’re not requiring people to wear masks?
Kayleigh McEnany: (07:36)
They will be given a mask. It’s up to them whether to make that decision. CDC guidelines are recommended, but not required.
The CDC guidelines suggest that people practice social distancing. They’re not going to be able to practice social distancing in a rally with thousands of people. So aren’t you, in essence, bringing people to a rally where they won’t be abiding by those guidelines?
Kayleigh McEnany: (07:56)
It’s the personal choice of individuals as to what to do. But if we want to talk about internal coherence, I believe that the-
Kayleigh McEnany: (08:03)
If we want to talk about internal coherence, I believe that the media needs to work on internal coherence. This wonderful New York Post story, I don’t think Steven Nelson is here but good job to the New York Post, highlights the hypocrisy of the media, where this is okay, protesting, this is not okay, Trump rallies. It’s really remarkable and I think the American people have taken notice when, for instance, NBC tweets at 4:05 PM on June 14th, “Rally for Black Trans Lives draws packed crowd to Brooklyn Museum Plaza,” Seeming to be lauding the protest. And then less than an hour and a half later, they say “President Trump plans to rally, but health experts are questioning that decision.” CBS had a similar logically inconsistent tweet.
These are protesters protesting against injustice, against racism and police brutality. This is a rally, a political rally. They’re not going to be demonstrating for any kind of causes and supporting the president. And I go back to my original question, will the White House, will the president take responsibility if there are people who catch the coronavirus and get sick? As you know, you’ve been to these rallies.
Kayleigh McEnany: (09:05)
Jim, so have you, by the way.
If you go to the rallies, I’ve been to them too, are elderly, probably had preexisting conditions that might put them at risk for serious complications if they catch this virus.
Kayleigh McEnany: (09:16)
So first let me know, you’ve been [inaudible 00:09:27] … history of our country and paychecks going up. We rally that HBCU funding for historically black colleges and universities is permanent because of President Trump. We rallied [crosstalk 00:09:37] but you said no because you-
You did not answer the question, will the White House take responsibility if people get sick? can you answer that question?
Kayleigh McEnany: (09:40)
… Jim, you suggested that we don’t rally on behalf of anything. So let me note one more thing, we rally on behalf of criminal justice reform in the first step back, which President Obama and Vice President Biden talks about, but we did.
Kayleigh McEnany: (09:55)
And I would note this, if we want to talk about the ethicacy of what we’re doing, 1300 health experts signed a letter about the protest saying, “We do not condemn these gatherings, we support them as vital.” So you have the health experts on one side saying this and then all of a sudden a Trump rally is different [crosstalk 00:00:10:10]. And I’ve taken five of your questions, work on your internal cohesion and get back to me. Yes. [inaudible 00:10:24] questions and last-
The last question has not been answered. Will [inaudible 00:10:26] or will the White House take responsibility if people get sick?
Kayleigh McEnany: (10:27)
I said to you, we are taking precautions [crosstalk 00:00:10:29], masks, hand sanitizers. Zeke.
So you’re not going to take responsibility?
Kayleigh, Kenny’s had this rally [inaudible 00:10:39]
Kayleigh McEnany: (11:07)
We are doing temperature checks, hand sanitizers, mask. When you come to the rally, as its any event, you assume a personal risk and that’s it’s just what you do. When you go to a baseball game, you assume a risk, that’s part of life. It’s the personal decision of Americans as to whether to go to the rally or whether or not to go to the rally. But I would note that this concern for the rallies has been largely absent when it came to the protesters. People really note when CBS says, “Thousands participate in a rally and a silent march for black trans lives,” and then listen, this is more than an hour and a half later, “President Trump moving ahead with the rally serious risk of spreading coronavirus,” it’s really inconsistent.
Kayleigh McEnany: (11:44)
The media seems to not be interested in health so much as ideology behind certain events. So, for instance, you go and the lockdown protesters were widely condemned by the media who were protesting the lockdown but then all of a sudden this protest for Black Lives Matter is lauded. It makes no sense. Ideology is driving the line of questioning in many of these cases, when it should be if you’re focused on science, you should be out there asking these same questions about the protests.
Kayleigh, [inaudible 00:12:11]
Kayleigh McEnany: (12:33)
It’s their personal decision as to whether they want to get tested after, but I’d note some testing capability is thanks to president Trump, 23.7 million people test in this country so far, that’s an extraordinary number. So testing’s out there and available if someone chooses to do that, Jen.
Sorry, has the [inaudible 00:12:54] between Indian and Chinese troops and the White House prevented president on getting on the phone [inaudible 00:13:00]
Kayleigh McEnany: (13:02)
The president is aware of it. We’re monitoring the situation between Indian and Chinese forces the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. So we’ve seen the Indian army statement that 20 Indian soldiers died as a result of the confrontation today, and we extend our deepest condolences on that. Jen.
[inaudible 00:13:20] has the Coronavirus Task Force [inaudible 00:13:22].
Kayleigh McEnany: (13:31)
The Coronavirus Task Force, they’re made every day, I would first point that out. They meet regularly and they monitor the whole country. So they don’t zone in on a Trump rally, they zone in on the whole country and analyze it through a database lens.
Kayleigh McEnany: (13:45)
They look at the entirety of the country. That would include the state of Oklahoma, but they look at all 50 States in close consultation with governance.
Kayleigh McEnany: (14:03)
It’s something that’s being looked at. Of course, at phase four, and no announcements on what those elements would be and wouldn’t want to get out ahead of the president, but I would note that this economy is robust and growing and coming back stronger than anyone could think from this because of the president. I mean, you look at retail sales, surging, 17.7%, unemployment insurance, weekly claims falling. We have the fastest growth rate in American history in the third quarter. So we artificially shut down the economy, but we have a robust recovery happening and taking place and that’s thanks to President Trump. And there are a lot of good metrics like new business applications skyrocketing, small businesses now opening at about 80%, Apple mobility index. That’s practically pre-pandemic levels, so there’s more work to be done. In phase four, we’ll address that should it take place, but we are encouraged by what we’re seeing that the Donald Trump economy is coming back because ultimately investors and business owners have faith in this president. Yes. Jeff.
Thank you. You mentioned testing is [inaudible 00:15:07]. The president is also both retweeting and saying publicly on Monday that the country just stopped testing, that there would be no, or virtually no cases left. That doesn’t make sense. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Kayleigh McEnany: (15:24)
Yeah. It’s entirely logical. When you do more testing, you identify more cases. Countries that don’t do as much testing don’t identify the same number of cases. It’s pretty logical. Exactly what he said.
Okay. So it’s about identifying them? Because he seem to suggest that if we weren’t testing, then those cases wouldn’t exist. Is that [crosstalk 00:15:43]
Kayleigh McEnany: (15:43)
No, that was not at all what he was saying. He was saying when you test, you end up identifying more cases, and we’ve tested 23.7 million people, positivity rate of 5.9% so we are in a good place when it comes to testing,
Just along those same lines, the vice president today wrote [inaudible 00:16:01]
Speaker 1: (16:01)
Vice President today wrote it off in I believe the Wall Street Journal, cutting down the prospects of a second wave. Is the White House confident that there’s not going to be a second wave of the coronavirus?
Kayleigh McEnany: (16:12)
The White House is confident that we have enough testing to identify asymptomatic individuals, that we have therapeutics that are promising, that we are working on a vaccine with project warp speed that we hope will be there by the end of the year, and we think will be, and we have a robust public private partnership that has shored up America’s supply chain. So we are in a good place and that’s what the Vice President was noting. John.
Thanks a lot, Kayleigh. Two subjects. The first question has to do with the lawsuit that was filed against John Bolton, the former National Security Advisor by the Department of Justice yesterday. The DOJ did not file a lawsuit against Simon and Schuster, nor did it file an injunction against the publisher. Why not? Do you still expect this book to hit bookstores, to be on Amazon, to be available for people to read on the 23rd of this month?
Kayleigh McEnany: (16:59)
So that as to why they went down that particular path, that’s the question for DOJ. But what I would note is this book is full of classified information, which is inexcusable. Former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, should know all too well that it’s unacceptable to have highly classified information from the government of the United States in a book that will be published. It’s unacceptable. It has not gone through the review process and that’s where we currently stand. I’d refer you back to Barr’s comment on this which is, “We don’t believe that Bolton went through that process. It hasn’t been completed, the process, and therefore he is in violation of that agreement.” That was part of his quote from Monday.
Then on the other subject, the executive order the President signed yesterday. During that event in his comments, he acknowledged that there are indeed bad police officers. Is the President opposed to the idea of removing qualified immunity for police officers, even bad police officers?
Kayleigh McEnany: (18:01)
Yeah. So qualified immunity, let me note, is a total and complete non-starter. What qualified immunity would do is it would really enable the police in this country to do their job. That’s in the Democrat bill. And I’d argue this. You know, Democrats, they say defund the police, defund the police. We hear that from Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Congresswoman Omar and others. Well, what does the Democrat bill do by removing qualified immunity? What you’re essentially doing is not allowing police to do their job. There would be a decrease in policing in this country. Our streets would not be safe. What President Trump has done is worked with law enforcement to improve law enforcement, to ensure that the bad cops that exist are pushed out of the system. The overwhelming majority of cops are good, so we’ve got to address the handful that are bad, and that’s what the President’s order has done. But taking away qualified immunity would make the streets of this country a whole lot less secure. Just look at what happened when we didn’t have ample law enforcement out on Lafayette Square. A church burned and multiple officers entered.
So, how do you handle a situation, Kayleigh, of a bad police officer hiding behind the shield of qualified immunity?
Kayleigh McEnany: (19:13)
Look, I would note that also the court has litigated this pretty strongly. It’s been adjudicated. The Harlow court, in that decision, Harlow, the Supreme Court, talked about achieving a balance between allowing victims to hold officials accountable while also minimizing the social cost to the whole, the cost of police officers, for example, pulling back. So the Supreme Court has litigated this for decades and has approached what they think is the appropriate balance with qualified immunity. And I think it would go a long way just doing what the President did yesterday, having that national database of offenders so we ensure that a police officer doesn’t leave one department and then go to another. Francesca.
Thank you, Kayleigh. You outlined the White House’s position on qualified immunity defunding the police. But also said earlier that the Democratic bill is full of bad ideas. What are the other “bad ideas” besides those two that the President would not sign a policing bill if they wound up in the final version?
Kayleigh McEnany: (20:12)
So one of the things the bill does is it undermines due process. The Democrat bill would undermine the due process rights of every officer by making pending and unsubstantial allegations available to the public causing reputational damage based on allegations alone. That’s a really good example because what our database does is once a claim has been adjudicated, we know something was done wrong, it goes into a database that remains private. It protects privacy of the officers, but it is utilized to ensure that officer does not get to go to another department.
Kayleigh McEnany: (20:44)
What the Democrat bill would do is someone submits an allegation, well, we’re going to violate the due process rights of this officer and put it into a system. We have to balance everything in this situation. I’m making sure our good, hardworking, overwhelmingly good police officers are able to do their job, but ensuring that we do not have victims like the victims I heard about yesterday and the excruciating painful, devastating stories of their sisters, of their mothers, and of their fathers.
So sorry, one other question on that, it’s something else. So you’re saying those are the three? That’s it?
Kayleigh McEnany: (21:17)
There’s a number of things, but those are the ones that I’ve listed out so far.
Okay. All right. And on the President’s rallies, he has also said that he has rallies on the books in North Carolina and also Florida, two states that have seen recent spikes in coronavirus. Who told the President that he would be safe to have rallies in states that are seeing spikes right now?
Kayleigh McEnany: (21:37)
We are confident that there are embers out there that exist, that we’ll be able to put out those embers. Florida has a great governor. He’s done a great job so far. We work closely with Governor DeSantis and we believe that we will be at a safe place. Yes.
But who said it was safe?
Speaker 2: (21:54)
Kayleigh, Justice Gorsuch’s decision from the Supreme Court this week against anti-LGBT discrimination was focused on employment civil rights law, but also implications on housing, healthcare. How does the President want to see this implemented? Does it want it implemented as extensively or as narrowly as possible?
Kayleigh McEnany: (22:10)
So what the President says is he’s read the decision. They’ve ruled. We live with the decision and we live with the decision of the Supreme Court. So that’s where he stands currently. And in terms of how it’s implemented, DOJ will lead the multi-agency effort to help provide certainty to the regulated parties.
Speaker 2: (22:28)
I understand DOJ’s role, but the President also has the opportunity to express his opinion and to lead much like President Obama in 2013, said he hoped the marriage decision from the Supreme Court would be implemented as extensively as possible. What is President Trump’s view on the appropriate scope of the Gorsuch decision?
Kayleigh McEnany: (22:44)
So DOJ will be guiding that entirely. So I will leave that to DOJ.
Speaker 2: (22:50)
And finally, will the President have any conversations with DOJ about the implementation about the Court’s decision?
Kayleigh McEnany: (22:53)
Not that I’m aware of. He might have had one I don’t know about, but not that I’m aware.
Speaker 2: (22:54)
I got one more question. Does the President think that the [inaudible 00:22:59] decision is a win for civil rights?
Kayleigh McEnany: (23:01)
Speaker 2: (23:02)
Does the President think the Gorsuch decision is a win for civil rights?
Kayleigh McEnany: (23:06)
So one thing I would say. I have not talked to the President about that personally, but one thing I wanted to read was from the Kavanaugh dissent. There were some real concerns that this was a complete distortion of how we do statutory interpretation, and Kavanaugh lays that out very nicely. But one thing Justice Kavanaugh did say, and I thought it was a very powerful quote, is “Not withstanding my concern about the Court’s transgression of the Constitution separation of powers,” which was a grave concern as a separation of powers point that the DOJ argued in court, “It is appropriate to acknowledge the important victory achieved today by gay and lesbian Americans.” So I thought that that was a very good quote from Justice Kavanaugh. Yes. Alexandra.
Thank you. On the plan to reduce [inaudible 00:23:57] troops in Germany, is there a timeline you can share with us, and could this decision, this plan, be changed or softened if-
Speaker 3: (24:03)
… And could this decision, this plan be changed or softened if Berlin agreed to increase its defense spending?
Kayleigh McEnany: (24:07)
So the president addressed our presence, American true presence in Germany and he said, we’re bringing that number down from 52,000, about what it’s at now, to 25,000. And the rationale for that, he articulated, was that Germany is very delinquent in their payments to NATO. They’re paying 1%. They are supposed to be at 2% and even 2% is low. It should be much more than that. Michael.
Speaker 3: (24:33)
Would he change his plan if Germany agreed to increase its [crosstalk 00:24:36].
Kayleigh McEnany: (24:36)
I wouldn’t get ahead of the president on making that decision. Michael.
Hi, thanks Kayleigh. I have one question and then I have two quick questions from colleagues who have sent to me as the pool person. So, on my question, back when two White House officials tested positive for COVID, we all reported on an email that went out to West Wing employees, instructing them that masks were mandatory to be worn in the West Wing at all times with the exception of being when they were sitting at their desks alone. Obviously none of the White House people that I’ve seen today have been wearing masks at all. Has that been rescinded, has that instruction to West Wing employees been rescinded formerly, or is it just still in place, but nobody’s paying attention to it or-
Kayleigh McEnany: (25:20)
So, masks are recommended, but not required. Excuse me. As I said.
Two quick questions.
Kayleigh McEnany: (25:25)
I want to get to everyone in the room, so-
Speaker 3: (25:27)
These are from people who can’t be in the room because of the restrictions, so if I could-
Kayleigh McEnany: (25:30)
I understand, but I want to make sure I get to everyone in the room and then we can come back. So Rob.
Can I just have clarification on your equivalence between protests in the streets and this rally on Saturday? Is it the White House position that outdoor events carry the same risk as indoor events?
Kayleigh McEnany: (25:49)
It’s our position that the media should not be making decisions about their guidelines to us about social distancing, based on political ideology or what they think is the worthiness of the cause.
My point is, there are good scientific reasons for treating the two events differently. One is outdoors and one is indoors.
Kayleigh McEnany: (26:05)
Right, and there’s not good logical reason for this. So that’s the one thing I would keep going back to. Yes, Owen.
[crosstalk 00:26:11] said anything about the secretary of state’s trip to Hawaii to meet his Chinese counterpart.
Kayleigh McEnany: (26:16)
So I have no information on that. Owen. Yes.
Blake. Different mask.
Kayleigh McEnany: (26:22)
Oh, sorry, Blake, they subbed you in.
No worries, no worries.
Kayleigh McEnany: (26:25)
Good to see you, Blake.
You, too. A couple on the economic front. Earlier this month in Maine, the president was talking about Maine lobster and he said the following, he said, “If the European Union doesn’t drop that tariff immediately, we’re going to put a tariff on their cars, which will be equivalent.” Can you give us an update on that? What is immediately, what is the status of potential tariffs on EU autos?
Kayleigh McEnany: (26:46)
I haven’t inquired about that today, but I will inquire about that and I’ll try to get back to you before 5:00 if what works.
And secondly, an infrastructure bill, can you just sort of give us a broad outline of what the administration wants to see. Is that the reauthorization of the highway bill that comes up at the end of the year? Is that added on to a potential phase four stimulus? What is the administration… What does the White House want? Is it really [crosstalk 00:27:09].
Kayleigh McEnany: (27:08)
Yeah, I don’t want to get ahead of the administration on our official plans for that. Infrastructure is something we’ve talked about for a long time and it’s something that we think that we could find common ground on, but it’s up to Democrats to really come to us and make that happen. It’s been mentioned as potentially a phase four, but that’s not in stone, but that has been mentioned. No formalized plans though, on where infrastructure stands.
Is it a trillion dollars?
Kayleigh McEnany: (27:31)
We don’t have a number on that right now. Yes.
Speaker 4: (27:35)
On the Tulsa rally, can you give us a sense of which health experts the campaign and the White House consulted before deciding to hold it? Did they even talk to the CDC about whether it would be a good idea?
Kayleigh McEnany: (27:45)
Look, we are taking every single safety precaution that we can. And again, I would note, this is probably question number 10 on rallies and while we appreciate the great concern for our rally goers, you should exhibit that same concern for the protesters who are out there, who are not socially distancing in many cases and not wearing masks. Chanel.
Thank you, Kayleigh. Going back to the international front, on China and India, you just mentioned that the administration is monitoring the situation, but the president has mentioned that he would be willing to mediate the conflict between China and India now. If he were to do so, what does that look like? Does that look like a one on one conversation? Does that mean bringing the two leaders together? Has the president indicated what mediation looks like for China and India?
Kayleigh McEnany: (28:31)
So again, no formal plans on that beyond what I already said in expressing our absolute condolences to the Indian soldiers that died as a result of today’s confrontation. We extend our deepest condolences there.
Kayleigh McEnany: (28:43)
And I would note just that during the phone call on June 2nd of this year, that President Trump had with Prime Minister Modi, they did discuss the situation on the India, China border.
On the relationship between President Trump and President Xi, the Chinese forces have been moving thousands of troops to that region. That it doesn’t seem like that region is going to see deescalation anytime soon. If you were to characterize President Trump’s relationship with President Xi today, would you venture into that realm?
Kayleigh McEnany: (29:12)
I would just say what the president has said before, that he is really appalled at the fact that the coronavirus came out of China. They weren’t allowing flights into China, but were allowing flights out. They slow-walked information. The WHO seemed to partner with China in slow-walking that information about asymptomatic spread [inaudible 00:29:34] appalling state of events and the president is very upset by that action of China or inaction, in some cases, I should say.
Kayleigh McEnany: (29:44)
Thank you all very much. I hope you have a great rest of the day and I hope we start seeing more consistent headlines. Thanks very much.