Dec 15, 2020
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany White House Press Conference Transcript December 15
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a press briefing on December 15. Read her full White House news briefing transcript here.
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Kayleigh McEnany: (00:05)
Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. Yesterday, the United States witnessed a medical miracle. The first doses of a COVID vaccine were administered to frontline workers across the country. The President promised a safe and effective vaccine in record time, and President Trump delivered. Earlier this year, we heard from several news outlets and so-called fact checks that President Trump would need, quote, “a miracle,” to be right. That was an NBC News article. We were told, according to Healthline, quote, “A vaccine will still take more than a year to develop.” USA Today, warned us that, quote, “Despite medical researchers’ progress, the vaccine,” quote, “was more than a year away.” And National Geographic even told us that achieving a vaccine within, quote, “a year to 18 months would be absolutely unprecedented,” end quote.
Kayleigh McEnany: (01:01)
These reports deserve their own fact check: False. President Trump has not only been the optimist, hopeful to achieve a vaccine by year’s end. He has also been a leader. Through Operation Warp Speed, President Trump, the businessman and the President, as the innovator, has succeeded. President Trump directed military logistics experts at the Department of Defense to partner with health experts at Health and Human Services to ensure prompt delivery of vaccines and equipment. This includes the appointment of four-star General Perna who oversees the global supply chain and readiness for the United States Army as Operation Warp Speed’s Chief Operating Officer. The Trump Administration supported clinical trials by working to enroll participants through NIH-funded COVID protection networks and provided funding and technical support through the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. President Trump also directed industrial scale manufacturing of vaccines to take place at its own risk, before knowing whether these vaccines would be successful. It was a novel approach, indeed, to vaccine development, led by President Trump.
Kayleigh McEnany: (02:18)
The results of these historic investments will benefit the American people and will mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic. As the first doses of the vaccine are delivered and administered, we urge all Americans to continue to wash your hands, socially distance, wear a mask when you are unable to do so. We also encourage those at the state level to improve the early and aggressive use of monoclonal antibody treatments, especially among vulnerable Americans. The Trump Administration led the way, approving monoclonal antibody treatments for outpatient use, issuing two emergency use authorizations in November. Additionally, through HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, monoclonal antibody patient courses have been allocated to all 50 states. Together, these steps can play a significant role, changing the course of the virus. Thank you to President Trump, and with that, I will take questions. Ben?
Kayleigh, now that the Electoral College has voted, has the President acknowledged that Joe Biden is the President-elect? Does he have any plans to invite him here to the White House?
Kayleigh McEnany: (03:22)
The President is still involved in ongoing litigation related to the election. Yesterday’s vote was one step in the constitutional process, so I will leave that to him and refer you to the campaign for more on that litigation.
What is his reaction to Leader McConnell today congratulating Joe Biden and calling him the President-elect?
Kayleigh McEnany: (03:39)
I haven’t gotten the President’s reaction to that yet, but the President, again, is pursuing ongoing litigation. I would refer you to the campaign for further.
And what’s the path forward, though, for litigation? If the votes have been certified, if the Electoral College has voted, there doesn’t seem to be a legal recourse at this point.
Kayleigh McEnany: (03:54)
The campaign would have more specifics for you on legal recourse, but yesterday was one step in the constitutional process leading up to the January 20th date in the Constitution. Steve?
Does the President plan to take the vaccine, and will he do it in a public way to inspire confidence among people?
Kayleigh McEnany: (04:11)
The President, currently at this moment has said he is absolutely open to taking the vaccine. He’s been emphatic about that to me privately, and to you all publicly. But he did recently recover from COVID. He has the continued protective effects of the monoclonal antibody cocktail that I mentioned, and he will receive the vaccine as soon as his medical team determines it’s best, but his priority is frontline workers, those in longterm care facilities, and he wants to make sure that the vulnerable get access first. Yes?
Speaker 4: (04:41)
Wouldn’t taking the vaccine set an example for Americans to give them confidence? Dr. Fauci as well as Moncef Slaoui both said today that they think President Trump should get the vaccine, A, because for himself, but B, to set an example. Will he do that? Why not do it just to show Americans that it’s safe?
Kayleigh McEnany: (05:01)
Because he also wants to show Americans that our priority are the most vulnerable. There will be some senior administration officials taking it publicly to instill that confidence. It is very important-
Speaker 4: (05:11)
Kayleigh McEnany: (05:11)
… and the President … No, but you’ll learn in the next few days who that is, who those individuals will be, but they will be taking it publicly to instill confidence. The President wants to send a parallel message, which is our long-term care facility residents and our frontline workers are paramount in importance, and he wants to set an example in that regard.
Speaker 4: (05:30)
Would you personally take it?
Kayleigh McEnany: (05:31)
I absolutely would be open to taking the vaccine. As has been reported, and as I shared with some of you yesterday, the White House, it will be a very limited group of people who have access to it initially. The President’s tweet indicated that the White House should receive it at a later date to, again, prioritize the most vulnerable, but some career staff, national security staff for the purposes of continuity of government will have access. In addition to a very small group of senior administration officials, for the purpose of instilling public confidence.
Speaker 4: (06:02)
He has said that he thinks Americans will be able to take it if they want to take it. You’re saying he’s open to taking it. Is he going to encourage Americans to take it? Or is he going to leave it up to Americans? Does he think Americans should get this shot?
Kayleigh McEnany: (06:15)
Absolutely. Look, these are vaccines that he oversaw the development of, he has great confidence in. He wants to see all Americans get this vaccine, and he wants to see the most vulnerable among us get it first. But absolutely, he will be encouraging Americans to take this. Yeah. David?
Yeah. Do you know specifically when the President will veto the National Defense Authorization Act, when he’s going to send the paperwork over? And why would he veto that given the fact that it passed on veto-proof majorities in Congress?
Kayleigh McEnany: (06:45)
So he still does plan to veto the NDAA. Don’t have a timeline for you on that, but he does plan to veto it. He wants to make every effort to protect our military men and women, and will prioritize military funding and the big omnibus bill, but he also has other important priorities, and I should say problems with the NDAA beyond just the absence of section 230 repeal, and beyond the inclusion of the Warren amendment. One of the provisions of concern is provisions about troop withdrawal and deployment in Afghanistan, South Korea, and Germany, and so there are a number of provisions that he has-
He also said it was weak on China, but no Republican really seems to agree with him on that. Why does he think the bill was bad on China?
Kayleigh McEnany: (07:28)
So by not including a section 230 repeal, what you’re in effect allowing is Twitter to continue to not censor Chinese propaganda. Recently, there was a tweet by the Chinese embassy in the United States about the Shenzhen Province and allowing all citizens to enjoy the same rights, including freedom of religion. That clearly is not the case, as the Uyghurs have been absolutely tortured in that province. There was another tweet that they allowed about the virus originating in Wuhan. They said it did not originate in Wuhan. That obviously is Chinese disinformation, and the President’s priority is to ensure that that isn’t permitted. Yes?
Speaker 6: (08:10)
Did Leader McConnell give the President the heads up that he was going to talk about Biden on the floor today?
Kayleigh McEnany: (08:16)
I’m not sure if he had any call with him prior to making that statement.
Speaker 6: (08:20)
Okay. And is Secretary Mnuchin or Chief Meadows going to be involved in this bipartisan meeting that’s happening on the Hill today at 4:00 about COVID relief?
Kayleigh McEnany: (08:30)
I believe it’s just congressional leaders meeting, but I’ll get back to you if there is a White House presence there. But what I can tell you is that the White House has had a continuous presence in the stimulus talks leading on this for months, trying to get this phase four passed. And when I spoke with the Chief about this again, this morning, he noted that Nancy Pelosi has really been standing in the way of a deal. Going back prior to the election, when she was anti-stimulus checks, something the President has been vocal about wanting, and then after the election, according to her, quote, she “can now support these checks because of a,” quote, “new President,” were her words. Which is appalling, to think that politics was playing into COVID relief for the American people. And she stood against liability protection. This is protection for our small businesses, so that they’re not held liable for COVID incidences through no fault of their own. And she’s really playing up to the trial lawyers and opposing liability protection, which should be something that’s just mere common sense.
Speaker 6: (09:28)
One other question about confirmations of Biden’s cabinet picks. President Trump had the benefit of the Senate starting hearings and starting the process before he was inaugurated in January of 2017. Does the President oppose the Senate taking up Joe Biden’s nominees before the inauguration?
Kayleigh McEnany: (09:48)
I think that’s a hypothetical. And he won’t get ahead of that activity actually happening, but he has taken all statutory requirements necessary to either ensure a smooth transition or a continuation of power. Yes.
Speaker 7: (10:01)
Thanks, Kayleigh. Given the success of Operation Warp Speed, why hasn’t President Trump been more visible during this initial vaccine rollout? You have the Vice President in Indiana today. Where’s President Trump?
Kayleigh McEnany: (10:15)
President Trump’s been hard at work on COVID behind the scenes. Just because you don’t see him at the podium every day doesn’t mean that he’s not aggressively pursuing actions on behalf of the American people. He’s briefed on COVID regularly, and I’m here speaking with you guys. Others are out communicating this information. Yeah.
Speaker 8: (10:33)
Could you comment on the Russian hackers breaching several federal agencies? How serious was this breach and is the Trump Administration considering retaliating?
Kayleigh McEnany: (10:45)
Look, the US government, we’re aware of all of these reports. We’re taking all necessary steps to identify and remedy any possible issues related to the situation. As one step in that process, SISA has issued an emergency directive on Sunday night for all federal civilian agencies to review their networks for indicators of compromise, and disconnect or to power down SolarWinds Orion products immediately. So we are taking a hard look on this and obviously take any sort of cyber hacks very seriously.
Speaker 8: (11:17)
And just one more question on Russia. Since Russian president Vladimir Putin has congratulated President-elect Joe Biden, any comment on that from the Russian president?
Kayleigh McEnany: (11:29)
No comment on that. I will leave it to the President to react to that.
Speaker 9: (11:32)
Has he spoken to President Trump?
Kayleigh McEnany: (11:33)
Not that I’m aware of, no. Let’s see. David.
Does the President intend to run for election in 2024? And would you like to be part of that campaign?
Kayleigh McEnany: (11:45)
I will leave that to the President, but he’s still pursuing ongoing litigation at the moment for this election. Yes. Todd?
Thanks. President Trump supported the Texas lawsuit at the Supreme Court, a lawsuit that President-elect Biden called an assault on democracy. Is it not anti-democratic to try to nullify 20 million votes?
Kayleigh McEnany: (12:09)
I think pursuing legitimate litigation through the judicial system is in no way assaulting democracy. In fact, it’s using Democrat institutions in the manner they are to be used to pursue legitimate claims, with sworn affidavits and additional evidence. But I do think what is an assault on democracy are the four investigations into President Trump over Russia collusion that turned up nothing. I mean, Mueller alone, you had 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, millions of taxpayer dollars, all to find no collusion. And the investigation into President Trump began far before he was even elected President of the United States, and his intel briefings in the transition period were even weaponized against him. An insurance policy from Peter Strzok was put in place against this President prior to him being elected. That is what is an assault on democracy. Blake?
Thanks, Kayleigh. I want to ask you about COVID relief negotiations, but just to hone down on what was asked about the vaccine. Yes or no, we should expect to see President Trump take a coronavirus vaccine before January 20 and do so on camera?
Kayleigh McEnany: (13:16)
He will take it when his health experts and his White House doctor ask him to do so and says it’s the appropriate time. He is very open to taking this, but also wants to prioritize our frontline workers.
Kayleigh McEnany: (13:28)
Since you brought up the vaccine, before you get to your next question, one thing I do want to make clear is that there are 2.9 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that have gone out. In 21 days, there will be an additional 2.9 million of those doses, because of course the Pfizer vaccine is two doses. And there are going to be rolling updates and shipments of the vaccines. Of course, we’ve secured millions in advance, and this Friday there will be four million Pfizer vaccines going out. We are hopeful that Moderna gets approved. The FDA said that the data looks good. We’re waiting for that EUA. So hopefully there will be that EUA, and then an additional six million Moderna doses out next week.
Kayleigh McEnany: (14:10)
So 10 million doses out next week, and I want to emphasize just stepping back from a macro perspective, because it is so impressive what this President did, making these agreements in advance. And he secured not just tens of millions of doses, but in fact hundreds of millions. There’s the 100 million with Pfizer, there’s 100 million with Moderna. we’ve secured another 100 million from Moderna. We’re hopeful that we will get an additional 100 million from Pfizer. I think we will. And then Johnson & Johnson is nearing the end of its phase three clinical trial. That’s another 100 million doses secured, with hundreds of millions doses more if needed. And then AstraZeneca, which is in phase three clinical trial, 300 million doses secured. So it’s a really impressive achievement that this President has done, but what’s your next question?
On the relief negotiations, so there’s this meeting this afternoon. The big four up on the Hill were told, by the way, that Secretary Mnuchin will be there. If the big four, if the Treasury Secretary are able to come to some sort of a deal, would President Trump sign off on it, or does he have specific asks, specific red lines that have to be in any sort of deal?
Kayleigh McEnany: (15:18)
I think we’ll wait to see what that deal looks like. He’s said that he would really like to see those stimulus checks in there, but his priority at the end of the day is getting relief to the American people. We’re hopeful there will be some sort of agreement, but I would note that we’ve been the party that’s been flexible. We’ve been the party that’s said, “Hey, standalone PPP, that’s funding for small businesses, and funding for businesses generally to go to pay their employees.” We’ve had a standalone bill that we supported there. We had a standalone unemployment insurance bill. So we’ve been the party that’s been flexible in this.
Just to be clear, if there is a deal that doesn’t have direct payments, the President would support it or not?
Kayleigh McEnany: (15:54)
I’m not going to say if that’s a red line or not. I won’t get ahead of the negotiations, but I’ll just say that we are hopeful there is a deal there that the President can then look at and support. Yes, catherine?
Does the White House have any comment on Crede Bailey, the Security Director who had his leg amputated due to COVID?
Kayleigh McEnany: (16:12)
Yeah. Our heart goes out to his family. They’ve asked for privacy, and he is recovering from what I understand. We’re very pleased to see that, but he and his family will be in our prayers.
Has the President had a chance to speak with him?
Kayleigh McEnany: (16:26)
I’m not sure if the President’s had a private conversation with him, nor would I confirm any private conversation that he did have. [inaudible 00:16:33].
Speaker 14: (16:33)
Thank you. Thank you for doing this. Over the weekend, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi was desecrated by some protesters in Downtown DC. This is for the second time this has happened. I’d like to have your comments on that.
Kayleigh McEnany: (16:47)
It’s terrible. No statue or memorial should be desecrated, and certainly not one like that of Gandhi, who really fought for the values that America represents, of peace, justice, and freedom. So that desecration is appalling to see. It’s appalling that it’s happened more than once, and we believe the reputation of Mahatma Gandhi should be respected, especially here in America’s capital.
Speaker 14: (17:14)
May I ask one more?
Kayleigh McEnany: (17:14)
Speaker 14: (17:14)
Does the President believes that the democracy in the United States is under threat? And based on the streets, what are the electoral reforms he wants to push in this country?
Kayleigh McEnany: (17:22)
What was the first part of your question? I couldn’t-
Speaker 14: (17:24)
Does the President believe that democracy in the United States is under threat?
Kayleigh McEnany: (17:30)
That democracy is under threat? He believes that it certainly was under assault when it comes to the investigations into his administration, the Mueller probe, the unfortunate way that our FBI was mishandled by folks like Andy McCabe, by folks like Jim Comey, and weaponized in a political way against his candidacy and then against his presidency. Yes. Charlotte?
Thanks, Kayleigh. Is President Trump planning to take any action after seeing the forensic order of the machines in Antrim County, Michigan?
Kayleigh McEnany: (18:00)
I’d have to refer you to the campaign on anything regarding the election.
Yeah. Just as far as the 2018 executive order on election interference, has he received a report yet? And when he does receive it, is any of that going to be available for the public to look at?
Kayleigh McEnany: (18:19)
I am not aware of any report that he’s received to that end. Chanel?
Thank you, Kayleigh. I just wanted an update statement on Iran, especially in light of the just signed Israel-Morocco deal. Where does the White House see Iran’s standing in the Middle East now, especially what is the current assessment from the White House with regards to Iran’s standing in the Middle East, as you continue to sign Middle East deals? Are they going to strengthen? Is it weakening? What is the current White House assessment on Iran?
Kayleigh McEnany: (18:48)
Yeah. As the region increasingly comes together through these peace deals, which Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Avi Berkowitz, and others, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brian, deserve a ton of credit for. It’s remarkable. But as the region continues to come together, our maximum pressure campaign continues to be effective. Iran is increasingly isolated and weakened. And when President Trump came into office, you know that the region was an extreme turmoil. ISIS had a caliphate and Iran’s proxies were wreaking havoc. Since taking office, President Trump has worked to rebuild trust with our regional partners and identify their shared interests. And unlike the previous administration, which gave Iran piles of cash and a deal with a sunset provision that would have allowed them to get nuclear weapons, this president has isolated Iran, and he’s done it through four peace deals, which is for more than his predecessor. But it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t get much coverage in the mainstream media.
Kayleigh McEnany: (19:48)
But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, because in the last 24, 48 hours, there have been quite a few stories that have not gotten a ton of coverage in the mainstream media. As former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said, bias is often found in stories the press does not to cover. And last week we found out that Democrat Congressman Eric Swalwell was infiltrated by an alleged Chinese spy. The spy cozied up to Swalwell, raised funds for his 2014 campaign, and even planted an intern in his office. And that relationship continued until the FBI briefed him in 2015, and that was some very good reporting done by Axios.
Kayleigh McEnany: (20:28)
But after entangling with this spy for years, Swalwell hypocritically went on to be one of the lead instigators of the Russia collusion hooks and the impeachment sham. Swalwell wrote this on his congressional webpage: “President Trump and his team are directly and indirectly tied to Russia.” That was not true. He then said in September of 2020, “The president has a compromised relationship with Russia.” Untrue. April of 2019, he said, “President Trump certainly acts on Russia’s behalf and acts like Russia’s leader.” Not true. January, 2019, Eric Swalwell said, “It’s pretty clear President Donald Trump is an agent of Russia.” Not true.
Kayleigh McEnany: (21:06)
And Swalwell shamelessly claimed Donald Trump Jr. And Jared Kushner had an eagerness and a willingness to work with the Russians during the 2016 election. Again, it was false. In 2019, he falsely claimed this yet again when inquired about collusion by a reporter, and these baseless attacks were false yet covered breathlessly by the media. There was no coverage, however, of Swalwell being the one implicated with not Russia, but China. In fact, the New York Times website, as of this morning, had not one result for Eric Swalwell’s ties to Chinese spies. Not one result. And when the Swalwell story broke, guess how many minutes of coverage it got on ABC, NBC, MSNBC and CBS? Zero. CNN devoted three minutes and 16 seconds to it. However, it was covered on Fox.
Kayleigh McEnany: (21:57)
Interesting pre-election and post-election coverage too, on the Hunter Biden scandal, which was not covered at all by many outlets in the lead up to the election. In fact, on October 15, you had a New York Times headline that said, “Trump Said to Be Warned that He Was Being Given Russian Disinformation Over Hunter Biden.” Now, December 10, just a few months later, New York Times headline: “Investigation of Hunter Biden is Likely to Hang Over Biden as he Takes Office.” Washington Post on October 16, the headline read, “The Truth Behind the Hunter Biden Non-Scandal.” Now you have the Washington Post headline that says this: “Hunter Biden Tax Probe Examining Chinese Business Deals.” Politico, October 19, “Hunter Biden Story is Russian Disinformation,” that’s a favorite, “Dozens of Former Intel Officials Say.” False yet again. December 2, now Politico reads, “Justice Department’s Interest in Hunter Biden Covered More Than Taxes.” Really interesting turn of events, and good for those who covered what was a story all along and not Russian disinformation.
Jim Acosta: (23:03)
Isn’t it hypocritical for you to accuse others of disinformation when you spread it every day?