Jun 3, 2020
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Press Conference Transcript June 3
June 3 press conference with White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She talked more about nationwide protests, and denied that tear gas was used to clear protestors from the front of the White House Monday. She also discussed Mark Esper’s comments this morning.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev for free and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (00:00)
If the winners of last night’s primary elections, President Trump has now endorsed candidates and as a 64 to zero record. Congressional special and primary election races since the midterms, demonstrating the strength of and support for the president’s agenda across the country, as evidenced in the 64 consecutive congressional special and primary elections over the past 13 months.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (00:23)
So next, I want to transition to talking about some of the things going on around the country. The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to riot. The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to loot. The First Amendment doesn’t give anyone the right to burn down buildings. The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to deface property. It does not give anyone the right to assault private citizens and to assault police officers. The First Amendment, however, does give you the right to peaceably assemble. The greatest example that we have seen of peaceful protest, an absolute embodiment of the First Amendment is the March on Washington. On August 28th, 1963, a quarter of a million Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial and peacefully made a powerful march and a powerful point that all Americans should be treated equally, that racial discrimination was unacceptable, abhorrent, and that it needed to be rectified.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (01:24)
In the famous I Have a Dream speech by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, he said this, “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Soul force is exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. met the nation with when he said this, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Important words, important actions from an American hero who contributed to making this nation the greatest on earth.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (02:06)
With that in mind, we must remember to recognize the lives lost, the passing of George Floyd who was killed unjustly in a horrific video that we all have seen. We must also remember the passing of Police Captain David Dorn yesterday, who was shot and killed by looters in St. Louis, in an absolute tragedy, a retired officer, 77 years old, whose wife was also a police officer herself. Dorn was a hero and an unfortunate casualty in the riots we have seen. Our hearts are with his family.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (02:39)
We are all Americans. We must come together. We must unify and we must have law and order. With that, I’ll take questions.
Speaker 1: (02:50)
I have a couple of questions. First one on Secretary Esper, CBS News has learned that his remarks this morning were not received well here inside the White House. Had the secretary ever expressed his views about active duty forces to President Trump before this morning in private? Does the president still have confidence in Secretary Esper?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (03:12)
Not that I’m aware of in terms of expressing his opinion and I wouldn’t get into the private conversations that went on here in the White House. With regard to whether the president has confidence, I would say, if he lose his confidence in Secretary Esper, I’m sure you all will be the first to know.
Speaker 1: (03:26)
But as of right now, he still does?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (03:28)
As of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper. Should the president lose faith, we will all learn about that in the future.
Speaker 1: (03:35)
Thank you. On policing, Vice President Joe Biden has vowed to set up a police oversight board if he is elected. Is President Trump considering anything comparable or any other specific legislative and policy reforms to address racial disparities in policing?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (03:53)
There have been various things discussed here in the White House. I don’t want to get ahead of the president as to what he ultimately determines. The president believes that most police officers in this country are good, hardworking people. He notes that, but he also notes some of the injustices we’ve seen and the need to make sure that the appropriate use of force is used and that our officers are trained in that capacity.
Speaker 1: (04:14)
So, he is considering some sort of federal oversight?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (04:17)
There’s been discussion of various proposals that we can look at, but no announcements on that front just yet. Jim?
Kayleigh, you mentioned Dr. King. He likely would not have approved of what took place on Monday evening across from the White House as you probably know. If the White House president and his team had to do it all over again, would you have gassed and pummeled protesters to clear the park so the president could have a photo op?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (04:42)
Let me first address, no tear gas was used and no rubber bullets were use.
Chemical agents were used.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (04:48)
Again, no tear gas was used, no rubber bullets were used.
Chemical agents were used.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (04:50)
Let me back up and-
We talked to a person, she said she was gassed. Others say they were tear gassed in that area.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (04:59)
Well, no one was tear gassed, let me make that clear. That’s been confirmed by DOD and by park services as well.
But, chemical agents were used.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (05:05)
Let me go back and address what happened because there’s been a lot of misreporting. First, I would note that these protests that were going on, in the morning, AG Barr had determined that we needed to expand the perimeter by one block on each side. He was surprised, AG Barr, when he arrived at the White House, to see that that perimeter had not been moved. So, we said that we needed to get going with moving that perimeter. He told the officers that out there. That was the late afternoon, so that decision was made in the morning, first of all. The protestors were told three times over a loud speaker that they needed to move and what happened was it grew increasingly unruly. There were projectiles being thrown at officers. Frozen water bottles were being thrown at officers, various other projectiles. The officers had no other choice than, in that moment, to act and make sure that they were safe and that the perimeter was pushed back. Because as we all know, a church was burning in that very area the night before, so the appropriate action was taken.
It wasn’t burning when they clear in the area.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (06:05)
It was burning the night before which enforced the decision to move the perimeter on each side by a block so that church would no longer be in harm’s way by the rioters. But, it’s absolutely uncalled for to throw bricks, absolutely uncalled for to throw water bottles that are frozen up to police officers.
Don’t you agree, Kayleigh, that the vast majority of those protestors were doing so peacefully and that many of them did not hear those warnings and were simply just pushed out of the way, just forced out, tumbled out of the way by their fellow Americans, police officers? You sent in members of the military to deal with this. What do you say to Americans who look at what happened on Monday and find that to be appalling?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (06:48)
Well, let me note, the National Guard was utilized across Washington, DC. The military was not there. It’s a distinction. I would say that it is uncalled for to throw bricks at officers, uncalled for to throw frozen water bottles at officers. They also had received intelligence that there were calls for violence against police officers and they found caches of glass bottles, baseball bats, and metal poles hidden along the streets. When an officer is at risk, they have the right to defend themselves. They did so peaceably. No one had it. There were no fatalities, no severe injuries.
So, you’d do it again?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (07:21)
To protect the lives of officers, they have a right to defend and to protect themselves. Next question. Sarah used to always joke about two question Tuesday, I think sometimes I get four or five question Wednesday.
I just want to make sure that people who have a problem with what they saw on Monday have a chance to have that addressed. What do you say to Americans who are just outraged by what they saw, and for the president to go and have a photo op in front of a church?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (07:47)
What I would say is this, officers have a right to defend themselves. I’ve watched a lot of your coverage. I’ve watched a lot of the nation’s coverage. Let’s go through some of the things that happened when officers don’t defend and protect themselves. In St. Louis, four police officers were shot. In Las Vegas, an officer was shot in the head and is on life support. In New York, a cop was beat up by people in Providence. Four to five police officers and state troopers were injured. In Asbury Park, New Jersey, a police officer was injured. Police officers are out on the front lines. They’re defending and protecting you as you come into this building each and every day, Jim. We owe them honor. We owe them respect. When they are under attack, they have the ability to defend themselves. Zik?
First one on security as for his comments, is the president presently considering invoking the Insurrection Act or is that completely off the table at this point?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (08:43)
It’s a very good question. The president has the sole authority to invoke the Insurrection Act. It is definitely a tool within his power. This president has one singular aim and it is protecting America’s streets. We cannot have burning churches. We cannot have police officers who are shot. We cannot have businesses that are looted and destroyed. The Insurrection Act is a tool available. The president has the sole authority. If needed, he will use it. But at this time, he’s relying on surging the streets with National Guard. It’s worked to great effect here in DC and in Minnesota as well.
Thank you, Kayleigh. Back to that incident on Monday, are you saying that all the officers who were at that protest, clearing that largely peaceful protest, were acting appropriately? There were well-documented incidents of a one case of one member of law enforcement bashing camera off an Australian journalist. This isn’t about the journalist, this is about the other peaceful protesters there as well. Did every officer in that protest, was that protest cleared in a way that is the White House believes was entirely appropriate, so that should be the model for the rest of the country?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (09:44)
US Park Services, when having bricks thrown at them and frozen water bottles, had the right to act. They acted with the appropriate level of force to protect themselves and to protect the average citizenry and to protect the peaceful protesters who were among them as well. Kristen?
They were attacking the peaceful protesters by firing various chemical agents and walking through them with baton.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (10:06)
Well, it wasn’t tear gas, I would note.
Speaker 2: (10:07)
I don’t believe it.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (10:10)
What they used was a way to target those who were being violent. They use the minimal force that they could to ensure that that situation was safe, to ensure St. John’s Church would not burn a second night in a row, and to ensure that no officers were injured in the manner that I listed off, that several officers have been injured and shot at in the course of these riots. Kristen?
Thank you, Kayleigh. I have a question about the decision-making process before going to the church on Monday night. The president said on Fox Radio this morning that he never told anyone to push the protesters out. The defense secretary, he said something similar. So, who at the White House did know or was this a unilateral decision by the attorney general?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (10:50)
The attorney general decided that morning to expand the perimeter. That was a decision made long before the church discussion was ever under consideration. When the president gives an order, people act. It’s not as if he’s walked through each and every detail of how a plan goes about. He says, “I want to go to the church.” He goes to the church and everyone executes the plan in the order that the president puts into place, so the president is absolutely right in what he said.
Was the plan still for President Trump to walk out there even if the protesters were still there?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (11:22)
I’m not aware of the determinations that Secret Service had as they arranged for the president to walk out there. But, I would just note, again, that the decision to expand the perimeter was a decision made in the morning by Attorney General Barr.
Okay. Just one question about the coronavirus because we’re still in the middle of the pandemic. Dr. Fauci, he said in an interview on Monday that his contact with President Trump had dramatically decreased and so had the frequency of the Coronavirus Task Force meetings. Is that accurate? If so, why?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (11:50)
There’s a Coronavirus Task Force briefing just yesterday. We are constantly, as an administration, monitoring the coronavirus to protect the safety and wellbeing of the American people. Right now, we all saw that church burn. We all saw some of the violence in the streets. The president has had several meeting after meeting with AG Barr, Secretary Esper, General Milley to make sure that our streets are peaceful and under control while also monitoring the coronavirus and what we’re seeing developed there. Mario?
Thanks, Kayleigh. I’m confused. If the protests were peaceful on Monday, why did you all clear the area and whose decision was to clear it later in the day? If Attorney General Barr wanted it cleared earlier in the day, why did it take so long for it to be cleared?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (12:33)
Yeah. He ordered it to be cleared Monday morning. It didn’t happen when he arrived, so he immediately instructed the officers to ensure that it was moved back a block. As we all saw Sunday night, it was not a peaceful protest. It was, in fact, a riot with a church burning in Washington, DC. The president made sure that Washington, DC was secure Monday night. Part of that involved moving the perimeter back to ensure that St John’s Church was protected.
That was quite a gap between the morning and then the evening when you all walked over there. Why was there such a gap?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (13:06)
Look, again, that’s a question for AG Barr, who made the order to question for the officers who were on the ground at time, why that wasn’t deployed right away. But when AG Barr came to the White House, I think it was early afternoon, he noticed that it hadn’t been cleared and gave the order for it to be cleared. That action took place. Steve?
Kayleigh, why did the president feels important to go walk over there, through the park and to the church?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (13:29)
It was extremely important. Look, the president wanted to send a very powerful message that we will not be overcome by looting, by rioting, by burning. This is not what defines America. Going and standing by St. John’s Church was a very important moment. I would note that through all of time, we’ve seen presidents and leaders across the world who have had leadership moments and very powerful symbols that were important for a nation to see at any given time to show a message of resilience and determination. Like Churchill, we saw him inspecting the bombing damage. It sent a powerful message of leadership to the British people. George W. Bush throwing out the ceremonial First Pitch after 9/11. Jimmy Carter putting on a sweater to encourage energy savings. George H.W. Bush signing the Americans With Disabilities Act flanked by two disabled Americans.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (14:16)
For this president, it was powerful and important to send a message that the rioters, the looters, the anarchist, they will not prevail, that burning churches are not what America is about. That moment, holding the Bible up, is something that has been widely hailed by Franklin Graham and others. It was a very important symbol for the American people to see that we will get through this through unity and through faith.
The president, you said he had the results of his physical. We know that he did part of the physical late last year. I think it was. When did he have the rest of it done?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (14:49)
I’m not aware of an exact date. I will ask Dr. Conley for you on that, but I know it was fairly recently. Yes. I will go to Bret.
Thanks, Kayleigh. The White House has spent a lot of time talking about how the protests have taken place and how people are protesting or shouldn’t be protesting. But, what is the White House doing to address the underlying causes that have led to the protest?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (15:14)
Well, president’s done a lot. The president expedited the review, the FBI review of the George Floyd case. He swiftly ensured there was a civil rights investigation into George Floyd’s death. Ahmaud Arbery, there’s another investigation there on the part of DOJ. He’s recognized what an injustice this was in numerable times, including in his national remarks that he gave on Saturday. So, this president has done everything in his power to send a powerful message that these injustices will not be tolerated.
Does the White House or the president, have they reached out to any of these protesters to try and start a dialogue about specific reforms they’d like to see, or does the president plan to do that moving forward?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (15:54)
Well, the president has looked at some various, not legislative necessarily, but tools that we could use to ensure that law enforcement uses the appropriate level of force. No discussions or announcements there on that front. But, I will say that we’re taking a hard look at this, but that the president recognizes that our police officers are valiant heroes. The vast majority are good, hardworking people who love this country and who love the American citizenry that they protect. Emerald?
Thanks, Kayleigh. Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified today on the heel that he didn’t read the FISA applications and he didn’t even prepare the scope memo that started the Mueller probe. Given that Rosenstein appears to be deeply involved in Crossfire Hurricane and that he actually picked FBI Director Christopher Wray, isn’t it time that the Trump administration appoints someone else other than Wray for FBI director?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (16:49)
Okay. I have no announcements on that front, but what I will say with regard to the Rosenstein testimony, as he said, there was no there there. He now agrees with that text by Peter Strzok who obviously had no information that of Russian collusion but, nevertheless, strung us through this investigation. You have Rosenstein who, again it’s quite befuddling, said he wouldn’t have signed off on the Carter Page FISA warrant that has his name on it. His name’s signed on a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign, that he wouldn’t have signed off on that. Not only that, he wasn’t sure that he read every page of it. It’s a pretty great thing to spy on an American citizen to violate their Fourth Amendment rights, to not have a basis to do so, and to rely on a Russian dossier full of lies as the justification. So, it’s really astonishing to hear from him that he’s not sure he read every page of that warrant, but I suppose it’s encouraging to hear with his 20/20 hindsight that he wouldn’t have signed off on it, though I’m sure that’s of no comfort to Carter Page.
Well, the president has expressed his disappointment in Wray in the past, so where does he stand now? Does he have confidence in Wray today?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (17:52)
At this moment, the president, as the FBI director, much like the secretary of defense is the FBI director, is the secretary of defense, if the president decides he no longer has confidence, you guys will be the first to know.
And then, I have one more on New York, if that’s okay. Yesterday, New York Governor Cuomo made a pretty big statement saying that he might relieve de Blasio, Mayor de Blasio, of his duties. Has there been any talk with Governor Cuomo about sending in the National Guard troops to New York, or is there any plan right now to send National Guard to New York?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (18:24)
The president will do whatever is necessary to protect America streets. He has made that clear and he has several tools. That is one of them, sending in the National Guard. He does have the ability to federalize the National Guard, should he choose to do that. But, I would note and I’m very glad you brought up New York, the very clear cut cases of DC and New York, DC was in chaos on Sunday night. When you saw the burning of the church, when Mayor Bowser did not set the curfew as she had it at 11:00 PM, the president said this is unacceptable. He’s always preferred devolving to the states. They have the police power. It’s their responsibility to protect the streets. But when the president saw that on Sunday night, he took action immediately. He surged the National Guard, encouraged states to accept their National Guard. He went on and on with several various actions. He gave a very powerful speech saying, “If you don’t act, I will.” He noted that the military would be on hand, should it be necessary. His bold action, his swift action made DC a much different story Monday night.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (19:27)
Contrasting the images of New York, or excuse me, DC on Monday night and New York on Monday night, where there was a rampant looting, where we saw Macy’s department store looted, Coach store looted, violence in the streets, New York acted in a way that was inappropriate. They didn’t deploy the National Guard. They set an 11:00 PM curfew, even after they saw the disastrous results of Mayor Bowser’s 11:00 PM curfew. The president said, “I will call Antifa, a domestic terrorist group.” What was New York doing? New York was arresting people on burglary charges and then releasing 500 individuals after they had arrested them. So, the weak need policies of New York stand in stark contrast to the law and order policies of this president that has succeeded in securing this city as we’ve seen the last two nights. Next, over to Lachlan.
Thanks, Kayleigh. Putting aside the conduct of individual officers, does the president believe that there’s a systemic bias in American law enforcement against African Americans?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (20:24)
The president believes that there are injustices and he has pointed them out. He has not hesitated in pointing out injustices, going back to his time as a primary candidate when he called Sandra Bland and the use of force against her in the video that we all saw terrible. He did not hesitate when he saw the video of George Floyd. He was really upset by that video as I noted. Also, we’ve got the civil rights investigation into Ahmaud Arbery. He points out injustices, but he also notes this, that our police officers are good people. I’ve seen them out there on the streets protecting people. I played the videos for you of the police embracing protesters, standing with the protestors. They’re good, hardworking people. They protect our streets. That is what law enforcement is about. But at the same time, the president will note and he will call out injustices. This is a president who’s not hesitated in doing that when the time was right.
He called out individual actions, but does he believe that the problem is systemic and endemic to American law enforcement?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (21:21)
The president believes there are some examples of injustices. He calls them out. This is a president who, in Democrats for so many years, talked about criminal justice reform and the disparities, the racial disparities in sentencing. President Obama didn’t do that. Guess who fixed that? It was President Trump with the First Step Act who engaged in sentencing reform and who really rectified some of the disparities we saw there. So, I think Democrats, others, Republicans should hail this president for calling out injustices when he sees them, either in a case by case basis or in the form of the First Step Act where he noted the disparity in sentencing reforms. Josh?
There’s been a number of explanations on the clear and depart, one that there was an attempt to enforce curfew, another that was violent protesters from the park place, DOJ is saying that it was previously going to be done anyway. Do you explain that’s what the reason, from the White House’s perspective, what’s the perimeter to block, why the White House wanted it done?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (22:20)
It wasn’t the White House. As I said, it was AG Barr who said that perimeter needed to be expanded one block each way because we were not going to see the church burn another night. I’ve already gone through a meticulous detail with my friend, Jim, here how it came about that that perimeter was eventually moved. I’m not going to repeat myself again.
You’re saying that would have been done anyway, even if there would not have been violent protesters, that would have happened?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (22:43)
No, there were three announcements. If the protesters had remained peaceful when I’d move the perimeter as they were instructed to do, not one, not two but three times via loud speaker, it would have looked different. But when bricks are thrown, rest assured officers will protect themselves. Chanel?
The person has tipped today that he went down to the basement to inspect it over the weekend. What was the point of the inspection? What was he looking for?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (23:09)
Okay. I won’t go further than what the president has said because those are security matters and I won’t engage on that kind of discussion. Yes, Chanel?
Thank you, Kayleigh. Going back to Rosenstein, what is the president’s response to the fact that neither Rosenstein nor Christopher Wray seemed willing to take responsibility for the illegal wiretapping that took place on the Trump campaign? I also have a question on the Insurrection Act.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (23:32)
Yeah. I would say, look, the president is dismayed. This happened to the president’s campaign. A Republican campaign was spied on by a democratic presidency, a democratic administration based on a dossier paid for by his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the DNC. This is absolutely extraordinary. It is the biggest political scandal that we’ve seen. The lack of journalistic curiosity on this front is appalling when you have multiple instances of people who were saying one thing under oath from the Obama administration and saying another thing in public that they had direct evidence of Russian collusion. That’s extraordinary, Adam Schiff. I’ve got direct evidence when, in fact, we know there was none in the Mueller report after spending millions of taxpayer dollars, totally and completely exonerated President Trump. It was a travesty and we hope to get to the bottom of this because it should never be done again in American politics to any president of either political party.
On the Insurrection Act, Secretary Esper this morning said that he opposes it. The last time it was used was 1992. How close is the White House to actually using the Insurrection Act? Is that a last resort measure or is this a real possibility at this moment?
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (24:46)
Well, if you’ve noticed, the president has been going down a line of progression. The first point was allow governors to do their job, allow mayors, like Bill de Blasio, to do their job, the police power which is embedded in the Tenth Amendment of this constitution. That’s how this country is supposed to work. Governor Cuomo is supposed to ensure that his state is protected. Mayor de Blasio is supposed to ensure that New York City is protected. They failed at their job. There was looting all across New York City. There were fires burning here in DC when Mayor Bowser was in control. So this president, on Monday, took definitive action with that speech saying, “If necessary, the military is here. You must surge the National Guard.” He took action and he shored up and made sure that DC remained peaceful. This president has gone in and said the National Guard is the next step. That seemed to be working here in New York and DC. We’ll see if it continues to work, but rest assured he has the sole authority to invoke the Insurrection Act. If necessary, he will do so to protect American citizens.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (25:47)
One thing I really want to note, and I think it’s so important to go back to this because I haven’t seen a ton of coverage of it other than in a few places, and I started the briefing with this and it’s important, I just want to circle back and note Captain David Dorn who lost his life in St. Louis. He was killed by a looter. He served 38 years in the St. Louis Police Department, his wife, Ann, as a sergeant with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. He is a hero. I also want to note, because there have been 45 officers lost in the line of duty this year and my heart breaks for them, and as a new mom myself, my heart particularly breaks for two women in particular who I was reading about their stories today, Officer Breann Leath of the Indianapolis Police Department. On April 9th, 2020, she was shot and killed. She survived by her three-year-old son, her sister and her parents. She was a National Guard veteran. My heart breaks for the family of Officer Leath and Officer Tiffany-Victoria Enriquez of the Honolulu Police Department.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: (26:50)
On January 19th, 2020, Officer Enriquez was shot and killed as well, leaving three daughters, one grandson. She was a US Air Force Reserve veteran. These are our heroes. Thank you so much to our officers who are protecting our streets. Many have been shot. Some have been killed. It’s a travesty. Let us stand with law enforcement and recognize the huge contribution that they have made to our society, and continue to do so each and every day. Thank you so much, guys.
Speaker 2: (27:18)
Kayleigh, who’s the commander of the Force who’s been watching them right now?