8/31/2020 Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany holds White House briefing
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August 31, 2020

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On 8/31/2020, during a press briefing at the White House, a reporter asked White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany if supporters of President Donald Trump shooting paintballs at leftists in Portland over the weekend counts as “patriotic activity.” McEnany called out the reporter for not asking about the violent left wing riots the previous ninety days. McEnany has claimed Trump did not see the video, “I don’t think the president has seen that video. Nor have I. But if you’re going to ask about paintballs, it’s incredible that for 90 days I’ve stood at this podium talking about officers who have [had] lasers flashed in their eyes in an attempt to blind them, commercial grade fireworks being thrown at them.”

McEnany closed the briefing with her trademark mic drop walk off, calling out Democrats Speaker Pelosi (CA) Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA) and CNN hosts Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon for either downplaying the violence or encouraging unrest in the streets, “It is so interesting to me to see Democrats um, who once disparaged, who ignored the violence I should say, all of a sudden caring about it. But let’s not forget, um, what they said previously. Speaker Nancy Pelosi downplaying the violence rocking U.S. cities, ignorantly saying, ‘people will do what they do.’ Uh, Jerry Nadler when asked about Antifa, he said that, that was a ‘myth that’s being spread around Washington, D.C.’ It’s not a myth. In fact an Antifa individual took the life of an innocent Trump supporter in Portland. Um, you had Rep. Ayan, Aya, Ayanna Pressley saying that she wanted ‘unrest in the streets.’ Chris Cuomo saying ‘show me where it says protesters are supposed to be peaceful.’ I’ll give you an idea Chris, it’s the Constitution. Don Lemon saying quote ‘the rioting has to stop, Chris, as you know and I know it’s showing up in the polls, it’s showing up in the focus groups, it’s the only thing right now that’s sticking.’ So now all of a sudden ninety days later, I from this podium have talked about law and order, the President has talked about law and order repeatedly but because the polling has shifted, um, now it’s time for the Democrats to deny what they said previously and all of a sudden focus on law and order. Um, I’ll leave you with this: That’s like the arsonist blaming the firefighter.”
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Full Transcript

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 8/31/2020 1:03 P.M. EDT

McEnany: Good afternoon, everyone. The President shows up. When the Trump administration arrives in a Democrat-run city engulfed in chaos, peace is restored, law and order is upheld.

Washington D.C., New York, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Kenosha: all of these cities are Democrat-run; all of these cities have experienced anarchy, violence, and destruction in recent days — the opposite of a peaceful protest.

This is the reality facing American cities and towns across the country. This is not hypothetical. These are real people and real lives that have been impacted.

Portland mayor, Ted Wheeler, rejected federal law enforcement in an irrational and tone-deaf letter. Mayor Wheeler might have thought he put political points on the board, but the very next day, a protester was shot and killed on the streets of his city.

Before the Trump administration took action in Kenosha, businesses were burned, property damaged, and chaos was rampant. Then, nearly 1,000 National Guard troops and 200 DOJ personnel were deployed at the request of local officials. President Trump showed up, and law and order arrived.

Nationally, according to the DOJ, 300 have been arrested and 302 charged amid riots and unrest. Democrats are late to the game. I’ve stood behind this podium and highlighted this issue for months. While this President is always willing to show up, it is incumbent on Democrats to step up: Invite federal law enforcement in; we stand ready. Do not tolerate anarchy, violence, and destruction. Rioting is not right. Secure your streets.

President Trump will visit Kenosha, Wisconsin, tomorrow. This president will show up. He will go to cities where Americans are hurting.

And with that, I’ll take questions.

Kaitlan.

Q So he’s going to Kenosha tomorrow. Does the President have any plans currently to meet with Jacob Blake’s family? Currently, the plans are to meet with local law enforcement and some business owners, and he’ll survey the damage. But there will be more detailed plans forthcoming that are announced.

Q Okay. So, no, he’s not scheduled to meet with them?

McEnany: Not currently.

Q And I know that there’s been an outreach from the White House. Who has the White House reached out to in Jacob Blake’s family? And why has there not been able to — been a connection made since he was shot and hospitalized?

McEnany: So I would refer you to what the Chief of Staff’s office has tweeted. They’ve detailed that outreach, and part of it has been to the pastor and part of it directly to the family.

Yes. Ben.

Q Kayleigh, the President was asked on Friday if he thought the shooting of Jacob Blake was justified, and he said that he didn’t like the sight of it but that he was going to learn more about it. Now that a couple of days has passed, does the President think this shooting was justified or unjustified?

THE PRESIDENT: I’d refer you back to the President’s remarks. There’s a investigation ongoing. So I spoke to him earlier, and he was not willing to weigh in more than he had. But he’ll have a briefing this afternoon that you can ask him more about.

Q But based on what he has seen, he doesn’t have any further thoughts on whether that’s an appropriate use of force?

McEnany: I refer you back to his comments over the weekend and just say there’s an ongoing investigation.

Q Just one other thing: Does the President condemn the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of shooting some of the protesters?

McEnany: The President is not going to, again, weigh in on that. You can ask him this evening; he may weigh in further. But at the moment, he’s not weighing into that.

Yes.

Q Kayleigh, why did the President like a tweet that said the alleged shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse, was “a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump.” Can you help us understand?

McEnany: Well, I think — I did ask him about that tweet and the “like,” in particular, and he just wanted to bring some attention to some of the details that aren’t as well known in that case: that the individual was being attacked and that one of the individuals who arrived on the scene did have a gun.

So there were some details that were not public or as public as they should be. So he was referring to that with the “like.”

Yes.

Q Does he want his supporters to show up and do similar —

McEnany: Of course. And the President roundly condemns violence in all of its forms.

Yes.

Q Kayleigh, on the Director of National Intelligence briefings with the Hill, the President said the information leaked was wrong. So if that’s the case, how can it be considered sensitive information?

McEnany: The President — are you referring to the July 31st briefing?

Q Yes.

McEnany: Yeah, so the President has been very clear, and more clearly, Director Ratcliffe, in saying that leaks for political purposes are not to be tolerated. We will fulfill statutory obligations, but leaks on private briefings to Congress should not be tolerated.

Yes.

Q Just one follow-up please. How long will the oral briefings be off the table? Is this a permanent decision or just through the election?

McEnany: I’d refer you to ODNI, but they’ve been very clear that they’ll fulfill their statutory obligation, but they will not participate in partisan leaking.

Yes.

Q Thanks, Kayleigh. I have two for you on TikTok. The first is that China has said they’re going to require TikTok’s parent company to sign off the government — to obtain government signoff on any sale with a U.S. business. Is the White House willing to accept such a sale that’s subject to Chinese approval?

McEnany: Negotiations are ongoing on the sale of TikTok, so we are not going to get in the way of those negotiations by providing comment on this.

But the administration is committed to protecting the American people from all cyber-related threats to critical infrastructure, public health, and safety in these apps; as I’ve detailed from the podium before, collect significant amounts of private data on users, which — can be accessed and used by the PRC, and that’s —

Q Yeah —

McEnany: Go ahead.

Q Yeah, and the second question is on the timeline here. There’s some confusion among buyers. There was one order that said it would be a 45-day deadline for TikTok to stop transaction — transacting business in the U.S. And then another said there was a 90-day deadline for TikTok’s owner to divest. So could you just clear that up for the market? You know, what’s the actual deadline for the sale?

McEnany: I’d have to check into that, but I’ll check in and get back with you about the discrepancy there.

Yes. Jeff.

Q Kayleigh, thank you. Broadly, what does the President want to achieve by going to Kenosha tomorrow? And what is his or the White House’s response to local and state leaders encouraging him not to come at this time?

McEnany: So, two things: First, the President wants to visit hurting Americans. He shows up just like he showed up this weekend in Louisiana and Texas in response to Hurricane Laura. So he wants to show up in the city that’s hurting. And also, I think it’s just important to note that — our federal response.

Look, in Kenosha, in Minneapolis, there was violence on the streets. And, literally, within 24 hours, you saw a turnaround when federal officials came in. So I think highlighting that the federal government has done a lot in the way of using law and order to create peace, but showing up for hurting Americans is the primary concern.

Q Just to follow up on that: Like, he didn’t — he didn’t show up in Portland, where there were also protests that he talked about a lot. Is it not also because Wisconsin is such an important political state?

McEnany: The President is showing up to see hurting Americans. He goes to several states each and every week, and this is another one in a long line of many.

Yes.

Q Kayleigh, coronavirus infections have now reached 6 million in the U.S., over 180,000 dead. Why was the President retweeting a report over the weekend that appeared to suggest the death toll was much lower than that?

McEnany: The President —

Q Does he believe that? Does he believe the number is lower?

McEnany: The President was referring to a CDC — new information that came out from the CDC that showed that 96 — 94 percent, rather, of cases — of fatalities were not just COVID alone; there was another comorbidity or extenuating matter. So he was just pointing to those numbers.

But we are encouraged to see a drop in cases, deaths, hospitalizations, and very encouraged that we have one of the lowest case fatality rates in the world. In fact, ours is 3.1 percent; EU and UK together is 10.5 percent. So we’re encouraged that our therapeutics are working and saving lives, thanks to the hard work of President Trump tearing down bureaucratic barriers.

Q But why promote that number? Is he trying to downplay the death toll and the toll that it’s taken (inaudible)?

McEnany: No, he was — he was highlighting new CDC information that came out that was worth noting.

Yes.

Q Kayleigh, I want to ask you about one of the President’s other tweets this weekend. He took a video or retweeted a video of a caravan of people driving into Portland with Trump and American flags flying; he called them “great patriots.” What about that image does the President see as patriotic? And, ostensibly, you’re talking about people going into a city in which they don’t live, presumably to protect the property they don’t own. What’s patriotic about that activity?

McEnany: The President was highlighting that these were good Americans going in to peacefully be a part of a protest and show their voice. And, you know, that’s what he was noting by the tweet and highlighting the video, which he routinely does.

Q What about the video of them scuffling, shooting paintballs at people and getting in the mix with people? Is that patriotic activity?

McEnany: I don’t think the President has seen that video, nor have I. But if you’re going to ask about paintballs, it’s incredible that, for 90 days, I’ve stood at this podium talking about officers who have been — lasers flashed in their eyes in an attempt to blind them; commercial-grade fireworks being thrown at them; a church, right out here, burning down; the people that were harassed and yelled at — Senator Rand Paul, Dan Bongino — right out here. And you’re going to ask me about a paintball video when, in fact, for 90 days we’ve seen horrific, horrific violence by Antifa, a radical anarchist organization, and you’re going to ask me about a paintball video I have yet to see and neither has the President.

Francesca.

Q I’m going to ask you about it, but you maintain that that’s — that the people who went into the city to conduct that activity, they are patriots.

McEnany: The President has never seen that video. I don’t even know if the people that you’re referring to were a part of the paintball activity.

But, look, there’s been 90 days of violence from left-wing anarchists, and it’s incredible that today is the one time you’re interested in a violence — when it’s paintballs and we don’t even know who set off these paintballs — but you fail to ask for 90 days about violence from an anarchist organization because it happens to be on the left.

Francesca.

Q That’s not —

Q Okay, thank you, Kayleigh. The President is also traveling this week to Wilmington, North Carolina. He could celebrate the end of World War Two in any city in America. So why is he traveling specifically to Wilmington? Why is that the place that he is choosing to designate as the first heritage city site for World War Two? And is this related in any way to the fact that North Carolina is considered a must-win state for the President and the fact that absentee-by-mail voting starts this week on Friday?

McEnany: No, there’s not a political purpose in this visit. This President is visiting it to commemorate a great site in American history.

Yes.

Q Why was it specifically selected then?

McEnany: Yes.

Q Kayleigh, a federal judge in Georgia last week became the latest to rule against the administration, denying citizenship to gay couples — pardon me, the administration denying gay couples citizenship for their children born overseas by a surrogate, yet the Justice Department continues to appeal these cases. How can the administration claim to be part of its LGBTQ record when it’s litigating against these couples?

McEnany: Yeah, so that pertain to surrogacy, and it had nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the parents. And this administration, President, will proudly stand on a record of achievements, like leading a global initiative to end the criminalization of homosexuality throughout the world, launching a plan to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, and easing a ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

Q But the —

McEnany: Yes.

Q — the federal judge has ruled the interpretation of that law —

McEnany: Yes.

Q — is not correct, and that there’s statutory and constitutional concerns.

McEnany: Again, for anything further, I’d refer you to the State Department.

Yes.

Q Thank you. What is the message of the White House to the people who are still protesting in the street in Belarus, despite threats?

McEnany: Yeah, it’s an important question, and we’ll always stand on the side of freedom and democracy. We continue to follow the developments in Belarus closely, and we support international efforts to look independently into electoral irregularities, human rights abuses, and the government crackdown. And the massive number of Belarusians protesting peacefully makes clear that the government can no longer ignore the people’s call for democracy.

And Russia must also respect Belarus’s sovereignty and the right of its people to elect their own leaders freely and fairly.

Yes.

Q Thanks, Kayleigh. The President, at a campaign rally Friday night, talked about the possibility of — again, of declaring an insurrection over the rioting. Does he believe there’s an insurrection going on? And if so, what’s holding him back?

McEnany: So the President does not want to invoke the Insurrection Act, which has been used very sparingly. But what he does want is to help these cities where he can. And when you see Kenosha, when federal forces came in, there was peace in Minneapolis. And in both of those cases, it was at the invitation of the governor.

So we want to work collaboratively with Democrat mayors and governors. They, after all, do hold the police power, as embedded in the Constitution, to control their streets. But we, as a federal government, are willing to supplement.

Q You mentioned the person who was killed in Portland last weekend. He was a Trump supporter. Does the President feel like Portland right now is too dangerous for his supporters? Should they stay away from the city?

McEnany: The President believes that people of all ideologies should be able to peacefully protest and not have their lives put at risk — like Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who lost his life. Noteworthy that his suspected killer said he was, quote, “one hundred percent Antifa” and ready for, quote, “war.” Unacceptable.

Yes.

Q Thanks, Kayleigh. I wanted to follow up on what Katherine was asking about: the coronavirus numbers. Given that they’re going up, should — is the President rethinking urging to reopen schools? And what is the administration’s message to parents who might be worried about sending our kids back to class among these rising numbers?

McEnany: So, first of all, there has been a drop in cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. In fact, since the peak in July, we saw a 38 percent decrease in the seven-day average of cases. So numbers are going down. It’s paramount that students have the option to go back to school, that parents have a choice to send their kids back to school.

And as Dr. Redfield said, CDC director: “I think we have to be honest that the public health and interests of students in the nation right now is to get a quality education and face-to-face learning. We need to get on with it and give parents this option.” There are a lot of consequences for schools staying closed, and I’ve walked through a number of those.

Yamiche.

Q Thanks, Kayleigh. Two quick questions: The first is, Kellyanne Conway — sorry for my voice being a little scratchy. But —

McEnany: No worries.

Q But Kellyanne Conway said, “The more chaos and anarchy…and violence reign, the better it is for the very clear choice of who’s best on public safety and law order.” Does this President — is he rooting for more violence for the political benefit? That’s what Kellyanne Conway’s quote is suggesting. Democrats say that the President thinks violence works in his political favor.

McEnany: Absolutely not. He is not rooting for more violence in the slightest. And, in fact, you know, I would note that, under his administration, we saw violent crime nationwide decrease in both 2017 and 2018, after rising during each of the two previous years. We’re encouraged that Operation LeGend is working.

In Kansas City, violence has been cut by a third. In Indianapolis, we’ve gotten 49 guns off the streets in two weeks that were related to gun violence. In Port- —

Q But do you think the violence helps make his case for reelection?

McEnany: No one wants to see the violence that we’ve seen in our cities, where, after two years of coming down under President Trump, in Portland, you have a 650 percent increase in murders. In Seattle, you had the first eight-month totals of murders almost surpassing the entire amount in 2019. And this is because of the “Defund the Police” movement. This is because of the criticism of our police officers and the drawing down of funds for these officers. No one wants to see this, which is why the President is fighting against that movement, and it’s why he’s fighting for a robust Operation LeGend response that’s proved successful so far.

Q A quick follow-up to that.

McEnany: Mm-hmm.

Q Why hasn’t the President just said Americans shouldn’t be taking their own weapons to try to protect buildings, and condemning the idea of people, kind of, deputizing themselves? Or maybe, does this White House believe that citizens should stop showing up to cities, especially the ones they don’t live in, to have guns to protect buildings?

McEnany: This White House believes our police should be fully funded. We should have more police rather than less. We shouldn’t criticize our police, because it is our police officers who are responsible for taking to the streets and protecting us.

And when they’re called “cancers” by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, when they’re compared to the KKK by a current sitting vice presidential candidate, it’s appalling. It’s despicable. We need to fund our police officers because they should be the ones out patrolling the streets.

Yes, Chanel.

McEnany: Thank you, Kayleigh. What is the President’s position on victims, families, businesses — as a result of these riots — suing Democrat-run cities? Would he support them if they were to band together and do so?

McEnany: I haven’t spoken to him about that specifically, but certainly what you’re seeing is: It is Democrat cities where you’re seeing all of these numbers increase. When you look at — I just noted to Yamiche — Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York City, these have all seen anywhere from a 33 percent spike in the murder rate to a 277 percent increase in one month alone in New York City. It’s appalling. And it is Democrat governors and mayors, and lawlessness that they’re allowing to prevail.

When federal forces come in, the situation changes. And it’s so interesting to me to see Democrats who once disparaged or ignored the violence, I should say, all of a sudden caring about it. But let’s not forget what they said previously: Speaker Nancy Pelosi downplaying the violence rocking U.S. cities, ignorantly saying, “People will do what they do.”

Jerry Nadler, when asked about Antifa, he said that that was a “myth” that’s being spread around Washington, D.C. It’s not a myth. In fact, an Antifa individual took the life of an innocent Trump supporter in Portland.

You have Rep. Ayanna Pressley saying that she wanted unrest in the streets. Chris Cuomo saying, “Show me where it says protesters are supposed to be peaceful.” I’ll give you an idea, Chris: It’s the Constitution.

Don Lemon saying, quote, “The rioting has to stop. Chris, as you know and I know, it’s showing up in the poll[s]. It’s showing up in the focus groups. It is the only thing right now that’s sticking.”

So, now, all of a sudden, 90 days later, I, from this podium, have talked about law and order. The President has talked about law and order repeatedly, but because the polling has shifted, now it’s time for the Democrats to deny what they said previously and, all of a sudden, focus on law and order.

I’ll leave you with this: That’s like the arsonist blaming the firefighter.

END 1:21 P.M. EDT
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