White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a briefing on Tuesday and fielded questions about Trump’s attack on vote-by-mail, the standoff between Democrats and Republicans concerning unemployment benefits, and Trump’s interview on Axios in which he downplayed the severity of the pandemic.

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany started today’s press briefing with a cautionary tale about mail-in voting; she reminded the press that 42 days after the New York City primary, there is still no election result. 

The Democratic congressional primary in New York — held up over the validity of mail-in ballots received after Election Day — has been repeatedly used by the Trump administration to cast doubts about expanding mail-in voting for the upcoming presidential election. As of late Monday, a federal judge in New York ruled that the late ballots should be counted. 

Following up on President Trump’s executive order signed on Monday, McEnany highlighted the administration’s efforts to expand access to telehealth services, especially in rural communities across the country. Trump signed an executive order to boost rural healthcare services by calling for strategic investments in communication infrastructure in rural areas.   

“Democrats seek to deny Americans their health care freedom, but President Trump is working hard to save your health care,” said McEnany. 

McEnany: ‘Democrats are being fundamentally unserious’

As millions of Americans are out of work, Congress and the White House still fail to reach an agreement on a new coronavirus relief deal that would restore unemployment benefits. 

While Democrats, prominently House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, push for a comprehensive bill to address economic and health care needs, Republicans advocate for a short-term fix to address the expiration of $600-a-week unemployment benefits, which terminated last Friday. 

When asked about Trump’s involvement in the new relief deal, McEnany said, “The President has had a very narrow specific focus right now — it’s extending unemployment insurance, it’s making sure Americans don’t get evicted.” 

She added, “Democrats are being fundamentally unserious. They’ve offered no concessions, they’ve offered no plans.”

McEnany slammed House Democrats for raising the cost of their initially $3 trillion plan and for rejecting Republican Senator Martha McSally’s bill which would extend the $600 unemployment insurance for another week, giving both parties more time to negotiate. Pelosi said the idea was pointless since the parties were not close to an agreement. 

“When Democrats, as I noted on Friday, were offered the Martha McSally bill…  that was rejected by Chuck Schumer, which should tell you exactly where Democrats stand and it’s against hard-working Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” said McEnany.

She later said, “It is Democrats, it is Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that are making an absolute mockery of this process. Rather than coming towards us and do a clean extension of unemployment insurance, they are moving beyond what their initial request was of 3 trillion, and then they move to 3.4 trillion.”

Trump supports absentee voting but condemns vote-by-mail

Just before the press briefing commenced, Trump praised Florida’s election system on Twitter, posting “Whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True.”

When asked about why Trump had a change of heart and started to recommend mail-in voting, McEnany replied, “The President has always said that absentee voting for reason is different than mass mail out voting like what Nevada is seeking to do which leads to mass fraud.”

Absentee voting requires a citizen to request a ballot, whereas through mail-in voting (or vote-by-mail), all registered voters are sent a ballot.  

McEnany referenced reporting done by the Las Vegas Journal Review examining the consequences of Nevada’s first all-mail primary election and mentioned ballots tossed in the trash and pinned on bulletin boards in various apartment complexes. 

The reporter then cited research showing fraud in the vote-by-mail system is extraordinarily rare, contradicting the Trump administration’s stance. Voting experts also say the verification process is the same for both absentee and mail-in ballots, the former of which, both Trump and McEnany have used to cast their votes.

McEnany also referenced reports of delays in election results in Pennsylvania due to mass mail-in voting. “So as we’ve seen in Pennsylvania as we’ve seen in New York, as we see across the country, the President is very concerned about delays and outright fraud,” she said. 

In regards to delays, policy groups have acknowledged that states immediately switching to a vote-by-mail system may lack the infrastructure to help them adapt. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, states with only absentee voting in place will face additional challenges in the implementation of the vote-by-mail system, whereas states that traditionally use vote-by-mail will already be well-equipped. 

McEnany defends Trump’s response to coronavirus, again

Since its outbreak in the U.S. in March, McEnany has regularly been questioned about the Trump’s administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Following the airing of Trump’s interview with Jonathan Swan on Axios, in which he said there are disadvantages to coronavirus testing, several reporters at the press briefing asked McEnany to clarify the President’s stance on the subject.

McEnany defended testing conducted under the Trump administration and claimed the U.S. is leading the world in testing, with more than 16 million tests. However, long turnaround times for test results have left many lives in limbo, as people wait to resume their activities.

On the high amount of infections in the country, McEnany said, “The President again points out that the media refuses to acknowledge that when you test so much you do identify more cases.” 

Coronavirus experts pushed back against Trump’s downplaying of the virus. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s own coronavirus response coordinator, said the epidemic is “extraordinarily widespread” in the U.S. and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said the kind of spreading some states are experiencing is extremely hard to contain.

McEnany came to Trump’s defense again later on in the briefing and praised the efficiency of the administration’s pandemic response. She said, “You know this was a novel virus. There were no tests, there were no therapeutics, but what did this administration do?” 

She cited a surge in testing, developments in clinical trials of potential cures, and securement of therapeutics like remdesivir. “This could only be accomplished by President Trump, by a businessman in the White House,” said McEnany. 

Candy Chan

Candy Chan is studying History with a focus on War and Revolution at Barnard College. She is currently a staff writer at the Columbia Daily Spectator, covering issues pertaining to Columbia's...