Trump’s New Press Secretary Promises She’ll Never Lie
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s latest press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, promised she’ll never lie in her first formal news conference from the White House briefing room on Friday.
It was the first time a White House press secretary has held a televised briefing for reporters since March 11, 2019. McEnany’s predecessor, Stephanie Grisham, never briefed on camera.
“I will never lie to you, you have my word on that,” McEnany said in answer to one of the first questions from reporters.
The new press secretary, 32, is a former conservative commentator on cable television and a former spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign. He first briefing lasted about 32 minutes.
She opened the briefing with a slideshow presentation detailing money the administration is distributing from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, occasionally consulting notes with prepared answers to some questions.
At times, she looked directly into television cameras to address the “American people.” She told reporters she plans to hold more briefings and that she’d announce the timing later.
But the briefing grew somewhat tense after McEnany, unprompted by a question, offered a defense of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser Trump fired in February 2017. Flynn was charged with lying to federal investigators in the Russia probe, pleaded guilty, then revoked his plea last year and is now seeking to have his case dismissed.
“There was an unfair target on the back of General Michael Flynn,” McEnany said, after recounting news reports Thursday on notes Federal Bureau of Investigation agents had made of discussions about whether they should try to catch Flynn in a lie while interviewing him.
A reporter for ABC, Jon Karl, noted that Trump said he fired Flynn “because he had lied to the vice president and he had lied to the FBI.” He asked McEnany: “Doesn’t the president still believe that Michael Flynn lied to Vice President Pence and lied to the FBI?”
McEnany didn’t directly answer. She said that Pence on Thursday said he was inclined to believe Flynn didn’t intend to mislead him about conversations with the then-Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and tried to turn the question on Karl. “Does it trouble you that the FBI said we’ve got to get Flynn to lie?”
Karl responded that it’s a story, but he wouldn’t offer a judgment on whether it’s troubling. He asked again if the president believes Flynn lied, and McEnany again did not answer, instead declaring that she’d seen “very scant coverage” of the FBI’s notes and looking into television cameras to say “I hope the American people, if you haven’t heard it yet, are getting to hear for the very first time.”
She fielded questions about U.S. operations in the South China Sea and negotiations with Democrats on coronavirus stimulus, before being asked about allegations of sexual misconduct against the president. She said he had denied them “and has always told the truth on these issues.”
After another reporter tried to ask again whether the president still believes Flynn lied, McEnany called the retired general’s prosecution a “grave miscarriage of justice” and asked the reporter whether he agreed. She then ended the briefing by outlining Trump’s schedule for the weekend, which includes a rare trip by the president to Camp David.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.