After Donald Trump described places of worship as “essential services” and asked the governors to open them “immediately”, press officer Kayleigh McEnany asked reporters questions about the powers of the president to force civil servants to do so.
But she also withdrew when she claimed that reporters in the White House meeting room wanted the churches to remain closed.
In some states, churches have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on large assemblies.
At today’s meeting, CBS News McEnany’s Ben Tracy asked, “If a governor doesn’t allow it, will the White House support churches that oppose executive instructions?”
She replied: “The president was very clear. He wants churches to reopen according to these guidelines. “
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“The answer is yes?” Tracy asked.
She replied, “I have given you an answer and the President wants to do it according to the CDC guidelines.”
Then Tracy urged her on what provision of the federal law would allow the President to override a governor on the matter.
She replied, “The President will strongly encourage every governor to allow his churches to reopen, and boy, it is interesting to be in a room that desperately wants these churches and places of worship to remain closed.”
Following this comment, Jeff Mason, Reuters White House correspondent, questioned her comment.
“I reject that,” he said. “I’m going to church. I really want to go back to church. The question we ask you and we’d like to ask the President and Dr. [Deborah] Birx is, is it safe? If it is not certain, the President tries to promote it, or does the President agree with Dr. Birx that people should wait. “
McEnany replied, “Jeff, it’s safe to reopen your churches, and you’re doing so according to the guidelines detailed here.” He outlined some of the provisions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
McEnany also said that it is a First Amendment issue: “The same amendment that gives you the opportunity to ask me questions is to have the freedom of worship for imams and pastors to go to their churches and homes their places of worship can and can celebrate what is a first adjustment right in this country, namely to pray to your God and to practice your faith. “
California Governor Gavin Newsom said today that the state will issue guidelines for the reopening of houses of worship until Monday, despite Trump’s insistence that they be immediately reopened for personal service.
The White House set guidelines for the reopening of their economies last month, but Trump has sided with demonstrators who want an immediate reopening. Some saw in his recent announcement about places of worship another way to exploit cultural divisions. “He doesn’t have much authority,” said Gloria Borger on CNN. “He can create a lot of chaos.”
McEnany’s briefing also had another strange moment with the White House reporter for One America News Network, known for his pro-Trump coverage. OANN’s correspondent, Chanel Rion, asked her “whether the President has considered apologizing to President Obama for illegal eavesdropping, illegal spying on citizens, and other potential crimes.”
Rion’s question seemed to be a way for McEnany to get to one of her topics of conversation when she went to a series of prepared slides about the Michael Flynn and Obama case, Joe Biden and Susan Rice. “It’s been a long weekend, you have three days to answer these questions, and I hope that next time some hands will go up because Obama’s spokesman should be asked these questions, because President Trump’s spokesmen certainly will would be. ”
Rion had no place at the meeting, but stopped in the back of the room despite the guidelines of the White House Correspondents Association for social distancing during the coronavirus crisis. She had previously said that she was invited to the briefings by the press officer.