James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:30 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Hello, everyone. This is a historic day, and I have here with me Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Ambassador Robert O’Brien. They’re going to summarize the history that was made today and take a few of your questions. We also have Special Representative Avi Berkowitz here; and Special Envoy to Iran, Brian Hook, who will be in attendance.
MR. KUSHNER: Thank you, Kayleigh. And thank you all for being here.
I want to start today by congratulating the people of Israel and the people of the United Arab Emirates. Today is a historic breakthrough and a great day for peace.
I also want to congratulate President Trump on this milestone. He worked very hard on this with his team. We worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who really are two visionary leaders who made a big step forward today to really change the region.
The last time we had an agreement like this in the region was 1994, when Israel made an agreement with the Kingdom of Jordan, which stopped aggression and helped bring forward peace.
Over the last 26 years, there’s been a lot of developments in the region — some positive, but many that have set the region back, and it has led to lots of lives being lost, lots of opportunity and hope being destroyed, and — and a region that really has had a lot of problems.
When President Trump came into office, we had a caliphate for ISIS in the Middle East, which was the size of Ohio. We had a lot of instability. Iran’s aggression was being felt all throughout the region. A lot of their proxies were very well funded and causing instability in Yemen and in Syria and in other places.
And now we’re in a position where we’ve been able to work with our allies. A lot of our allies felt abandoned. President Trump has been able to rebuild those relationships. His first trip as President was to Saudi Arabia in May of 2017, where he laid out the problems that were facing the region and very clearly articulated that, in order to make progress, we’d all have to work together around common goals and we’d have to acknowledge historic differences and historic conflicts. But we can’t let those conflicts hold us back.
President Trump’s leadership, the ability to build the relationships with the leaders in the region — people were modernizing their society and realizing that we needed a new paradigm.
On President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, we made an agreement with a lot of these countries that we’re going to start a counterterror finance center. And since then, we’ve worked to limit the amount of funding that’s gone to extremist groups.
We worked with Saudi Arabia, which is the custodian of the two holy sites, and we worked with them to do a counter center, a counter-extremism center to combat online extremism, and that’s made a big difference because you can’t solve the short-term problem without taking on the long-term fight. We’ve seen Saudi Arabia make a lot of modernizations over the last years, giving more rights to women and taking steps in the right direction, which have been very positive. And now today’s breakthrough really allows us to go forward.
To give you a little bit of background on this deal, this is something that’s been in discussions now for over a year and a half. We were talking with Israel; we were talking with United Arab Emirates about moving forward. Obviously, because of the Israeli elections and because of some other things that were happening in the region, this is something that was talked about but never really got to the right place for it to happen.
As you know, with deals, deals happen when deals are ready. And peace deals are very rare and very historic, and there’s a lot of reasons why people would be held back from moving forward.
What we saw was when the President rolled out his vision for peace, which we worked very hard on for a couple of years to really try to understand the issues in the region between the Israelis and Palestinians, he put forward 180 pages of detail on how we can address the issues of the past but also figure out how to move forward.
During that acknowledgement, President Trump was able to get Israel to agree to have a two-state solution with the Palestinians and, for the first time in history, to agree to a map that outlined the territory that they would be willing to work with in order to see that happen. That showed a lot of people in the region that Israel was serious about really moving forward and making peace and also showed them that President Trump’s leadership and diplomacy could make things happen that hadn’t happened previously.
What happened is, as Israel was discussing with us providing — taking Israeli law and sovereignty to areas of the West Bank and applying it, we were having these discussions. And over the last six weeks, the discussions between UAE and Israel started accelerating around this being a potential different path.
We all saw Ambassador Otaiba’s op-ed that came out that said that he thought applying Israeli sovereignty to this — to these areas would be detrimental to the region. And a new course, a new option was created that was discussed that ultimately both countries thought was a much more viable option to go forward.
Israel has agreed to suspend those efforts at this time. And as a result, we’re going to focus on bringing these two countries together. This is really a historic breakthrough, and it shows that President Trump’s leadership, from the Riyadh speech until today — you see a much different Middle East than what he inherited. And hopefully, there’s a lot more good things to come.
This is an icebreaker between these two countries. This is the first Arab country to normalize relations with Israel in a long time — 26 years since Jordan. And what we’re going to hopefully see from there is more countries start to do the same.
The final thing I’ll just say is that, here in America, the biggest threat that we saw in the last campaign was really two things. One was ISIS. The caliphate was growing, we were seeing journalists being beheaded, we were seeing people burnt in cages, and the threat of ISIS was something that was very scary to a lot of Americans and needed to be stopped. The instability was providing a place for extremists to plan attacks, to plan all kinds of terrible things, and the extremists were trying to radicalize the next generation.
One of the biggest excuses that extremists use to radicalize the next generation is the mosque and — the Al-Aqsa Mosque — and saying that it’s being threatened and the fact that Muslims aren’t able to pray there. This deal will allow for flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv, which will allow Muslims a real entrée to come and visit Israel peacefully and to come and pray at the mosque with whatever frequency they deem appropriate.
This is a big breakthrough. As people go there and pray and see that this is available, they’ll share it with their friends and they’ll share the experiences, they’ll share pictures of it on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, and people throughout the world will see that the mosque is safe and that — that all people are welcome there.
So this is a really great step forward for the region, a great step forward for the country, and a great step forward for the world. And again, I just want to really compliment the three leaders who worked very hard to make this possible: Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, and President Trump here in America.
MR. O’BRIEN: So, thank you to Jared for that summary. And it’s — it’s been extraordinary work by a number of fine diplomats, working under President Trump’s leadership, to arrive at today’s outcome. Jared Kushner has been at the forefront of those efforts. Avi, Brian Hook, and others have — have put in just — just tremendous work, under the President’s direction, to get where we are here today.
And I know, Jared, you’re not a — you don’t have a diplomat-title or ambassador title, but we don’t have the finer ambassador, especially in the region, than Advisor Kushner. So thank you for those — those remarks and for the really incredible effort.
I want to start by congratulating, today, the President of the United States; the Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu; and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. This is a remarkable achievement, and they’ve been — the achievement is now — will now be known in history as the “Abraham Accords,” or the “Ibrahim Accords” in the Muslim countries, or the “Avraham Accords” in Israel.
It’s something very special. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often. Very few of my predecessors, as National Security Advisor, have been able to come to this podium to announce a peace deal in the Middle East. It’s a — it’s a very rare thing.
As I said earlier in the Oval Office today, the President is going to be known in history as one of the change makers and one of the remarkable leaders in the Middle East. And that’s not something that you may have thought of when he came into office. But one of his very first steps was repairing our relationship with Israel, which had been badly damaged, especially in the last month of the prior administration.
The President did something that was unheard of. Many presidential candidates, going back two decades, had promised that if they were elected, they would move the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. President Trump had the courage to do it, and he developed wonderful credibility and a reservoir of goodwill in Israel.
He recognized the Golan Heights as being Israeli territory, and — and took those away from a very — what could have been a very destabilized situation that we’ve seen develop in Syria.
He destroyed the physical caliphate of ISIS, which, Jared had said, was the size of Ohio. It was — it stretched across the Middle East, and terror reigned because of the caliphate.
He brought justice to al-Baghdadi, who had killed so many Americans: Sotloff and Mueller and Kassig and Foley.
He put maximum pressure on Iran and — and cut off much of the terrorist funding that was going to the proxy wars in Yemen, in Hezbollah, in Lebanon, in Syria, and throughout the region.
And today, we have the — the Abraham Accords. He’s brought peace to the Middle East, at least peace between the UAE and Israel. And what I have said is the President is often known as the greatest dealmaker, and he wrote the book “The Art of the Deal.” And he’s considered a great, great dealmaker, which he is.
But I think history is going to remember the President for being a great peacemaker. He brought peace to Israel and the UAE. He has signed a — his diplomat signed a historic accord in Afghanistan. I want to remind people that we haven’t had an American casualty in combat in Afghanistan since February 29th.
He used his offices and his — his pressure to stop Idlib from being overrun in Syria, and brought a ceasefire agreement when — when Turkey had invaded Northern Syria.
A lot of people said that when he came into office that there would be war in North Korea. But through personal diplomacy, he’s — has kept that situation from — from turning into a kinetic event.
So, it’s really remarkable, I think, when you — when you step back and take a look at what this President has done on the peace front. And it wouldn’t surprise me — it’ll take some time in this environment — but it wouldn’t surprise me if the President is eventually nominated for a Nobel Prize for the — this — today’s work is an example of why he would be rightly considered and should be a frontrunner for the Nobel Peace Prize.
So, I also want to compliment the courageousness of Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince. You know, there have been two other great Arab leaders — King Hussein — in my lifetime, King Hussein and Anwar Sadat — who have made peace with Israel. And now, Mohammed bin Zayed enters that pantheon of great, courageous Arab leaders.
And I want to compliment President — Prime Minister Netanyahu, in Israel, who was under tremendous pressure to extend Israeli law and sovereignty to portions of the country, but is — has stepped up against that political pressure to make peace. Something that may have been politically popular, but he put the interest of his country and his people first.
And so I think we’ve got some very courageous leaders that worked with the President to come to today’s tremendous historical accord.
Stepping back from — what does this mean beyond the historic idea of a major Arab country making peace with Israel all these years after 1948? It makes sense on so many different levels. The UAE and Israel are both capable security partners of the United States, and close — close partners of ours in the region, standing up to Iran, standing up to Islamic extremism. They’ll — them — the peace agreement between these two countries will encourage and foster cooperation in those efforts.
These are very innovative countries. Israel is called the “startup nation.” And for those of you who have been there, it’s — you feel like you’re driving through Palo Alto through half the country. The UAE is also a very innovative country. Putting those two nations together is going to create a dynamic of innovation and creativity in the region. And they — both countries are populated by incredibly dynamic people.
There are tremendous opportunities that are going to arise from this agreement. Jared talked about the idea of Arab pilgrims and Muslim pilgrims going to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, going up to the Mount, and having the opportunity to pray in peace in Israel.
The — as you know, the President has made religious freedom, especially religious freedom in the Middle East, a center point — a centerpiece of his foreign policy. And this is a great step towards fulfilling the idea that the three great faiths that came from the Holy City — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — will be able to pray and interact peaceably together in that beautiful city of Jerusalem.
Tourism, with — Abu Dhabi and Dubai and the other Emirates have become meccas for tourism, especially before the Chinese virus — the COVID virus. Israel is a great land for tourism. That’ll expand trade between the UAE and Israel, which both have incredible economies. And again, as we — as we recover from COVID, this agreement will help the economies of those countries and the countries in the region expand. And I think you’re going to see an increase in jobs in all three countries as a result of these accords.
With respect to the peace process overall, we’ve got a great team. That team is going to be fanning out. We’re going to be on the — working the phones. We’re going to be in the region. And we believe that there are other countries waiting in the wings that are going to watch and see how the — the tremendous response to the courage of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Crown Prince have been received by their people and by the world. And, I mean, I’ve — I’ve already been on the phone with a number of European counterparts who have called to congratulate us for our role in — in this accord but who are — some of whom were astounded that this took place.
And we also think that this could lead to a great deal for the Palestinian people, that — it’s a people that the President of the United States, President Trump, has not forgotten. And he’s — he’s endorsed the two-state solution. He wants to see the Palestinian people in a prosperous country of their own. And the groundwork has been laid for that, so I think we’ll be working very hard on those efforts in the — in the coming months and — and year.
So, again, today is a great day. It’s a great day for the people of the UAE, it’s a great day for the people of Israel, for their leaders. And it’s also a great day for the United States of America as we played a role that we’ve traditionally played throughout the world, in coming in to mediate in difficult situations and — and achieve peace and achieve prosperity for our friends and neighbors.
And again, I’m honored to be a part of the President’s team on this. And again, I’ll end with congratulations to the President for his leadership, and again, to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Thank you very much.
MR. KUSHNER: We’ll start with Steve.
Q How long did Israel agree to suspend its annexation plan on the West Bank?
MR. KUSHNER: So the suspension will last — it’s going to take a while for these agreements to get fully enforced and to go. And I think that right now the focus that Israel is going to be applying is towards building this relationship. The opportunities that are now created because of this from an investment point of view, from an innovation point of view, from a health point of view, from a terrorism point of view, and, most importantly to both countries, from a security point of view are very robust.
And I do believe that, for the foreseeable future, you’re going to see both countries focusing on that. I also think that Israel sees a lot of exciting opportunity in doing what’s being done today with other Arab and Muslim countries as well. So that’s really going to be the focus as to where we’re going to be working with them.
And, you know, one thing I also want to do is acknowledge the tremendous team that’s worked on this to date. Obviously, Secretary Pompeo has been leading the efforts. The Vice President has been very supportive. And then, obviously, Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook have been just tremendous along the way — both to get to today and also in the steps that will likely come forward soon.
Q Jared, this has already — you guys are telling this as a good step forward. But the Palestinian officials are already out criticizing it. If they aren’t on board, how is this a good peace deal right now?
MR. KUSHNER: Right. So, look, we — they have a fairly predictable response that we’ve si- — seen time and time again to all types of things that help make their people’s lives better. Let’s just focus on the facts of what’s happening, and let’s focus on how to push things forward.
We laid out a 180-page, very detailed plan that we got Israel to agree to negotiate on the basis of that invests $50 billion into their economy; that allows them to double their GDP over 10 years; that can create a million new jobs; help their people have a much better standard of life. We also got Israel to agree to have them have self-determination, have a secure environment, and then, in addition to that, figure out how to get the right land — the right land outcome where we can go forward.
So, look, I think that a lot of people in the region are seeing that we can’t wait for the Palestinian leadership to try and resolve this. Every country is going to do what’s in their best interests, what’s in the region’s best interests. And we have big problems in the world, and we can’t be stuck in the past. We have to be moving forward.
Now, I will just say that a big part of what motivated the UAE to move forward at this time and take the risk that they’re taking is the notion that they didn’t want to see Israel take the provocative action of applying sovereignty to areas of the West Bank, which hopefully allows more space to the Palestinian leadership to come to the table and make a deal.
So I don’t know if it will happen tomorrow. I don’t know if it’ll happen next month. I don’t know if it’ll happen next year. But at some point — always learn, with deals, that there’s a thing called “gravity.” And right now you’re in a situation where Israel has said that they’re open to making peace. A lot of people in the region have supported the vision that the President laid out.
One thing you’ve seen with the President: He’s a deal- making President, right? And part of being a dealmaker is not always showing your cards. Again, we were able to hold this quiet until this morning when we announced it.
The President has had a very robust strategy for the Middle East that we’ve been executing piece by piece, day by day. And we’ve seen things have been getting better, problems have been getting resolved. The President has been taking things off the table — you know, slaughtering sacred cows that were holding people back.
And so if you kind of look at the snapshot today and you look back at the snapshot of where the President was when he started, you have a much different Middle East, and that’s not by accident.
So, I believe, over time, we’re going to continue to ask ourselves two questions with that conflict. Number one is: Are we doing things that allow Israel to be more secure versus less secure for the Israeli people? That’s America’s strongest ally in the region. With this step, actually, UAE joins a very exclusive club and becomes, you know, really, one of America’s closest allies in the region.
And then number two is: Are we taking steps that allow the Palestinian people to live a better life? And so, you know, there’s a lot of people who find historical traps where they can find excuses not to move forward. But President Trump is focused on creating a bright future, crea- — focused on progress and making people’s lives better.
So I will just say today that this is a big breakthrough. This is something that’s — that’s public. We have a lot of things that are happening privately right now that are quite excited. And I do believe, again, that over the next years, if the President is able to keep going forward, you’re going to see some historic changes in the region that will make — really make the world a much safer and better place. Thank you.
Q Thank you, Jared. Appreciate it. I just actually want to ask you, Advisor O’Brien — you mentioned Anwar Sadat, and I’m just curious: Do you see or envision sort of a — a Sadat-Begin-Carter picture — a moment like that for the leaders? Because that’s something, I think, people remember — I want to say it was ’79, but going all the way back then.
MR. O’BRIEN: Right. Right. No, I — I think we will have a formal signing ceremony at the White House. And we’ll have to see who comes from the various countries, but I would expect that Prime Minister Netanyahu will be here, and either the Crown Prince or one of his — one of the other princes would likely be here in Washington. And I think it’ll be a great day.
And, really, as you know, I normally don’t talk about things that — that were said on presidential phone calls. But one of the — one of the leaders said that we’ve had a tough 2020, and this is like the best news of the year. It really is good news. It’s a great news story for the American people, and it’s been great to see the — how the press has reacted in a — in a somewhat polarized time.
I think this is one of those stories that everybody — regardless of your political stripes or on that sort of thing, everybody’s excited about the fact that an Arab — a Muslim Arab government is making peace with Israel. Big day.
And we’d love to host them here at the White House. I think the President would very much like to host them. And so I think we’ll have an event, at some point, in the-not-too-distant future.
Q And, Jared, if I could follow up on something that you mentioned earlier. You talked about “visionary leadership,” not just in the region, but to — in general, including the President, to make something like this happen. He seemed, actually, fairly positive — albeit maybe cryptically — that may be something soon could happen again to keep this inertia going with perhaps another country.
Is it your sense that, yes, there’s a — there’s a good chance that we could have a similar announcement here in the next, say, 90 days, 80 days?
MR. KUSHNER: I do think there’s a very good chance. Now, one thing I’ll say about the President is that one of the things you see in great leaders is a sense of optimism. And the President is — is a great leader for the country because he always wants to put forward a positive front and get people to do more than they’re capable of doing and help people achieve things that people don’t think is possible. And so his optimism is one of his great traits as a leader.
I will say here that we have had several discussions. Obviously, we — we kind of stopped those discussions because this one looked like it was going, and it was very important to the United Arab Emirates to be the first. They wanted to make history and do it, but we do have several more that we’ve had discussions with, and now we’ll continue those discussions to see if we can continue to move forward more.
Look, at the end of the day, it’s an inevitability, right? People in the world want to move forward. The Middle East has to stand on its own two feet. We have some great allies there. We’ll continue to work with them and help them, but we’d like to see a security architecture and an economic architecture there where people have the safety and ability to live a better life, to have jobs, to have prosperity, and people need to believe that their children can have a better life than they can. And once that happens, people will choose a job over — over some of the other less good areas that they’re being tempted to go to by the extremists.
Q Jared, thank you. A couple of questions. First, you mentioned the flights. Can you tell us how quickly you expect to actually see those flights begin, embassies to open up? And to what extent is this strategy in part strategy (inaudible) hope that Iran will be further isolated?
MR. KUSHNER: I think Iran is — Iran, if they want to move forward — again, the President has been very clear he’s not going to pay for a meeting, but he’s always happy to talk to people. And that’s part of him being a dealmaker, and that’s why, again, he was able to make this deal; he was able to make the deal for the OPEC Plus; he was able to make the U.S.-Mexico-Canada deal; he was able to make the Japan trade deal, the Korea deal. We’re able to get the FIFA 2026, the Olympics 2028. The President is a dealmaker, so he’ll always be flexible.
I do think, though, seeing the two best — two of the best militaries in the region come together should be something that people take note of because it shows that, again, people are figuring out how they can optimize.
And I do think that Iran has benefited from kind of dividing and conquering. Through their proxies, they’ve tried to create instability, and they’ve — they’ve tried to have the Middle East divided, which is why they’ve always taken advantage of the Palestinian issue and — and they’ve tried to stoke fear around that issue. And they’ve used it to keep people from joining together with Israel.
You know, no Israeli has ever killed in Emirati, right? There — there’s not that hatred between the people, which is why there’s no (inaudible). So I do believe that we will start seeing interactions very quickly and that both countries are very motivated — both from an economic point of view, from a tourism point of view, from a health point of view, from a technology point of view — to start moving forward quite quickly.
Q And very, very quickly, if I could just follow up with you. You’ve been in the headlines recently. Just to give you the opportunity to respond: Can you tell us why you were meeting with Kanye West? Did you discuss the election at all in any capacity?
MR. KUSHNER: Yeah. So Kanye has been a friend of mine for — I’ve known him for about 10 years. And, you know, we talk every now and then about different things, and we both happened to be in Colorado. And so we got together and we had a great discussion about a lot of things. He has some great ideas for — for what he’d like to see happen in the country, and that’s why he has the candidacy that he’s been doing.
But again, there’s a lot of issues that the President has championed that he admires, and — and it was just great to have a friendly discussion.
Q Just to follow up on Steve’s question — Netanyahu just did a live address tonight, and he said, “We received a request to wait temporarily on annexation from President Trump.” He said, “It’s a temporary postponement. It is not removed from the table. I’m telling you that.” So how long is “temporary,” because you said it could be a long time? And did you get guarantees that they will adhere to that?
MR. KUSHNER: Somewhere between a long time and a short time. That’s what “temporary” means.
Q But that’s important to them to know how long “temporary” is. He’s saying it’s not off the table, it’s not cancelled; it’s only being postponed.
MR. KUSHNER: Look, our discussions with the Prime Minister have been very extensive over the last three and a half years. We have a lot of trust between Israel and America. We’ve done a lot of historic things together.
The people of Israel trust President Trump to make the right decisions that are in the best interest of Israel’s security and prosperity. And obviously, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump have a very close relationship.
I believe that they will not take action to move forward, unless we have an understanding between America and Israel, that it’s the right action at the right time. And again, you know, it’s not like a binary thing to move forward or not. There’s a lot of details, there’s a lot of things that need to be considered. And we had a lot of those discussions over the coming months, and then obviously put those discussions on hold as this came about.
So I imagine, at some point in the future, this is something that will be discussed. But today is a great day. This is a big breakthrough. This is a game changer for Israel. It’s a game changer for the Middle East. And it’s a game changer for the world.
So, I think, for the time being, people are going to focus on that and focus how to optimize from that tremendous opportunity.
Q But just to be clear — just to be —
Q If I could follow up on Kristen’s question —
Q Could I just —
Q Did you discuss the campaign — his campaign — with Kanye West?
MR. KUSHNER: We had a general discussion, more about policy.
Q Jared, let me ask you about a different deal — one here in Washington. Democrats, Republicans are $2.5 trillion apart, it seems. From your view, do you believe it’s possible right now of a phase four deal coming together?
MR. KUSHNER: Working with President Trump for the last five years on the campaign and through government, I would just say that, with President Trump, anything is possible. So, you never know. The President has accomplished a lot of things that people thought would never be accomplished, and — but to comment specifically on the deal, I’ll leave that up to the negotiators.
Since we seem to have exhausted questions on this topic, I’m going to pass it back Kayleigh. Thank you.
Q Jared — just to follow up on Iran — please, Jared, you promised me earlier (inaudible). To follow up on Iran, you said earlier this is part of the (inaudible) of isolating Iran. The administration has recently revised a U.N. Security Council resolution to extend the arms embargo on Iran. (Inaudible) a lot of tough language on Iran, but still — there is still a danger of veto from Russia and China.
So, some observers are saying that the administration is risking losing face if you can’t get support over this deal. Can you comment on that?
MR. O’BRIEN: Well, the first thing is, we’re always going to do the — the administration is always do the right thing. And President Trump is always going to do the right thing, whether it’s losing face or there’s a Russian veto or a Chinese veto.
If the Chinese or the Russians veto the continuation of the arms embargo and want to start sending arms to Iran and destabilizing the region, that’s on them and that’s not on us. So we’re always going to take the position — the right position — and not worry about what the Russians or what the Chinese might do at the U.N. If we did that, if we worried about that all the time, we’d get nothing done at the U.N.
We also have other tools that we’ll use to deal with Iran to make sure that that arms don’t flow into Iran, that there’s not further destabilization of the region. There are tools that we can use diplomatically, and there are other tools that we have.
And nobody in the region wants to see Iran on the receiving end of a bunch of Russian MiGs or Chinese missiles or Chinese drones. The region has made that very clear, we’ve made that very clear, Israel has made that very clear — so I don’t think that’s in the interest of anyone in the world. It’s not in the interest of global peace and security and prosperity.
So we’re going to continue to prosecute our case at the U.N. and we’re going to hope for the best. I hope the Russians and the Chinese do the right thing. They should do the right thing. And — and if they don’t do the right thing, well, we’ve got — we’ve got backup steps that we’ll take.
Q Can you clarify whether you’ll support the snapback option?
MR. O’BRIEN: The snapback is certainly one of the tools that we could use. And — and that’s something we’re looking at very closely. And it wouldn’t — look, what we’re focused on right now is the vote to extend the arms embargo. We’d like a clean rollover of the arms embargo. We’d like to see our allies get behind it. We’d like to see the Russians and Chinese get behind it.
I just can’t imagine any leader anywhere in the world who thinks it’s a good idea to put advanced armaments in the hands of the Ayatollah and his regime, especially in today’s Middle East. I mean, that just makes zero sense whatsoever.
So hopefully, the countries at the U.N., at the Security Council will do the right thing — they’ll roll over the arms embargo and keep it in place. But if that doesn’t happen, we’ve got — we’ll take steps necessary, and one of those steps could be could be snapback.
MS. MCENANY: Thank you very much, to Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and Ambassador O’Brien. And I will take a few of your questions on other matters, if you have any.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. The President has written a memoranda to give five states 100 percent of reimbursement for their National Guard costs dealing with the coronavirus. A number of governors are trying to get on that list too, including Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. Have you had a chance to set up a time for them to talk?
And the National Governors Association, say that — says that the criteria for being one of those states that gets 100 percent, not 75 percent, aren’t clear. Can you tell me: How do you make the cut where you’re 100 percent and not 75 percent?
MS. MCENANY: So, first, let me note that, in March, President Trump became the first President to authorize use of the National Guard under Title 32 status with 100 percent cost share. The President supports the men and women of our National Guard. This is a rarely used tool, but the President was willing to take this decisive action.
Seventy-five percent of the cost share is still giving states tremendous unprecedented support, and states can utilize their Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars to cover the remaining 25 percent if they need to. Specifically, a few states may direct cases to the President, and he obliged to support them at 100 percent. But I won’t go state by state as to where things stand.
Q But can you explain why some states —
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q A question about payroll tax and the President’s comments yesterday: What did he mean by when he said he’s going to “terminate” the payroll tax? And a secondary question: If he’s reelected, what should Americans believe about his commitment to Social Security?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, he has unwavering commitment to Social Security — making sure that it is fully funded and that our seniors are taken care of. I’ve heard him express that private — privately and publicly a myriad of times.
What he was meaning yesterday is that he wants permanent forgiveness of the deferral. He’s, of course, deferred the payroll tax to the end of the year, and he wants to make that a permanent forgiveness of the deferral come next year because it’s very important for, specifically, low- and middle-income Americans since it’s a regressive tax.
Q In the long term though, does he think that the payroll tax should go away?
MS. MCENANY: The President is very clear on this matter that he wants a permanent forgiveness of the deferral. That’s as far as he’s gone, and he’s gone even further to say he’s going to make sure that Social Security is fully funded.
Q Yeah —
MS. MCENANY: Lalit, and then we’ll go to you next.
Q You’ve — you voted by the U.S. mail, the President has voted by the U.S. mail, and many of his top people have voted by the mail. Why is he trying to prevent ordinary Americans from voting by mail?
MS. MCENANY: So, first, let me note, I’ve voted absentee; the President has voted absentee. He’s always been for voting absentee for a reason. What he is not for is mass mail-in voting or — perhaps, to make it even clearer — mass mail-out voting, where everyone on the voting rolls is mailed out a ballot.
Voting rolls in Los Angeles County, for example — you have 117 percent of the county registered to vote. How does that even make sense? It doesn’t. And that would mean that, in the least, 17 percent of the ballots floating around would be subject to potential fraud. So, that’s what the President is standing firmly against, but he has always been for absentee for a reason.
Q Kayleigh, we learned today that still roughly 15 and a half million Americans are without a job. Nancy Pelosi spoke yesterday with the Treasury Secretary. Seemingly, there was no progress on that call.
For the 15 and a half million Americans and millions of others who could absolutely care less about the politics of it all, what would you tell them is coming next, considering that it seems as if nothing is moving policy-wise going forward?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, what I would say is this: You know, Secretary Mnuchin said yesterday, “I am willing to move forward with legislation that provides funds to schools, childcare, food, vaccines, hospitals, PPP for small businesses, rental assistance, broadband, airports, state and local government assistance, and liability protection for universities, schools, and businesses.” He’s been unmistakable — this administration has, and this President has. We’re willing to move forward on that.
What we’re not willing to do is rubber stamp a behemoth $3.4 trillion dollar deal that the Democrats put forward that was fundamentally unserious, that would have made ballot harvesting mainstream, that was a Democrat wish list. That’s what we’ll not move forward with.
But this President, out of anyone, has taken action — serious action on eviction protection, serious action on unemployment insurance, on a payroll tax cut, student loan forgiveness — in his executive capacity.
And what I would say the state of things now is: You know, you have Nancy Pelosi saying we were willing to come down a trillion if they came up with a trillion. Well, it’s fundamentally unserious because the Democrats, the Chief of Staff has told me, wouldn’t even tell us what they would take out of the $1 trillion. So, they said, “We’d come down a trillion,” but wouldn’t list out the things that they would take out of their Democrat wish list. So, Nancy Pelosi needs to come back from recess and negotiate because the American people deserve better.
Q There are some conservatives who have made the argument that $3 trillion, give or take, has already been spent and no more needs to be spent. If there isn’t a deal that is viable, is the White House of the position that since $3 trillion has been spent, it’s okay, we don’t need to spend any more?
MS. MCENANY: No, the President is all about what is best for America’s families. He wants to see funding for our schools, direct payments to Americans. He’s protected the American people in every way he can in his executive capacity.
But as you noted, in terms of the fiscal cost of things, and the height of — in the height of this, when the economy was shut down, there was a $2 trillion deal negotiated. Next, after that, when the economy was reopened, it was a $1 trillion deal. So, for the Democrats to say, “We want more than what we even negotiated and passed during an economic shutdown” and to say, “We need $3.4 trillion” — it’s really an unserious proposal.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. Your reaction to unemployment claims dipping below a million — 1.7 million new jobs, as well.
And blue-state governors are politicizing school closures, says the President. What did he mean by that?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, what he means by that is that, when you look around the world, many countries in the Western world have opened their schools. And that we, as the United States, can do the same. We can find a way.
The President, the White House has released guidance as to how to make that happen. And he doesn’t want a — a decision that is so important for our children to be politicized because he believes it’s in the public-health interest of the child to be back in school. And I’ve listed out for you all the reasons for that previously.
And what was your first question you —
Q The unemployment claims are dipping below —
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q — a million. How surprised are you that that’s the figure and the direction we’re going?
MS. MCENANY: I’m not surprised because, under this President — he was the great jobs President once, brought us the greatest economy in modern history once, and he’ll do it again. And this is more evidence of that.
To see unemployment claims dip below a million, coming on the backs of a July jobs report that exceeded expectations; and, of course, the two blockbuster jobs reports before that — it goes in line with the manufacturing ISM good numbers that we saw and many other metrics.
This is the President who’s already making sure we have an economic rebound that outpaces Europe and other countries as well.
Q Has the President been briefed on the Russian coronavirus vaccine? Does he think it’s a workable vaccine?
MS. MCENANY: The President has been briefed on that. He’s also been briefed on our own vaccine progress. One thing to note, and I believe Dr. Fauci made this point: Our vaccines go through rigorous phase three clinical trial, where we have 30,000 individuals that we test to make sure it’s perfectly healthy in moving forward. So that’s the kind of standard we have for American vaccines, and it’s important that we do that.
But we do think that we’ll have a vaccine by the end of the year. And the President, in advance of that, is manufacturing hundreds and millions of doses of these vaccines in anticipation of one being successful.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. Going back to Iran and Russia as geopolitical actors in the Middle East, they have been wellsprings of instability there, as we discussed. But how confident is this White House that Iran and Russia are finally going to be placed in their respective lanes in the advent of this deal and deals to come?
MS. MCENANY: Well, look, we believe that there’s a big contrast here in where this administration stands and the previous administration.
And when you look at the — excuse me — the Obama-Biden admin- — administration, they cozied up to America’s enemies. The Iran deal was egregious. We know that there were cash payouts to Iran. And what this President has done is diametrically opposite: working with our allies, working with Israel, negotiating a historic peace agreement like hasn’t been seen in a quarter of a century.
So, when you work with our allies, when you engage in diplomacy, when you have a great dealmaker as President, you get deals like what we saw today. And it’s stark contrast to what we saw from the previous administration.
Q Does the President share former Vice President Biden’s view that annexation would virtually end any chance at a two-state solution that would secure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state and uphold the right of Palestinians to a state of their own? (Inaudible.)
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so, I’m not going to go any further into the state of Middle East peace. I’d refer you to NSC on that. But today we’re focusing on the historic agreement that’s been made.
Q Yeah, is — was the President aware about these two dozen letters between him and Chairman Kim that apparently are going to be published in the new Bob Woodward book? Did he sign off on that?
MS. MCENANY: I haven’t even looked into that, or spoken to him about that. We’re focused, today, on providing relief to the American people and the historic deal.
Q Thank you, Kayleigh. Will the President’s executive order on WeChat block Apple from distributing the app on their platform? And if so, what is the administration say about concerns that it could be kneecapping an American company and diminishing its competitiveness?
MS. MCENANY: So, the only remarks I have for you today on TikTok and WeChat are this: The President, he signed those two executive orders, exercising his authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to address the threats posed by TikTok and WeChat. The administration is committed to protecting the American people from all cyber threats, and these apps collect significant amounts of private data on users, and such information can be accessed and used by the PRC. And TikTok has a documented history of censoring free speech to conform to CCP propaganda. And we take the data of Americans very seriously.
One other thing I wanted to clear up is that Speaker Pelosi has been fundamentally unserious in these negoti- — negotiations and engaging in blatant partisanship. One thing she said recently is that she needs three point billion — $3.5 billion — with a “B” — for election funding. That is a fund- — fundamentally unserious ask for this reason.
I talked to the Office of Management and Budget. They said states have been given over $1.2 billion in Election Assistance Grants since Fiscal Year 2018. And we estimate that they’ve spent less than a sixth of that funding in these three years and still have over $1 billion of those funds sitting around right now that have not been spent.
So we encourage for Speaker Pelosi to follow in the footsteps of the suggestion of Congressman Ro Khanna, of her own party, who said, “I think Congress should be in session. I think it’s absurd for Congress to be going on a break during a pandemic and a national crisis.” I can tell you one person who hasn’t been on a break: It’s this President, providing relief for the American people.
Thank you. And he’ll be out here at 5:30. Thanks so much.
2:13 P.M. EDT