Alyssa Farah, the White House’s strategic communications director, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss President Donald Trump’s leadership over the past four years and share some of her experiences working closely with him.
She is proud to serve alongside the commander in chief, Farah says, because she knows that “every day, President Trump gets up and says, ‘What can I do to better this country and serve the American people?’”
We also cover these stories:
- Trump’s political opponents call for new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from cases related to the 2020 election.
- Rioters injure 30 police officers in Philadelphia after the fatal shooting by police of Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old black man.
- Activists on the left pressure Democrats to expand the Supreme Court.
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Virginia Allen: I am joined by White House Strategic Communications Director Alyssa Farah. Alyssa, welcome to “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Alyssa Farah: Great to be with you. Thanks so much for having me.
Allen: So, Alyssa, President Donald Trump came into office with a bold plan to strengthen America’s economy and cut taxes for all Americans, and of course, COVID-19 has had a major impact on our economy, and we’re going to talk a little bit more about the virus in just a minute, but up until March of this year, explain what economic development we saw under the Trump administration.
Farah: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, under President Trump, we saw the hottest economy in modern history, and it was a result of a deregulatory agenda, the tax cuts that he and Republicans still helped usher through, as well as just looking at the economy from a free-market perspective, where we’re eliminating barriers to business to be able to do their work.
And so, we were in a position where virtually every people group was seeing some of the record low unemployment. So, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, record low unemployment. College educated, non-college educated, because of this inclusive economy and diverse economy that was created by this president.
It was also diverse in terms of the industries that were thriving. So, the previous administration, President [Barack] Obama famously said, “You have to wave a wand to bring back manufacturing,” meaning manufacturing in the U.S. is dead. It’s an outdated industry.
But, in fact, it thrived under President Trump’s leadership. And of course, as you noted, in February of this year, the virus came into the country, and that changed, sort of, our trajectory. We had to pause and artificially shut down the economy for a period, but what we did … saved countless lives, and that’s always first and foremost the most important thing, but then secondarily, we took steps to ensure that once we got the economy back open, which we’re doing now, we’re in a position to trend toward growth.
Allen: Well, and the president, he did say that that was one of the hardest decisions that he’s ever had to make, was that decision to close part of the U.S. economy because of the pandemic.
So, what is it going to take in order for America to return to the place of economic prosperity that we did find ourselves in before the pandemic?
Farah: Yeah, that’s a great question. Absolutely, it was a very tough decision to make. The president was faced with the facts of, look, doing a temporary lockdown. We hate to use that word, but it is what we did, could save American lives. And with that, he knew that was the right decision to make. But as we put in place the guidelines for reopening America, which gave state and local authorities sort of provisions to follow to be able to safely open industries, schools, medical facilities, et cetera, we’ve started moving toward reopen.
And frankly, a lot of our country is not fully reopened yet. This is something the president regularly notes. Pennsylvania, Michigan, for example, are not fully reopened. So, a lot of the economic national numbers we’re seeing will reflect that. So, we are really hoping to get to a place where we can safely get people back into the workforce.
If we’re doing the mitigation tactics with COVID, if we’re wearing masks, we’re socially distancing, we’re following hygiene protocols, we believe that we should get our country fully reopened and help just stimulate this economy.
I mean, millions of Americans who were impacted by the virus were also impacted by loss of wages, loss of work, or kids out of school. That requires a parent to stay home and not be working because they have to be home with the child. It’s really kind of an unprecedented crisis that our country found itself in.
But because of the president’s leadership, he’s put us on a trajectory where our country is close to fully reopened. We are rounding the corner on the virus, and we’re hoping that, first quarter of next year, will really be a record one in terms of growth, and in terms of low unemployment for Americans.
Allen: If you would just take us inside the walls of the White House for a moment. President Trump has had to make some really challenging decisions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. What has it been like to be working in the administration during this time?
Farah: Yeah, absolutely. So, to me, one of the most notable moments of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., and the most significant in terms of the president’s leadership, was the early decision to stop travel from China.
So, at that time, I was actually serving in a different role in the administration. I was the Pentagon press secretary. And I remember when we got the notice from the White House that we would be stopping all travel from China, except repatriating U.S. citizens.
People were shocked, four-star generals who have served for decades, because it’s really unprecedented for America to do this. But the president took this decisive action when confronted with the potential loss of life and acted without hesitation.
I genuinely can’t think of another living politician who would have been as decisive on such a life-saving matter as that decision.
But then, moving forward, as you know, we then moved on to stopping some travel from Europe and to putting in place the 15 days to slow the spread, then the 30 days, and a widespread public health awareness campaign to help stop the spread of the virus.
I came over here to serve at the White House, and what I can tell you is the president’s sort of businessman ingenuity and enterprise that he thinks through, that lens that he thinks through, is key toward getting our country to where it is now, but to an even better place, looking forward.
So, what I mean by that, for example, [is] we set up Operation Warp Speed early on in the virus. So, what that does is, it basically has the military, the private sector, and our public health officials work together in coordination to safely develop an effective vaccine, and then work with the military to be able to mass-distribute it once we reach one.
So, in the coming weeks, we’re optimistic we may have a safe and effective vaccine ready for market. And because of the efforts of Operation Warp Speed, we’ll be able to almost immediately deploy it to about 50 million Americans. And by early January, likely to 100 million and so on in the month ahead after that.
So, that’s a tremendous, just forward-looking sort of unique to Donald Trump way of addressing something like this, that I worry previous, more bureaucratic administrations wouldn’t have had that forethought, the idea that we should work with the private sector.
So, listen, the country is still in the midst of the pandemic. We can’t get complacent. We still have to follow protocols, but we are, I can say this, we are in the best place to date to treat people who are affected by it through therapeutics, and soon we’ll be in a place where the majority of the population, especially the most vulnerable, can be vaccinated.
Allen: Well, so, thank you. That’s great. I want to shift gears just for a moment and talk a little bit about an issue that we have all been watching unfold in the news over the past couple of weeks, and that is now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett. And we all saw on Monday night that she was sworn in to become the third Supreme Court justice to be confirmed under President Trump’s leadership.
What principles have governed Trump’s decision on his picks?
Farah: That’s a great question, and we were all thrilled last night to witness history at the White House, seeing the swearing in of now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett by Justice Clarence Thomas, a hero to many conservatives like myself, both heroes to conservatives like myself, and also kind of a reflection of how the court in many ways is best representative of the American public, as it ever has been.
Having an African-American man swearing in a female jurist, it just shows that sort of diversity and forward-looking nature that we like to see.
But as far as the president’s governing philosophy for justice is, a big part of this president’s first-term legacy will be that he really reshaped the judiciary for years to come, having appointed nearly 300 federal judicial appointments, as well as three Supreme Court justices.
He is looking for originalist, textualist jurists, who will be independent, who will interpret the law as written and not legislate from the bench. And I think that’s reflected in the three picks he’s made so far to the Supreme Court. Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh, Justice [Neil] Gorsuch, and now Justice Coney Barrett.
And it’s actually very contrasted with the Democrats, who are now coming out, saying we need to stack the court, that they want to fill seats on the court and add additional seats because they don’t agree with policy positions they perceive Justice Barrett to have.
But the president sees it as jurists are independent. They’re not policymakers. They are meant to interpret the law as written and to uphold the Constitution. It really is the left who sees judges as almost an extension of the legislative branch, and this president has been committed to countering that.
It’s not what our Founders intended. It’s not what the courts should be. There’s a reason they’re separate but equal branches. And that’s reflected across the board in the judicial appointments he’s made.
Allen: Let’s chat just for a moment about the president’s foreign policy. For so many years, we saw presidents say that they would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and no president ever did until President Trump.
So, what process did the president go through in order to finally move that embassy?
Farah: That’s really a highlight of the President’s foreign policy, because it’s following through not just on a promise he made to the American people, but a decades-long promise that previous politicians had made to our Israeli allies. And what it shows is our commitment to the Israeli people, to the state of Israel, and to that unwavering alliance that we have.
For him, it wasn’t really a tough decision to be made. Something that he’s joked, and he said this publicly before is, he immediately saw when coming into office and started discussing making that move that he’d hear from other leaders saying, “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, you can’t do this. This is going to bother certain players on the world stage. This isn’t worth the risk. Don’t do it.”
And the president joked that he just didn’t return those calls for a bit while he made the decision, because he was committed to following through on the promise that he made and doing what he thought was right by our ally.
And as you’ve seen since then, we’ve had three different nations who have not previously had diplomatic relations with Israel come forward striking peace deals with Israel, and fully restoring political and diplomatic relationships. So, that’s the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and then most recently Sudan.
So, we actually show that that bold decision shifted some countries in the Middle East into coming more into the fold.
Allen: Alyssa, before we let you go, I just want to ask. Very few individuals in America ever have the opportunity that you do to work so closely with a U.S. President. What do you enjoy most about working with President Trump, and what have you learned about him?
Farah: That’s an excellent question. So, President Trump is one of the most thoughtful, kind, and compassionate people that I’ve had just the honor of knowing. The President Trump that you [see] publicly isn’t much different than who you see privately, though I will say this: Oftentimes, the big crowd, storytelling President Trump doesn’t always mirror the private Trump.
When I’m in a room with him, he asks about me. He asks my opinion. He’ll survey the room and want to know what everyone thinks. And then he’ll take the best different opinions that he heard, and then formulate what his position is going to be on something.
In moments, he’s a quiet listener and leader, but then when the situation requires that, he’s bold and he’s forward-looking.
He’s a fascinating individual. Something that I’m always reminded of is it really is the 1% of the 1% that rises to this position throughout our history. And there are people who are truly passionate about our country, who love our country, and I know that every day, President Trump gets up and says, “What can I do to better this country and serve the American people?”
And I’m extremely proud to work for him.
Allen: Alyssa, thank you so much. We just really appreciate your time, and you coming on the show today.
FARAH: Absolutely. Thanks so much. Happy to do it.