THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MICHAEL MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
3:22 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. And now for the continuation of our daily briefing, hoping that you are all properly edified by those previous briefings and have all energy thoroughly wrung out of you.
Q How does the President feel about going to the summit? I mean, we didn't get any personal --
MR. MCCURRY: The President has been very much looking forward to the summit of the industrialized nations. He has, from time to time, been doing some work on various issues that he will raise. I believe there have been at least one or two sessions where they've talked generally about some of the issues that will be raised. As you know, he met with his senior foreign policy advisors yesterday.
He appreciates the opportunity to go and address the issues on the global agenda with his counterparts. This has now become, for him, become something he's very familiar with. He is certainly familiar with many of the leaders that he encounters at these sessions. He enjoys the personal relationships he has with many of these leaders and the dialogue that they have about various issues. And, quite frankly, he goes to these meetings now with bragging rights because of the performance of the United States economy.
One thing that is manifestly clear is that our economy has managed to weather some of the transitions occurring in the post-Cold War era, in the new global economy that we're in with steadier growth, lower rates of unemployment and inflation, lower interest rates than some of the other nations. And, in a sense, there is great interest among some of the other nations in the performance of the U.S. economy.
Q Is he going to have a news conference at all?
MR. MCCURRY: He has one planned during the session, correct. I think that's Saturday as we are wrapping up the events.
Q Mike, just a logistical question. Is he planning any kind of a send-off statement just before he --
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is we depart fairly early Wednesday. So, instead of a departure statement, he plans an arrival statement in France at Orly.
Q We will have an arrival statement?
MR. MCCURRY: There will be a statement upon arrival when he gets there Wednesday afternoon. Nothing upon departure; when he arrives.
Q No statement leaving here at 7:00 a.m.?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we arrive -- it's about 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time.
Q Right before the morning broadcast.
MR. MCCURRY: We leave here before the morning broadcast; that's correct.
Q Can we get into the subject of the FBI files again?
MR. MCCURRY: No. Let's go back here. (Laughter.) Yes, do you have a question. Of course, you may. Of course, you may.
Q I know it's your favorite subject, Mike. Do you have any better understanding of where that list came from? Because Mr. Quinn last night on CNN's very own Larry King Live said that it did not apparently originate with the Secret Service.
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't, to my knowledge, did not hear him say that. He did not know --
Q He doesn't know?
MR. MCCURRY: I heard him to say he did not know. And, of course, that's a very material question that we assume will be of interest to Mr. Starr's investigative team.
Q Are you any closer, is the White House any closer to finding out specifically where that --
MR. MCCURRY: We will work with the investigators when they are duly dispatched by Mr. Starr to examine that question. You've heard testimony today from Secret Service officials on the subject on Capitol Hill and, frankly, that has left all of us even more confused. So I don't have an answer.
Q Just one other quick question. The subject of the interns has been mentioned, that they apparently had something to do with handling these files. Why were interns being used?
MR. MCCURRY: There is no explicable explanation. I mean, the President when he was informed of this yesterday said he considered that unacceptable and wanted to know what had been done about it. He had been assured that the procedures is now in place that would make it clear that only qualified professionals would review those materials under the terms of the reorganization we listed yesterday; and that whether or not interns had possession, access or any contact with these files is a chain of custody question that we assume will be of interest to the investigators.
Q Now that the President knows that Janet Reno is asking his good friend, Kenneth Starr, to take over this, what was his initial reaction since this morning you said he probably didn't even know about it yet?
MR. MCCURRY: He was satisfied that -- the main concern he's had is that there be some type of outside investigation that would get answers to the questions that he has and that he is sure the American people have about these matters. And he's satisfied that Mr. Starr will pursue this if he is given jurisdiction of these matters by the courts.
Q Mike, what is the difference between the personnel security vault and the White House archives? I mean, are they the same location and they're just stamped differently, or do they actually get physically moved from one part of the building to another?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is they are in different physical locations within the Executive Office Building. I'd have to check and see exactly where they're located, but the vault, which is a secure facility, and the archives I believe are also a secure facility, are maintained separately.
Q But apparently not as secure as the White House or, at least, your administration initially thought given yesterday's testimony? Is that correct?
MR. MCCURRY: What are you referring to specifically?
Q To the files in the vault. I mean, if interns apparently had access to these -- we were led to believe that once they arrived here at the White House, those files were under essentially lock and key unless they were signed out. But, apparently, that wasn't the case.
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not aware of information that says that's not the case. I mean they were located in the vault. That's where they would have been. And if they -- my understanding of the process used is if they are checked out of the vault, they have to be checked out and logged out to the individual.
Q Well, according to the FBI agent who wrote the piece in last week's journal, the vault door stood open and people wandered in and out.
MR. MCCURRY: His -- there were many things in his article that, of course, now have been already proven to be untrue. So I'm not sure what his level of familiarity of the process was.
Q Why are the two simultaneous investigations going on -- the Bernie Nussbaum one and the one for the FBI files? A Washington Times piece today said that Nussbaum had a separate investigation going on.
Q No, no, that was the litmus test.
MR. MCCURRY: The best that I could make out of that article that was otherwise incomprehensible was that there were forms that you filled out when you applied for employment here. And they were talking about one set of forms that are different from the FBI background check, which is a different part of the employment process.
Q Did you fill out that form when you --
MR. MCCURRY: Sure, absolutely. I filled it out -- I filled out a form --
Q And it listed your political affiliation, you know, what do you wear when you sleep at night?
MR. MCCURRY: The suitability determination made goes beyond the information that's requested in the FBI background check. That's one of the thing that were required in the procedures put in place for hiring as part of the administration. And that's all been fully talked about before in the past.
Q Am I right, you all have maintained that these 400 files in question -- that nothing ever happened to them, the information was never given out, never used. How did you all determine that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we have said that we are not aware of any information that contradicts the sworn statement made by Mr. Livingstone or Mr. Marceca. And we are not aware of any information that contradicts that. And they both swear to the proper use of the files.
Q That sounds as if you basically don't know.
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have any information that contradicts those sworn statements, but we are quite certain now that there will be an independent investigator who will look very carefully at exactly those questions.
Q Mike, any reaction from the President on the confirmation of Chairman Greenspan?
MR. MCCURRY: He's delighted that his nominees have now been confirmed, hopes that the Federal Reserve at full strength will continue to pursue policies that are in the nation's economic interest.
Q On the issue of the church burnings -- in the case of Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center explosions, they were immediately called terrorism. Why hasn't the President called this domestic terrorism, which would raise it to a new level of investigation, and why isn't the FBI in charge of the investigation rather than the ATF?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, both the Treasury Department and the Justice Department are contributing significant resources in an unprecedented way. The Justice Department is investigating these matters as a civil rights investigation, as you heard from Duval Patrick yesterday. Terrorism is a very specific definition -- has a very specific definition and it would require more information about motive and circumstances than I believe investigators have established at this point.
Q Mike, what is it that the United States doesn't like about Boutros Boutros-Ghali?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are a long list of points that we have had disagreement with him in recent years. Rather than go through that record, I'd say, in somewhat different fashion -- and they've already had an extensive briefing on this at the State Department, as you probably know -- that as a general proposition, the President, who has challenged the General Assembly in two consecutive speeches to pay more attention to reform, to pay more attention to the needs that the United Nations as an institution will have in the 21st century, believes that that institution requires aggressive leadership to meet the mandates that the United States people have, the United States government has when it comes to reform, cost efficiency and making that a vibrant institution for the 21st century.
We believe there are others in the world community, international community, with the stature, experience and leadership capability to do a superior job to Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Furthermore, our understanding at the time we supported his election five years ago is that he would seek but one term. And we feel that, at this point, there is ample justification to turn to other leadership as we look ahead to the needs of that institution and prepare for the 21st century.
Q What action is the United States prepared to take to barr, prevent, a second term?
MR. MCCURRY: We are confident that we will be able to make sure that there is a new U.N. Secretary General. And we hope it will not come to the point that we must exercise a veto in the Security Council because we believe we can make a very strong argument that there are other suitable candidates available. In fact, indeed, one reason why we've now addressed this matter publicly is to encourage those type of candidates for leadership to come forward.
Q What other candidates, and do we have favorite?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have a favorite, and we will be in close dialogue with other members of the international community as we search for suitable candidates.
Q Did you discuss it with Mrs. Robinson when she was here?
MR. MCCURRY: No, and he answered that question directly, I think, when he had his little press conference with her. This general utility of the United Nations and its importance in the post-Cold War era was a subject of their conversation. As the President indicated, she is very well-respected for the work she has done in Africa, particularly in Somalia and Rwanda. They did review those matters but, as the President indicated, they did not discuss any particular opportunity for leadership.
Q And will Boutros-Ghali be at this G-7 when they meet with the four groups after? He will be the representative of the United Nations?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that he will be there.
Q Mike, up to this point, I know there have been disagreements between especially Madeleine Albright and Boutros Boutros-Ghali, but mostly it has been supportive comments about the U.N., some indication by the President that he wanted reform. But it hasn't been this personal criticism of Boutros-Ghali. Why are we not to believe that since Bob Dole has been very overtly criticizing, and other Republicans, that this is timed to that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, mostly because, as often in matters of international diplomacy, we try to work matters out quietly before they become public. Indeed, dating back to late 1995 we have been working with -- not only with the Secretary General, but with others to talk about the need for new leadership potential within the United Nations. And the President began discussions about this particular issue as far back as late 1995, early 1996, and made the decision to pursue this course March 25th. I don't know when Mr. Dole was addressing this matter.
But I would say this, one factor in our decision is it is quite clear that Boutros Boutros-Ghali lacks confidence within the United States Congress. And we must go to the Congress to request the funding necessary to pay United States portions of the cost of the U.N. budget. And in order to get that support and get that type of funding for the United States obligations at the United Nations, there would have to be confidence in Boutros Boutros-Ghali. And clearly he lacks that confidence within the United States Congress. That is a subject that we have raised repeatedly in the United Nations as we pressed the need for reform of U.N. bureaucracy, cutting back a lot of the more than ample bureaucracy that exists there and reducing wasteful spending.
Q Mike, do you have a view as to the congressional part of the FBI files investigation? It seems to me that if Congress really wanted to know, get to the bottom of this, that they would have started immediately by just putting Livingstone and Marceca on the stand. There seems to be a whole cast of characters other than the two principals. Is there any concern here as to why this thing might perhaps be dragged out?
MR. MCCURRY: Our assumption is they will drag it out and try to milk it for all that it's worth. That will probably go on that way.
Q So your view is that they should have started with the two --
MR. MCCURRY: We don't normally tell Congress how to pursue matters that it is looking at. They have got to make their own decisions, but it seems to me if you wanted to make the criticism, that they might have gone straight to those who have got answers that could be provided, that that might be a more worthy way for them to spend their time. But I'll let you make that argument and I won't.
Q A question on the release of Emanuel Constant, head of the Haitian paramilitary death squad FRAPH -- he has warrants on him in Haiti for murder, for torture, for arson. Why has been released into the streets of the United States?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with the circumstances of the case. You might want to ask at the State Department.
Q On Bruce Lindsey, I may have misinterpreted this, but it sounded, from the remarks made here yesterday by the President and others that the President and the White House regard his being named an unindicted co-conspirator as a vindication of him and clearing him of any criminal wrongdoing in this matter. Is that a correct interpretation?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe it's more correct to say that, after a long and lengthy investigation of these matters, the independent counsel found no grounds upon which to bring charges against Mr. Lindsey. I think that fact speaks for itself.
Q Is that what you take unindicted co-conspirator to mean, that there were no grounds?
MR. MCCURRY: I take that to mean that they did not find sufficient grounds to bring an indictment against him.
Q And does the President believe it's appropriate for someone who was named in that regard to remain in the White House Counsel's Office?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, because that is not a charge of wrongdoing. And, Brit, I'd remind you that people are entitled to a presumption of innocence in our country.
Q But they're not entitled to access to FBI files and to serve in high positions at the White House, are they?
MR. MCCURRY: They are not charged with any criminal wrongdoing. He has made a statement that makes quite clear what the circumstances are of him reporting a banking transaction publicly. How do you allege a conspiracy from something that someone has reported publicly, fully disclosed publicly? So please get to the circumstances and facts of his statement and the reason, presumably, why no charges were brought against him. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing; is that correct?
Q No, that isn't -- excuse me, Mike, if I could just follow that up.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q I don't believe being named as an unindicted co-conspirator is tantamount to not being charged with any wrongdoing. It may be tantamount not to being charged with any crime. It was certainly not that. My only question is whether, under the circumstances --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not a lawyer, but I'm not sure what the designation means other than to allow hearsay evidence to be admitted in a trial.
Q Fine, but the question --
MR. MCCURRY: That's my understanding of what the only utility of that designation is. I mean, if a prosecutor wants to bring a crime, they bring an indictment true bill before the Grand Jury, and that did not happen in Mr. Lindsey's case, correct?
Q As far as I know that is correct. But the question I have, though, is whether the -- given the current events that have happened here regarding the White House Counsel's Office, whether it would not be appropriate for him to serve the President in some less sensitive capacity, under the circumstances.
MR. MCCURRY: No, the President has a great deal of confidence in him, as he expressed yesterday.
Q This Washington Times story -- you're saying that these forms that Mr. Nussbaum was using are standard forms to apply for a job here?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with what form Mr. Nussbaum used. He is no longer employed here, as you know. But I know that there is a form required for employment at the White House in which you give a fairly detailed review of your personal history. Correct?
Q Is everyone who applies for a job here asked their political party affiliation, at all levels in the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: This is a question on that form. I don't know how extensively that form is used. I can check with our personnel folks. But again, I'm also not sure, in 1993, what the circumstances were of the use of that form.
Q Could we get a copy of that form?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll check and see. I don't have any objection to it myself.
Q Have President Clinton's attorneys approached attorneys for Paula Jones to propose a settlement of that case?
Q Or vice versa?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding from talking to Mr. Bennett is that he is not entertaining settlement offers. My understanding from reports that I have gotten from other news organizations who have looked into this matter that her attorney says that he has not made a settlement offer. My presumption is that lawyers talk to lawyers all the time. I also understand from Mr. Bennett that he has not spoken with the President about any settlement-related issues recently. I mean, there was one, apparently, a long time ago.
Q So it's possible there may have been discussion about a settlement without a settlement offer? Is that a possibility?
MR. MCCURRY: I am told by Mr. Bennett he is not entertaining settlement offers, contrary to the ABC news report last night.
Q Is "entertaining" a key word there, or is that just a word --
MR. MCCURRY: You can ask Mr. Bennett that question. I'll tell you what he told me. I told you what he told me. You can maybe pursue it with him.
Q One quick question on the interns again. That has stopped, I take it, the use of interns?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, absolutely.
Q And do you when that stopped?
MR. MCCURRY: In the process of developing the guidelines, procedures that Mr. Quinn detailed in his memo of Friday, they put in place, began to put in place a series of administrative changes that have altered the way in which the vault area is maintained and operated, and made a lot of other changes over how anyone will have access to any of these files in the future, consistent with his memo. Suffice to say that anyone that seeks access to those files for any purpose would have to have the express approval of the White House Counsel.
Q Is this really a vault as you would think of in a bank or is it an office that has a lock --
MR. MCCURRY: I've never seen it, Helen, so I can't provide a firsthand description. But it is -- my understanding is it's an area that has a combination lock that keeps it and it's a room of some sort.
Q Mike, on the Secretary General, you say the President basically made the decision in late March. When did the talks with Boutros-Ghali about a one-year extension break off? He rejected that offer?
MR. MCCURRY: There's been a very extensive briefing at the State Department on this today, because most of the conversations were within the province of the Secretary of State's work, and I'd refer you to the fairly detailed briefing they've given over there. But there have been a series of conversations that were handled very appropriately, very quietly, that would respect the dignity of Boutros Boutros-Ghali. And, unfortunately, they could not be resolved in a way that allowed us to proceed in any other fashion than how we've now proceeded.
Q Was his decision to reject that offer and, quite frankly, for his aides to go public saying that we've got a lot of international support outside the U.N. we believe can do this? Was that what triggered your rather public announcement that the United States would not allow him to serve another five years?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, this matter was not satisfactorily resolved through quiet diplomacy, and it will now become a public issue that will be debated within the international community. When it was clear that there was not a satisfactory and perhaps more dignified way to bring the matter to a resolution, it is now proceeding in this fashion.
Q Back to Bruce Lindsey for a second. There were not a few Democrats around who don't mind saying that they think that Kenneth Starr's office took an election year political cheap shot in naming him an unindicted co-conspirator, just to make the President look bad, to embarrass the White House. Is there any such feeling around the White House? And if there is, how delighted and confident, really, are you that Kenneth Starr will do a satisfactory job on the FBI files?
MR. MCCURRY: He's more than proven his ability to pursue these matters with zeal, and he will likely do so. As to what people feel, I think it's best to just stick with what --
Q You can't be happy with him, can you?
MR. MCCURRY: Better to stick, rather than emotions, stick with facts and just say that we continue to say we will work to cooperate, to try to get the answers quickly. And we hope that if he's given jurisdiction by the courts that he will pursue these matters quickly so we can get the answers. You're all anxious to have answers. You've now asked me for several days consecutively about matters that I, unfortunately, now can't answer because we're going to have an outside set of investigators coming in here to try to develop answers.
Q Wouldn't you have been able to just find out who made up the list at any point, even before?
MR. MCCURRY: Helen, based on what the President's Republican opponents have already charged us with, had we done that they would have immediately impugned the character of any of that account provided. They would have disputed it. They would have challenged it. They would have called for an independent counsel. In fact, most likely if the FBI had investigated this, probably would have turned around and called for an independent counsel anyhow.
Q But you had an independent investigation of the Travel Office firings, seven of them.
MR. MCCURRY: Right. And then look at what that produced for those involved -- months and months and months of depositions, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of legal expenses for these individuals who did nothing other than to try to get facts and try to respond to press inquiries. So, naturally, people move a little circumspectly in a matter like this because a lot of them have paid a very hard, personal price.
Q Mike, some Republicans, also a few people on the Hill are saying that maybe Starr, himself, shouldn't do it, that it should be some other independent counsel. What does the White House think of that?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have any view of that matter. That's a determination made by the Attorney General. She saw fit to petition the court for an expansion of Mr. Starr's jurisdiction. You should address the questions to her as to why she felt that was the appropriate course of action.
Q What's the White House response to Ross Perot's apparent plans to sort of compete with both Republican and Democratic conventions by holding his in the middle and sort of laughing --
MR. MCCURRY: It's going to be hard enough to get news organizations interested in these conventions to begin with, so we could kind of stagger the air traffic pattern a little bit -- that would be a welcome development. But like any matter that he raises, if he's got a sufficiently interesting and compelling case to make and people are attracted to it, it will get attention. If he doesn't, it won't.
Q You're not calling his plan a welcome development are you?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I'm just saying it would be welcome if we made sure that we didn't try to step on each other's stories. The two major political parties do that by custom and, hopefully, Mr. Perot will see that that's wise in a nation in which we value the political party as an institution of coherence and stability in our political culture.
Q Anything beyond campaigning on this trip, campaign speeches?
MR. MCCURRY: Lot's of things beyond it.
Q What? What's happening on this next two-day trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Mary Ellen, why don't you come up and do that.
Q Are you going on the trip?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll make a determination based on health-related factors at the McCurry household.
Q A follow-up on that Haiti question. President Clinton is hailing that as one of his great foreign policy successes. In '94 when the U.S. troops moved in, he said they moved in to end the rape and the brutality. Emanuel Constant was responsible for a lot of that. Did President Clinton approve his release, and does it have something to do with the fact of his connections to the CIA, being a CIA asset, and not wanting him to go back to Haiti as the Haitian government is asking to be put on trial and him talking about that?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a very complicated question, and I'll do some very thorough research and come back in about a month and ask me.
Okay. Anything else. Tomorrow sometime maybe you could follow up with our NSC press people on that. Mr. Johnson right here would be more than happy to entertain that question.
Mary Ellen Glynn, take it away. Do a little on the trip.
MS. GLYNN: As you know after the torch ceremony tomorrow morning we are departing for Chicago. The President will speak to AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, where he'll talk about the accomplishments of the administration over the last three and a half years. Would you like me to go into that now, a preview?
Q Do it.
Q Is there any particular focus, or will this be a very long speech?
MS. GLYNN: The achievement -- this will be an extensively long speech. (Laughter.)
Q How long is the torch ceremony, sending it off tomorrow morning?
MS. GLYNN: It will be about 45 minutes. I think you got a list of the people who will speak tomorrow -- Billy Payne, the Vice President, the First Lady and the President.
Q There's a little bit of confusion about who's actually bringing the torch in.
MS. GLYNN: At the corner of Pennsylvania a man named Marty Bagosh, who was the first American soldier wounded in Bosnia, will carry the torch part of Pennsylvania Avenue. And then Sister Mary Popit, a nun here in Washington who works with homeless women, will carry the torch another hundred yards or so. And she will hand it off to King Jordan, who is the president of Gallaudet, who actually run it on to the South Lawn.
Q At which point does Sister Mary take over?
MS. GLYNN: I can't tell you exactly where, but it will be someplace on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Q So the President will not be in jogging clothes and he won't get to run with this at all?
MS. GLYNN: The President will not jog with the torch. (Laughter.)
Q And that's King Jordan and not the King of Jordan? (Laughter.)
MS. GLYNN: Okay, I think we've exhausted that.
Q Tomorrow's ceremony is when, Mary Ellen?
MS. GLYNN: Tomorrow's ceremony will start at 7:00 a.m. Departure after that.
The President then, after his speech to AFSCME tomorrow in Chicago, will tape the radio address. I'll let you know what the topic is tomorrow. And then we fly on to Houston for a series of political events, and we are overnight. And the next day we fly to Cleveland to speak to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. And I think I can tell you that the theme of Saturday's speech is crime. He'll speak a bit about empowerment zones and the urban agenda. And that's it. We're back by 5:00 p.m.
Q What about the newspaper publishers? Wasn't there going to be a speech to newspaper publishers at some point?
MS. GLYNN: No. Just political events.
Q The AFSCME speech is the accomplishments -- it's simply the list, no particular focus?
MS. GLYNN: Great things that Bill Clinton has done for the country.
Q Any details on these evening events, the private fundraisers and things?
MS. GLYNN: Yes, I'll have some details for you tomorrow. Actually, Joe Lockhart will have those for you.
Q Is he going to be on the trip?
MS. GLYNN: Yes, he will.
Q This is the first trip that Joe would have been on, right?
MS. GLYNN: I think this is Joe's second trip, isn't it?
Q What would you say is his biggest accomplishment so far?
MS. GLYNN: Nine million new jobs created in the last three years.
Q Mary Ellen, where will the President be during the Republican Convention? Any plans yet for where he --
MS. GLYNN: Don't know yet. Sorry.
Q Who is going to be here to answer the FBI file questions?
MS. GLYNN: Mr. McCurry.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:50 P.M. EDT