THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:24 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome back, Mr. Hunt. I hope you enjoyed your time off, as extensive as it was. How long was it?
Q Two, three days, I don't know. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Where DID you go, what did you do? Enough about you, Terry. (Laughter.) Now, let's do a little bit more about the rest of you. What's up? Questions?
Q Joe, with regard to the factual response to Article One, is it the contention here that even if the charges could be proven true, they do not rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think there are a couple of points that are made in the document. Again, as those of you who have followed this know, this is not an extensive filing seeking to go after every part of the case. It's a formal response to the charges. But I think there are a couple important things in this document.
One, I think it really explodes some of the myths, much of which the charges are based on. Myth number one, the President tried to conceal the relationship he had with Monica Lewinsky. In fact, the President did the opposite -- he acknowledged that relationship and acknowledged that it involved intimate contact.
Secondly, that there's testimonial evidence that there's an obstruction of justice here. We believe that there is no testimonial evidence that makes the case for obstruction. In fact, if you look at the testimony, there's direct testimony to the contrary.
And then, thirdly, there are some constitutional arguments about the articles and whether they reach the standard.
So, in fact, I think this document makes both cases; one about the actual factual foundation, and, two, that goes in part to the standards -- in part to the standards that you need to reach for impeachment.
Q If I can just follow up, then. The factual response to Article One, is the White House suggesting here that even if the charges were proven true they do not rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors?
MR. LOCKHART: The White House is suggesting that there is no perjury, that the House has failed to make a case for perjury, and that the evidence and circumstances of which they are describing and what we think is in a factually insufficient way does not reach the standard of an impeachable offense.
Q Article One complains that the President -- accuses the President of lying under oath before the grand jury when he said to the grand jury that he had told the truth in the Paula Jones deposition. Well, I mean, your first point was the President acknowledged a relationship with Monica Lewinsky. He did not do that in the Paula Jones deposition.
MR. LOCKHART: We're talking about the grand jury and Article One concerns the grand jury.
Q Well, but Article One complains that he lied to the grand jury when he said he told the truth in the Paula Jones deposition.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, I'm not going to litigate the case here. The lawyers will have --
Q I'm asking you to respond to --
MR. LOCKHART: The lawyers will have their chance to do that. But this document --
Q But you have litigated, you've given us a response.
MR. LOCKHART: The document makes the case, I think in an effective way, that they don't make their case in a proper way on Article One on the issue of perjury.
Q Is there still a reasonable dispute about the nature of that relationship? I mean, that is not clear from what the President said or from what Monica Lewinsky --
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think the President acknowledged an improper relationship, an improper intimate contact. And he did that openly, and as we've all seen -- there's a videotape of it that's been repeated over and over again. But --
Q That wasn't the question.
Q But not in the Paula Jones deposition.
Q The Article also -- it says "nature and details." You're just talking about the nature right now -- the nature is the fact that he had an intimate sexual relationship. But they're also accusing him of perjury on the details of that relationship.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, no, I think that he read a statement before the grand jury; he did decline to go into the specifics, the salacious material that has been released to the public. But the main point is he acknowledged the improper relationship.
Q Joe, the statement says that the charges should be dismissed. Why is the White House not seeking a vote on dismissal at the outset of the trial?
MR. LOCKHART: Because we think that the Senate is going forward right now -- they reached a bipartisan agreement late last week, Friday, and now they're going forward in good faith. And we believe that both sides have the right to make their case. Both sides will be given several days to do that. The senators have a right to ask questions, to discuss the evidence that's before them in the five volumes, 60,000 pages. And then the senators, I think rightly, have carved out some time for any motions. I'm not going to anticipate today from here any motions, if any, we'll file. But we made the judgment the the Senate should go forward in the way they're going forward, and we shouldn't try to preempt this process before both sides have had a chance to make their case.
Q On the evidence question, that's one thing. But also there seems to be a procedural complaint here, which is that there are four perjury charges lumped into one and the document makes the case that that is unfair and, therefore, should not be the case. So, in that case, where it's not a question of them having to wait and hear the evidence, why didn't the White House move to dismiss on that?
MR. LOCKHART: Because we thought it was important that both sides get a chance to make their case. This is the procedure that the Senate has worked out on a bipartisan basis. We respect the prerogative of the Senate to set the rules and we will wait until the time that they have designated to deal with any motions that we might file.
Q Are the lawyers contemplating taking less than their allotted time to present the case? And will you delay the State of the Union?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know how much time they'll take. They certainly have a right to use 24 hours. I have no indication that they'll go ask for time beyond that, but I don't know if they'll fill it up.
On the issue of the State of the Union, the President is working hard on the State of the Union. He'll be meeting with some of his advisors this afternoon to do some more work on it and we intend to give the speech on the 19th.
Q As you know, some senators in his own party have suggested that he should delay it, at least slightly.
MR. LOCKHART: I understand that some senators have indicated that they would like a delay. But we think while it's important for the Senate to move forward on this business, which is important, it's also important for the President to move forward on the State of the Union.
Q Does the President consider perjury and obstruction to be high crimes and misdemeanors?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President's lawyers have articulated very clearly that the Founding Fathers talked about grave offenses against the state. So if this was -- if someone was proved to have committed perjury and obstruction of justice in a way that was a grave offense to the state, I think the lawyers would argue that it was impeachable.
But the vast majority of constitutional scholars, historians and people who are non-partisan in nature have argued forcefully that there's nothing in this case that involves a grave offense to the state, there's nothing in this case that reaches the standard of an impeachable offense.
Q Joe, is anyone telling the President from the Hill that he shouldn't give his State of the Union address on the 19th?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that anyone has told the President that, directly. I haven't been aware of it. But there are certainly people out on television, and we watch, we know what people's opinions are.
Q Joe, why isn't the President having a press conference today?
MR. LOCKHART: In looking at the schedule we didn't think it was the most productive use of his time for today. He'll be working on some other things.
Q Why not?
Q What does that mean, Joe? Come on, come clean, for God's sake. (Laughter.)
Q Can't you just acknowledge that the President can't answer our questions about the trial?
Q Just say that he doesn't want to answer questions at this particular time.
MR. LOCKHART: I think that, as I said, it wouldn't be a productive use of his time. I also think that given the prerogatives of the Senate, that's where the discussions will be going forward on this issue and that's where it should go forward.
Q Why can't he just refuse to answer questions, which he's done many, many times in the past? I mean, certain questions.
MR. LOCKHART: That would be no fun.
Q He's not going to answer questions to the Senate, is he? I mean, he won't be --
MR. LOCKHART: No. He's already answered the questions.
Q No, he's not going to go to the Senate. That was a definitive no.
MR. LOCKHART: I have no reason to believe that he will testify.
Q How much input did he have on the document that was filed? I mean, did he sign off on it?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I think it was primarily the work of his lawyers, but he certainly agrees with the tone, tenor and contents.
Q Joe, on the four charges of perjury, they're all lumped together. You're making the argument that the problem here is that some senators might believe one of them, but not believe the other three and it's essentially unfair. How -- I don't quite understand what you're arguing here.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, you have four areas. You could have a situation potentially, where 17 senators believed that the President committed perjury in one area, 17 believed in the second area, 17 believed in the third area, and 17 believed in the fourth area, giving you one over the magic number. So you're asking people to vote on multiple charges without giving them the ability to look at each charge, weigh the evidence and make a reasoned judgment.
Q It's unlikely that you would have 17 people pick one, 17 people pick another.
MR. LOCKHART: Jim, there area a lot of things unlikely. Getting to where we are was once considered unlikely, so I don't think there's anything wrong with making the argument --
Q Are you saying that because these four are lumped together that this is fundamentally wrong and that the President should not be convicted simply because you have four charges lumped together?
MR. LOCKHART: We have made -- in this document is laid out a series of factual contentions and some constitutional questions, and these are constitutional questions that are worth considering.
Q It says it should fail, it's not worth considering -- the thing says it should fail, period, because of that.
MR. LOCKHART: And they make a series of other arguments, and it will be up to the Senate to consider these.
Q If somebody is accused of stealing horses, and 17 thinks he stole this horse, 17 this horse, 17 this -- they're going to hang him because he's a horse thief. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Right.
Q Well, I mean, so I don't understand your argument.
MR. LOCKHART: Sam, I don't understand your horse allusion, so call us even.
Q What about sheep?
Q Joe, by deciding to go along with the opening statements and not filing any motions today, is the White House now eliminating this constitutional question of the lame duck 105th --
MR. LOCKHART: I have tried in every way that I know to indicate to you that that is not something that's been under serious discussion. It continues to get brought up and people continue to get asked, well, what about if the White House does this. And then you have a headline over, senators warn White House not to do that. I've indicated to you in every way I know how that that's not something that's been seriously considered here. I don't know any way.
Q Except to say, no. You never told us, no, we're not going to do it. Today you are, today.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, look at the document here. If you can find it in the document here today --
Q All right. What about, if I can just --
Q Is this your final filing for the day or -- is this it?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. We will file nothing else today.
Q Why shouldn't we take it as a sign the White House is fully satisfied with the procedure the Senate has put in place?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, look back on what we said that the criteria was, for what we were looking forward to in the Senate: that it be bipartisan, fair and expeditious. It's clearly bipartisan. Senators of both parties reached an agreement. I think the jury is still out on whether it will be fair and whether it will be expeditious. There are issues that still need to be resolved. We look forward to working with the Senate in good faith over the next few weeks. So it clearly meets one of the criteria we set out and I think it's impossible to answer on the other two.
Q If I could just follow up Sam's earlier question on the perjury allegation before the grand jury. The House prosecutors are going to suggest that when the President answered that he did not lie during the Paula Jones deposition he was, in effect, lying to the grand jury. So the question is this; did the President lie during the Paula Jones deposition?
MR. LOCKHART: The President has answered that in a series of documents, and the answer is, no.
Q Joe, in view of the complaints of Democratic Congressmen Meehan, Nadler and Bobby Scott about no witnesses before the Judiciary Committee or the House. Why does the House -- the White House, and now Senator Daschle seem to be objecting to any witnesses, or what is your latest stand on witnesses?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that Mr. Nadler or Meehan or --
Q Yes, they've been quoted.
MR. LOCKHART: They're quoted as saying, we ought to have witnesses? Oh, I'm sorry, during the House. Listen, let me --
Q They said, it's terrible that we don't have any witnesses.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me be very clear on this. The objection from the White House to calling witnesses is not witnesses, per se. One of the things that we think should be done, and we've taken steps to try to make sure, is that this should be expeditious. One of the steps is not at the outset filing a series of pre-trial motions. We have very good and clever lawyers. I'm sure they could have come up with 15 or 20 constitutional arguments that could have tied this process up for weeks and months. But we think that this should move forward expeditiously. It's in everyone's interest -- the Senate, the House, the White House, most importantly, the American public.
Q So you want witnesses.
MR. LOCKHART: And the problem with witnesses, as I said to you last week, is once you get beyond the stipulated record, the five volumes, you need to go into a period of discovery, perhaps depositions -- and that takes time. And if you're talking about -- the House has talked about 10 to 14 witnesses. I don't know from a defense point of view how many witnesses the White House would need to call because we don't know who their witnesses are.
Q Your obligation --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me finish my answer, if you could -- and how did you get so far up? (Laughter.)
Q I do what I can, Joe. Do you want me banished like the witnesses?
MR. LOCKHART: Now I've lost my thought. The idea that this could somehow be done in a couple weeks is just not realistic. You need time to go through this process. Sure, maybe the witnesses could all be examined and cross-examined in two or three weeks, but that would be months down the road.
Q But, Joe, if the obligation is to try him, i.e. a trial, it should be a fair trial. How can you have a fair trial in the United States without having witnesses?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think you can do a lot of picking and choosing on how you compare something to another trial. I think if 51 senators decide it's fair, they're going to move forward. And they're going to make this decision --
Q Is it the White House position that you would want witnesses, except for the fact that it would delay the trial?
MR. LOCKHART: No. It is the White House position that one of the things that we'd like to get done here is to have this done in an expeditious way. And one way to do that is to rely on the record, which we will stipulate to, despite the obvious disadvantages of that, and to move forward as quickly as possible.
Q The only reason you don't want witnesses is because it would cause a delay; is that right?
MR. LOCKHART: I think --
Q There's no other reason?
MR. LOCKHART: No, the witnesses -- because we'd be doing this for months and months.
Q So you are saying, yes, that's the only reason?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Okay, well, Joe, how long would it take to rule on a motion to -- if you offered it today?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no idea.
Q Do you think that would take a long, long time?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I didn't say that.
Q You said the only reason you're doing it, you have good and clever lawyers, but you're not doing it because you want it to be expeditious.
MR. LOCKHART: I wish I could repeat exactly what I said, but I said you could do 15, 20 motions at the start that could delay this. We're not doing that. We're going to go forward on the schedule set out by the Senate. We're going to have two weeks or so of presentations by the House and the White House, some time for Q&A and then there will be a time for motions.
Q The reason why it's hard for us to believe that the only reason you're doing things like not filing pretrial motions to dismiss or not wanting witnesses because of delays, you took all the time that was available to you at every other step of this process when you were asked to respond for documents, for the answers to the 81 questions, and I can think of a handful of things where expeditiousness was not your first priority. Why, all of a sudden, is it now?
MR. LOCKHART: Because we believe the public has had enough of this. We're at the final stage of this process and we can do it two ways: We can do it fairly and expeditiously or we can do it fairly in a process that's open and that takes months and months. We prefer the former rather than the latter.
Q Joe, is it a sad commentary on society now that we're sitting here waiting for the next sex scandal to come out this time on Republicans on the Hill, especially since years ago, these kinds of dalliances were swept under the rug and we didn't see them?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm in a poor position to offer cultural commentary. I will repeat that the President has said that the time for bringing an end to the politics of personal destruction has long passed and we would urge all involved, from anyone who is bringing forward information to the news media that prints it or repeats it, to exercise some judgment.
Q The response says that the Articles are unconstitutionally vague, that there are multiple charges under one. Why not motion, then, for a bill of particulars to make them un-unconstitutionally vague, or some kind of motion to break them up into multiple charges so they would be constitutional?
MR. LOCKHART: Because the time, as we've judged and the Senate has judged, is not appropriate now for motions. We will wait until all sides have had a chance to make their case, until the Senate has had a chance to make -- ask their questions, and if there are appropriate motions that we feel need to be offered, we'll offer them.
Q Does it follow, then, about witnesses, does it follow, then, if the Senate can devise a way to call witnesses but not have undue delay, that you would think that was all right?
MR. LOCKHART: Sam, I think it's logistically impossible. I think we have to go -- once you get beyond the record and injecting a witness into this process goes beyond the stipulated record by nature, because you don't know what a witness is going to say. You know what they've testified to in the grand jury or when they were deposed. There is a mountain, a virtual mountain of evidence, that the Independent Counsel has developed or has access to, that the House Judiciary Committee has looked at, that the White House has not. We'd need to be given a chance -- if you're going to go beyond the record -- to review all of that. We need to be given a chance to depose people, to understand what their testimony is.
So just through discovery and a process of deposing people takes time. And I don't see how that could happen in an expeditious way.
Q Joe, you speak of expeditiously. Would a month from today be considered expeditious by the White House, if everything is finished?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I can't put an exact date on it. There are certainly presentations that need to be made and we are on track now to go on for two weeks -- a little bit more than two weeks, probably -- and then the Senate will face some decisions and we'll discuss that when we get there.
Q Would six weeks, instead of six months, be something that would fall under your definition of expeditious?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I can't give you a precise -- you know it when you see it. So I can't give you a precise definition. But what I'm saying is if we decide -- if the Senate decides, in their wisdom, to go beyond the record, to bring in witnesses that were not heard from by the House Judiciary Committee, so are not part of the record, it's going to take time.
Q On December 14th, the House Judiciary Committee received a submission from the Counsel for the President which said, and I quote, "Neither the committee and staff, nor counsel for the President have the opportunity to confront the witnesses who have appeared before the OIC's grand jury, to cross-examine them, assess their credibility and illicit further information that might affect the testimony the witnesses gave." Doesn't that sound to you like an appeal for the right to have witnesses?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think as we said last week from here, as I said, there is certainly an advantage to -- there's a lot of testimony out there that's untested, that's never been cross-examined. But there is an advantage -- excuse me, a disadvantage to allowing that to be the case.
But we believe, for a couple of reasons, that we should move forward and not exercise the right to challenge that testimony - because it will be more expeditious. And we don't believe -- and I think today's document makes clear -- that the House in their deliberations effectively made a case for removing the President. So we don't think we need to go beyond what's in the record.
And I'd suggest that there is an element of people who were trying to expand the record and go past what they've already sent. There's an element of admission there that maybe they don't think that they've effectively made the case.
Q Joe, was today's answer run past any member of the Senate for their comment or approval before it was sent up?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I know of, but I can't speak with 100 percent certainty on that.
Q Two follow-ups. Does the President believe that delivering the State of the Union at this time would help rally public opinion, is that why he's so determined?
MR. LOCKHART: To get from 70 to 75? (Laughter.) I don't -- I think public opinion -- I think the public solidly supports the President and the agenda he is pursuing. And I think one of the reasons is, although what's going on is important, he will not allow himself to get sidetracked from the people's business.
Q Another question on the legal fees. What are they up to now? And I'm assuming that that President pays all the fees from people in the left-hand column? I mean, that's a lot of lawyers there. He's responsible for --
MR. LOCKHART: He is, indeed.
Q But not anybody in the right-hand column?
MR. LOCKHART: He is not.
Q Joe, one more follow-up question on his agenda for today. He did not have a joint news conference with a head of state. Yesterday he did not attend church on Sunday. Are we seeing a pattern here of a low profile, like a White House Rose Garden strategy here?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think you're seeing a continuation of what we've been doing for about the last month.
Q Is he going to stay under cover, certainly for the remainder of this week?
MR. LOCKHART: No, he will be out talking about his agenda and will be articulating the ideas that will go into the State of the Union and his budget.
Q -- specifically last week that it would be manifestly unfair for the process to go forward in the Senate with opening arguments without knowing whether witnesses could be called. Is it still the White House's position that --
MR. LOCKHART: I think, again, I would reiterate the point that it's very difficult, and I think unfair, to the President's lawyers to have to prepare an opening statement or an opening presentation without knowing what it is they're defending against. I do think, though, that the Senate has moved forward in good faith on a bipartisan basis and we accept the rules by which they've laid out.
Q If I could just follow up on that, Joe. There was a press report over the weekend that administration officials were discouraging Democratic senators appearing in bipartisan appearances with their colleagues on the Hill.
MR. LOCKHART: That would be news to people here at the White House.
Q Joe, has any decision been made on Pollard and whether the --
Q -- was quite visible in his defense of the President in this impeachment case. Did he say anything privately in his meeting today with regard --
MR. LOCKHART: I think Mr. Dobbins reflected what was said on that subject during the meeting.
Q Joe, you mentioned -- State of the Union has come up a couple of times. Can you give us any outline on what the agenda will be in the State of the Union or any ideas that will come out?
MR. LOCKHART: I could, but I won't. I think there have been a series of newspaper stories and broadcast reports that should give you some sense of some of the areas the President will be talking about. I think I'm going to leave some of it to the President.
Q Has the President reached a decision on Pollard yet? Has he gotten all the advice or reached a decision --
MR. LOCKHART: No. My understanding of the process is, Mr. Ruff is coordinating, receiving the views from around the administration. We expect that by the end of this week everyone who has an opinion will have found a way to express it, to weigh into the process. And then I think the process that Mr. Ruff will lead will begin in earnest. But I don't expect there to be any immediate conclusions or decisions.
Q On the Pollard, the World Jewish Congress is sending a letter to the President today, asking for a meeting with Ruff and Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel on the Pollard matter. Will the President meet with them?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll take a look at the letter, once it arrives here.
Q Has anybody recommended that Pollard be released? Has anybody that the President sought news from, anybody in the administration --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to prefer to let people keep their advice to the President private.
Q Along that front, Dershowitz and other Pollard supporters have argued that the President has only asked for opinions from those who are opposed any release of Jonathan Pollard and hasn't asked for any recommendations or any input from those who have a different argument, who want to challenge that position.
MR. LOCKHART: I think those who favor his release have found very effective ways to get their opinion out, they're certainly well-known. I think Mr. Ruff is responsible for gathering the opinions of those who work within the government and have a formal view on this case. I don't think that those -- I don't think there will be any opinion that will be unturned or unnoticed by the time the President makes his decision.
Q Joe, on the State of the Union, is the President flexible enough to change his mind about any delay in this if enough senators or members of Congress persuade him that it's an awkward time?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President believes that it's important to stay on the business that he was elected to do. Part of that business is once a year laying out his agenda. He does that in the State of the Union. He was invited to come up on the 19th; he plans to come up on the 19th.
Q But you're not ruling out he could change his mind?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not trying to lean either way on this to say, except the President was invited to address the nation on January 19th. I have every reason to believe, and no reason to believe otherwise, that he won't be there on January 19th, giving a State of the Union.
Q Joe, the answered filed today flatly, categorically denies lying or perjurious statements. That would seem to preclude the President acknowledging lying in any future censure agreement.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think as I've said over and over again, I'm not going to get into any of the details of censure. That's something for the Senate and the House to work out and I'm sure they'll do that at the appropriate time if they deem necessary.
Q This isn't a minimum standard, then?
MR. LOCKHART: That has nothing to do with censure. That has to do with the two articles of impeachment that are before the Senate in a trial that has become.
Q Just to close the loop on something we were talking about earlier, are you saying the White House deserves the right to file procedural motions later on matters like the bundling of the charges, say after the opening arguments -- all those issues could be reopened?
MR. LOCKHART: I in no way want to signal the White House intention to file any motion. But I think if you look at the schedule that the Senate laid out, the Senate made the decision that they believed that after opening statements and after a chance for questions from the senators to both sides there would be a time for motions. And if there are motions that the White House decides we need to file, presumably they would come at that time.
Q And those could include procedural motions at a trial that's already at that point weeks old?
MR. LOCKHART: They could include anything. But I'm just not going to get into what they are, what they're aren't or what they might be or what they might not be.
Q How are the President's lawyers going to use their 24 hours, who is going to give the presentations and --
MR. LOCKHART: I'll let you know once I've got more information on that.
Q You clearly have the same objections you had to this process last week. It seems that the reason that you've swallowed them is simply because the Democrats went along with the process and you can't criticize anything that --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think there is reason to believe that at the end of this day this process can move forward fairly and expeditiously. I'm not going to preclude anything. Our concerns are well-known and they've only changed in the respect that the Senate has found a way to move forward in a bipartisan way, and we'll see how the process goes.
Q Joe, speaking of precluding things, just to get on the record, have you, as Press Secretary, closed the door on any news conferences, any exchanges between the President and reporters until this impeachment trial is over?
MR. LOCKHART: I have not. I expect that during the -- there will probably be some opportunity during the Central America trip. So I have not closed the door. I just --
Q I'm talking about a White House news conference, a formal session where the public could get some sense of how this President feels about what he's confronting.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know how long a trial will go on, so I can't tell you definitively one way or the other.
Q So the answer is --
MR. LOCKHART: The answer is I can't tell you definitively one way or the other.
Q The President is not going to be accountable at all during this whole period? I mean, a news conference is the only institution in a democracy where you can question a President. And he should be questioned.
MR. LOCKHART: Helen, as much as I respect that point of view, I'd suggest that there are other ways and they're currently being exercised.
Q Like what?
Q What are the other ways?
MR. LOCKHART: What's going on in the Senate.
Q No, no, no, by the public.
Q But short of throwing him out of office.
MR. LOCKHART: I'll take this all under advisement and pass it back.
Q Joe, have any of the President's lawyers prepared for the possibility of witnesses by pre-interviewing some of the witnesses? For example, Betty Currie, Vernon Jordan --
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q They haven't talked to any of them?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Joe, during an interview published yesterday, the Governor of Minnesota revealed that during the election campaign, Mrs. Clinton came into the state and announced, "okay, Minnesota, it's time to end the carnival sideshow." Question: Did the White House press office know about this statement in advance? Did you suggest this to Mrs. Clinton?
MR. LOCKHART: I'd suggest she probably had another candidate she wanted elected.
Q What is your reaction to Governor Ventura's response?
MR. LOCKHART: What was his response?
Q I think Hillary should worry about --
MR. LOCKHART: I guess I walked into that one. (Laughter.)
Q His response was --
MR. LOCKHART: This is a freebie, come one. (Laughter.)
Q Take it like a man.
Q "I think Hillary should worry more about leaving Bill home alone."
Q Don't touch it. That's my advise to you.
Q Don't touch it? What is this interference?
MR. LOCKHART: Thanks, Sam.
Q You're right, I was out of line.
Q Your second defense is that -- or your third defense is that too many things are bundled together. Your second defense is that there are not enough specifics, because it says the President doesn't know what specific charges he's facing. Do you want -- you've obviously decided not to move for a dismissal on that ground. Are you asking for a clarification?
MR. LOCKHART: No, we --
Q What would solve this problem for you?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know at this point that there is any way to rectify either the problem of vagueness or of bundling these charges together, but we are -- what this is about is making our case, both on a factual and constitutional basis. And that's what we're doing.
Q But there is a way -- it's called a motion for a bill of particulars. And a lot of people were expecting that to happen. Why isn't --
MR. LOCKHART: And if we get to the point where that's, during the time where it's appropriate to file motions, that's what we file, I'll stand here and explain why we're doing it. But I'm not going to preview our legal strategy two weeks before it's executed.
Q I realize you're not going to lay out the details of what motions might come a couple of weeks down the line, but surely at least there's going to be a motion to dismiss the charges at that point.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to preview part of it, all of it, or some of it. This is two weeks down the road, or two, three weeks down the road, and we'll talk about it when we get there.
Q When was the last time there was a state visit without a news conference?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.
Q Going back to the news conference issue, some around the White House have said the reason why there is not going to be a news conference today is because it's like putting Clinton on the stand and you don't want to do that. Is that true?
MR. LOCKHART: I think I've said all I'm going to say on the subject, so I'm not going to say any more.
Q -- the President's time is being spent on the State of the Union versus preparing for the trial?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know how to quantify it, but I certainly know of more time that he's spending on preparing the speech than he is meeting with his lawyers.
Q Did he review this brief before it was set up?
MR. LOCKHART: Who?
Q Did he review the brief himself before it was sent over?
MR. LOCKHART: If not in final form, in one of the late drafts, I'm certain he did.
Q Yesterday or today?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.
Q Joe, do you support the Harkin-Wellstone motion to open the Senate trial?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that's an issue that the Senate will need to come to grips with.
Q Well, but do you support it? Obviously, the Senate will decide.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know enough about the issue to express an opinion.
Q You hear suspicious minds at work again on the question of Iraq. Iraq is being warned by several people, I think -- Tony Blair among others -- that if it persists in trying to violate the no-fly zone, and otherwise flaunt what he and others have said we'll do, that he will be hit hard again, as they were in December. Suspicious minds say, correct, about the time of the vote on the articles of impeachment. Can you address that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that we have made very clear our policy on Iraq, on our containment, and the credible use of force that remains in the region, should Saddam Hussein not comply with the agreements that he's made. And I don't think I need to say anything more on that.
Q It does make it more difficult for the President to execute a policy that he believes is right, if there are people who will claim --
MR. LOCKHART: I think if the last month tells you anything, it tells you that the President considers only the national security interests of this country when he makes decisions like that.
Q Joe, you did say you left the door open for a possible press clearance on the Central American trip. Is that trip still scheduled on the dates it was announced?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q 10th to the 15th?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, and sometime soon we will have more details.
Q And a second question. Mr. Dobbins says you're about to put out a communique on the Clinton-Menem meeting. Is that ready to come out?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, let me get out of here and go check, okay?
Q Wait, wait. Seriously.
Q In the answer filed today, the President's lawyers repeatedly quote from testimony and the proffer of Monica Lewinsky. Do they consider her to be a reliable and accurate witness?
MR. LOCKHART: We have chosen, for the purposes of moving forward and stipulating to the record, not to challenge the veracity -- or the fact that she's given this testimony. And beyond that, I'm not going to get into it.
Q Well, wait a minute. Those are two separate things, Joe -- the veracity and the record of the testimony.
MR. LOCKHART: Right.
Q My question is, you're quoting her in your answer. Are you saying she testified truthfully and you think, as a witness, that she is reliable?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I will leave it to the lawyers to make their case when they go and make their case. There are certainly examples of conflicting testimony within the volumes that were sent from the House to the Senate, and we will make our case.
Q She is sometimes reliable and not at other times, is that --
MR. LOCKHART: Scott, I think what I'm trying to do is say that I'm not going to play this particular game on this particular day.
Q Now Saddam seems to be saying that Iraq is no longer going to acknowledge the border with Kuwait as being legal. Is that a serious position for him to take?
MR. LOCKHART: If that is his view, it's a view that violates the will of the international community, and it is a quite serious position to take.
Q Joe, could you clarify what you said about challenging the credibility of Monica Lewinsky? Because I don't know if you've said it from that podium, but certainly your predecessor did, that it was an absolute -- was absolutely verboten that the White House attack Lewinsky's credibility --
MR. LOCKHART: I said it on Thursday. This last Thursday I said that --
Q But are what you saying now is that you don't rule out changing that stance in the future?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I said last Thursday, and I'll say it again, that for a year now people in this building have not attacked her and I don't expect that to change.
Q Joe, you said earlier that you expect that during the State of the Union address that the Republicans will be well behaved, they will not get up and walk out, they will not boo and they will not hiss, like the Democrats did, as you remember. Why do you think that that's the case? Do you believe the Republicans are more courteous and well behaved or what?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think I said that.
Q Well, no, could you explain why you think that there won't be anything from the Republicans?
Q You've had enough Les, my turn.
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I think the President will give his speech and every member of Congress will have to decide how they want to act and they'll do that.
Q So you do expect that they might walk out?
Q Les, there are other people.
MR. LOCKHART: I didn't say that.
Q Joe, a follow-up on Pollard. Despite pressure from some citizens groups, is it conceivable the President would overrule advice from his Secretaries of State, Defense and CIA not to --
MR. LOCKHART: The President has the power to make decisions. Anything is conceivable. He will look to the advice from a wide variety of sources. The counsel here will run that process. And when that process is complete he'll make a decisions.
Q Well, wouldn't there be severe repercussions on the part of the Cabinet if he overruled it?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't predict.
Q Will he touch on impeachment in his State of the Union?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.
Q Did President Clinton personally tell President Menem he would be canceling the press conference and what message does that send to the rest of the world?
MR. LOCKHART: It would have been difficult for him to tell him that, since it wasn't canceled, it was never scheduled.
Q It was on the schedule, Joe. It's on the Argentine schedule and on the White House schedule.
MR. LOCKHART: That's obviously some sort of oversight.
Q Well, what message does that send to the rest of the world, Joe, because everybody thinks it a cancellation?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think that --
Q What if the Argentine President wanted to hold a news conference, would you have let him come out here on his own?
MR. LOCKHART: Sure. And I don't think he had any problem with it.
Q We'd like to request one with the Argentine President.
MR. LOCKHART: Does anyone have the number of the embassy?
Q Joe, for clarity, to follow up Mara, I think you, in response to Mara's question, you just suggested the veracity of Monica Lewinsky would not be attacked at trial? Is that --
MR. LOCKHART: No. I said that by stipulating to the record -- and if I didn't use the precise words, let me try again, because I think maybe I didn't, because "veracity" might not be the right one -- we have basically said we will not challenge that she testified to A through Z, whatever A through Z is. And we will make our case based on that testimony, based on the President's testimony, based on the facts as we know them.
Q Joe, if I could just follow up with this. So the inclusion of Ms. Lewinsky's quotes in today's answer is not an endorsement of her veracity by the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: No, it is a -- the inclusion of her testimony is an acknowledgement of her testimony.
Q You're not suggesting to the Senate, then, that what she said is accurate? I mean, you're using this to build your case --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm suggesting that that's how she testified, and that is a useful piece of information for the Senators as they move forward to make a decision.
Q Do you hold that Lewinsky testified in some ways that you consider truthful and in others that you consider untruthful?
MR. LOCKHART: We believe that she testified to this and it's central to the case, and that's the case we made here, and the lawyers will be happy to get into all of this when they make their presentation.
Q So you're saying she's a credible witness and we should believe the things that you quoted from her.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm saying that we would not include these things here if we didn't think she testified to those, and they certainly coincide with the statements that the President has made.
Q Joe, you said earlier today that, we believe each side should be allowed to present its case. Does this mean that White House lawyers won't object in any way to anything the House managers choose to do in their presentations? Or do they reserve the right to object?
MR. LOCKHART: No -- well, I don't know who might object but, according to the rules as we understand them is, the House managers have to keep their presentation to the record that was sent to the Senate. I don't think it would be in order if they start bringing in issues that aren't part of that record.
Q But during the presentation you don't expect White House lawyers to stand and object to anything?
MR. LOCKHART: As long as the rules are followed, I don't expect them to.
Q Back on Monica Lewinsky, does the President believe she was a stalker, as Sidney Blumenthal testified?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any knowledge on that subject.
Q Joe, did the White House not motion for a bill of particulars so they could argue that these articles are unconstitutionally vague? So they could continue to argue that way?
MR. LOCKHART: No. The White House did not file any motions now because, as I've said several times here, we made the judgment that this is the time for opening presentations, and then questions and answers, and if motions are appropriate and useful, they will be done at a later date.
Q Will Ruff make the opening presentation?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll find out.
Q Thank you.
END 2:05 P.M. EST