THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
9:45 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: We're still waiting for today's local celebrity. Yes, I just think looking at the seats in the briefing room is fairly amusing this morning.
The President is currently jogging.
Q This is going to be, I think, on television. Do you want that as the seal on the podium? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: You have to admit it's kind of amusing today.
Q It's your call. I just thought I'd point it out.
Q That's CBS for you. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Since Andrea's not here, I'll put it right --
Q Put it behind you, then.
MS. MYERS: Yes, exactly. Vested interest. Very good point.
The President is currently jogging in Little Rock. He's scheduled to go to the hospital later this morning. His travel plans for today are unclear. We'll know more later. And as soon as we know, we'll let you know.
Q You don't know if he's coming back today?
MS. MYERS: We just don't know yet.
Q What is the condition of his father-in-law?
MS. MYERS: Unchanged.
Q What is his feeling about Senator Dole's suggestion that the summit ought not be held in Vancouver, it probably should be moved to Moscow?
MS. MYERS: At this point, we're planning on going ahead with the summit in Vancouver. We're making plans to go forward with it, and there's nothing that we've seen so far to discourage us from that.
Q Would the President have a problem with going to Moscow should Yeltsin decide that that's a better place for it?
MS. MYERS: If Yeltsin suggests moving it to Moscow, we'll certainly consider that.
Q That would be the only circumstance, or are there any other circumstances that you're looking at?
MS. MYERS: At this point, there's no reason to reconsider. We're moving forward with plans for the summit on the 3rd and 4th.
Q There was some concern on the part of the President that maybe Yeltsin wouldn't be able to go to Moscow if he leaves Russia this time.
MS. MYERS: Again, there's nothing that we've seen so far to discourage us from the summit on the 3rd and 4th, and we're proceeding with plans.
Q Will he, or has he talked to Yeltsin?
Q How can you say you see nothing --
MS. MYERS: He has not. He sent a message to him on Saturday that was consistent with the statement we released on Saturday, through diplomatic channels.
Q He hasn't talked to him on the phone yet?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Does he plan to?
MS. MYERS: No call currently scheduled.
Q Why do you say you've seen nothing to change? You set the date a week or more ago --
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q and there's been a total upheaval in the Moscow government. What do you mean you have seen nothing?
MS. MYERS: We're still planning to go forward with the summit.
Q So the Russians haven't indicated they want a change here at all?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Have they said they want it in Vancouver?
MS. MYERS: Obviously we'd all agreed to that, and they haven't requested any changes and we haven't requested any changes, and we're moving forward with plans.
Q There's no fear of a coup if he leaves the country?
MS. MYERS: At this point we're going to continue to work with the Russians, and at this point they're planning to move forward with it and we're planning to move forward with it.
Q If impeachment proceedings are underway, is it appropriate that it be held at all?
MS. MYERS: I think that's something for President Yeltsin to decide.
Q Is it all Yeltsin's call?
MS. MYERS: No. At this point -- I mean, in terms of his travel plans and what risks might be involved with that, which is what you're suggesting.
Q No, I'm suggesting for the United States' perspective.
MS. MYERS: Our position has not changed from Saturday. We support Yeltsin, we believe that he is the best course for reform. He embodies reform in Russia and we're supporting that path.
Q But impeachment proceedings hadn't started on Saturday; now they have. If he is in the process of being impeached or, in the point of view of the Congress, has been impeached, would it be appropriate for him to meet at a summit?
MS. MYERS: At this point, we're still standing behind Yeltsin. He's the best hope for reform in that country, and we're moving forward with plans for the summit.
Q Your position, then, is that no matter what's going on there, if he can show up, you'll meet him?
MS. MYERS: No. Our position is that we're not going to answer hypothetical questions about what might or might not happen in Russia. At this point, as we've said and continue to say, that we support Yeltsin as the best hope for democratic reform in Russia. Nothing has changed.
Q Does Christopher define the U.S. position toward Russia more today in his speech in Chicago?
MS. MYERS: His speech outlines both the sort of strategic goals, the overall goals of U.S. foreign policy broadly, and then he talks some about Russia, about our interests in supporting democratization as opposed to specifics of an aid package or something like that.
Q At what time is the meeting tomorrow between the President and the Russian Foreign Minister?
MS. MYERS: You mean --
MS. MYERS: Kozyrev is the Foreign Minister. It's Wednesday.
MS. MYERS: Yes. And I don't have the time yet.
Q Dee Dee, can you foresee any kind of circumstances between now and then that the White House would not meet -- that Clinton would not --
MS. MYERS: I can't comment on that.
Q Vancouver or Moscow, summit or no summit, from what I hear, it sounds like it's totally Yeltsin's call, then.
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry. It sounds like --
Q That it's all Yeltsin's call.
MS. MYERS: No. At this point we're planning to move forward with the summit in Vancouver. We have no reason to change our plans at this point.
Q Since Saturday, has the President been in touch with Nixon or Bush to seek any of their --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q What about any of the G-7 leaders? Have you talked to any of them?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll have to get back to you on that. I don't know if he's talked to any of the leaders. There's been contact between -- among the allies on diplomatic levels. I don't know whether the President contacted anyone directly.
Q Two questions. Is there anything further you have on a G-7 finance ministers' or foreign ministers' meeting?
MS. MYERS: We're looking toward doing that after the summit in April.
Q Where would that be?
MS. MYERS: The details haven't been worked out yet.
Q Also, is there anything more planned on food donations or any other kinds of grain shipments?
MS. MYERS: The President will have the specific details of a Russian aid package. He'll announce that at the summit on the 3rd and 4th.
Q Dee Dee, I know you've said repeatedly that you support Yeltsin as the best hope for democratic reform. Is there any unease on the part of the White House in supporting democratic reform that's being promoted by one-man rule, by decree, and so on?
MS. MYERS: Again, President Yeltsin is moving forward with democratic reforms. He's announced his intention to maintain freedom of the press, freedom of speech and other civil liberties was attempting to maintain freedom of the press, freedom of speech and other civil liberties. We think that's encouraging. We think he is, again, the best hope for democratic reform. The transition to democracy is not always easy.
Q? You look at this aid package that the President will announce at the summit -- is this U.S. aid package or all the western nations' aid package?
MS. MYERS: At this point, we're still working out the details. It will certainly be our plans.
Q Is there a plan for the President to make a speech before the summit, before the Vancouver summit on aid to Russia?
MS. MYERS: Not at this point. I wouldn't completely rule it out but there are no plans.
Q On the meeting in April of the G-7 ministers --this is both foreign and finance ministers?
MS. MYERS: That's the proposal. We're still working out the details.
Q Dee Dee, is the President still planning to go to the forest conference, and do you have any more details on that?
MS. MYERS: He is --
Q Outside the location?
MS. MYERS: -- he is still planning to go. We're working out the details now. As you may know, Secretary Babbitt and Secretary Espey are both planning trips to Portland in advance of the summit, or the conference. It's at the Oregon Conference Center and specific details about exactly how it will be structured are still being worked out.
Q Gore will also be there as well?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q Still one day at this point?
MS. MYERS: Yes. I think the tentative plan is to arrive there the night before.
Q Dee Dee, a couple of questions. There is a report this morning that a Soviet sub and a U.S. sub collided. Do you have anything on that?
MS. MYERS: It's correct. The DOD is putting out a statement on that. Basically confirms that it happened.
MS. MYERS: In the Barents Sea.
Q Does this cause any diplomatic problems or anything like that? Those days are over?
Q Any casualties?
MS. MYERS: No. Minimal damage, no casualties and, again, I would just refer you to the Pentagon for additional details. They're investigating it.
Q And the other question is, there is a report in The New York Times about a bailout plan for the airlines. Do you have anything on that, any further details?
MS. MYERS: Well, as you know, we proposed, along with Secretary Pena a fifteen-member commission that will have 90 days to study the airline industry situation. I don't want to prejudge what conclusions that commission may draw. As you know, the proposal has passed the House, we're waiting for it to pass the Senate and then they'll get to work. That was something that the airline industry enthusiastically endorsed at the President's meeting with the executives in Seattle last month. So there are a number of proposals floating around at this point, but we'll wait and see what the commission --
Q You don't have a plan outside of what this proposal -- this panel is going to put together?
MS. MYERS: No, we're going to wait and see what they come back with.
Q So that story is inaccurate?
MS. MYERS: Well, there are a number of proposals out there. But we're not going to move forward with any concrete proposals until the commission has had a chance to do its work.
Q Dee Dee, following the result of the French election yesterday, who is the President going to deal with in France, with the president or with the future government?
MS. MYERS: President Mitterrand is still the President of France. But we'll continue --
Q When you have to talk about aid to Russia or Bosnia whom are you going to deal with?
MS. MYERS: I think that we'll deal with the French government in the way that we see fit. I'm not going --
Q What do you mean by that? The French government -- the president --
MS. MYERS: President Mitterrand is still the President of France.
Q But you said we're going to deal with the French government as we see fit, not with Mitterrand.
MS. MYERS: President Mitterrand is still the president and we'll continue to deal with the president and maybe others there as well; we'll wait and see.
Q Dee Dee, what can you tell us about the visit Thursday by Kohl?
MS. MYERS: I don't have any details on it yet.
Q Is it a state visit or working visit?
MS. MYERS: It's a working visit.
Q Is that Thursday or Friday?
MS. MYERS: Friday.
Q Any travel this week?
Q Russian aid.
MS. MYERS: Nothing on the schedule for travel this week.
Q Got a Supreme Court Justice? (Laughter.)
Q Can you kind of just go through with the week -- what it's going to look like?
MS. MYERS: Because the President is currently -- obviously, his schedule has changed due to his trip to Little Rock, so I don't have details. We'll wait and see how the day evolves and when he is going to return.
Q Dee Dee, on the Russian aid, Clinton's going to announce the package in Vancouver or wherever; but, then, the Finance and Foreign Ministers are going to meet a few weeks later?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q To do what?
MS. MYERS: To talk about coordinated efforts between G- 7 countries to provide additional aid to Russia.
Q So the announcement he'll make in early April is mainly -- are really just the U.S. plan?
MS. MYERS: I think that's likely, yes.
Q And then it will be expanded in this later meeting?
MS. MYERS: We're working with our allies to try to provide as much support as we can for the fledgling democracy in Russia. So what we'll do at the summit is talk about what we can do specifically and then we'll build on that through the G-7 process.
Q Dee Dee, the President talked about $1 billion in aid. That involves all the G-7, not just the United States --
MS. MYERS: I don't have specific details on any of the packages yet. We'll have to wait and see how those are -- how that comes together. I don't want to talk dollar figures.
Q If he does come back today, do you expect that he would have any statement on Russia?
MS. MYERS: It depends on what happens. At this point we don't have any plans for a statement.
Q Dee Dee, there's some criticism or comment that there's no ambassador in Moscow yet. Would it have been helpful to have one in place?
MS. MYERS: As you know, we inherited a vacancy in Moscow. The President has announced his intention to nominate Ambassador Pickering and we're working through the processes to get that approved. But we have a very good attache there and we think that the process is working well.
Q Dee Dee, both you and also the Senate committee that's going to approve Ambassador Pickering has said it's the FBI that's been the point where all the paperwork slowed down. Is the White House making any effort to get them to speed it up?
MS. MYERS: The process is time consuming; it always is. There are a number of people, as you know we've announced intentions to nominate a number of people and it just takes a while to get it through the process. But we're working through and we think we'll have it through fairly soon. It's -- the charge is named Jim Collins in Moscow.
Q But given the situation in Moscow, you're not leaning on the FBI to expedite Pickering's in particular?
MS. MYERS: We're trying to expedite a number of them and I think the FBI has been very cooperative and we're working with them as effectively as we can.
Q How about chief of protocol at State?
MS. MYERS: Don't have a nominee there yet.
Q Dee Dee, when do you think there will be a nomination hearing for Strobe Talbott?
MS. MYERS: That's working through as well. I don't have a specific time line as to when that will be approved.
Q Do you think it will happen before the summit?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q Or it's earlier?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll have to check and see what the status of that is. Sometimes it's a little hard to predict.
Q Any other briefings today? Is George going to brief?
MS. MYERS: George will brief at 12:30 p.m.
Q What do you have for us this week on the budget? What plans do you have to --
MS. MYERS: Well, we expected the Senate to take action sometime -- in the middle or latter half of this week. The President will continue to work with the Senate as he did with members of the House. I think there will be a great deal of contact between the White House and the Hill as we work this package through and we're optimistic it won't -- I mean, I think we're optimistic it may take some work this week, but --
Q Is he going to go up to the Hill?
Q Any reaction to Senator Nunn's comments of yesterday, indicating extremely lukewarm support for this?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that we're going to continue to work with the Senate. I think he said a lot of things that he said previously, particularly with reference to the defense budget. We'll work with him.
Q Will he be traveling up to the Hill to try to push this through?
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't rule it out. His plans at this point are a little bit fuzzy, given the unexpected travel to Little Rock, but I wouldn't rule it out.
Q What will determine -- would the condition of the father-in-law determine whether he comes back today?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it could.
Q That's the key?
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MS. MYERS: Thanks.
END9:58 A.M. EST