THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
11:37 A.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: Any questions? I have no announcements.
Q What's the President doing about the budget today, and how do you foresee the day?
MS. MYERS: He'll spend some time today on the phone, calling various senators, helping to ensure final passage of the budget package this evening. I don't know exactly when the vote will be, but will probably be sometime this evening.
Q Will he make a statement after that?
MS. MYERS: If it happens, yes, at a reasonable hour he'll make a statement about it.
Q How about tomorrow?
Q The last time it was 11:00 p.m. --
Q Is there a possibility of a news conference?
MS. MYERS: Last time it was at, like, 9:30 p.m.
Q News conference tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Possible. We don't have anything totally scheduled at this point, but I think that's possible. He'll have something to say about it tomorrow as well.
Q Can you tell us what the President's involvement has been on the subject of the terrorist group and how he was briefed and when he first learned about it and anything that he's ordered?
MS. MYERS: No, he's aware of it. He was informed about it yesterday and is continued to be kept informed about the operation. As you know, the suspects will have their preliminary appearance in court this afternoon, and then there's going to be a news conference at 2:00 p.m. with the various law enforcement agencies who are involved. Beyond that, I can't say much.
Q Did he have any decisions to make, such as the timing of the arrest? Did he have any operational role?
MS. MYERS: He was informed about it, but beyond that I can't say.
Q Is Judge Sessions the main -- is he the main person running this, given his situation?
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly what Judge Sessions' role specifically is. Obviously, the FBI is one of several law enforcement agencies who are involved in this.
Q So that would mean yes, he is?
MS. MYERS: Yes. The FBI clearly is playing a major role in this.
Q Has the President called President Mubarak, or has anyone from the administration, to brief President Mubarak?
MS. MYERS: No, not that I know of. The President has not.
Q Dee Dee, on Haiti --
Q Can we stay on this issue?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q Did he say who informed him? Was it a meeting or a phone call? Can you talk a little bit about how that worked yesterday?
MS. MYERS: Through the normal national security channels, and he's being kept informed through national security channels.
Q So did Tony Lake do it?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q And was he aware before yesterday about this was generally brewing or in the works, or was yesterday the first that he was apprised of what was happening?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the specifics about prior to yesterday what -- obviously, the contents of those briefings are something that we don't discuss.
Q But you can discuss when he first learned that there was a terrorist -- and that they were being investigated.
MS. MYERS: All I can say is that he was informed about this operation yesterday. Beyond that, I am not prepared to discuss the contents of those security briefings --
Q Has Sessions been in touch with Lake? Is that how it --
MS. MYERS: Tony gets his information from a variety of channels. I don't know whether he's spoken directly to Director Sessions or not.
Q Is the Attorney General involved?
MS. MYERS: Operationally, she's -- the FBI reports to the Attorney General. And Justice is certainly sort of providing -- they're involved in it. They're not providing a lot of details at this point, other than to say there is this news conference today at 2:00 p.m.
Q Is that in Washington or New York?
MS. MYERS: New York.
Q The President's briefings have been from Tony Lake, they haven't been phone calls from Webb Hubbell or phone calls from Janet Reno?
MS. MYERS: Through the normal national security channels.
Q Do you know about when Tony Lake -- do you know about when the briefing --
MS. MYERS: It was in the morning, during his normal national security intelligence briefing.
Q Can you tell us what Judge Sessions' status is? He met with Reno this morning again. Is that a final meeting or where is --
MS. MYERS: No, I would refer you to Justice for the specific details of that meeting. I mean, the President continues to wait for a report from the Attorney General on the status of Judge Sessions. I know that the Attorney General is working hard to resolve this.
Q Dee Dee, can you tell us -- changing the subject for a second -- on this latest standoff between U.N. weapons inspectors in Baghdad and the Iraqi government, is the President being kept informed of this? How concerned is he about this latest standoff?
MS. MYERS: The President's being kept informed. Beyond that, I don't have any comment.
Q Are you familiar with it? Do you know the details?
MS. MYERS: I know the broad outlines of the issue. I don't know the details.
Q Does he have a final report from the FBI yet on the assassination attempt and --
MS. MYERS: No, we're still waiting on that.
Q Dee Dee, going into the budget vote, what's the outlook from your standpoint? What's your vote counting looking like?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think there's going to be a lot of people working very hard throughout the day, but we expect that it will pass.
Q To follow up on that, how worried are you about this dispute with liberal Democrats on Medicare? Do you think that's going to be much of a setback?
MS. MYERS: I think clearly there have been -- senators across the ideological spectrum have raised concerns. And it's been something that the Majority Leader and others have worked very hard to reach a consensus. I think we'll see that, and then we'll go into the conference process where a lot of those details will be hammered out between the House and Senate versions. I think that's going to be -- that's going to be a good, vigorous debate.
Q Dee Dee, earlier this morning, you were quoted as saying the votes weren't there for passage. Are they there now?
MS. MYERS: I think they'll be there by the end of the day. I think that's what Senator Mitchell as been saying throughout this process, is that we're working very hard on it, but he has been optimistic throughout this.
Q Are they there now?
MS. MYERS: You'll have to check with Senator Mitchell. They'll be there when -- they're not voting yet. They'll be there when the final vote is taken.
Q Dee Dee, is the President calling any Republicans?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. I don't think the -- the Republicans have made it pretty clear they're not going to support the President's package.
Q What about Senator Hatfield or Jeffords?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. To my knowledge he has not yet contacted them, but he may very well. If they're willing to discuss this, then I think it's entirely likely the President would call.
Q What happy medium is acceptable to the President between the Senate gas tax and the House Btu tax? And if you won't say, why not?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, there's going to be some compromise worked out on an energy tax. And I think that we'll leave that to the conference process. The reason that we can't comment on it yet is because the process hasn't started. I think it's safe to say the administration will be very involved in the conference process. We'll sit down and work very hard to resolve the areas where there are questions between House and Senate members and make sure that the President's principles are maintained.
Q Will the President publicly take a position on conference?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll wait and see how the conference process unfolds. At this point we won't.
Q Could you tell us about the compromise which is being worked out by the Pentagon on gays in the military? Where do you stand on that, please?
MS. MYERS: As you know, Secretary Aspin is supposed to present a report to the President by July 15th. He has not yet completed that. I believe he's in consultation process now. We expect the report soon, but we don't have it yet.
Q Is The Post story fairly accurate this morning about the compromise?
MS. MYERS: We haven't seen the report yet, so I certainly can't comment on the details of what might be in that report.
Q Well, let me ask you a question. A federal judge in California said that the military could not deny gays a constitutional right to serve in the military. Now, if the White House is negotiating with the Pentagon a kind of compromise, isn't the President bargaining away the constitutional rights of a substantial segment of the population?
MS. MYERS: First of all, the President is not bargaining with the Pentagon on this issue. We're certainly monitoring progress, but we're not bargaining with the Pentagon. The President asked Secretary Aspin to present a draft executive order by July 15th. Secretary Aspin is going to comply with that. And we'll take a look at what he recommends. And the President will make a decision from there.
Q But isn't the process which you're now undertaking a considerable step backward from what he said in the campaign on this issue?
MS. MYERS: Again, I can't emphasize enough, the President hasn't made any final decisions at this point. What he said during this process and during the campaign was that he does not believe anyone should be denied the right to serve in the military on the basis of status alone.
Q Does that mean serve openly?
MS. MYERS: The details of it are yet to be worked out. I think it's clear that there are certain obstacles. Members of Congress don't support an entire lifting of the ban. I don't think that's a possibility. But I think that the President continues to support his goal. He does not believe people should be denied the ability to serve based solely on status. He has also said that he doesn't believe there should be any changes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Q But having a federal judge in California ruling -- setting a very clear precedent on matter, saying what the military can and cannot do. Why doesn't he just not --
MS. MYERS: I think that -- I don't know what the status of that decision is. I'm familiar with it, but I think we're going to move forward with this policy and we'll deal with the -- I mean, I can't comment on the courts.
Q You have been stating for the past few days that the White House approves or would like to see a dialogue between Aristide and General Cedras. But the news reports have been all over the place. First, Aristide says, yes, he is imposing conditions --
MS. MYERS: No, we've been in contact with Father Aristide, and he has accepted a meeting without conditions.
Q Without conditions?
MS. MYERS: Without conditions.
MS. MYERS: As of my last checking on that, he'd accepted a meeting without conditions, which obviously we think is a good thing. We continue to hope and push for a negotiated settlement and the restoration of democracy there.
Q Do you know where it will take place?
MS. MYERS: I don't have any of the details. I'm not sure they've been resolved.
Q Has Goldin been told he can stay at NASA?
MS. MYERS: I've seen that account. I will have to take that question.
Q Dee Dee, the Russian Foreign Minister has postponed his visit to the United States. Is that because he's upset about U.S. pressure to stop selling high-tech weapons to Third World countries?
MS. MYERS: I think at the agreement of both governments, Deputy Prime Minister Chernomyrdin's visit has been postponed until after G-7, and it will give both countries a chance to work on the summit and to work out some unresolved issues.
Q Is the issue of their sale of high-tech weapons to Third World countries one of the issues that needs to be worked out?
MS. MYERS: It's certainly something that the two countries have talked about. As you know, President Yeltsin and President Clinton talked about it at the summit. President Clinton followed that up with a letter emphasizing our concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation, and it's something that we continue to discuss.
Q Are they irritated at our insistence that they stop?
MS. MYERS: Well, you'd have to check with them. But I think our laws and our views on this are very clear.
Q Dee Dee, do you have a reaction to the arrests in New York?
MS. MYERS: Not yet.
Q Did we disinvite him?
MS. MYERS: No, both countries agreed to postpone it until after G-7.
Q Who initiated the postponement?
MS. MYERS: There's been an ongoing dialogue, and both countries agreed to it.
Q I don't understand. You say they're postponing this until after the summit so they can work on summit business?
MS. MYERS: Before the summit. Both countries are very busily --
Q Oh, they're working on summit business separately --
MS. MYERS: Separately.
Q so they don't want to meet, even though they're going to meet at the summit, until after the summit?
MS. MYERS: The countries are working individually on preparations for the summit. They're discussing a number of issues, including technology issues, which I'm sure will come up when the two presidents sit down.
Q Usually, meetings are a good way to prepare for a summit.
MS. MYERS: There's additional details that need to be discussed, and the meeting has been postponed until after G-7.
Q I'm sorry, I'm lost.
MS. MYERS: The meeting wasn't scheduled to discuss issues --
Q I know, but I'm completely lost, Dee Dee. Help me out here. I gather that they're not going to have the meeting before the summit so that they can better prepare for the summit, and then they're going to have the meeting after the summit?
MS. MYERS: The meeting was not scheduled to deal with summit issues, specifically.
Q What was it scheduled to deal with?
MS. MYERS: It has to do with energy and space related issues.
Q Dee Dee, to what extent does U.S. aid for Russia, U.S. support for G-7 aid to Russia linked to this weapons proliferation issue?
MS. MYERS: To what extent is G-7 --
Q is aid for Russia linked to the weapons proliferation issue, and our concerns about Russian sales to India and elsewhere?
MS. MYERS: I mean, we've made very clear our position with reference to the MTCR. We're moving forward at the same time with aid for Russia. We have made it clear that that is a high priority for the U.S., and we're going to continue to press for Russia aid.
Q There's no linkage? That means there's no linkage?
Q Even if you don't get progress on weapons proliferation?
MS. MYERS: At this point, we're moving forward on talks about the MTCR, as well as Russia aid. We're going to continue to press for Russia aid. It's something we'll talk about at G-7. We expect to make good progress on that. As you know, it's passed the House.
Q Why are the two issues not linked?
MS. MYERS: That we're moving forward on both issues.
Q Why are they not linked and why is the missile control regime not to be an issue at the summit?
MS. MYERS: I didn't say the -- there's two separate issues here, or slightly separate issues here. (Laughter.) Chernomyrdin was coming to the United States to talk about energy and space technology issues, and also an ongoing discussion about missile technology and weapons transfers. Obviously, President Clinton and President Yeltsin discussed those issues at the summit in Vancouver. The President sent President Yeltsin a letter reiterating his concerns about those issues. It's something we'll continue to discuss. Chernomyrdin's visit has been postponed until after the summit. Both sides will prepare for the summit. Technology issues will clearly be discussed, and after the summit we'll look toward rescheduling Chernomyrdin's visit here to meet with Vice President Gore and talk about energy and technology issues.
Q Can I repeat my question? Why, since we've had what is ascribed as a very serious incident where we tracked this material into the Ukraine and finally managed to stop it there, why is this issue not linked with U.S. and, in fact, G-7 aid to Russia?
MS. MYERS: Because we're moving forward on aid to Russia and we're going to move forward on our talks on missile technology.
Q That describes what you're doing. His question is why you're doing it that way instead of having it be an issue.
MS. MYERS: It's something that -- again, technology issues will likely come up at G-7, there's no -- it's something that they discussed in Vancouver; something that they'll discuss in Tokyo.
Q It's a security issue.
MS. MYERS: It is a security and a technology issue.
Q Then why is it not linked with aid to Russia?
MS. MYERS: Because we're going to move forward with aid for Russia. It's something that we're working on.
Q We understand that. The question is, why would this not be linked to that? Why is it okay to go ahead with aid to Russia at a time when we've caught them red-handed in what appears to be a serious breach of international arms regimes?
MS. MYERS: We have, in the past, imposed sanctions on Russian companies that violate the Missile Technology Control Regime. If we determine there have been further violations, we will not hesitate to impose further sanctions against Russian companies who are in violation. Make no mistake about that. At the same time --
Q We have the Russian free enterprise sector running amuck and we wouldn't want to punish the government for it? Is that the idea?
MS. MYERS: I will reiterate. If we determine that there have been violations of the regime, we will not hesitate to impose sanctions. At the same time we're going to move forward with Russian aid and we're going to move forward with preparation for discussions with President Yeltsin in Russia.
Q So we do not care to link these issues -- is there a reason for that?
MS. MYERS: I think I've said all I can say on this.
Q It's my understanding the Russians are not signatories to that international technology regime.
MS. MYERS: U.S. law requires that violators be punished, that there be sanctions.
Q Even if they haven't signed onto it?
MS. MYERS: U.S. law requires it, and we're certainly going to abide by U.S. law.
Q Does the United States government hold the Russian government responsible for these weapon sales?
MS. MYERS: Well, we're discussing it with them.
Q Or is it only the companies?
MS. MYERS: We take it very seriously. I think President Clinton has communicated his concerns to President Yeltsin. It's been communicated at a number of levels. And we're going to continue to push for enforcement.
Q Let me try linkage in a different way.
MS. MYERS: You're not going to get me to say it, so --
Q Well, I'll try it in a different way. To the extent that there is difficulty making progress on the weapons issue, would that reduce the U.S. government's interest in, enthusiasm for, lobbying for aid to Russia?
MS. MYERS: I will -- at the risk of sounding redundant, let me say that we're going to continue to move forward on Russian aid. We're going to continue to -- we look forward to meeting with President Yeltsin to discuss a number of issues. And we'll continue to make it very clear that we will not tolerate violations of the Missile Technology Control Regime.
Q Do you think you'll end up moving more slowly on aid if you're forced to move more slowly on weapons?
MS. MYERS: That's hypothetical.
Q Dee Dee, back on New York. Do you have a sense that this crowd has now been rolled up or are there more people out there that are still posing a threat to the U.S.?
MS. MYERS: I just can't comment beyond -- you'll have to wait for the press conference at 2:00 p.m. after the preliminary court appearance.
Q Does the President have a reaction to the arrests this morning?
Q Can I follow that? Are there --
MS. MYERS: Not yet.
Q Are there additional precautions that the President now needs to take in light of evidence that this crowd is still active?
MS. MYERS: I just don't have anything else to add to that until later.
Q Any changes in security here, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of.
Q Dee Dee, Senator D'Amato said a few hours ago that he had heard about this quite a few days ago and he had extra protection.
MS. MYERS: I just can't comment on the specific details. There will be a press conference at 2:00 p.m., and we'll go from there.
Q Is the President going to announce his decision on nuclear testing tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe that will happen tomorrow.
Q Do we know yet whether Chelsea is going to Japan?
MS. MYERS: No. No decision.
Q Do you have any -- I mean, advance party's going out this weekend.
MS. MYERS: I don't think it would mean -- would require a dramatic change if Chelsea was to go.
Q Who is going to Pat Nixon's funeral?
MS. MYERS: Don't know yet.
Q You don't know yet?
Q Well, you'd better decide soon. It's going to be over.
MS. MYERS: It's Saturday. I think we'll have a decision on that by the end of the day.
Q Dee Dee, has the White House quietly been informing gay and lesbian groups that the President is not going to be able to deliver fully on the campaign promise he made about lifting totally the ban on gays?
MS. MYERS: No, although we've certainly been open to hearing their opinions on this. We haven't signaled anything other than what we've said publicly.
Q Dee Dee, the Federal Reserve yesterday said that -- put out a report that said that businesses are reluctant to hire people because they're worried about the taxes and worried about health care reform. And this administration is on record as saying it wants to create jobs. Aren't you concerned that some of the proposals out there are discouraging businesses from hiring people?
MS. MYERS: I think the best thing we can do to encourage businesses to hire people is to get the President to break gridlock and to get the President's budget passed. That will signal serious commitment to deficit reduction, it will help keep interest rates low, it will stimulate growth. And we remain committed to that. I think that is the best way we can reassure business that we're serious about breaking gridlock and turning this economy around.
Q But the concern, though, was on taxes and health care reform. They're very worried about it.
MS. MYERS: A big part of the concern is uncertainty, and if we get this budget passed I think that it will be clear what the road map looks like for the next few years and that the President is serious about reducing the deficit as well as investing in things that will help create jobs.
Q When will it become clear on health care reform?
MS. MYERS: We're working on it.
Q Hasn't this President set a dangerous precedent in negotiating with the military under Article II, Section II of the Constitution? He's the Commander-in-Chief. Hasn't he diluted his constitutional powers by negotiating this issue with the Pentagon?
MS. MYERS: Once again, the President is not negotiating with the Pentagon or with the Joint Chiefs on this. He's, as you know, had conversations about it. He will review Secretary Aspin's proposal when it arrives and he'll make a decision. I think it is absolutely appropriate for the President to seek input of the Joint Chiefs and others on issues related to the military. However, he is not negotiating with anybody.
Q Every news story in the country then is incorrect by describing this as a process of negotiation and compromise. You have the President not negotiating or negotiating --
MS. MYERS: He's consulting, clearly. And again, it is not only his right, it is his responsibility to consult with members of the Joint Chiefs and others on issues that relate to the military.
Q But you have a federal judge saying exactly what the law is and you have the President stating what his policy is and you have him stepping back from that policy and consulting, if you will, on both -- stepping back from his campaign promise and negotiating on something a federal judge has decreed.
MS. MYERS: I don't think that the federal -- again, I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think that the federal judge's decree makes anything crystal clear. But six months ago the President's -- or almost six months ago, the President set forward a process for dealing with this issue. He said -- he directed Secretary Aspin to take six months to look at this issue. And he started two studies; one was a Pentagon study, one was a independent RAND study. Based on that, the Secretary was to report back to the President. That process is moving forward. We expect a report from the Secretary soon and the President will make a decision.
Q Has he got a RAND study on this?
MS. MYERS: The Pentagon did.
Q Where does Congress interfere in this? Can he issue an edict after he makes his decision?
MS. MYERS: Obviously, Congress will have the ability to vote up or down on this.
Q I misunderstand, I think, maybe your answer over here to this question. You were saying the White House is not discussing with gay groups a variety of different language possibilities?
MS. MYERS: We're certainly listening to their opinions about it.
Q Wait a minute, Dee Dee, I mean, that question is fairly -- are you not discussing the language that might be used?
MS. MYERS: I think that they -- that the groups were in to meet once last week with George. They certainly communicated their concerns about it.
Q And he sat mute through this meeting?
MS. MYERS: I think he was there to listen.
Q Was language discussed that might be applied in this situation?
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly what was discussed. I think a lot of things were discussed.
Q So it might have been and you don't know?
MS. MYERS: I think that they raised a number of concerns.
Q All that's fine. We're just trying to determine whether this is -- whether the answer is yes, or no, or you don't know.
MS. MYERS: What? I don't know exactly, specifically the entire agenda of what was discussed.
Q Thank you.
Q Do you have any quarrel with what's reported in The Washington Post today?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to comment. I mean, I think I already said we weren't going to comment on -- the President hasn't made a decision. Secretary Aspin has not submitted a final report. George did meet with some of the gay and lesbian leaders last week. Beyond that, I have nothing to say.
Q Is Aspin still scheduled to be in here tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: No meeting has been officially scheduled. He's going to come in here at some point and it hasn't been scheduled. It has not been worked out between the President and the Secretary.
Q Will this decision be made prior to the summit?
MS. MYERS: It depends on when the Secretary gets his final recommendations. And if the -- I wouldn't assume that if the Secretary meets at the end of this week that it signals that he's finished his report. I don't think that that's clear.
Q Dee Dee, speaking of the summit, has President Clinton had any contact with Miyazawa or anyone else in Japan?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Does he plan to?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. We'll let you know if it happens.
Q Back on the New York arrests, has the President called Boutros-Ghali or Hasni Mubarak or will he today?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Will anyone from the White House?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. The President has no scheduled plans to at this point.
Q Why wouldn't he?
MS. MYERS: He just has no plans to.
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't rule it out.
Q Dee Dee, when the budget was taken up in the House, there were certain Democrats that pretty much agreed only to support it if their vote was necessary in order to have sufficient votes to move the process forward. And you said this morning you don't have the votes now, but you expect to have them by the end of the day. Does that mean you're pretty confident that you'll be able to garner support from some wavering Democrats and possibly empathetic Republicans who will only agree to vote --
MS. MYERS: Yes. We think that by the end of the day we'll have the votes to pass the package.
Q But are you trying to garner votes from those that won't support it unless it's an official swing vote, and otherwise they won't support it?
MS. MYERS: I'm not privy to the intentions of the various senators other than to say that by the end of the day we expect to have the support of enough senators to pass the package.
Q Director Panetta indicated even last night that he felt there were certain friends on the Republican side of the Senate that share his concern for deficit reduction. And if that's the case, wouldn't it be logical that some of them might be willing to support this plan if their vote is essential in order to get the 51 votes?
MS. MYERS: I think we'll get to 51. I hope it includes Republicans. We'll have to wait and see.
Q Dee Dee, anything on the Ritzenhaler situation?
MS. MYERS: The President has not spoken to him.
Q Is he still trying, or is he waiting --
MS. MYERS: He has not placed another call to him.
Q Dee Dee, back on Russian aid. Is the President optimistic, confident that the G-7 nations will endorse the $4- billion package for Russia now, or something less?
MS. MYERS: I think that the details about exactly how it's structured and how much money is in it are being worked out. I think there will be some kind of a fund to support privatization and restructuring of the Russian economy, which is a major step forward. I think Secretary Christopher said yesterday that he thought that was an important achievement and something that will certainly be discussed at the summit. But again, the final details on the size and the exact structure of the fund are still under discussion.
Q There were reports that $4 billion is just way out of sight at this point, as far as --
MS. MYERS: Yes. Again, even if it's less, which I think it may be, than $4 billion, I think, it is still an important achievement and something that we think will help as the Russian economy tries to restructure and move toward a market economy.
Q You're backing off the $4-billion figure?
Q Where did you ever get that idea?
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:02 P.M. EDT