THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
1:12 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: Okay, I don't really have any announcements, so I think it's --
Q Thank you. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I think we'll keep this brief, because we have a shopping lid when this briefing is over. Christmas shopping lid, getting into the spirit of the holiday season. I think it's an important step.
Q When does the U.S. next meet with North Korea to discuss whatever the latest offer is on or off the table --
MS. MYERS: At this point we're still in the process of consulting with our allies. President Clinton spoke with President Kim of South Korea this morning, called him shortly before 9:00 a.m. They spoke for about 25 minutes. Again, the President reaffirmed the U.S. position in this, which is that the North Koreans have to agree to full inspections, and to a resumption of North-South dialogue toward a nuclear-free peninsula.
The President also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to South Korea's security. It was a good conversation. We will continue to consult and make a decision about what the next step is once we've finished our consultations.
Q run that by us again? What are all of the things that they've got to do now?
MS. MYERS: They have to agree to IAEA inspections and --
Q All seven sites?
MS. MYERS: -- a resumption of the North-South dialogue, correct.
Q So you're rejecting their --
MS. MYERS: We're in the process of reviewing it and consulting with our allies about it.
Q Well, wait a minute, didn't the President say yesterday that they seemed to recognize the importance of both those things, or did I misunderstand you?
MS. MYERS: I think what he said was that they understand the importance of inspections; that was clear, but of continuing the process, was the President's point. He was encouraged by the process.
Q What exactly remains to be done before you go back to North Korea?
MS. MYERS: We're still in the process of consultations, so we have a few more conversations we want to have. And at that point, we'll decide what the next step is --
Q With whom?
MS. MYERS: With our allies.
Q you've South Korea.
MS. MYERS: With our other allies. We're still reviewing it and we're still consulting, and we'll leave it there. We've had discussions with China about a number of things.
Q So it's China and --
MS. MYERS: I don't want to suggest that there's a specific conversation outstanding, I just don't want to be that specific, other than to say the President obviously spoke with President Kim today; we're still reviewing the proposal; we will continue to consult with our allies, and as soon as we have made a decision, we'll decide what the next step is.
Q Are you going to get back to the North Koreans?
MS. MYERS: I think we're still in the process of looking at this. At some point, we'll decide what the next step is and we'll go forward at that time. At this point, we're still in a consultation and review phase.
Q Is it up to the United States to reply to North Korea at some point?
MS. MYERS: I think clearly the ball is in our court at this point.
Q Have you been discussing --
Q How urgent is it in the President's mind to solve this -- will he let this go past, for instance, when he goes on vacation?
MS. MYERS: No, I think there's some urgency attached to this. We're going to continue to work on it. The President, as you know, has been spending quite a bit of time on it. He met yesterday with his advisors about it in an effort to resolve it, and we're going to continue to work on it.
Q Can you rule out that he'll let it go past the new year, for instance?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to establish any timeline for it. But it is something that we're dealing with, it's something that the President considers very important, it's something he's spending time on.
Q What's the time urgency? Why does it need be dealt with it sooner rather than later?
MS. MYERS: The time urgency is that we want to maintain the continuity of inspections so that we know -- so that we can guarantee that there has been continuity in inspections.
Q Hasn't that already been broken?
MS. MYERS: No. The IAEA hasn't said for sure whether that's been broken.
Q I'm not sure exactly what the rules are or the protocol is in the U.N, but apparently the Chinese now control the Security Council -- chair of the Security Council -- whatever the terminology is.
MS. MYERS: It's rotating.
Q Right. And the Chinese say that North Korea is not on -- even on their scope for the next month. Is it the White House understanding that there would not even be discussion of possible sanctions against North Korea, at least until after the end of the year, when the Chinese give up control of the Security Council?
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure what the relationship is -- and I'll have to get back to you. I can certainly take that part of the question. At this point, sanctions is certainly something that we leave open as an option. It's not something that we're ready to implement at this point. But I'll have to take the part about -- the chair of the Security Council rotates. It's China's turn, and I'm not sure what that means in terms of bringing up the issue.
Q I'm just wondering if the White House has the same understanding that the Chinese have -- that they won't even consider North Korea this month?
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure what their power is to make that kind of a statement, so I'll have to get back to you on it.
Q Dee Dee, along those lines in your response to Mick, what happens if North Korea complies? What happens if they don't comply? If the do and if they don't, what are the options?
MS. MYERS: Well, we'll have to see. I mean, if they comply, that means that they will abide by the Nonproliferation Treaty, abide by their international nuclear operations, open their facilities for inspection; and we'll see what happens in terms of beyond that. That's what this process is about. And hopefully we'll continue to work with them to see to it that they do comply.
Q And if they don't?
MS. MYERS: We'll continue to work with them to see that they do. That's our objective in this. And to -- again, to continue the North-South dialogue, aimed at a nuclear-free peninsula, that's also very important. It's something that they agreed to back in January of '92.
Q Well, a related question -- what is the incentive for them to comply?
MS. MYERS: The incentive for them to comply is that they're obliged to do so under the NPT. I would just remind you that this became an issue because North Korea blocked international inspections of their nuclear facilities, which was a violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty to which they are a member. They are internationally obliged to agree to those inspections. That's why we're undergoing this process now to get them to live up to their obligations. It's in our security interest, obviously to see that the Korean peninsula is nuclear-free. And that means a very solid nonproliferation regime, global proliferation regime, which includes North and South Korea and a nuclear-free peninsula.
Q I guess the real question is, what is it they would want to avoid --
MS. MYERS: I think they want to avoid being isolated in the world community anymore than they already are. I think they want to avoid being out of step with the international community. And I think there are some potential hazards for the -- I think the President made that clear as far back as the summer when he went up to the DMZ and suggested that it's not in their interest to pursue this avenue.
Q Did Presidents Clinton and Kim come to an agreement on how to proceed, and you just have to talk to Japan and China now; or was it still up in the air --
MS. MYERS: They agreed on the objectives. And I think that's the most important step. And I'm not going to say much more about the process since it's ongoing.
Q Did they discuss sanctions?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to say much more about what they discussed, other than that they agreed on the objectives. It was a good conversation.
Q What is the White House doing today to mark this anniversary of Pearl Harbor?
MS. MYERS: We aren't doing anything specific. The President's certainly aware of it, as he is of many historical occasions. But we don't have any specific events.
Q The Secretary of Veterans Affairs is --
Q Thank you, Wolf. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs is not in the White House, but we're pleased to know that he's honoring this day. We moved it back from September 7th to December 7th this year. (Laughter.)
Q Dee Dee, is the President doing anything else in New York besides the Moynihan fundraiser? And has his NAFTA effort hurt labor donations to that fundraiser -- meaning the President's NAFTA efforts --
MS. MYERS: The Monday schedule is still unclear. I thin he may not do anything other than the Moynihan fundraiser Monday night.
For those of you who don't know, we're going to Philadelphia on Monday for the Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky event, which is still in a planning phase, and then we'll go up to New York and at least do a fundraiser for Senator Moynihan Monday night. We may add another event, but that's somewhat unlikely. We'll come back. We will not overnight. We'll come back.
I don't know whether labor contributions have been affected in any way -- Senator Moynihan's fundraiser. It is his event. He did vote against the NAFTA. Some of the money, I guess, goes to the DSC.
Q Right. Which was, I think, the point.
MS. MYERS: I don't know. But I just would point out that next year we certainly have a number of issues that we plan to work with labor on, from striker replacement to all of the worker retraining and reemployment programs, to reform of OSHA, things like that.
As you know, President Clinton talked with Lane Kirkland shortly after NAFTA. They agreed to meet, and I expect that'll happen sometime soon.
Q This week?
MS. MYERS: Possibly. And we'll continue to work with them. I think sometimes these things take time to heal, but we expect that we'll continue to work with Labor.
Q Will you announce the Kirkland meeting --
MS. MYERS: Yes, if it's scheduled. I don't know if there will be a photo, but we'll certainly announce it.
Q Dee Dee, can I ask you about Haiti? There was no statement last night after the meeting with Malval and Aristide -- no statement --. Can you tell us what --
MS. MYERS: Sure. The meeting lasted about 45 minutes. It was again Malval and Aristide. They discussed the situation in Haiti. Again, the President thanked them for all that they've done. He was fairly -- quite enthusiastic about Prime Minister Malval's plan for sort of a reconciliation conference with all the different parties in Haiti. There was just a briefing at the State Department -- Larry Pezzullo and Bill Swing. And I think they had a little bit more to say about the state of play in Haiti. But that was basically the subject of the meeting last night, was just the President reaffirmed his commitment to the Governors Island process and to reimplementation of the democratic government led by President Aristide.
Q Did they ask the President to do more to help reestablish democracy to Haiti, besides sanctions?
MS. MYERS: The President made clear that we intend to continue to work with them on that, and we'll do that.
Q But did they ask for specific steps besides the sanctions, besides the embargo?
MS. MYERS: We don't have anything else to say about the specific conversation. But I think the President again did reaffirm his commitment both to sanctions and to continuing our humanitarian effort. As you know, we help feed about 680,000 people every day, provide medical assistance to another 2 million people. We're committed to continuing to do that to make sure that the people who the most hurt, the most vulnerable who were hurt by sanctions are helped through our efforts.
Q Can you tell us about two events coming up -- one is the NAFTA bill signing on Wednesday, and the second is the meeting with mayors and police chiefs on Thursday. What's involved in both, what's the goal with the mayors and police chiefs?
MS. MYERS: Start with NAFTA, that's tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in the morning, and it's congressional -- where is it -- Mellon Auditorium at 10:30 a.m. All of the members who voted in favor of the NAFTA were invited, as were a number of business leaders and other people from around the country. It'll be a fairly big audience, so that'll be at 10:30 a.m.
Q What is it he's exactly signing?
Q Where is the Mellon Auditorium?
MS. MYERS: Implementing legislation.
Q It's at the Department of Commerce. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: White House spokesman -- (laughter.)
Q You get a gold star on the forehead for --
MS. MYERS: That's right. That's an hour exclusive oneon -one for you, Wolf. (Laughter.)
Q theme of the speech?
MS. MYERS: The theme of the speech will be, again, NAFTA, the importance of opening up of trade in terms of raising standards of living around the world, of getting the world economy moving again. So it'll be, I think, an affirmation of all of the things President Clinton talked about why it was important to pass NAFTA.
Q Anything on GATT.
MS. MYERS: I think there will be a reference to GATT. As you know, Mickey announced this morning that they've made substantial progress on agricultural issues, but still have some outstanding issues, particularly civil aviation and subsidies to civil aviation and audiovisual issues. So he's off to Geneva now to try to --
Q Have the agriculture problems with the French been resolved?
MS. MYERS: They've been largely resolved. Obviously, none of it is resolved until all of it's resolved for sure, but they made good progress today. And before leaving Brussels for Geneva, Mickey made an announcement saying that a lot of the ag issues had been -- they made great progress on them.
Q And the mayors?
MS. MYERS: Back to Mitch's question -- the mayors -- on Thursday, 10:15 a.m., the President's meeting with a group of mayors and police chiefs from around the country. And the idea is to talk about crime and what we can do collectively between the federal government and the locals to fight crime.
Q Will that be open or --
MS. MYERS: Yes. Well, I don't know. I don't know what the coverage arrangements are. It'll probably be at least a pool.
Q Where will it be physically?
MS. MYERS: It's probably somewhere at the White House. We haven't picked a location yet.
Q Maybe Wolf knows. (Laughter.)
Q Do you know what cities --
MS. MYERS: No. We're still -- (laughter)
Q I'm not saying -- (laughter) --
MS. MYERS: He knows, but he can't say. (Laughter.) Indian Treaty Room. And the group is still continuing to come together. We're still contacting people, so the group is growing and the list of cities is growing who will participate.
MS. MYERS: It's going to be a photo op, isn't it?
MR. JONES: It'll be a pool --
MS. MYERS: Pool at the top or the whole thing pooled?
Q Pool at the top.
MS. MYERS: Yes, pool at the top.
Q Will the President present a proposal to them --
MS. MYERS: No, this is more an opportunity for dialogue. I think they'll talk about what we can do to work to fight crime, building on the crime bill and some of the other things that have happened.
Q Aren't they bringing a proposal to him?
MS. MYERS: He certainly wants to hear their ideas about it. That's the objective -- for them to discuss things that they think need to happen in their cities to fight crime.
Q Mezvinsky visit on Monday, is that just going to be basically for show to fulfill a promise to have it, or is it actually --
MS. MYERS: Wolf, do you want to take that one? (Laughter.)
Q I'm never helping you again. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I appreciate it. The exact format of the event is still coming together. It is, as all of these events, an honest effort to find additional ways to -- I mean, Congresswoman Mezvinsky was concerned about entitlement spending and the growth in entitlement spending. The President's concerned about that, that's why he's taken on health care reform. And so they're going to discuss entitlement reform, and I think in the context, perhaps, of health care. The exact event is still coming together, but it is a substantive attempt to try to deal with some of these problems.
Q Is there a goal that you want to meet -- in other words, you want to cut X billion from entitlement --
MS. MYERS: No, I don't think that's the objective. But I think the objective is to have a discussion about how best to reform entitlements and control spending.
Q So it'll be a long talk-a-thon, or what exactly do you --
MS. MYERS: I think the scheduled time is 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., somewhere in that range, a couple -- several hours. We'll have more details on it, but it is longer than a half-hour event.
Q Speaking of health care, is Harold Ickes definitely coming aboard to politically help out?
MS. MYERS: No personnel announcements for you at this time.
Q Well, Dee Dee, now that the U.S. Telephone Association has announced that Roy Neel's going to take charge, and Hill and Knowlton's announced that Howard Paster's going to take charge, can you remind us what the President thinks about this latest example of the revolving door?
MS. MYERS: As you know, the President signed an executive order the day he was sworn in or the day after, which I think added additional restrictions to those that already exist. The existing civil law bans senior officials like Howard and Roy from contacting anybody in the Executive Branch of the government for a year. That's any senior person -- that's in any department for one year. What the President did was add on top of that a five-year ban on contacting anybody in the Executive Office of the President, and that includes the White House, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Drug Control Policy, the Science and Technology Policy, and a lifetime ban on serving as a lobbyist for a foreign government. That is a significant step forward in something that we think is a real improvement, is something that the watchdog groups, like Common Cause think is a real improvement. So I think the President's -- everybody who works here had to sign the pledge in addition to being bound by the preexisting law. It is, I think, a good solid step forward.
Q I understand all those technicalities, but the rhetoric the President used during the campaign was talking about stopping the shift from government service to private enrichment. As people like Roy Neel quadruple their salaries and head up lobbying firms, what does he think about the appearance of that?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what Roy Neel's salary is, but certainly people are free to go to leave the White House after serving here. And I think the President appreciates their service and has done what he can -- signing a stiffer executive order -- to try to make sure that they don't unduly influence the government once they leave. I think that we've made a good step forward in that regard. And I think the President -- everybody who works here had to sign the pledge. Everybody who works here is -- all the senior people are bound by existing laws. And I think that that's -- it's a solid good faith effort.
Q And what happens to these people if they don't abide by the pledge?
MS. MYERS: There are civil penalties for the law. And I think the same penalty -- I'll have to take that, but I think the same penalties apply that you could ask for civil action if they break the pledge.
Q So would the White House sue Roy Neel and Howard Paster --
MS. MYERS: No, I think it would go to the Justice Department, but let me take that part of the question.
Q On the subject of lobbying, Clark Clifford and Bob Altman just went into the West Wing there. Are they meeting with the President? Do you happen to know about that?
MS. MYERS: They're not scheduled to meet with the President.
Q Who are they meeting with?
Q I don't know.
Q Could you take that?
Q (inaudible) (Laughter.)
Q Are they taking those two jobs? (Laughter.)
Q Will you take the question?
Q Can you find out for us who they are meeting with?
MS. MYERS: I will see if I can find out who they are meeting with.
Q Neel and Paster, do they get a refresher before they leave?
MS. MYERS: Yeah, I'll just point out one other thing that I had forgotten to mention -- that everybody gets counseled before they leave by the White House counsel's office to tell them what other restrictions might apply -- whether or not the ban on contacting the Executive Office of the President might extend beyond that. If they had sort of extensive responsibility over an issue or with a certain department, the ban might be broader than just the Executive Office of the President for five years. But they do get counsel for the White House counsel's office about what they can and can't do. It is sort of subject to the specific responsibilities of the individuals.
Q Does that cover, for example, somebody calling up and saying, "Hi, I'm Joe Glotz from Howard Paster's office, and I'd like to speak to Mack McLarty?"
MS. MYERS: I don't know whether that would be covered under the --
Q Is this not a distinction without a difference? Can yo explain why it is not a distinction without a difference? I mean, so they don't do it themselves? So?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the idea is that personal relationships are the currency here, and I think it does make a difference. And they will be banned from doing that. They cannot lobby the White House; they can't lobby the Executive Branch for a year --
Q Yes, but you can't ban people who work for them from doing it.
MS. MYERS: But they don't have the personal relationships. And so I think that's the objective.
You know, you also -- it has to be a reasonable standard. You can't expect that people who work in government will never have another job. I mean, that's not a reasonable standard.
Q (inaudible) (Laughter.)
Q National Service. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: There is a large program to recruit out of the White House.
Q Dee Dee, there's no prohibitions at all in terms of lobbying the Hill, though --
MS. MYERS: There are no prohibitions in terms of lobbying the Hill, that's correct.
Q As long as -- these laws and all other laws, does the President have any problem with these two people or any other people heading lobbying groups that have substantial interests in federal legislation? I understand you're saying it's a tough line. I understand you're saying you don't expect them to violate the law, but does the President have any problem with them heading lobbying groups with substantial interests in federal matters?
MS. MYERS: There is a standard. The President expects everybody who works here to abide by it, and beyond that, I don't have anything else to say about it.
Q Thata girl. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Next subject.
Q With the Ohio trip off Friday, is there anymore travel coming up the rest of the month?
MS. MYERS: There's no more travel this week. Next week we're going to travel on Monday. And the rest of the week is still coming together. I think we probably will have more travel next week, but we'll announce that once it gets nailed down --
Q Day trip?
MS. MYERS: Yeah, mostly day trips. It's possible we could have an overnight before Christmas somewhere.
Q Is Friday here?
MS. MYERS: Friday will be here --
Q The overnight before Christmas. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Friday we'll be here in Washington, and we'll have more details on that tomorrow. Saturday he'll give the radio address, but he may do it off campus which means go somewhere, give the radio address, come back and be down for the rest of the day.
Q Dee Dee, what's he going to do around Christmas? Can you give us some idea about where he's going to be?
MS. MYERS: It's still unclear. He'll definitely be at the White House Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and beyond that, he has not made a final decision on either the interim period or renaissance.
Q Could you give us any insight into how the meeting went between Giuliani and the President? And why wasn't there a photo op?
MS. MYERS: We chose not to. I think every now and then it's nice to go through a whole day --
Q It couldn't have been Giuliani -- he had his face all made up and everything. Was it just the White House's choice?
MS. MYERS: Yes. I mean, I think it was -- it was a private meeting. As you know, the President invited Mayor-Elect Giuliani down. They met for about 45 minutes and they had a very good discussion. Senator Moynihan also sat in. They talked a lot about crime and violence and welfare reform. They talked some about health care reform, and I think it was a very -- I think they decided they wanted to work together on a lot of these issues, and it was a very productive meeting.
Q Does the President see any specific problems of dealing with the Republicans?
MS. MYERS: No. He's the Mayor of, obviously, one of the largest and most important cities in this country. It is the largest city.
Q The largest --
MS. MYERS: The largest. A I will not comment on what is most important. But I think there are a lot of problems that the President wants to work with the Mayor of New York to solve, from crime and violence and deteriorating social structures which are sometimes painfully apparent in places like New York. Obviously, health care reform is going to affect the city, a number of other issues, and I think he's going to work with whoever the mayor of the city is. I think the President and the Mayor established a good working relationship, both in a phone call a couple of weeks ago and again today.
Q The Mayor-Elect said he brought to the President's attention that New York City, because it failed to read the regulations properly, didn't apply for housing funds that it may have been able to receive -- about $50 million worth, and that the President said he would take a look. Could you tell us about the President's response to this and the fact that --
MS. MYERS: Two cities asked the staff to take a look at it and to find out if there's anything -- what we can do, if anything. So we'll look at it.
Q Who on the staff -- take a look at -- will it be like Cisneros to take a look or --
MS. MYERS: Well, ultimately it's a HUD grant under discussion, so I'm sure somebody will speak with Secretary Cisneros about it.
Q What else tomorrow besides NAFTA? Earlier this week you said you were going to do some other event --
MS. MYERS: Yes, the only other thing is the lighting of the menorah. Tomorrow's the first day of Hanukkah, and there will be a photo op around that. That's the only other event.
Q Is that a daytime or an evening event?
MS. MYERS: It's 3:45 p.m. And the rest of the day is meetings.
Q Excuse me, will that be here or --
MS. MYERS: Yes, it's at the White House. I don't know exactly where here.
Q The new one in the house?
Q West Wing lobby menorah decoration?
MS. MYERS: I don't know which menorah. There are several around.
Q It's the first one here. First time --
MS. MYERS: It is?
Q It is not.
MS. MYERS: Can't be.
Q That's what the First Lady said yesterday.
Q Well, what does she know?
Q not right.
MS. MYERS: It's the first time the Clinton's have had --
So, just to recap, on Thursday we have the meeting with the law enforcement officials; we'll do an event around the federal fleet conversion.
Brit you're going to have to write on the blackboard. (Laughter.) We're going to get an overhead projector so you can work the crossword puzzle -- (laughter).
Q -- nine-letter word for stonewall.
Q Is the President considering appeals to reduce the sentence for Jonathan J. Pollard? And has he been advised against that?
MS. MYERS: He is awaiting a recommendation from the Department of Justice on that. As you know, the Department of Justice collects recommendations from other places in the federal government and forwards them to the President. So once he gets that he'll review it and make a decision.
Q Is he involved yet in that process?
MS. MYERS: No, he's waiting for the recommendation from DOJ.
Q But I don't understand. At any point can somebody lobby the White House, the Justice Department for a reduction in somebody's sentence; and then the Justice Department automatically reviews that; and then the White House has to -- or is this a special case? I mean, I don't understand --
Q And how do you get the President's attention on a deal like this?
MS. MYERS: You have some friends you're kind of worried about? (Laughter.) I don't know -- there is a --
Q trying to get this writing on the blackboard reduced. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Take that right up to the top. I can certainly double-check but I'm not sure what the process is. There is somebody at the Department of Justice who handles appeals for pardons. So it's a fairly --
Q Well, doesn't the appeal process -- didn't it start when Rabin wrote to Clinton and asked for --
MS. MYERS: Certainly Rabin did write, but I don't know what the technical trigger is. So we'll take that --
Q Did it start with the President and he referred it to Justice or -- I mean, just how did it work?
MS. MYERS: Well, it's certainly something that's been talked about; and I don't know what triggered -- I don't know if the President asked the Department of Justice to review it or if there's something else that triggered it. I'll have to take that. I'm just not sure how the process started.
Q what stage is it in, and when do you expect to get some recommendations from Justice?
MS. MYERS: Fairly soon. Fairly soon.
Q Has he asked for recommendations from people other than the Justice Department, such as defense or intelligence agencies?
MS. MYERS: No, those are collected by the Department of Justice.
Q So the President himself is not going to hear from those people.
MS. MYERS: No. They're collected by the Department of Justice, and then forwarded through the Deputy Attorney General to the President. And the Attorney General can make a comment in that process if she chooses.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:39 P.M. EST