THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
2:01 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: Just a quick announcement on the schedule for the meeting with President Kravchuk on Friday. The meeting will begin at 11:30 a.m., followed by lunch at 12:20 p.m. in the Residence. At 1:30 p.m. there will be the usual press availability which will likely include the signing of some agreements in the areas of economics -- particularly in the areas of economics.
So that's an exciting moment for us to all look forward to.
Q It won't be outside in the snow, huh? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Well, you guys enjoyed that a lot yesterday, so we're thinking of making that permanent venue for foreign leaders. No, it will be in the East Room.
Q The leaders looked awfully dignified also.
Q Is the President still satisfied with Mr. Hubbell in light of the investigation by his former law firm?
MS. MYERS: Let me tell you everything that I know about that at this point. The White House learned of the issue yesterday after inquiries from The Washington Post. Upon receiving phone calls, Chief of Staff Mack McLarty telephoned Mr. Hubbell, and Web told him essentially what his lawyer told The Washington Post, which was that it did not happen. At that time, Mack --
Q What did not happen?
MS. MYERS: Well, the charges outlined in The Post story.
Q Charges of overcharges or --
MS. MYERS: Yes, exactly. And at that point Mack informed the President. That is essentially what we know at this point. And I understand that Webb Hubbell will have more to say about this later.
MS. MYERS: Today. I'm not sure in what forum, but --
Q What was the President's reaction upon being told this?
MS. MYERS: Well, he stands by Webb. He believes him. He believes his denial.
Q All that happened is Mack calls him up and says, how about it, Webb; and Webb says, not true; and that's good enough for everybody here?
MS. MYERS: That's correct.
Q They're all friends from Arkansas and shouldn't somebody other than an Arkansan and a great friend of Webb Hubbell look into this for the White House?
MS. MYERS: Well, Mack McLarty is the Chief of Staff. I think it is appropriate that he would be the one to make the inquiry. He did. He spoke to Webb about it, and again, Webb told him the same thing that Webb's lawyer later told The Post, which is that it just didn't happen. It wasn't true.
Q Did he ask for any specifics about what it is about -- obviously, it's enough to trigger an investigation within that firm. Did Mr. McLarty inquire any further than, how about it, old buddy, is this true or not, or what?
MS. MYERS: I don't know all the details of their conversation. I think the specifics are an internal matter at the Rose law firm, and I can't speak for them. But I think Webb received -- Mack received assurances from Webb that it wasn't true. And the President's dissatisfied by that.
Q That what wasn't true -- that the investigation is not taking place or that what he's being investigated for are not true?
MS. MYERS: I don't know any more about the investigation than what I read in The Post -- that the charges that, of overbilling and misuse of funds were not true.
Q Were you able to verify there was a review, there is an ongoing review internally? I mean, does the White House know whether the law firm is investigating him or --
MS. MYERS: No. I mean, I think that, again, what we know about it is what was in The Post this morning in terms of an investigation. That's something you'd have to talk to the Rose firm --
Q Well, did Hubbell dispute in his conversation with McLarty that it's being looked into?
MS. MYERS: He simply assured him that the charges were not true. And, again, Webb will have more to say about this, and I would let him --
Q And Mr. McLarty didn't even want to find out whether there was an investigation going on in the firm?
MS. MYERS: I think he was -- what he wanted to know was were the charges true, and Webb said they were not. Again, I don't speak for the Rose firm. Webb will have more to say about this later, and I just can't talk about the details.
Q Are you saying that McLarty will not go further --
Q You don't know if Mack even asked him, or are you saying that Mack doesn't know whether there's an investigation?
MS. MYERS: I don't know all the details of their conversation. I think what Mack was looking for was an assurance that the charges were not true. Webb gave him that.
Q It's possible that Mack asked --
MS. MYERS: It's possible. I don't know what the details, the extent of their conversation.
Q Did Chief of Staff McLarty call anyone else other than Webb Hubbell and -- in other words, did he call the Rose firm and ask the managing partner whether there is in fact an investigation? Did the Chief of Staff make any effort to call anyone else to pursue this?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of.
Q So all he did was to call his old friend of many years standing who is the subject of this alleged investigation and ask him --
MS. MYERS: To ask if the charges were true, correct.
Q Is anyone in the Counsel's Office looking into this and pursuing this in any way?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. Again, it's an internal Rose matter at this point.
Q Is anybody elsewhere in the White House or elsewhere in the administration looking into what happened or what didn't happen, or is Mack's inquiry, "Webb, did this happen," "No, it didn't" the extent of this?
MS. MYERS: Well, let's focus on what it is. It is an internal -- what The Washington Post says today is that there's an internal investigation. That is something that is being conducted internally. I think -- we can't speak to that. That is not a White House issue. That is not --
Q Well, wait a minute, Dee Dee --
Q But somebody could sit down with Webb and go through with him what his billing practices were and what his understanding is of this investigation.
MS. MYERS: That's the firm's responsibility.
Q You said it doesn't have to do with the White House. Doesn't the White House care whether or not Mr. Hubbell engaged in what is, internal Rose investigation or not, plainly unethical behavior? And if it does care, why does it not do something --
MS. MYERS: That is something --
Q more than call a guy up on the phone and say, how about it, old friend?
MS. MYERS: Wait, wait, wait, Brit. That is something that is being looked at, according to The Washington Post, at the Rose law firm. I can't speak to that.
Q You just said it has nothing to do with the White House. But doesn't the White House care -- Rose firm investigation or not, doesn't the White House care about this?
MS. MYERS: The specifics of that are not something that we are involved in. That is something that is being -- that is something that -- I can't speak for the Rose firm.
Q Then what was the purpose of the call then?
MS. MYERS: The purpose of the call was to establish whether or not the charges were in fact true.
Q But asking the defendant is normally --
MS. MYERS: Webb has denied those --
Q not the number one way of finding out whether the charges are true or not.
MS. MYERS: I would also remind you that there isn't anybody on the record who acknowledges these charges. I would also point out that Webb Hubbell was fully vetted. He went through a Senate confirmation process by the White House Counsel's Office. And I think a Senate confirmation process, which I don't think anybody here would suggest that those are taken lightly or not thorough or in many cases quite combative, so --
Q What about the Attorney General? Has anybody here spoken with her about her approach to this and whether or not the credibility of the Justice Department is now on the line, considering that there has been a cloud of some sort cast over the person who has to supervise all of the civil work for the entire department?
MS. MYERS: Nobody has spoken to Attorney General Janet Reno. And again, I would just point out that Webb Hubbell will have more to say about this later.
Q Did Mack McLarty recommend Mr. Hubbell make a public statement?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so, no.
Q Have they had a conversation since that conversation yesterday, or was it just the one?
MS. MYERS: No, Mack just spoke to him yesterday.
Q Has the President spoken to Mr. Hubbell at all since --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Has the First Lady?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. I don't believe so.
Q In what forum is he making this statement?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. That's something that they -- I don't think they've decided yet exactly what form it will take.
Q Do you happen to know if the First Lady as a former senior partner at Rose law firm was aware of the investigation?
MS. MYERS: She was not. She learned about it yesterday from her staff after they received similar queries from The Washington Post.
Q if it came up during the FBI background investigation of Mr. Hubbell?
MS. MYERS: I don't know all the details of the FBI background investigation.
Q Can you answer the question of whether -- you said the Counsel's Office isn't doing any work on this. Is anyone in the administration of the White House currently gathering records, interviewing people, looking at it, organizing to react to it -- any possible -- separate from the Rose investigation?
MS. MYERS: We're doing our best to answer questions about it. But I don't know of any -- I don't think there's any additional inquiry or investigation here. I don't believe that's happening.
Q This investigation supposedly started in the summer of 1992 when Bill Kennedy was managing partner of the Rose law firm. Has anybody at the White House asked him if he was aware of this investigation?
MS. MYERS: He was not.
Q What was the question?
Q He was not aware of any such investigation.
MS. MYERS: The question was, was Bill Kennedy aware of the investigation as managing partner at the Rose law firm. The answer is no.
Q And he never became subsequently aware of it in his continuing contacts --
MS. MYERS: He learned of it yesterday.
Q Who asked Kennedy?
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure who talked to him. We talked to him today. I'm not sure who first informed him about it.
Q But you're saying that -- just to make this clear, you're not saying that Hubbell has confirmed or not confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation; you're simply saying that the substance of any charges that he either double-billed or charged personal expenses to the firm were untrue.
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q But that you have not yet ascertained whether there is in fact or isn't in fact an investigation by the firm. Is that --
MS. MYERS: Right. And my response to that is that Webb will have more to say about this later.
Q Do you know if Mr. Hubbell knew of this investigation?
MS. MYERS: He'll have more to say about this later.
Q How does the White House know that Hubbell's going to say something?
Q You're saying that Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Hubbell had no idea that this investigation was going on?
MS. MYERS: We talked to some folks over there today to find out if --
Q Then who spoke to whom, may I ask?
MS. MYERS: I believe that we spoke to --
Q We --
MS. MYERS: We in the Communications Office -- I believe Mark spoke with somebody over there in their communications office to find out how they were handling inquiries.
Q Were any recommendations transmitted from this end?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q That's just an inquiry to find out what you were saying or what they were saying?
MS. MYERS: Yes, just to find out what they were doing so that we could --
Q Coordinate your accounts?
MS. MYERS: -- push those questions off to them -- (laughter) -- as appropriate.
Q Dee Dee, Super 301 announcement today? Is that erroneous or can we expect that?
MS. MYERS: No announcement is scheduled. The final decision has not been made. There are snickers in the front row.
Q NEC is meeting on this this afternoon?
MS. MYERS: There is an NEC meeting. I believe it's happening now. A final decision has not been made on this. As soon as a decision is made, if one is made, we will let you know.
Q Could it be today?
Q Is it possible that immediately after the meeting, the option is presented to the President, he signs off --
MS. MYERS: I don't want to rule anything out. I wouldn't hold my breath for this afternoon.
Q I want to clarify some part of what the President said this morning -- the quote, "Since the framework agreement may well not be carried out" -- unquote. What he wanted to say is since the framework talks did not end successfully or something or --
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he -- since Prime Minister Hosokawa left, we have not heard back from the Japanese government on the framework talks. Essentially, the ball is in their court. The President has made clear what the U.S. requires which is some kind of a qualitative and quantitative measure of progress. Some way to guarantee that there has been progress. I think since the Prime Minister left again, we haven't heard from them. We're certainly open to any ideas they have for reaching our standard for quantifiable, qualitative, and quantitative measures to guarantee that markets are opening and that there is more access for U.S. goods and services. But so far, we haven't heard from them.
Q When 301 is decided, what form will the announcement take?
MS. MYERS: No decision on that yet, either.
Q Will it be the President or will it more likely be a piece of paper?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we've -- we'll have to get a decision and then decide how we want to go about making the announcement should that be necessary.
Q The President mentioned hope for a phone call with King Hussein. Has that come off yet?
MS. MYERS: It was supposed to happen at 1:00 p.m.. I don't know -- I haven't verified that it happened.
Q What is he saying to Mubarak and Hussein and all the people that he's talking to?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he just wanted to urge everybody to continue in the peace process. One of the things that he said today was that if the tragedy in Hebron succeeds in derailing the peace process, then the extremists will have been handed a victory. And he thinks that is the last thing that we should allow to happen.
Q So is he asking them to pressure Arafat?
MS. MYERS: I think he's just asking everybody to continue to work toward peace, yes, to participate in the process. The PLO announced the name today of the person that they're sending. Let me give you that. It's Nabil Shaath, who was scheduled to arrive here tomorrow. We'll meet with some of the peace team on Thursday, and then we'll meet with Secretary Christopher on Friday morning before he leaves for Asia. So we'll continue to work with the Palestinians and with the Israelis to try move toward getting the talks restarted here in Washington.
Q Has the President talked about Florida politics with his brother-in-law?
MS. MYERS: I don't know specifically the answer to that. He said -- he answered that question himself today about his position on Hugh.
Q We talked about Rodham having to make the decision, but it left open the question of whether Rodham had asked him his feeling about such a campaign.
MS. MYERS: I can take that. I honestly don't know the answer to that.
Q He seems very cool to his brother-in-law's candidacy.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he's pointed out that it's up to Hugh to decide what he's going to do. And he said in the fall he expects to be campaigning for all the Democrats. So I'll leave this answer at that.
Q You said he hadn't filed, and, in fact, he did file yesterday. There was also quite a contrast between his feeling for his brother-in-law and his feeling on Rostenkowski in London. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Again, at this point, I think I'll let the President's statement stand. I have nothing to add to what he said today.
The phone call to Hussein did happen. It was a brief call, and we may have -- we'll probably put out a couple of sentences on that later.
Q When the President said that he wouldn't get involved in primaries, what did he think he was doing in Chicago on Monday?
MS. MYERS: He did not endorse a candidate in Chicago on Monday. But I think he made very clear that he's going to support candidates who support his initiative. Chairman Rostenkowski worked hard last year on the budget, on NAFTA. He's fighting hard for health care reform and a tough but smart crime bill. And we'll continue to work with him.
Q Hugh Rodham isn't being supportive enough on health care. Is that the problem?
MS. MYERS: Again, I have nothing to add to what the President said today about his brother-in-law.
Q It can only go downhill.
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q I'm sorry to drag you back --
MS. MYERS: Don't do it, Ruth, please.
Q I'm really sorry. I feel terrible about this, I do. But -- (laughter) --
Q Do it, Ruth, do it. (Laughter.)
Q You'll feel better later.
Q The idea that a significant figure in the Clinton administration is allegedly under investigation for some pretty serious things by his own law firm and the administration is satisfied with a brief telephone conversation with the Chief of Staff, and then is going to look into the matter no further seems like a pretty kind of lax attitude. And I'm wondering if you can comment on that.
MS. MYERS: Well, two things: one, again I would just remind you that Webb Hubbell will have more to say about this himself and I don't want to be in a position of trying to speak for him. In terms of our view of this, it is something that is being handled internally by the Rose firm. I think that's something that they certainly can choose how to run their internal matters, and I can't speak for them either. But I think Mack McLarty was assured by Webb that the charges were not -- that the allegations or the questions raised in The Post story were not true. And I don't think any other specific charges have been filed in any kind of -- I mean, they're reviewing this internally. Nobody's accused him of doing anything wrong. Let's just wait and see what he has to say later today.
Q Dee Dee, would you expect to get some sort of report or information from the Rose law firm on what they find?
MS. MYERS: I don't think they are anticipating reporting to the White House; I don't think that that's their obligation.
Q I know, but would the White House like it if they did?
Q How will you find out whether or not the charges are true?
MS. MYERS: I think we asked Mr. Hubbell whether the charges were true.
Q Suppose he lied?
MS. MYERS: I would never suppose such a thing. And again, Webb will have more to say about this later and I just would urge you to wait and hear what he has to say.
Q Did the President have any prior knowledge of this?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q I mean, these guys play golf together, they know each other very well.
MS. MYERS: Again, the President was informed yesterday by Mack after he spoke with Webb.
Q What time was that?
MS. MYERS: It was late afternoon, early evening when Mack reached Webb, and I think he informed the President sometime thereafter; so probably early evening.
Q Dee Dee, you said that you didn't know whether or not the FBI background check had uncovered this. It's possible, then, that they could have uncovered this and discounted it. Could you take that question and see if --
MS. MYERS: I would just -- yes, I'll see what we know about that.
Q Along those lines, do you know anything about the origin of this investigation?
Q Can you tell us who in the Counsel's Office vetted Webb?
MS. MYERS: Somebody in the Counsel's Office, but we're not providing any names.
Q But it's all internal, it wasn't one of the outside vetters?
Q Bill Kennedy?
MS. MYERS: No, it was not Bill Kennedy. I will say that. Yes, he was on staff, the vetter.
Q Does Hubbell plan to remain as Associate Attorney General?
MS. MYERS: The President has full confidence in him.
Q Does he intend to -- to the best of your knowledge --
MS. MYERS: To the best of my knowledge, yes.
Q He's not going to resign today or anything?
MS. MYERS: No, to the best of my knowledge. I, again, leave you to his statement later today.
Q Were there inquiries made to the RTC or the FPIC about whether they were looking into this? Or was there any communication with either of the banking or financial --
MS. MYERS: With the White House?
MS. MYERS: No, absolutely not.
Q Then no communication was faxed to them?
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry?
Q The White House did not ask them, and neither of those agencies communicated in any way with the White House on the Webb Hubbell matter today?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Anything new on North Korea?
MS. MYERS: No, we expect inspections to resume soon. The inspectors are there, and we expect that the North-South dialogue will be -- representatives, working level representatives will meet in Panmunjom tomorrow; so we'll see how that goes.
Q What does tomorrow look like?
Q Any indication of what the President's doing tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow the President --
MS. MYERS: Yeah, this is exciting.
Q Oh, no.
MS. MYERS: You have all earned this today. (Laughter.) At 10:30 a.m. tomorrow --
Q Are you scheduling events to punish us? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I want you to keep in mind what happens. At 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, in the Roosevelt Room, the President and Vice President will do an event to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the President asking the Vice President to perform his REGO study. (Laughter.) To undertake the REGO project.
Q Wait a minute, you're going to do a year anniversary of the bloody assignment?
MS. MYERS: Because we're going to talk about the results -- how much progress we've made in the last year. There will be people there --
Q What are you going to do in a year of this report -- have a week-long festival in the Roosevelt Room? (Laughter.)
Q Are you going to have a one-year anniversary of the request that the Attorney General look at Pollard? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Still -- we're getting close to that, we're working up to that. Still no report on Pollard.
Oh, but wait, there's more on REGO tomorrow. At 1:00 p.m., Leon Panetta and Elaine Kamarck will be right here in this very Briefing Room at this podium to talk about how much progress they've made.
Q That will be on background, of course. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Probably. (Laughter.) And then on Friday we have the Kravchuk schedule, which I gave you. And Saturday, live radio address. And at this point he's scheduled to be off for the rest of the weekend.
Q Dee Dee, has anyone involved in the reinventing government project attempted to call the White House main switchboard number? And if so, have they gotten an answer?
Q Which we used to get. Like a real human being answering the phone.
MS. MYERS: As opposed to the automated system?
Q As opposed to -- Reinventing Government and the phone will ring and ring and ring, 25, 30 times before anybody picks up on it.
MS. MYERS: Is that right? I am unaware of that, but I'll get on it right away and ask them to reinvent their phone system.
Q I wouldn't call them, I'd go over there. (Laughter.)
Q Let's get those wonderful operators back who did such a brilliant job --
MS. MYERS: I will take that question, though, and find out what the situation is. I think we've had enough --
Q It's really true, you cannot get through for love or money.
Q One quickie. Nobody from the White House or elsewhere in the administration has called anybody at the Rose law firm to get their assessment of the situation?
MS. MYERS: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Could you take the question --
MS. MYERS: Yes, I'm quite sure that that has not happened. The question is, has anybody from the White House called anybody at the Rose firm.
Q Why not --
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the Rose firm answered the question in the story today; Webb's lawyer answered the question in the story today. We spoke with Webb's lawyer, and it's an internal matter --
Q You spoke with Webb's lawyer?
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry, we spoke with Webb. Mack spoke with Webb. The Post spoke with Webb's lawyer. The managing partner, or whoever is speaking for the Webb firm was on the record in that story.
Q Saying, "no comment."
MS. MYERS: And I would leave the rest of it to Webb later today.
Q Why wouldn't you want to talk to the Rose law firm to find out if there's something going on that you should know about?
Q A possible cloud over your Justice Department.
MS. MYERS: Again, Webb's going to have more to say about this. And I think that's the best place to go next is to let him speak.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:23 P.M. EST