THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEE DEE MYERS
The Briefing Room
2:20 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: This is an "in case you missed it." Secretary Bentsen pointed out yesterday that in the first 100 days after taking effect, the Brady Bill stopped more than five percent of weapons purchases, so that's literally thousands of weapons that might otherwise have been purchased by people with criminal backgrounds or other problems were prevented from doing so. So that's a little on the good news front. With that --
Q On that line, Sarah Brady is very critical of the compromise reached on the crime bill because of the exception for the pawnbrokers -- they can sell back guns to people. Does the President still believe that exception is worth going ahead?
MS. MYERS: Oh, absolutely. The President said that he didn't want any one element to hold up the crime bill. And I would just point out that if you look at not who is against the bill but who is for it, it has the overwhelming support of the law enforcement community, people who are on the front lines of fighting crime, whether it's the prosecutors or the police officers, or the district attorneys, or the attorneys general, or any number of law enforcement organizations from around the country who are very enthusiastically advocating passage of the bill. We expect that it will come up in the House. The rule will be voted on tomorrow, and then hopefully the entire bill should the rule pass.
Q Do you have the votes for the bill?
MS. MYERS: I think we're optimistic. We're hopeful that the House will take this up and vote passage tomorrow. He may make a couple of phone calls on this later today just to make sure that everything is on track.
Q Members of the hierarchy of the Treasury Department up on Capitol Hill and elsewhere are contradicting each other in seeming to have real questions about each other's veracity on a number of matters. Doesn't the President feel that maybe he needs to do something about the structure of his staffing over there? And does he believe that he's getting really effective work out of the Treasury Department team as it's currently construed?
MS. MYERS: The first point is, yes, absolutely he has great faith in the Treasury Department under the leadership of Secretary Bentsen. That has been a very effective department in the past 18 months during this administration, and the President is confident that it will continue to do that.
I would just point out that the three investigations that have been already concluded, looking into contacts between the White House and the Treasury, have concluded that no laws were broken and no ethical standards were violated. We've cooperated fully here at the White House, and the Treasury Department, as the President instructed, and we expect that the congressional hearings will find the same thing, that no legal or ethical standards were violated.
Q Does the President intend to make any changes in his team?
MS. MYERS: At this point, the President has full confidence in his team, in Secretary Bentsen, in Deputy Secretary Roger Altman and the rest of the team over at Treasury.
Q What do you mean by "at this point"?
MS. MYERS: I should not qualify it. The President has full confidence.
Q Dee Dee, is the First Lady now prepared to revise the statement she made in her news conference on April 22nd that Maggie Williams did not remove any documents from Vince Foster's office, but that, in fact, the documents were simply transferred to lawyers, as Bernard Nussbaum had suggested was appropriate? Apparently Mrs. Williams has made it plain that, in fact, the documents were in the residence safe for five days and were taken there at Mrs. Clinton's direction by Ms. Williams. Is the First Lady now going to revise what she said?
MS. MYERS: I think that it is true that Maggie didn't remove any documents from Vince's office; they were removed by Bernie Nussbaum.
Let me just make a couple of points. First of all, I think that is one area that is still under investigation by Mr. Fiske, and so I think it would be inappropriate for me to say too much about it. You're free to call Lloyd Cutler if you want to discuss more details about this. But I do think that a portion of that leaked out -- I don't know where it came from -- and so Maggie Williams and others at the White House have confirmed that, in fact, files were transferred from --
Q It's in a memo --
MS. MYERS: No, I'm just pointing out -- the source of this story originally was something that leaked out from the ongoing investigation. It has, I'm pointing out, in fact, been confirmed by people at the White House that the files went from Mr. Nussbaum to Maggie for safekeeping over the weekend while Bob Barnett and others went to Little Rock for the funeral of Mr. Foster.
The President and the First Lady did not look at those files. A messenger from Mr. Barnett's office, who was then acting as the President and First Lady's personal attorney, picked the files up on Monday and took them to Williams & Connally.
QQ Was the President aware that that was done?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so.
Q It was in the residence safe?
MS. MYERS: There is an office on the third floor, and, I think, a closet with a lock where they keep some of their personal documents.
Q Who had access to them in the meantime and while they were there, do you know?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q Why those files, of all the files in Foster's office?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if they -- exactly what files there were. And again, this is something that is continuing to be investigated by Mr. Fiske, and so it's --
Q That would be the reason thy the First Lady would have nothing further to say at this time?
MS. MYERS: I think that there's an ongoing investigation looking into this. And again, I think we did what we could to clarify events around a memo that was leaked. But at this point, I think we will -- I would refer you to Mr. Cutler's office for any additional questions.
Q Was it not also indicated at the time that the President -- neither the President, nor the First Lady was given any briefings based upon the information given by Treasury and-or RTC officials to White House aides? That appears to be contradicted by the presence of this rather long Harold Icke's memo to Mrs. Clinton, doesn't it?
MS. MYERS: I don't think I'm going to comment on that at this time. I think the President has made a statement about what he knew and when he knew it, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to say anything more.
Q If I could just follow up on what Brit was asking, one more thing. Without going back voluminously through the record, it's my recollection that both you and Mark were asked a lot of questions in the last few months about the chain of custody of those papers, and made statements that I'm sure you believed were true at the time, but Maggie must have known were not.
MS. MYERS: I think that's a fair point. And I think, in hindsight, we should have been more clear about exactly what the chain of custody on those documents was. And I think that was a mistake. And I think after March, when documents and individuals were subpoenaed and we began cooperating with the ongoing investigation, I think then it was difficult for us to talk to one another here about specific incidents. But in hindsight, I think clearly we should have been more specific about the chain of custody for those documents.
Q So, Dee Dee, are you saying then that you did know what the chain of custody was?
MS. MYERS: No, I said earlier today that I did not know. But we as the White House --
Q So when you say you should have been clearer, meaning --
MS. MYERS: That we, the White House, should have been more clear about the chain of custody on the documents.
Q So Maggie should have told you or told someone?
MS. MYERS: I don't think it's useful to go through exactly who should have said what to whom, other than I think we left a misimpression. And I think in hindsight, we should have been more careful not to do that.
Q But you were in a situation then, you're saying, where you were making erroneous statements. Maggie Williams was noting your erroneous statements and making no move to correct them.
MS. MYERS: No, I think my statements were incomplete. I don't know that they were -- they certainly were not intentionally misleading. They were incomplete and -- but I think -- again, I'm not going to point fingers or name names, but I think that there were additional facts that we could have presented that would have made it more clear what the exact chain of custody was; and in hindsight, we should have done that.
But after March, I think it became difficult due to the ongoing investigations. And again, we were very -- on the advice of counsel, I think, restricted from talking to one another about specific incidents.
Q Whose responsibility is it to make sure that you, as the President's spokesman, have that information or are able to make those points clear?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that depends. I think -- again, I --
Q In this case, is there any responsibility on Maggie Williams?
MS. MYERS: I don't think it's useful to get into that. I certainly think Maggie is an excellent representative of the President and First Lady. She's very straightforward and works extremely hard. I'm certainly not here to implicate anybody. I think clearly we've made some mistakes, particularly around the end of the year, the beginning of this year, with reference to some of the answers that we provided. I think we've acknowledged that in the past. And, again I think we could have been a little clearer about the chain of custody on those documents. But I think we've done what we can to confirm the facts as we know them since.
Q On Haiti, can you give us an update on where the White House stands vis-a-vis a possible compromise with Cedras departing in exchange for perhaps new elections in which Aristide may be a candidate, but in which he would not necessarily be directly restored by the United States?
MS. MYERS: There's been no change in our policy, which is that we do not recognize the de facto government of Haiti under the auspices of the military rulers and their friends. We would not recognize any elections there under that regime. There is certainly not an atmosphere there conducive to democratic elections. What we continue to insist upon is the restoration of democracy and the return of President Aristide, who was duly elected and still has time left in his term, which we expect that he will serve.
Q Would you be willing to discuss or accept a compromise in which democracy was restored, but Aristide may not be restored?
MS. MYERS: There's been no change in our position. We expect democracy to be restored, and President Aristide, who was elected with 67 percent of the Haitian people's vote as their elected leader, to be restored as well.
Q When Richardson met with the President last week, was there any discussion of a possible slight of hand that would achieve some kind of an exit of the Cedras regime?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q Dee Dee, to follow up on Haiti, Congressman Richardson has been invited back. Does the White House think he should go?
MS. MYERS: I don't know who here -- I was unaware of his invitation --
Q Cedras apparently has --
MS. MYERS: I'm just not aware that he was invited. Last time, he was briefed by people in the administration about what the details of our policy were and where we were. He went down there on his own initiative certainly as a congressman. He is free to travel as he sees fit. But if he's heading back down there, I'm sure he'll talk with us and we can have a chance to talk about where we are in this process.
Q I think what he's saying is that he'd like White House approval before he went back.
MS. MYERS: I don't know whether he's contacted anybody here yet, or not. I would expect that he would to talk to people here. But if that conversation takes place, we'll have a little more to say about what our expectations for his trip are. He went as an individual citizen the last time, as you know, as a member of Congress.
Q was reported today of people standing in line in Port au Prince to apply for asylum and taken out of line by Haitian thugs and then a warning has been sent at least through, I believe, the U.S. Embassy to news organizations down there to be careful what they print. Your view of these things, and also, given these developments and the state of siege now being in place for 24 hours, has the threat assessment for Americans down there or foreigners in general changed?
MS. MYERS: I don't think that we've issued any additional advisories out of the State Department. I can doublecheck that and get back to you. As far as I know there has been no additional -- obviously, we're very concerned about reports that people who were waiting to apply for asylum in Port au Prince or other places were roughed up. We're looking into that through our embassy down in Haiti. Obviously, we're very concerned about it, and we continue to watch the situation generally. But I know of no other official advisories or warnings.
Q Do you have anything on the shooting of one of the opposition leaders?
MS. MYERS: No, nothing for you on that.
Q Back to the Whitewater hearings -- Roger Altman testifies this afternoon, and he says that he's going to stay and fight and won't be the fall guy. Does the President also want Altman to stay and fight?
MS. MYERS: The President has confidence in Roger Altman, thinks he's done an excellent job as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and hopes that he'll stay on.
Q Some people looked at the statement that was issued last week, the one-sentence statement supporting Altman, and interpreted it as in fact being sort of an invitation to leave. Do you think -- what do you think of that?
MS. MYERS: I think that's ludicrous. The President put out a statement affirming his faith in a member of his sub-Cabinet. I think that that speaks for itself. The statement said the President had confidence in Mr. Altman and hoped that he would stay on, and I think that should be taken at face value. The President has confidence in Roger Altman and hopes that he'll stay on. He's done an excellent job, he's a key member of the economic team in this administration, he's well respected by his colleagues both in the White House, at the Treasury Department, and around the administration. And I think the President's words speak for themselves.
Q And who do you want to be the fall guy? (Laughter.)
Q If not him, who? If not now, when?
Q How about the General Counsel? Does he feel that same way about her?
MS. MYERS: He stands by all the employees at Treasury.
Q Rita asked about this first, and then Susan took a stab at it. The President says he has confidence in Altman and in Bentsen. But what's happened the last two days is, under oath, Treasury Department officials are contradicting one another. And Fiske's investigation notwithstanding, that's never happened before. Does that create any kind of problem --
MS. MYERS: I don't know that that's never happened before. I certainly wouldn't be willing -- in what context has it never happened before?
Q I meant in context of Whitewater. This is a new thing that's happened in the last two days. That's why we're asking about it.
MS. MYERS: Well, certainly people have different --
Q You keep saying he's doing a good job --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q but what we're saying that based on what's happened yesterday and today, is this a problem at all that these three officials are telling different stories under oath?
MS. MYERS: I think that that is -- sometimes people have different recollections or differing recollections of events. It is certainly not for the White House to try to sort those out. I would just remind you that three investigations have been conducted about the contacts that are now being discussed on the Hill -- one by Mr. Fiske, one by the Office of Government Ethics, and one by White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler. All three of those -- well, Mr. Fiske's concluded that no laws were broken; and the OGE and White House inquiries concluded that no ethical standards were broken.
The congressional hearings will go forward. I think Mr. Altman will have his chance to respond and to answer the members of Congress and members of Senate's questions today, and we'll wait and hear what he has to say. But I think certainly every bit of evidence, every conclusion to date supports that nothing -- no wrongdoing was committed. And so I think --
Q Well, you said, in answer to my question, different recollections. Is the White House confident that that's all this is, differing recollections?
MS. MYERS: Don't -- it's not for me or the White House or the President to make those judgments. There are three independent -- or two independent investigations and one White House Counsel inquiry which looked at these questions and reached conclusions based on the facts, and talked to all the people involved.
Q But the conclusion, wasn't it, that there was nothing illegal --
MS. MYERS: Nothing illegal and no ethical standards were broken.
Q Does that mean that the general standards of probity, propriety, willingness to be forthcoming that Mr. Clinton has set for his administration have been met? How can that be so in the face of this welter of contradictions?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think, first of all, people have been extremely forthcoming, extremely cooperative with all the ongoing inquiries, including the current congressional inquiry. I think -- what was the first part of your question; I lost my train of thought.
Q Well, I'm just saying that, yes, they've been cleared of official violations of one kind or another; that doesn't meant Mr. Clinton's standards --
MS. MYERS: The point I wanted to make was -- of course, the President does not -- would expect the truth and straightforward responses from all members of this administration, which I think all members have provided to the best of their ability. But I think Mr. Cutler, in his testimony and in subsequent conversations with you all in the media, has said that some errors in judgment were committed and some mistakes were made, and that he has, among other things, tried to make it clearer to people here in the White House what their obligations are, what the rules are and how best to follow those to avoid making similar mistakes in the future.
I wouldn't say that no mistakes were made. Clearly, I think we've admitted that some were. But I think that the three investigations have concluded that no laws were broken and no ethical standards were violated. I think the President, of course, would expect the highest standards of professional integrity from every single member of this administration.
Q In his prepared statement, Altman apologizes if he misled anyone. Do you think an apology is warranted in this case?
MS. MYERS: I leave that to Mr. Altman's judgment. But I think if he feels that he inadvertently misled someone and he feels that it's appropriate to apologize, then that's a good thing.
Q Do you have any concerns that the -- on the subject of health care -- that the Senate bill that Senator Mitchell is introducing today will undercut attempts in the House to get more expanded coverage and employer mandates?
MS. MYERS: From everything -- I think Senator Mitchell is scheduled to do his press conference at what -- 3:00 p.m. -- and I think all expectations are that his bill will include universal coverage through employer mandates somewhere down the line.
Q But it's triggered down the road and it's a soft trigger and it's not nearly what the House bill is.
MS. MYERS: I don't know if it's a soft trigger. I haven't seen the final language; I think it's a fairly hard trigger. But I think that it is now up to the various -- to the two Houses to pass the various versions of their bills and then to work it out in conference. I think what's most important, and what the President is very gratified about, is that both bills contain commitment to universal coverage, cost containment, and they both preserve choice and quality within the system.
Q If you were a House member, why would you go to the well and vote for employer mandates against the opposition of lobbyists in your district when the Senate is taking a dive on that?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we'll have to let the legislative process play itself out here. I think clearly there will be some byplay, some back and forth between the House and the Senate as the decisions about when and what to vote on first are reached. And I think we'll have to wait until next week to see exactly how the votes are scheduled. I think Senator Mitchell said he expected the first votes on his bill could come as early as the middle of next week.
And I think that certainly there will be an attempt by both Houses and whatever extent we can help do that to facilitate voting in both Houses and reach some kind of a mutually acceptable bills in both Houses that can lead to a conference report that will pass.
Q Is retaining some form of employer mandate critical to the President's support for the Mitchell plan?
MS. MYERS: What is critical to the President is universal coverage. And what he has said is that nobody has shown him a way to get to universal coverage other than some kind of a shared responsibility between employers and employees.
As he's said all along, he'd be open to looking at other ways to get there. But nobody's been able to show him one other than an employer mandate or some kind of shared responsibility. That builds on the current system -- the current private sector system that we have now; it is the least disruptive; and it does get you to universal. So we'll see exactly what's in Senator Mitchell's bill. But certainly, from all of his conversations with the President, between the President and Senator Mitchell, I think the President believes the Senator is going to produce a bill that he will be able to support.
Q Dee Dee, the Whitewater hearings are going on just as health care is really reaching the crescendo here. What is the White House understanding of the impact that these hearings will have on the health care debate?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think first, as the President has made clear, everybody here has done everything they can to cooperate with the ongoing congressional inquiries.
But I think that the general public and certainly people that are here are much more engaged in the debate and the battle to win passage of health care reform. That is one of the President's -- it is his primary domestic policy goal this year. It is one of the things that he ran for President to achieve. It is certainly much more important in terms of the future of this country than the ongoing hearings.
We'll continue to cooperate; we'll do everything we can to make sure that we provide the documents and the individuals that the Senate and the House request. But it's not going to interfere with our fight to pass health care. I don't think it is something -- I think the American people are much more interested in knowing whether or not they'll be able to keep their health care if their child gets sick or they change jobs or they move, than in additional information that's already been explored by three separate inquiries; although, certainly, we will continue to cooperate.
Q But just the fact that the hearings are taking place, it seems at least in the polls that people are more concerned, they have more doubts about the President. And could that have an impact on his political strength --
MS. MYERS: Well, I think what's more likely to have an impact is -- I'll leave that for you all to analyze, but I think if you look at what's happening -- for example, the crime bill. It was stalled in Congress for six years. I think with the President's -- it's something that he cares a great deal about, something we had fun talking about this last week, but something that he campaigned on every day -- calling for 100,000 new police officers, a ban on assault weapons, more community policing, more money for prevention, all those things that are now in the crime bill, which we expect will pass -- we hope will pass the House tomorrow and the Senate sometime next week. I think that will have more of an effect on people understanding the kind of progress this administration is making and is committed to making. And I think that will have more of an effect on the health care debate than anything else.
Q You don't think that it has any impact on the polls?
Q I mean, the crime bill has passed every election year in Congress. What did you mean by that?
MS. MYERS: There hasn't been a crime bill passed in six years. That was passed and signed into law? Six years -- this one's been in the works since 1988.
Q On Bosnia -- any comments about Serbia's warning to the Bosnian Serbs before tomorrow's meeting -- the Bosnian Serbs are going to meet tomorrow and President Milosevic made a strong warning today --
MS. MYERS: Oh, that they should accept the Contact Group plan.
MS. MYERS: Certainly that's our position. Their refusal to do so far we believe is a mistake. As the Contact Group said on Saturday, there will be consequences for their continued refusal to accept the plan, beginning with expanded sanctions and increased enforcement of existing sanctions, as well as a discussion which will result in, I think, additional resolutions down the line for expanding exclusion zones and expanding enforcement of those exclusion zones. Ultimately, this could lead to the lifting of the arms embargo if things continue.
Now, I think the Bosnian Serbs know that; we've made that very clear to them, and we continue to urge them to accept the Contact Group's plan as the only viable step toward peace.
Q Several questions on the press conference tomorrow night. Did the White House originally want to do an address to the nation as opposed to a press conference?
MS. MYERS: No, it was always envisioned as a press conference -- well, actually, I shouldn't say that. I'm confusing two topics in my own head. We discussed a number of things on health care, but decided to do a press conference.
Q You weren't turned down, you just decided press conference instead. Is that correct?
MS. MYERS: Yes. We sort of discussed a number of options and decided that this was the best way to go for a couple of reasons. One, I think we're at a critical point in the debate on health care, and it's an opportunity for the President to talk directly to the American people about that. It's also been a while since we've had an open-ended press conference where you all could ask questions about anything that was on your minds, and I think there's a lot of things out there on both foreign and domestic policy that you might have questions about.
Q Are all the networks going to cover it as far as you know --
MS. MYERS: They've certainly been notified. We're hopeful, but they don't make commitments an we certainly aren't able to request them.
Q Is this basically a health care press conference from the President's point of view, or will he talk about something on Haiti in particular or --
MS. MYERS: No, it's not on Haiti. I think there's been some misinformation to that end out there. He will open with a brief statement, probably around five minutes, where he will focus on health care, but will probably also touch on crime -- especially if, as we hope, the crime bill passes the House tomorrow, and probably the economy and the progress the economy has made in the last 18 months under the President's stewardship. And then he'll throw it open to questions which will be open-ended.
Q When will the President talk to the nation about Haiti? And what is a far-off deadline -- at some point at which there is an end here on Haiti?
MS. MYERS: First of all, there is no scheduled address on Haiti. Certainly the President will talk about it. He'll very likely be asked a question about it tomorrow night and he'll continue to talk about it. But there is certainly nothing scheduled, nothing formal. In terms of a time line, we continue to pursue our policy which included tightening sanctions. We're in the process of, I think within the next two weeks, we'll have an expanded multinational observer group on the Dominican border to help tighten down sanctions there.
As you know on Saturday, the last commercial flight left Port au Prince. There's now no longer any commercial air links between Haiti and the rest of the world, so I think there's an increasing sense of isolation in Haiti, which is having an effect. There are some signs of fissure and pressure being placed on the military by some of their former supporters.
The bottom line is, we're continuing to focus on our sanctions policy. At the same time, the President has not ruled anything out. He hasn't taken any options off the table. We now have cleared the diplomatic hurdle in the U.N., giving the President flexibility on this. But we don't have any time lines, I don't expect we'll set any.
Q Doesn't Cedras expect a deadline?
MS. MYERS: At this point, we have no plans to. We're going to continue to pursue the sanctions policy. We think it's having some effect.
Q Isn't that sending a mixed message, though? Unless there's an absolute --
MS. MYERS: I don't think so --
Q deadline, isn't this a mixed message?
MS. MYERS: I don't think that the coup leaders in Haiti should have any questions or any doubts about this. President Clinton and this administration is very serious about it. It is our objective to restore democracy and President Aristide. The international community supports that, as was evidenced in the 12-0 vote on Sunday in the United Nations in support of this policy, and I think we're moving ahead.
Q You say that as you note, this is a critical time for the health care debate. But is there also a sense within the administration that this is a critical time for the Clinton presidency? As you've also noted, the economic figures have generally been good, but the personal approval ratings don't come anywhere near reflecting that.
MS. MYERS: I think that throughout history, presidents, leaders committed to change have found the environment for making change difficult. And this President came in with a number of major changes that he wanted to see, starting with the budget. And people said a year ago, as we were in the final phases of that budget battle, that this budget would be sort of armageddon; that if we did this, we would eliminate jobs, plunge the country further into a recession, and basically destroy life as we know it in the free world.
I think most of those predictions have not only been wrong, but the exact opposite has taken place. We've seen strong economic growth, low inflation, very, very strong job creation. Manufacturing and all kinds of other sectors of the economy are picking up.
So I think that the President is going to continue to push for change. It's not easy. I think, certainly, get the crime bill done and the health care bill done this year -- people will, hopefully, judge him by his results.
Q But, again, the question is, is this a critical time for this presidency?
MS. MYERS: I think it is an important time for this presidency, sure. I don't think it's any secret that this President has worked and fought very hard to pass health care reform. He thinks it's critical not only to the health of individual citizens of this country, but as he made clear, important to our long-term fiscal health -- that unless you can do something to contain the costs of entitlements and the growth in entitlements which is driven in many ways by health care spending, then you can't bring the deficit down and you can't install the kind of fiscal responsibility that he thinks is critical to long-term economic health in this country. So this is a very important fight to him; there's no question about it.
Q On health care, Senator Mitchell, who I believe was scheduled to unveil his bill on the Senate floor prior to his press conference at 3:00 p.m. -- are you saying that the portion of the bill that calls for everybody else to be brought -- everybody above 95 percent to be brought into as part of universal coverage sometime after 2000 meets what you have consistently said is the President's goal of a reasonable time? Has the President been told what that time frame is, he knows what it is and that's acceptable to him as a reasonable time for universal coverage?
MS. MYERS: Again, I don't know if we've seen the final details of the bill, but generally, in his discussions with Senator Mitchell he has concluded that, as described, Senator Mitchell's bill is something that he could support.
Q Is the President going to try to help settle the baseball strike?
MS. MYERS: Secretary Reich, as you know, has had conversations with the mediators on both sides. I think the administration has offered to be helpful. I think it is our view that in these kinds of disputes, it is best that the two sides can sit down together and work out their differences across the table. If we can be helpful toward that end, I think we will. At this point, again, Secretary Reich is leading the effort in having conversations.
Q Is the President personally doing anything or making any calls?
MS. MYERS: No.
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of.
Q question on the AIDS Policy Director. The appointment of an interim director -- does that mean you're continuing to search, that the interim person isn't your final choice?
MS. MYERS: Correct. She's made it very clear that she expects to serve only in the interim. I believe today is Kristine Gebbie's last day. And we wanted somebody strong, familiar with the issue, respected by the community to serve in that job in the interim. But we expect -- I think she said she would serve no later than the middle of September, maybe the end of September. So we fully expect to have a new AIDS coordinator named by that time.
Q said during the appointment of the last one that they were upset with the delay and they were expressing concern again today that there appears to be another long delay in picking someone. Do you have a time line or anything like that?
MS. MYERS: Again, I think that the interim director has said she will only stay for a short period of time, a matter of weeks, and we fully expect to have a new AIDS coordinator before she goes back to HHS.
Q Is there anything wrong with the leading contenders --
MS. MYERS: We just haven't reached a conclusion on it yet. I think there are a number of strong candidates. And again, we expect to have a permanent appointment soon.
Q It was evident that when the President appointed Kristine Gebbie that he felt she had all the qualities you listed herself. What went wrong with her tenure?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think she chose to resign. So maybe that's a question better directed to her. I think the President said at the time that she'd done a good job, she'd served ably and well. She felt it was time to move on, and so we're looking for a replacement.
Q Was there any effort by the administration to get her to reconsider?
MS. MYERS: I don't think so. But I think it was her decision to go. I think the President respected that decision.
Q Is it the nature of the job that, because of all the activist groups that are as activist as they are, that perhaps it's an --
MS. MYERS: There's no question it's a difficult job; primarily because, I think, people are dying. And no matter how much you do, you have to wonder if it's ever enough as long as people are continuing to die of this terrible disease. So I think anybody coming in has to understand that they're racing against the clock and it's going to be a difficult battle every single day. But I think there are, fortunately, people out there who are willing to take it on.
Q Dee Dee, does the President have any comment on the amendment that was voted in the Senate yesterday to deny federal funding to any school district that teaches homosexuality as a way of life?
MS. MYERS: I don't have anything for you on that.
Q Will you take that?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q Dee Dee, back on Haiti for a second -- Dole has a resolution that would require congressional approval before any invasion. Does Clinton believe that he would need congressional approval if he decides to go into Haiti? Does he object to that?
MS. MYERS: We will continue to consult with Congress, as we have throughout this process. That is not an amendment that we would support.
Q Does he believe he doesn't need congressional approval, in his opinion?
MS. MYERS: I think he'll continue to consult with Congress, but that's all I'll say about it. We will consult with Congress, but would not support a resolution that would require approval.
Q Why not?
MS. MYERS: Because the President believes that consulting with Congress is the right thing to do and that it would interfere with his ability to make foreign policy.
Q Why does he think it's more important to get the approval of the United Nations other than the Congress?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it's important to signal to send to the coup leaders in Haiti that this is not just the U.S., it's the international community. And I think that continues to put pressure on the coup leaders in Haiti to do what they must do, which is step aside. Certainly the President has talked with Congress about this, will continue to do that; consultations are ongoing on a regular basis.
Q How would the President feel about a debate in Congress, to be followed by a vote, as occurred before the Gulf War, for example? Does the President want that to occur, or not?
MS. MYERS: At this point, I would say that we just have -- that's perhaps premature. He would not support the Dole amendment; we'll continue to consult.
Q What's premature? The consideration of an invasion?
Q By Congress?
MS. MYERS: Yes, the discussion of a -- the vote with a specific time line and all that.
Q Suppose the debate were on a resolution comparable to the resolution adopted by the U.N.? Surely you're not saying that the time is right for the U.N. to act, but for the U.S. Congress to please be quiet?
MS. MYERS: No, I simply meant that the President doesn't plan to go to Congress with any kind of question like that at this point.
Q I understand that. But the question, though, was how would he feel about a congressional debate and vote on a measure comparable to the U.N. measure?
MS. MYERS: I think, certainly, that's Congress' prerogative. I don't know whether there are any plans in Congress to do that.
Q Do you welcome a debate?
Q Are you saying that the President feels he could invade Haiti without congressional approval -- yes or no?
MS. MYERS: First of all, as I think we made clear a number of times, the President has not ruled that out. And we have had and will continue to have discussions with Congress about this. This is something, of course, we would expect and wish to hear from Congress on, that process is ongoing.
Q The President feels he can invade Haiti without a direct vote of Congress, not consult, but a direct vote?
MS. MYERS: I think that that's clear.
Q The War Powers Act and all that -- does he feel this applies?
MS. MYERS: We have always said we would act consistent with the War Powers Act, and we would continue to consult Congress as we have throughout this process.
Q You said it is clear that you do not have to go seek approval?
MS. MYERS: Consistent with.
Q The schedule for the rest of the week.
Q You're talking about his power as Commander-in - Chief?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Tomorrow the President has no public appearances. He has a series of just meetings, internal meetings about a number of things until the press conference which is at 8:00 p.m. Again, expect about a five minute opening statement and then 25 or 30 minutes of questions.
On Thursday there's a Cabinet meeting which is at 9:00 a.m. The main topic will be health care. The Cabinet, just by way of background, has been extremely active in the health care reform fight as has the President. In fact, just as a little primer, they have done in the past two weeks over 80 editorial boards, 150 radio interviews and more than 50 health care events.
In the next couple of weeks I think you can expect an equally vigorous push by members of the Cabinet. So we'll see if there is going to be a pool spray at the top of that. And then at 4:00 p.m. he's doing the Young American Medals ceremony. That's it for Thursday.
Friday there are no public events on the schedule. There will something on Friday, there will be an economic event on Friday. We're still working through the details. But in addition to, I think, getting some additional figures -- I think unemployment figures come out on Friday -- it will be roughly one day short of a year since the President's budget passed. So I think it will be an opportunity for us to reflect a little bit on the last 12 months.
Q There is this big push on health care, and there's no event Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?
MS. MYERS: Well, Wednesday there's a prime-time press conference where the President will talk to potentially millions of Americans.
Q No events Thursday and Friday?
MS. MYERS: Nothing on Thursday at this point and on Friday we're going to focus on the economy for a day. In the meantime though I think --
Q Is there a statistic or something coming out on Friday?
MS. MYERS: It's more tied to the one-year anniversary of the budget passing.
Q Unemployment numbers maybe?
MS. MYERS: Unemployment numbers do come out on Friday. But certainly there will be a lot of other opportunities -- the Vice President is doing events; the First Lady is doing events this week on health care.
Q The Vice President's in Poland. Is he doing health care --
MS. MYERS: Then he's back. I think he comes back -- he's actually in Kiev today. On Thursday the Vice President will speak to a health care rally on Capitol Hill. On Friday the First Lady will speak to Health Right, which is a health care advocates group on Capitol Hill. Today Mrs. Gore greeted the Southern and Central Express -- at the Naval Observatory this morning. The Cabinet will be fanning out all over the country. There will be no shortage of health care events, and I think the President will continue to be very involved.
On Saturday night he goes to Detroit, which is a fundraiser. There will be no public events.
Q Just a fundraiser?
MS. MYERS: Just a fundraiser. He'll probably take the pool. I don't know yet whether the event is open for pool remarks. We'll check into that, but it's just go out to Detroit and come right back.
Q Being paid for by the Democratic National Committee?
MS. MYERS: Yes, and I was going to get some information on that which I haven't yet done.
Q What time does he leave?
MS. MYERS: Do we have Saturday here. I think I only have through Friday. I take that back. He leaves -- it's all TBA. So, that's the schedule and Sunday is a down day.
Q What happened to plans for a health care rally in Detroit on Saturday and also for the President to greet the bus people Wednesday, I think?
MS. MYERS: I guess the Vice President is doing that. They're still coming here tomorrow and meeting with the First Lady. The First Lady will do that event; the President is just going to do the press conference tomorrow. And on Thursday the Vice President will do the event on Capitol Hill which the President was never scheduled to do.
Q Is he trying to put some distance between himself and the bus people?
MS. MYERS: I think after stops in Independence, Missouri, and yesterday in Liberty Park, New Jersey, that that's really not true.
Q Will the bus people actually come here?
Q The "bus people." (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: The bus people will be here tomorrow to see the First Lady.
Q What about the Saturday rally in Detroit?
MS. MYERS: We had talked about possibly doing an event, but I think he's just going to do the fundraiser now.
Q Is it because you've seen protestors each time you've gone out?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q It's unrelated?
MS. MYERS: No, I think there have been a minimal of protestors. At the President's events? You weren't with us on either Saturday or Monday.
Q Because they were kept several blocks away.
Q Plenty of people there.
MS. MYERS: Well, there was plenty of our people there as well.
Q Oh, it's all your people, huh? (Laughter.)
Q What's the latest story on the subject of the Stones?
MS. MYERS: They are not coming here today.
Q What about Thursday?
MS. MYERS: Don't know. Don't know.
Q Dee Dee, we heard that wild horses couldn't keep them away? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: On that note.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:05 P.M. EDT