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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 3, 1996
                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

5:45 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: My purpose is just to come out and answer any questions you've got about what the President's been doing, and also to put a full lid on for the evening. We don't anticipate any further developments here tonight.

Let me just talk a little bit about how the President has spent the afternoon. You all know that he spoke at the Commerce Department. He had a very nice visit with Alma Brown, Michael Brown and his wife. Ron's daughter, Tracey, I understand is flying in from California, so she was not at the home. But the President also visited with some of Secretary Brown's other close friends at the residence, including Vernon Jordon, talked to several of our staffers who have had service in previous capacities with Secretary Brown; spoke by phone this afternoon with Reverend Jackson, who also is very close to Secretary Brown.

Q Do you know who initiated that call?

MR. MCCURRY: I believe Reverend Jackson called here, but he had a nice visit with the President by phone.

And that's about it. The President has been working to -- finding out what we have by way of information from the Pentagon and from the State Department task force. A couple of things I can tell you where their efforts are -- they will -- you know from General Estes where they are in the search and rescue effort. They will provide through OSD public affairs during the course of the evening as warranted, if there's anything that they want to report.

We, of course, will be getting reports in here through our Situation Room and through the National Security Advisor, who will update the President on a regular basis when we've got any new information to share. And the State Department task force, which is working with the Citizens Emergency Service on issues related to the manifest has been in contact with the families of those listed on the manifest today. They're still trying to reach apparently one family, but when they do so their plans are at this point to provide further information about the manifest over there later today.

Q Has the President made any attempt to reach any of the other families?

MR. MCCURRY: We have been working -- it is likely he will do so in the coming days. We are right now deferring to the work of the Citizens Emergency Service, which is doing a very good job of being in contact with the families.

Q Is that a State agency?

MR. MCCURRY: That's part of the Consular Services Bureau at the Department of State. And routinely, on cases where there are accidents overseas involving American citizens they are very often involved, like this.

Q The President eulogized a young man in his remarks at Commerce, but he didn't say his name. Could you tell us who that was?

MR. MCCURRY: We will provide -- we believe we have a good idea who he was referring to, and once the State Department says further things about the manifest we'll be glad to identify that person.

Q Once the U.S. teams reach this location, gets you back the first official word, will the White House not have anything to say about either casualties at the scene and the possibility of any survivors?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, that information will probably -- the Pentagon has had a public affairs person en route, and my guess is they're going to establish some way that they brief people there. There are a lot of news organizations that are going to be on the ground there. We will be relaying secondhand information. I would rather have it come from the primary source of information, so the Pentagon will be providing that and we'll be updating the President as we get it.

Q Can you tell us how much of the President's day has been spent, a bit of a tick-tock --

MR. MCCURRY: All of it.

Q All of it?


Q Could you talk a little bit about how long the President has known Secretary Brown and their personal relationship?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's going to be appropriate in coming days -- they are very close. They have known each other for quite some time. I think there will be ways in which in coming days we can provide you more information like that. I don't know that it's appropriate to do that right now.

Q Mike, were you ever able to check out whether, in fact, the First Lady did fly on that plane when she was --

MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that the Pentagon officials indicate they believe so, they believe that is the aircraft that may have been involved. But I would direct you over to the Pentagon for official confirmation of that. They seem to think that it's the same and the tail number matches and so on and so forth.

Q Is the President's schedule tomorrow curtailed?

MR. MCCURRY: Let me tell you about the schedule. The President's planned schedule for tomorrow he is canceling, save that he will in some fashion sign the line-item veto measure tomorrow. We will probably do that with far less ceremony and flourish than we would have done otherwise. We have received the Farm Bill at that point, and I expect action on that possibly tomorrow.

Q Do you mean a piece of paper instead of a public event, is that what --

MR. MCCURRY: It's not clear at this point. We're still working, and we'll see what the President's disposition is on that tomorrow.

Q Oklahoma City?

MR. MCCURRY: He plans to make -- he believes it would be appropriate to make the scheduled trip to Oklahoma City on Friday. He'll have the weekend off.

Q He doesn't envision weekend travel --

MR. MCCURRY: He will go ahead and -- we don't want to disappoint people and maybe in some ways it's appropriate also to have the Easter Egg Roll here on Monday. Other events on the President's schedule for next week are in question at this point. We're not sure we're going to proceed with some of the things that we had planned to do next week.

Q Mike, can you address how big Ron Brown was to the Democratic Party and to the White House and what the loss is?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the President spoke for all of us when he talked about the Secretary's unique gifts. I served with him at the Democratic National Committee. He was a superb national chairman, and in many ways tactically -- and crediting also the late Paul Tully -- was responsible for much of the political machinery and institutional apparatus that led to the President's election. The President is very well aware of that.

Q Mike, is the President waiting until after official word is reached of the Secretary's apparent or presumptive death in the plane crash to order a period of mourning and the flags at half-staff?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it would be appropriate to wait until we know for a certain fact what happened to take any steps like that, of course.

Q Is it fair to say from the President's remarks that he presumes that the Secretary was killed in the crash?

MR. MCCURRY: Don't push me on something like that, Terry.

Anything else? Okay, thank you.

Q Why was that an inappropriate question?

Q He spoke in the past tense.

MR. MCCURRY: I think the President -- you know exactly what the President was expressing, and you know exactly what the situation is. And I don't think you need any more clarity from me on that.

END 5:50 P.M. EST