THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
12:41 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me start with a couple of items on my list and then we'll go to yours. Today, as you know, is 98 days before the commencement of the Olympic Games, and the Vice President of the United States today chaired the second Cabinet-level meeting of the White House task force on the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
At the President's instruction, the Vice President was asked to chair this task force. Mack McLarty is the vice chair. They had a very good working meeting today with local officials from Atlanta to review preparations for the Olympic Games. The United States is obviously very proud to be hosting the Olympiad, and the preparation underway now, in the view of the task force, is excellent and we're looking forward to very good games.
Governor Zell Miller, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, Billy Payne, who is the CEO of the Atlanta Committee on the Olympic Games -- the host committee -- Andy Fleming, the CEO of the Paralympic Games, Steve Bull from the U.S. Olympic Committee, Peter Knight and a variety of others were present for the task force deliberations. I wanted to draw that to your attention.
Second, the President had a very productive and interesting meeting with British opposition leader Tony Blair earlier today. I think some of the members of the pool were able to spend some time with them. They met for 40 minutes, which went on somewhat longer than we had planned for.
In their discussion, the President and Mr. Blair began by reviewing the peace process in Northern Ireland, the status of legislation pending in Parliament that would enable the scheduled May 30th elections to proceed. The President was encouraged to hear a report that there doesn't seem to be difficulty developing with that legislation, so that the May 30th elections can proceed on time.
They spent time on other international issues, reviewing the situation in the former Yugoslavia, and the President credited the very fine British troops participating in the Implementation Force in Bosnia with doing an excellent job and, once again, applauded the United Kingdom collectively for the bipartisan support in the United Kingdom for our efforts to bring peace to that land.
The President also talked a little bit about the status of debates here in the United States about foreign policy and expressed concern about any expressions of isolationism that we sometimes hear in our debate, and they talked about that for a bit. There was then a very long exchange on the global economy and the changes taking place in the global economy. This is, for those of you familiar with Mr. Blair's presentations in the United Kingdom, very resonant in some of the things President Clinton himself addresses as he moves around the country. How do industrial societies in this new information age adjust to the enormous and very hopeful changes occurring in the world economy?
They talked about how you deal with economic distressed areas. The President spent some time describing for Mr. Blair the concept of empowerment zones and how they work. I imagine some of you would say it sounded like a good, old "wonk-a-thon," and indeed it was. (Laughter.)
They did talk a little bit about their respective political situations, but did not spend any great time dwelling on that. The President -- they joked a little bit about how six months can be an eternity in politics and that, certainly, one has to be very careful about taking poll results too literally. But that was a very brief exchange, and as part of the meeting they discussed a little bit about how you structure the use of government as a tool to create more economic opportunity for people who are missing out on some of the hopeful changes occurring in the global economy. They had a very long discussion about that.
But a good meeting and an enjoyable one, the President's second with the British opposition leader. They first met and had a lengthy discussion in London, Kensington Park, in November of last year.
Taxes -- they're too high. (Laughter). People need tax relief, obviously, including Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Q Did he say that he wished his taxes had been lower?
MR. MCCURRY: No, the President said -- I asked him earlier, I said, do you feel you pay a fair amount in taxes. And he said, it sure looks like it. (Laughter.) You know from his return as released today, a short while ago, that the President and Mrs. Clinton had $75,437 worth of federal income tax liability on the adjusted gross income that they earned, or that the President earned, and the amounts additional that they derived in income during the 1995 tax year. We've released the President's returns, so you've had a chance to look at it.
The President, obviously, would not be a beneficiary of his own tax proposals when it comes to tax relief for middle income families because, as you can tell from the return, they're fortunate enough by the salary the President earns from the taxpayers of this country to be considerably better off than the average American.
Q Does he pay D.C. taxes?
MR. MCCURRY: No, the President pays -- I should say, in addition to the -- you received the federal tax return which we annually release, the President also filed a state income tax return in the state of Arkansas. He paid $17,005 in state taxes, he and Mrs. Clinton together, for the state tax return they filed in Arkansas.
They also, I think, at least in the last several years, file a tax return in the state of California for the residual amounts that the President earns occasionally on royalties from -- or residuals from some of this television appearances. You'll see, as you look at his return, that he had wages, salaries and tips income of $202,423. I think everyone knows the President's salary is $200,000. The additional amount, $2,423, are the residuals paid to the President this year for his 1998 appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Someone asked the President about that as he reviewed the return last night.
MR. MCCURRY: 1988. 1988, I'm sorry. Someone asked the President last night about what that came from, and he recollects seeing somewhere in his inevitable surfing of the channels a Johnny Carson highlights videotape that is being sold. And the President understands that he's part of that highlights reel.
But, anyhow, they report that income.
Q Do you know what the $1 in royalties is, Mike? Is that a nominal fee for Mrs. Clinton's book or something?
MR. MCCURRY: No. That is, in a sense, the nonperforming asset that Mrs. Clinton has which was not put into their blind trust because it was not considered an asset with value. It generates every year about one, two, three, four dollars' worth of income.
Q What exactly is it?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a partnership that was set up some time ago by Mrs. Clinton and other Rose Law Firm partners to do a television production. We've talked about this in prior years when the President's return has been released. It shows up each year on their return.
Q Mike, overall it's as if the difference of income primarily came from increased capital gains.
MR. MCCURRY: That's right. The President -- the main difference between this year's return and last year's return is about $88,000-plus in capital gains income that they received due to the activity of the blind trust that the President established when he took office. Obviously, we have no way of knowing what generated that income because it is, in fact, a blind trust -- so I can't help you on were that came from, but it obviously was a year in which the stock market did pretty well as I recall.
Q Is this Hillary's first -- I mean, Chelsea's first tax return?
MR. MCCURRY: No, she filed last year, and the amount of income that she gets represent royalties from Virginia Kelley's book that the President disclaimed entitlement to, so they passed to her under Arkansas state law.
Any other questions on --
Q Just one. It seems that there are some stock holdings that the President does have outside of that blind trust. I think that may be from last year, but they were actual stocks that he held.
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I've --
Q Last year he did. Do you know anything about that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't believe that there are any additional amounts. He's got -- he has some accounts down in Arkansas, some CDs, and we report that -- or the President reports that, as you can see, as interest and dividend income. But his stock assets are put in the blind trust, with the exception of this Midlife Investment that we talked about.
Q -- the trust is blind both ways, and he doesn't know what they're doing, but do they -- members of the blind trust have to keep an eye on things that the President is doing that might potentially get their investments fouled up in things --
MR. MCCURRY: Trustees, the performance of trustees who have that type of responsibility are sort of well-established. The requirements, the legal requirements for them are well-established and they are expected to function as a prudent person would. Or whatever -- I'm not a lawyer, but something like that.
Q Schedule A, there's about $4,300 of deductions for home mortgage interest. Nobody knows what property they could own. What is that?
MR. MCCURRY: That property -- that shows up every year on their return. That is the home that the President owns together with Dorothy Rodham in Little Rock, Arkansas. They divide the mortgage payments on that property so the President is entitled to deduct some of the interest expense. But you'll see that he doesn't get any deduction for state taxes paid on the property because that is paid by Mrs. Rodham who lives there year-round. That's where the Clintons stay when they're in Little Rock, and that is for voting purposes and legal purposes their residence in Arkansas.
Q Do you have any details on the charities that they elected to give money to?
MR. MCCURRY: The President and Mrs. Clinton contributed to 22 charities. As we did last year, I decline to kind of list each one of them because they would prefer to keep that private. I will tell you that two-thirds of the $30,000 or so that they claim to charitable deductions are amounts that they made as contributions to the three churches they worship at. The balance are ones that aren't surprising, given the President and First Lady's alma maters and some of their other interests.
Q What's the $12,500 for --
MR. MCCURRY: The $12,000 amount in both dividend and interest income is called the Henry G. Freeman, Jr. Pin Money Fund. That was a trust set up in a 1912 will that entitles the spouse of the President of the United States to receive that money annually. Mrs. Clinton elects to donate that money annually to charities, so that $12,000 passes directly through to the charities they contribute to.
Q I'm sorry -- actually, what I really meant is the reference at the bottom of your statement, income for Chelsea.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, what is the income? That's what I addressed earlier, that that's the amount in the proceeds from book royalties from Virginia Kelley's book that the President has disclaimed, so they passed under Arkansas state law to Chelsea.
Q The Freeman money is included in the $30,000 charitable --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that $12,000 is included in the $30,000.
Q It is?
MR. MCCURRY: She has some -- I'm told that she also has some -- Chelsea has some other additional income from assets, from her assets that are held in the blind trust. And she also has some gains on stocks that she got from her late grandfather. But the bulk of the amount, my understanding is, from the book royalties.
Q -- to the rumor that she's in a grunge band in Seattle, right?
MR. MCCURRY: No, and that is -- you shouldn't even repeat that. That was a hoax -- an article written as a hoax by someone, and unfortunately, it gets picked up and repeated on the crazy radio circuit.
Q The Freeman Pin Money Fund is not part of that $30,000 in charitable giving, is it, because --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, no, the --
Q It was not claimed as income, it goes straight to the charity.
MR. MCCURRY: It is claimed as income. I'm sorry -- it's claimed as dividend and interest income. Yes. You'll see the amounts listed there. Let's see.
Q I don't see it on here.
MR. MCCURRY: The amounts are -- see that First Fidelity Bank trustee listing on the Schedule B form -- $9,337 and then the dividend income of $2,663. That's your $12,000 right there.
Q So the $30,000 is minus that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, no. They get the income -- the $12,000 in income and then their charitable contributions total $30,000, and part of that $30,000 is the $12,000 from that fund.
Q But what he actually gave was $18,000?
MR. MCCURRY: No, they actually gave $30,000, because they could have kept the $12,000, obviously, but they chose to make that -- Mrs. Clinton chose to make that as charitable contributions.
Q What is Midlife Investments?
MR. MCCURRY: That's -- we have already covered that.
Q The point being that they gave roughly 10 percent of their gross income to charity, which is not at all a bad average for Americans --
MR. MCCURRY: This is the amount of taxes that the President and Mrs. Clinton pay for tax filers with this adjusted gross income is pretty close to the average. And the only thing that is remarkable about their return is that they do have a higher than average amount in charitable contributions. But as we were indicating, part of that comes from the proceeds that Mrs. Clinton gets from this pin fund that we're talking about.
Anything else on tax returns? Okay. Anything else period, because we'd like to move on now to the briefing scheduled.
Q One quick thing on the Commerce Secretary's death. Did the President ever get any personal messages from Dole concerning -- condolences or anything like that, concerning the Secretary? And, also, did he invite Mr. Dole to the Dover ceremony?
MR. MCCURRY: The second answer I know for certain, I know that the Republican leadership was invited at the request of the family to the memorial services, and their various spokespeople for them have indicated that they couldn't attend, of course, because they were out of town.
To my knowledge the President has not had an expression of condolences from any of the Republican leaders, but they have, I believe, if I'm not mistaken, issued statements of condolences.
Q You mentioned moving quickly on a possible successor to Mr. Brown. Will that happen before the trip?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule that out.
Q Two questions on the recess appointments going out today. This fellow, Swann, that you removed yesterday apparently is going to announce a lawsuit against you today. Can you explain why he was dismissed when he believes he could stay in office? And also, on Martin Kamarck, why are you going ahead with that despite McConnell's opposition?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we believe these are fully well-qualified nominees. I believe there are a half dozen that will be announced today. They are all pending. Frankly, I think we have been promised action on each one of those pending appointments and the Congress and the Senate haven't moved swiftly to consider them.
On the first part of your question, there is language in the National Credit Union Act which states that any board member may continue to serve as such after the expiration of said member's term until a successor has qualified. And our legal counsel looked very carefully at this issue and concluded that we could, after trying for over a year to politely ask for this individual to move on, we had to just take steps to make it clear that we were going to fill it with someone of the President's own choosing.
Q When and how is the President going to do the State Department authorization --
MR. MCCURRY: We expect to do that some time today and we'll try to do it in written form, and we will press hard to get it done as early in the afternoon as possible.
Q And the objection to that --
MR. MCCURRY: You'll se a very lengthy veto message on that measure because of all the riders that have been attached by the Congress that infringe on the President's ability to conduct our foreign policy. The President of the United STates is the nation's chief diplomat, not 535 members of Congress. And they have done in an extraordinary way, in a very damaging way written provisions into this act that interfere with the President's ability to conduct foreign policy.
Can we move on now?
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:00 P.M. EDT