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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 29, 1996
                           PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

2:53 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: A couple of other items. I alluded earlier to the fact that the President might be visiting Paris, and he will. He will be going to Lyon for the G-7 Summit on June 27, 28, and 29. On the evening of the 29th, he will go up to Paris; most likely have a meeting, possibly dinner with President Chirac. So he'll get there in time for those of you who would be interested in having dinner in Paris, if any of you are interested in that, to do so. And we'll stay overnight there and return back to Washington Sunday, June 30th.

That's the official announcement. And some of you, I believe, heard Governor Romer say earlier that he was notified by the President today that the President has selected Denver to be the site of the 1997 Summit of the Industrialized Nations, the G-7 grouping. That will be held, I believe, in the third week of June 1997. That is -- I guess the United States hosts, what, every seven years, I think, hosts -- makes sense -- once every seven years hosts the G-7. The last one was the G-7, obviously. And the President believes that Denver will be an excellent choice given its role as both a financial, transportation, and telecommunications hub in the Rocky Mountain West, literally connecting all parts of the country, and an exciting place to showcase for this very important gathering of world leaders.

The President, by the way, talked to Governor Romer about this after the governors' meeting, and then Mr. Panetta and the Governor got on the phone with Mayor Webb to notify Mayor Webb as well.

And I guess that's it. Any questions? Mark Knoller.

Q What can you tell us about a decision on whether U.S. companies can buy Iraqi oil?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't tell you anything except my advisors tell me that they are very close to a final decision; they're doing some discussions on details within the government. We expect to announce something very shortly.

Q Is the President involved in this decision?

MR. MCCURRY: He's been following the deliberations about implementation of the 986 oil sales carefully because both, one, they have -- presumably, have some market impact on prices that American consumers would face at the gas pump; but, two, because of our own economic interests and the concern that we have about how effectively we manage the implementation of the 986 sales.

Remember, the purpose of these sales is to provide humanitarian relief to the suffering people of Iraq. We want to make sure that it is done efficiently and done in a way that gets the food, the medicine that would come from the proceeds of these oil sales directly to the people of Iraq as quickly as possible. And it's sufficient to say that the U.S. oil and gas industry has some special capabilities, facilities when it comes to that type of production and recovery and refinery.

Q What I'm asking is, is it the President's decision to make? Is he making it or is he leaving it to subordinates?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, it's been worked through mostly at the interagency level at, I think, sub-principal level. And they'll send a recommendation via the principals to the President when they finalize the details. It's been worked, directly to answer your question, been worked at a lower level interagency working group level.

Q On Iraq, one last question? Since not all of the proceeds from these Iraqi oil sales are going to go for humanitarian purposes, some will go to the Iraqi government, and presumably, since that money is fungible, what is to stop the Iraqis from using their other money for military purposes and freeing up this for nonmilitary purposes?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, in the terms of the resolution itself, there are strict safeguards on the proceeds. But remember, most of the other purposes for which the revenues of the sales will go are to fund, one, the U.N. Special Commission work, which is ensuring compliance with the other U.N. resolutions that relate to Iraq; and then, two, they are specifically earmarking some of the proceeds to the Kurdish population in the north to make sure that the funding does, in fact, get directly to where it's intended to go.

As to the diversion of other government available resources to, for example, military work or something like that, that's something we would watch very carefully because it would contravene existing U.N. Security Council resolutions. It would specifically be under the supervision of UNSCOM as well.

Q Several Republican members of Congress have suggested that the fact that the President's former partners were convicted yesterday cast the President's character -- and that was their word -- in a bad light. I wonder what your response to that is.

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's not surprising that some Republicans are attempting to make partisan political gain out of the jury verdict.

Q Do you think that they have a point?


Q What were Charlene Barshefsky and Mickey Kantor doing this morning here at the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is they were here just reviewing with some other economic officials the targeted sanctions list that the People's Republic put out yesterday. Is that correct? So they're reviewing that list. We obviously are following very closely as we're in this period now where our own sanctions are in public comment the actions of the People's Republic. Not surprisingly, they announced their own targeted sanctions list dealing with goods largely in the agricultural sector, as you probably know.

Q Mike, Chairman Clinger says he will ask the House to vote this week on contempt citation for Jack Quinn and two former White House aides unless the White House produces documents related to the Travel Office controversy. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Chairman Clinger has 40,000 pages worth of paper and he all but wants the rolls of toilet paper in the men's room here; that's what he's after. So he's gotten a little ridiculous with his search for documents. And it's part of a calculated, orchestrated attempt to keep some of these matters going.

Q Wait a minute, are you saying that the subpoena is, therefore, invalid and would not stand up and the contempt citations are not a concern to the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Quinn's letter in response to the Chairman was very clear, made very clear his willingness to negotiate an amicable, constitutional arrangement to get the committee anything that it wanted. But there was no interest on the part of Chairman Clinger in that type of satisfactory negotiation.

Q What do you mean by orchestrated attempt? What do you mean by that?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you'll recall several weeks ago the House leadership sent a memo to chairs and subcommittee chairs of relevant House committees telling them that they had to go out and dig up dirt on Clinton. You'll recall the memo. And this is one piece of evidence that that strategy is being implemented.

Q This is not about toilet paper, the committee wants certain documents that you've extended or the President has extended executive privilege to. And the committee says the White House won't negotiate unless the committee drops its contempt citation. Is that the case?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll check with Quinn on that. I mean, the legal counsel did properly assert privilege on some of those discussions. Those are constitutionally protected documents. And any President would have protected documents that are related to the President's ability to form his own decisions and have his own discussions with counsel.

Q So, Mike, is the White House then ready for this to go to the floor of the House, then on to the U.S. Attorney?

MR. MCCURRY: We have for some time expected that it would.

Q Which part of the Constitution talks about executive privilege, Mike?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Separation of Powers, Article II, among others.

Q Mike, just back on China for a second. The Chinese in recent days have made some pledges to stiffen up their antipiracy actions in accordance with U.S. demands. Were those new pledges and measures discussed this morning? Is there any optimism?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check with USTR. You may want to put a call into them directly. But I haven't had a readout on Ambassador Barshefsky's conversations here this morning.

Q Are there any plans on the First Lady or the President to attend this march -- Marian Wright Edelman's march this weekend?

MR. MCCURRY: The First Lady, I believe, indicated in her interview she did recently that she is supportive and that she is either meeting with representatives --

MS. TERZANO: She has a Friday night event.

MR. MCCURRY: She has an event Friday night, I am told. We can get you more on it.

Q What about the march itself?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any plans for them to actually participate in the march, but I'll let you know if that is not right.

Q On the eve of the elections in Northern Ireland, is the administration disappointed that Sinn Fein hasn't declared, and the IRA hasn't declared a cease-fire --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are concerned that the cease-fire has not been reinstated. On the eve of these historic elections, we consider participation by all the parties in the talks scheduled for June 10th to be part of the important process of bringing healing and peace to Northern Ireland. And it's a concern to us that while some parties -- for example, Sinn Fein participating in the election tomorrow -- that need a place at the table June 10th will be denied that place if they don't succeed in reinstating a cease-fire by the IRA.

So, of course, it is of very great concern to us that the cease-fire has not been implemented because the threat then remains to unnecessary and tragic acts of violence there, exactly what the peace process is attempting to suspend. And we would hope and encourage Sinn Fein to use its influence to bring about a restoration of the cease-fire so that the June 10th talks will indeed be all-party talks.

Q In the Israeli elections, polls closed about two minutes ago. Do you have any information on the results --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have a reaction to election results. No, we will obviously be interested in the results of the election. We will tell you more as we learn anything about results. We're not certain how long it will be.

Q Do they have exit polls?

MR. MCCURRY: They have that. There are -- because this is a new format of an election, it's not entirely clear to us whether or not exit poll modeling is very accurate. For that reason we will most likely -- our government will most likely await for any word of official reaction from either the candidates or from the government itself.

Q -- the White House got in trying to come up with some sort of compromise on the issue of decommissioning, which still seems to be one of the major stumbling blocks to talks in Northern Ireland next week?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you'll recall the Mitchell report itself was elaborate and precise on the question of decommissioning of arms. And we have long felt that that provided a formula that the parties themselves could pursue as they dealt with the issue of arms decommissioning. And we would, obviously, recognize that that is a subject that the parties themselves would need to address. It might indeed be part of the formula that they'd wish to explore in the June 10th forum.

Q Mike, Governor Thompson says he's coming to Washington tomorrow to ask President Clinton to give him a waiver on his welfare reform and also to ask that the President grant waivers to all the other states pending requests. What's the President going to do tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's going to be here today, first of all. I think he'll be here -- in fact, probably is here now meeting with Marcia Hale, the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs, and perhaps some of our welfare reform experts. The President is enthusiastic about the Wisconsin model for welfare reform. We want to move ahead with that, and we look forward to considering these additional waiver requests in the spirit of moving ahead with the reform itself.

The first stop for the state is the Department of Health and Human Services. They already have under review the first set of waiver requests from Wisconsin. I haven't heard anything that indicates to me that we're not moving ahead with those. And we would certainly expect and hope to move quickly with the necessary waivers so the Wisconsin experiment can go forward.

Q What's the timetable? Any idea?

MR. MCCURRY: We traditionally do these waiver examinations within a one-month period. And if anything , I imagine, because of the President's enthusiasm about the Wisconsin experiment, they'll try to accelerate consideration.

Q Mike, as a general matter, does the White House feel that Republican politicians have attempted to make hay out of the verdict yesterday, or not?

MR. MCCURRY: I think as a general proposition, they were pretty quick to react with partisan conclusions about what the jury had decided. But the jurors themselves have now spoken.

Q Who in particular?

MR. MCCURRY: The wires were clattering away with partisan comment. I saw my colleague, Mr. Blankley, reacting very quickly. I saw several Republican governors making some judgments that were not at all consistent with what several jurors had to say for themselves.

Q Your story is and will continue to be that this trial had nothing to do with the President's activities or associations in Arkansas?

MR. MCCURRY: No, John, that's not my story, that's the direct comment of the special prosecutor's representative in this case -- the prosecutor litigating the case.

Q You said that the Republicans have made political hay out of it, and that will be your response -- this case had nothing to do with Bill Clinton?

MR. MCCURRY: The President talked about this last night and we had a statement and don't have anything to add to that.

Q You're saying the jurors have now spoken. I mean, not all of them have spoken. Are you --

MR. MCCURRY: Some of those have. I meant to reference those that have talked publicly.

Q But what I'm asking is if you're taking kind of the jurors -- you say the President wasn't on trial, but you're taking the jurors' verdict or the jurors' interpretation of the President's testimony as the final word. I mean, what happens if other jurors come out and say they didn't find the President credible, are you going to take that as equally --

MR. MCCURRY: They had to weigh the testimony that they were given, including the testimony delivered by the President. And some of them have commented -- the comments I've seen have been pretty straight forward about the President's testimony.

Q Mike, what is it that the jurors -- I mean, what does it prove? The jurors are strictly speaking to the President's credibility on this videotape. What does it prove, if anything, about the larger Whitewater Investigation?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if it means anything at all in terms of any larger issues. They looked at a very specific case, examined documentary evidence in the case. And some of those jurors who have spoken publicly have indicated they found the documentary as evidence persuasive, and they found the President a credible witness.

Q If I could follow up. Has the President spent any time on this today? Has he talked to his attorneys about it? Any possible ramifications?

MR. MCCURRY: He's had a fairly busy schedule, as you know, today and he's --

Q Did he talk to the McDougals or send them a message of any kind?

MR. MCCURRY: No, he did talk to Governor Tucker last night, as I indicated to some of you earlier.

Q Why did he feel it necessary to talk to Governor Tucker? What was that all about?

MR. MCCURRY: Well Governor Tucker is the Governor of Arkansas, a position the President once held. He indicated yesterday he would leave that office, and the President thought it would be appropriate to give him a call.

Q You said the Republicans have tried to take partisan advantage of the verdict. What is your assessment of what political impact it has had?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have one.

Q The topic for the speech tomorrow morning?

MR. MCCURRY: The speech tomorrow will be on protecting school kids in school environments as we try to make neighborhoods in this country safe from violence. He's going to talk to a group of women who have been very active in their community in Louisiana in promoting a specific type of safety program for kids. And the President's been encouraged -- interested in that -- and is likely to talk at some length about it.

Q Will there be any specific reaction to some of Senator Dole's crime proposals yesterday?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I didn't see anything new in there that would warrant a reaction.

Q What about the speech to the legislature, Mike, what's --

MR. MCCURRY: Again, consistent -- as he talked today about education standards, sort of the new basics of education, he'll talk a little bit about how we set standards that are consistent with the need to really expand educational opportunity in the 21st century. He'll have some specific ideas on that that he'll share with the legislature.

Q Mike, you've been critical of some of the Republican comments with regard to the jury verdict yesterday. What do you make of Jim Leach's statement? He seemed to be more balanced, more cautious. He warned people against drawing excessive conclusions, didn't think that the President's testimony was all that determinative. Does he stick out as somebody who did not rush to partisan judgment as far as you're concerned?

MR. MCCURRY: I didn't have an opportunity to see exactly what he had to say, but you're characterizing in a way -- I think it's safe to say -- for example, I saw Chairman Barbour has a very terse statement that just said simply the jury spoke for itself. I don't know whether he's had anything further to say today. But I think there is no doubt from some Republicans, from some prominent Republicans there's been very highly partisan reaction, and from others who are presumably more responsible, more sober and contemplative reaction.

Q Well, with regard to Leach specifically, because he's Chairman of the House Banking Committee and presumably could reopen hearings, he said he's inclined to go just the other way, not to start any hearings, and said his committee had already taken care of all the issues that were involved in the Little Rock trial.

MR. MCCURRY: Thanks for that information.

Q With D'Amato on the Senate side, having to conclude his work mid-June, is the White House at all taking any comfort that things might die down at least on the Hill, regardless of how the campaign shapes up?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any view of that.

Q Is the U.S. government sending letters out --

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I meant to check on that, and I did not have a chance to check. This is on any notification of companies on Cuba. I believe Mr. Burns was briefing on that over at State.

Q Yesterday Dole, in one of his speeches, in his speech on crime, again raised the Dick Morris rape defendant issue. Is that something that's not going to go away? Are you concerned that this is kind of going to be Clintonized?

MR. MCCURRY: This is their fourth try to get something going on this issue, and we provided the same response we had on a prior occasion.

Q When do you to expect to finalize a decision on the Iraqi oil? Could that happen today?

MR. MCCURRY: I think they're trying -- I believe they're trying to work on it now, and it's beginning to burble a bit, as you can tell. And I've encouraged them to get it out as quickly as they can, because -- interested in what the arrangements are going to be.

Q Is that here or at the Energy Department, Commerce -- where?

MR. MCCURRY: Do you all know who would issue -- are there regs that have to be issued in connection? We'll try to find out here, but you might want to check with the NSC shop later on.

Q On the President's G-7 itinerary, adding Paris, is that it, or is it still open-ended for more add-ons?

MR. MCCURRY: That's all the additions to the itinerary we've made at this point. But I don't think we've closed out the final schedule yet.

Q Speaking of itineraries, a trip to California June 9th through 11th -- can you tell us where we're going on that?

MR. MCCURRY: Hey, I'm doing okay when I can stay two days ahead. I can't do next week now, but we'll try to get someone here who can try to help you.

Q Israel TV reported that Peres won the election with 50.7 percent of the vote.

MR. MCCURRY: I've been standing here for the last hour; I'm not going to react to any news. And as I just indicated earlier, there will be exit poll information we will not react to until we've got something that's a little more official.

Q How will the President be receiving his information about the Israeli election?

MR. MCCURRY: We've got several people at the NSC who have been following -- will be following the results during the balance of the day. And the President will get updates as they're available and as they're confirmed. Again, let's not overreact to exit poll information that will be all we have for probably a while now.

Okay, thanks everyone.

END 3:13 P.M. EDT