THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (San Diego, California) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release June 10, 1996 PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY The Hotel Del Coronado San Diego, California
12:54 P.M. PDT
MR. MCCURRY: All right, let me give you just an update on schedule plans, because several of you asked me about that. The President, as you can tell from his remarks this morning, is very concerned that on the issue of church burnings. We've put a focus on what communities can do to heal and to recover after one of these tragic events.
We've looked at both the possibility of going to North Carolina and now South Carolina. We'll have to keep you posted. Right now it seems to be trending towards South Carolina, as opposed to North Carolina. The minister who was with the President Saturday when he did his radio address from Greeleyville, South Carolina -- the name we can get for you -- has a church that is in the process of being rebuilt and rededicated, and that might be a possible venue. It seems to be that's a more likely venue right now. But I just -- an update on those plans, and we should firm those up this afternoon.
Beyond that, the President, because he wanted to shorten his speech a little bit here, dropped out a reference that he had in an earlier text to the conference that General McCaffrey will hold in El Paso, Texas, July 10th and 11th. And we've got a written statement that will come on that that will provide some more details. He just truncated some of his discussion of border crime control and border counter-narcotic efforts so he could work in the insert that he did on church burnings.
Q Mike, did you say what the possible location was for this extra stuff?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, well, I alluded to fact that there is a church that is being rebuilt in Greeleyville, South Carolina, might be a venue. So it's --
Q Mike, where in South Carolina?
MR. MCCURRY: Greeleyville, which is, I think, a small rural community in the low country, in between Charleston and Columbia.
Q Mike, is the plan, then, that we would go from our stop in Albuquerque there and spend the night in that --
MR. MCCURRY: And do an overnight in South Carolina, do the event the following morning and be back in Washington in time to do the EU summit meetings that the President has planned for the afternoon.
Q So Charlotte is ruled out, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: -- the plans are tentative. I'm just trying to give you some idea that it's not definite in North Carolina, and when things are definite you'll get some definite information.
Q Mike, the El Paso thing, is that being announced today, or has that been previously announced --
MR. MCCURRY: It has been in planning for sometime, and there's been some discussion and speculation about it. This will be the formal announcement that the President is convening that session under General McCaffrey's leadership in July.
Q What does the President think communities ought to do when they've had one of these church burnings? Is there an obligation for the wider community?
MR. MCCURRY: It's good when communities pull together. In some of the instances that we've seen in these 30 bombings over the last 18 months, there is very strong support from the church community, white and black, as church communities rebuild. One of the encouraging things about several of the examples we've seen is how communities really do rally behind parishioners in a church that has been burned and help them get on with reconstruction, with rebuilding, with, in some cases, providing alternative locations for worship services. So communities really do come together to face down this type of violence, regardless of the motive. And the President, of course, wants to pay tribute to that and hope that by drawing attention to what's happened in some of these cases where communities have come together we can get other communities to do likewise.
Q But these burnings have been going on for sometime. Do you think -- does the President think that the law enforcement community was slow to respond in a serious way?
MR. MCCURRY: No, to the contrary. As he said in his radio address -- pointed out in the radio address Saturday -- there has been an unprecedented federal response involving the Treasury Department, the Justice Department, very strong coordination with local law enforcement. And in many of these cases, local law enforcement helped crack the case. So the President, as you know, did not announce additional federal resources last Saturday, because we're convinced at the moment we've got to deploy on the various cases what is necessary.
But one of the things the President instructed this task force to do is to report back to him on anything else that the federal government ought to be doing to encourage the proper kind of federal response. And he is convinced we've got the right people, the right resources, and the right leadership working to solve the crimes, and what he can best do is devote attention to how communities can heal themselves in the aftermath of one of these incidents.
Q Mike, is it the administration's assumption that there is some connection among these? Or is it your assumption that these are isolated incidents?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we don't -- a working assumption would be something that law enforcement officials themselves would make as they work on the specific incidents. Now, you all know that there has been testimony from both the Assistant Secretary of Justice, and Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Enforcement that says they have not been able to establish any type of linkages between these incidents. But they're all being investigated. If the law enforcement effort turned up any type of linkage, that would change the pattern and the nature in which they would conduct the investigation, but they have testified before Congress that at this point they haven't seen that type of linkage.
Q Given that, Mike, and the nature of the few people who have been arrested, it would appear that the church burnings have become some sort of a fad. I wonder what the President feels that says about the country.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know that it would be right to say "fad" either. I would suggest motive suggesting that some people are, in a sense, doing copycat crimes. And that has not been established yet. I think the important thing is that the federal response should be swift, both as to the law enforcement and to doing whatever properly federal authorities can do working with local authorities to help communities recover. And that's the focus the President certainly put on the issue today.
Q Could you give us some view of his decision-making in terms of this trip, how it came about considering the time?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has been concerned about this issue, devoted his radio address last Saturday to it. We have since had two more instances of church burning. And the President is very concerned by this and believes that he has a responsibility as President to address both the subject of law enforcement but also what -- the issue of how communities can deal with an appropriate response.
Q Is he going to be in touch with any of the Texas people today, do you think, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Cathy, I'm checking further on Texas. We are getting some updates on what the federal law enforcement officials can establish. And we can get more information on that later if indeed there is any specific Texas updates that are given.
Q Is the federal government pursuing this, on what basis? Civil rights?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, these are, as you know from the background material we had Saturday at the radio address, these are Civil Rights Division investigations -- the most extensive, according to Justice, that have been conducted since the 1960s.
Q Mike, the President in his speech said, we've got to stop this. What does he think will actually stop it? What will have to be done to stop it?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, communities coming together. I mean, he outlined a series of things that we believe we can effectively do. One, getting law enforcement officials working closely with the black church community to make sure that people are taking steps to safeguard their facilities for worship. The President just coincidentally, earlier in the day, was at a citizen patrol location in San Diego, talking about how citizens can volunteer their own time to help work with police force in the concept known as community policing. Aspects of that might be very useful in these types of situations, too, as communities try to safeguard their own facilities.
But I think most importantly the President feels very strong public condemnation of these acts, regardless of motive, regardless of whether they are race-based or not, so that it becomes a practice that is both intolerable as well as criminal, is what he is aiming at.
Q The President also spoke about intolerance against immigrants, and he seemed to suggest that there was some linkage, that they sprang from the same roots, or something similar. What was he trying to say with that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, fear of the foreign is something that is sometimes a black streak that runs through America's political culture. We see instances of that when it involves hate crimes not necessarily directed at black Americans but at foreign Americans. What the President talked about today are ways in which we can make sure we are enforcing the law effectively, protecting our borders effectively, but doing it so recognizing that we've got a culture of diversity.
Q Is the President going to personally apologize for the White House taking of the FBI files? Or does he not that's necessary? Does he think what Leon did was sufficient?
MR. MCCURRY: Nothing new from yesterday on that.
Q Mike, has the White House established -- is the President satisfied that all of the files, all the names that might have been on any lists have been -- are known now, that there are no hidden lists or files that were pulled?
MR. MCCURRY: The White House understands that there are two investigations at least that are underway on this. You've all seen the sworn statement by the investigator who examined these files. I don't have anything to add beyond that.
Q Has the President or Leon talked directly to Craig Livingstone about this, or is he dealing chiefly through his attorney now?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't seen any of the statements by Mr. Livingstone's attorney that suggest that they've had conversations like that.
Q Excuse me, in other words, you don't know whether the President or Leon have talked to Craig Livingstone?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe so, to my knowledge.
Q Mike, continuing on the files, can you say, does Livingstone have the authority on his own to ask the Secret Service for this list? Who in the White House has that authority?
MR. MCCURRY: The procedure is the one that we've already outlined to you.
Q Well, could you outline it again?
MR. MCCURRY: It was reflected in the sworn deposition that the guy who was getting the files has made today, and I don't see anything in that sworn statement that is contrary to my understanding what the practice is.
Q Well, for those of us who haven't seen it, can you tell us what it is?
MR. MCCURRY: I think your office has got it, but we can get a copy if you haven't seen it.
Q Except, Mike, we've been asking this question for about five or six days on who in White House has --
MR. MCCURRY: For five or six days now I've told you that this is a matter that is now going to be under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and it's going to be under investigation by the Independent Counsel. And I told you several days running now that because of that, my ability to provide answers to specific questions is going to be circumscribed. And I'm sure you understand that, given the nature of the law enforcement efforts.
Q Well, Mike, if I may follow, this is aside from the current case. I think -- many of us are just asking the question who in the White House has the authority to summon up these records? I think that should be a matter --
MR. MCCURRY: I consider that a material question and was likely to be in the province of those investigations.
Q Apparently there is going to be a third investigation by Clinger's committee. Do you have any response to his press conference today?
MR. MCCURRY: Surprise, surprise. What else? Anything else?
Q Back on the church burnings, does the President think that this rash of church burnings may reflect the fact that racial tensions are actually getting worse in this country, not better?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President feels that as a general proposition in the -- since the days of the 1960s, the climate of race relations in America has improved considerably. But there are always vestiges of racism that need to be addressed very directly and very deliberately. And we can't suggest that that is necessarily in the case in each of these instances, but we know that that sometimes does continue to exist in our society and it needs to be addressed forcefully.
Q Has he offered any ideas or thoughts about why he thinks that is -- the economy or --
MR. MCCURRY: He has addressed that from time to time --
Q I know the angry-white-male thing, he's addressed here in California --
MR. MCCURRY: And he's talked a little bit on that issue from time to time, but he's also talked about the need for Americans to come together and suggested that we need both a politics and a public dialogue that makes it easier for Americans to work together to solve these problems, and reject those who deliberately try to divide Americans.
Q Is the President going to have a news conference anytime soon?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we had one on Friday, but we'll probably have another one sometime soon.
Q What about Kennedy-Kassebaum? Is the White House optimistic that that will pass this week?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I think the President and the White House, again, would reiterate that this is a critical piece of legislation that passed 100 to nothing in the Senate. We're down to one issue now on which the Republicans are divided, and that is preventing passage of the bill. Some Republicans want to go ahead and agree that the concept of a demonstrating project for medical savings accounts is a good way to establish a base of information and make future decisions about the utility of that form of health insurance delivery. There are others who are insisting that we need a full-blown national program of medical savings accounts now and are insisting upon that, which, as you know, the White House finds unacceptable given what the costs and the effects on insurance coverage might be.
And it's real clear that there are substantial portions of the United States Senate on the Republican side, having adopted the measure 100 to nothing without medical savings accounts, that would like to see this measure passed. And what a fitting tribute that would be to the current Senate Majority Leader on his last day in office to have that measure done so it could be signed together with the President at the White House.
Q Has the President been briefed on the comment from the black ministers in Washington this morning who were rather critical? They seemed to be appreciative of the federal effort, but at the same time, critical that it's been misdirected. And one even said that the President's call for the effort to have the black churches become vigilantes, so to speak, or at least vigilant of their own churches, could lead to all-out war -- race war -- because it would require them to sit on their porches with guns.
MR. MCCURRY: Well he was briefed in brief on the press conference this morning -- not at any great length. That comment was not representative of the thrust of what a lot of the leaders were saying today. They were saying that there needed to be a sure and swift federal response. There needed to be close dialogue with the community. And there needed to be a relentless effort on the part of federal authorities to both prosecute, investigate and deter these crimes. And the President would certainly agree with that.
Q But is this when he said, I've got to go down there?
MR. MCCURRY: No, that discussion was in works prior to the press conference this morning.
Okay, any other last questions before we get some downtime now? The only thing we will, as I say, I think, have a written statement on this -- on the El Paso summit. And we've got further schedule details as we can firm them up that we'll get to you. Otherwise, we plan to play hooky for a little bit of time this afternoon.
Q -- the speech that he's tried to secure as much money for California on the illegal immigration issue?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Do you have a dollar figure associated with --and for what?
MR. MCCURRY: If you can hold on for a second. We can -- someone -- Emerson, are you still around?
MR. EMERSON: Yes.
MR. MCCURRY: Why don't you come up? John Emerson can tell you a little bit about the event tonight for those of you who have pool duty.
MR. MCCURRY: I'll come back. I'll get that figure in here and come back and give it while John does a little on tonight.
MR. EMERSON: It's -- tonight's dinner is at Lew and Edie Wasserman's house. It should raise over a million dollars for the Democratic National Committee. There'll be slightly more than 200 people there -- probably about 225. And some of the people there will include Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Johnny Carson, playwright Neil Simon, Jay Leno, Edgar Bronfman and Ron Meyer from MCA. Barbra Streisand is going to be there.
It's probably predominantly --
Q What about John Emerson?
MR. EMERSON: Yes, hey that's big -- predominantly people from the entertainment industry. And the Wassermans are the ones who put it together.
Q -- tickets?
MR. EMERSON: $5,000 a person.
Q It's in Beverly Hills?
MR. EMERSON: Yes, I think -- I'm not sure if his house is in Beverly Hills or Belair, but it's up in the, you know, the Hills area.
Q What about Harry -- Thomason?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think he's on the list. I mean, I haven't seen his name -- I'm just --
Q Can you put out the list? Wouldn't that make it a lot easier?
MR. EMERSON: It's up to --
MR. MCCURRY: What we normally do is try to get you a list that everyone -- that sometimes we like to check that with the host and the hostess of an event before we do it. And we'll see -- if they don't have any objections to it, we don't have any objection.
Q Is saxophone playing on the bill for the President at the Saxophone Club event?
MR. MCCURRY: Not at any portion of time that you will be there to witness it. (Laughter.)
MR. EMERSON; Oh, and Alec Baldwin and Kim Bassinger -- Alec Baldwin is the MC at the Saxophone Club.
MR. MCCURRY: Did you get Geena Davis in there --
MR. EMERSON: Geena Davis.
Q Is the Saxophone Club open, or partly opened? Is that the deal?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's partly open. Anybody -- Kathy, anybody know -- remarks -- open for remarks.
Q Geena Davis will be at which one, John?
MR. EMERSON: Are you interested or -- (laughter) --
MR. MCCURRY: The first event. She'll be at the dinner.
Q Mike, just one last one. Apparently Dole was asked about the FBI files again this afternoon, and he said that -- this is paraphrasing -- but that in terms of the apology, that the last time he looked it's not the Panetta administration, it's the Clinton administration. And he also thinks that more should be done, you know, more investigating of it. Do you have any comment?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sure he would like to see the story go on another day, but that was addressed yesterday, and I don't have anything to add.
Q And his implication that there should be some type of direct apology to the President?
MR. MCCURRY: The President addressed that directly yesterday.
You know, I can't find the figure. The only thing I have is a general figure. Under the 1994 Crime Act, State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which is the first time that the federal government had helped reimburse states for the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens, approximately $130 million has been given to states to help meet those costs. The California portion of that, I don't know.
I think most of the money, obviously, has been targeted principally on Texas, Arizona and California. But I'll see if I can get a breakdown on that figure. They anticipate under that program doing a couple hundred million dollars additional in distributions during the current fiscal year. And we'll see if -- Marlene or Kathy, if you can get any kind of breakdown on what that figure is, California specific, that would be good.
MR. EMERSON: (inaudible)
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, that's right. And that's just under the cost of incarceration. There are also, obviously, the federal fund -- the President was talking in a broader sense about also funding for border agents, some of the stepped-up efforts that enforcement -- the whole Southwest Border initiative -- which has devoted a substantial portion of federal resources to the border states for tougher enforcement.
Q -- El Paso summit?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm hoping that when we get a statement that comes down they'll talk about that. It'll be --
Q -- law enforcement officials?
MR. MCCURRY: It'll be representatives from the federal interagency task force that the President appointed under General McCaffrey's leadership. There are, I think, 14 different cabinet level and federal agencies that participate in that, and they will have representatives there, as well as local law enforcement -- state and local law enforcement officials who are playing a big role in the counter-narcotic effort along the border.
Q -- Mexican officials?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not seen that suggested in any of the materials that I saw, but there was a very good discussion of bilateral cooperation on counter-narcotic efforts at the most recent meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission in Mexico City. There is very strong support from the Zedillo government for efforts to combat drugs, as you know.
Q What's the date for this summit, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: June 10th, 11th.F July 10th is date for summit. F
Q Mike, one of the officers who spoke this morning before the President, thanked him for the money provided for new police officers through the '94 Crime Bill and said that funding really ought to be permanent. What's the response to that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President thinks that the success we're seeing in community policing in the COPS program certainly makes a strong case for continuation of federal funding for community policing. And we've been able to achieve, working with this Congress, despite objections from the Republican leadership, commitment to fund 100,000 positions. But as this concept takes hold, as this program goes from funding positions to now actually bringing cops out on the street, on the beat, we see the kind of results that we saw -- the President was briefed on at this local facility today. And given the success we see reported around the country on the concept of community policing, you make a very strong case there that this initial investment in 100,000 new cops on the street ought to be looked at. The President will continue to address that. If he is so lucky to get a second term, that would be a principal effort he would want to examine and look at as we deal in a second term.
Q The President talked again about 100,000 officers on the street. At what point will the 17,000 who are now there turn into 100,000?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have now funded 43,000 positions, of which there are actually 17,000 who are out. Remember that, as we've explained in the past, once you make a commitment to fund a position, you then go through training -- people are trained in the techniques of community policing. They get some special training that would go beyond their normal law enforcement training before they are actually deployed into a community.
I think the track for 100,000 was FY -- I think that's -- the commitment to do that funding was contained in the most recent FY '96 bill, but I think it's a four-year track to get to 100,000 on the streets.
And obviously it's a lot easier if you don't have to fight with the Republican Congress every year to actually keep that program in place, but that's why it was encouraging recently that Senator Dole took some time to talk to people here in Southern California about community policing, and he certainly sounded very supportive.
Okay, see you all, I guess, up in LA.
END 1:18 P.M. PDT