THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
12:57 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everyone. We have a piece of paper coming to you shortly, announcing a visit by President Islom Karimov, of Uzbekistan, who will be here on June 25th -- conjuring images of the silk road and Marco Polo and Central Asia.
Q Is that an official --
MR. MCCURRY: No, it'll be a working visit.
Q Do you have a day for Netanyahu yet?
MR. MCCURRY: We have a day that the Secretary of State will see him, and they will discuss a likely visit by the Prime Minister next month. And the United States government, of course, congratulates the Israeli people and the Israeli government on the formation of a new government, the Knesset's approval of new cabinet and we look forward to working closely with that new government.
Q Can you tell us the status of Mr. Livingstone, now that the Security Office has been reorganized, this whole new -- I understand he has been on leave. Is he still on leave and when the leave ends, where does he come back?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Livingstone is now on administrative leave. We have announced a reorganization for personnel security issues, which was the function of his office. Those functions have now been transferred to the Executive Office of the President -- Executive Office of the President's Security Office -- and he will remain on administrative leave pending clarifications necessary to the Chief of Staff for his reinstatement. Should he be reinstated at some future date, he would be eligible for reassignment at the White House. But he remains on administrative leave.
Q What has to happen?
Q Who will those reassurances come from? Does that mean the results of the FBI investigation --
MR. MCCURRY: I imagine those will be among the factors that the Chief of Staff will consider, but they may well go beyond the FBI investigation, which the Attorney General has now ordered.
Q What does this reorganization all do for the handling of security here? Do you expect, or has the President asked for a tighter, leaner, airtight handling of sensitive information?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely, and it's clear that not only in this White House, but in previous White House's -- as the FBI report has already established -- there was insensitivity to privacy concerns. Now, that's something that I think is pretty well recorded in the FBI report that Mr. Shapiro completed.
And as Mr. Panetta said earlier today, it's our view that it's essential security procedures ought to be in the hands of career professionals in a manner that protects individual security. And that's exactly the steps that the White House legal counsel recommended today and have been approved by the Chief of Staff and the President.
Q Well, what the FBI Director said was it worked before because there was honor on both sides about how these documents were treated. What about the President's --
MR. MCCURRY: I would reiterate that there is no evidence that the White House has available, or available to the President, that there was any improper use made of the material we secured from the FBI. And that is exactly one of the matters that the FBI will pursue, we presume.
But I stress that there is no evidence to contradict Mr. Livingstone's sworn statement that you all received last week.
Q Mike, obviously it's the President's and Chief of Staff's hope that these questions are clarified and it can be shown that this was, in fact, an innocent screw-up. Is it also his hope at that time that Mr. Livingstone would come back, is he eager -- are both of them eager for Craig to return here at the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, his -- the Chief of Staff's concerns would need to be clarified for his reinstatement. Clearly he requested that he be placed on administrative leave, understanding the situation that he's in. And there will be a number of factors that will go into resolving the concerns that the Chief of Staff might have.
Q As you say, he's expressed confidence that the questions will be clarified. Doesn't then Leon therefore expect that Livingstone will come back?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that we can speculate on that at this point. There will be a number of factors that go into that judgment that the Chief of Staff will make at the proper time. What is clear is that security-related matters as they deal with personnel issues will be handled by career professionals under the reorganization plan that Mr. Quinn developed.
Q Given the recognition that this job should be handled by career professionals, have you been able to find out yet how Craig Livingstone got that job, who recommended him for the position?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not. We have got an effort made to see what his -- what we can find out about that. But, quite frankly, a lot of that is in his own privacy arrangements.
Q He just landed in the job?
Q I'm sorry, a lot of it is what?
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q We lost the microphone --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm trying to get the answer to the question because you've asked it.
Q Mike, we've been asking that since Friday.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have an answer yet.
Q The mic --
MR. MCCURRY: The mic, the mic -- trouble --
Q But who is looking into it, Mike?
Q -- is not proceeding with the investigation. Does the White House feel any freer to make inquires of your own, or do you still feel constrained by that same issue and you're deferring to the FBI?
MR. MCCURRY: We presume we will very shortly be in a position where we will work cooperatively with the FBI to satisfy the questions posed by the investigators.
Q What does that mean?
MR. MCCURRY: It means that we will work with them to get the answers that they need to complete their investigation.
Q Does that mean you are not going to undertake your own separate investigation?
MR. MCCURRY: We have made that clear from -- for a number of days now.
Q Well, you said that was in connection with -- because Starr was looking at it. But is it -- now that he's no longer --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as we -- we would not -- I think I've made it clear a couple times we would not want to do anything that would impede an outside investigation that's been duly authorized.
Q And now -- substitutes for the Starr -- the same --
MR. MCCURRY: As we said last night, we welcome and encourage that investigation, because there clearly need to be answers developed to some of these questions.
Q But do you feel that the administration can, in essence, investigate itself? There have been questions raised about the independence of the agency in this regard.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any reason to believe that Director Freeh and the FBI can do anything less than the competent, thorough job that they've been requested to do by the Attorney General.
Q Mike, has the FBI contacted the White House yet, arranging for interviews with past or present officials, to your knowledge?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge, but you should really direct questions about their investigation directly to the Justice Department.
Q Your mic is cutting in and out --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- I can't help you on it -- I don't know why the mic is cutting in and out.
Q Mike, can you clarify for us why there was an attempt to get Mr. Marceca back here for a second tour after his first tour was completed, and whether the goal of a second tour was to finish the alphabet?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information beyond the exchange of correspondence related to the detail. He, apparently, in the words of Mr. Kennedy, who contacted the Pentagon, had performed satisfactorily on detail and his continued detail was requested.
Q Does the President really feel constrained in asking the simplest questions regarding this, like, you know, who asked for the files and who drew up the list? Is that really within the realm of illegality or even unethical or --
MR. MCCURRY: It's within the realm of a duly authorized FBI investigation. And any question that we might pose of any individual person with knowledge might be considered by some -- and most likely would be considered by the opponents of the President --to be an effort to impede the investigation. So we have to defer to those who are properly in position to conduct a thorough and professional investigation.
Does it exasperate us that we can't get answers to the questions that you've posed now for several days? Of course it does. But at the same time, we've seen what happens when we attempt to conduct any type of internal inquiry. That, then, becomes the subject of yet another congressional inquiry and there are yet more subpoenas and yet more attacks by the President's political opponents. So why not leave this in the hands of the FBI, let them come in and do a very thorough job of investigating this so we can get the answers to the questions that, certainly, we all seek.
Q Because you've got to be closer to the answers. I mean, it's all here. And, also, don't you undermine confidence in the White House if you people don't know what's going on?
MR. MCCURRY: We are going to assist the Federal Bureau of Investigation to find out what is going on. And you're making --see, you're leaping to a conclusion that you can't legitimately leap to right now. All the answers are here -- how do you know that? If you have information, maybe you can help the FBI.
Q This is one area. But there may be other things that you don't know what's going on in the White House.
MR. MCCURRY: I can personally attest to the fact that on any given day I don't know everything that's going on in the White House -- I think I make that clear quite regularly.
Q Does the President know what's going on in the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: The President knows what he's doing and he knows what counts most to the people of this country and he stays focused on his job and he knows that he has ultimate responsibility for the conduct of this administration and this White House.
Q Since Congressman Armey and Congressman Boehner and other Republicans have raised these questions about the integrity of an FBI investigation -- the FBI in effect investigating itself, at least partially -- does it make any sense at all to have another independent counsel look at this particular incident?
MR. MCCURRY: You well know by now that that is a determination made by the Attorney General, so you should ask her. And if she asks the FBI to conduct this inquiry, she felt that was the proper course and she should speak to the reasons why.
Q Are you saying that Leon Panetta, nobody here has placed any calls to William Kennedy about this matter? There's been no communication?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have had some communication with his attorney to request, among other things, the public statement that he issued on Friday; because we wanted him to, as best he could and as best as we could, have him address some of the central matters here as he has done.
Q No one on the White House staff has actually talked to him?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge. But the White House legal counsel will work with the FBI to help prepare answers and get information as we properly can.
Q Marceca and Livingstone have been deposed by the House committee. Has the White House, perhaps through Democrats on the committee, seen these depositions and, if so, can you share some of what they said?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge, and you should contact the committee if you're interested.
Q Mike, could you elaborate a little on this look into how Livingstone came to work here? I mean --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the circumstances of his employment here are among the matters that the Chief of Staff will certainly want to clarify to be pertaining to his administrative leave.
Q But how are you going about it? Are you talking to people that were -- is someone here talking to people who were around then in a hiring position, or people on the campaign, to find out --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer. I'll check.
Q Is this something going on through the counsel's office, or just who is trying to figure this out?
MR. MCCURRY: The Chief of Staff will be the one who has to be satisfied regarding this incident and regarding his performance here. But there will be a number of people involved in developing answers both for the inquiry and also questions that the Chief of Staff might have as he evaluates Mr. Livingstone's status.
Q What about the status of whoever brought him here?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as you know, the people -- his immediate supervisor for most of the time he's been here no longer works at the White House, and that immediate supervisor's supervisor no longer works at the White House.
Q Would McLarty have signed off on his hiring, initially?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know and I don't want to speculate and I'll check and see if there's anything further I can say on that.
Q Did the President meet with his foreign policy advisors, and does the administration think with the formation of the Israeli government that it will be -- obviously, with so many hard-liners on it, that it will be helpful -- Sharon -- to the peace process?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the composition of the cabinet has been described in the Israeli press quite contrary, as you know. But we have welcomed the formation of a new government, we look forward to working with that new government. We will continue to be supportive of the peace process. The Secretary of State will look forward to his meeting with the Prime Minister and to have a further exchange of views on issues relevant to the peace process.
Q Is the President disappointed that Boris Yeltsin won't be coming to the G-7 summit, and is he concerned that Yeltsin thinks it's more beneficial to be campaigning rather than appearing with western leaders in Lyon?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President fully understands his reasons to be there. It will be the closing days of the run-off election and the President can understand his desire to be with the Russian people making a case for his own reelection, which will then -- the election will be only a matter of days away at that point. It's rather easy to understand the decision, in the President's view.
Q Well, is he disappointed that he won't be there, and how does this change the summit?
MR. MCCURRY: Of course he's disappointed that President Yeltsin will not be there, because the Russian Federation has an important and useful role in the deliberations of the P-8, particularly on all the issues related to proliferation, global security issues, the matters that would be on the agenda there. But the President is also fully satisfied that Prime Minister Chernomyrdin will be an able representative of the Russian Federation in Lyon.
Q Does it change the dynamic of the summit at all?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it changes -- of course it changes the dynamic and the chemistry of the meeting, because Yeltsin is a formidable figure, as are many of the other leaders who are there. But Prime Minister Chernomyrdin has, in his discussions with the Vice President and others, proven to be a very effective interlocutor on the matters that we deal with both on our bilateral agenda and then in discussions such as those that will occur among the eight in Lyon.
How about that?
Q What did he touch on in the foreign policy meeting today?
MR. MCCURRY: They discussed -- obviously, it touched on the G-7. They talked a little bit about Russia, about President Yeltsin.
The mic cut out again. You guys need to -- can you --
Q Houston, we have a problem.
MR. MCCURRY: Can you make a request that they check out the deal here?
And they also talked -- Helen, they also had a discussion about the Middle East. Secretary Christopher, of course, previewed his schedule as it is developing for next week and his likely encounters along the way. And they talked about Bosnia, the implementation force, the status of the implementation force.
Q What about China and Lake's trip and Clinton's interest in meeting with Chinese leaders after the election?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't hear anything that indicated that -- they did not get into that. That's, of course, been a subject of a lot of internal deliberations within the administration in advance of the decision that Ambassador Barshefsky announced on Monday.
Q Mike, are you going to brief after the governors meeting?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll have a briefing. What we intend to do is bring some of the participants who are making presentations here, and my understanding is a number of the governors will be available outside and we will have them either rain protected, depending on the weather at the time, so that you'll have an opportunity to talk to them. And then when they're concluded making their remarks, we will have some of the administration folks who participated here to brief further.
Q People like Johnson and --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I think Deval, Jim Johnson, Deval, and the Vice President are just going to come down for sure. The Vice President will be here, too.
Q When do you expect that to happen?
MR. MCCURRY: Let's give the governors maybe, you know, a good half hour or so, so you can talk to them outside, and then we will try to do it right after that -- 3:15 p.m.
Q So this thing is expected to conclude about --
MR. MCCURRY: Two forty-five, so we'll say around 3:15 p.m. here.
Q You're talking about bringing people to the briefing room?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q The administration officials? Including Rubin or not?
MR. MCCURRY: I think Deval Patrick from the Justice Department, Jim Johnson from Treasury, who has been working with the ATF folks -- is Secretary Cisneros coming or someone from HUD? Probably Bruce Katz or maybe Secretary Cisneros to talk about some of the HUD involvement, and then the Vice President will be a very worthy MC for the occasion.
Q Without, you know, prejudging the meeting --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, Todd.
Q Are you going to announce some initiatives or --
MR. MCCURRY: We've got some ideas. We have focussed so far, as you know, on law enforcement concerns on rebuilding and how we can get things reestablished in these communities that have suffered these incidents. But there is also a concern because these incidents persist and because the President, and we believe all Americans, are outraged by the continuation of these incidents. There is also a concern about prevention. So there will be some discussion with the governors about what we can do more effectively to try to deter these arsons.
Q Mike, any explanation of why there has been such a rash of these burnings after the President's speech in Greeleyville?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there have been a number of them. They are looking, as best they can, for any patterns or motivations; but each one, at this point, has to be investigated separately.
Q Mike, how does the President feel about Mexico's paying back $4.7 billion one year ahead of schedule?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's clearly very welcome news that the government of Mexico has -- is now in a position to assemble a package through financial institutions that would allow the repayment of $4.7 billion on the amount that was borrowed from the United States government in January 1995. With that they now will have repaid $6.7 billion of the $12.5 billion in U.S. assistance that was made available.
Now, I think it's useful to recall a little bit of history here. Why did this -- why is this repayment going to happen? The answer, because the Mexican economy is much stronger now. The reforms that President Zedillo has put in place are working. U.S. exports to Mexico, by the way, are up to record levels, if I remember my recent statistics correctly. And that's the evidence that Mexico's economy, which was on the brink of bankruptcy just a short while ago, is now recovering and doing much better.
Now, the President of the United States alone, without any assistance from the Congress, had to step up to the plate and make that decision. And you all recall that at the time he did that, in January 1995, there was strong political opposition. But the President demonstrated leadership. It turns out he was right. It turns out it's been good not only for Mexico's economy, but now good for the United States. The fact of the matter is, as this transaction continues, as they repay, we've actually made money on the assistance that we've lent them.
Q The Associated Press is reporting that Bruce Lindsey will be named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Little Rock Whitewater trial that has just begun.
MR. MCCURRY: I believe, if I'm not mistaken, they reported that last night.
Q No, they said "might be," but now they say he has been.
MR. MCCURRY: That would be -- it was reported that it would likely happen last night. There was a statement from Mr. Snyder, his attorney, and a statement from Mr. Lindsey that's available.
Q Is the White House -- does that impact on his job here at the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: We are fully aware that that was likely going to happen based on the comments of his attorney. And what is significant is that in many long months of inquiry he was not indicted.
Q Mike, did Mr. Panetta or Mr. Stephanopoulos, or both, rebuke Secretary Pena and Administrator Hinson for the statements they made in the immediate aftermath of the ValuJet crash?
MR. MCCURRY: I got this question yesterday, and in looking into it, it was actually directed to me yesterday in reference to Mr. Ickes and Mr. Stephanopoulos. No one recollects any rebuke or any concern of that nature. The concern expressed, as it always is, is are we confident that we've got the facts; are we confident we're doing everything to protect the safety of the American people; what additional steps do we need to take to make sure that we're protecting the safety of the American people. And that was done, done by the FAA and the special inspections that they announced. And the results were properly announced by the Administrator and supported by the Secretary.
Q So, Mike, just to follow up on your answer to Wolf's question, we shouldn't expect any change in Mr. Lindsey's employment status at the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard anything to indicate that, no.
Q Has Mr. Lindsey offered to the President or anybody else here at the White House to resign?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's had a discussion long ago with the President, and that question was raised long ago, and his circumstances involving the matter that's now being litigated in court haven't changed either.
Q Mike, again following up on Wolf's question. You just said what's significant is that after many months of inquiry he wasn't indicted. Are you saying that being an unindicted coconspirator is -- the White House isn't concerned --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, what that means is not entirely clear.
Kevin, you're looking anxious. What's going on, man. Just tell us. How's the world? (Laughter.) What news?
Q Breaking news.
MR. MCCURRY: Breaking news. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, for a lot --
Q Put CNN on. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, for a lot of people, you know, Lindsey is just a name to, say, the public. Could you explain what his role is these days, what kinds of things he advises the President on and what he does?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's been involved in a lot of things in his role as counselor to the President. He has worked most recently on securities litigation. As you all know, he travels on occasion with the President.
But, look, he has said under oath that he has done nothing wrong, and we have no reason to doubt his word. For more than a year he cooperated with the independent counsel. He cooperated with Congress, responding to every question about the 1990 gubernatorial campaign and about Perry County Bank. And he'll soon get a chance to testify in public about the facts. And he welcomes the opportunity to do so.
Q Mike, two days ago you said the fact that Craig Livingstone had said under oath that he had done nothing wrong was the reason he wasn't being put on leave. What's the difference between the --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean, these are entirely different situations. No person -- I hope you would not want automatic comparisons in your own personnel situation compared to some other reporter. You want people to evaluate situations on a case-by-case basis. And I think that's fair.
Q Mike, the question I'm asking is that you cited the other day a sworn affidavit that said nothing wrong was done as a reason why someone should not be suspended.
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct.
Q That person was subsequently suspended despite the sworn oath.
MR. MCCURRY: No, that's -- no actually -- actually, that's not correct.
Q The person was subsequently put on leave.
MR. MCCURRY: I said there was no punitive action taken against Mr. Livingstone and, indeed, there has not been any punitive action taken against Mr. Livingstone because there's no evidence that I'm aware of that's available to this White House that contradicts his sworn statement. That is still true today.
His request to be placed on administrative leave deals with the management of that office and deals with his own concerns and the concerns that the Chief of Staff has -- that that in no way prejudices a claim of punitive action. And I -- again, I'd say I'm not aware of any evidence that contradicts that claim.
Q I'll yield to any other Lindsey questions? Tangentially, recalling Bruce's role in the American Airlines strike some years ago, has he any role in monitoring the UAW talks, or is anybody here at the White House involved in that? And is the White House in any way working with either side to avoid the possibility of a strike?
MR. MCCURRY: The McDonnell-Douglas matter?
Q No, UAW pow-wow talks with the Big Three auto makers.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. I'd have to check. I believe that's been done by the Labor Department, but I can check on that.
Q Mike, getting back to Mr. Lindsey, do you expect any nonpunitive action to be taken against him?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q Can you clarify? I'm kind of a little confused on the Craig Livingstone's situation. You're saying no punitive action has been taken, but --
MR. MCCURRY: That is not a disciplinary action.
Q But your Chief of Staff has concerns that might prevent his returning to his job.
MR. MCCURRY: Correct. Correct. He can't -- he will not return from administrative leave until the Chief of Staff's concerns are satisfied, until the matter is clarified. That's what the White House legal counsel indicated. But that's different from saying that there is some grounds for disciplinary action against Mr. Livingstone, because that has to be established based on whatever the facts are and we're in the process of establishing the facts.
I think that's pretty -- I hope that's clear to everybody, that there ought to be a distinction there.
Q Different subject. Just out of curiosity, how much of a ceremony are you all planning here tomorrow for the Olympic torch?
MR. MCCURRY: Tomorrow, when it arrives? I think it's coming during the middle of a congressional picnic that hopefully won't be rained out like the press picnic last night. But they will have a welcoming moment when it arrives here; but on Friday morning is when he will actually do a public ceremony and have some things.
Q Along that line, do you know what the President's activities in connection with the Olympics are going to be?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he has the official role of opening the ceremonies that traditionally goes to the head of state, and he will probably want to go down and see some portion of the Games. I don't know that they have worked that out yet.
Do you have any -- our Olympics contact here is right here, our Olympian. Mary Ellen.
Q So multiple trips to --
MS. GLYNN: We don't know yet, but he will --
MR. MCCURRY: Come and say it at the microphone if you're going to say it. Do you want to brief on it?
MS. GLYNN: There's not much to say.
MR. MCCURRY: Why don't you tell me and I'll tell them. What's the deal?
MS. GLYNN: He will be coming down on the 19th, probably just for the Opening Ceremonies. The rest of their schedule --
MR. MCCURRY: Are we announcing that?
MS. GLYNN: Yes, we are. The principals' schedules have not been determined.
MR. MCCURRY: They still haven't worked out the schedule. He is going to go down on the 19th for the Opening Ceremonies. He will probably go down -- I've heard sometime either the next week or the following week to see at least one of the things. He probably will want to see a gold medal event or a championship event or something like that.
Q Just for a day?
Q Someplace where the U.S. wins. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Whatever. A day, two days, whatever. He is going to do a very brief thing when it arrives here and saying hello to the torch and put it to bed for the night. (Laughter.)
Q But not on the White House lawn, right?
MR. MCCURRY: Which is a very elaborate -- apparently a very elaborate proceeding, I am told.
Q But no flame on the White House lawn, we hear. It can't be on the grounds; is that right?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, it's going to be down -- they were going to put it -- I was told they were putting it down by the South Lawn so the tourists can see it from the Ellipse.
Q In case it explodes. MR. MCCURRY: It's not sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:25 P.M. EDT