THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:40 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: All right, the hard work having been done, anything else?
Q Anything new on the Clinger-Quinn negotiations?
MR. MCCURRY: No, nothing new.
Q Anything new on -- do you have any answer on whether IRS files were also solicited --
MR. MCCURRY: I have no way of knowing. I assume that that is -- that if there is an answer to that question, it would be within the province of Mr. Starr's work.
Q You didn't ask at all. I mean, you --
MR. MCCURRY: I asked about it, and I just gave you the answer that I'm giving.
Q Has Jack Quinn reached any kind of arrangement or is he close to reaching an arrangement on those files?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, Helen asked if there was anything new. We maintain an interest in avoiding any type of constitutional confrontation, and remain willing to work through these issues with the committee, and we'll report anything new as it's reported.
Q Are you still advising us to kind of stay tuned today? Could something break on it today?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Speaker has already indicated they're going to proceed to a vote on this issue tomorrow, I believe, so obviously it's in today's news cycle.
Q Can you report any progress in trying to settle this off the floor, as it were?
MR. MCCURRY: Here, now? No.
Q Do you think it's still likely or possible today?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate.
Q Senator Dole says the President is not spending enough time on the Bosnian elections, that he is too busy campaigning.
MR. MCCURRY: Senator Dole said that? The President has spent considerable time on that issue. The State Department just announced a couple moments ago that Assistant Secretary John Kornblum is in fact on his way or soon on his way to Belgrade, Sarajevo, and Zagreb for discussions. I suspect that this will be a topic that the President himself will spend considerable time on working with other leaders at the summit of the industrialized nations in France coming up at the end of this week, so I have no earthly idea of what he was referring to. We have been actively involved in all aspects of implementing the Dayton Accords, civilian implementation, military implementation.
The President, you'll recall, just a short while ago had a meeting with his senior foreign policy advisors on this subject. I reported that here to you, so he should try to get his facts straight.
Q And he's still for going ahead with the elections in September?
MR. MCCURRY: The OSCE monitoring group and the director of that effort, Mr. Frowick, has recommended that they proceed with the election, and we see that as a crucial part of the Dayton Accords and further reconciliation in peace efforts in Bosnia.
Q There is a wire report that Chairman Pat Roberts of the House Agricultural Committee has asked the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to release its records relating to Hillary Rodham Clinton's 1978 and 1979 trading in cattle futures, and they say they will only do it under a subpoena. Do you have any comment on this --
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding from our counsel's office is that we asked the Merc for, and were told that we received, all of Mrs. Clinton's trading records, and we released them publicly in May of 1994. So I'm certain you reported on that at that time. If you don't have those stories, don't have access to those stories, go back to May 1994. This might be beat up on Hillary week, so it might have had something to do with that.
Q -- there were some documents that were missing in 1994, which the Exchange could not find.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not proficient enough in them, but I'm told that -- this is what I was told by the counsel's office.
Q The DOT Inspector General is on the Hill today, essentially blasting the FAA's oversight of the airlines. What is the President saying about how the FAA could have missed the mark on its quality control?
MR. MCCURRY: The President was briefed by Mr. Panetta following Mr. Panetta's briefing by the Secretary of Transportation on some of the administrative reforms that the FAA and the Transportation Department recently announced. And he is certain that those steps were taken with the interests of America's air travellers and the American air travel -- air system fully in mind. It needs to be secure. It needs to be safe. And it needs to be monitored carefully by those with that responsibility.
Q What will the President be discussing with the President of Ecuador in their meeting today?
MR. MCCURRY: It's coming up, and we will provide you a written account afterwards of what they review. It's a short meeting. I suspect that, given the duration, they will focus mostly on the border dispute between Peru and Ecuador, and the United States' interests in an amicable settlement of some of those differences.
Q Mike, given what we know now, does the President think that FAA inspections were inadequate?
MR. MCCURRY: Given what we know now, the President believes that it was well warranted to proceed with the 30-day special inspections that were ordered by the Secretary of Transportation.
Q Wait, that was on one airline. I think part of the criticism is being directed at the FAA for their overall supervision --
MR. MCCURRY: As the Secretary of Transportation indicated, the White House -- he has taken those on board and actively reviewing steps that they need to take to ensure confidence in America's air travel system.
Q Back for a moment to the victims' rights amendment, just a question of the genesis of the idea. Did the Justice Department after this careful review and a critical mass being reached send to the White House and to the President himself a recommendation that the administration supports such an amendment, or was the process the reverse?
MR. MCCURRY: They had a number of discussions with the White House legal counsel's office. The White House legal counsel prepared an options memo for the President that reflected all the different views within the -- administration's deliberations on the issue.
Q How much will implementation cost and who will pay the bill?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, implementation, quote, unquote, the amendment as its -- as the President described it today, is designed to be self-enforcing. So, there would not be any implementation legislation required. Individual courts and state -- at the federal level, state level, military and juvenile justice system would have to absorb any extra costs, but these are access and right to know within a proceeding that exists, which usually is the subject of heavy litigation, representations made by attorneys on both sides of individual cases, so, it is likely those costs could be absorbed within our criminal justice system without undue burden on taxpayers.
Q Mike, I didn't understand your answer to John's question. Did the Justice Department take a position on this? And did this originate with the counsel's office talking to them or with Justice talking --
MR. MCCURRY: In the materials I saw, there were -- as John Schmidt just indicated, a number of views within the Justice Department, pro and con, that were thoroughly discussed here at the White House in the preparation of the options memo for the President. The President certainly knew that there were feelings pro and con.
Q Did he direct that this options memo be prepared for him?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether he asked for it or not. It was certainly something he was considering and had under consideration for sometime.
Q The Senate leaders have sent a letter to the FCC calling on it to give rather than sell a second channel to the TV broadcasters for digital broadcast. What's President Clinton's view on this? Dole has called it an outrage and corporate welfare, as have many public interest groups. What's Clinton's view --
MR. MCCURRY: I would ask that you contact Greg Simon in the Vice President's office, who is one of our lead experts on telecommunications issues. I personally don't know whether we have taken a position in pleading before the FCC on that issue.
Q Is he going to be urging that there be some kind of concession as a result of giving the stations this -- some kind of concession for public interest?
MR. MCCURRY: To my knowledge our discussion of spectrum allocation has -- or spectrum auction has been confined to the analog spectrum, and I'm not -- to my recollection we have not specifically addressed digital allocation. But if you contact him, he'll be able to help you out.
Q Has the President sent Prime Minister Hashimoto a letter on the -- trade disputes between the U.S. and Japan? And do you expect to make some progress on these in Lyon?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether he has sent a letter or not. There was some contemplation of doing what we can in the days before Lyon to see if we could make further progress in the trade discussions we have underway. And we've got some unresolved areas -- semiconductors, insurance, civil aviation -- where we've not made the kind of progress that the President and the Prime Minister agreed needed to be made. And the President may be following up with him, if not in advance of Lyon, perhaps at Lyon. But we've got active discussions underway now on all those points. And USTR can help you out further and so can Mr. Johnson.
Q To what extent will those issues be a priority in the bilateral on Thursday?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as you saw at the President's recent state visit to Tokyo, the full benefits of our very close relationship with Japan are now seen in the way we cooperate on security issues, on global issues, on the so-called common agenda where we have a lot of work that we do on environmental protection and global issues generally, U.N. peacekeeping, U.N.-related issues -- we work very closely and actively with the Japanese government.
I suspect there will be strong interest in the Middle East peace process. The government of Japan has been very supportive of efforts to encourage development and revitalization in the West Bank. And I know that the President had planned to spend some time on that subject both in advance of his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, just announced, and following the meeting the Secretary of State has had with him in the last several days. So there are a full range of issues on that bilateral agenda.
On the trade issues, I do not expect them to delve into negotiating, because that's being handled by our trade representatives at this very moment. But they will certainly reaffirm -- the President will certainly reaffirm the need for progress in those areas where we haven't reached satisfactory conclusions.
Q Lott has said that he thinks you guys have come to some sort of compromise on the minimum wage and the gas tax. Can you remind us where the President --
MR. MCCURRY: The President has said all along that he is willing to abide by the strong desire to repeal the gas tax, provided it is attached to a legitimate stand-alone effort to raise the minimum wage. The President interest is in raising the minimum wage. And once again, the Republicans are trying to gum up the works by attaching extraneous measures to a minimum wage increase. We need a straightforward, clean increase in the minimum wage. That's the President's interest. And this is not going to -- they do that in a less than acceptable fashion. And what we're hearing is less than acceptable to the President. It means that we won't either -- you won't get either the increase in the minimum wage or the repeal of the gas tax.
Q Mike, for two days in a row now we've watched the President say that he supports certain issues, and yet when he makes the announcement, you don't have legislation of your own drafted, and you don't formally support any of the legislation, similar legislation, on the Hill. Can you explain why you're not accompanying these statements with legislation -- want to get it passed?
MR. MCCURRY: As we indicated yesterday, we will develop legislative language. In the case of the President's proposals on the Family and Medical Leave Act amendments, and on the Fair Labor Standards Act amendments, we'll have legislative language there that we can use in the give-and-take with Congress as they consider those measures. Those are actively under consideration in Congress now.
In the case of a constitutional amendment, it's a broader, different issue. That is -- the President, as you just heard from our briefers, has fundamental constitutional concerns. Rather than endorse the specific proposal pending right now, he wants to work with the sponsors. And, indeed, you just heard that they are both willing to work with us to get language that the President is satisfied and meets some of the constitutional needs that he wants to make sure an amendment has addressed.
So those are -- I wouldn't compare those two things. Now, it's also a reality that the President has to deal at the moment with a Republican Congress. We don't expect quick action by a Republican Congress on these measures, given the political season we're in. But we can lay out for you some of the types of measures that the President feels are important. And if we can get enough consensus in a bipartisan fashion, then we likely would move ahead on.
I mean, his -- while we recognize it -- for us to make advances on these issues and for us to get some progress that would result in bill-signing ceremonies here, it has to be something that represents bipartisan compromise, for which the Republicans in Congress can claim credit along with the President. That's the only way we're going to get any work done in the situation we're in right now. And the President's more than willing to pursue that course.
Q Mike, I want to go back to Al's question for a minute. You said that the states would likely have to absorb costs without undue expense to taxpayers. Now, given the President's promise not to present the states with any unfunded mandates, if we've got not only to involve the victims of crime in the trial, but got to have some system of notifying them of virtually any move of the defendants -- a parole, early release, escape, that kind of thing -- you're going to, it seems to me, need to come up with offices to deal with that. And isn't that another expense to states?
MR. MCCURRY: That would have been a great question for the experts that were here. I don't know, but I'll try to check for you.
Q Well, no, wait, Mike.
MR. MCCURRY: I just -- I don't know the answer to how much it will cost to do that. I think that what you need to do is look at what the existing requirements are for litigation within the criminal justice system, which are extensive. These matters are brief, contacts are made, victims are not -- one of our concerns is that they are -- the notice requirement that would go to them, if anyone's ever seen a legal pleading and looked at the way attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense are copied on serious matters that are at stake in our criminal justice system, you know it wouldn't take much more to send a copy of a brief to a victim or a victim's family. So that's all that's required here.
And as to the exact cost and how that would be implemented, we'll go back to the people who were here for sometime and see if we can get an answer.
Q But if I could ask one more thing. I'm not looking for exact costs. It seems a matter of common sense that some of these notifications or requirements are not a simple matter of copying someone in. I mean, you've got to find the victim. There's some expenses here, and common sense, it seems would indicate that these costs could mount up.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they need -- I mean, they -- a victim has a right to be heard, and the needs of the victim or the relief a victim sees through the prosecution has to be weighed in the balance, as you just heard from your briefing. They're going to find a way to do that, to implement that so that those constitutional tests can be kept. But let's not forget -- I mean, every time we have added an additional constitutional protection for the rights of defendants, that probably has put some burden on law enforcement officials, some burden on the taxpayer as well. And so what we're looking for is a sense of balance here and proportionality.
Q Is it only a coincidence that Senator Dole -- that is, that former Senator Dole, happened to endorse this amendment one or two months ago, or will you concede some political motivation for jumping on this sure-fire --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, your folks -- the folks that briefed here, you asked that question of them and how -- what the genesis and process was. And I think it was pretty clear. Is this a subject that is within the realm of the public debate, within part of the debate on our national election -- it's already been. What we're doing to combat crime, what we're doing to address the fears of Americans who are not certain about the safety of their communities is a subject you've heard the President talk about in front of audiences he's addressed over and over again. But you also have seen this President, you know this President has a recording dating back to his work as attorney general of Arkansas in which he has steadfastly worked for the rights of victims, both for compensation and also for the protection of their legal standing in the courts.
Q Well, Mike, if it dates back almost 20 years then, or actually -- probably just about 20 years, why isn't it that we haven't seen the White House come up today with any concrete proposal? And why -- why shouldn't we assume that this was political theater here today in the Rose Garden?
MR. MCCURRY: Mick, asked and answered. In the previous briefing, a very good answer was given. Should have been here.
Q -- have any reactions to the new episode involving narco-traffickers in the Panamanian electoral campaign and the ongoing investigations about the Vice President and other -- a diplomat? Is it better, like in Panama, that the President acknowledge that he got money from the narco-traffickers?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to make those comparisons, but we believe it's important for the President to take those steps that are necessary for law enforcement. We believe the President is committed to doing so.
Q Mike, what are you going to -- what do you hope to accomplish in the meeting with Netanyahu? Are you going to pressure him to change policies?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will await discussion with the Secretary of State, who has just seen the Prime Minister. Before we answer a question like that in the broadest sense we seek to do what we can, working with the Prime Minister to nurture and strengthen the peace process.
Q Is there a date for that?
MR. MCCURRY: The Secretary of State announced earlier today in Jerusalem that it would be July 9th.
Q And how much time does he expect to spend with Netanyahu?
MR. MCCURRY: We haven't arranged the schedule yet.
Q On Uzbekistan, will the President discuss human rights concerns about the Uzbekistan regime and protests about that?
MR. MCCURRY: That is a regular feature of our dialogue when we talk about democracy, market economics, political reform, political rights. It includes discussions of human rights. And I expect they will spend some time on that issue.
Q And will the President try to give him any guarantees about safeguarding him from incursions from Iran and the encroachment of fundamentalists --
MR. MCCURRY: The regional security issues will be on their agenda. I'm not going to be more specific than that until the meeting occurs, but we'll see if we can get you a readout afterwards.
Q Mike, considering the fact that the President has asked and urged that we get quick answers to the questions about these FBI files, is he welcoming these hearings, particularly the one tomorrow where the witnesses will be the major participants?
MR. MCCURRY: He welcomes the independent investigations of these facts so the American people can have the truth. And to the degree that any congressional hearing contributes to the American people's understanding of truth as opposed to politics, it's welcome.
Q In that connection, you were very -- pretty forthcoming when the story on the files broke and gave names out and so forth. Do you really want an allegation that IRS files were also taken to hang out there? The President said he only knew what he read in the papers on the files, is that true about the IRS?
MR. MCCURRY: Helen, you asked that earlier --
Q I did.
MR. MCCURRY: And whose files are now in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The committee has made the request, if I understand it correctly, to the Director of the FBI. I think Director Freeh will be in a very good position to provide an answer to that question.
Q On the IRS?
MR. MCCURRY: The files in question are in the custody of the FBI, and what is in them would be a good -- if I'm not mistaken, is a question that has been posed to him. We don't have possession of them.
Q Do you have an answer to the question? Does the White House know whether or not IRS documents are --
MR. MCCURRY: I have no knowledge that the contents of those files were reviewed before they were returned to the FBI.
Q So that's a no, you don't know whether or not --
MR. MCCURRY: I just gave you the answer that I can give you.
Q There's another meeting scheduled on MSAs this afternoon on the Hill. What are the prospects for agreement? Is the White House set on this idea that any pilot project should not affect more --
MR. MCCURRY: Paula, I can't hear but half your question. Say again.
Q There's a meeting scheduled on the Hill today on MSAs. I wondered what the White House feels as far as prospects of agreement. And is the administration set on this idea among the Democrats that any pilot project should not affect more than a million --
MR. MCCURRY: We -- state again what I've said before. We believe there should be a quantifiable population that participates in any test of medical savings accounts. As to whether we think there can be progress on that, we haven't had much progress in our recent discussions, partly because the offers seem to be moving backwards as they come from the other side of the table. But we'll see where we are and see if we can make some progress because the expanding health care coverage through greater portability is a very key interest of the President.
Q Back to the FBI files. Even though the President will be travelling tomorrow, will he be following this? Has he asked anybody to keep him briefed on the testimony?
MR. MCCURRY: He will get any updates that he needs to get as necessary from those who will be back here who will be following it.
Q Who's all going with him from staff?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have a whole delegation list, but the National Security Adviser -- from the White House, the National Security Adviser,
MS. GLYNN: Secretary Christopher and --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, Secretary Christopher; the Chair of the National Economic Council, Laura Tyson; Secretary of the Treasury; our sherpa, Dan Tarullo, and a gaggle and cast of would-be important people.
Q Do you still expect a departure statement tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. The President will be making a short departure statement around 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, prior to departure and frame just some of his general discussion points for the other leaders, and --
Q Ten o'clock a.m.? Did he move his departure back?
MR. MCCURRY: Ten o'clock a.m.
Q -- subject of his speech on Thursday to the people of Perouges, or France?
MR. MCCURRY: He will be talking about the challenges that the world community faces in the post-Cold War era. And like much of his discussion with the other leaders of the G-7, he will be making several points. Would the -- the world that we now live in requires new thinking as it comes to protecting the world community from the threats we face in the world we now live. The new threats of the world that we will face in the 21st century include drug-trafficking, terrorism, environmental degradation, the threats of proliferation, the actions of those nations that live outside the boundaries of the international community, the so-called "rogue nations." And much of the discussion at Lyon among the leaders of the industrialized world will focus on how we can meet those threats and face those challenges. And the President, to the citizens of France, will say the citizens of France and the people of the United States stand in common cause as we fight those new threats.
Q You're talking about rogue nations, and you're talking about fighting terrorism -- what about President Clinton's relationship with Indonesia, the government of Indonesia? And I'm talking specifically about the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Over the last 20 years Indonesia has occupied or killed more than a third of the population, 200,000 people. President Clinton, when he was running for office, said on the issue of Timor that the U.S. policy toward it has been unconscionable. Yet, right now, he's finalizing a deal with Soeharto, the dictator of Indonesia, to sell them F-16 fighter planes. Why is he doing it and what's the status of that deal?
MR. MCCURRY: The concerns that we have about East Timor have been a regular feature of our bilateral dialogue with Indonesia and, indeed, we have pressed that -- exactly those arguments forcefully with that government. As to the transaction involved, I don't have any available information on it.
Q But it's hard for the government to take it seriously when Clinton is selling them F-16s, which Indonesia views as a seal of approval.
MR. MCCURRY: The degree to which the government of Indonesia takes seriously the strong protests of the United States government on human rights is something you'll have to ask the government of Indonesia.
Q Protest in what way? How has Clinton protested to the government of Indonesia?
MR. MCCURRY: You can get a list of all the bilateral contacts and times that we've raised this issue with them, and the State Department and the NSC staff will be pleased to help you.
Q Mike, your reference to rogue nations and challenges in the President's speech, is this a part of a defense against what we assume are going to be some strong objections raised at Lyon to things like Helms-Burton and the Iran-Libya oil legislation that is going through --
MR. MCCURRY: Specifically on Libya and Iran, we will make the case that we've seen what nations like that do when they are unchecked by the international community and the importance of seeking to isolate them economically. We'll also make the strong case if challenged by some of the other leaders of the industrialized world, that a critical dialogue with Iran can advance the interests of moderates in that nation, that there's simply no evidence that that's been the case in recent years. And we fully expect that that argument will be raised by others.
Q And as far as Helms-Burton -- is this part of --
MR. MCCURRY: Helms-Burton there will be a very visible demonstration of the necessity of Helms-Burton when the International Civil Aviation Organization meets in Montreal on Monday. And here's a report that says that it has a willful, criminal violation of international law, a reprehensible regime in Cuba shot out of the air two civilian aircraft over international waters.
And, as everyone here knows, that's the point at which this President said that that legislation and that approach needed to be used as an effective tool to bring about the kind of change towards democracy that the entire international community ought to wish as it thinks about the actions of that regime.
Q Were you saying that you expect other nations to side with us on this question of critical dialogue --
MR. MCCURRY: I suspect that -- no, I didn't say that. I said that we expect that will be a subject of some dispute and disagreement at Lyon. At the same time, we think we can make a very substantial case that the critical dialogue has not produced the kind of moderation in behavior that we expect out of a government like Iran that seeks that type of commerce and trade with other industrialized nations.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:08 P.M. EDT