THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
10:35 A.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: All right, just a little update. The President returned to the Oval Office after his appearance here. He's now placing calls to the congressional leadership. He spoke a short while ago with Speaker Gingrich, talking to Senator Daschle now. Obviously he still plans to speak to Majority Leader Lott. Congressman Gephardt. He will also place a call to Bob Dole. He's just giving them basically his own update on information, briefing them to the degree we can about what we know at this point.
Q Did he reach them all?
MR. MCCURRY: He's reached Gephardt -- I'm sorry, he's reached the Speaker and Senator Daschle, and he's placing calls sequentially to the other leaders. We can -- maybe David can follow up for you and just tell you who else he connects with.
Beyond that, I think some of you here this morning I told you just the sequence of calls the President got and made last night. He talked a little bit about that here.
Q Could you go through --
MR. MCCURRY: He got the initial call from Mr. Panetta just before 2:00 a.m. this morning. He then called the Vice President, because the Vice President, you know, has had a leadership role here in the White House coordinating a lot of the work that's been done on the Olympics with the help of Mack Mclarty as well. He called Panetta again, and Panetta called him again during the course of the evening. As he indicated here, he sat up quite sometime watching the live television coverage.
Q Is Mack in Atlanta?
MR. MCCURRY: He is in Atlanta, yes.
Q Has the President talked to him, too?
MR. MCCURRY: He's been on a conference call with folks here at the White House. I don't know whether --
MR. JOHNSON: He was part of the conference call --
MR. MCCURRY: He was part of the conference call that the President did to the Olympic officials, the Atlanta officials, Billy Payne --
Q And Governor Miller, the Mayor --
MR. MCCURRY: Right, and Samaranch.
Q Mike, in that connection, is anyone else, senior level, going to be sent down to Atlanta or any --
MR. MCCURRY: We've got -- we've had an extensive effort here at the White House to coordinate the federal activity related to the Olympic games. And with Mr. McLarty there, and very good contact with the Governor, the Mayor, the Atlanta Olympic officials and the international committee, we feel we're in a good position to monitor developments.
Q Mike, can you tell us anything about the call with the FBI people? Was Director Freeh on the call?
MR. MCCURRY: He was -- both the Attorney General and the Director were on.
MR. JOHNSON: The Attorney General, the Director --
MR. MCCURRY: Was the SAIC on?
MR. JOHNSON: Deputy Attorney General and the SAIC.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, Jamie Gorelick was also on, the Deputy Attorney General, and also the Special Agent in Charge in Atlanta, Woody Johnson. And he obviously got an update on what their information is. They will be briefing, my understanding is, at noon in Atlanta.
Q What time was that conference call?
MR. MCCURRY: It was about 9:20 a.m. --
MR. JOHNSON: 9:30 a.m.
MR. MCCURRY: 9:30 a.m.
Q Was there a meeting here with Attorney General Reno and others?
MR. MCCURRY: No, that was a false report.
Q NBC has had twice reports that Vice President Gore complained about lack of security. Is there any truth to this?
MR. MCCURRY: The Vice President assured me that that is not true. The Vice President has had ongoing discussions related to security, but he did not admonish anybody concerning security.
Q Well, it said that he had said it -- I'm just repeating --
MR. MCCURRY: I just told it's not true.
Q He said -- what do you mean by he had ongoing --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, he's been -- there's been extensive reviews of security arrangements at the Olympics. And the President commented on that here. We are quite confident that they're the most extensive that have ever occurred for the games.
Q So in that conference call, what was said and what action was taken as a result?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to comment on it. The FBI will brief at 12:00 p.m.
Q To your knowledge has there been any claim of responsibility for this?
MR. MCCURRY: No comment.
Q So you're not going to comment on any of the --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to comment on anything related to the investigation.
Q So what happens when he goes to Camp David? What will be the scenario out there?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he will get updates as needed through information that is funneled through the Situation Room and conference calls to the Chief of Staff and reported directly to him. He'll get reports coming in from the various federal agencies involved and also from Mr. McLarty.
Q Just clarify, the FBI briefing is here or in Atlanta?
MR. MCCURRY: In Atlanta. That's my understanding, right? 12:00 noon in Atlanta.
Q Mike, Leon will be his conduit or is McLarty going to call him directly or --
MR. MCCURRY: They will assemble information, pass it through the Chief of Staff to the President.
Q Is the Chief of Staff going to be with the President?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll be here monitoring things, and probably at home. He may also have some of the Deputy Chiefs of Staff in a position to get some of the reports during the weekend.
Q He's still going to New Orleans tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: His travel plans remain the same tomorrow. He'll depart here, my guess is early afternoon, and then return in time to fly.
Q He will come back here from Camp David?
MR. MCCURRY: He comes back here before departure. He comes back here from Camp David prior to departure for New Orleans tomorrow.
Q Do you expect this incident to change the subject of his speech to the DAV?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I'm sure he'll comment on this at the DAV.
Q Mike, on a more -- what will happen with the speech he made today, the radio address about welfare which had -- had some comments that were worth reporting? I don't --
MR. MCCURRY: The President's remarks here were fed in lieu of his remarks on welfare reform, but you may take the embargoed release, or the embargoed text of his welfare radio address and use it as a statement on welfare. Obviously, we stand by that statement and we released it on an embargoed basis. But it was more appropriate to have the President commenting live on the matter in Atlanta.
Q Just in terms of reassuring people, do you think the President himself would maybe go back to the Olympics just to --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President certainly will consider that. He had no plans to. Mrs. Clinton did tentatively have plans to return to the Olympics. The Vice President is planning to attend the closing ceremonies of the games. And they fully hope, expect and plan to go ahead with their travel, but we will do that subject to recommendations from local law enforcement officials because, obviously, we don't want to do anything to interfere or detract from the investigative work that's underway.
Q Is it fair to say the President's not ruling out the possibility of returning --
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule out that possibility.
Q When were you called, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: About 2:00 a.m., I guess.
Q Mike, was there any discussion this morning of how to eliminate a lot of the confusing and contradictory information that came out of the TWA disaster?
MR. MCCURRY: There's been no discussion of that this morning.
Q Is he still doing "Adelante Con Clinton"?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll very briefly at the beginning thank them for gathering today, explain that under the circumstances he won't be able to participate the way that he had planned to, to encourage this organization. But he'll then turn the telephone over to Secretary Cisneros. And then he'll carry it out. The President wanted to thank them for being there and say that he knew that they would understand if he couldn't participate completely in the teleconference that they're having.
Q I gather that the President and the other powers that be must have known that the open space, per se, was not risk-free as much as --
MR. MCCURRY: The President -- as the President just indicated yes, that that was an area that was open to the general public. And that was known, and thankfully there were law enforcement people --
Q So they don't go through magnetometers or anything when they go into the park.
MR. MCCURRY: They don't have that kind of security for that facility. I stress very carefully that that's unlike other Olympic venues that do have extensive security.
Q When was Mrs. Clinton planning to go back to --
MR. MCCURRY: Sometime next week -- I think around mid-week.
Q Mike, just to clarify, were there separate calls this morning to Samaranch and Billy Payne and the Governor, or was this all one --
MR. MCCURRY: There were two calls. The first call was to -- did we do the local guys first or the FBI first?
MR. JOHNSON: FBI.
MR. MCCURRY: The first call was the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Director of the FBI and the Special Agent in Charge in Atlanta. The second call was the Governor, the Mayor, the Director of the Atlanta Committee, and the President of the International Committee. And Mr. McLarty was on that call.
Q And these -- were these --
MR. MCCURRY: And the Vice President and the President participated in both calls.
Q These were telephone as opposed to --
MR. MCCURRY: These were telephone conference calls.
Q Did Vice President Gore get back just last night himself from the games.
MR. MCCURRY: He got back just after 1:30 a.m. to his residence.
Q He had been in Atlanta last night?
MR. MCCURRY: He had been in Atlanta yesterday.
Q Mike, is there any reason to believe this is linked to the TWA --
MR. MCCURRY: No comment, and no reason to believe that.
Q Was Chelsea at the White House or was she in Atlanta the last couple days? Chelsea, was she in Atlanta the last couple days? Is she here now?
MR. MCCURRY: She came back with the President and the First Lady on Thursday night, early Friday morning.
Q Do you know if the President talked with her about it --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know if he has yet today, but he clearly expressed his concern in answer to Thelma's question.
Q What discussions did the Vice President have on security when he was in Atlanta? Did he have any briefings on security when he was there yesterday?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know -- you can -- we'll check with the Vice President's staff on that. That has been a subject that has been under extensive review for all the months that have gone into the planning of the games.
Q Had Chelsea attended any -- concerts in that park, like the one where the bombing took place?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware she attended any concerts, but as the President indicated, she had been in the park and had done one of the things that folks do, do pin exchanges, the little lapel pins that people are exchanging. And she had apparently been collecting some pins.
Q But she was back already? She's not still there?
MR. MCCURRY: She came back with the President and the First Lady Thursday night.
Q Was the federal role the same for this off-site type event as it was for Olympics events -- and planning for security, do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: No, but I will refer you to local officials. My understanding is this is a state park, and under state jurisdiction. So you really should ask state authorities.
Q Are you saying, no, you don't know, or no, it wasn't at the same level --
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that there are different security arrangements for all the different venues.
Do you have anything further on that?
MR. JOHNSON: The security arrangements were different for the venues as opposed to this park, but the security for the entire area was coordinated between federal, state and local officials so that authority as it needed to be, was enforced. And those venues were divided up. This was a facility where the state was responsible for the security.
MR. MCCURRY: Because it was a state park. I mentioned earlier to some of you when the -- after the incident occurred, the FBI has lead jurisdiction for the investigation of the incident. And that was by prearrangement. There had been agreement at the federal level, between federal agencies and then with state and local agencies, as to how they would treat an incident like this and establish jurisdiction.
Q I think the President did mention that, at the end, that they are now, I think he said even as we speak, looking at ways of pumping up security there at the open --
MR. MCCURRY: They're looking at security issues related to Centennial Park. That's an important facility for the general public as the President indicated. And, obviously, as the President said, they hope to reopen the park when they are confident they can do so.
Q Our folks down in Atlanta are reporting to us that at the rowing, armed soldiers or armed guards carrying machine guns seem to have appeared on the scene. I wondered if there are any U.S. military people involved, if you know what that might be.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information on that.
Q There were reports that two more packages containing bombs were found at Centennial Park.
MR. MCCURRY: There have been all kinds of reports all night long, and I don't have any information beyond what they're going to brief on at 12:00 noon.
Q Mike, the President calls the congressional leadership and Senator -- Mr. Dole at a time like this because he just wants to make sure they don't go off the reservation or that they know what he knows or --
MR. MCCURRY: No, because I think he feels it's appropriate for the leaders of the other branch of government to have accurate information as it's available to him.
Q Your staffing plans for the rest of the day?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't anticipate anything further here. I've told you how we will relay information to the President. The President will be departing. We're going to go to a Saturday schedule here shortly.
Q What time is leaving?
MR. MCCURRY: And the Press Secretary is departing.
Q What time is the President leaving, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: He probably around noon or maybe early afternoon.
Q Are you going on your well-deserved vacation?
MR. MCCURRY: I hope so.
Q Who's going to be here?
MR. MCCURRY: We've got the three that you see right there -- Mr. Johnson, Mr. Toiv, and Ms. Glynn will be rotating duty throughout the --
Q What's your number on the beach? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to the beach. I'm going way off into the pine woods where no one can find me, including skypagers.
What else? Anything else? All right, I'll see you all next month.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: One correction, just -- I've been handed a note saying the President will be departing for Louisiana from Camp David. How does he do that?
MS. GLYNN: He goes to Andrews --
MR. MCCURRY: He'll go directly to Andrews from Camp David. I may have led people to believe he was coming back here to the White House before he goes to Andrews. That's not correct. He'll go straight to Andrews.
END 10:49 A.M. EDT