THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
11:45 A.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Well, barely, but good morning, everyone. Nice to be here on a quiet day. The President of the United States and his lovely bride celebrating their 21st wedding anniversary today. That's the big news at the White House.
Q Will we see him today?
MR. MCCURRY: Not likely. He may, depending on whether he goes out, if he does anything and goes out, it will be all impromptu and on his own.
Q Any word about the gifts?
Q Can you tell us the present now?
MR. MCCURRY: No, can't tell you the present yet. I don't think --
Q Mike, is he going down to view the quilt?
MR. MCCURRY: He might, Paul. They're still talking about that and he might do that. The Vice President was there earlier today, as you know.
Q Mike, could you refresh my memory on these -- I was thinking of the golf clubs and gifts -- what is the policy on -- let's say that he did take those golf clubs, all right?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. They all get recorded and logged in the Office of Gifts, however that works. We can get some information for it. And then anything that he elects to keep, they do on his annual financial disclosure form. But they all get logged in and I think the maintenance of records is by the Counsel's Office.
Q So he could, in effect, buy them based on whatever they evaluate them for?
MR. MCCURRY: I think so. There's a process that you go under if you actually elect to keep anything that is given; otherwise, it becomes part of the official registry here.
Q President Clinton's comment of the winning of that Nobel Peace Prize by Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo of East Timor?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the subject of human rights in East Timor has long been a concern of the United States. We've raised this frequently in our meetings with the government of Indonesia. We've been particularly concerned about the outbreak of violence there. Bishop Belo, of course, well-known peace activist, human rights activist, and all of those who attempt to bring a calmer atmosphere to East Timor and bring respect for fundamental human rights are to be congratulated.
Q Will President Clinton renew -- we hear that Winston Lord has returned from Indonesia and said they will renew their efforts; President Clinton will push for the sale of F-16s to Indonesia when Congress returns in January. I've spoken to both Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo, and they say Clinton is key in self-determination for East Timor. Will he now continue to push for those weapon sales to Indonesia? Jose Ramos Horta says it's like selling weapons to Saddam Hussein.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's not the view of the United States government. We make arms transfers of that nature when they are in the interest of the United States. Our views on the F-16 transfer are well-known. We have pursued those in the discussions that we've had with the Indonesian government.
Again, our goal is to engage in arms transfers in that region that promotes stability, defense security, not to engage in transfers that would involve anything resembling repression of individual rights.
Q How does this support democracy when the Clinton administration is pushing weapons to a place that's killed a third of the population in Timor, one of the great genocide of the 20th century?
MR. MCCURRY: You don't use F-16s to kill civilians and crackdowns on dissidents.
Q But you're supporting the military dictatorship by doing it.
MR. MCCURRY: You're also advancing U.S. strategic interests in the region.
Q Will you invite Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo to the White House -- will the President?
MR. MCCURRY: I am not aware of any plans for that.
Q Does the President know or is he curious why the Indonesian -- the Lippo group gave all of that money to Webb Hubbell?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether he's curious about that or not.
Q Mike, there are several questions about that, actually, I have, ad nauseam here. Do you have any totals on how much has been given? And also, the basic principle seems to be that he's getting -- or the DNC, I guess, is getting money from Indonesia, which would mean that it is coming from outside the U.S.
MR. MCCURRY: Not the principle at all. There are individuals who contribute to the Democratic National Committee; the Democratic National Committee does everything required by law to disclose sources of support and, indeed, does something voluntarily to describe sources of support.
This family is a prominent family in Little Rock. One of the members of the family lived there for some time. They had extensive commercial dealings in the city itself. They got to know a lot of people within the community. Then Governor Clinton obviously got to know James Riady. And the fact that they became friendly and that they are supporters of the President should come as no surprise. The fact that support has been rendered in some cases in financial contributions to the President's political efforts and to the party should come as no surprise.
Q But that doesn't violate the spirit of the law, not to accept money from --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, that borders on saying, well, someone, because they're of a particular ethnic heritage, you assume that is a source of contribution on behalf of a government. I don't think there is any evidence to suggest that at all. There's a friendship that developed there. This was a prominent family that did business in and around Little Rock, and they are supportive of President Clinton's political efforts.
Q Mike, any White House comment on the bust in West Virginia on militia -- on the militia group?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any comment on that. My understanding is that the Bureau plans a press conference at 1:00 p.m. And obviously we have a lot of congratulations today for the law enforcement work that the Justice Department is doing. That one I would prefer to hold off until after the Bureau does its press conference at 1:00 p.m.
Q And to follow up on the heroin bust that Attorney General Reno held a news conference on -- any --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I do have a statement from the President on that. The Attorney General just announced that. He obviously congratulates in the statement Attorney General Reno, Treasury Secretary Rubin, their crime-fighting teams, all of the law enforcement officers who worked to ensure the breakup of another notorious international drug ring that was penetrated through Operation Global See. Building on the success of the operation back in May that resulted in a similar type of drug bust, this breakup of the drug network marks another milestone in our efforts to cripple major international drug-trafficking networks. A further written statement to follow.
Q Mike, the timing of that obviously raises the question at least politically of the announcement -- not the investigation, necessarily, itself.
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't know the announcement was coming. To my knowledge -- unless someone in the Counsel's Office knew, I'm not sure that anyone here knew that it was coming.
Q So you're saying that it wasn't timed to the election?
MR. MCCURRY: We knew nothing about the timing here as far as I know. I certainly didn't know about it. And you should ask the Justice Department further about the announcement. I think that they made the success and were able to make the allegations that they made today based on their work, and they announced that accordingly.
Q Mike, many Hispanics are traveling from all over the country to meet in Washington this week, and they're going to have a big concentration tomorrow. Many issues -- immigration is one of them -- legal, illegal. Is the White House in contact with any of the organizers of these groups?
MR. MCCURRY: We have had very close contact with leaders in the Hispanic community about many of those issues that will surely be on the minds of those who gather over the weekend. The President's concerns related to immigration, the issues that he's articulated, the steps he's taken to prevent the shut-off of some benefits for illegal immigrants are all well-known. We've reviewed that in meetings with the leadership of the Hispanic community because we certainly understand and, in many cases, share the concerns that they raise.
Q Mike, does the President, in his concern about financial reform for campaign money, does he believe that there should be any changes to close loopholes that allow foreign organizations, foreign corporations to funnel money through various loopholes?
MR. MCCURRY: You're making an allegation there that I don't know of any facts to support such an allegation. Should there be reform of campaign finance law? Yes. Should there be reforms specifically in the area of non-federal contributions? Yes. The President is strongly on record in favor of both.
Q Several environmental groups are opposed pipeline legislation that's coming to the President's desk. Does he intend to veto that legislation?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check into it. I don't know.
Q What exactly is the connection between the President and the Riady family?
MR. MCCURRY: The one I just described earlier. You know, based on their association and their presence as entrepreneurs in Little Rock and elsewhere in the United States.
Q What bill signings do you anticipate today?
MR. MCCURRY: Today we've got a number of -- we've got a queue that's lined up. There are a number that may be acted upon today. Waiting for action are -- I guess most prominent, the intelligence community reorganization measure; the securities reform legislation, which is pending -- those are probably the two biggest that we've got on hold. We'll alert you if the President takes actions on those. I expect him also, tomorrow morning, to take action on the water resources development bill probably sometime before departure, around 8:15 a.m., 8:30 a.m., in that neighborhood. That will be the subject of the radio address. And we'll probably also have the pool in for that in the morning.
Q He'll tape the radio address tomorrow before he departs?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll do that before departure and focus it on a measure that is very important to the future of the Florida Everglades, among other issues.
Q You say he will tape it tomorrow morning?
MR. MCCURRY: Tomorrow morning.
Q And the pool will be allowed in, cameras?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll let the pool in to witness that event.
Q I'm just want to make sure I understood you, Mike. Are you saying intelligence and securities could well be signed today?
MR. MCCURRY: They are awaiting action today and they could well be signed today, yes. In the case of both, there are some reservations that we've got about the intelligence bill. But, overall, it takes some steps that the President has advocated in terms of restructuring the intelligence community for the 21st century. The President shares some of the concerns that Director Deutch has expressed about the layers of bureaucracy that this measure creates. But, on balance, it's a bill that does move our intelligence gathering apparatus into the new focuses it must have for the 21st century.
On the other measure, on the securities bill, that's a bill that is really a very significant overhaul of the securities regulatory system in the United States. It's going to significantly reduce the costs of capital formation in the United States, while protecting investor confidence, keeping some of the protections that have been a hallmark of the U.S. financial system -- in fact, part of the protections that many other governments that are now emerging into market economics asked the United States about on many occasions. So a very important measure that the administration has worked on, and we expect the President to sign it at some point in the coming days.
Q Back to the issue of Timor for a second. President Clinton is not only going to push for the F-16s, but also for the restoration of IMET, military training aide. And that was cut off after the massacre of November, 1991, which I witnessed and survived, where more than 250 Timorese were killed with U.S. weapons. Congress cut it off because they said the human rights situation was so bad. It hasn't improved in these five years -- it's coming up on the 5th anniversary next week. Why is President Clinton considering restoring that military training aide to Indonesia right now?
MR. MCCURRY: On the IMET funding I'd really prefer that you get -- they can give you a much better briefing over at the State Department on that. We have raised, as I said earlier, in the meetings we've had at highest levels with the Indonesian government and certainly in most every bilateral session we have our concerns related to human rights in East Timor.
Q Will President Clinton push for a U.N.-sponsored referendum in East Timor so that the people there can determine their own future?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will continue to press our human rights concerns related to East Timor.
Q Can you clarify my earlier question -- was the President aware that the Indonesians had put Webb Hubbell on retainer?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. I would have to look at that.
Q Can you find out? I mean, it's quite an unusual sort of thing to hire somebody who resigned from the Justice Department, right?
MR. MCCURRY: I've seen in your paper today, seen that Mark Fabiani's been dealing with a lot of those questions. I think your paper has already dealt with him on that issue, but why don't you check with him directly.
Q Well, I think it's still a work in progress in my opinion. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Why don't you check with him directly. I'd check with him directly.
Q -- President have any reservations about the securities reform bill? I mean, there's no holdup on that or anything like that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we had some concerns -- the legislation moved through -- many of those were largely satisfied and the bill is a very positive step forward in the structuring of our regulation of the securities market. We've got a longer statement we'll make at the time the President actually takes action on the bill.
Q Mike, about bill signings, have you pretty much decided which bills you're going to do publicly, like tomorrow's radio address, and which ones you're just going to do quietly?
MR. MCCURRY: They're still debating about that. I imagine it's possible the President, even when he's in Albuquerque Monday and Tuesday, might take some action on pending legislation. But they're looking at those that are available, looking at those that reflect some of the things the President has been arguing publicly. And the ones that reflect some of his general arguments about what we're doing to address concerns that the American people have on a range of subjects we'll probably elect to take the opportunity to do some of those publicly.
Q Just fishing to see if any more public bill signings are coming up that we should be aware of.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as I said, there probably are and we'll keep you apprised.
Q Mike, Senator Dole seems to be attacking the President far more aggressively in his campaign, and I heard President Clinton -- Louisville Slugger last night. Does he really expect the Wednesday debate to be far more personal?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we're not quite certain what to expect. Senator Dole has sent conflicting signals. But there's probably some good advice that's gone to the Senator from Jack Kemp who said it would by beneath Senator Dole to raise those types of personal attacks, and from General Colin Powell who said it would be out of character for both of these men, Senator Dole and for Jack Kemp, to raise these character issues, to do it outside what the General thinks is the character of the country, which he believes is one that seeks a lack of rancor, and civility.
So if the Senator follows the good advice of General Powell and his own running mate, we suspect that it will be a good debate focused on the issues. If not, then Senator Dole will presumably either repudiate his running mate or repudiate General Powell.
Q Mike, if Senator Dole were to go much sharper and much more personal in the upcoming debate, what would he have to lose?
MR. MCCURRY: Dignity.
Q In view of that, how is the preparation in Albuquerque the couple of days that you do the practice, how does that change in view of this possibility?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. Come on down and we'll let you know Monday and Tuesday.
Q The formulation the President often uses is that his character is an issue between him and God, or his God, and that issues about his behavior and factual issues related to what's happened are fair fodder for discussion.
MR. MCCURRY: No, that's misstating it. He said that no one judges character except the Almighty. People make evaluations on character based on the things that are relevant to them. And the American people can make their judgment based on what they see as performance, based on what they see as commitment, based on what they see as performance in office. And they will make those judgments as they see fit.
Q But he doesn't see, ipso facto, anything wrong with Senator Dole or any other opponent or adversary raising in a respectful way questions which the Republican Party has raised for the better part of two years about factual chain of events, handling of documents by the government, handling of hiring -- all those things?
MR. MCCURRY: The President on previous occasions has addressed himself to the very concerted political efforts by his opponents to raise these issues in an attempt to make political gain on these issues, sure. And he's addressed that publicly.
Q A CIA document has surfaced showing that the CIA knew that Emmanuel Constant was involved with the killing of Justice Minister Guy Mallory in Haiti, that he had met with Biambi and others. And this CIA document is dated like two weeks after the killing of Mallory. Here Emmanuel Constant is in this country; is the United States going to consider extraditing him to Haiti, especially in light of this surfacing because the CIA has known he was involved --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any comment on that document. I think you should call Dennis Box over at the CIA related to the document. On the general matter of political violence in Haiti, which has subsided since the ouster of the de facto regime -- there are sometimes people who raise concerns about the level of violence in Haiti, missing the fact that during the years of the coup leaders and the de facto regime, there were daily tortures, beating, violence, murders that has now, by and large, subsided. Those instances in which we are aware of violence of a political nature, we have raised those concerns directly with the government of Haiti; we pressed them quite hard on their obligations to take seriously law enforcement concerns.
As to the matter of extradition, I wouldn't comment on that without checking into the matter further.
Q Mike, on the Mideast, is it the U.S. understanding that Netanyahu has decided to remove most of the troops from Hebron?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to comment on that. There's a very active dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel on that. One of the central issues is Hebron. One of the issues that the Prime Minister and the Chairman identified as being a highest priority issue is the question of the redeployment around Hebron. The negotiators, themselves, and Ambassador Ross have confirmed that's a subject of negotiation, and I think I should leave it to those who are doing the negotiating to comment on where they are.
Q William Safire charged the other day that President Clinton was directly involved in soliciting an illegal contribution to U.S. campaign from foreign nationals. Can you comment on that?
MR. MCCURRY: It's flat-out wrong.
Q Since the Pentagon has indicated that the CIA model they're working on for Persian Gulf exposure will probably be inclusive, what does the administration intend to do as far as trying to determine who was exposed?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we intend to press forward with the work of the Gulf War Illnesses Commission that the President appointed. His very reason for impaneling this group of experts in an advisory role to the government was to ensure that all agencies with access to information and, more importantly, that those agencies that deal directly with veterans turn over every possible piece of information to get to the root causes of some of the medical effects that veterans have testified to.
Now, the commission itself is working. They've just had another field hearing in Florida. They are completing a final report that is due I think by the end of the year. And, meanwhile, at the Pentagon, the Pentagon has been dealing with some of the information it does have available as to certain things that have occurred.
This has been the subject, by the way, just this past week, at least, of two extensive briefings at the Pentagon. I don't have anything that I know of that I can add to that body of record. I can tell you the President is certain -- was certain at the time and ever more certain now that the utility of that commission is to press very firmly to get the fullest possible release of information that would satisfy the concerns of those who served in the Gulf.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you. That's it for today. Nothing tomorrow. I'm told that we should have a pool on standby in about a half an hour in case there's a little excursion of an 18-hole nature.
Q There's supposed to be some Act Up protestors waiting there for a demonstration, at the quilt. Do you expect any protests and demonstrations at the quilt?
MR. MCCURRY: There may well be. There may well be. They've said that publicly. Okay.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:05 P.M. EDT