THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY AND BARRY TOIV
The Briefing Room
12:45 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. A couple of things to open with here: Some of you asked about the swearing-in of Mr. Daley, and we are happy to say that the Vice President will be swearing him in this afternoon at 3:40 p.m. And he asked that he have a small family-only event with the Vice President, but we will have stills for that. And they're going to escort folks over at 3:15 p.m.
Q What's the coverage?
MR. MCCURRY: Stills only, yes -- at his request. That's the way he wanted to do it and that was fine by us.
Second, the President will travel to Augusta, Georgia, on Wednesday, February 5th. He will be highlighting his emphasis on education, which a key, if not the key, priority that he has on the domestic agenda as we look ahead to a second term. He looks forward to seeing the Governor, obviously, talking a bit about the HOPE Scholarships and the program in Georgia upon which HOPE Scholarships have been modeled, but other education issues as well.
Q Playing golf?
Q Any golf?
MR. MCCURRY: Day trip down, back early in the evening, so he'll be ready for the National Prayer Breakfast the next morning. Okay?
President Clinton had a good conversation today with French President Jacques Chirac; about 30 minutes long, 15 minutes worth of conversation given the consecutive translation. Obviously, the President wanted to touch base with President Chirac prior to President's Chirac's trip coming up this weekend to Moscow. President Chirac will be seeing President Yeltsin this weekend. This is an opportunity for them to consult on issues that are related to the future of Europe and Russia's important role in the future of Europe -- NATO adaptation, expansion, modernization clearly part of the subject matter discussed. Also, a review of those types of issues that we expect to be on the summit agenda when the NATO leaders meet in Madrid.
Q Did he call?
MR. MCCURRY: The President called -- we initiated it, yes. We initiated it.
Q Mike, there seems to be a difference of opinion between the U.S. and France on that charter. I mean, the French are talking about some type of binding charter; the U.S. doesn't want anything binding. Did they get into any substantive discussion?
MR. MCCURRY: They talked about the importance that a NATO charter with the Russian Federation will play as we adapt NATO for the future and the challenges of the post-Cold War era. And it is important because of the way NATO functions for the Alliance to operate in harmony and in unison. And, of course, the subject of how you approach those charter discussions were something they reviewed.
I'm not going to get into details, but we have not -- we've had a very good, cooperative working discussion within NATO about how the charter discussions with the Russian Federation should unfold, and certainly nothing about this call indicates that we won't continue to make progress on that issue.
Q So you're on the same page on that?
MR. MCCURRY: We are in the broad sense on the same page; correct.
Q Any progress on the question of NATO -- Command?
MR. MCCURRY: On the question of AFSOUTH? That's an issue that we reviewed. They may have touched on that briefly, but not extensive discussion of that point.
I guess that's it for me. What about you?
Q Have you got anything on the database or --
MR. MCCURRY: I think Barry will do that in a second, or get more into that if you'd like to.
Q The White House's response to the filing last night against Proposition 209?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we obviously are strongly supportive of the amicus brief filed by the Department of Justice in the 9th Circuit Court. We had indicated to you and the Department of Justice had indicated back at the end of the year that the Justice Department had concluded that Proposition 209 is unconstitutional. The President, of course, had very strong opposition to Proposition 209, reflected in his campaign comments against the measure in California during the course of the fall campaign, but the question of constitutionality is one that had to be examined after the citizens of California made their decision. The President obviously takes great care in concluding that a measure voted by a majority of voters is unconstitutional. But, nonetheless, he just recently swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and as the nation's chief constitutional officer, that is one of his obligations and one of his duties.
The argument that the Justice Department has made in support of the plaintives as a friend of the court is set forth in the brief. I think it relies on the interpretation of the equal protection clause and the fact that women and minorities would be denied the same kind of access to state and local processes that would be available to other individuals seeking any type of preferential treatment under contracting employment, admissions programs such as those administered in California.
I think it's a very well-reasoned brief. The Justice Department can get you a copy if you'd like to go through it with them.
Q Any reaction to Lott wanting you to apologize?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, look, I understand --
MR. MCCURRY: This is about the Majority Leader is a little unhappy with the White House Press Secretary, and I think for good reason based on the way something I said yesterday was reported. I think he probably got the wrong impression of what I said here yesterday. I was asked a question yesterday about some things that he had said, and said, well, I would have to check with him and his staff, but I didn't believe that he would want to suggest that African Americans shouldn't be involved in the political process. And I did check with his staff and that's not what he had suggested. So I think -- I consider the matter closed. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, the President of Peru Alberto Fujimori is going to be in Canada this weekend meeting with Jean Chretien and the Prime Minister of Japan Ryutaro Hashimoto. Since this government has had close consultations with Peru and Japan crisis hostages in Lima and Mr. Fujimori is going to be in Washington Monday for a protocol meeting of the foreign counsel of the OAS, is the President Clinton going to talk with him?
MR. MCCURRY: We have nothing on the President's calendar indicating a meeting with President Fujimori and, to my knowledge, we have had no request from the government of Peru for a meeting. We obviously have followed closely the deliberations the Peruvian government and the government of Japan on the situation at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, and remain very concerned about the situation there and followed those deliberations closely. If anything develops further on President Fujimori's schedule I'll let you know.
Q Mike, can you tell us a little more about the trip to Georgia -- why Georgia for education, why Augusta? Do you know a little more about it?
MR. MCCURRY: As I indicated earlier, one reason is the fact that the inspiration for the President's HOPE Scholarship proposal which clearly he will talk about in the State of the Union Address and will be reflected in the budget that we release, it draws as its inspiration, although it is not identical, on a program that Governor Miller and the Georgia State Legislature instituted in Georgia that provides college opportunities for community college education in Georgia.
I think it will be an opportunity for the President and the Governor to explore that program, but it will also be an opportunity for the President, with one of the nation's leading governors on the subject of education, to talk about the things we need to do to improve the quality of schools, the opening up of college opportunities for Americans and many of the things the President has put very high on his education agenda for a second term -- literacy, connecting schools to the Internet, doing those things --
Q What's going on in Augusta that would help illustrate that?
MR. MCCURRY: There's, apparently, I think in Augusta a community college that we will be able to visit that really has benefited very directly from the Georgia program and will be, in a sense, an example of how we believe the federal HOPE Scholarship tax credit might provide similar opportunities to others.
Q Mike, an administration official is quoted today as saying the President's going to mount a full-court press against the balanced budget amendment. Can you give us some idea of how tough a fight he may mount, how much political capital he might invest in this?
MR. MCCURRY: You've already seen this week he had a considerable amount to say on that subject at the press conference. You're aware that he sent a letter, had an exchange of letters with Senator Daschle yesterday on that subject. The President, I think, will be engaged in one way or another in talking to individual senators about the importance of balancing the budget, but why a constitutional amendment might set that process back. By the time you go through ratification and everything, it would delay the day of reckoning, and the President believes that we should balance the budget now. I think that's why he's sending a balanced budget to the Congress next Thursday.
But it is an issue that will be on the congressional agenda, and it's one that the President intends to lend his persuasive voice to.
Q If I could follow that, does he intend to do a public campaign or is it mostly lobbying individual senators? And does he want to talk about the threat --
MR. MCCURRY: He will continue to speak out publicly as he did this week, sure.
Q Which is the bigger priority -- to pass a balanced budget this year, or to stop the amendment? Or does he see those as equal?
MR. MCCURRY: It's the most -- highest priority of the President when it comes to determining those resources available to government so that we can have the right sized government -- in the era of the big government being over, obviously, the most important thing to do is to balance the budget and get on with the business of delivering a balanced budget that the American people expect. That's got to be the highest priority. In fact, the whole argument we suggest is, why talk about how to do it or a mechanism to do it when you've actually got the opportunity to sit down and make the hard choices that would be necessary in any event to actually balance the budget.
Q That's more important than stopping the amendment? That's what I'm asking.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean, our argument to Congress would be, let's balance the budget right now. And if you want to talk about a constitutional amendment, that's a separate question for a different day. But you've got the opportunity to balance the budget now, let's go do it.
Q But the Republicans are already accusing you, the administration, of using scare tactics with the Social Security issue.
MR. MCCURRY: There's no attempt to use scare tactics here, but there are economic consequences if you put decisions about the provision of government benefits and the expenditure of government resources into the courts or in a position where you'd have no other choice but to delay a mandatory payment of benefits. That's the -- the President argued that pretty clearly in his letter yesterday, and I defy anyone to say that was a scare tactic. He was basically truthfully explaining what the consequences would be of the amendment approach.
Q Mike, has that clarifying letter on Alexis Herman that you told us about this morning gone to the Hill yet?
MR. MCCURRY: It has. The President's Staff Secretary has written -- he's been working with some of the nominee designates. He has sent a letter to Senator Jeffords, Senator Kennedy, the ranking and Chair of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, detailing what Alexis -- actually, making clear that some of the reporting about Alexis's role has not been on the money.
Have we not put that out? Or we were going to --
Q It's out.
Q Why didn't he send it?
Q Just what does it clarify? What was not on the money in your opinion?
MR. MCCURRY: Well the notion that she was involved in any significant way in White House coffees is untrue as the letter says.
Q Mike, some of us have a second briefing we've got to go to, which I know you know about. Is there any way we could get to Barry's --
Q Well, I'd just like to ask why the President didn't send that letter.
MR. MCCURRY: Say again. It's a simple matter of clarification. I don't think the President needs to do that. The President certainly is in a position, if necessary, to lend support to her nomination. At this point, we hope that those matters will be successfully laid to rest so she makes an effective presentation as we clarify any concerns that members have.
Q Do you think these are fair questions?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think that they're legitimate questions to be asked. I think certainly Senator Lott, based on my understanding now of what he had to say, he was raising legitimate areas of concern that ought to be addressed by the nominee, ought to be clarified by the White House if necessary. And senators need to be satisfied in their constitutional role of advising and consenting on the nomination. But that's part of the confirmation process.
Q Did you contact his office and apologize?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I did not apologize. But I contacted his office, as I indicated I would yesterday, just to get a better understanding of what Senator Lott said, and I got that understanding.
Q Mike, there are some other questions about whether Alexis Herman may have helped to arrange White House meetings for business people going on trade missions that might have been improper.
MR. MCCURRY: I have not looked into that matter and to my knowledge -- I don't believe our letter addressed that particular question. But I think Joe Lockhart is in a position to help you out if you're working on that subject.
Q Any reaction to Alan Greenspan's call for a separate commission to annually take something off the CPI?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any change in the views we've articulated in the past about how the measurement of inflation ought to be factored into federal budgeting. We've laid out our views on how that issue should be addressed and I think it's pretty clear. And he's obviously an influential voice in that debate, but I don't know that that's all that different a position than saying, as we have said, that this is a matter that ought to be addressed by those who are technically expert in giving advice to those who must make policy related decisions.
Q Mike, on this computer list story, could you clarify, was the list actually used for giving information to the DNC to help them to give perks to big donors?
MR. MCCURRY: I think Barry has looked into that. If you don't mind, I'm going to let him take that.
MR. TOIV: Could you repeat the question?
Q Well, if you can just clarify, I guess the essential question is, was this list compiled from information that came from the DNC and then, in turn, used for political purposes, for giving information to the DNC?
MR. TOIV: No. The database, as far as we know, all the information we have gotten was used only for official purposes, and would have been used only for putting together lists of people for official events here at the White House -- state dinners, presidential dinners, that sort of thing. The database basically is a list of people who come into contact with the White House, or who might come into contact with the White House.
Q So Truman Arnold was wrong when he said that he got information off the database, or he was misquoted?
MR. TOIV: The only contact that we're aware of that the DNC would have had would have been when the Social Office was putting together lists of people to invite to official events here -- they would sometimes talk to the DNC to see if there was anybody they were interested in having attend events here. And in getting those lists, they would have contact with them. The DNC did not have access to the database; only people who worked at the White House had access to the database.
Q He said, the database helped us understand who had been invited to what.
Q He said he was able to call up --
Q And they were looking for disaffected people, disaffected Democrats.
MR. TOIV: I don't know what Truman Arnold said, but I can tell you that the only use of the database would have been to consult it to see who had attended what events here at the White House, and that would only be in the context of putting together an official event here at the White House.
Q What did you mean when you said it was a list of people who might come into contact with the White House? Was it prospects?
MR. TOIV: Well, there would be people on the list -- also, people who attended events at the White House, or who the White House might want to invite to attend events at the White House. Also, people who receive holiday cards, those sorts of things.
Q Who got on the list, and what was the criteria for getting on the list?
MR. TOIV: Well, if an office at the White House wanted to put people in the database, then essentially they would put people into the database.
Q Barry, Arnold claims that he discovered through this database the people who contributed $25,000 were wined and dined here, and that people who contributed $100,000 or more were basically getting very short shrift, and that was one of the things that he corrected. Was there a computer run made to get those kinds of numbers, and would that be passed on to the DNC?
MR. TOIV: No, there was no computer run of that sort that I'm aware of.
Q Barry, one of the things that is said in the memos about setting this database up on Marcia Scott is that it was to be done under the utmost secrecy. Have you been able to determine why it was such a secret project?
MR. TOIV: First of all, I don't know why anybody would call it a secret project. I read about it back in March of 1995 in a newspaper report where a White House official said that we were putting this together. As far as contracting it out, there was no need to contract it out, there was expertise within the Executive Office of the President, computer expertise, that would enable people inside to do most of the work. A little -- some of it was contracted out.
Q You don't know why, in memos to Bruce Lindsey and the First Lady, she constantly stressed the need to keep this very secret, to keep access restricted, to have the computers in a locked room that no one had access to, not to use career people because they weren't for the President?
MR. TOIV: The only other reason I would know for that kind of security would be that there was -- because of privacy concerns. Because, as you know, to be admitted to the White House, you need to provide Social Security number and date of birth and that sort of thing, and so that kind of information is contained in there for people who visited the White House.
Q Barry, The L.A. Times story says that over the last two years, DNC workers routinely used the database as a fundraising tool to recruit prospective donors and to solicit large contributions. Do you take issue with that statement?
MR. TOIV: It was used only for official purposes, and that would not be an official purpose.
Q So that's wrong, you're saying --
Q Is that wrong?
MR. TOIV: The database was not used by the White House for any sort of fundraising capacity.
Q Was it used for the DNC?
MR. TOIV: The DNC did not have access to it.
Q Did they have access to the information?
Q What Truman Arnold said is he could call up and have people run things on the computer for him. Have you all talked to Truman Arnold? Do you disagree with what he says?
MR. TOIV: I am not aware that he said he would have things run on the database.
Q Have you spoken with him.
MR. TOIV: No.
Q Has anyone in the White House spoken with him?
MR. TOIV: I don't know.
Q When you say that they didn't have access to the list, the actual physical computer list -- could they get the list printed out and sent to them?
MR. TOIV: No, absolutely not.
Q You're saying -- just to any of the information --
MR. TOIV: Absolutely not. There was clear guidance as to how the database could be used, and the guidance was that it could only be used for official purposes, and no information could be printed out and sent elsewhere outside of the White House.
In fact, the DNC -- at one time there was a DNC employee who was visiting the White House and apparently went over to the Social Office and asked to see the database and he was bounced out of there. I mean, it was just -- they followed the rules. We have no information that they did not follow the rules.
Q Don't you think that if you've got Truman Arnold making public statements that he could call over here and get something run anytime he wanted, in effect, that you ought to talk to him about it and find out if that's the case, and if it was the case, who was doing it for him?
MR. TOIV: We would certainly be concerned if there was unofficial use of the database.
Q Don't you think you might want to ask him about that?
MR. TOIV: Well --
Q Given all the reports you all haven't talked to him yet?
MR. MCCURRY: Barry, the Counsel's Office has --
MR. TOIV: That's true. The Counsel's Office has contacted him, and we still do not -- even after that conversation we still do not have any information at the White House that the White House used the database inappropriately.
Q If the DNC had wanted to find out who had attended official functions at the White House, would someone have consulted the database to tell them, and properly? I mean, like, the DNC called and said, I don't know if Joe Dokes and Suzy Q and Herman Q. Public have come to the White House for official business. That would be a proper request and they'd tell them?
MR. TOIV: If the DNC, in the context of putting together a list of people that they might want to ask to be invited to an event here, asked the question, was this particular person invited to previous events, or did this person previously attend events at the White House, it would be entirely appropriate for the Social Office to answer that question. And the Social Office -- obviously, the Social Office would frequently know the answer to that question. If they didn't know, the place where that information was kept was the database.
Q It's now also been established I think beyond anybody's dispute here at the White House that the DNC as often intimately involved in putting together lists of people to come to official events at the White House and who happened to be supportive of the President, contributed to the President, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It's also been demonstrated that people came to the White House for various official events, and just in the immediate aftermath or preceding days, made contributions, et cetera. So I guess what I'm asking is, you keep stressing the official nature of the event; at what point is that almost just a legalistic phrase with no practical meaning, because no, "political events" are ever held in the White House that you're trying to define them. I mean, fundraisers cannot be held in the White House in the sense that you're trying to define them. I mean, fundraisers cannot be held in the White House.
MR. TOIV: Well, no, but there are DNC events at the White House, as you know, and --
Q Like these coffees, or whatever.
MR. TOIV: For example, and those are not the events I'm talking about.
Q So they never called and asked who should be invited to a coffee with the President using the database --
MR. TOIV: Correct. The database --
Q -- things like the Christmas parties, the --
MR. TOIV: It would not have been appropriate to use the database to determine who ought to come to a DNC event. And -- well, that's the answer.
Q One of the elements, one of the categories in the database reads, "H Pres '96, Presidential supporter 1996." Where did that information come from, and was there ever a trade with DNC on that information?
MR. TOIV: No, the database did not provide the DNC that kind of information. Sometimes that information would come in from the DNC. It was entirely appropriate to input information into the database if it's only use for was official purposes.
Q So it sat here and never went back? Also, also, in one of these reports -- we were talking about it last night -- that Lanny handed out last week, Ethnic Constituency Plan, it sites something called the databank at the White House to develop statewide Democratic ethnic coordinating committees. Was that never done?
MR. TOIV: We have no knowledge that that was -- that it was ever used for any unofficial purpose, only for official purposes. Again, if it were used to invite people here to an official event at the White House, that would be appropriate. If it were used for unofficial purposes, that would be inappropriate.
Q But these were -- and the information that these reports called for was supposed to go to the DNC. Did the ethnic group that was in your database go to DNC as part of this report --
MR. TOIV: First of all, the ethnic group in the database -- that classification was disabled last year, early last year, first of all. Secondly, again, I have no information to suggest that information from the database was used for campaign purposes -- for any campaign purposes.
Q The congressional committee that's been looking into this asked for some information from the White House and the chairman of the committee sort of is saying that look, you guys have not been forthcoming. You sent him something on the early supporter outreach proposal -- just goals totally redacted, outreach plan redacted -- just blank pages. What is it in here that is so secret that you can't talk about goals of a project?
MR. TOIV: The White House has provided the House subcommittee with approximately 27,000 pages of documents on the database. We have also provided them with a copy of the database itself. And we will continue to provide documents to the subcommittee and they have had and will have ample information with which to conduct their inquiry.
Q You know as well as I do that the amount of pages, which is something you guys say every time you get into one of these things, isn't necessarily important. It's whether they get the key pages or not. Are you sure -- do you believe that when you send them something like this, which doesn't give information on what the goals of the project were or how the project was carried out, that you're really giving them the information that they need?
MR. TOIV: Well, judging from the information I've seen reported in the news media, they seem to be getting quite a lot of information from us.
Q Barry, after the conversations with Mr. Arnold in the White House Counsel's Office today, what did he say to explain the comments that were attributed to him in The L.A. Times?
MR. TOIV: I don't know, I'm not privy to that conversation. But, again, I still have -- based on my conversation with Counsel's Office, I have no reason to believe that the database was used for anything other than official purposes.
Q Is he denying that the comments in The L.A. Times were correct?
MR. TOIV: Well, I'd rather let him speak for himself.
Q Barry, I don't mean to be obtuse about this distinction on official purposes, but isn't the very essence of the criticisms being leveled at the White House from all the various quarters that they're being leveled that financial and political supporters of the President were invited to any number of events -- Christmas parties, summer picnics, spent nights in the Lincoln Bedroom, coffees in the Map Room -- which would be deemed official events of the White House and, in fact, the controversy is precisely because these people who had a private political and-or financial contribution to the President are invited to official events in the White House.
MR. TOIV: I think most of you would know that every White House invites here people who have been their supporters, people who have been friends of the President. That goes back to time immemorial. That is ordinary practice and there's nothing wrong with that.
Q That's my question. What would be -- I don't understand the distinction between inviting those people to the kinds of events you've described. I guess, what would be an unofficial event at the White House? That's what I'm --
MR. TOIV: I've already described that for you, an instance of that.
Q Forgive my obtuseness, but that's because -- in other words, an unofficial event would be a coffee organized by the DNC that would happen to take place at the White House for big contributors, or something.
MR. TOIV: That would be an example.
Q That would not get imputed into the database?
MR. TOIV: The only -- the database would not be used to decide who ought to go to an event like that. But once the DNC had a list, it would end up in the database for purposes of printing out a list for people who should be cleared into the White House and to have a record of who had been here at the White House.
Q But the DNC, on the other hand, as we've known and as everyone has said, does participate in forming lists for the Christmas parties, the summertime picnics, whatever. So in other words, is it a one-way street, one way, where the DNC can offer advice to the White House Social Office about who among the President's political and financial contributors could be invited to official events, but the White House is not allowed to offer to the DNC information in its files about invitees to the White House --
MR. TOIV: That's correct.
Q -- leveraged for direct fundraising activities?
MR. TOIV: That, in essence, is correct. Let me add that just because the DNC asks that a person be invited to an event, that doesn't mean they got invited.
Q Barry, they can retrieve -- the DNC, when they call over here, can retrieve information.
MR. TOIV: The DNC -- again, to repeat -- when the Social Office is putting together official events, they will consult sometimes with the DNC to ask whether there are certain people they would like to have invited to an event. Again, if they give us names, sometimes that person would be invited, sometimes they would not. But in doing that, the DNC, in determining their criteria for deciding whether someone should be invited, would say, well, has this person been to a state dinner before, or some other kind of event. And the Social Office would provide that answer. The Social Office either had that information there, or they would consult the database.
Q Barry, what information would the White House have not provided to the DNC that they asked for? In other words, what was there in the database that --
MR. TOIV: There's not a whole -- the database doesn't have a whole lot in it besides what events people have attended here that the DNC would be interested in. The DNC knows who its contributors are.
Q Is there any information in the database that they wouldn't have given to the DNC in the context of the discussions that you were just outlining?
MR. TOIV: That's a real hypothetical question. Again, the database was to be used only for official purposes, so if an occasion came up where there was something that would be used not for an official purpose, that would not be appropriate. It's hard to come up with an example, though.
Q Let me think if one, Barry. For example, if the DNC called and said, we're -- as you acknowledge, they know their own contributor base -- but if they say, we're going to have a dinner for big donors for the party or for the DCCC or whatever in New York on February 24th, and in compiling this list, we'd like to cover some new territory, people who haven't been invited to the White House. If we give you these names, will you tell us how many of them have already been to state dinners, been to this, been to whatever, that we can say let's spread the wealth and go to some of these other people. Is that the kind of thing that the database would then cooperate, or is that unofficial and you're saying --
MR. TOIV: No, that's unofficial, inappropriate.
Q But, Barry, as you're setting it up, it sounds like each inquiry made by the DNC, there was somebody asking the question, for what purpose do you want this information, and, therefore, making a judgment over whether it's appropriate or not appropriate. Is that really the case? Were they being quizzed each time somebody called?
MR. TOIV: Again, my understanding is that this would be done only in the context of setting up official events, that it would not be done in the context of setting up nonofficial events.
Q But it was always an event that precipitated it. Somebody couldn't just call and say, I'm curious -- I work at the DNC and I'm curious, how many times has John Smith been to the White House. and the person would answer, I can't answer that because it's not an appropriate inquiry.
MR. TOIV: The information we have is that it was done only in the context of setting up official events.
Q Why would the DNC call and ask for information to help set up an official event?
MR. TOIV: No, the Social Office would consult with the DNC sometimes in putting together the list for an event, list of people who to invite, they would consult with the DNC sometimes as to whether there were people that they would like to have invited.
Q But we're talking about the other way, going the other way, the DNC calling the White House trying to make use of the computer.
Q To put together a coffee, for example.
Q And you're saying that would only happen in the context of official events, that they would never call --
MR. TOIV: The DNC would -- again, the information we have is the DNC would be calling in the context of having been asked who to invite.
Q The DNC never called and asked for information from the computer? Did the DNC ever have occasion to --
MR. TOIV: In the context -- I don't know that they were asking for information from the computer, per se. They were asking for the information in the context of the White House putting together an official event here.
Q Well, why would they need the information from the computer --
MR. TOIV: The information that they would sometimes ask for would be, well, if we want person X to -- we're thinking of asking you to invite person X to a particular event; has person X been to that kind of event before, or how many such events has that person been to before. And then the Social Office would provide that answer in the context of helping to put the event together they would do that.
Q Barry, does the DNC get to see any list from the computer for the purposes of Christmas cards?
MR. TOIV: No.
Q Then who handles the Christmas card list?
MR. TOIV: The holiday cards were put together -- there are actually three separate lists. The White House had its own list, the DNC had a list, and Clinton-Gore '96 had a list. And they would separately submit their lists to the printer, and the DNC, in fact, would pay the cost of the holiday cards even that came from the White House list. And then those -- the entire list was then brought back and put in the database. Again, the names came from those lists into the database statement.
Q Only the printer would see the whole list?
MR. TOIV: Right, and then the database. That's correct. The DNC would not see the White House list.
Q You said that the President had friends spend the night in the Lincoln Bedroom, and Mike has said this before. But in the current issue of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer, writing about this, interviewed one such person who spent the night and said he was not friends of Clinton, but he was a contributor to the DNC. And if that's true, that undercuts this argument. Do you take issue with that story?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I do not take issue that they talked to someone who said that they were not necessarily a personal friend. What I've said in the past is that the people who stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom, in the President's opinion, were his personal guests. He's described them as friends, supporters, family members, friends of his daughter, friends of his wife. On occasion, they would invite people who were at the White House attending a function. He would say at the end of a dinner, invite someone to stay over after they had been there late at night for a dinner. But he considers all of those people to have been personal guests that he personally wanted to see at the White House overnight.
Q I'd like to ask Barry, of the 27,000 pages that were sent to the committee, were they mostly names on the database?
MR. TOIV: To tell you the truth, Helen, I haven't seen them.
Q Given that the White House Counsel's Office has talked to Mr. Arnold, does that mean that the White House is investigating this or has the White House concluded that there's nothing to investigate -- nothing improper to investigate? What's the status?
MR. TOIV: Well, the Counsel's Office wanted to get a sense of what -- of how the database had been used. And so, I think that's why they talked to them.
Q Well, what's the conclusion?
MR. MCCURRY: On that one too, remember that when we provide answers to questions that you're asking, we rely on the help of the Counsel's office to help us get the information. So, it's --what we've obviously had press inquiries on this and we've asked them to help us get the necessary answers.
Q Who actually runs the database? Is there just a computer specialist?
MR. TOIV: I don't know the answer to who actually is the person in charge of it. I believe it comes under the Office of Administration though.
Q Barry, just to pin that down, though, the feeling is that you have the answer now, there's no further inquiry into this -- into whether there's any truth to the claims that the DNC had access to the White House database?
MR. TOIV: I don't know what further actions the Counsel's Office might take. I don't know of any that they're -- any further actions that they're taking on that.
Q I'm not clear on what you're -- are you disputing Arnold's quotation, or are you disputing the implication that the LA Times took from Arnold's quotation?
MR. TOIV: Well, I think I'll let it rest with the facts that I've given you.
Q Which are a direct contradiction with that story and with the on-the-record -- apparently, with the on-the-record quotations that Arnold gave them.
MR. TOIV: Well, I'm not sure that that's the case. But I will -- I'm going to --
Q That's why I'm asking you to clarify it if it's not.
MR. TOIV: No, I will let what I have said stand as the record from here. And I'm not going to get into what is inaccurate about the story.
Q I just want to make sure we get it straight. The DNC did have access to things when they would ask and say, let's check some names, but not wholesale access to this database?
MR. TOIV: They did not have access to the database at all.
Q So they just would go to the Social Office and then --
MR. TOIV: And again, the only time a question from the DNC would be answered from the information that we have is -- was in the context of putting together an invitation list for the White House for people to be invited to official events.
Q Can you take please one more crack at this -- define the distinction between an official and an unofficial event?
MR. TOIV: An official event would be -- I can give examples.
Q Can you do something that's a little more abstract to define what makes an event official and what makes an event not official?
MR. TOIV: No, I would probably need to Counsel's Office to write that down for me, John. I'll take it and get a definition from the Counsel's Office.
Q Was this in effect in other administrations?
MR. TOIV: Excuse me?
Q Was this system in effect?
MR. TOIV: No, but let me point out that every White House has kept lists of this kind. Forty years ago, they were keeping them on pen and paper and keeping them in their file drawers. What happened here was that, like the most recent White Houses, we had about two dozen different smaller databases in different offices in the White House, none of which could talk to each other -- to use computer parlance. And so that was why the decision was made to create one database, put all this information into one database, so that you would -- so that it would be more efficient and more accurate. And that's why the database was created.
Q Are we all in this database having been invited as we are periodically to various White House official events?
MR. TOIV: As a matter of fact, if you have been invited to, say, a holiday party here at the White House, your name is probably in the database. And what would be in there would be your name and address and probably your affiliation with whatever your --whoever your employer is, and the fact that you have been invited to this event. And for purposes of coming to the event, your Social Security number and your date of birth and phone numbers, and that's about it.
Q Mike, did the database ever reflect that people had made donations to the DNC, or was there some mechanism where names came from the DNC? Because some of the press reports have suggested that donors, or high donors, somehow made their way on the list. Can you explain that mechanism to us?
MR. TOIV: Well, first of all, early on when the list was put together, there were lists input into the computer that had names which might have suggested that they were donors. But it has not been -- but the database was never used to track donations, and in fact, there are -- first of all, the vast majority of people in there are not listed as donors and there are probably large numbers of donors in there who are not listed as donors, because we did not keep up a list of donors, per se.
Q What was the purpose of recording that information in the database?
MR. TOIV: The information was not recorded -- the donations or the fact of the donations was not listed per se, but if a list was input initially, the way the computer was set up was, if that list had a name then they would include that name in there, so that the list could have a name that suggested that they were supporters or had some affiliation with the DNC that suggested that they might be contributors.
Q That came from the DNC?
MR. TOIV: Yes, that came from the -- usually from the DNC or perhaps from the '92 campaign.
Q Do you mean like within the long list of people in the database there would be a subhead or something that would -- is that what you're saying?
MR. TOIV: You're asking what it actually looked like?
Q -- stay in its form?
MR. TOIV: No, it would just be a notation in a person's entry, on one of the pages of the person's entry that this was -- that they came in on this list. There were no -- as far as I know, there was never a specific amount listed, what a person contributed. And again, it was not used to track contributions or contributors, per se.
Q I was just confused about where things stand now with the Counsel's Office checking in to this. Have they done all of the looking into it that they're going to and they're satisfied at this point? What did they communicate to you on that?
MR. TOIV: Well, the Counsel's Office, as Mike said, has looked into this in order to enable us to answer your questions.
Q And they're done now?
MR. TOIV: I assume they will continue to do that, if you have further questions.
Q Is the database technically accessible from outside the building?
MR. TOIV: No.
Q No modem connection, nothing like that would be possible?
MR. TOIV: There is no modem connection, and that would be -- that would definitely be in contravention of the rules that were established.
Q Are these administration rules or is there some sort of legal rule that is guiding use of this?
MR. TOIV: The administration obviously had to -- the Counsel's Office had to interpret the law determining how the system could be used and how it could not be used.
Q But if I called up and said, hey, tell me who's been to the party, you wouldn't tell me, right? But in terms of a legal distinction, obviously I'm not legally different than a DNC person.
MR. TOIV: Mike reminds me that we may have used it from time to time to answer press inquiries.
Q What's the level of security? Is it --
MR. TOIV: It is actually designed to be very secure, and the access to it is very much limited within the White House.
Q To certain terminals and computers?
MR. TOIV: Yes, exactly.
Q Or limited by password?
MR. TOIV: Let me describe. Essentially, access is limited to, in the vicinity of somewhere between 120 and 140 people right now. And it is limited -- well, and it is limited in terms of how they're able to use it. There are different levels of access. People can obtain certain information and they cannot obtain other information. There are people -- again, you have to keep in mind what it's used for. It is used to -- what's recorded in there is what events people have attended for the most part. The Social Office -- there are a number of people in the Social Office who use it because they put together so many of the events here. But they've drawn up -- they've tried to draw it very tightly so that only people who are supposed to have access can get into it.
Q Do they do so only from specific terminals, or do they do so with passwords?
MR. TOIV: Both. Both.
Q -- those terminals in there access the database?
MR. TOIV: No. There's -- nobody in the Press Office has access to the database.
Q Only open --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have access?
Q I hope not. (Laughter.)
MR. TOIV: I've never -- and I worked in the Chief of Staff's Office; I never had access to it.
Q But do you not have access because you don't have a password, or do you not have access because your computer will not physically --
MR. TOIV: My computer doesn't have the software for it, and I don't have a password for it. You have to pass both levels before you can use it.
Q Can you go back to whoever your contact is in the Counsel's Office and ask them specifically did Truman dispute any of the quotes in the story, and if he does, please call us ahead now --I guess we can assume that he doesn't dispute them. And, second, did Truman say whether or not he used any of these names to put together DNC or any nonofficial events? And can you post both those answers?
MR. TOIV: I'd be happy to ask the Counsel's Office that question.
Q Barry, forgive me. I just feel -- this is so depressing, I feel like a remedial student here. But it sounds to me as if what Arnold was saying is that he would call Ann Stock, along something like this line: you know, I've been hitting up Bill Gotrocks -- (laughter) -- for a big contribution, and he grouses and moans that he's given in the past, and he's never been invited to a G.D. thing at the White House. Can you tell me, has he been invited, and can't we get him to the Korean state dinner. And then she would say, oh, my God, we've overlooked him, and then they'll invite him. And then he'll call Bill Gotrocks and say, now, you went to see -- you have the Korean state dinner; how about the $25,000? That sounds to me exactly like what Mr. Arnold said happened. And is that illegal or wrong?
MR. TOIV: First of all, I don't know if Mr. Arnold ever made such calls. Secondly, I don't know if Ann Stock ever took such calls --
Q But that's what we're looking at --
MR. TOIV: But he would not -- but if he had put it in that context, no, that would not be appropriate, because it sounds to me what you're saying is that he's trying to solicit a contribution based on information in the database.
Q Well, nobody is writing anything about this if that's not what was going on, so I can assure you.
MR. TOIV: Well, Todd, what I'm trying to tell you is that, to my knowledge, that's not the context in which this took place.
Q Barry, do you know -- two questions. Do you know if these kinds of conversations, the ones that you say are okay, happen very frequently, somewhat frequently, provided tons of information, happened four times over the last year? These conversations that used information --
MR. TOIV: My sense of it is occasionally.
Q -- with the DNC --
Q Can you specifically ask the Counsel's Office that question, if Arnold was asked that? And if not, perhaps he should be.
MR. TOIV: Sure.
Q Is the $1.7 million estimate correct for the cost of this database?
MR. TOIV: Thank you for asking. No. Our estimate of the cost of the system, both setting it up and the operation and maintenance through September of 1996, the end of the last fiscal year, was approximately $638,000.
Q Now, furthermore, do you feel that -- or is it White House's position that the DNC should not pay any portion of the use of it, when they are obviously making some use of it?
MR. TOIV: This data base, as far as we know, was used only for official purposes. And it's appropriate to use official funds for something that is used for official purposes.
Q Barry, I said I had two questions. The other question that I had was -- I'm sorry, never mind. (Laughter.)
Q One request. When you get the answers to the questions -- would you post them generally so that everybody can get access to them?
MR. MCCURRY: If we can get them.
MR. TOIV: Sure, if we can get the answers.
Q The DNC official who came to the Social Office to try to look at the database, are you saying -- are you prepared to say who that was or when it happened?
MR. TOIV: I don't know who it was. I don't know who it was, I don't when it happened. I'll be happy to take it, see if we can find out. I've no idea.
Q And do you know, did they give a reason for why they wanted to see it?
MR. TOIV: I don't know if they did.
Q Can you see if you can find out?
MR. TOIV: Sure.
Q You said that you don't know of anybody who provided this information from the database. Are you sure that no one did? Have you asked these 140 people? Has there been some kind of thorough understanding that the database was not used that way? Or do you just not have that information that it was used that way?
MR. TOIV: I don't know everybody the Counsel's Office has necessarily spoken with. I do know that they pursued inquiries based on the press inquiries we were getting, and obviously the primary one we were getting related to the story you all are talking about. And so I suspect that the Counsel's Office focused their inquiry there. I don't know how many people they've actually talked to, though.
Q You don't even know if Truman Arnold could ever ask to use this information for inappropriate or DNC events.
MR. TOIV: I have no information that he did.
Q You don't even know if the quotes are accurate or inaccurate. You don't even know if Arnold thinks they're accurate.
MR. TOIV: Yes, I don't know for a fact that Truman Arnold knows of the existence of the database.
Q That's the kind of questions that you guys need to be prepared to answer.
Q Why is talking about it all the time?
MR. TOIV: Well, I don't know that he is.
Q Barry, was anyone with authorized access to the database also authorized to release information from it in what you consider to be a proper way -- any one of 120 people could take a proper request for information in the database?
MR. TOIV: No, no -- there again -- I mean, I don't have the exact rules and procedures that were used, that they had, but they were not -- it was not the case that anybody who had access to it was then able to answer questions from somebody about it. In fact, probably a good number of those people, a good percentage of them -- I don't know how many -- had access only to input information and not to take out information.
Q The percentage of the 120?
MR. TOIV: That's right. I didn't say -- right, that's correct. That's correct.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Any other subjects?
Q Just going back to Greenspan's comments on the CPI today, as far as you know, is there anymore funding for the BLS in the '98 budget to look at the CPI question more?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have the answer to that. But I know that there is a real concern in the administration and I've heard a concern expressed on the Hill to make that we have adequate funding for the statistical series that the government maintains. In fact, Senator Moynihan is very eloquent in talking about the needs of those who keep the official statistical records of the United States to some of the concerns he has about the lack of funding for them. So we'll have to answer that question as we look at the budget. But there is concern about that and properly so, because the maintenance of some of the longstanding government statistical series that we have available are very important for those who have to make policy. And measuring inflation is but one of many examples of that.
Q Mike, it may be a little bit early, but have you all put together an agenda of any sort for the President's get-together with governors when they come here? He's got a dinner meeting Sunday night. He's got business with them Monday morning.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I know. I think it's a dinner Sunday night and a meeting on Monday. But I don't think that we've put together the agenda yet.
Q For those of use doing State of the Union previews this weekend, can you give us anything to preview?
MR. MCCURRY: I've indicated to some of you that's a good question for tomorrow. For right now, I'll have more that I can say on it tomorrow than I can today.
Q Mike, on Northern Ireland, an independent commission has made a series of recommendations to try and prevent the recurrence of the street violence in the so-called marching season this summer. What's the White House view on this and would you support full implementation of the recommendations?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with those recommendations. I'll have to look into it further. We have generally suggested to all parties, especially during the marching season, that they refrain from episodes that would create additional violence and try to assist those who are attempting to bridge differences and assist in the peace process itself. We'll be happy to look into the work of the commission.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you.
Q On that family planning freeze, do you have any indication now when he's going to do something?
MR. MCCURRY: We believe it probably won't be until Friday and we'll try -- until sometime tomorrow. We'll try to do it early tomorrow.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, tomorrow.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:40 P.M. EST