THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:25 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: What's going on? What's happening? Here comes Rita Braver, closing from the stretch, making a fast run to the front of the podium. (Laughter.) I've got $2 on you -- come on, sit down here. (Laughter.)
Q Quite a filly, huh?
MR. MCCURRY: Quite a filly. Come on -- hold your horses, everyone.
MR. MCCURRY: Here she is. For you, Rita Braver. (Laughter.)
Q Does that mean I get the first question for you?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, you may have the first question. Go ahead.
Q This smile is going to fade really fast, so have your fun. Mr. Quinn has sent a letter to Mr. McIntosh, who, of course, is the person investigating the White House database. Mr. Quinn tells us that the night before -- that last Wednesday night you spoke to Mr. Arnold, and that you recommended that he be truthful in all of his conversations with us and that he prepare a written statement to release in lieu of conducting the interviews that he did. When the question was asked about whether anyone at the White House had spoken to him the night before you stepped forward and told us he'd been in contact with the Counsel's Office.
MR. MCCURRY: Let me go back on what happened. The question came up and Barry first said that he didn't know if anyone had talked to Truman. And I was concerned about that answer and said -- started to say, well, the Counsel's Office had talked to him, because I knew that the Counsel's Office had talked to him. And I had talked to him, too. I wish I had jumped up and said that at that point, because I've known him for a long time and he called me, and I reported to the committee the circumstances -- or reported to the Counsel here and the Counsel relayed to the subcommittee the circumstances of the conversation.
Q I just wondered why you didn't tell us that you had also spoken to him.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, in retrospect, I would have done it right then and there. The questioning move on -- Barry took a question initially on it and said that he didn't know. And then it came up again and I sort of jumped in and said the Counsel's Office had talked to him. The relevant question was why didn't anyone attempt to find out what the deal was on Truman Arnold's answers that * were reported in Time Magazine. The fact was that they did. They were concerned, I think as the letter indicates, about some of the things that he was quoted as saying because they were contrary to what the understanding of the White House had been. And so the Counsel did affirmatively go out to do it.
I think if we had gotten into any questioning on, did anyone talk to him in advance of any statements he's made to the press, I certainly would have jumped in and said that. Now, once --effectively, once Chairman McIntosh wrote on Friday and posed the question formally who had talked, I had some restrictions on what I could do at that point because they've been very concerned about us giving answers to the press in advance of sending answers to them. And, of course, we didn't send that letter until yesterday.
Q And I think because a lot of this questioning here has to do with the relationship between the White House and the DNC, if you could give us a sense or just what the parameters are and the appropriateness of the White House advising someone on whether they should talk to the press or giving them any advice about handling this whole --
MR. MCCURRY: Let me talk a little bit about that and my connection, because I got to know him, I think in 1991, maybe 1992 when I worked in the private sector and actually did media training with him. So I've known him for some time. He called last Wednesday and said he needed some guidance on how to handle the press inquiries that he had been receiving and that is not an usual call for me to get. I get that kind of question from people fairly frequently. Now he, of course, is no longer at the DNC. He was, in fact, at a golf tournament when he called.
But he called and wanted to know what he should do. And I said, listen, unless you want to give interviews instead of playing golf, you better develop some kind of written statement that describes very precisely what you have. And I told him, which I think you will all recognize as true, I said, I don't -- have not looked into this and don't know what the facts are myself because one of my deputies is dealing with this. And so, I could not advise him as to the facts of what he should say because I didn't know. But I could tell him that just as a question of how to handle the press inquiries that he better have some kind of written statement that made it clear what he did know versus what he just thought to be true.
Q Did you ask him to clarify his comments and why --
MR. MCCURRY: I did not. He called me and said he wanted to know how he should deal with what looked like a very high volume of inquiries he was getting, and I said I think under the circumstances and the fact that you're out of town, the best thing to do is to have a written statement.
Q There was no discussion between you about the actual substance of --
MR. MCCURRY: No, except he did indicate -- he spoke to me at some length about the substance of what finally ended up in his statement, which is that he feels very strongly that steps need to be taken to show that things that have happened that have been in the news did not occur on his watch, and I think that's what he wanted to make most clear to me, which I think he said in his statement.
Q The statement left this big question. He says he never heard of the database until he read about it in Time Magazine. Meanwhile, there are these quotes in both Time and the L.A. Times saying, gee, I used it just like Lexus-Nexus; anyone could log on. So can you explain that?
MR. MCCURRY: I can only tell you that the Counsel's Office when they saw those same quotes found it sufficiently of concern that they called him to try to determine what precisely he knew, and he has now made a statement that I think reflects more accurately what he precisely knows about the database.
Q Mike, did you express any concern with the way The L.A. Times or Time Magazine had reported his quote?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to me in the call I had with him, but I don't believe at that point The L.A. Times had reported.
Q It was that day.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that was the following day, which is the night before their story. The only thing I had seen him quoted as saying at that point was in Time Magazine, which I had not looked at. I mean, I had scanned that article, but had not read it at any great length.
Q And let's be clear. You say you should have jumped up and said something --
MR. MCCURRY: If we had gone more into -- go back and look at the transcript --
Q Barry was asked specifically, had he talked to him and --
MR. MCCURRY: And he said, no. And he said, I don't know from the White House who talked to him. I felt uncomfortable with that and so I think a second later the question came up again and, if you recall, I kind of intervened with Barry and said, tell them about the Counsel's Office.
Q You said the Counsel's Office.
MR. MCCURRY: Right. Which I thought was important to know because the Counsel's Office had taken steps to try to find out what knowledge he had of the database itself.
Q Then later on that Thursday, a similar question came up and you were asked what was the conclusion of any Counsel's Office discussion. And you said, well, we rely on the Counsel's Office to give us answers to questions and the like.
MR. MCCURRY: That's right. That's correct.
Q Why didn't you mention it at that point?
MR. MCCURRY: I -- because that's not the question that was asked at that point. The point is on what basis do you respond. I did not have a conversation with Truman about what precisely he knew about the database. That was a conversation I had understood at that point that the Counsel had already had with Truman.
Q Do you think it would a fair inference for those listening that Thursday to think that you were basically suggesting that the contacts between Mr. Arnold and the White House had been in the Counsel's Office and --
MR. MCCURRY: No, absolutely not. In fact, we didn't -- if -- to my knowledge -- Barry, correct me if I'm wrong -- you did not say that they were confined to the Counsel's Office. Correct? And I'm only aware of my contact with him. And I don't know if the Counsel's Office has determined if anyone else has had contact at the White House with him either. I know that the letter indicates that we've got the two that they make reference there to.
Look, in retrospect, if we had gone more deeply into the question who talked to Truman before, has anyone talked to Truman about what he's going to say to the press, or what is he now saying to the press, I would have reported that conversation.
Q Did he call you back as he was working on the statement for any further advice or clarification?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I had only the one conversation with him. I believe he did -- and, Rita, you've got the letter there -- I think he did -- there's an indication there that he did have a follow-up conversation with the Counsel's Office, because I think he called back and talked to the Counsel's Office maybe the following day.
Q But he initiated the conversation with you?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. He called me because, look, he -- I think -- I will say he probably appreciates my counsel on matters related to dealing with the press, and he wanted to know what should he do about all the press inquiries he was getting at that point.
Q Mike, now that this has been out there for a while and there's been more attention to it, is there any chance that the White House might consider releasing, if not to the committee to the press, unredacted copies of some of those memos that seem to raise so many questions just because of the huge amount that's been censored out of them?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the purpose of the redaction that's already occurred -- they've given a fair amount of information to them, and I'd have to find out.
Have you looked into that at all?
MR. TOIV: Generally, the redactions were, as we understand it, were for materials that were not directly responsive to the inquiry, but the Counsel's Office is still looking into that.
MR. MCCURRY: Barry says the Counsel's Office is looking into that. They say the redactions related to information in the memos that were not responsive to the subcommittee's request, but they are looking further into that question.
Q Mike back to your conversation with Mr. Arnold, based on what you've said, it appears that your advice to him not to talk to the media was based solely on the premise that he would then spend the rest of his days answering media inquiries --
MR. MCCURRY: Not entirely. I told him, I said, look, we're in an environment here on this subject where every single word counts and every single word matters, so you need to know exactly and precisely what it is you want to say on this, how you want to say it and make sure that you're comfortable with it.
Q Did, in that conversation, you express any concern that what he had been saying may be contradictory to what had already come out of the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I did not suggest that to him, because I don't think at that point we had briefed on it and had not said much about the database, too. I know that the Counsel's Office had been sufficiently concerned that they had called him because of some of the things that he was quoted as saying, but I didn't attempt to get into that substance with him. I didn't think it was appropriate to do that in that call.
Q And did you know on that evening that the next day The L.A. Times was going to come out with a Truman Arnold story?
MR. MCCURRY: I knew Barry was working on responding to some inquiries that they were having, but I didn't attempt to ask him, say, listen, have you had a call from The L.A. Times or anything. I didn't get into that. He said, I've got a substantial number of interview requests here and how do you think I ought to handle them, and I told him what I thought -- that he should probably have a written statement that he could make available -- either that or give up his golf weekend.
Q What was your opinion of the statement? Do you think that it addressed the
MR. MCCURRY: I have no opinion on it. Clearly, I don't think it's consistent with some of the things he was quoted as saying, but as to why it's not consistent, I imagine that a large volume of people will be looking into that.
Q In that environment, can you understand that some of us are a little bit angry that 14 out of 21 pages of this transcript were devoted to the subject of the database and Arnold, and you didn't tell us about this discussion, when a lot of the questions were specifically, who talked to who and what was it all about?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as I say in retrospect, if I had a chance -- I was not a the podium at the time, as you know -- if I had had a chance to get back into it, I would have gotten into it and talked about that conversation, because I consider it the result of his desire to seek counsel from me on -- based on how I thought he should -- what I recommend on how he should handle the inquiries he was getting.
Q Did the Counsel's Office initiate the
MR. MCCURRY: I believe they did.
Q I mean, in other words, they saw something of concern and wanted to get to the bottom of it?
MR. MCCURRY: Is that right? I guess that is my understanding. Correct.
Q Why don't they do the same thing with Webb Hubbell since it's been a similar thing of questions being raised that obviously would go to the heart of something that's of concern to the White House and try to just ask -- do with him what they do with Truman Arnold -- tell us what's going on here?
MR. MCCURRY: I would have to take that question. I don't know how they looked into that. I will look in and see whether there's an answer to that question. That's a matter that I think the Counsel would understand would be in the purview of an ongoing investigation. So there's a different circumstance there.
Q Now, you weren't advised in any way not to raise this, this is just something you decided?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it was on the spot, it's one of those calls you make on the spot. I was troubled by Barry's first answer because he said he didn't know and I knew that the Counsel's Office had talked to him, so I wanted -- that's why I reminded Barry at that point in the briefing.
Q Did Barry know that you had talked to Mr. Arnold the night before?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he -- you knew he had called, but you didn't know whether I had called him back. That happened later in the evening.
Q That's the only point --
MR. MCCURRY: In retrospect, yes. And we should have -- I should have --
Q -- it's just, not to beat this dead horse and you've acknowledged as much, but -- (laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Not a good day to be beating horses.
Q -- so often have this tiresome prosecutorial tone. And what this discussion today has suggested to us is, we should be ever more prosecutorial in our questions, asking exactly the perfect combination of queries that could --
MR. MCCURRY: You're right. You're right and you will. I have full faith and confidence in that. No, look -- you're right and I've been looking for a way to get back into it. We gave the Washington Times the letter last night. I was hoping that would trigger the discussion of this because up until we sent the letter to the subcommittee I was told it would be best not to provide any information to the press independent of what we were giving directly to the subcommittee. So I was hoping that we'd have an opportunity to correct the record.
Q Can I change the subject?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure.
Q Will Vice President Gore be ready to give Chernomyrdin a written political commitment on NATO, or, if not, where will that come from and at what point will it be in a form that can be presented to the Russians?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the political commitment that we're seeking is one between NATO and the Russian Federation in the form of a charter that would be constructed between NATO meeting at 16 in consensus as it does, and the Russian Federation. It's very important to the United States to structure and appropriate relationship between NATO and the Russian Federation as we think about the future of European security and we think of the very important role that the Russian Federation can play in the future of a peaceful and undivided Europe.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry?
Q And a treaty has no place in that relationship?
MR. MCCURRY: The work that's being done within the North Atlantic Council on that foresees a political commitment similar to some of the other documents we've done. What's another example? The Helsinki Final Act. We've had other -- we have constructed relationships between NATO and former WARSAW Pact countries with respect to Partnership for Peace, but we foresee something that's much more detailed in the discussions we're having with the Russian Federation on the charter.
Q And that's as far as either the Vice President or the President will be willing to go with Chernomyrdin?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they can only go so far because that is an ongoing negotiation now that the North Atlantic Council has authorized the Secretary General to conduct with the Russian Federation. If I'm not mistaken, Secretary General Solana has been to Moscow to commence those discussions, which are ongoing and have so far proven to be fruitful.
Q What is the U.S. inclination about meeting -- the President's inclination about meeting Yeltsin in Europe next month instead of Washington?
MR. MCCURRY: His inclination is that it's very important to meet soon within the March time frame with President Yeltsin. And we've not selected a time or place, but we have got our own travel schedule looking ahead, and we can certainly have further discussions with the Russian Federation about President Yeltsin's travel plans or travel schedule.
Q But the U.S. is willing to meet outside the United States should that accommodate Yeltsin because of his illness?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't want to rule it out, but it would be premature to say that at this point. I suspect that will be a subject that the Vice President and the Prime Minister get into when they conduct their meetings next week.
Q You said this morning, Mike, that you were going to check on a Washington Times story that said that the Russians were developing a new chemical weapon?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I did and I've got a long guidance here that essentially says that the Convention itself as foreseen does not -- while it doesn't specifically list each and every novel agent or chemical under development, it does apply ways in which you could address some of the concerns raised, but it doesn't -- as a general answer, it doesn't apply specifically to something that is an intelligence matter that we can't get into.
Q Does the United Nations share with the administration the supposedly new evidence that Iraq has -- continues to develop missiles?
Q There's a story in the Frankfurt -- which says that, U.N. inspectors have concluded both that Iraq continues to develop missiles and which reports that the United States is considering a missile strike against Iraq.
MR. MCCURRY: I will have to look into that. Is that coming out of the work of Ekeus and the Special Commission or -- That's news to me. David will follow up on that.
Q According to -- this story appeared in Athens, Ankara, London and New York. President Clinton sent a letter and invitation to the Greek Prime Minister for another urgent meeting here at the White House next month. Could you please confirm such a letter or invitation exists, since -- government is already --
MR. MCCURRY: I cannot confirm an invitation. I'm not aware of any such letter being sent. The President saw the Prime Minister last April, I believe, had a very good meeting and would look forward to seeing him again, certainly in Madrid at the time of the NATO summit. But I'm not aware of any letter of invitation for him to travel here.
Q More specifically -- the Greek Ambassador to deliver such a letter, invitation or even a message to -- during his last visit to Athens last week -- or your Ambassador to Greece is authorized to do so to this effect. I'm asking you since it was reported extensively in Athens today.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of contact with either with respect to extending an invitation.
Q And the last one. Do you know if the President in tonight's speech, State of the Union to Congress is going to address also the Cyprus agenda as it was reported in Athens --
MR. MCCURRY: The President will identify as one of his top six priorities for foreign policy as he thinks ahead to the next four years, dealing with regional conflicts and asserting the role the United States can play in managing conflicts. And certainly, with respect to that, we often talk about the role that we would like to play as a facilitator with respect to Cyprus, other ongoing tensions that we attempt to manage -- Northern Ireland, certainly the Middle East peace process, certainly the role we play in Bosnia and elsewhere. But I would caution you against expecting any
Q What are the other priorities?
MR. MCCURRY: If you go back and look at Sandy Berger's briefing here at the day of the Cabinet retreat. The big six.
Q Will he bring up the coming trip
MR. MCCURRY: I think he'll talk about the importance of our work in this hemisphere to keep markets open and to advance the objectives that we outlined in the Summit of the Americas, again touching on that as one of the foreign policy areas that we face coming ahead.
Q Will you tell us who the President's
MR. MCCURRY: We'll be putting that out later.
Q Can we talk about he's
MR. MCCURRY: What he's doing today? He's worked with -- he's got a little group of people that have worked with him on the speech and they've done reasonably good work for sometime now and say the speech is in pretty good shape. He's looking forward to giving it. I'm looking forward to sitting there listening to it for at least an hour, maybe even a little longer.
Q He hasn't learned, has he?
MR. MCCURRY: On that subject, one thing we are pretty confident of is that the American public appreciates a more comprehensive and detailed response to the issues of the day. In fact, going back and looking at the things that we understand about these speeches is they really are opportunities to lay a fairly detailed agenda in front of the country and the Congress. So we will take every opportunity to do that.
Q Will the Cuban issue come up tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't expect any lengthy treatment of that subject, no.
Q Do you know, Mike, has he had any discussion with Dick Morris about this speech?
MR. MCCURRY: To my knowledge, no. I asked him sometime ago whether he had sent anything in connection with the Inauguration and the President indicated to me, no. But I haven't talked to him about this speech.
Q How many governors does he expect to be there?
MR. MCCURRY: Some, but I don't have a count on how many. We do expect some to be there.
MR. MCCURRY: No, although I'm told that we are not supposed to talk about that or we don't talk about that.
Q It was in the paper.
MR. MCCURRY: It was in there. It was a very able choice for a very important assignment.
Q How is that selection made? Is it a name out of a hat or is it --
MR. MCCURRY: I think they -- it's a random drawing. But I think if it comes --
Q But who picks it?
Q Do you consider them the winner or the loser?
MR. MCCURRY: Secretary Shalala did it last year, if I recall correctly, she had a great time. She came over with some of her staff people and they ordered pizza here in the Roosevelt Room -- (laughter) -- and they watched the speech here. They did.
Q Was she ready to move in to the Oval Office?
MR. MCCURRY: Go try the office out, sign a few Executive Orders? (Laughter.) No, Dick Morris wouldn't let her. (Laughter.)
Q -- several things that
the President is going to talk about on foreign policy including new
MR. MCCURRY: Asia. He will talk -- he will certainly talk about the important role the United States foresees playing in Asia as we deepen our engagement with so many of the countries there including China, and to talk about the importance of our security relationships in the region, but talk about that being on of the preeminent challenges we face as we think of the 21st century -- how to structure our relationship with Europe and how to structure our relationship with Asia.
Q Talk about the defense budget and how it's bigger this year than last, even though there's no enemies?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll talk about the need for resources that will keep our military strong and ready. But the specific discussions of numbers we'll leave for Thursday.
Q What was the President's reaction to the news that the sergeant who was on the sexual harassment commission has now asked to be replaced on that while defending some accusations against him?
MR. MCCURRY: Ann, I haven't had a reaction from him on that. I checked on that here today and we essentially -- our understanding is the Defense Department has been dealing with that. But I haven't spoken with the President on it.
Q That's appropriate for him to step down from that panel but
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's more appropriate for the Defense Department to address that.
Q Speaking of Morris, as I recall, in the campaign after he left there was a procedure that the contacts people had were either supposed to go through Leon or through Peter Knight, I think it was, at the campaign. Is there a similar procedure now or are staffers here free to talk with Dick and solicit advice if they --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't talked to Erskine specifically about this. I'm not aware that there are any extensive contacts that he has. But I think if talks to people -- I think he's been directed to more clearly send any ideas or anything he wants to say to Don Baer. The degree to which he does so is -- I just don't know. I don't think it's very extensive. He's been very busy doing interviews and doing other things. (Laughter.)
Q Doing radio ads.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Will tomorrow's material in Georgia essentially be a repeat of the educational section from tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: It will be picking up some of the themes that are in the speech tonight. I mean, I think it will be clear after the speech tonight that the President has made a discussion of education one of the centerpieces of this address. And I expect that in the speech tonight he'll have a very specific set of action items related to education. And he will take an opportunity to talk about them at greater length tomorrow.
Q Mike, the state of health of Ambassador Harriman -- and has President Clinton or Mrs. Clinton contacted any members of her family?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if they've been in contact with the family. They've been asked to get any information that we have from the embassy in Paris and they, of course, have expressed their own concern for her condition. She is in their thoughts and prayers. She is a remarkable lady, and I think that much of the whole world will be thinking of her.
Q Regarding the trip to Georgia tomorrow, the HOPE Scholarship Fund, which the President talks about quite a bit and I guess has been somewhat successful -- on the other hand, it is financed by lottery. How does the President feel about financing education by gambling?
MR. MCCURRY: He thinks that a useful way to finance or pay for the kind of opportunity he wants to provide is through the mechanism of the tax credit device, which he will use, and that's paid for in ways that you know. I think he's -- I'd have to check, but I think as governor, he has taken a view of some of those issues, but I would want to go back and check more directly. He thinks in any event that the Georgia program has been a very good program. It has provided a lot of opportunity and it's one we'll talk about. But the funding mechanism for our HOPE Scholarships is not similar to the Georgia model, nor should it be, given the way in which we finance things like tax credits.
Q Can I infer, then, that he's not terribly enthusiastic about using --
MR. MCCURRY: He's terribly enthusiastic about the Georgia plan and he'll talk about it, and we've got -- the way in which we pay for our tax credit is identified in the budget that we'll submit Thursday.
Q Mike, another subject. Is the White House now able to say that Alexis Herman's nomination is in trouble, since you're going to friends to talk to the media now -- friends of hers?
MR. MCCURRY: To the contrary. I think if anything, that we've been working very hard and she's been working very hard to clarify any concerns that people have, and if anything, we think we feel brighter about the prospects today than when some concerns were initially raised, as she's had the opportunity to really make her case to individual members of the Senate. And I think many of them have at least expressed some measure of satisfaction, and we believe that's leaving a more favorable environment for consideration of the nomination.
Q Remember that Newsweek story when a guy in Florida handed the President his business card saying he wants to give away $5 billion? Did that actually happen?
MR. MCCURRY: I had my statement on that yesterday. I don't have anything further.
Q What's the status of our ambassadorship now to France? Was she due to rotate back soon?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, she had made some -- I don't know whether she had done so publicly, but there had been some indications made about her future plans, but I don't know that I want to get into that subject right now.
Q Mike, Vice President Gore's air safety commission has recommended that commercial jets -- that a task force look at putting air defense systems on commercial jets to protect them from missiles. Are they talking about domestic flights?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that's not exactly what they might recommend. There are some draft recommendations circulating by the Aviation Safety Commission now. They've got another meeting scheduled coming up February 12th. They have been looking at some questions related to air safety and the possibility of electronic countermeasures with respect to missiles, but that would be something that would have to be examined more closely, working between the industry and defense experts and others. I think they're a ways away from any final recommendations with respect to that.
Q Well, isn't it a recommendation by this commission? Is it on the table?
MR. MCCURRY: There are no recommendations that have been finalized by this commission. There has been some concern, I think because of the prevalence of one of the possible theories with respect to TWA 800, I think they felt it incumbent upon them, because that is one of several theories under investigation, they should address that issue somehow. So they've been trying to determine the right way to address it. But I think they are far from any final recommendation on how to handle it.
Q But they wouldn't stress that on a theory alone, would they? Wouldn't they have to have some kind of evidence if there is a threat; and if there is that kind of evidence, don't you think that should be shared with the American people?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they are working through those types of issues and trying to determine whether, in fact, that kind of threat exists; if so, what is the proper way to deal with that kind of threat. And they'll making a public report, of course.
` Q Is there any chance of a photo of the President today working on his speech?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll check and see. I'm not sure what he's got going on.
Q Could you just clarify something? Yesterday, Gore said that he thought that the restorations of the welfare reform cuts to legal immigrants could be made without opening up the law, without revisiting the welfare reform law. Does the President have in mind some kind of mechanism other than changing the welfare reform law to restore that money?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think the Vice President is making clear to the governors that we are not interested in rewriting welfare reform, we're interested in successfully implementing the act, and that there are some matters that the President and the Vice President consider extraneous to welfare reform -- nutrition, the status of benefits for some legal immigrants -- that are basically cost cutting or budget cutting measures and not related directly to welfare reform.
We think they can be fixed. They can be fixed in the context of the budget proposal that we'll be sending to the Hill. But we want certainly not the governors nor the Congress to imagine that we believe we should go back and reexamine a welfare reform bill that this administration has pledged to successfully implement.
Q But practically, how do you restore those cuts without -- he's just saying we don't want to revisit welfare reform, not that we don't want to --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, you can address the areas in sort of non-welfare reform related concerns that we have
Yesterday, Governor Miller said at the stakeout that it could be done possibly through immigration laws. Is that --
MR. MCCURRY: There are a number of ways that you could do it. We'll have a specific proposal in our budget Thursday about how to take care of that item. But again, we see that as a separate matter, an important one, but separate from the challenge of successfully implementing welfare reform, which we will be devoting considerable energy to tonight in the speech and in the days to come.
Q Will he not mention restoring those cuts tonight? He'll only talked about --
MR. MCCURRY: He'll talk about how we need to address some of those specific problems, but he'll also reaffirm his strong commitment to implementing welfare reform.
Q In the Wall Street Journal story this morning, is it accurate that the White House views the legal immigration provisions as simply a budget cut?
MR. MCCURRY: It's accurate to say that there are problems that the President identified at the time he signed the bill that he wants to see addressed in his budget.
Q And that the way of remedying that would be through the budget?
MR. MCCURRY: There are ways of remedying it that the President has identified that will be in his budget proposal.
Q Mike, yesterday you said you weren't addressing the facts of the Newsweek story. The problem is, Lanny isn't either. Who are we going to get an answer from on the question of whether or not --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll check with Lanny.
Q No, no, but I mean, seriously, Mike. We need an answer on the question of whether or not the White House disputes the claim that Harold Ickes directed that $500,000 be wired to the DNC account.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, I haven't -- I'll check and see what the status is of the Counsel's handling of it. Yes, I'll take the question, see what the status is of the Counsel's Office's handling that particular --
Q Were you able to find out, Mike, whether Chirac has reported back on his meeting with Yeltsin over the weekend?
MR. MCCURRY: He did, and I've got a very anodyne readout of that. He had a very successful meeting with President Yeltsin, he reported President Yeltsin to be very focused on a detailed and substantive agenda. They had good discussions and productive discussions on a range of issues that are of common concern when the United States conducts its bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation. But beyond that, we thought it best to leave it to the French and the Russians to provide the summary of their diplomatic contact.
Q How was it done? Did he call the President?
MR. MCCURRY: It came by cable. Diplomatic -- routine, diplomatic channels. Phone -- (laughter) -- no contact that I'm aware of between President Chirac and President Clinton.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:58 P.M. EST #309-2/4