THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
6:20 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: I'm going to read a short statement that we're issuing now. Today the Department of Justice and Anthony Lake reached a settlement of a civil case concerning Mr. Lake's stocks. These are matters that have been in discussion related to his nomination as Director of Central Intelligence. The Department of Justice and Mr. Lake agreed that there's no evidence that Mr. Lake ever took any action to conceal or misrepresent his or his wife's financial holdings. They also agreed that there's no evidence that Mr. Lake considered any effect or impact his official actions might have had upon his or his wife's interests. In short, Mr. Lake had no intent to do wrong or to mislead.
The President is obviously delighted that the Justice Department and Mr. Lake have reached this agreement. He is not surprised at all that the fundamental honesty and integrity of Mr. Lake is coming through in this discussion.
The President has also been informed this afternoon that the Justice Department has sent a letter to Representative Henry Hyde that has reviewed the whole question of arms transfers to Bosnia which the Department has said they have found no evidence of potential criminal violations by Tony arising out of his role in the issue of Bosnia arms transfer were as a result of various statements that were made by Mr. Lake to congressional committees or to the intelligence oversight board.
The President fully expects that this information will now lay to rest any concerns that members of the Senate might have. The President looks forward to expeditious confirmation proceedings for Mr. Lake so that he can assume a position that is vital to this nation's national security.
Q The fact that he's paying this $5,000 civil penalty -- doesn't this leave the impression of some not wrongdoing, but a serious error of judgment on his part?
MR. MCCURRY: No. He has agreed to a settlement payment of $5,000 -- that's the minimum amount that the Justice Department has accepted in the past in settling cases like this. He's agreed -- Tony agreed to this payment because he understands that he should have made sure that the stocks in question had been divested. It's important to remember that that is a civil disposition of this matter and does not in any way represent a criminal proceeding.
Q Mike, Senator Shelby, in talking about Mr. Lake's situation has said, why couldn't the President send somebody who had a totally clean record, about whom there were no questions of this kind.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, Mr. Lake, if you're looking for someone of honesty, integrity and trustworthiness, is about as good as we're ever going to get in this government because he is an extraordinarily fine individual. These matters, I suspect, could --this type of infraction -- it's a $5,000 payment that recognizes that there were some stocks that should have been sold. It's the minimum payment that would be made under these circumstances. There are probably a good number of people in this town that might be subjected to the same kind of proceeding if you went through the kind of scrutiny that a nomination for this type of office goes through.
I don't think this in any way has a bearing on his ability to do the job of directing this nation's intelligence community, which requires someone of the unsurpassed integrity that Tony has demonstrated.
Q Mike, in your statement you said that they should lay to rest this issue. Do you assume that it will or do you think that this is still --
MR. MCCURRY: We have to believe that after the very long months of looking into this matter and looking into the question of the Bosnian arms transfer, and having come to this conclusion, the Justice Department having come to these conclusions in discussion with Tony's representatives, that this should certainly satisfy any concerns that members of the Senate might have. It would be hard to imagine otherwise.
Q Is your previous statement that the President will go to the mat for Tony Lake still operative?
MR. MCCURRY: I personally feel that this should make it unnecessary for him to go wrestle on that mat. This should probably clear up concerns that members of the Senate might have. But the President's certainly willing to work hard on behalf of Tony's nomination, if that is needed. We would imagine, with what we consider very good news tonight, that the Senate will be able to be now in a position to move very quickly to go to confirmation hearings and to confirmation itself.
Q Can you talk about the timing of this announcement? It's Friday night -- this is usually when the administration announces bad news.
MR. MCCURRY: This shows you that we don't manage the news the way you sometimes think we do. Obviously --
Q I'm sorry. How does that --
MR. MCCURRY: Obviously, having good news like this, if we -- we shared it when we understood that it had been made public by the Justice Department.
Q Is this a Tickle-Me Elmo factor? (Laughter.)
Q Mike, have you talked to Mr. Lake about this?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not, no, not personally. I've seen the material that he has prepared and the statement that -- the White House fact sheet we have here is based on the understanding that we have -- the understanding that's been communicated to us by his representative and we understand that the Justice Department verifies.
Q Have you had any discussion with any members of the Senate?
MR. MCCURRY: We have not yet. We are hoping -- this material, of course, is being sent -- or my understanding, the letter to Congressman Hyde was already delivered. And we assume that information will circulate among members of the Senate. Many of them are out of town, of course. But as Tony has dealt with these concerns on the Hill, it's clear that this information from -- the letter, certainly, from the Justice Department and the information about the agreement that's been reached between Tony and his lawyers on the financial transactions will be of interest to some of the members of the Senate.
Q Is Mr. Lake in town?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know. David, do you know?
MR. JOHNSON: I believe so, but I don't know.
MR. MCCURRY: I believe so.
Q Mike, technically, is Tony Lake still National Security Advisor or has he lost that title?
MR. MCCURRY: He still holds the title of National Security Advisor. Most of his functions are being performed now by Deputy National Security Advisor Sandy Berger. And what title did we give Jimmy?
MR. JOHNSON: One can have many deputies.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. So Steinberg is also functioning in a deputy --
Q My understanding is that the confirmation hearings are not scheduled to begin until the 25th or the 26th. Is that -- do you think they ought to be moved up now, or is that timing okay with the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: That's our understanding. the senators have to set the schedule and move in due course. I'm sure they're going to want to examine this information themselves, and we will respect the calendar of the Senate. We just -- the President hopes that they move expeditiously to confirm Tony. We believe this is information that should help clear the way to that expeditious confirmation.
Q Could you in any way characterize, Mike, how important it is to get a person in charge of CIA at this point?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are very capable career professionals who are at the agency and the agency currently is under the very capable leadership of George Tenet, who's the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. But I will say that with the very ambitious foreign policy schedule that the President has outlined for the months ahead -- and, obviously, a lot of our work today with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin of Russia, in scheduling a summit with President Yeltsin -- it will be critical to this nation's foreign policymakers to have smart, good, accurate analysis and information that they could use in making policy. And having someone who is committed to the morale and professionalism of the intelligence community in place as Director of Central Intelligence will be a fundamentally important part of accomplishing the President's foreign policy objectives.
Q Has Tony been working at this over at Langley, or is he --
MR. MCCURRY: He has been spending considerable time in Langley, meeting people, getting to know the agency, spending time meeting a lot of the career professionals there, getting briefings on various activities. He also continues to be here and to follow matters here. But he's really been very heavily involved in working with others in Langley and then, obviously, being on the Hill, meeting individually with senators and answering questions related to his own confirmation process.
Thank you and good night.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 6:29 P.M. EST