THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:03 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Olivia Golden, who's the acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services, is here, and waited patiently because I was tardy, and I said someone might have a question about our adoption thing. I'm sure someone does -- going, going, going --
Thank you. You were very nice to stick around. It was a very nice event.
Q I'll ask one. Why did you pick the year 2002 as the deadline? Why not set the year 2000 and pick a smaller number of children that he wants to move into permanent adoptions?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a very good question. I think the question why set as a goal 2002 as the goal for doubling those that we would place. I suspect it's a budget answer, but take it away.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOLDEN: We felt that it was ambitious, but doable, to double the number of children in five years. We picked it because it's five years away, and an ambitious but doable target.
Q Hasn't the result been that a lot of potential parents have had to go abroad for children because of these barriers?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOLDEN: Well, I think that what's critical here is that we think we can make the system work for children so they'll be able to have permanent families and for potential adoptive parents.
Q But isn't it to promote American adoptions, versus having to leave the country?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOLDEN: The initiative is about children now in the American child welfare system, in our foster care system, and making sure that they can find a loving, permanent home.
Q Well, are the other countries more lenient?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOLDEN: I mean, I think the question of international adoptions isn't one that I have material for you on today. We could certainly find out more information.
Q Very cautious. Diplomatic is the word.
MR. MCCURRY: Thanks, Olivia.
Q At least part of what you've got in the report involves altering federal law. Have you had any discussions at all whatsoever with the Hill on doing an education of --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOLDEN: There's bipartisan interest on the Hill in this range of issues, and we're looking forward to working together with them. I think everyone is going in the same direction in general, and we're looking forward to figuring out the particulars.
Q Who are the point people on the Hill?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOLDEN: There's a range of people. The President thanked in his remarks, I think, several people you'll find in his remarks.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you. Thanks.
All right. Other subjects you want to know about?
A couple of times -- housekeeping -- before we go on. Sandy Berger is giving a on-the-record address Sunday on the Clinton administration's foreign policy and national security policy priorities and the prospects for peace in the Middle East. I'm not anticipating that he'll say much more than what the President had to say yesterday about the discussion just concluded with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he will survey the scene and indicate how important our goal to advancing the peace process is in the context of our six strategic objectives for 1997 and beyond. We can give you the speech, but I just wanted to make sure you knew he would be out there on Sunday and saying some things.
MR. MCCURRY: It's at the -- the speech is before the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council. It's in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue, and it will be at 5:00 p.m. Sunday. A good time, guaranteed to get lots of coverage.
Q So if you are doing a Valentine's weekend --
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q If you're doing a Valentine's weekend at the Mayflower you could just drop in and -- (laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, any of you who are staying down at the Mayflower for the whole weekend.
Q Who is the President meeting with on the airline strike?
MR. MCCURRY: The President first -- let me tell you, prior to our event he met for a -- it's sort of been kids day in Oval Office in some respects. He had Sara Netanyahu and -- the Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu's two children -- Yair who is age 5, and Avner who is age 2, playing in the Oval Office. The two-year-old son was, as two-year-old sons will do, throwing the sofa cushions all over the Oval Office -- (laughter) --having a very good time. But the President enjoyed playing with them and gave them a little tour of the Oval Office and enjoyed an opportunity to chat briefly with the Prime Minister's spouse and family.
And beyond that, that's --
Q Who is the President meeting with --
MR. MCCURRY: What the President was indicating to you earlier today, so that we can please turn off all the alarm bells here, is he has not had a briefing yet today on the American Airlines negotiations because there's nothing new to report to him. He is, at some point later today, going to talk to Bruce Lindsey, who has been principally in contact with the parties, and Erskine Bowles just to get an update. And the President was just -- meant to indicate he was not taking questions because he really hadn't had any update.
Q He said he thought he should respond to questions later.
MR. MCCURRY: He will respond to questions if there's anything to say. I don't anticipate him saying anything on this subject prior to the hour that many of you all in the front row are concerned about.
Q All the indications of the talks are that they're going nowhere right now. Is it prudent to march right up to the deadline? Won't that, in fact, create some disruptions and economic interruptions?
MR. MCCURRY: It would be prudent for these parties to resolve a difficult labor dispute through negotiation at the table, through the bargaining that they are doing, and using the services of the National Mediation Board. And, again, the White House calls on these parties to settle their disputes so we can avoid a major disruption in our air transportation system.
Q But if the President marches right up to the deadline, won't that, in fact, create some disruptions?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is not marching up to the deadline, he's not a party to this labor dispute. The two parties are negotiating, and the President is encouraging them to make progress and to resolve their dispute. We hope they will and we'll watch closely their negotiations today.
Q If I could go back to it -- if the talks break off at midnight, won't, in fact, there be some economic disruption if the President does not move before that?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't looked at the Transportation Department's analysis, so I don't know the answer to that.
Q It's fair to say, though, that the President knows that he has it within his power to avert this strike?
MR. MCCURRY: The President does not have within his power the power to avert a strike. He has very specific -- there are specific procedures that are available under the Railway Labor Act and the President has used them in the past, so he is familiar with them. But I'm not going to speculate on how they might apply here. It would be far better for us to be talking about whatever agreement is reached between the parties as they continue their negotiating today.
Q Well, do you mean to rule out any action before midnight?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not ruling in, ruling out action. I'm putting the focus where it properly should be, on the negotiation itself. It should not be here.
Q Well, but you also have a -- the President has the tools to stop a strike and I don't see why you can't discuss that.
MR. MCCURRY: The parties have the tools necessary to resolve their dispute, and they should continue their negotiating and resolve their dispute.
Q He can call a cooling off period.
MR. MCCURRY: We can call the Labor Department and get you information on the Railway Labor Act if you need it, but I don't think you need it.
Q Besides these parties -- has there been much contact at the White House today from other interested groups?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not -- only aware that we've had -- we followed the discussion between the parties and been kept abreast of that. The President has heard from many concerned individuals and, obviously, he is concerned himself. But we will continue to watch the negotiations closely.
Q Any contact from the AFL?
MR. MCCURRY: We are familiar with their views. I don't know if we've had direct contact today, but we -- maybe not today, but we are familiar with their thinking.
Q Recognizing that the President really wants the two parties to negotiate, and not asking you to speculate, but in weighing up the potential disruption, what factors are taken into account in a situation like this? Is it safety? Is it economic factors -- on whether or not he should get involved?
MR. MCCURRY: The process by which the President can act in a labor dispute of this nature I think are pretty clear. The disruption -- the criteria relates to disruption of interstate commerce and the denial of specific transportation modes to relevant geographic areas. And under the law those are the areas that would be examined if there was going to be an examination of that nature.
That's true anytime any aspect of the RLA comes into impact. Again, I'm not going to speculate on how that affects this situation because the important focus right now should be properly on the negotiations.
Q Mike, when I asked you the other day on the U.S. position on the North Korean defector to the South Korean embassy in Beijing you said that the U.S. position was that they hoped that affairs be handled in accordance with international standards on asylum. Since then, China has not turned this fellow over to the South Koreans, despite the South Koreans' desire for him to be turned over. And I'm wondering, is that in accordance with those international standards you mentioned?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the international standards with respect to asylum requests could conceivably involve government-togovernment contacts such as those that have occurred between the People's Republic and the Republic of Korea. It's important for diplomats from both sides to exchange views on a matter of that nature. That is what is occurring, to the best of our knowledge, and that is appropriate.
Q Does the U.S. think that he should be turned over to South Korea?
MR. MCCURRY: We believe that appropriate international norms related to asylum should be followed. We're not taking a position on -- directly with respect to a case that we are not in a position to be thoroughly familiar with.
Q One more strike question. At what point in the day or evening can we expect to hear more from you?
MR. MCCURRY: I think our plans here are to follow the negotiations. We are not aware of any reason why -- we will get to the end of our work day here with probably -- conceivably, no clarity on what, if anything, might be happening that would relate to us. So I'm not going to ask my staff on Valentine's Day to stick around. We'll just close down; if we need to come back in, we'll have ample time to come back in and turn on the lights.
Q Would you come in at 12:02 a.m. if necessary?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't plan to be.
Q Is that 12:02 a.m. Central Time or -- is the strike deadline 1:02 a.m. our time?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar enough with deadlines to even speculate.
Q It's usually Eastern Time.
Q So what you're saying is that at the normal hour, 6:00 p.m., 6:30 p.m., whatever, you'll put on a full lid?
MR. MCCURRY: As soon as we can put on -- it's a Friday; as soon as we can put on a full lid we'll put on a full lid.
Q So are we coming over to your house? (Laughter.)
Q Giving a Valentine's party?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm trying to make it easier for those who want to take their romantic beloveds to dinner to maybe do so.
Q I appreciate that.
MR. MCCURRY: Of course, if I do that, then you'll all get your pagers going off with an all-call at the wrong moment. (Laughter.)
Q Strikus interruptus. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, if I can just make one point on behalf --
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, parents, turn on the v-chip. (Laughter.)
Q On behalf of the TV networks, you know we need some time, some setup. We can't just have five minutes, the President will be in the briefing room.
Q Oh, he's done it before. He did it just a couple of weeks ago, didn't he?
MR. MCCURRY: I was doing a panel last night with Marlin, and he told a great story -- maybe some of you remember this -- you were up in Kennebunkport at one point, and he had -- it was -- I may be confusing two episodes, but at some point he wanted to communicate a particular item and everyone was off running around, there was no satellite transmission facility there except at the press hotel. And I guess CNN had the pool and had their satellite truck there. And the President said to Marlin, well, let's go. And they got in the car and ran over and he stood there waiting until everyone could kind of come in and do the event. Any recollection of that, old-timers?
Q I think it was the attempted coup in Moscow.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Attempted coup in Moscow. And he had just talked to Yeltsin.
Q No, he came over -- but he came over to the Shawmut.
MR. MCCURRY: And he had just talked to Yeltsin and wanted to communicate that he had just had a conversation with Yeltsin. And apparently -- Marlin described it as he came over and waited around until everyone could gather up from their lobster dinners. So there is historical precedent for us accommodating any news on an occasion such as that.
Q Can we switch the subject?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure. Wait a minute --
Q You mentioned that the President has gotten a lot of input shall we say, from the Hill and other places. Can you characterize what's come in and tell us whether it's having an effect on his thinking?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's consistent with what you heard some of the senators who were here say the other day -- there is enormous concern. And we understand that. And I think everyone understands my reluctance to comment on it is related to our desire to see the parties make progress. Obviously, the President does have concern; it is significant to him that people are worried about both the economic impact and personal impact on tens of thousands of travelers who might be affected, but at the moment our hopes are with those who are doing the negotiating and the mediators who are doing their work. And we're going to let them do their work and not be in a position of impacting on it one way or another.
Q -- overwhelming amount of letters or pressure -- is there a lot of other businesses that have interest in this?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't looked to see. I mean, it is not disproportionate with labor matters that affect -- that come up here from time to time. We had a lot of concern expressed when there was a potential auto strike that we faced a couple months ago. Anytime there's a labor dispute we get inquiries and concerns here.
Q Mike, has the President formally gotten a briefing about the economic impact? Has he actually sat down and gone through that?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he has not.
Q Is he interested in doing that some time?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm just not going to speculate on when he might get briefed about what.
Q So he got the DOT report, but as of yesterday --
MR. MCCURRY: He has not received the DOT report. It's here and it's available to us if we need it.
Q Another subject? Mike, on the documents that were put out today on the Tony Lake matter, they're followed by cases where the NSC recommends against certain activities. The Vice President is told that he should be very, very cautious about this fundraiser. Concerns are raised about Johnny Chung. In both cases, you know, the President went ahead -- the Vice President went ahead with the fundraiser, Johnny Chung continued to have access to the White House. Why were these concerns not taken seriously?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if you separate those two -- if you check with the Vice President's Office they will tell you they did take those concerns into account, were careful to reflect an accurate presentation on our views with respect to China policy, or at least to be in a position to be prepared to address that matter in that fashion if it arose.
And with respect to other instances, I mean, in general these documents reflect something I think we've told you before, that when asked the National Security Council rendered not political advice, but good, sound counsel about foreign policy concerns or related concerns, and that they did on occasion at least provide counsel that led to the canceling of events or led to certain things not happening. That's clear from Mr. Lake's submission to the committee.
There are other occasions when events proceeded even though cautionary noted had sounded. And I think that reflects among other things the shortcomings that existed in our process for scheduling appointments here at the White House. There are shortcomings that I believe have now been addressed effectively by Mr. Bowles' instructions about new procedures that exist, which you are familiar with.
In short, it is certainly true to say that the process for scheduling and screening visitors to the White House had serious shortcomings. We believe they have been addressed. But the fundamental import of some of these documents you've seen today is that we had a National Security Council -- professional people -- when asked who gave, I think, pretty good counsel that should have been more closely heeded.
Q Can I ask a follow-up on that? I mean, there's one instance where a number of Chinese executives come to a radio address and it says, the POTUS wasn't sure we'd want photos of him with these people circulating around. That's in '95. Given that the POTUS was concerned that he had his picture taken with Chinese executives, can you explain why he continued, as we know, to meet with people like this?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he -- I'd have to go back and check. I'm not sure. You're talking about a specific individual, Mr. Johnny Chung, who is here, who then came --
Q No, no, no, I'm talking about --
MR. MCCURRY: -- brought with him on this occasion five individuals that clearly the President had some concerns about, wondered why they were at this particular type of an event, at a radio address. That's not the kind of accession that he would normally encounter people in that line of work. And he expressed concerns. He expressed it to his immediate staff. They followed up on it. There's a reference in one of those documents to a request for some picture, which I gather were not sent.
Q Were not sent?
MR. MCCURRY: Were not sent, correct. And I mean, there were other occasions in which the President did have some meetings. I would have to go through -- there were relatively few occasions in which he would have had encounters of that type given the overall work that he was doing. He had this pattern of activity as he works through the realities of the election year and the realities of his official calendar here, where he was having dozens and dozens of meetings. And there were occasions where -- there were one or two times that we've acknowledged and made clear there were people who were inappropriately attending certain types of events.
Q Just to make clear, you're saying from somewhere else you're aware that those photos were not --
MR. MCCURRY: It's my understanding -- a lot of --
Q From the documents that's not clear. It indicates --
MR. MCCURRY: A lot of your news organizations are working with the folks who are doing the follow-up. I'm told that those who are providing answers to some of the follow-up questions have indicated that the photos were not sent.
Q Could I follow up on that? Were any of those five either current or former Chinese government officials, or were they all from private industry, do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: They were -- I don't know that we have identified them beyond the characterization that was made in the documents. They were -- well, the documents identify them as bona fied present or former Chinese officials. And that's what our assumption is given the titles. I don't know that we've done full checks on them. But given the titles, given the occupations, given the analysis from our staff expert at the NSC, they would appear to be people who had at least some affiliation with the government.
Q If Johnny Chung had sandbagged the President with these people, which is what it looks like, why would you continue to let him have access to the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's not clear that anyone would -- quote, unquote -- describe that as a sandbag at the time. It was something that struck the President clearly as being unusual about the event. But I'm not so sure that he attached that -- I mean, I don't know enough about his reaction or what that reaction was to know if he attached that specifically to that one individual.
Q Were you aware of his reaction at the time?
MR. MCCURRY: No. It was a Saturday radio address and, as you know, this is not normally --
Q Sometimes those things resonate over several days. I was just wondering if you had been made aware.
MR. MCCURRY: No, I had not been, no.
Q Mike, let me just read you from another document on that same photo thing. This is from -- who is Robert Suettinger?
MR. MCCURRY: Bob Suettinger is a very qualified career professional who works on the staff of the National Security Council. He's one of our Asia experts -- still there, still does very good work.
Q He says, I don't see any lasting damage to U.S. foreign policy from giving Johnny Chung the picture. And to the degree it motivates him to continue contributing to the DNC, who am I to complain? Does that bother you that he would be basically saying, it's fine to give him the pictures because --
MR. MCCURRY: Deborah, in context, I think it's only fair to look at that as an e-mail -- informal e-mail that he is sending back in response to a query from another staffer. If you read the e-mail into the transcript, you'd get the flavor of this exchange. He clearly is not responding as someone who's recommending any political course of action. He's saying, you know, I'm basically not the guy to ask that -- whatever your political concerns are. He addresses properly what the foreign policy concerns might be and properly raises a cautionary note about how these individuals might be misusing the access that they have to the President. And I think it's not fair to characterize his exchange there any other way.
Q But, Mike, it does suggest that one of the considerations by the NSC was fundraising for the DNC.
MR. MCCURRY: That is a stretch all the way out here and, boom, the rubber band breaks.
Q Mike, but something that's not a stretch -- I think many people would also interpret when somebody says, who am I to complain -- that's voiced out of frustration that whatever advice they're giving is not being heeded.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not my understanding of his -- how he would characterize that. He was just basically giving informally -- this is an informal e-mail transaction back to another staffer --his off-the-cuff reaction to the question asked.
Q Mike, who was that other staffer --
MR. MCCURRY: A staff assistant elsewhere in the NSC.
Q Given Mr. Chung's group at the radio address and the difficulty over whether or not he's going to get a letter of credential to try to negotiate for Harry Wu's release, what's the status of his access to the compound these days?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, it's pursuant to the new policies that have been implemented.
Q Could he get in, or not?
MR. MCCURRY: You're not going to see him around here anytime soon. (Laughter.)
Q Can you clarify your answer on the Buddhist fundraiser? NSC told the Vice President's staff that this was indeed a Buddhist fundraiser and he should not go, and then that was not communicated to the Vice President?
MR. MCCURRY: No. You know, as we've told people in the past, it's certainly true some members of the Vice President's staff may have known that the event was a fundraiser at the time it occurred, but the Vice President did not. This e-mail is sent long before the event is actually set up, when they're still considering setting up the event.
In fact, my recollection is at one point they had in mind two separate events, a fundraiser and a visit to the temple. This is not a -- this is chronologically far enough in advance of this. It was not aimed specifically at the event the Vice President attended.
Q Mike, a lot of this correspondence suggests that there's some concern here that Johnny Chung was overstating the extent of his contacts or his intimacy with the President. What was your understanding -- what is the White House's understanding of Chung's contacts with representatives of the PRC? Was he seen as having official, legitimate contacts?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, no, he was not.
Q Was he considered to be exaggerating in all directions?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we don't -- I mean, let's say what we know and what we don't know. We, of course, don't know, since he was not traveling in any official capacity, what type of contacts he had. He was apparently, according to some news accounts, traveling in Asia, pursuing business transactions that he might have an interest in. That does raise the concern, quite properly, as voiced in one of these documents, that he might be overstating his relationship or misusing access that he had here in order to portray himself in an inaccurate way as he traveled. Now, we are not in a position -- specifically or directly what he did, but it certainly raises that concern.
Q Mike, on this lunch, the way the story was originally told to us it was that the reason fundraising ended up at this temple was two events had to be combined -- it was a fundraiser elsewhere and it had to be brought to the temple because there could only be one event. Now, this e-mail says that there's an invitation to the temple and there would be a fundraising lunch. It's described as a single event, which does seem to fly in the face of the prior version. This would clearly be a Taiwan event. It doesn't suggest there's two events here. And that suggests that everybody here knew all along it was a fundraising lunch.
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think you're misreading that e-mail, or at least making an interpretation of it that I don't think is accurate.
Q Why am I misreading it? It seems pretty clear. It refers to a single event and it refers to a fundraising lunch.
MR. MCCURRY: I think the staffer who responds from the NSC is sort of saying, look, this event or whatever it is, this trip, this occasion, he's talking about how it will be portrayed and what the foreign policy implications are. And to my knowledge this staffer had no direct knowledge of what the logistics were in setting up or what the structure of the event was going to be.
Q Well, but it's the message to the staffer -- there's a message from someone --
MR. MCCURRY: The message to the staffer does not make it clear -- or the query that goes to the NSC staffer doesn't make it clear whether there's one or two events.
Q But the staff member seems to know that it's a fundraiser. That's quite clear on the piece of paper.
MR. MCCURRY: The query says it's a fundraiser.
MR. MCCURRY: It says that there will be a fundraiser in connection with this trip.
Q It's clear. It says he's invited to visit the temple --
MR. MCCURRY: Listen, I'll say the Vice President's staff has been responding directly to this. They are available to you and they can sort more of this out. I don't want to --
Q Who's John --
MR. MCCURRY: Say again?
Q Who's John Norris?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know who that is.
MR. JOHNSON: He's a staffer on the Vice President's staff. He's a foreign --
MR. MCCURRY: A member of the Vice President's staff who does some foreign policy related --
Q What's the White House stripping office?
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q Stripping desk.
Q Stripping desk.
MR. MCCURRY: Where they cross-hatch -- I don't know. That's a designation -- I think it's where they do some of the document traffic stuff.
Q Mike, conspicuously absent is Wang Jun, the Chinese arms merchant. Why is that?
MR. MCCURRY: It's my understanding there's no record of the NSC having received a similar type of query for input on a potential visit by Wang Jun.
Q Well, was that a common practice? Were there a lot of these foreign nationals checked in here without going through the NSC --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you've got the list.
Q Well, I've got the list that the NSC had.
MR. MCCURRY: No, no, no, you've got the list of all those who attended the DNC coffees. The Wang Jun event was one of our DNC coffees. We've released publicly the list, so you can judge for yourself.
Q Mike, there's quite a lot of redacted material here.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Can you give us, A, some guidance on what it covers and, B, whether it covers any matters that are not touched -- in other words, are there things we don't know about at all?
MR. MCCURRY: I've looked at it, because I when I saw the preparation of it I was concerned myself about it. The redacted material does not address NSC contacts with the individuals or entities that the committee has asked about.
Now, if you look at the sequence of documents, you'll see that most of the -- a great volume of the redacted material occurs right around a preparation memo for the visit of the Thai prime minister. And then a subsequent meeting that the Vice President had later with the Thai foreign minister, I believe.
I looked and examined it myself. Those documents -- I will describe them as being the standard type of scope paper that's prepared for a meeting of a visiting foreign dignitary. It includes things like the President's talking points for the session, background about the current status of bilateral relations, and then a great deal of biographical material about the people that the President is seeing. All classified documents, all properly, I think in this case, redacted for purposes of this presentation to the committee. They are, in short, not responsive to the specific questions asked in item number one, asked by the committee.
Q Three meetings with Sandy Kristoff and Mrs. Kanchanalak -- any information on why three meetings and what was going on?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that most of those -- we have, in the past, back in December of last year, provided a lot of information about the waiving in of various visitors here. And I believe, if I'm not mistaken, at the time we've indicated she was here on occasion for preparatory meetings for APEC and for the -- I believe that's it.
MR. JOHNSON: The other two were associated with considerations in preparation for the President's trip to Bangkok.
MR. MCCURRY: Right. The President was, as you know, getting ready to make a trip to Bangkok. They had some interest in seeing whether this U.S.-Thai business council could host a luncheon for the President while he was there, give him an opportunity to make a luncheon speech while he was in Bangkok. But as you all know, he spoke at the university.
Q Mike, do you consider this material as making a case for the Lake nomination?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it shows that Tony had a lot of good people working for him, while it indicates, as Mr. Lake says in the submission, that he had no direct contact with some of these individuals. He did have a staff which properly responded when asked about certain events, which gave good counsel about following precisely the type of presentation of foreign policy that should be made and that even on occasion provided some counsel about the danger of having contact with people when you don't know what their motive is.
And in short, it showed some pretty good work by the people who work for Tony. I don't know that Tony would take credit for it, but it certainly doesn't indicate anything in the opinion of the White House that would suggest any additional problems with the nomination. It's very responsive to Senator Shelby's request. It's another reason why the senators should go ahead and schedule the hearing as the President asked them to do publicly yesterday and now we ought to get on with his confirmation.
Q Have you received any additional inquiries from the committee in light of yesterday's report on the Chinese Embassy involvement in specifically the intercepts?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge. From which committee -- you mean from Shelby?
MR. MCCURRY: Not to my knowledge, no. In fact, I don't know that we have had any -- I'd have to check -- I'm not aware that we have had any further follow-up contact based on the documents that we delivered to them last night.
Q The President said at the news conference --
MR. MCCURRY: David, can you double-check that? I just want to double- check that.
Q -- conference yesterday that the first he had learned of this whole situation that was reported in the Post yesterday had been the evening before. Was that because the Post was going to publish it or --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Isn't this the sort of thing, though, that should have been brought to his attention otherwise, I mean, when you've got people picking up --
MR. MCCURRY: You should ask the Justice Department that question, not me. But the President learned about the story because of the inquiries being made from The Washington Post.
Q -- a national security considerations here where --
MR. MCCURRY: That question should properly be posed to the Justice Department.
Q Was he surprised that he wasn't told about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I've given you the reaction he had to the story.
Q Well, but, Mike, to follow up on that, has there been an over-sensitivity created as a result of this so-called heads-up over RTC inquiries and the like that agencies are now reluctant to inform the White House, and does that create an information gap there?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether -- I don't know why and for what reason or whether the Justice Department had concerns about contacting the White House. You'll have to ask the Justice Department.
Q Would you characterize the -- has he had anything more to say about this story involving the intercepts? You said yesterday he was perplexed. Is he still perplexed?
Q Excuse me -- puzzled.
MR. MCCURRY: He talked about it at great length at the press conference yesterday.
Q Mike, can you tell us from your experience what the policy is regarding information like this? Wouldn't under normal procedures any information as serious as that appears to be -- wouldn't it go first to the Oval Office?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to comment on that directly. I'll tell you that matters like that -- not assuming that the matter reported is factual or not factual -- but matters like that involve highly sensitive intelligence matters which we just don't comment from here in any way, shape or form, but they are handled in a very appropriate way and they are handled in a way that protects law enforcement equities and national security equities.
Q Wouldn't the National Security Advisor typically be aware of electronic surveillance of --
MR. MCCURRY: This is a test to see if I am stupid enough to talk about electronic surveillance from here. (Laughter.) Hello. (Laughter.) Okay. You guys -- come on.
Q That was a question about surveillance techniques in general as opposed to specifics.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, you all know that intelligence sources methods, activities is not something I talk about on the record from here.
Q Given all this fundraising focus on the Democrat Party fundraising, is there -- does the President have any qualms next Tuesday about doing this Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser?
MR. MCCURRY: No. We've been through this now four or five times. Every version of campaign finance reform that has a chance of going anywhere in this Congress continues to rely upon private funding of political campaigns. We are not asking the American taxpayer to begin paying for our federal campaigns through a taxpayer-financed system. So there will continue to be fundraisers. There needs to be a new structure of law to govern the conduct of those fund-raisers. And the President is working pretty hard to try to get that done.
Now, we will continue to raise money. We have actually adjusted, voluntarily, some of the requirements that we will place on fundraising for the Democratic National Committee. We would hope that the Senate and the House would make some changes, too, but we're not going to dictate to them their policies. But we are going to help them raise money, because we want Democrats to be able to run competitive campaigns in 1998 and the year 2000, and we hope eventually that those campaigns will be under a new system of campaign finance.
Q Can you talk about some of the adjustments you've asked the DSCC to make? You said this morning --
MR. MCCURRY: You know, I forgot, Mara, to bring that with me, but they essentially involve just putting the President in situations that more closely resemble some of the restrictions we have at the DNC as to individuals, photos, seating plans, seating charts --
Q But nothing about actual fundraising?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we are -- as I say, we are not ordering the Senate and the House to adhere to our rules. We don't believe we're in a position to do that. We certainly hope that they look at some of the voluntary restrictions that have been implemented by the Democratic National Committee. But they have to make those judgments themselves and they have to make them consistent with the views of the Senators and the House members who are going to be running their campaigns.
Q But why not -- when the President announced, or when the President went to the DNC on the day they announced these voluntary restrictions, he called on the Republicans essentially do the same. He said, we're voluntarily --
MR. MCCURRY: We haven't heard from them.
Q But why would you not then deny his services to campaign organizations that essentially following that script?
MR. MCCURRY: The reality of this event is, I'm not aware -- I mean, you'll have to ask the guys running the Senate event -- I'm not aware that anyone attending this event is contributing in excess of $100,000 in soft money. I don't know, frankly. You ought to ask the people running the event and see whether they're doing that or not. But there still will be need to raise contributions within the context of federal election law for House and Senate campaigns, and we want to help Democrats do that.
Q But you found it so objectionable that the Republicans weren't following suit, why wouldn't you find it so objectionable that the DSSC is --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, come on, Peter. That's sophistry. It's a challenge to the opposition party to meet the challenge. I mean, the question goes to the partisan nature of the campaigns that are going to be conducted. It's not a challenge to our fellow Democrats; it's a challenge to Republicans to voluntarily agree to stop taking soft money.
Q Will all of the fundraising events on Tuesday be open to press coverage?
MR. MCCURRY: We have worked and encouraged -- it's not our event, again, but we encouraged the Senate Campaign Committee to make the President's remarks open for coverage. And I believe they are going to be available for pool coverage. It's in a private residence, and so it will be unusual, but we're going to figure out how to get a tight pool into this private residence for his remarks.
Q Whose residence is that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I don't know. The Senate guys can tell you.
Q Just to go back to the changes that have been made. You're saying that if somebody has given the DSCC more than $100,000 in soft money they don't get to have their picture taken with the President?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think it's more --
Q What specifically will not happen?
MR. MCCURRY: Mara, if you're that specifically interested, I can get you the little bill of particulars. Maybe Barry's got it, and we'll follow up on it.
Q Under the new screening system, to go back for just a second, the NSC view of a visitor is still not dispositive, right?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct.
Q Isn't it possible that some of these meetings would have taken place anyway?
MR. MCCURRY: It is. And I again say, no vetting system would be perfect. We believe -- we have taken systems that have existed in the past and in past White Houses, tried to improve them if we could, certainly made them much more formal, but they put the burden on the office responsible for setting up the appointment, not the National Security Council. The National Security Council can lend its expertise with respect to foreign policy concern, but they are not "clearing in" or making a final judgment about whether someone attends a certain event. That's a responsibility under Mr. Bowles' memo; it's the responsibility of the originating office for the invitation. I think that's a good system. It makes more accountable those who are scheduling events that requires those who are putting together events to be more careful about who they include on invite lists.
Q Mike, when the issue of the New York fundraiser first came up, I believe one of the things you said was it was hard money, but it turns out it's not all hard money. Is there some concern --
MR. MCCURRY: You mean the Tuesday event?
Q The Tuesday event.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Originally, we were told originally and erroneously by the Senate Campaign Committee that it was a hard money event. There is some soft money event, and --
Q The President has no problem with that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President has a problem with soft money, but it's going to be raised and it's going to be raised until such time as we pass McCain-Feingold and outlaw it. And it's going to be raised by both parties, and it will be raised in significant and larger quantities by the Republican Party than by the Democratic Party.
Q He doesn't see a problem when he's claiming to be in favor of a ban on soft money and then going to a fundraiser that raises soft money?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, we've done this question ten different times, ten different days now. I'll tell you, fundraising is going to have to continue in one fashion or another. It will continue right now under the body of law that exists now. We're trying to change that body of law so the rules are changed. But we are also going to have to raise money to remain competitive with the Republican Party. And it would be better to outlaw soft money, it would be better for the Republicans and Democrats to voluntarily agree not to take it, but it will be a factor in our politics until it gets outlawed.
The President would like to see it outlawed, he is going to work -- we're going to work hard to try to raise money in so-called "hard amounts" by building up grass-roots donors, things that some of our folks at the DNC have talked about, but for all practical purposes, that will be an element in the structure of campaign finance until such time as we change the law.
Q Speaking of that, he's talked about this national crusade for education and he's already given several speeches, and I'm assuming many, many more are planned. Why not do the same thing with campaign finance reform?
MR. MCCURRY: We've been -- asked exactly why we did an event with the sponsors this week, we're going to look for other occasions, we've put out a statement in support of the common cause effort to get the signatures yesterday; we'll continue to do the same with that, too.
Q Will he go out and actually give a whole speech devoted to it?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule out the possibility he might do that some time.
Q What, if anything, can you tell us about the President's interest in child safety restraints and how he feels?
MR. MCCURRY: I can say the President has watched very carefully -- (laughter) -- and thank you for that enlightenment. You never know who might be listening to one of those phone calls. The President has followed very closely some of the debate about how to make it easier for parents to protect their children when writing -- you're ruining the sound bite I'm trying to give this guy. Why don't you just turn the thing off. (Laughter.)
Q Three, two, one --
MR. MCCURRY: Three, two one -- what was I saying? (Laughter.)
Q Well, I guess we'll never get that one again. That's gone for good.
MR. MCCURRY: The President has followed very closely some of the efforts to protect America's children when riding in automobiles from the inappropriate -- that's not right -- let's try it over. Take two. (Laughter.) It's too long anyway. You never cut this thing.
Q Is there anything about the current situation --
MR. MCCURRY: Ask me. (Laughter.) Look, here's the problem. Here's the problem. I'll speak from personal experience. The problem with car seats is that they -- you never know how to get the little thingy in through the back and get it stuck into the little deal that goes in the side. (Laughter.) And then you have to take it out. And you never know whether it's plugged in or not. And then your kid goes flying over when you go turning too fast to the right. (Laughter.) And you know, everything goes over and the juice bottle goes all over the place. And it's a mess. (Laughter.) So we're going to fix it. (Laughter.)
Let's try that again. (Laughter.)
Q This is even more disruptive than an American Airline's strike.
Q So a tax credit is the answer, is that it?
MR. MCCURRY: No, let's try that again. (Laughter.) There are different designs in cars and different designs in car seats that make it confusing for parents sometimes to figure out how to get children properly situated when they go out to drive. There have been some efforts made at the Transportation Department to look how we can make it easier for parents to protect their kids when they're driving. And the President's going to have some more to say about a way that they've come to some conclusions about the best way to do that.
Q That was longer than the radio address. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Is the radio address done yet? It ought to be available. All right.
Q Speaking of the radio address --
Q That's what it's about.
MR. MCCURRY: What else have we got coming up?
Q That's what it's going to be?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll keep you -- look, we will keep you apprised as to what we know, if anything, about what's going on.
Q Week ahead?
Q Week ahead?
MR. MCCURRY: Week ahead.
Q Monday, Tuesday?
MR. MCCURRY: The week ahead is Tuesday -- the only thing I have at this point is Tuesday, you know of our event in New York with the Business Enterprise Trust. You obviously know a fair amount about the fundraiser. We're going off to Boston. The event is still a juvenile crime event, but I don't have the final details on that.
We expect throughout the balance of week some important events related to -- what?
MS. GLYNN: A couple of other events on --
MR. MCCURRY: What?
MS. GLYNN: On many different issues.
MR. MCCURRY: Is that all we have at this point?
MS. GLYNN: That's all we've got at this point. We'll put out a detailed schedule for Tuesday, Wednesday later this weekend.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. We don't have many details beyond that. Oh what news, late-breaking.
Q Access tonight after 10:30 p.m. -- can we get that established?
MR. MCCURRY: We did all everything on that. I won't speculate on that. I think our plans are to go home and if that's changed, we'll let you know.
Q Is the charter on Tuesday American Airlines? (Laughter.) Just wondering.
Q She means can people get into the White House if they have to.
Q Mike, for those doing stand-ups -- they lock the doors at 10:30 p.m.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we'll talk to them about that.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: It's always a pleasure.
END 2:51 P.M. EST