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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 4, 1997
                            PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

2:05 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: Anything else today?

Q Mike, Prime Minister Netanyahu has gone public with his idea of a U.S.-sponsored, Camp David-style Middle East Peace Conference between Israel and the Palestinians. Is this something the President is willing to take on?

MR. MCCURRY: The President looks forward to his conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday. There will be a number of ideas that can be explored. I think the President's view is that we need, at this point, agreements on process that bring the parties together, that build confidence between them and that lend themselves to the probability of success when it comes to resolving differences that exist between the parties.

And the President's aim will be to evaluate ideas. The President, in fact, will have some ideas of his own to share with the Prime Minister and they will search for ground in common that provides a good basis for proceeding.

Q So you're not willing to say that this is an idea that you'd take into -- at least not publicly that you'd take into consideration or consider?

MR. MCCURRY: To the contrary, I said that there will be a number of ideas that we'll certainly be willing to consider. But the President will have some of his own and our very active dialogue with the parties, all the parties, will continue.

Q If the President wants to see confidence building measures, how does that square with Netanyahu's statement that the Israeli settlement policy is non-negotiable?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the parties, in advance of dialogue that they have, often say things. We listen carefully and try to help parties understand each other. One of the things that preserves our ability to do that effectively is when we don't comment on things that they're saying publicly about issues that are in dispute between the two sides. So I'm going to refrain from saying anything on that.

The President looks forward to having a good meeting with the Prime Minister on Monday and we'll see where we are after the meeting.

Q Mike, how does the President feel about Webster Hubbell's epiphany, if you will, his confessions?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I -- I mean, the President has known the central fact here for some time, which is that like many others here at the White House he was disappointed and surprised when Mr. Hubbell pled guilty to two felony charges. That's been the case for quite some time now.

Q Does he agree with Mr. Hubbell's assessment, that Hubbell was a con man and conned a lot of people here?

MR. MCCURRY: I think you're referring to an interview that CBS may be playing. We haven't seen the interview yet.

Q Could you say that again?

MR. MCCURRY: I said I think Rita was referring to an interview that Mr. Hubbell may have given to CBS Television. And since we haven't seen it yet -- but you can watch it this Sunday on 60 Minutes, excerpts tonight on the evening news -- we don't a comment on because we haven't seen it yet.

Q Mike, could you confirm the specific Israeli radio report today that Netanyahu told his Cabinet that one of the proposals the President will put on the table on Monday is based on his, Netanyahu's, suggestion to speed up the final status timetable.

MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not in a position to confirm for what the Prime Minister told the Cabinet.

Q No, I'm asking whether what he told the Cabinet is, in effect, what the President will put on the table?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to talk to you about what the President might say to the Prime Minister on Monday.

Q Did Erskine Bowles get a subpoena today?

MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea.

Q Can you check on that?

MR. MCCURRY: You can ask Lanny.

Q Is today going to be the last time we see a public push for this, is it all going to be behind closed doors --

MR. MCCURRY: No, I think you'll see the President -- and I'll report to you as he is engaged. There will be a lot of other administration officials engaged publicly and behind the scenes as well, and bringing to the Senate the importance of this matter. It's really in many ways now going to be before the Senate. But it's a very important matter and obviously the world will be watching very carefully what happens in the United States Senate.

Q Are General Powell and the others going to be going to the Hill and talking to --

MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't doubt it. Wouldn't doubt it. It will be up to them, but I wouldn't doubt that at all.

Q You weren't going to ask them to --

MR. MCCURRY: I think they are -- given the strength of their feelings on this they probably have already planned to do that. But you should ask them individually.

Q Mike, Lanny is not taking questions on the subpoenas to Mack McLarty. Can you tell me when -- is it for him to testify personally -- and when and where.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think that's true but, in any event, if it's not you could direct the question to Mr. McLarty's attorney.

Q Can you tell us what your plans are now in releasing the list of people of the donors who have been on Air Force One?

MR. MCCURRY: No, because I don't know that I've made any plans yet.

Q I have a follow-up to that if I may.


Q Could you tell us what security cautions you took, or what extra steps might have been taken, if any, to see who should get on, of the donors that got Air Force One, to screen them before coming on -- what the measures were or what the procedure was?

MR. MCCURRY: I can check into that. I don't know that there was any particular procedure for it. And they most likely fell in the same category as screening for events here at the White House. Those procedures would now be consistent with what the Chief of Staff has outlined for contact with principals, which I suspect could include Air Force One, too. They're designed to work principally here at the White House, but they would work fully well for travel and Air Force One.

Q So the vetting that took place for a donor to get on Air Force One was the same procedure as --

MR. MCCURRY: As we've pretty well established, I'm not sure that there was any.

Q The Chicago Sun Times is reporting that donors, DNC donors were awarded with Air Force One trips -- specifically Rashid Chaudary of Willowbrook, says he was booked on Air Force One in September for a flight from Washington to Chicago. Are you aware of that?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know anything about it, but as you know we're trying to work up answers to those questions so we can help you out. I don't want to do it piecemeal.

Q Mike, on Webb Hubbell, the President said that -- and this came up yesterday -- that he was only aware of his problems related to billing practices at the Rose Law Firm. Yet, by the time that came out there had -- we counted -- there had already been about 200 articles written about investigations into Hubbell by the RTC, Fisk,* the FDIC. How could the President not have known about --

MR. MCCURRY: He said yesterday that the full nature of Webb's legal difficulties were not known at that point in 1994 and was certainly not known whether or not they were true. If you look carefully at the transcript that's the point he made. Whether or not they were true is a pretty important question, too. Certainly there had been some allegations that had been in the press and that anyone would have been in a position to know that, but remember Webb also was simultaneously telling people that there was not a real problem there, that it involved a legal dispute at the law firm down in Arkansas.

Q So the President was believing him at that point?

MR. MCCURRY: I think, to my knowledge, most people here at the White House believed Webb.

Q Is the President -- has he had, or the First Lady, any direct or indirect contacts recently with Webb Hubbell?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. And I believe, if I'm not mistaken, what I saw on the AP wire, Mr. Hubbell has told them that he hasn't talked to the President or the First Lady since Thanksgiving of 1994. And I'm not aware of anything that contradicts that.

Q Are we to take from that that when the President says he's disappointed that the relationship is just completely cut off?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean, I'm not going to try to describe it. It's a personal relationship. I'm not -- I haven't talked to the President and First Lady about how they feel personally beyond the President, I think it's accurate to say, was disappointed and surprised when Webb entered his plea.

Q What about other people in the White House talking to Webb Hubbell? Mack McLarty?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not -- other people in the White House, there's over 1,000 people and I'm not going to answer that on the fly.

Q Well, can you look --

MR. MCCURRY: I'll see -- look into it, see if I can get something for you on it.

Q Can you give an idea, Mike, if you could on what is between the release of the Air Force One information? Is there something that you still have to find out? Is the number -- is it voluminous?

MR. MCCURRY: No, they're going, like, hand-by-hand through a lot of different manifests. And when it's ready to go, we'll do it.

Q Who is the person ultimately responsible for okaying someone to be on Air Force One who's not part of staff or military or --

MR. MCCURRY: It depends on -- if we're in the middle of a trip, it's usually done by the staff director; before a trip, sometimes done by the people who are arranging the trip. I mean, the trip director -- it just depends on -- we make a lot of manifest changes. For example, just in my own case, sometimes I'd switch back and forth from the press charter to Air Force One, and I'd usually clear that with whoever the trip director at the time was.

Q And the trip director -- who's the boss of the trip director?

MR. MCCURRY: Who's the boss of the trip --

Q When you say "the trip director," who's the ultimate -- does that person have the ultimate --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, when we were traveling on Air Force One, it usually would be either the Chief of Staff or designee -- frequently one of the deputies travels. So that would ultimately be the person when we were in motion. But who puts together manifests -- look, we'll just do all that for you at the time we put the manifests out. We can tell you more about how the manifests were formed.

Q And who decided what donors would be on the plane?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll do more on that when we're prepared to do it. I'm not prepared to do it now.

Q We, as reporters, are fingerprinted and we are investigated to see if we have any special interests before we are allowed to come in here and have White House passes. It seems to me there ought to be more coordination between this trip director and the FBI for investigating who goes near the President.

MR. MCCURRY: I'll take your suggestion and pass it on.

Q Does the White House look forward to privatizing food stamps and Medicaid programs --

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, my understanding is we have not made any final decisions on that. That's a matter that's under review. It affects the waiver requests that the state of Texas has. And Secretary Shalala still has it under review.

Q I want to return to my question because I think a piece of it was unanswered. The question goes to the apparent impropriety, possibly, of helping Mr. Hubbell get work at a time when the White House was saying it really didn't know -- I mean, the explanation from the President and the White House is they didn't know that there were serious questions about him. But yet, there were a lot of people looking into it.

MR. MCCURRY: That's not what the -- the President said he didn't know whether they were true. Allegations appearing in print is different from something being true. I think some people in this room have a little hard time remembering that sometimes.

Q Right, but Mike --

MR. MCCURRY: That it's not the same thing. And the President -- the President I think -- and I think this is accurate -- the full nature of the legal problems facing Webb was not known. There was no one that I'm aware of in March of 1994, or for the balance of 1994, that had knowledge that Webster Hubbell was about to, at the end of the year, plead guilty to two felonies. There was no one that I know of that knew that the problem was that serious.

Q But, Mike, are you saying that at the time of his resignation from the Department of Justice and then subsequent employment offers thanks to help from the White House, that a reasonable person within the White House could not surmise that at that time Webb Hubbell was certainly viewed as a potential target of the Whitewater prosecutor?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, viewing someone as a target is a very specific thing. I think everyone at the White House in March of 1994 knew that people can very frequently face unfair and baseless charges because, of course, the President and the First Lady were exactly in that position. So the fact that there might be allegations out there that had been publicly reported wouldn't be the same thing as thinking that they were necessarily true, which is the point the President made yesterday.

Q How is it that -- I mean, people at the Rose Law Firm clearly knew that these were serious problems and they clearly had some contacts here, including Mr. Kennedy and Mrs. Clinton and so forth. How is it that there is no --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to try to detail all the contacts that members of the firm may have had with people at the White House.

Q Mike, I just wanted to refine my question. When you're finding out about contact, any contacts between the Hubbells and the Clintons, could you find out if the President and First Lady have had any personal contact with Mrs. Hubbell? And also --

MR. MCCURRY: Look, I'm not -- no, I'm not, because they have a full right to have private contacts with private individuals.

Q What about -- can you tell us whether there were any --

MR. MCCURRY: And in any event, I just don't -- they --the President and the First Lady are entitled to have private conversations without me standing here and briefing on every private conversation they have. So I'm not going to do that.

Q What about whether or not any staff people were asked to be intermediaries?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm not -- I think that question has come up before once already and Lanny has talked about it. There was a specific suggestion raised with respect to Marsha Scott, and if you go back to him, I think he handled a lot of that already. I'm not going to add to that.

Q Another subject. The Dalai Lama comes at the end of the month. Anybody from the administration plan on seeing him?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check into that.

Q Speaking of allegations in print, it's alleged in a published report today in a circuitous manner that the administration pushed Eljay Bowron out of his job as Director of the Secret Service.

MR. MCCURRY: That is very unfortunate and wholly untrue. And it's really unfair to Eljay, who got a great opportunity in the private sector and is now in a position to take that to wrap up, I think, a very distinguished career in the Secret Service. He made it very clear that he did that on his own and is proud of the work that he did. And a lot of us here are sad that he is leaving.

We're now looking for a successor within the Secret Service, because they intend to promote now from within. And that's just utterly baseless. It's unfortunate a story like that would appear to begin with.

Q Without detailing all of the contacts between the Rose Law Firm people and the White House pp, do we know if Mrs. Clinton ever spoke to people at Rose Law Firm about the seriousness of the allegation?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. And that really -- I ask that you pose that to David Kendall.

Anything else? Okay.

Q -- on Monday, you said the Prime Minister is going to be here --

Q Did you do next week at all, Mike?

MR. MCCURRY: Monday, he's going to see -- he does the radio address tomorrow on national service. Monday, he does -- he'll see the Prime Minister at 12:00 p.m. We'll do a very brief photo opportunity at the beginning and then we'll give you whatever kind of readout we can after the session.

Tuesday is the state visit by Prime Minister Chretien -- a full range of activities on that, including a press conference with him at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the President's going to speak at a memorial service for Albert Shanker. And Thursday, he's goes to the Radio-TV dinner. Friday, he is speaking at the American Society of Newspaper Editors. And he'll take questions there, too. That's the week.

Q Is that a lunch speech on Friday?

MR. MCCURRY: 12:05 p.m., yes, over at the Marriott.

All right. See you all -- by the way, with that, that's a full lid. You've got the weekend off. See you on Monday.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:21 P.M. EST