THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
9:05 A.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Let me run through the President's day. At 9:30, as you know, with campaign finance reform facing a moment of truth on the Senate floor, the President wants to again insist upon a vote that would allow the American people to know where a majority of the United States Senate stands on campaign finance reform. And he believes there should be a vote, yes or no. If there's a vote on the Lott amendment, that's a vote on campaign finance reform; because a vote in favor of the Lott amendment is a vote to kill it.
But there should be a vote, the President believes, on the revised McCain-Feingold bill because it is campaign finance reform and the President believes it has majority support in the Senate. The President will make very clear that a filibuster is a vote to keep the soft money system in place, a vote for less disclosure, for weaker enforcement at the FEC and for an effort to kill the finance reform measure that the American people are seeking.
The President then goes to his meeting at 10:30 a.m. with President Ezer Weizman of Israel. The President had a very interesting and detailed conversation about the Middle East peace process last night with President Weizman at dinner. There were a number of American Jewish community leaders present, who also talked about the importance of the peace process. They did, last night, a general overview of the peace process and the issues that still divide the parties -- not only Palestinians and Israelis, but also on some of the other tracks. The President expects to move in more detailed consideration of these issues in the working meeting he has today beginning at 10:30 a.m.
The President will most likely drop by a visit that David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party is making here to the White House today. He's here to see Sandy Berger, the National Security Advisor. He also has some meetings over at the State Department, but I expect the President to drop by to reaffirm his support for the talks that are resuming today at Stormont in the Northern Ireland Peace process. He will commend the Unionists for their restraint during the period in which the cease-fire was abrogated and will reaffirm strong U.S. support for a permanent, unequivocal cease-fire. But he will also encourage Mr. Trimble to take advantage of the opportunity that exists through the All Party Talks to move forward on the issues that could lead to reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
Q When is that?
MR. MCCURRY: That's at 11:30. This afternoon the President has three separate, individual meetings with House Democrats that we hope to encourage to be supportive of the President's need for negotiating authority for trade agreements. He's meeting with Congressman --
MR. TOIV: I don't think that we're releasing names.
MR. MCCURRY: We're not? We have three members coming in, and then members of the committee, as well. You'll see who they are when they come in.
Q So what time should we watch for them?
MR. MCCURRY: Noon, they start coming in at noon.
Q Why these three specific individuals?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the three specific people that we wanted to meet with individually; and then the President also, at 4:40 p.m., will meet with various members of the House Ways and Means Committee Democrat Caucus together.
Will you go double-check that, whether we can put out the names of the three?
MR. TOIV: That's right. I was specifically told that we shouldn't.
MR. MCCURRY: All right. Well, it's kind of pointless.
Q But, Mike, going back to the why of the situation, why is he meeting with these three individuals? Are they --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we want to tell them how closely we have worked with Democrats in the House to address concerns that they have and how we have reflected those concerns in the very positive discussions we've had with Chairman Archer, including discussions that went until early this morning.
We have made some real progress on issues that House Democrats care about. We hope to see those reflected as the Committee takes up a drafting of the legislation. We want, certainly, to reaffirm the President's strong view that we can continue to open markets, grow the economy and do so in a way that's consistent with our need to protect the rights of workers, to protect the environment, to address concerns like child labor laws and child labor abuses. We believe we can do that consistent with our need to make free trade a fundamental element of a growing, strong U.S. economy.
And then this evening at 5:45 p.m., the President has the sixth in the series of outreach meetings that we've been doing with various members of the American community. This one is going to focus on state and local leaders from the midwest, some business leaders and some community leaders from the midwest -- anticipate a wide-ranging discussion with them on any number of issues.
That's the day for the President.
Q Mike, was the question of the failed murder attempt in Jordan last week raised during the dinner last night?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding -- I was not present at the discussion. My understanding from those who were there is that they did not get into that episode.
Q Do you expect it to be raised today in the meeting in the Oval?
MR. MCCURRY: We will see. Mr. Berger will be here. The other item on our calendar, at 3:00 p.m. today, Sandy Berger, the National Security Advisor and the President's Special Envoy to Latin America, Mac McLarty, will be here to talk about the President's upcoming trip to Latin America. I think Sandy anticipates getting some questions about the visit with President Weizman then. I doubt that they are going to spend any considerable time on that. That matter is being addressed by the government of Israel, as you know, and we have deferred comment on that to the governments of Jordan and Israel.
Q -- Netanyahu, too, because -- for it yesterday. So what is the President's assessment and opinion this morning about what happened in Jordan?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President will convey the thinking of the United States government. We understand the need to fight terrorism aggressively. We have supported efforts to do that. But we will also express underlying concern about the techniques that are used and reflect some of the things both the President said yesterday and things that were said at the State Department.
Q What about the extradition of the Maryland teenager? Was that raised last evening?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that it came up last night but, as you know, Secretary Albright had some things to say about that -- our determination to pursue that issue with the government of Israel.
Q The Israelis are quite concerned about Russian assistance to the Iranians and their missile program. Has that --
MR. MCCURRY: So are we. And we have had both serious discussions with the government of Israel on their concerns, which we share. But, more importantly, we have dealt with that issue very forthrightly and directly through high-level talks that we've had with the Russian Federation. I think they're very much aware of our views and very much aware of our concern about Iran's persistent support of terror and persistent efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Q Is the administration somewhat irritated with the Israeli's, vis-a-vis their lobbying on the Hill for sanctions against Russia?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Mike, there's apparently market rumor -- and I don't know who said anything other than that -- that Iran shot a missile at a U.S. patrol vessel in the Gulf. Is there anything to that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything on that. The markets could have rumors all the time. All right.
Q Any more video tapes been found, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: No, but they are going to look and produce in a timely way, as the President directed, materials that are responsive to the request for materials that we've received from the various committees.
Q -- have already started to look, I mean --
MR. MCCURRY: They've started to look and they're going painstakingly through the index that's available, and they will try to locate the materials that are responsive and turn them over. I don't anticipate that happening this week, but I do anticipate them moving on that swiftly.
Q Who is in charge of that search? Is it the career military people?
MR. MCCURRY: Counsel's Office.
MR. MCCURRY: Counsel's Office.
Q And what do you expect out of the Harold Ickes testimony this morning?
MR. MCCURRY: That Harold will give straightforward testimony, but what they want to ask about, I don't know.
Q Mike, the image conveyed by Lanny Davis and some of the other people explaining the delay in release of the videotapes, the full process, lends itself to sort of an analysis of a lot of confusion around here, to say the least. Why is the place seemingly so disorganized after more than five years?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe it's disorganized. I think that you need to look at the context in which they searched for materials. We have had basketfuls of subpoenas and document requests from the committees on the Hill. We've generated hundreds of thousands of documents in response. There's a never-ending, insatiable appetite for additional information. And what we ask, sometimes, of those inquiring for materials is that they give us some sense of priority so we can direct our efforts and focus on those things that matter most to the committees. It's very hard, sometimes, to get that kind of guidance from committee and committee staff.
Q So are you saying that the staff here, the legal team, cannot keep up with the process, that it's just so overwhelming for them?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's hard for them to do it. It has been an overwhelming and daunting task to try to reply responsibly to all the different requests we have, but they do so diligently, and obviously it's not a perfect system, as Mr. Ruff said in his letter last night.
Q What's the administration's position with regard to Archer's fast track proposal, and if you don't like it, are you --
MR. MCCURRY: I just -- you missed --
Q Oh, I'm sorry.
MR. MCCURRY: I just characterized it as very positive discussions that occurred going into early this morning and we hope that that can build into an effort to achieve a strong bipartisan consensus on the need to give the President negotiating authority as the committee moves into a mark up.
Q Mike, Charles Ruff apologized to the Senate Committee for any inconvenience in not getting the tapes to them in a timely manner. Has there been any similar expression to the Justice Department for not notifying them about the tapes until a day after Attorney General Reno made her announcement?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't doubt that. I imagine that was conveyed orally, but you should really ask Mr. Davis that.
Anything else for the day? So we'll have, at 3:00 p.m. we've got McLarty and Berger; and then Barry and Joe will both be around if there's any other things that develop between now and then -- I guess at the conclusion.
Q Will you be here tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I'll be back late this evening, if anyone needs me for anything. Okay, see you all tomorrow. Have a happy day.
END 9:16 A.M. EDT