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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 21, 1998
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                              MIKE MCCURRY 

The Briefing Room

1:24 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: Hello, ladies and gentlemen. We have all these things that we could talk about, but that's probably not what you're interested in talking about, so whatever you want to talk about.

Q What about the statement?

Q Did Bennett see the President?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware. I think the President -- Mr. Bennett was here and he talked to Mr. Ruff, and Mr. Ruff also talked to Mr. Kendall.

Q Bob Barnett was here. Was he also in on this subject?

MR. MCCURRY: I didn't know he was here. I'd have to check on it.

Q What is Chuck Ruff's role in all of this?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, Office of the White House Legal Counsel has throughout all the many inquiries that have occurred, including the Whitewater inquiry by Mr. Starr, works, as it has worked in every presidency, to protect the institution of the presidency itself. And at times there are all kinds of issues that arise in which there are overlapping concerns about representation and those that have been adjudicated in courts. I think you're all familiar with that.

Q Mike, you said this morning the President did not have an improper relationship with this former intern. What do you mean by an improper relationship?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to parse the statement. You all got the statement I made earlier and it speaks for itself.

Q Are you saying no relationship?

Q Would an improper relationship mean --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to parse the statement. You've got the statement I made earlier and it speaks for itself.

Q But it doesn't speak for itself. I mean, we need a definition of what an improper relationship is.

Q Is he standing by that statement?

MR. MCCURRY: That statement is where we are and that's what I said --

Q Does that mean no sexual relationship?

MR. MCCURRY: Claire, I'm just not going to parse the statement for you, it speaks for itself.

Q Mike, has the President been informed that Kenneth Starr has now expanded his probe to look into these allegations?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. And I checked with White House Legal Counsel, and as far as they know, there's been no direct contact with the OIC on this matter -- that I'm aware of.

Q To what extent will the President cooperate? This is a patsy question, I know, but to what extent will he cooperate --

MR. MCCURRY: A patsy question from Sam Donaldson.

Q -- with Starr?

MR. MCCURRY: He has cooperated fully with Mr. Starr and would cooperate fully if, in fact, any matter such as this was within the purview of the independent counsel.

Q He will make available -- you will make available the White House logs that show the visitors?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on what the OIC might ask for.

Q Mike, would you describe the President's demeanor when he discussed this story with you and how his demeanor has been through the morning?

MR. MCCURRY: Matter of fact. He approved this statement I gave you earlier today and he has had to work on some other matters today. He spent time on the State of the Union address and on Iraq, particularly on Iraq, and spent a fairly significant chunk of time with Mr. Berger and Mr. Steinberg on that subject.

Q Mike, you said he was outraged this morning and now you say it's matter of fact.

MR. MCCURRY: I'll come back, Scott.

Q What kind of relationship did he have with her? Any?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not characterizing it beyond what the statement that I've already issued says.

Q Did he ever do anything social like jog or --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to parse the statement. I'm not going to go beyond what I said already.

Q You said he was outraged this morning; now you say his reaction is matter of fact. Which is it?

MR. MCCURRY: I've given you the statement -- he's outraged about the allegations. I'm telling you about the business that the President has attended to today on behalf of the American people.

Q How distracted is the President as a result of these allegations?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, it's been five years and there have been distractions of various types from time to time, and the President keeps on working on what he was elected to work on. And that's what he's going to continue to do.

Q Mike, can you give us a sense of what the White House is like today? Have there been meetings on this? How many of them? Who's involved?

MR. MCCURRY: There are more of you around.

Q Other than that.

MR. MCCURRY: There has been -- we had our first meeting to kind of talk about how we're going to prepare the roll-out of the State of the Union next week. I think we have to continue to do the work that we are doing on behalf of the American people in fulfillment of the prerogatives and priorities of this President. That's what we get paid to do, and that's what we do on behalf of the American people.

Q Mike, is the President seeking to amend any part of his deposition from Saturday?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, but that should be a question you direct to Mr. Bennett.

Q Mike, would it be improper for the President of the United States to have had a sexual relationship with this woman?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, the President has made a statement has expressed his outrage at allegations. I've made it very clear I'm not going to go beyond that statement. And you can stand here and ask a lot of questions over and over again will elicit the exact same answer.

Q So, Mike, you're willing to --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not leaving any impression, David, and don't twist my words. I was making it very clear what the President has said in this statement. He said he has had no improper relationship with this woman. That clearly means that there would be things that would be improper. And I think you all know what they are and I don't need to parse it any further.

Q Mike, the President is saying he did not commit perjury.

MR. MCCURRY: Look, the President has made it clear, and I've made it clear in the statement I've issued on behalf, what he said: he tells people to tell the truth.

Q The President and particularly Mrs. Clinton have frequently said on matters like this that they believe that political enemies originate these kinds of stories. Is it his belief that this particular allegation is also part and parcel of a partisan political attack on him?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that when we have suggested that in the past it's been on information that you know to be true, that has been reported, that is factual. And in this case, we have no information available to suggest what motive may have arisen for these outrageous allegations. I think it's -- those who have made the allegations, those who pursue them, have to address the question of motive.

Q Mike, does the White House consider this a legitimate avenue of inquiry for Ken Starr? And by this I mean a further investigation into other sexual --

MR. MCCURRY: That's a question that the OIC has to address and they've made an application to the Justice Department and the Justice Department can properly address that.

Q Who is Linda Tripp?

MR. MCCURRY: I do not know. I mean, I don't know enough about --

Q And how long did she work here?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have employment records on either her or --

Q Why would she wire or tape --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm the last person on the face of the earth that could answer that question for you, but you should properly direct that question to the office of the independent counsel I would think.

Q Just for the record, the President is also saying he never encouraged anyone to commitment perjury.

MR. MCCURRY: The President's statement speaks for itself. I'm not going to go beyond the statement that we've already issued.

Q Mike, has the President so far, or does he plan to, speak with his own staff? I've talked to several people here at the White House today who had their own confidence shaken just because of the nature of these allegations and the less than sort of blanket denial of them.

MR. MCCURRY: He's been working with his staff. And I think as you all know, he's got an opportunity to conduct some interviews later today, and my guess is that information will -- that question will probably come up.

Q Would you be up here today if you weren't absolutely confident these are not true?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, my personal views don't count. I'm here to represent the thinking, the actions, the decisions of the President. That's what I get paid to do.

Q Mike, part of what you get paid to do also is to make sure that the American people are informed correctly of what it is the White House is trying to say. So if --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm doing my best at that at the moment.

Q And that's why I'm asking you. Are you trying to leave us with the impression that a President could have a proper sexual relationship with this woman?

MR. MCCURRY: Of course not, David. The question flies in the face of the statement you've gotten from the President that I think addresses that pretty clearly.

Q Mike, I think what's puzzling us is that the President, we are told, on Saturday denied any sexual relationship with this woman. You don't -- let me just finish the question --

MR. MCCURRY: I can't speak to the deposition the President gave because of the gag order that the court has in place on that deposition, Deborah, so you know I can't even get into the question.

Q But let me finish the question. What is puzzling to many of us is that we've invited you probably two dozen times today to say there was no sexual relationship with this woman and you have not done so.

MR. MCCURRY: But the President has said he has never had any improper relationship with this woman. I think that speaks for itself.

Q Does that mean no sexual relationship? Why not put the word "sexual" in? That's the problem.

MR. MCCURRY: I didn't write the statement.

Q Who wrote the statement, Mike? Where did it come from?

MR. MCCURRY: It was prepared by the Counsel's Office and I reviewed it with the President to make sure that it reflected what he wanted me to say.

Q Why wouldn't Counsel put in the word "sexual"?

MR. MCCURRY: Because I don't know. I'm not a lawyer.

Q The President didn't write the statement, it was written by his lawyers. But you showed it to the President. What did the President say about it?

MR. MCCURRY: It was developed in consultations between the lawyers and the President, clearly, Scott.

Q And when you showed it to the President he said what?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll come back, Scott.


Q Monica Lewinsky's lawyer says she's distraught, she's been very upset about all of this. Does the President have anything to say to Monica Lewinsky, that she has been dragged into what is obviously a very unpleasant affair?

MR. MCCURRY: I have not discussed that with him, but the President always, when any member of his staff is distraught over any circumstances, is very compassionate. He's a very compassionate person.

Q Have you asked the President whether he knows Monica?

MR. MCCURRY: I have not questioned him directly on this matter and don't intend to.

Q Mike, do you know if anybody from the White House has done anything to get in contact with Monica Lewinsky?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information on that.

Q Mike, how in the world could the President be matter of fact about anything he's doing today when this is blowing up around --

MR. MCCURRY: He's matter of fact about getting the business done of addressing this question, given the outrageousness he feels about the allegation.

Q Would the White House be willing to make public the logs of the comings and goings of Monica Lewinsky?

MR. MCCURRY: Asked and answered.

Anything else?

Q Mike, when you showed the statement to the President, what did he say about it?

MR. MCCURRY: He said "fine."

Q That's a direct quote? The President just said "fine"? That's all he had to say about that issue.

MR. MCCURRY: He said "fine." He looked at it and he said "fine."

Q Outraged, fine?

Q Mike, this morning I kind of had the impression that the President really shaped that statement that you read.

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, he did. It was prepared --

Q It's not like somebody else gave it to him.

MR. MCCURRY: No, no. It was prepared in consultation between the lawyers and the President. The Counsel's Office gave it to me. I wanted to, of course, verify that that's exactly what the President wanted me to say on his behalf.

Q Can you describe what Monica Lewinsky's duties were at the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't. I don't have her position description.

Q Can you describe the intern program she was a part of?

MR. MCCURRY: The intern program, there are about 250 at any time of the year who are here as interns. They tend to be college-age students between 18 and 23, equally balanced male and female. They work full-time during the summer and up to 25 hours a week during the school year. There are two sessions of interns during the summer and one each in the fall and spring. They go through the same kind of background checks and EOP checks that are required for other staffers.

Q Is this a paid internship?

MR. MCCURRY: No, it's a volunteer.

Q In your statement, when you say it's outrageous, does that mean the allegation about -- the sexual allegation or about the charge obstruction of justice and perjury?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not parsing the statement for you.

Q Mike, do you know the last time the President spoke to Vernon Jordan and if he's had any discussions with Vernon Jordan about this subject?

MR. MCCURRY: I know the answer to neither question.

Q Mike, can you say why you're not going to ask the President about this subject?

MR. MCCURRY: I think it's proper for the Counsel to deal with the President on that and I will, as I often do, get the information that I need to pass on from Counsel.

Q Mike, does the President appreciate that this is an order magnitude different than the allegations on the --

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think the President is smart and would understand that, of course.

Q Mike, what's your next move, or Counsel's next move or the President's next move on this?

MR. MCCURRY: My next move is to get off this podium as quick as possible. (Laughter.)

Q What's the next step from the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President is then -- the President is, I imagine, going to want to address this. We have an interview with PBS, an interview with NPR -- fortuitus bit of scheduling that's probably a lot better than the $25 pledge I sent in during pledge week. (Laughter.)

Q Mike, beyond the interview, what do you do?

MR. MCCURRY: What do I do? What do you mean? We go about doing the business of the United States of America. And there's a lot of it right now that we haven't talked about today.

Q What about this problem? What about this situation?

MR. MCCURRY: This situation, if it is, in fact, going to be explored by the independent council, will go into the same place that most matters go -- it will become the province of lawyers and people who look into these things. And the amount that I talk about it here will be quite measured.

Q The statement said that the President's always everyone to tell the truth, or words to that effect.

MR. MCCURRY: The words were that he's made clear from the beginning that he wants people to tell the truth in all matters.

Q Is he now then directly saying to Ms. Lewinsky that he wants her to tell the truth?

MR. MCCURRY: He's said that to anyone who was every in a position to be required to provide factual information.

Q Including her?

MR. MCCURRY: He has not directed any communication that I'm aware of directly to her.

Q Well, I'm asking you to do that now.

Q Does the First Lady know Monica Lewinsky?

MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea.

Q Did she have any hand in terminating her duties?

MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea.

Q How long was the President's meeting with David Kendall?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the length. It was not -- it happened some time ago. I don't think it was extremely long.

Q Who's taking the lead in the case, David Kendall or Robert Bennett?

MR. MCCURRY: I refer additional question on this particular matter to Mr. Kendall, although Mr. Kendall and Mr. Bennett have clearly talked with each other about the question.

Q Why is it Bob Kendall in this matter?

MR. MCCURRY: Because of the suggestion in news reports that it's in the province of Mr. Starr's inquiry.

Q And to follow that up, which lawyers prepared the statement, Kendall, Bennett, or Ruff?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think all three reviewed it.

Q Does the President still have complete confidence in his legal team?

MR. MCCURRY: Sure. Absolutely.

Q Mike, did Monica Lewinsky --

Q There was a suggestion that Linda Tripp recorded these conversations because she was angry that Mr. Bennett had called her a liar over the Kathleen Willey matter. Does that have anything to do with this being a --

MR. MCCURRY: I have absolutely no basis upon which to speculate on any of that.

Q Mike, did Monica Lewinsky call the President, as I've seen reported somewhere, and talk about what she should say?

MR. MCCURRY: I have no information to answer that question and I'd refer you to Mr. Kendall. I imagine if it's, in fact, true that that's going to be a subject of inquiry by Mr. Starr, they're probably going to explore that matter.

Q Mike, does the President have any intention of addressing the nation on this in a more formal way than through you or through interviews?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I have heard of at this point. I think that he obviously is probably going to address it later today in a fashion that people will be able to see what he has to say.

Q Since we're all interested in whatever the President has to say, we'd like to have his answers some time in the afternoon after he gives this interview. I think it's only fair since we're all asking the same question. And it's not the question -- I know these were pre-arranged interview and exclusive, but --

MR. MCCURRY: Good point. These interviews were scheduled as part of our build-up to the State of the Union and just happened to fall at this particular moment. But we'll contact the news organizations involved and see if they want to be helpful.

Q Is the President prepared to, if it comes to that, to cooperate with an impeachment investigation on Capitol Hill?

MR. MCCURRY: There's no reason that I know of to think that we'll be dealing with something like that.

Q Has the President given any thought of accompanying Mr. Arafat to the Holocaust Museum?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I have heard. I think the President thinks it's very appropriate for him to be given a VIP tour of the museum. The President thinks that the museum makes a significant emotional impact on people who see it and it will no doubt have that effect on the Chairman, as well. The Chairman has indicated en route to Washington that he's anxious to see the museum if that is to be arranged.

Q Mike, when the President saw the statement, did he complain that it was not as broad a blanket denial as he would have liked?

MR. MCCURRY: He said -- I reviewed it with him; I said this is what I propose to say, and he said, that's fine, say it.

Q Do you think he wishes to have an addendum to that sentence?

MR. MCCURRY: I think he suspects he will be addressing this himself at some point.

Q Mike, do you know when the President plans a formal press conference next with us on this --

MR. MCCURRY: We want to do one reasonably soon.

Q Mike, how has this matter disrupted --

MR. MCCURRY: Carl, by the way, he will, of course, have a press conference with Prime Minister Blair at the conclusion of the working visit that Prime Minister Blair will have at the end of the first week of February. February 5th? Official visit.

Q How have these reports and dealing with the bevy of lawyers disrupted his day? What was planned and what did he end up doing instead?

MR. MCCURRY: We were going to do these interviews that I'm talking about a little bit earlier in the day, so we've had to push them back. But other than that, he's had to pursue the other matters that he would pursue on any given day.

Q Mike, you were saying in regard to the impeachment question that that doesn't seem like a serious issue. But George Stephanopoulos seems to think that might be an issue. Does that not concern you?

MR. MCCURRY: He says things all the time. (Laughter.) Assassinations, impeachments.

Q We pay him well.

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Donaldson makes the point he gets paid well to say those things, and God love him for it.

Q Mike, do you know by chance what Monica Lewinsky's precise time was here at the White House and exactly what she did?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have an employment record on her.

Q Can you get that for us?

MR. MCCURRY: I will see if that is something we can make available.

Q Did you ever meet her, by chance?

Q Taking into account that the White House is maintaining that these allegations are untrue, is the White House preparing any response to these people making the false allegations against the President?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that's pretty much what I've been doing here.

Q No, but in addition to just denying the allegations.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you know, there is a likelihood, if the news reports are correct, that Mr. Starr will be looking into it, that we'll probably have to provide extensive information on it. So it goes.

Q Just one more stab at this. So is your interpretation of that statement that he meant to categorically deny that he had a sexual relationship --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not parsing that statement. The statement speaks for itself. I don't have anything to add to what I told you earlier.

Q Do you understand why a lot of us think it doesn't speak for itself?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to interpret statements for you. I'm just going to give you the statements that I've been authorized to give.

Q Mike, who has told you that you can't say?

MR. MCCURRY: My own good judgment tells me not to try to parse the statement. So no one has told me to do that, that's the way I'm electing to deal with your questions right now.

Q So Ruff's office, the other lawyers haven't told you to say this and say nothing else?

MR. MCCURRY: They trust my judgment, amazingly enough.

Q It seems that -- you know, lawyers are very careful people and they seemed to have --


Q -- picked a very imprecise word. So --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to characterize the statement.

Q Is this the low point in the Clinton presidency?

Q Not yet. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: There have been, for five years, from time to time, we go through episodic reports like this. And yet, through all that period, this President has kept his focus on the work he's been elected twice by the American people to do. And the American people have indicated that they are more than satisfied with the work he's doing. They want him to continue to keep this economy strong, to make the kind of changes that we need to make to get this country prepared for the 21st century. They expect the President not to be distracted by allegations, however outrageous, and to keep his eye on the ball.

And that -- the President has got a lot of work that he needs to do to do exactly that on this particular day. We've got a State of the Union address coming up. And we've got the Chairman of the U.N. Commission in Baghdad who has just had some difficult meetings that are going to have a lot of consequences, and we're going to have to deal with those consequences after Chairman Butler gives his report to the Security Council on Friday.

We're dealing simultaneously with issues related to a deployed force in Bosnia, which is going to occupy some of the President's time. We've got a lot of pretty interesting initiatives that we're laying before Congress and beginning to do the work of trying to find a bipartisan coalition that will pass some of the President's ideas. There is a lot of hard work ahead. And this President has always, when facing allegations, been able to sort of say, that's over there and I've got to keep focused on what I need to do on behalf of the American people. And I think the American people expect him to do that.

Q The difference with these charges, though, is they stem -- of this personal nature is they stem from actions that occurred here. I mean, is that going to affect his legislative agenda or his foreign policy agenda?

MR. MCCURRY: We have dealt with all manner of stories that have dealt with actions that occurred here. That's happened from time to time.

Q Mike, has the Counsel's Office been officially notified that Starr's probe has expanded and --

MR. MCCURRY: As I said earlier, Karen, not that I'm aware of, and I checked with the Counsel's Office and they didn't give me any indication that they had received that communication from OIC. My assumption is that that will be a matter that Mr. Kendall will pursue.

Q Would such an expansion be appropriate in the White House view?

MR. MCCURRY: I already answered that question. I said it's in the province of the Attorney General upon application of the OIC to make that determination.

Q Why are these allegations outrageous?

MR. MCCURRY: Look, you've tried now I think a dozen different ways to get me to amplify on the statement. I'm clearly not going to do it. I'm sorry if you're disappointed that I'm not doing it. I don't want to render my own personal opinion about the nature of these charges. And so we are where we are. There is nothing more to say.

Q Mike, has the White House received any subpoenas from the FBI related to this case?

MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Mike, are they outrageous because they're not true or are they outrageous because it would be morally reprehensible if they were true?

MR. MCCURRY: There are probably many different reasons why they are outrageous in the mind of the President, but having not explored the degree of outrageousness that the President attaches to the allegations, I'm not going to amplify on the statement that he's made.

Q Let me bring up a subject from last week which now is particularly germane -- the President's ability to pay for his legal expenses. Has there been now some movement on a new effort to get money in? Because this clock this morning was running with all these lawyers and they don't work cheap. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: They get paid when they talk to you. Did you know that? That adds to the expense. I did check. You asked me to check on that, and they are -- our understanding is that some of the President's supporters on the outside have begun some efforts to establish some kind of fund. They are not in a position yet that I am aware of to make any formal declarations on that. In any event, they would have to be in contact at some point with the President's legal counsel on that so that the President's legal counsel could render an opinion to the President on whether the establishment of any such fund would be ethical and proper under law.

Q -- the President and his legal advisors know that this story was coming? Did they have advance knowledge, or after the meeting last night with Netanyahu? When?

MR. MCCURRY: I personally don't know that anyone that I deal with knew much about it before late yesterday.

Q Mike, you were talking about the President's need to deal with major foreign policy issues in Iraq and Bosnia, elsewhere; he's meeting with Middle East leaders. But don't these kinds of accusations impair, hurt his ability to deal effectively with these kinds of critical national security issues?

MR. MCCURRY: He has faced allegations somewhat like this in the past and they have not impacted on his ability to do the job that he constitutionally must do as President on behalf of the American people.

Q Allegations like perjury and obstruction of justice, Mike?

Q Let me go back to the fund, if I may. Am I correct then that, until the legal counsel has made a ruling, until that is done formally, there are no contributions actually being made or certainly no money is being expended, or are they being made now?

MR. MCCURRY: My understanding and belief would be that until such a fund was constituted there would be no ability for it to receive any contribution. The previous fund, which was not allowed to solicit contributions has now ended its operations. So there wouldn't be any entity to which one would make a contribution.

Q What's going to be different, though? I mean, the previous fund was thought not to be proper. What could be different that would not make a new fund proper?

MR. MCCURRY: No, it was thought to be very proper. It was just hobbled by the rules that applied to it on interpretation of the Office of Government Ethics that made it impossible to solicit any contributions. People are not aware of it; therefore, revenues did not match the costs.

Q Expectations?

MR. MCCURRY: Expectations, costs, whatever.

Q Mike, you said that you don't see an impairment on his constitutional duties, but how concerned are you as to how he might be perceived by these other world leaders in spite of these domestic issues?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't speak for other world leaders. I speak for Bill Clinton, the world leader.

Q When I asked if the White House logs would be made public of Monica Lewinsky's coming and going, you said asked and answered. Yet there's a contingent in this area that doesn't know what the answer was. Was it that it will be made available to Kenneth Starr or to the press and public?

MR. MCCURRY: I said we want to cooperate with the inquiry by the independent counsel and if, in fact, this is a matter the independent counsel's pursuing, and if, in fact, he pursues evidentiary material like that, I know that the President would expect the White House to cooperate and provide it. And I think until that question is revealed, it's going to be hard to satisfy a lot of the news organizations who have been asking for that.

Q So you can't give it to us?

MR. MCCURRY: I think until the question is resolved as to whether or not this is something that the office of the independent counsel is seeking, it would be difficult for us to satisfy requests.

Q Why? Why does it --

MR. MCCURRY: Because we clearly want to cooperate with the OIC.

Q Mike, has the President asked his lawyers, either here or his private lawyers, to appeal to Starr not to pursue this issue because both parties deny it?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that question.

Q Mr. Netanyahu said that he would look favorably or respond positively to the suggestion of a meeting between him and Chairman Arafat. Does that change the White House's stand on if a meeting should be arranged between the two leaders?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think he's indicated that he would want such a meeting to be substantive. So would we. I'm not aware of any plans for such a meeting at this point. Clearly, at some point, we will have to get these parties talking to each other directly, but we want to do that at a time that the parties are likely to make progress.

Q Do you mean to tell me that if reporters talk to sources who perhaps should not talk because of the gag order -- and I'm not saying they do -- but should they talk to us anyway -- that in fact, if they are -- and I'm not saying they are -- members of the President's team may charge the President for talking to us in violation of the gag order?

MR. MCCURRY: That's a complicated question of legal billing that I would have to direct to the attorneys involved. (Laughter.)

Q I would say if there --

MR. MCCURRY: I would be interested in the answer.

Q If any attorney like that exists, they would be shameful to charge the President.

MR. MCCURRY: To be running the meter.

Q Gag order!

Q Mike, you may have been asked this before. Can you clarify, did the President know of the stories and the allegations last night about -- when he spoke at the fundraiser? When did he first --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure when he first heard about the particular story, The Washington Post story we're dealing with. There was a fair amount swirling around in the ether yesterday, but at what point he focused in on it I can't tell you.

Q Did he huddle in a meeting when he got back? Did he have any time to talk -- or anybody when he got back?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that.

Q Mike, Mr. Bennett says he smells a rat in this situation. Do you smell anything?

MR. MCCURRY: How does one smell a rat? What does a rat smell like?

Q How would I know? (Laughter.)

Q Do you smell anything, a rat or anything?

MR. MCCURRY: I smell the lights in here cooking furiously everyone who is standing under them.

Anything else?

Q Mike, tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Does the President have anything to say on this occasion beyond his desire to keep abortion safe, legal, and rare?

MR. MCCURRY: The President's views on the issue are very well-known. He continues to believe that abortion needs to be safe and legal in the United States of America, but it ought be rare. And that is the position he has frequently articulated. And we have done things in furtherance of exactly that policy by the President.

Q Any message to the opponents, thousands who are going to be here tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: That the President respects the views of those that as a matter of conscience take a different point of view on such fundamentally important issues. But I think the President believes it is a matter that should be decided as a matter of conscience based on the private reasoning of the people who have to struggle with complicated questions of life and death, and the President will always respect the right of a woman to make that choice free and of her own volition. And the President does not believe, in any event, that it's something that the government should dictate answers to.

Q What's on tap for tomorrow with Chairman Arafat? And what can you tell us about the package that President Clinton will be discussing with him, however provisional that may be?

MR. MCCURRY: I've got a lot of great foreign policy diplospeak about what we're going to do, but I won't satisfy your desire for details on what ideas the President presented. I think we've provided you with a pretty good series of briefings and briefers during the course of the day yesterday, and they made it clear what they're willing to say about the substance of the dialogue, which is enough that you get some general idea of the subjects being covered, but not enough that you have any explicit review of the diplomacy we're pursuing.

We obviously will need to take the discussions that we've had with Prime Minister Netanyahu, ask Chairman Arafat to reflect on them and to gain his thinking and perspectives on the issues that have been addressed now in the meetings with the government of Israel, and then see if there is a way to bridge some of the differences that clearly exist. That may or may not be possible. And at this point it's impossible to predict whether or not these discussions can lead to the kind of progress that the United States so fervently desires.

Q Mike, do you have anything on another report that Ambassador Richardson offered Ms. Lewinsky a job?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't. I don't have anything on that.

Q Back to Roe v. Wade, do you have any comments on a group of antiabortion protestors who took the public tour this morning? They said they complimented the Secret Service on their treatment, and they said it was rather uneventful. Did you know about this ahead of time?

MR. MCCURRY: We had heard that there was some interest on the part of people to freely express themselves during the course of a tour, and I think the Service and the Uniformed Division always handles such matters with sensitivity, but also consistent with what their law enforcement responsibilities are.

Q Do you think that's appropriate?

Q Mike, who makes the final judgments about the, perhaps, conflicting goals of the President's defense in this? As a legal matter, lawyers always want to be as absolutely circumspect as possible; as a public and political matter, obviously, the President would like to give his side of the story on this as quickly and as explicitly as possible. How do you balance those two and who makes the final judgment?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the balance is always a delicate one because there are sometimes conflicting aims. But the President, as President and as client, is the one that ultimately has to reconcile differing point of views. And we, in each and every case, weigh the different exigencies that arise.

Q Mike, what can you tell us about Linda Tripp's work here at the White House and what led to her moving over to the Pentagon?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have her employment record here, nor her position description.

Q Can you get those?

MR. MCCURRY: I've already said that I would look into it, look into seeing if I can.

Q Back on the protesters, do you think the public tour of the White House is an appropriate venue for making a political statement?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that in and around the White House people find this a platform for expressing views. And that's as it should be. I think it should be done with respect for the house that all the American people own and enjoy seeing.

Q Was anyone arrested?

MR. MCCURRY: You'd have to ask. I gather from Jeff, not.

Q Mike, you said earlier that Chuck Ruff was involved in the discussions today because he represents the institution of the presidency. In what way is this issue and these allegations -- how are they impinging on the institution of the presidency and the official business of the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: We spend a lot of time -- you know, you spend a lot of time asking me questions today that demonstrated very vividly -- I've been asked for employment records, I've been asked for appointment records here at the White House, all of which are the custody of the White House and the presidency, itself. And it's exactly the protection of that institution the that White House Legal Counsel is charged with. So there are a number of examples even arising here in the briefing that indicated what the interest would be in the White House lawyers and these types of discussions.

Q Was the President asked about or did he have any comment about Linda Tripp's allegation that she saw Kathleen Willey leaving the President's office and making an allegation that she had been kissed or fondled?

MR. MCCURRY: I think we've dealt with that matter a long time ago, if I recall correctly.

Q Is the President sending a message to the Pope, or do we have any independent observers there?

MR. MCCURRY: The President did not send a direct, personal message, but on behalf of the administration, on behalf of the President, our diplomats have had good and detailed conversations with the Holy See in advance of the Pope's visit, in which we have certainly wished the Holy Father well for the trip that he is making. And we've expressed our views that we hope that the outcome of his visit will be better respect for the rights of people to worship freely, according to their own conscience in Cuba -- a right that has been too long denied to the people of Cuba.

Q Is our Ambassador there?

MR. MCCURRY: We do not have an Ambassador to Cuba. We have an intrasection there.

Q Our Ambassador to the Vatican.

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, to the Vatican. She's on part of the trip?

COLONEL CROWLEY: No, she's in Rome.

Q But her daughter is in Cuba.

MR. MCCURRY: Her daughter spends a lot of time with Sam.

Q Ways and Means' Chairman Archer yesterday suggested using any budget surplus to lower taxes and reduce the debt, as well as create a cushion in case protections of revenues -- and I wonder if the administration thinks this is a --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the administration and the President believe it would be prudent to see what kind of surplus we're talking about before we spend it and give it away. There might be some interest in some quarters for spending money that we may or may not have, but I think the President is more interested in seeing if we can secure the surplus, making absolutely sure we keep strongly committed to the path to a balanced budget and to keeping fiscal discipline sort of at the top of our minds as we make budget policy.

And then as to any future surpluses, I think the President will be interested in seeing if they address the long-term needs of this country. And I think the President will want to say more about that during the State of the Union.

Q Mike, is there any directive written or verbal or otherwise circulating in the White House instructing people not to talk about the Monica Lewinsky allegations, or not to talk about her or not to talk about anybody else involved?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of anything. And I think that you rely on common sense to prevail. People shouldn't be talking about this if it's in the province of the President's attorneys and likely future inquiry by an independent counsel.

Q Has the Iraqi situation worsened now?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that the situation in Iraq certainly has not got to the point where the President or the United Nations wants it to be, which is full compliance by the government of Iraq with the requirements of the U.N. Security Council. What we've had to date is a lot of excuses, but no compliance. And I think it's time for the government of Iraq to recognize that when Chairman Butler says, here's what I need in order to fulfill the mandate of the Security Council, they better listen and stop trying to dictate to him the terms that would govern inspections. We expect Chairman Butler to make a full report to the Security Council Friday, and then we will pursue our diplomacy and perhaps other options beyond.

Q Has the White House been briefed by Butler at all on his conversations?

MR. MCCURRY: My understanding from our U.S. U.N. Mission is that he has had a brief conversation with the President of the Security Council, the French Permanent Representative, and that has been passed on to other permanent members of the Security Council, but a fuller report will await Chairman Butler's return to New York Friday.

Q Did anyone in the U.S. government send a message through the Pope to Fidel Castro?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any channel for such a communication. We have a diplomatic channel and that is the one which any exchanges with the government of Cuba would occur.

Q Do you have any more information on the tourist incident earlier?

Q Guatemala.

Q Spray paint.

Q Oh, spray paint.

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, no I don't. I would have to refer you -- I understand that the U.S. Attorney's Office is the one pursuing that now.

Q Thank you.

MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, Helen.

END 2:00 P.M. EST