THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:40 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Let's see, what do you want to talk about today? Questions.
Q Mike, has any member of the White House staff received a subpoena today with regard to the Lewinsky affair?
MR. MCCURRY: I've talked to counsel and asked that question, they're not aware of any, but there have been reports that the FBI was out trying to serve people. So we haven't had a complete report.
Q Mike, what is the practice with interns here? The interns get a chance to meet with the President, or what?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have the picture-taking, and some of them from time to time have the opportunity to interact. I think there's efforts to try to make sure it's an educational experience for the ones who are here.
Q Mike, the President said this morning the country deserved answers, he thought, to all of these questions, which he suggested were reasonable questions. Why won't he give them?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think he fully intends to do that, as he said, sooner rather than later, and I think he desires the opportunity to do that. But, Sam, we've been served with a document request from the Office of Independent Counsel now, and that requires us to go through and methodically pull together the information that's been asked for and assemble. You are all the first to jump on us when we prepare information that's not complete, and I think the President wants to make sure that the information is complete, wants to make sure that consistent with the requirements of cooperating with the independent counsel that we satisfy the subpoena that's served. And we go on from there.
Q What's the deadline on that?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any deadline. It appears to be sort of a rolling deal.
Q What can you tell us about the subpoena? You said yesterday it was broad. What do you know about it and how is the White House trying to comply?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a subpoena for all the records and materials related to Monica Lewinsky. Beyond that, that's the only information I have from counsel.
Q But the President doesn't need documents to tell the American people what his relationship was with Monica Lewinsky. So why can't --
MR. MCCURRY: But if that was the only question to be asked, the President answered that with satisfaction yesterday. You know and I know there would be additional follow-up questions and a lot more questions that we would want to be able to answer.
Q But yesterday the President said clearly that he was not --
Q Has Mrs. Currie confirmed that Lewinsky came into visit her late at night?
MR. MCCURRY: I am not going to get into any of the substance of things that are properly now under the review of the independent counsel.
Q Would it be normal that somebody in Betty Currie's position might facilitate an intern's visit --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get into that. I mean, people come in here and see folks on and off all the time, and people WAVE people in for a variety of reasons. We're assembling, obviously, information related to the times when Ms. Lewinsky would have been here at the White House so we can properly respond to the independent counsel.
Q How is the President going to give his answers, Mike? Is he going to go before the American people in some way?
MR. MCCURRY: He will want to try to do what's right at the appropriate time and I don't think we can give you an idea of what that's going to be yet until we assemble the information we're looking for.
Q The country and people and we are confused as to what the President is actually denying when he says the allegations are false. Does he mean the allegations are false that he had an affair, or the allegations are false that he would try to encourage anyone to lie?
MR. MCCURRY: Both.
Q Well, Mike, the President yesterday said that he had not encouraged anyone to tell a falsehood; he repeated that again today. But Jim Lehrer, yesterday, asked his question as to whether the President had talked to Monica Lewinsky, and he ducked that question. Has he talked to her recently?
MR. MCCURRY: As the President has said, that those are legitimate questions and he's going to have to answer them. She worked here. She's -- I think we all have talked to her at some point or another because she worked here and was around the West Wing frequently during the time that she was here. So we want to make sure we have answers that are complete and that are --
Q No, but after she left is what the question was, Mike.
Q To follow on Sam, instead of trying to go through the whole range of conversations they might have had, does the President recall speaking to her about her being reached out to by the Paula Jones legal defense team?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, the President is going to have a lot of answers to questions like this at the appropriate time. We're not going to answer them piecemeal because you all have more than reminded us that half a story is not as good as a complete story. And we need to make sure that people's memories are accurate, we need to make sure that we've got the information that you're clearly going to want to pursue as follow-up questions and we can go on from there.
Q Mike, did the President watch the press conference, the mini press conference the special counsel had --
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. I think during that time he was in his meeting with Chairman Arafat.
Q Did anyone brief him on what was said?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if anyone -- I had not briefed him, myself, on it. But our understanding is that Mr. Starr indicated that he wanted to get to the truth in a prompt way and, of course, the President wants that as well.
Q Mike, the President says that he did not have an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky and did not have a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Could you explain what kind of relationship he had with her?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean, the President, again, is going to have to answer those questions at the appropriate time and he's indicated that he will. And I'm not going to piecemeal, walk through that.
Q Mike, does the President have some sense of urgency on -- he said sooner rather than later; you have indicated it could happen soon. What is the sense of urgency? How would you describe it here?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have -- look, obviously, the American people want answers to these questions. And the President wants to be able to give them. But we also are now facing a formal inquiry from the independent counsel's office, and we've got to make sure that we do things in a fashion that reflects the President's determination to cooperate with that inquiry.
Q Would it be normal for the President to leave messages on her home phone answering machine?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on that. I'm not going to speculate on anything related to the specifics.
Q Mike, is there a White House policy that senior officials should not hit on interns or attempt to have personal relationships with them?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's common sense and common decency, and, of course, that applies to everyone.
Q Mike, why should the American people believe the President's denial with regard to this when in 1992 he told us that he did not have an affair with Gennifer Flowers, and apparently has now testified under oath that he did?
MR. MCCURRY: The President knows that he told the truth in 1992 when he was asked about that relationship, and he knows that he testified truthfully on Saturday, and he knows his answers are not at odds. That's all I can say on that subject because of the order of the court that we not provide any additional information on the deposition.
Q Mike, you're saying there was no affair with Gennifer Flowers, no affair with Gennifer Flowers?
MR. MCCURRY: I just gave the answer that I gave.
Q There are reports that the President has given Monica Lewinsky a dress as a gift. Has the President given this woman any gifts?
MR. MCCURRY: Again, these are all questions that no doubt the independent counsel is going to pursue and at the proper time the President is going to want to provide answers.
Q Mike, I know you say that your priority is getting information to Starr first rather than the news media. But are you committing that once Starr gets the WAVE records of when she came here after her internship and employment that they will also be released to the news media?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President would probably find it hard to satisfy the concerns that Americans may have on that without doing that. I don't want to pledge to that at this point because I think lawyers are going to have to review that question, but it would be hard to imagine otherwise.
Q Mike, the question about the President's ability just to govern in this atmosphere, I know you're going to say he wants to do business as usual, but there's already a perception, comments being made in Israel that the peace process could be held up by this. The question really is how does this not just suck the oxygen out of this place?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think you're the ones who seem to be sucking the oxygen out of this place at the moment. But, look, the President is going to stay very focused on the work that he was elected by the American people to do. Obviously, he's got to deal with this matter as it comes up and arises, but he still has got an enormous amount of things to do on things like the Middle East peace process. That's where the President was spending his time today. He had a long meeting with Chairman Arafat and will likely see the Chairman again, sometime after Iftar. And that's the work that he is going to be doing.
As to specifically reports in Israel, I refer you to what the Prime Minister of Israel said himself last night about the President's work with him on the Middle East peace process yesterday.
Q Mike, this has to be a distraction --
MR. MCCURRY: John, I'll come back.
Q Could you tell us, did the President meet with his lawyers today; does he have plans to later?
MR. MCCURRY: I imagine he's going to have to meet with his lawyers on and off until they get this thing settled down, and I'm not -- haven't been aware of any particular meeting so far today.
The President had the meeting with Chairman Arafat I told you about. He's got a meeting that he's going to have on the State of the Union address Tuesday night, and at some point this afternoon he may well indeed see one or other of his attorneys.
Q Is it on the schedule?
Q Mike, does the President regret not having --
MR. MCCURRY: He's got office time in the afternoon, so he uses that for appointments.
Q Does the President regret not having settled Paula Jones' lawsuit when he had an opportunity?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, the President probably wouldn't want to comment on that and probably wouldn't want me to comment on that, and I'd refer you to Mr. Bennett on that subject.
Q Just to follow up on John's question, the effect on the staff at the White House -- are people shocked, disheartened, dispirited? There must be some distraction to the staff --
MR. MCCURRY: Of course, it is. And I think people are just going forward. They have confidence in the President and they know they've got a great deal of confidence in themselves and their ability to do the work they've been hired here to do on behalf of the American people. And that's what most people I think are trying to concentrate their energy and their effort.
Q Mike, back on the Middle East, it seems certain now that Ambassador Butler is going to return empty-handed from Baghdad. What's this administration's next contemplated step or steps?
MR. MCCURRY: When Chairman Butler reports to the Security Council formally tomorrow, that will begin a process by which the United States government, consulting with its allies, begins to fashion an appropriate response to what is the continued defiance of the government of Iraq when met with the specific requirements of the U.N. Special Commission.
I think it's safe to say that the President, as he indicated yesterday, understands that there now must be a very determined effort to present the will of the international community directly to Saddam Hussein, and he has made it quite clear that other options have not been and will not be ruled out.
Q Do you have information that Saddam Hussein is making material advances in his weapons of mass destruction while this lapse goes on in inspections?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it would be better and preferable for the Chairman of the U.N. commission that directly looks into those matters to give his formal report to the Security Council. But, clearly, our concern has been that he will be in a position to continue programs and weapons of mass destruction -- specifically, biological and chemical weapons.
And because of our concern and because of the delays in the inspectors being able to do the work they need to be able to do on the ground, I think the President is very determined to see that in very prompt order the Security Council takes up and deals with what is clearly going to be a report of defiance by the government of Iraq.
Q Mike, back to your answer on Gennifer Flowers. Clearly, the President left the impression in 1992, or tried to leave the impression, that he had no affair with her. And, yet, you say that's -- he said one thing then, he testified accurately under oath now. Why should people believe his apparent denials now, when he might testify under oath differently later?
MR. MCCURRY: People should believe what they wish to believe, but I've just indicated to you the President is confident that the answers he gave in response to questions on that matter in 1992 were true, and he's confident that he gave a truthful deposition on Saturday. And he's confident because the questions that were asked and the answers that were given that those are not at odds.
I'll remind you that you're basing your question on what has been apparently a selective leak of information from that deposition. I mean, you don't know the fullness of what was in that deposition, David, and you're not supposed to because the judge has ordered the parties not to comment. In fact, I'm probably going beyond what I should be saying in any event anyhow .
Q -- Paula Jones' attorneys who are attempting to show a pattern of extramarital relationships have subpoenaed the widow of the Swiss Ambassador --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know whether that's true and have no reaction.
Q There have been some suggestions in some quarters here that the independent counsel exceeded his authority in working with Linda Tripp, that he obtained that wire information before he had applied to the Attorney General and the court for a mandate that was wider.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I just -- I don't have a comment on that. That's up to the Attorney General and the three-judge panel to review. I just decline any comment on that.
Q Well, I ask specifically because the President himself, as well as Mrs. Clinton, in the past have suggested that their political enemies were behind a lot of this stuff, and they have included in the past on some occasions Judge Starr.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think they've been -- the President and the First Lady have both been very careful about what they've said on that subject. And I think I'll leave it for others and the American people to judge whether there's been a determined effort by the President's political enemies to attack it.
Q Mike, to follow on David's question, are you saying that the President did not have an affair with Gennifer Flowers?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying what I just said, and I will repeat it for you if you didn't get it.
Q What effect does the President think this is all having on his second-term agenda?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's making it a bit complicated to get the agenda across, but, I mean, he's going to have ample opportunities in coming days to do that, when he's got the opportunity speak before Congress on Tuesday night, in which he will talk about the agenda that we have for this year. At some point, the news that I think it is important to the American people will start breaking through to them and they'll want to hear details about things that the President will be doing in the weeks ahead -- not to say that this is not something that is of concern to them, but there are other things that concern them as well, too.
Q Last year, during the campaign finance controversy, at several points you released WAVES records to the news media, simultaneously with turning them over to investigators who were seeking them. And at one point in particular, during the Thompson committee hearings, you, without even being asked, rushed those records up to those of us who were covering those hearings when they were exculpatory, when they helped --
MR. MCCURRY: Sounds like a good idea. Yes?
Q Two questions. Number one, why have you changed your policy, and number two, why should we not conclude, given that change in policy, that these records --
MR. MCCURRY: We have not produced these materials for Mr. Starr, so there's, therefore, been no change in policy one way or another.
Q On one of the audio tapes that Linda Tripp secretly recorded with Monica Lewinsky, Monica Lewinsky quotes the President as saying to her, "There is no evidence, so you can deny, deny, deny."
MR. MCCURRY: The voracity of those statements is presumably something Mr. Starr will want to pursue and, therefore, I will not comment on it now.
Q Mike, explain why some White House staffers feel the President's presidency is not in trouble or in jeopardy right now.
MR. MCCURRY: Why it is not? Because I think they -- as I said earlier, they've got a lot of confidence in him and got a lot of confidence that the truth will prevail, obviously.
Q Will the White House, then, release those WAVE records when they're given over --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to consult with my legal beagles, but I think the President made it pretty clear today that he wants to be able to be in a position to satisfy requests.
Q -- repeatedly said the President will give more answers at the proper time, the proper time. Any guidance on when that --
MR. MCCURRY: I've already answered that question.
Q Mike, how does the President feel about his credibility with the American people, and does he see a need to restore it after so many questions that are still out there?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President knows that the American people have watched him now for five years, they've watched him do his job, they've watched him do his job, in his opinion, well. And that's the basis upon which they have formed an opinion of him and they have dealt with allegations of this nature all the way back from 1992, when the American people first elected him.
So the President, I think, has great confidence that if he stays focused on the work that he's supposed to be doing, and does it well, that the American people in the end of the day will be satisfied with his performance.
Q Mike, do you, personally, feel confident that you know what kind of relationship the President had with Monica Lewinsky?
MR. MCCURRY: My personal feelings are immaterial. I'm here to report on the President's actions, his activities and the way the White House responds institutionally to efforts.
Q That's not immaterial --
Q The question is do you have enough information -- not to your feelings about it, but do you have enough information to be able to answer these questions accurately?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, clearly, we don't have all the information we would like and we're in the process of assembling the information that we need, as the President indicated earlier today. There's extensive requests for information from Mr. Starr. There's not a room in the White House that's called the "truth room" where you go unlock the door and it's all sitting there. You have to go and collect this information and ask people their memories and assemble the kinds of records and materials that have been requested. And we've become pretty good at that now because we've had a lot of experience doing that. So that's the kind of work they're doing.
Q Mike, the answer to the question is, do you believe the President's staff is being honest with you?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. I believe everyone is working hard to try to get answers to these questions, sure.
Q But these are very simple questions that you should be able to --
MR. MCCURRY: These are not --
Q -- that you should be able to give an answer from the President on.
MR. MCCURRY: Some of the questions are simple, but the follow-up questions and the inquiry and the persistence with which you would continue to pursue the matters is not so simple. And there's where you have to do hard work to get answers.
Q -- question that the President could answer?
MR. MCCURRY: Let's take one at a time, okay?
Q Mike, were you aware of the times that Monica Lewinsky was leaving the White House and going to the Pentagon, and was there a stated reason at the time --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I was not, because she was working, I think, over in the East Wing at that point. I didn't know -- in fact, I didn't realize that she had gone over to the Pentagon until she started working for Mr. Bacon later on.
Q Will you let us know during the day if there are subpoenas issued here at the White House if any White House officials are --
MR. MCCURRY: Terry, individuals who are served with subpoenas can do with that information what they wish. They don't necessarily have to report that to the White House legal counsel. And so I don't want to make that commitment because I can't guarantee you that everyone who might be served a subpoenas will come forward and indicate that that's what's happened. To the degree that we have any information that suggests that's happened, I'll try to share that with you and try to help you out, but I can't make the commitment that we'll tell you.
Q If I could follow up on that, you suggested earlier that more subpoenas were coming out --
Q Mike, now that the lawyers have had a chance to review the subpoenas, are there any areas where the White House plans to claim executive privilege?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard of any that have been discussed so far, but I think the counsel is going to -- you know, remember, that's not based on their judgment of the subpoena request, it's based on the nature of the information they have to review. They obviously are still collecting the information that's coming in, and I can't prejudge what the lawyers will think. But I haven't heard of any complications of that nature.
Q Mike, you've explained that there is a blanket subpoena for all relevant documents. Are you also saying that it's your understanding that members of the White House staff are being subpoenaed for their testimony?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that. I indicated to you earlier that there are reports that many of you are carrying that the Justice Department has been serving subpoenas on people. I told you I'm not aware of any that have been served here. And to counsel's knowledge, just before I came out, they were not aware of any. But I can't rule out that that has happened.
Q Monica Lewinsky worked in the White House at one time, and regardless of what that relationship with the President might have been, from all reports she admired the President. Is he disappointed now to hear that she refers to him on these tapes as the creep?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I haven't heard the President render any reaction to that, nor do I suspect he would until we are in a position to talk about the matter more further.
Q I was wondering, these allegations are not only embarrassing for the President and the First Lady, but also for their daughter. Has she called, or have they called her to explain what's going on? Does she have any plans to return home or not?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, this is a very close family, and I'm sure they've been in touch. And they've had to deal with painful episodes in the past. And it remains a very close family.
Q Mike, I'm still trying to understand your answer on Gennifer Flowers --
MR. MCCURRY: I can give it -- do you need me to give it to you again?
Q Let me ask a question. Is it your understanding in 1992 that the President admitted or denied an affair with Gennifer Flowers?
MR. MCCURRY: I recall -- I was not, as some of you remember, not exactly there at the time. But I recall him giving an interview, I believe, to 60 Minutes at the time in which he dealt with some of these questions. And I think the President, as I indicated, believes that the answers he gave in 1992 were truthful and the deposition he gave was truthful, and they are not at odds.
Q And what is the truth in that, Mike? Was there an affair, or not? And why can't you tell us?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to go -- because, Scott, very clearly, I'm indicating to you that this has likely been a subject of the deposition. Now, that, given that this court has asked that the participants in that proceeding on Saturday refrain from comment on that deposition, there's very little more that I can tell you about it. So that's why I'm telling you what I'm telling you.
Q In the "60 MInutes" interview -- it's not complicated, Mike -- in the "60 Minutes" interview it's either yes or no.
Q There are reports that senior White House staff observed what they describe as an "obvious crush" by Monica Lewinsky on the President, who was described as trying to insinuate herself in situations where he was.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with Senior White House staffs having that observation.
Q Have you asked around the last couple of days? Does that impression exist? Did she --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't asked around about senior staff perceptions on that particular matter.
Q Mike, in the wake of all this, has the President shifted the text or the actual wording in the State of the Union on Tuesday? And has this created a shift in some of the priorities that came out before --
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. I think the work on the speech has been proceeding. And he's got a pretty -- he's been working from an outline and several drafts that are pretty well developed at this point. And he continues to polish it. Whether or not he will address this matter or not, I have not seen any indication he will, but Tuesday night is a long ways off at this point.
Q Mike, would you care to comment on some assertions by a few folks that may or may not be in the know that Monica Lewinsky was less than stable?
MR. MCCURRY: I have been in every -- every discussion I've been at about the White House, there have been no suggestion of that kind made to me. And I can't imagine anyone in a responsible position at the White House would be making any such assertion. I have heard some expressions of sympathy for what clearly someone who's a young person would be going through at a moment like this. This obviously can't be easy.
Q What about Ms. Tripp?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know her, to be candid.
Q -- as for simple questions, why can't you or the President answer the simple question of whether he knows Ms. Lewinsky?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think he's made it clear that the relationship he had with her was a proper one. She was an intern here, she clearly worked in and around the building. But I can't describe in any great length the nature of the relationship. And I strongly suspect that's something that is going to be pursued by the OIC.
Can we go on to something else? There's very little more else --
Q How about the Kaczynski verdict, does the President have a view on that?
MR. MCCURRY: The President understands that the Justice Department will be making details available on that shortly. I think the President has had a great deal of confidence in the work the Attorney General has done and the prosecution team and the President is confident they will do their best to pursue justice.
Q Mike, has the President consulted with any members of Congress about how it might affect his agenda or any other aspects of it?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule that out. He talks frequently to members of Congress that he has respect for. And I think that that is something he may have done. I haven't had any direct report from them.
Q Mike, on a different subject, over in Northern Ireland Catholics have been killed very frequently in the last few days. The IRA has said that they may pull back on their cessation to violence. Does the White House have any comments on this?
MR. MCCURRY: There had been, I think, if I'm not wrong, eight people now that have been killed in sectarian violence since right at the end of the year. The President condemns these acts of violence and every attack on the peace process, which is fundamentally about the people of Northern Ireland itself. He calls on all people in Northern Ireland to reject violence, to deny support to those who practice it, and to break the vicious cycle of killing that has consumed so much of the emotional will of the people of Northern Ireland.
Now is not the time to surrender to a very tiny, extremist minority opposed to peace and democracy. As to the parties' disposition with respect to the heads of agreement paper that has been prepared by the government of the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland, the President would note that that was jointly developed by the Irish and the British governments and it ought to be used by the parties as a framework for them to have dialogue on their disagreements and to use it as a basis for forming the content and shape of a peace that would mean so much to the people of all Ireland.
Q But, Mike, as a follow-up, in the past, whenever the IRA has had a bomb gone off and they claim responsibility, the White House has been very quick to condemn them. And the White House has not come forward prior to today in making a condemnation of the Catholics that have been picked off like ducks in an arcade.
MR. MCCURRY: We have condemned individually the acts of violence and have reminded all that the commitment to peace is one that ought to include all factions and even all sects, no matter how small the fraction, the minority fraction that is pursuing acts of violence. I would disagree with that. I think if it hasn't been specific condemnations, they were certainly felt and felt strongly by the White House and the administration.
Q Mike, you said that the President had a proper relationship with Monica Lewinsky. So when characterizing that relationship, would you say that the President had a similar relationship with other interns at the White House?
THE PRESIDENT: There are 250 interns and there are different people working in different places, and not all of them --I think only about a third work in the general vicinity of the West Wing, so he doesn't get a chance -- doesn't get an opportunity to encounter all interns.
Q Has the President spoken with Vernon Jordan in the last 48 hours, and how has this strained their friendship?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, Vernon Jordan is and will remain a very close personal friend of his and they talk often. I have no doubt that they've talked in the last several days.
Q Mike, wanting the President to focus on the State of the Union, is it your expectation that the President would try to address this intern issue before Tuesday, so that will not be hanging over the speech Tuesday night? Or do you see him going much longer?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't predict for you and have already indicated I don't have a good answer to the question when the President might want to give the kinds of answers that I believe he wants to give. I think he wants to do it when it's appropriate when he can, but I can't illuminate that further at this point.
Q Did he have lunch with Vice President Gore?
MR. MCCURRY: He did have lunch with the Vice President, yes.
Q Mike, this question on the Flowers case -- with the question, yes or no. Yes or no is the question. Yes or no is a fair question. Can you answer it and, if you can't, can you explain why not?
MR. MCCURRY: I think I've already done that once or twice.
Q You haven't --
MR. MCCURRY: This question has been posed, apparently, to the President in the deposition that was taken on Saturday. I am forbidden by the court from getting into that. And since substantively this may very well have been something that was covered by the deposition, I just decline to do it for my own personal reasons. I, frankly, do not want to go down and have to visit with the judge down in Little Rock.
Q Mike, in 1992, the interview with "60 Minutes" --
Q Without any reference at all to Saturday's deposition, is the President saying that he did not deny in 1992 having had an affair with Gennifer Flowers?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is saying what he told the American public in 1992 was correct and true.
Q And ambiguous, he was ambiguous in 1992, Mike. Are you saying today --
MR. MCCURRY: That's your interpretation. That's your interpretation.
Q Are you saying today that the President is confirming or denying a relationship with Gennifer Flowers?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, I can't hear this woman here.
Q If Monica Lewinsky, in essence, changes her testimony tomorrow by invoking her Fifth Amendment privileges, will that change in any way the way in which the White House is responding to this issue?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't predict what she might do. She has legal counsel, which she is entitled to, and I don't think it's wise for the White House to try to second-guess the legal advice that's been given to parties in any kind of litigation.
Q From your own personal experience, is the President known as a man who tends to give gifts to staff members and senior aides? Have you heard of people generally getting gifts from the President?
MR. MCCURRY: From my own personal experience, yes, he is a gift giver and he gives nice gifts --
MR. MCCURRY: -- parkas -- that's what I got -- ties. The only good ties I have are the ones that Bill Clinton gave me. And he always tells me that they're nice ties. Funny.
Q Mike, do you have any reason to question Linda Tripp's motivation in all of this?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know her and I don't know anything about her --
Q Mike, this story has been tumbling out virtually unfiltered into American living rooms for the last 24 hours --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, do tell. Has it? (Laughter.) You know, I can't even get any information on the Super Bowl. What's going on? (Laughter.)
Q What advice would you give to an American parent who voted for the President, or may not have voted for him -- what should they tell their children about this?
MR. MCCURRY: As anxious as you are to provide answers -- or to report answers, he is anxious to give them. And if the American people will bear with him and give him the time to prepare and to give the answers appropriately when he appropriately can, I think they will be very well satisfied with their President.
Q Mike, why does he need so much time to prepare? Is he having trouble with his memory on this issue?
MR. MCCURRY: Come on, I've answered that. Because there's a significant amount of information that no doubt the independent counsel wants. That has to be assembled, because it's not just one or two questions, it's follow-up questions. You all know, you give one answer, you've then got 10 other questions to go in the next place. So I think that that's -- clearly, we've got to be in the position where we can prepare the answers.
Q Can you give us any idea how Monica Lewinsky managed to obtain this coveted White House internship?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have -- I don't know. I mean, people apply and many of them do have political connections; many of them are sons and daughters of people who are supporters, who volunteer to be here. And it's not uncommon that people have connections when they're here. But her particular circumstances I'm not familiar with.
Q Mike, what went on at the meeting with Arafat this morning that made it desirable for him to come back this afternoon?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he -- I mean, the President had a good opportunity to do almost exactly as he did with Prime Minister Netanyahu -- review all of the issues that are now going to form the framework we believe for a way for the parties to move forward. They clearly talked about the importance of the security of Israel. That is something that is first and foremost on the mind of the Prime Minister, as he has indicated. But I think the President gave the Chairman things to think about with respect to that issue. They talked about the issue of further redeployment. And that is obviously something of deep importance to the Chairman. The President shared his thinking on those matters as well as the other things that we have talked about, including timeouts, including accelerated final status negotiations. And at this point, the Chairman, no doubt, wants to think about and ponder the perspectives and views that the President shared with him.
What we hope to do is to gain some initial reaction. Later in the day the Secretary of State will meet with the Chairman in the afternoon -- later in the afternoon. I will try to bring her here. We haven't heard any -- we were going to try to bring her here around 5:00 p.m. just to give you an update. And then the President, after -- following the Chairman's opportunity to break fast, the President will receive him here at the White House. That will be sometime later on this evening.
But what we want to do, and the purpose of the meetings this week have been to give both of these parties some very serious things to think about as they go back and contemplate the very tough choices they are going to have to make if the process is going to move forward.
Q Are they getting closer to making those hard choices that Secretary Albright hopes --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we hope so. We think we have sharpened their ability to understand what those choices are about and what is meaningful to one party and how it impacts the other party. I think we've done a lot of good work in clarifying and sharpening those choices in the last two days. And the President wants both of these parties now to seize this opportunity and move the process forward. They missed that opportunity in 1997, and it's important to make 1998 a year of progress.
Q Will she brief -- Madeleine Albright?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I'll try to have here back here around 5:00 p.m.
Q Mike, just as the public is eager for reassurances of no improper behavior with Monica Lewinsky, they are also eager for reassurances with respect to Kate Willey, that there wasn't an improper relationship there or an improper gesture by the President.
MR. MCCURRY: They don't know who that is, so I wouldn't make that judgment. But in any event, the President, to the degree that that is something that he needs to address, I'm sure he will want to address it.
Q But you can't address it now? You don't know the facts in that matter? You can't address it now?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't address it beyond what I think Mr. Bennett has said in the past on that matter.
Q Mike, the President's State of the Union address next week. Is it expected to be longer than an hour, and if so, is he doing that in attempts to move the American public back in his corner?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it's about an hour -- an hour works, and that's usually the length of the address.
Q -- the Asian economic crisis is hurting a lot of U.S. businesses overseas and here. What do you --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, precisely for that reason because it is having an impact on enterprises here in the United States, the President thinks it's very important to deal directly and boldly with the regional economic instabilities that have developed. That's why we have worked directly with international financial institutions like the IMF to fashion an appropriate response, and why we have urged on governments in the region to take seriously their obligations under those facilities and to carry forward on the kinds of economic reforms that will lend long-term stability to the economies of the region.
Q Also, Mike, the President has spoken with Chairman Yassir Arafat about wiping out the terrorism before having peace in the region.
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. I think, as I indicated to you, security issues -- and that includes thwarting terrorism -- has been at the top of his list of concerns. The United States has done significant work with the security apparatus of both the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel to get them to cooperate in combating terrorism. And they've had some notable achievements of late -- witness the destruction of some capacity for terrorist attacks and violence that has happened just in recent days.
Q Yes, Mike, Chairman Arafat is going to visit the Holocaust Museum. Speaking of the Holocaust, and I know this story of the Pope has kind of gone into a second level, but yesterday Fidel Castro in his speech welcoming the Pope, accused the United States government of committing a holocaust on the Cuban people because of the embargo. Do you have an official answer?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that does such violence to history and misses what is the central fact of this history of this hemisphere in the second half of this century, that it is the own totalitarian policies of this communist ruler that has caused the suffering that his people now face. And the only way for them to relieve that suffering, and the only way that suffering can be relieved is for Fidel Castro to get on the right side of history and to join with all of those who have broken the yoke of communist command and control economics and have moved toward market economics, democracy and freedom as a basis for allowing people to live out their lives in happiness.
That is the hallmark of our democratic nation and now the hallmark of 34 democratic nations in this hemisphere -- one outlier remaining. And the time in which that kind of peaceful change comes to Cuba, it will bring about democracy, human rights, market economics, is the time in which the people of Cuba can look forward to greater prosperity and greater opportunity to have a higher quality of life.
Q Mike, is it common for administration officials and maybe people close to the President to try to find employment opportunities for young workers, or do you think that there was anything special about the way this worked out?
MR. MCCURRY: It's common. I mean, we all take -- I take seriously my responsibility as a manager to help nurture the careers of people who are here and I've referred people to other agencies all the time. I think you know some of our kids who work here and they've gone off to work at other agencies. It is quite common.
Q What about outside the White House?
Q -- Vernon Jordan?
MR. MCCURRY: Outside as well. Outside as well. I mean, I not long ago referred to a New York public relations agency one of the people who worked here. I mean, that happens all the time because people who care about people want to try to help their careers along. Now, what the specifics related to Monica Lewinsky, I'm not in a position to address that. I can just tell you what -- you asked me what the common practice was. That's the common practice.
Q Have you ever referred people to Vernon Jordan for outside employment?
MR. MCCURRY: I think I probably have, yes. Or I may have asked him to talk to people from time to time because he's -- if I were looking for a job, he's someone that I'd want to talk to. He knows an awful lot of people. (Laughter.) Vernon. (Laughter.) I'm coming at you. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, you said before, you didn't know how she got -- Monica Lewinsky got the internship. Could you take the question of whether Walter Kaye, a New York PR man, who's a close friend of Mrs. Clinton was her sponsor?
MR. MCCURRY: Who was?
Q Walter Kaye, a New York -- a close friend of Mrs. Clinton.
MR. MCCURRY: I'll see if we can get an answer to that.
Q You may have answered this already, but did you say the President had talked to Vernon in the last day or so?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I assume so. I don't have any specific recounting of it, but the President and Vernon talk frequently and I've got to believe they've talked about this matter and other matters in recent days.
Q Can you confirm that Mr. Bennett spent several hours with Mr. Jordan yesterday at his office?
MR. MCCURRY: I cannot, no. You should pose that to either Mr. Bennett or Mr. Jordan.
Q Mike, could you take this opportunity to reconfirm that the President does not record any of his office or telephone conversations?
MR. MCCURRY: That has been -- was asked not long ago in another connection and it was categorically indicated to me he does not. And I have no reason to believe that that situation has changed.
Q You had said that the President and Mr. Arafat had spoken about security issues. Can you tell us, did the President specifically ask Mr. Arafat to do more to fight terrorism, or is he satisfied that the Palestinian Authority is doing enough?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that as we've often indicated, fighting terrorism is something that requires 100 percent effort all the time. And it is also something -- it's also a subject and an area in which there always can be more that can be done. And I think the President did stress to the Chairman the importance of not only meeting the obligations the Palestinian Authority has rendered to the government of Israel, but also to be steadfast, determined and persistent in wiping out the scourge of terrorism from that region. And of course, there are no doubt additional things that can be done.
Q Can I ask -- Vernon Jordan is going to have a news conference at 3:30 p.m. to explain his side of the story. Is this part of some sort of White House --
MR. MCCURRY: That's actually news to me, Wolf. I didn't know that. I think that's the answer to your question. (Laughter.)
Q The question was, there seems to be a new, more assertive strategy that the President signaled this morning. He wants to get all the fact out --
MR. MCCURRY: Good. If that press conference that I didn't know about, maybe it's part of it, so I don't --
Q The President in his interview with NPR yesterday said that if the tobacco settlement fails, that he wouldn't use the budget surplus as a fall back for paying for the child care credit or any other initiatives. Doesn't that put the child care credit or other initiatives on financial --
MR. MCCURRY: That is a reflection of this President's determination to continue to exercise real fiscal discipline on budgetary matters. We are living in a time in this time right now where a lot of people have wild ideas about spending surpluses that don't exist, and the President is determined not to do that. And each and every initiative that the President puts forward will be completely paid for in the context of a balanced budget, and, specifically, the balanced budget agreement that the Congress and President has reached.
That is unlike a lot of others who are proposing things that don't seem to have any way of being paid for. So the answer to the specific question is that we would either have to trim back the child care initiative or we'd have to find additional pay-from elsewhere in the budget. So, one way or another, everything would be fully paid for.
Q Mike, over the last two days we have debated in this room the meaning of proper-improper relationship. Can I ask you specifically --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we are all Talmudic scholars. (Laughter.)
Q Has the President engaged in an extramarital sexual relationship since assuming this office five years ago?
MR. MCCURRY: I am not aware that he has and don't have any basis upon which to answer the question in any more degree of completeness than all the other answers we've given. The President has answered that question I think about as well as can be answered.
Q Mike, outside of the driveway, Mr. Arafat told us that, in terms of further redeployment, he wants another 60 percent of the West Bank, which is far higher than either the Israelis or even American diplomats have been talking about. In discussing this issue of redeployment with the Chairman this morning, did the President ask him to scale back, to be a bit more flexible, more pragmatic on the size and scope of redeployment?
MR. MCCURRY: I think reaching agreements and making progress would be impossible without flexibility, pragmatism, some sense of willingness to bridge differences that exist. Clearly, timing, sequence, scope of FRD is one of the issues that is central now in the dialogue between the Palestinians and Israelis. And, of course, the President would have to encourage both parties to bridge the differences that exist if there is going to be an agreement between the parties.
Q -- the President has reported pushing a specific detailed redeployment plan, maps, the whole thing, or is he acting as a facilitator?
MR. MCCURRY: I think you heard accurately the Secretary of State and others here describe the President's presentations as presenting ideas on all of these fundamental issues to both sides so that they can reflect on it. Are the ideas specific? They're specific enough that the parties can understand, but I don't think that that is the same thing as having maps and plans. If you've ever seen -- and you have seen -- these parties reach agreements about the future of the land that both communities love so dearly, you know how detailed are the agreements that they reach when they finally reach that kind of agreement. And they include maps and annexes and other things. Have we presented that kind of comprehensive approach? No. But we presented sufficiently detailed thinking to both parties that they will now have a lot to think about as they contemplate how they proceed in their dialogue in the days and weeks ahead.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Last question there.
Q Yes. Mike, Monica Lewinsky is described as a fan of the President. Given the President's denial that he has had a relationship --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, forget it. I go with Helen. Thank you. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, why not just fire back? It won't violate the gag order to have her say that the President is right.
END 2:24 P.M. EST