THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
12:50 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good Monday -- what is it? Thursday? Feels like Monday. I haven't been here in a while. When you're having fun, time flies. It feels like a couple days away here. What are you going to do?
Listen, let me start with a couple of housekeeping items. First, the President placed a call to Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada a short while ago. They had a conversation that lasted just over 10 minutes. It was an opportunity, obviously, for the President to consult further with the Prime Minister on the situation in Iraq. The President and the Prime Minister agreed that relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions are very important and that they should be respected; that the government of Iraq's flaunting of those resolutions is not acceptable.
The Prime Minister also congratulated the President on the State of the Union address, which he apparently had either seen part of or had heard a great deal about.
Q When was this?
MR. MCCURRY: Finished just a short while ago. I expect, as I told some of you earlier today, I expect additional calls from the President to some of his counterparts in days ahead.
Q On Iraq?
MR. MCCURRY: On Iraq -- correct.
Q So far, on Iraq, who has he called besides Chretien?
MR. MCCURRY: He's talked to Chancellor Kohl, Prime Minister Blair. I indicated yesterday he anticipates speaking very soon to President Chirac; and of course, the call to Prime Minister Chretien today.
Q Is he trying to build a case for unilateral action?
MR. MCCURRY: He's consulting closely with friends, other members of the Security Council as we consider next steps necessary to respond to what has been the unwillingness of the government of Iraq to meet its international obligations.
Q Is he talking with anyone in the Middle East?
MR. MCCURRY: He has not yet, but as you know, Secretary Albright has concluded meetings in Paris with her French counterpart and plans to see her Russian counterpart shortly, and then I think she will be in the region. I anticipate Secretary Cohen being in the region as well.
Q Will the President address the question of Iraq in his speech at the National Defense University?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Will he advance what he has said previously, including in the State of the Union?
MR. MCCURRY: I expect him to reiterate the very strong passage he had in the State of the Union address.
Q He will not go beyond that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe at this time the President wants to add to what was obviously a very clear and unmistakable statement Tuesday night. We now have very high-level diplomacy, obviously, in place, and at work to further our own views.
Q No ultimatum today?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not -- that's not the forum that the President plans to advance the story at this point.
Q How much support is he getting?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think we have very strong support in the Security Council across the board for clear admonitions to the government of Iraq to meet its obligations. And that's been stated by governments both within the Security Council and other governments.
Q My question is, how much support is he getting for an aggressive action?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President hasn't made a decision with respect to use of force, but he clearly is discussing what options are available with others, and so are our senior diplomats.
Q Will you please tell us for purposes of the official transcript whether the White House can confirm these reports that Monica Lewinsky --
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, I'll come back. Let's do that after --
Q Do you have something for this?
MR. MCCURRY: I've got a couple of other housekeeping items. Stay on Iraq, yes.
Q What about Yeltsin? Does he anticipate talking to him?
MR. MCCURRY: I would not rule out that. I'm a little more certain that he will talk to President Chirac soon, but I wouldn't rule out that he will talk to President Yeltsin as well.
Q Did the President tape a Voice of America address to the people of Iran urging cultural exchanges?
MR. MCCURRY: Have we given out that passage yet? I can tell you more about it. He did. This is the President's annual statement on the occasion of the Id which is, of course, the end of Ramadan. He did express to the people of Iran his personal view that the United States regrets the estrangement of our two peoples and our two nations. Iran is a country, the President believes, that has a rich and ancient heritage of which the people of Iran are justifiably proud. We have got some real differences obviously with the government of Iran, but the President believes that those differences are not insurmountable and he hopes that more exchanges between our peoples will bring the day that we can enjoy again good relations with Iran and with its people.
Q Basically, he's accepting President Khatami's proposal for these kinds of cultural exchanges?
MR. MCCURRY: The President recognizes and appreciates the new tone that President Khatami has set with some of his public comments. We have repeatedly noted -- the U.S. government has noted and I think that the American people have noted -- that we do not have differences directly with the people of Iran, but we do have differences with respect to the policies of Iran's government. I'm not aware that we have formally agreed to any exchange, but I think the President is indicating to the people of Iran in this statement that those kinds of exchanges could be fruitful.
Q That was on the Voice of America?
MR. MCCURRY: This is the annual message that he prepares that is distributed both by -- or reported on by the Voice of America and distributed by USIA's Worldnet.
Q Mike, a few months ago, Foreign Minister Primakov made the usual rounds -- in what was supposed to be a diplomatic solution, but Saddam Hussein kicked out the American inspectors, all kinds of problems. It seems that Prime Minister Primakov is doing the same thing. Ms. Albright is on her way to meet all the foreign leaders. Is there any way the U.S. will accept a solution from Primakov at this time?
MR. MCCURRY: It's not a solution by any individual government that we seek, it's the willingness of the government of Iraq to meet its international obligations, to allow the inspections to take place that are necessary to determine the extent and capacity of his programs in weapons of mass destruction. And it's Iraq's obstinacy when it comes to those inspections that is now the purpose of international diplomacy. And we certainly hope and expect that any diplomacy undertaken by members of the Security Council will be directed at conveying that very strong message to the government of Iraq. We have no reason to believe that the Russian Federation has communicated any message than that.
Q Mike, on Russia and Iraq, is the United States making any progress -- and China, too -- on persuading its allies that force might be possible in Iraq or a military strike might be possible, those who have been most resistant to that in the past?
MR. MCCURRY: I again stress to you that the President has not made any decision on use of force, so our consultations are about the situation that we are in, the extent to which diplomacy may or may not bear fruit, and the degree to which diplomacy is increasingly running out of string, thus bringing the need for other options to at least be in focus as these consultations occur. I don't know that I would describe the purpose of our diplomacy at this point to be to convince other governments of a certain course of action, but it's certainly designed to explore the kind of action that is necessary if we are going to achieve the objectives that we have.
Q When do you expect the President to make a decision on this?
MR. MCCURRY: I expect the President to continue to participate in the kind of diplomacy I've described to you and I expect him to await reports in the very near future from his two Secretaries who will be consulting on this matter, and perhaps from Ambassador Richardson who will pursue his conversations as well.
Q Well, Mike, are you trying to give the impression that the President is searching for some diplomatic solution to avoid military conflict?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that it's clear the United States government is consulting on the utility of diplomacy at this point, and whether or not, through diplomacy, we can achieve the objectives that we have.
Q Can we turn to the other matter?
MR. MCCURRY: One more, Bill, and then we can.
I'm doing this on behalf of Larry Haas, probably his last official act at OMB before going to work for the Vice President. But just so we have on the record so that people will see it, since we have confusion about this every year, what to do on Monday if you're interested in getting a copy of the Federal Budget.
On Monday, OMB will release the President's budget for the Fiscal Year 1999. Distribution to members of the press will be only to those who display official press credentials, and that will occur between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on Monday, February 2nd, at the Government Printing Office.
OMB will provide one free copy of each of the five budget documents that we make available every year; in other words, one free copy per news organization. And members of the press may purchase additional copies of the budget documents as well. I think they're restricted to purchasing one additional if I understood correctly from Larry.
Everyone knows where GPO is. If you don't, it's down on 710 North Capital Street. The five documents that we put out in connection with the budget range from the budget itself to the explanatory materials, the analytical perspectives, the historical tables, so forth, ranging in price from $62 for the big banana, the appendix; and $2.50 for the very user-friendly Citizen's Guide to the Federal Budget.
And in addition, the documents are going to be available on the Internet at 8:00 a.m. And if you want more information on the Internet site and how to access it, please call 202-512-1530; toll free, 888-293-6498.
Q I'd like to renew the question then so we can get an answer on the official transcript. What is the President's comment, or your comment, to these reports that he met with Monica Lewinsky on December 28th here in the White House to discuss her possible testimony?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has made very clear that in answer to questions on this matter, that he has not told anyone to lie about this matter, and he's made it very clear that he had no sexual relations with this woman.
Q But that is not my question, Mike. Did he meet with Monica Lewinsky?
MR. MCCURRY: You've heard me on this subject in the past several days. I'm not going to piecemeal respond to questions that have been raised.
Q It's a legitimate question, do you not agree?
MR. MCCURRY: And on that specific question, I don't have anything from the Counsel's Office that I can provide.
Q Let me ask you this. Monica Lewinsky left the White House employ in April of 1996, and yet we have WAVES records which show that she was here on repeated occasions between then and late last year, including, apparently, December 28th. Why was she allowed to keep coming back if she had been removed from here?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not have any such WAVES records, and if CBS News has them you can report on them. But I don't have those records.
Q If I could just -- I know I'm a visitor, but let me throw this out to you --
MR. MCCURRY: Welcome.
Q If the meeting did not take place, the logs would reveal that. Releasing the logs would give us the answer. If it did take place, it obviously begs the question again of the President's relation with Miss Lewinsky.
MR. MCCURRY: Again, I think Sam had asked me, I think only intended to ask me once -- but I'll repeat it for the record that we are not in a piecemeal fashion going to try to respond to each and every story that arises on this matter. There are no doubt going to be many, many stories in days and weeks ahead, and the Counsel's Office elects to provide the President the opportunity to respond to these types of questions in the proper forum. The proper forum which exists at this point now is an inquiry by the Office of Independent Counsel and whatever other legal venues are available.
Q Will it concern you if there is a story, a lot of stories that say you're stonewalling?
MR. MCCURRY: Not if we are rallying around the Arkansan the way the Confederacy rallied around the Virginians at Bull Run.
Q The Confederacy lost. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: At that battle, Sam, they did not.
Q Well, Mike, does the President not feel that by not providing information he is doing himself a disservice if, in fact, he has a story that will clear all this up?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President has asked of the American people the opportunity to address these matters in the proper forum, and I think he is encouraged that the American people will give him that opportunity.
Q Isn't the court of public opinion a proper forum to discuss these matters?
MR. MCCURRY: The court of public opinion we hope will rely on facts and truth that is developed through reasonable examination, cross-examination, provision of testimony. And we've already seen examples how sometimes allegations, suggestions, leads can out-run the capacity to develop facts.
Q Mike, if you don't want us to rely on leaks, then do you expect us to wait until there is perhaps a trial before we see the WAVES records?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I just expect you to do what good news organizations would reasonably do, which is to report as accurately as you can based on factual information that you know.
Q How can we if we don't have this information?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think you all know the constraint that I'm laboring under here, and I don't want to belabor the pain and anguish I feel.
Q This isn't a personal thing. We're not --
MR. MCCURRY: I know, I know. But I mean --
Q -- impugning your personal integrity.
MR. MCCURRY: I know. I understand that, Sam. I'm just saying that this -- the judgment is that there has to be a proper forum in which you can bring out and present truth, and we can't do it in a fashion in which we are responding to a cascade of allegations and stories and developments that -- and sources that are anonymous --
Q Well, let me ask you this, Mike. The President himself said the other day that he would speak to the American people about this at the proper time. The First Lady in her first television interview said that he would do the same thing. In her second television interview she said, you won't be hearing anymore from him, from my husband. And we're not hearing anymore from you.
MR. MCCURRY: We all saw that, I think, and I know that you know that I addressed all this yesterday. So I think I'll go back to my transcript yesterday.
Q But, Mike, if on one hand you don't want to present a piecemeal explanation, at what point do you give a complete, overall view?
MR. MCCURRY: Again, you've asked me this several times the last couple of days, and I think I gave you a good answer, and I'll go back to the transcript.
Q Without answering the question whether or not --
Q But you know the questions will keep coming.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, of course they will. And we will just spend endless time trying to deal with endless questions. And I'm not going to be able to do that.
Q -- doesn't serve your purpose well, does it?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm just not going to be able to do that.
Q Without answering the question, did the President meet with Monica Lewinsky or not on December 28, can you tell us, do you know the answer to the question, yes or no?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know the answer to the question.
Q Does White House counsel know the answer to the question?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know whether they know the answer. I would presume so because they must have reviewed the material, any material that they would provide responsive to the requests of the independent counsel.
Q But help us understand, Mike, why that's such a sensitive, such a difficult question to ask. Did he have a meeting with her, or didn't he?
MR. MCCURRY: You know it's not a difficult question to answer, yes or no, what happened on a particular day. That's not it. It's like, well, then what -- if you would be satisfied that I could answer that -- if you would let me answer that one question and not have any follow-ups, that would be a different matter. I just don't think you're ever going to be in that position.
Q Okay, no follow-ups. (Laughter.)
Q If we agree --
Q She speaks for herself. (Laughter.)
Q It's a deal.
MR. MCCURRY: Apparently, someone in the White House did anonymously answer the question. But I'm not in a position to do it and I will tell you, I do not know the answer.
Q You keep saying that you're constrained. I don't understand what you're constrained by.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, well, David, you asked me that a lot yesterday and I answered as best I could. I can't do it better than I did yesterday.
Q Why is the Clinton administration weighing protecting Secret Service agents from potentially testifying in this case?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to ask that you direct that question to the Secret Service. I don't know exactly the reason why. I've seen some reporting from -- reporting on that subject, but the White House itself has not taken any formal position with respect to what position the Treasury or the Secret Service should take on that matter. We have always -- and you've heard me before say this -- deferred to the judgment of those who are professionally responsible for protecting the President when they look at the technical and specific questions related to what kind of security they provide and what kind of environment they need to provide the most effective security.
Q May I just follow? Do you feel that it would compromise their ability to protect the President if they're exposed to this sort of testimony?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not an expert on that and I think they are in the best position to address that.
Q Has the President invoked executive privilege in response to any of the subpoenas from Mr. Starr?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not heard of any request from the independent counsel that has engendered any discussion of executive privilege by counsel.
Q Mike, I understand you don't want to tell us about the exact nature of the relationship between the President and Lewinsky, can you tell us what the relationship was between Lewinsky and Betty Currie?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm just not going to characterize things that might properly be under the venue or the purview of the independent counsel.
Q Mike, the President's attorney asked to push up the Jones' trial. Starr today has asked more or less for it to be delayed indefinitely because he claims that discovery is interfering with his investigation. Do you have reaction to his moves today that counter yours?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know indeed for a fact that he has done that, but in any event that would, I suspect, be a matter that would be adjudicated before the judge in that case and I would leave it to the parties in that litigation to express their views.
Q Mike, do you wish to dispute any of the facts reported today by The New York Times and Washington Post?
MR. MCCURRY: I've already indicated I don't have anything for you on either of the stories.
Q I'm Jeremy Thompson from Sky News.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, welcome, nice to have you here today.
Q Thank you very much. British Prime Minister Blair is visiting the President next week. I wondered how much the President is looking forward to that and how concerned he might be that these allegations could prove a distraction and undermine the value of that visit?
MR. MCCURRY: There will be tremendous high value in that visit for a number of reason. First and foremost, the President enjoys a very close working relationship with the Prime Minister. Second, we are pursuing at this time a number of very important matters with the government of the United Kingdom, including how we respond to the situation in Iraq, how we make further plans for developing a deep peace in Bosnia, how we address all the questions related to the future of NATO that you heard the President talk about in his State of the Union address the other night.
The President and the Prime Minister have been directly engaged by telephone just in the last several days on the question of Northern Ireland. And by the way, on that, we welcome the British government's announcement today establishing an official communication to make an independent inquiry into the circumstances of Bloody Sunday, the terrible tragedy that took place, as I think many of you recall, 26 years ago.
This is an important and timely initiative to come to terms with the past and to help the people of Northern Ireland look to the future and to the reconciliation that they seek as they now negotiate the terms of a peace that we hope will bring an end to the troubles and bring those peoples the peace they fervently desire. The President's work with the Prime Minister on that issue alone is one example of the kind of partnership that they have developed, and that will be something that they will explore at length when they meet next week.
But they will also discuss personally what goes on and the situations that they both encounter as they provide effective leadership to their peoples. And as the statement I just read indicates, we have -- the President has a great deal of admiration for the political courage of Prime Minister Blair. This inquiry that he has launched is something that I think was no doubt difficult to do and speaks to his devotion to the peace process and his determination to advance that peace process forward. And I suspect very much the Prime Minister will want to talk to the President about the President's situation. I'd be surprised if he didn't.
Q Mike, I know this issue pales in significance, but the First Lady and Frank Raines are going to talk about the District today at 2:00 p.m. They're going to provide some economic help. But there has been a denial of democratic rights or a usurpation of democratic rights by legislation by the Republican-controlled Congress. Is the President ever going to speak to the restoration of democracy in the District of Columbia, or is it just going to be more money every year?
MR. MCCURRY: He no doubt will and I would not be surprised that today when the First Lady and when Director Raines and others talk about the type of assistance that will be available from the federal government for the District, they'll talk about the fundamental right that the citizens of the District have to democratic representation.
Q But will that be followed up with pieces of legislation or with contact with Mr. Faircloth or Mr. Taylor in terms of -- or the Speaker in terms of -- is this administration, I guess what I'm saying, going to introduce legislation that will rectify what happens this summer --
MR. MCCURRY: I would have to look further and see if that is something, in fact, that the administration is exploring. I have not heard that. But I will say one thing, that that the type of assistance that we are providing and the initiatives the President will propose with respect to the District of Columbia are designed to get this city in the shape that the President suggested it should be in Tuesday night, and get this city in a position where it can manage its fiscal affairs prudently and wisely, and restore the kind of sense of responsibility that people expect of the leadership of the District so that it can have the full-fledged democratic rights to which the citizens of the District are truly entitled.
I think these are not disconnected issues. I think that, in fact, making sure that the District can thrive economically is part of the equation of restoring a sense of democracy and purpose to the governance of the District.
Q Mike, the campaign finance investigation was and is an ongoing criminal grand jury investigation. Yet you folks released piecemeal a lot of White House records in that case. Can you explain why you didn't feel similarly constrained then as you do now?
MR. MCCURRY: Because they are two different situations. In the case of the campaign finance discussions, there were ongoing procedures on Capitol Hill. There were, I think, fairly combative hearings that were being held in the Senate and then in the House. I mean, it's an entirely different situation, as is probably obvious to you.
Q Mike, what you're saying, though, is that the criminal investigation is what's constraining you. And the question is, if the criminal investigation is constraining you now, why didn't it concern you before?
MR. MCCURRY: David, that's not what I'm saying. And what I said on that subject, as I told you a moment ago, I told you yesterday.
Q Charlie Trie has been in town --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any reaction to that. The Justice Department has just issued a statement.
Q Mike, on the issue of Iraq, has the President considered any kind of address to the nation on the issues involved?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President, of course, addressed the nation on Tuesday night and made very clear our intent and objective with respect to Iraq and what we seek in terms of our overall objectives. We want to thwart Iraq's capacity to develop and use weapons of mass destruction. We want to limit Saddam Hussein's ability to project force and to threaten his neighbors. That will remain the President's objectives as he pursues diplomacy. It will remain his objective as he speaks, as he will today, about what next steps we must consider and contemplate. And at any appropriate time, if the President, as Command-in-Chief, deems necessary, I'm sure he'll want to take his case to the American people.
Q I wonder, Mike, if you'd care to comment on the story in today's Washington Post about these very graphic allegations involving Kathleen Willey and the President.
MR. MCCURRY: I do not.
Q Vernon Jordan has been subpoenaed in this matter and it may be that the President will eventually be asked to give some testimony. In light of that, has the President and Vernon Jordan continued to talk about this matter with each other? Is it proper for them to do so?
MR. MCCURRY: I know that they are very close friends and they talk from time to time, but the subject of their discussions I do not know.
Q Well, do think -- would you take the question of the President's -- whether it's proper under the circumstances to continue to discuss this matter with Vernon Jordan?
MR. MCCURRY: That's an entirely hypothetical question that I will not take.
Q Well, not at all.
MR. MCCURRY: Mike, despite the President's -- the controversy around the President, his poll ratings continue to rise to record levels. Why do you think that's so?
MR. MCCURRY: I think in part because he gave a great speech Tuesday night and poll numbers, I think, are very elastic in responding to whatever stimuli come along. But I also think that the American people have thought very clearly about this and heard a lot about it in the last couple days and I think that they think the President deserves some opportunity to present his argument in the fashion that will allow the truth to prevail and to emerge.
Q How do you think that will be done? How will it be done eventually? Through his lawyers? How will it be done?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I have no better answer to that then the dozen or so times you've asked in the last couple of days.
Q Mike, let me follow that if I could.
Q Mike, to what extent, following up on Susan's question, what extent are -- is your handling of this whole situation driven by poll numbers?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think -- I don't understand the question I guess.
Q Well, to what extent are your decisions about responding to our questions and how the President will ultimately respond, as he said, sooner rather than later, with more rather than fewer answers, driven by what you're reading in the polls?
MR. MCCURRY: Very little, if you judge what I read about all the internal deliberations between the political people and the legal people at the White House.
Q Is that true?
Q The poll numbers also show, Mike, that over the past week or so, the percentage of people believing the allegations has declined somewhat. I wonder --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that to be a fact. If you -- is that true? Anyone else -- I'm not sure that's true. That is true? Good. But anyhow, the point --
Q What they seem to show is the percentage of people who say it doesn't matter if he's had a sexual relationship with this young woman has risen.
MR. MCCURRY: I guest the percentage of people who believe me, I hope, has remained steady. The percentage of people interested in hearing me has surely declined. (Laughter.)
Q You've told us very carefully that you don't know things. You have made it clear that you are out of the loop.
MR. MCCURRY: I am out of the loop. I'm not even sure --
Q Which may be the best position for you to be in --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not even sure on this matter there is a loop.
Q Mike, you had an abortion clinic bombing in Birmingham this morning. Last year, there was a bombing of a clinic in Atlanta. That crime is still unsolved. The two may have nothing to do with one another but does the President feel it's time to step the federal investigation of these crimes?
MR. MCCURRY: The President will have a statement shortly that will strongly -- it is already? Okay. So, he obviously has strongly condemned the violence that occurred. He thinks that this bombing is an unforgivable act that strikes at the heart of the constitutional freedoms and individual liberties that all Americans hold dear and that are protected.
Very clearly, one of the reasons that he signed into law legislation that makes it a federal crime to interfere with a woman exercising her constitutional right to visit a women's health center is so that the full weight of federal law enforcement can be brought in an effective way when a situation arises in which that is called for or entertained or agreed to by federal law enforcement officials, working in close cooperation with state and local officials. And, indeed, federal agents are already in Birmingham to assist local law enforcement officials there to make sure that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice.
Q Mike, several times from this podium you've been very critical of the President's opponents for alleging conspiracies on any number of topics, from Vince Foster to the Mena airport, on the basis of innuendo and without evidence or facts. Why is it different than the President and First Lady alleging a right wing conspiracy, so far on the basis of no facts?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that there are some facts and some of them have been reported even in your newspaper about sequence of events and things have come up.
Q But you didn't articulate any and you declined to articulate any yesterday when we asked you on that.
MR. MCCURRY: I think you actually carried a very good story yesterday on exactly that subject.
Q Mike, can you explain. A sequence of events and a conspiracy are two different things.
MR. MCCURRY: They had a good story on it, and if you have a copy, I'll provide you one.
Q He's asking you, Mike. That's a fair question.
Q I mean, the question is that you've condemned people for making statements on the basis of innuendo. And she alleged a very specific right-wing conspiracy, not just with opponents, but specifically with Ken Starr, but presented no evidence for that.
MR. MCCURRY: You all have reported in recent days on the chain and sequence of events that brought some of these allegations to light. I think that's pretty clear record.
Q Is that what a conspiracy is -- a sequence of events, when two people in a situation might know each other? That's a conspiracy?
MR. MCCURRY: I think when people -- that story would, I think, would have been very well reported in the last couple of days about how things have come about.
Q -- what a conspiracy is.
Q But you say you disbelieve some of our reports? Are you saying you believe these reports?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure, why not.
Q You said that you're out of the loop. Who is in the loop to speak to the public?
MR. MCCURRY: There is not a loop available for us to use to respond to these questions. And I think that's pretty clear. And I think that if there was -- if there was going to be that loop, I would be in it. But I think ultimately, people want to hear from the President on this. And the President is not a position to do that now, so we play bust the pinata up here every day.
Q A serious question. You talk about your own pain and anguish. Is this an uncomfortable situation where you would like to say more?
MR. MCCURRY: You obviously know the answer to that.
Q What is it?
Q You talk about a loop that is not available for us to talk to right now. Can you give us any sense if there are any more people joining that loop, people the President used to deal with and is now bringing in but we haven't yet mentioned?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I am only aware that he has retained Mickey Kantor, but we told you about that over the weekend. I'm not aware that he has formally added anyone else to his legal team.
Q What about Harry Thomason, how can he talk to the President without being in danger of having every conversation subpoenaed?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what kind of conversations he's had. He's the President's friend and he's been here in recent days, but I don't know what they've talked about.
Q Mike, on the relationship -- the question of the relationship between Ms. Lewinsky and Betty Currie, can you at least say that they had some sort of relationship?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know the answer to that. I don't know what kind of relationship they had.
Q Do they know each other?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know.
Q Mike, Governor Romer last night said that the DNC plans to depend a lot more heavily on Gore between now and midterms. Is there any similar plan at the White House to put Gore forward a little more?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he's going to start doing the daily briefing. It's very good. (Laughter.)
Q Do you like the way he's shouting?
MR. MCCURRY: He's going to do that. Actually, I wish he'd -- maybe he'd come down here and say, come stand by Mike McCurry. (Laughter.)
Q I thought the boy was on speed last night.
MR. MCCURRY: Sam. You know our view on that kind of --
Q Well, he was energetic.
Q On occasion, the counsel here, Mr. Ruff, has been in touch with some of the President's personal attorneys. Are those conversations privileged in a client-attorney relationship, or are Mr. Ruff's conversations not subject to any kind of privilege?
MR. MCCURRY: Ann, that's a question that I'll ask Mr. Lockhart -- I'll take that question and ask Mr. Lockhart to pursue that. There has clearly been litigation in front of the courts on exactly that kind of question. I know Chuck Ruff to be a superb attorney and I know that he has worked hard under difficult circumstances on this issue, and I'm sure that whatever work he's done is consistent with his obligations under law and consistent with the desire of the President's other attorneys to protect the privilege rights and the President has as a client and as an individual. But how exactly that is done and what their legal interpretation is is a question I don't want to haphazard a guess at.
Q Mike, you say that people want to hear from the President. Given this ongoing criminal investigation, can you envision the President being able to talk to the American people until that's over?
MR. MCCURRY: The way this thing is eight days into this story, and if you had asked me nine days ago would we be sitting here talking about this today, it would have been impossible to imagine. So I think it is equally impossible to imagine how things will unfold in coming days and weeks.
Q -- have a press conference?
Q Yes, that's my question. Are you still going to have a full-fledged press conference with Tony Blair?
MR. MCCURRY: I am. But I think that you can all easily imagine that the President is not going to entertain questions on this subject and not going to be able to provide you with many answers if you want to persist in asking.
Q Wendell spoke of the numbers of people believing the President going up. Also the numbers of people who think that the media has done a poor job or is covering this too much, that's also gone up, too. Is that part of the White House strategy, to be critical of the media --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Part of the White House strategy is to have me come out here every single day and bore people senseless with the answers that I give on this matter. (Laughter.)
Q You're not boring us.
Q No, this is very enlightening. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I think that people make their judgments based on what they think is right and what they think is fair, and I'll leave it to them to decide how you're doing your job.
Q Mike, the President could come out and say, I did not meet with Monica Lewinsky on December 28. He could end it.
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, that would not end it, and you know that wouldn't end it. That's disingenuous to say that.
Q People would have his word.
Q This notion that we're all going to stand up and ask him all these questions next Wednesday or whenever the press conference with Blair is, and he's going to say over and over again, I never told anyone to lie, I never had improper sexual relations and that's going to -- it's like name, rank and serial number. Is that going to be -- how is that going to be helpful?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it will be of necessity if all the things given that I answered our friend from across the way about what they are going to talk about at this meeting and if you want to persist in asking questions that you know at the beginning of the news conference he's not going to be able to answer, I think the question about why the public has some of these concerns about the press might present themselves.
Q Mike, his refusal to answer questions doesn't mean that he can't answer them.
MR. MCCURRY: You're right, he can't -- if he believes that he can't answer them and then is in a position where he does not answer them or refuses to answer them, they are not necessarily the same, but they are clearly directly connected.
Q Mike, the last couple of times the President has had bilateral news conferences in order to keep it from being swamped with sort of scandal-related questions -- I'm thinking in Brazil and actually when he was in London with Tony Blair the last time -- he's come out trying to clear the air a little bit so that he doesn't have the sort of spectacle of side-by-side --
MR. MCCURRY: Why did you have to remind me of that painful memory?
Q It's seared in my own memory.
MR. MCCURRY: It clearly didn't work when we tried to do it, so I doubt we'll try that again.
Q Well, now, wait a minute. You've had time to refine it. You could try -- (laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I could try to do a little better the next time around? It didn't work -- let's put it that way.
Q It did work with Blair the last time.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it didn't work and I can't imagine it would work in these circumstances.
Q You're right, it won't work this time. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: That's right. Thank you, Sam. I'll stipulate that -- that went in the record -- it's D-O-N-A-L-D --
Q How is Ms. Currie bearing up?
MR. MCCURRY: She's an extraordinarily fine person and I think as she was swarmed the other day, you saw how she looked, and she looked awfully frightened at that moment.
Q Is she back on the job?
Q Is she at work?
MR. MCCURRY: She's a decent person who didn't deserve to be in a position where she was frightened.
Q Is she back at work?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Mike, how does the obviously enthusiastic response the President got yesterday, how will you factor that into deciding whether or not -- how many questions to answer, when to answer them? Does it tell you that stonewalling, while it may not work, is uncomfortable here --
MR. MCCURRY: If I could illuminate any of that, I would. It's kind of -- I can't illuminate that right now.
Q Did it give you any clues?
MR. MCCURRY: Any clues as to what?
Q As to what the public wants to know, what the public is demanding to know, whether or not we represent the public's interest or not.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think that one speech in middle America or in Wisconsin tells you a whole lot about things like that. I think you have to use the best judgment that you can bring at the time and move on.
Q Mike, are you considering limiting your daily briefings?
MR. MCCURRY: Limiting in what fashion? Clearly, not. (Laughter.)
Q Like not having them every day?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I mean, I've got to be here. There are days where we don't do briefings, when we've got something like a State of the Union address or something. But I show up here pretty regularly, regardless of the circumstances. That's fair to say, right?
Q What's the President's view of the Air Force pilot yesterday who ran into the mud? (Laughter.) No, seriously.
MR. MCCURRY: He's got an enormous amount of respect for those folks. And that particular episode, why it happened, it didn't bother the President and I suspect that the crew involved feel worse about it than the President does, to be sure.
Q The President did get big and friendly crowds yesterday when he was on the road. Do you think he's going to choose to go on the road again?
MR. MCCURRY: Of course. Look, we travel a lot. This President has been out on the road and out in the country more so than some of his predecessors, I believe. Is that right, Helen? That's fair to say.
Q Quite a bit.
MR. MCCURRY: Quite a bit. And I suspect he will in the future, necessarily constrained by the extensive foreign travel schedule we have this year. But I wouldn't be surprised if, for example, when we do something like unveil our budget he then goes out and speaks to it on the road. But it's not going to be any different than it would have been this time last year, in which we did much the same kind of thing. We get out and try to talk to Americans.
Q Monday, Tuesday? In other words, the budget is Monday, right?
MR. MCCURRY: That was a hint that I dropped.
Q Right. But where is he going on Monday or Tuesday?
MR. MCCURRY: It's always good to let a little rabbit out that people can chase. You will be especially happy at where he's going.
Q Tucumcari, New Mexico? Roswell?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say a thing. No, we don't need to go there because we were in the flying saucer yesterday. (Laughter.)
Q -- a question on presidential travels. A lot of the travels we've had the pleasure of making over the last year have been for campaign dinners, where the President was raising money for various candidates. Are we going to have a lot of these in the future, or are those diminished now because the President's --
MR. MCCURRY: I suspect we will have a lot of them. I haven't heard of any change in our plans. At the same time, I don't know what the specific -- they were projecting ahead several months, a day here, a day there, in which we were going to be taking some outside trips for that purpose. But I haven't heard of any --
Q There's not a decline in interest of --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I haven't heard of any change. I think Chairman Grossman was reporting on some of that today. You might want to give him a call.
Q Mike, on travel, is the Africa trip still on?
MR. MCCURRY: Did we ever announce it?
Q Yes, you did.
MR. MCCURRY: We finally did? All right. Yes.
Q Mike, I didn't understand your question to Wendell a bit back. Charlie Trie was one of the President's closest personal friends, gave a lot of money that had to be returned to his legal defense fund. Are you saying the President had no reaction to his indictment?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying that he has been indicted. That has just been announced in a statement by the Justice Department, and the White House will defer a comment because it is now a legal proceeding and the Justice Department statement will speak for itself.
Q Mike, do you have any more on the substance and the format of the Blair trip? Will there be a Camp David aspect to this thing? And will there also be discussion with Blair as the President of the European Union?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have all of the elements that I can specify at this point. I can tell you that they plan to spend a significant quantity of time together. Clearly, it's the arrival, the meetings they will have, the dinner that they have the night before -- Thursday night -- and obviously they plan to speak to all of you on Friday. And I suspect, given how closely they work together, they will try to find some other settings in which they can spend time.
But we are working hard with the Embassy in developing a proper program that we can publicly release, and when I can do so I shall consult with the Prime Minister's official spokesman, the PMOS, and see if we can coordinate our statements. Mine will be in the name of the official White House spokesman.
Let me do a couple more. You guys can leave any time, like an hour ago.
Q Now that Congress is back, is there any plan for the President to meet with the Democratic leaders, either on the Hill or here?
MR. MCCURRY: Not in the immediate future, but certainly we will be working up an agenda with them. I wouldn't be surprised if they get together sometime relatively soon.
Q A related question -- is there any effort by the President or by his aides to consult with Democrats on the Hill to make sure they feel informed about his side of this controversy and remain supportive?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I think there is a strong desire to consult with them, but I think that the folks who work on that are as necessarily constrained as I am in some respects. So I don't know that it's entirely satisfactory for those on the Hill, because they're not in any better position to get information that they seek than many of you.
Q Are you urging congressional Democrats not to jump to conclusions, not to come out against the President?
MR. MCCURRY: Of course. And I think that they have now seen that is -- I think it's fair to say that is a predominate attitude of the American people, apparently, and I think that that will give members of Congress some comfort, that they can wait for the proper settings in which the truth can be presented.
Q Two minutes ago you said that the President probably would discuss these difficulties with the Prime Minister when he's here. If he does, why doesn't he talk to the American people about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I would suggest that would be done in more of a personal way, but not in any great explication of detail, which is what I think you're most interested in. I don't think you're interested in emotive pronunciations.
Q Well, wait a minute. What would he talk to the Prime Minister about?
MR. MCCURRY: If they talk about this, I'm sure we'll give you a splendid readout at the proper time.
Q The Prime Minister couldn't be subpoenaed, could he, if it's not a privileged conversation? (Laughter).
Q Thank you, thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Boy, that is a question for the State Department Office of Legal Advisor.
END 1:32 P.M. EST