THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:58 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, Wolf. Anything else? You were saying a lot more than I'm going to say, so they should have just let you keep going. It's Friday. Good Friday.
Let me do a couple housekeeping items here. First, the President -- I indicated this morning to you that the President was -- what are these guys taking pictures of? The President was going to do some foreign policy work this morning. He did in fact call President Chirac, a half-hour phone call focusing almost entirely on the situation in Iraq. The President also, by the way, extended his sympathies for the loss of life due to the avalanche in the French Alps on the 23rd.
The two presidents agreed that the situation with respect to the status of U.N. mandates in Iraq is a serious one now, and they agreed that they needed to continue to consult closely and our governments needed to consult closely as we contemplate additional steps. The President said that it was clear that the time for diplomatic solutions was quickly running out. And the two presidents obviously reviewed what additional steps might be necessary as we address the situation.
Q Is there any more thought as to whether any sort of consultations with Yeltsin would be productive at this point?
MR. MCCURRY: I will defer to Secretary Albright's meeting that she has just completed with Foreign Minister Primakov. They have just met. They've shared their perspectives. I think it's safe to say the Russian Federation has a slightly different take on the situation, but what governments are agreeing about is the importance of the Security Council mandates being met, and I think all agree that we should continue to aggressively push for compliance by the government of Iraq.
Q You still have no position on whether Secret Service agents should be subpoenaed and testify?
MR. MCCURRY: That's my understanding, that we have not attempted to put a White House view into that question. The Treasury Department and the Secret Service itself is in the best position to address that.
Q Mike, did Chirac -- getting back to the Iraq situation, did Chirac indicate any willingness to lend any military support, any added French military support?
MR. MCCURRY: Peter, I don't think it would be proper for me to reflect a view on behalf of the French President or the French government. I will say that, if you saw Secretary Albright and Foreign Minister Vedrine's readout of their dinner last night in Paris, it was quite clear that the French government is now saying that additional options are not ruled out. And I think that's a significant statement.
Q You know that Linda Tripp has issued a statement claiming that she overheard Monica Lewinsky talking to someone that Monica Lewinsky told her was the President about 2:00 a.m. Did the President talk to --
MR. MCCURRY: I know that she issued some kind of statement, but I'll let that statement go without a comment from here.
Q May I just follow up? Are all of the President's phone calls from the White House compound on logs, or does he have the ability to use a telephone that there's no record about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that, Sam. I believe they keep pretty extensive records, and records have been sought in connection with other matters. But that I'd have to check to get a complete answer on that.
Q Would you?
MR. MCCURRY: I will see if there's any other --
Q On Iraq, do you know what persuaded Chirac to take a harder line on Iraq that he's been doing now?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- I can't speak to the decision-making process or the views that the French government would develop. But I think increasingly governments on the Security Council are very concerned about the lack of compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. I think that they are increasingly worried that there is an attempt by the government of Iraq to conceal efforts that they might have underway with respect to weapons of mass destruction. And I think the Security Council members -- and France is included, obviously -- are making it clear to the government of Iraq that they expect compliance. And I think that's good and useful, but, again, we're going to need to continue to press and the President will continue to attach a lot of urgency to the situation.
Q Polls show that the President's ratings have shot up, some say to the highest point of his presidency, since his State of the Union. Does the White House think that he's out of the woods with the Lewinsky affair now?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it looks like the trees are still in the woods here. But there's not going to be any point in trying to contemplate what public opinion will do on this. It is elastic, it moves around a lot. I think people appreciate the President's State of the Union address the other night. They appreciate the fact that he's working on his program that he outlined. And I think that's where they want him to keep his focus; I think that's where we will keep our focus.
Q To what do you attribute, really, the polls standing?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the American people like the program that the President outlined in his State of the Union address the other night, and I think that they want him to have the opportunity to do his work and to address some of the questions that you've been asking in due course. I think that they don't want to rush to any judgment on that. I imagine that that's reflected in some of the numbers that your news organizations are generating.
Q The Press Secretary to the President's Drug Policy Coordinator was called today before the Grand Jury --
MR. MCCURRY: I looked up and saw Bob Weiner on television and thought that he was briefing or something with respect to the anti-drug stuff that the President said at the Mayor's meeting. And then I looked and saw where it was, and said, well, he's having a worse day than I am so far. (Laughter.)
Q Well, he's suggesting that these are strong-arm tactics -- I'm paraphrasing -- that these are inappropriate tactics on the part of the independent counsel, Kenneth Starr. Is Kenneth Starr going too far in this investigation of the President?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll be honest with you. I saw he was on TV while I was looking into some other things. I don't even know what he said or why he was there, so I really don't think it's proper for me to render any comment on if I'm not exactly sure what it was that he said.
Q Well, what about the general question, though? In the investigation is Kenneth Starr going too far?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to address that. I think that's just not proper for me to get into.
Q We keep hearing that an attack -- a bombing attack on Iraq might happen within two weeks. But the Olympics start in a week. And traditionally --
MR. MCCURRY: Is that a non sequitur? (Laughter.)
Q There's always been an idea that there would be a truce during the Olympics; there wouldn't be fighting.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to address what kinds of options might be pursued as we deal with this situation, nor the timing. I don't think that would be wise for us to do in any event. The President has made no decision with respect to use of military force in the current situation in Iraq. But we have made it quite clear that the time in which we can pursue diplomatic avenues is running out, and we will have to work very hard to develop a course of action that we think will be fruitful in achieving our objectives.
Q Mike, in the last 24 hours or so, some prominent conservatives have come out and said that it's not appropriate for the White House to stonewall on this. The President needs to tell the American people the truth. What is your view on those comments?
MR. MCCURRY: I think people will be entitled to a variety of opinions on this matter.
Q Was the call from Mr. Clinton to Mr. Chirac definitively to ask President Chirac's support in the case of military action, what you call additional option? And is this -- the question -- did you get an answer from France for eventually a military action?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it was implied in the answer I gave earlier that they did discuss what course of action might be contemplated in the future. Yes, they did discuss the military option, but I think it would be more diplomatic for me to leave it to the government of France to reflect on the views of their president. I said and would say again that you could gather from the report given by Foreign Minister Vedrine last night that they acknowledged that those options are properly on the table.
Q Has the President been asked by Kenneth Starr to testify in any way?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I've heard.
Q Have you yourself been subpoenaed?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not. Hey, I gave a definitive answer to a question. (Laughter.)
Q But that's a question we'll ask every day. Stand by.
MR. MCCURRY: Most of the time I feel like I'm double parked in a no comment zone. (Laughter.)
Q No, because, Mike, eventually, clearly, the independent counsel will want to hear from the President on his view of all of this.
MR. MCCURRY: I will check on that matter and, if I have anything to pass on, I will.
Q Two on Iraq. Are the American troops protected against any biological or chemical weapons that might be launched at them? And are you advising American civilians, business people and so forth, to get out of Iraq?
MR. MCCURRY: No, answers to questions like that would imply an imminence of something that I've said has not been decided upon by the Commander in Chief. I think I'll leave it at that.
Q But what about protection? Are they adequately protected?
MR. MCCURRY: Protection, there are a variety of protections and countermeasures that we have, and I don't want to go specifically into them.
Q Mike, for the most part women's groups have been pretty silent about the Monica Lewinsky case. What do you read into that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the degree to which they've commented on it or have failed to comment on it. In fact, if I'm not mistaken I've seen some articles even today in which various members of organizations have said certain things. So I don't know that it's fair to say that they've failed to speak out.
Q Mike, did Miss Lewinsky get a call through to the President when he was in Bosnia?
MR. MCCURRY: I think, Scott, you know that I'll refer you to my transcript yesterday, which referred to my transcript the day before. I'm not in a position -- I don't fail to acknowledge that it's a legitimate question. I'm not in a position to answer it.
Q Is that yes, no, or I don't know?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll come back to you.
Q On the budget, Republican congressional leaders have sent a letter to the President asking him to go one step further and take steps to balance the budget this year.
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I've seen the letter. I think the President got a rousing cheer from Congress and from the American people when he said that on Monday he will submit the first balanced budget to Congress in 30 years. And the President also, I think, if I recall correctly, got a big cheer when he said that this year's deficit, the one that that letter refers to, will be $10 billion and might even be down to zero if we continue to work hard and if the American people continue to be productive.
The growth figures that we saw today for the fourth quarter were very encouraging. They exceed what our own conservative projections have been, so it's not entirely out of the realm of the possible that we will get the budget deficit down to zero in the current fiscal year. And I can well understand why the leaders who sent the President the letter would want to share in that happy news and share in that story.
Q They're asking him to specifically --
MR. MCCURRY: I know that they made a request like that and I think, given the cuts that you would have to make in budget authority to generate that kind of reduction and spending, it would be hard to imagine that Congress would actually approve additional spending cuts like that in this current fiscal year. But, as I say, I think that letter was more designed to help them participate in the celebration and well they should, because they've been part of the bipartisan process that is bringing us to this happy moment of balanced budgets.
Q Mike, in the past, you've been briefed before you come out here on everything from Bosnia to Buddy. In this case, you seem to have gone out of your way not to know anything about this Lewinsky affair. Is it because you're concerned if you speak on it you will be subpoenaed, you will have to go down to the grand jury? Or is there another reason that you're not being informed on this?
MR. MCCURRY: Am I speaking here in enlightened self-interest? Sure. I mean, I think if I became a fact-finder in this I would very likely expose myself to legal bills and subpoenas and all manner of other hurt, because that's the nature of this proceeding that they're under. But at the same time --
Q Is that the logic of your --
MR. MCCURRY: At the same time, I also have the capacity, as I have on other occasions, to get answers from the Legal Counsel and we're just choosing not to provide them. And we went through this yesterday.
Q Who do we go to if you yourself cannot give us the answers.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, right now you're going to anonymous sources that may or may not know the truth. And that's --
Q Because you won't talk.
MR. MCCURRY: I acknowledge that to you. That is definitely and clearly a risk. But I think --
Q The President won't talk.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that you've got a situation where the President is going to have to present the truth about these matters in the forum that's available, and that's going to be one in which there is examination, cross-examination, and provision of evidence. And that is a process in which he has exposure and legal risk and I think it's proper that he proceed cautiously as he considers it.
Q But he does expect eventually to have to talk to Kenneth Starr's office in a formal way?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to anticipate what work the independent counsel will try to do in that matter.
Q What's your reaction to the judge's decision in Little Rock yesterday to remove the Monica Lewinsky matter from the Paula Corbin Jones suit?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have one. I see that Mr. Bennett has addressed that publicly.
Q Mike, you said this morning that you'd comment on the fact that some members of the House Republican leadership have said that the tobacco deal is dead for this year. Does the White House agree with that, and do you have to do something different at this point?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we certainly hope that does not reflect any change of thinking on their part; that this is not a serious public health matter that needs to be addressed. I think it is now clear that the American people would like to see action taken to protect young people in this country from tobacco addiction. I think they know the figures that the President used the other night about the number of lives that will be shortened by kids who are taking up smoking each and every day. And I think that the American people expect some urgent action by Congress. So we would hope that some of these comments by people on the Hill does not reflect any lack of urgency in the degree they want to address this.
Now, the issue is one of caps on liability. We have never said that caps on liability were absolutely central to any legislation; in fact, as you recall, the President did not even address that in the principles that he outlined last August about the legislation that would be required to implement the settlement. We've said it's not a deal-breaker by any means, but it certainly is not one of the fundamental elements that the President believes has to be in there.
The important thing is for Congress to sit with us, to work with the administration to craft this legislation, to get on with passing something that will protect children in this country from tobacco addiction. And that's the urgent public health matter that we think has to be addressed.
Q Are you saying you agree with Henry Waxman that this could be passed without the cooperation of the tobacco companies at all?
MR. MCCURRY: That's hard to imagine. It could certainly be passed without caps on liability, and we have never said otherwise. But it is probably going to pass with stronger and broader support in Congress if all those who participated in the settlement process are encouraging passage.
Q Well, Mike, this seems to be a change from your earlier view where you said that it would really -- you know, without immunity in there, you couldn't get the cooperation of the companies and you really need them to do certain things. It sounds like you're looking at a different approach to this.
MR. MCCURRY: The problem has been that, without their cooperation, the likelihood that there would be protracted litigation on anything even passed by Congress. That's been part of the concern. And just the reality of setting up some mechanism by which revenues are generated from the companies to pay for some of the health care and family needs that are anticipated in the settlement itself, it's clearly going to be easier and smoother to do that with the participation and cooperation of the companies.
Q Wait, they can't litigate a tax increase. I mean, you raise taxes on tobacco, they can't take you to court.
MR. MCCURRY: It doesn't necessarily have to be a tax increase that generates that revenue stream. There could be payments from the industry that would be required as a result of any settlement.
Q Right, but I'm saying you definitely can pass a bill that meets the President's goals without --
MR. MCCURRY: Without caps on liability and without taxes. Yes, you're right.
Q Even with taxes, you'd still get the price up, which is what he wants. Why do you need the tobacco companies' cooperation for that?
MR. MCCURRY: If the final form of the legislation included revenues coming from the company to go into any fund that would pay, for example, for health care or family needs or some of the things that you'll see us identify in our budget proposal, you would presumably need their cooperation in establishing that mechanism. And, moreover, you would need to be in a situation where there wasn't going to be a protracted effort in litigation to challenge the constitutionality or the legality of the legislation itself.
Q Mike, last year the President was forced to withdraw his request for fast track because he didn't have the votes. In the State of the Union speech, he made specific mention that he wants fast track. He's meeting with all of the leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean in two and a half months in Chile. Will he make a concerted effort between now and then at least to get the ball rolling?
MR. MCCURRY: We have already made a concerted effort to consult across the aisles, across both chambers in Congress to try to find a formula by which fast track negotiating authority can move forward. The President indicated Tuesday night that he would make that request for negotiating authority to open up markets, to bring us the kind of trade results that we need to see, and I think, in fact in a very short while, we're going to have some happy news on the trade front that we'll share with you here too, partly because we've continued to work very hard to open up overseas markets to goods and services from the United States.
But whether we can get that done by the time we go to the second Summit of the Americas in Santiago in April, it's not entirely clear at this point.
Q Mike, Mr. Weiner said that it was chilling that he and his wife could be called before a grand jury because of personal phone calls they made from their home phone. He is an administration official. Does that reflect the administration view?
MR. MCCURRY: I am not fully apprised of what he said there, but I gather if he was there he was speaking as an individual. I don't think he was there speaking on behalf of General McCaffrey or on behalf of the Office of Drug Control Policy.
Q Well, were his remarks coordinated by the communications operation here?
MR. MCCURRY: I was unaware of what he was saying when he walked out there. I think that -- I had heard earlier in the day that he was going to be called. But we had heard that because when the OIC approached the Legal Counsel's Office they attempted to subpoena Robert Weiner and they had apparently the wrong person in mind. So there had to be some sorting out of who they were trying to subpoena.
Q But you know what his complaint was, don't you?
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, I didn't follow the complicated facts of what he said he had testified to in front of the grand jury enough to render an opinion.
Q Well, he claims they called had him because he had simply made a call, the day after the Super Bowl, to someone to say, good going for raising the question of whether it was legal to tape those conversations in Maryland, and that they called him because of that.
MR. MCCURRY: And I gather also partly because his wife is active in Democratic politics.
Q What's wrong with that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that there is anything wrong with that. I don't know why that would earn you a one-way ticket to see Ken Starr. And I think it's a reminder to all of you why I want to be careful up here; is it not?
Q Mike, what's the update on how the Clintons are going to pay their legal bills?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't had an update on that and that's usually Mr. Donaldson's question, and I had promised him I'd keep him apprised. Let's check again.
Q You said you'd check that and whether the President could make a private phone call without having it logged?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll have Mr. Lockhart see if there's an answer to that.
Q And also the President's view of whether it's proper to talk to Vernon Jordan, under the present circumstances, about this case if, in fact, he's doing that.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay.
Q Back to my earlier question. Two things, are there orders or have there been recommendations by Bowles for aides not to ask about this issue, so that they're not ensnared in it? And also, can I remind you, when you first took this job, one of the things you said was that you were going to not only work for the White House, but you were going to work for us. What has happened?
MR. MCCURRY: I've not been able to do the kind of job I'd want to do on that point in this matter.
Q And is there an order throughout the White House for folks not to ask questions on this?
MR. MCCURRY: No, there's not an order. I think that people are doing the work that they should be doing on behalf of the American public. And if they're not in some way or another supposed to be working on this matter, they're not paying attention to it -- nor should they.
Q Mike, during Watergate, the President -- there was a grand jury investigation, congressional hearings, a special prosecutor -- the President and his spokesman at that time didn't feel constrained --
Q And they lied, too.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, and they did an awful lot of lying to the American people. I remember that quite clearly. And that's one thing I'm not going to do myself in this room.
Q Is that the point, that you'll get out on a limb on something --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get out on any limb that I'm not confident is a truthful one. And that's one of the reasons why I'm not standing here pretending to answer questions I don't know the answers to.
Q Mike, you did say that the President has to proceed cautiously. Why, if he's done nothing wrong, does he have to proceed cautiously.
MR. MCCURRY: We went through this the other day. He is in a very hostile proceeding in which his lawyers recommend that he proceed in that fashion, for reasons that I think are obvious.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Why do you call it hostile?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the answer is obvious to you, Scott.
Q You're saying Ken Starr has a hostile intent?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll come back.
Q Wait, Mike, you haven't been coming back to me.
MR. MCCURRY: Scott, look, I dealt -- this is the same --
Q My questions are beginning to pile up here.
MR. MCCURRY: These are the same questions that you asked, or others asked, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. And now it's Friday. And the answer is no different now.
Q But you haven't given an answer. Scott's questions are very proper.
MR. MCCURRY: I have described the proceeding and we went through this -- Mr. Bloom went through this with me when we were out in Illinois on Wednesday. Go back and read the transcript. It's right there and we'll refer you back to that transcript.
Q On the phone logs, are you saying you're going to check on whether records exist to prove whether the President called Monica Lewinsky or --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not saying either way. I'm saying I'd actually agree that I'd check and see further and see if there is an answer.
Q So you don't know whether records exist to show whether he called her or not?
MR. MCCURRY: And if I did, I imagine that we wouldn't be saying one way or another whether they do.
Q Mike, you said before, we're just not choosing to provide the answers. Could you be a little more specific on who "we" is? Is "we" Mr. Ruff, is it yourself, is it Bennett, is it Kendall? Who is "we"?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not in possession of information that I'm not sharing. I work with the Legal Counsel's Office -- in this case Mr. Ruff -- and he's got a team of lawyers and he is in contact with the outside legal representatives of the President. And to the degree that I get any answers from questions, it comes from that team and that process.
Q Is it Mr. Ruff who is directing you that you can't answer these questions?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I understand the process that they've made and the decisions they've made. And the President is the one responsible for agreeing to a legal strategy that's recommended by his legal team. And I'm doing the best I can -- which is obviously very little.
Q What I'm trying to clarify is whether the President's private counsel is making the decisions on what you as a taxpayer-provided employee can say?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm making decisions based on my best judgment, based on my efforts every day to see what -- you know, I ask on your behalf the questions that I anticipate every day. And to the degree that I can get answers from Counsel's Office, I will certainly pass them on dutifully. But I clearly didn't get much today.
Q Mike, the President said these are serious allegations which raise a lot of legitimate questions. But since then publicly, and then a lot privately, we're hearing that Starr is an overzealous prosecutor who's overstepped his bounds. Aren't those in contradiction? If they're serious allegations, it seems like he's doing the responsible thing.
MR. MCCURRY: Pretty close to the same question I think we dealt with yesterday, but to the degree I addressed that already in this briefing, I addressed it.
Q If the President is questioned this weekend, will you tell us about it? Or at any future point in the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: You mean if he's called on to testify or something? My guess is, the way things have been going, you'll know about it pretty promptly. But I will certainly pass on what I have available to pass on.
Q Do you know of any other person being subpoenaed?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've asked that before and our Legal Counsel takes the position that people have individual rights through their own attorneys to acknowledge whether they've been subpoenaed or not. And we leave that option with individuals. I exercised my option earlier in the briefing.
Q Mike, former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Evelyn Lieberman is now appearing before that grand jury. What were the circumstances that led her to leave the White House and go to the Voice of America?
MR. MCCURRY: There was an election in 1996 and she wanted to go do something new. You know, she told you up in the Oval Office that she looked upon that as a great opportunity to go over.
Q Mike, just for the record, can you describe what Evelyn's duties were in her role as Deputy Chief of Staff at that time?
MR. MCCURRY: She had a full range of assignments given to her by Mr. Panetta and a portfolio that consisted of review of administrative matters, communications, press. I mean, they divided up -- the portfolio between the two deputies under Mr. Panetta is somewhat different as they are now divided between Mr. Podesta and Ms. Mathews, but was roughly similar.
Q To what extent was she in charge of personnel?
MR. MCCURRY: I think personnel review of the Office of Administration came through her and the organization chart they have. Part of her portfolio was oversight of OA and personnel.
Q Keeping them in line? Keeping personnel in line?
MR. MCCURRY: She was a tough taskmaster around here, as you all know. And, of course, she worked for me and was a tough taskmaster right here in the Press Office as well.
Q Can you say whether she had any relationship with Ms. Lewinsky?
MR. MCCURRY: She's testifying in front of a grand jury right now. It would be highly inappropriate, and you all know that, for me to speculate on or advise as to what I think she may be testifying in front of a grand jury. I mean, that really is legitimately out of bounds, no matter what you think of the way we're handling ourselves here.
Q Mike, could I get an official White House answer on whether Ms. Lewinsky put a call through to the President in Bosnia in December?
MR. MCCURRY: That was asked and answered already.
Q Mike, with respect and deference to your position, I don't believe there's an answer --
MR. MCCURRY: I told you -- you asked that right at the beginning of the briefing, while your camera was running, and I told you that we've got limited capacity to answer these questions and probably we're not going to be in a position to provide the answer.
Q Do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know. I do not know and I'm glad I don't, so I don't have to sit here and tell you otherwise.
Q Mrs. Clinton and Vernon Jordan are going to be attending the same economic conference in Switzerland this weekend. Because Vernon has been subpoenaed, is Mrs. Clinton in any way prohibited from talking to him about this matter?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know, and I don't know whether they would discuss it or not discuss it.
Q Will the President have a joint radio address with Blair?
MR. MCCURRY: They're certainly thinking about doing that next Saturday, not tomorrow.
Q Can I follow up on Paul's question for a second? Do you view your role in this now in terms of answering our questions as being that of defending the President from legal risk as compared to informing the public?
MR. MCCURRY: No. My role is the same as it's always been: to answer the questions you have and do it as best I can. And I'm not going to be able to do it very well on this.
Q In terms of if the President is called to testify, would you try to work out an arrangement where Starr would come here, or would he happily go down to the grand jury?
MR. MCCURRY: That is so speculative I can't possibly answer.
Q On a totally unrelated matter, but a question asked of me to ask you -- what does the President think of naming National Airport after Ronald Reagan?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- to my knowledge, the administration has not taken any position on that legislation. But let me check and see. At some point I assume we will enter into the process and express views.
Q You said there would be a surprise on the trade front you'd be able to announce soon. Can you tell us any more about that?
MR. MCCURRY: If we keep going it will probably happen in due course.
Q Is it very imminent?
Q The market just went up.
MR. MCCURRY: Good. Good. I did something good for my country today.
Q One more on the subpoena. Since so many people are getting subpoenaed, is the White House picking up their legal fees?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know how many people so I have to dispute the premise of the question.
Q Is the White House picking up the legal fees for the people being subpoenaed?
MR. MCCURRY: There are circumstances under which the Legal Counsel can represent some individuals when they're produced as fact witnesses. But I don't know the circumstances under which any individual or how many have been subpoenaed, and don't know whether that's happened in this matter or not.
Q What's the deal with the legal defense fund, is there one yet?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I haven't checked on that in the last couple of days. I had heard that it was -- there were people who were trying to bring that together, but it hadn't been completed yet.
Q What is your briefing schedule --
MR. MCCURRY: Did you say there hadn't been anything done? Yes.
MR. LOCKHART: I checked on that last night. There's no announcement yet.
MR. MCCURRY: No announcement on that yet.
Q What are you going to do about the budget?
MR. MCCURRY: Actually, a couple things for the balance of the day. We've got, in connection with the President's radio address, we're going to have an embargoed briefing at 3:30 p.m. --
MR. TOIV: No, 3:00 p.m.
MR. MCCURRY: Three o'clock, okay.
Q That collides with the press conference --
Q That's when the Secret Service is going to have a press conference -- I don't mean the Secret Service, I mean the Fraternal Order of the Secret Service.
MR. MCCURRY: All right. At 3:30 p.m. we'll have a briefing here on the radio address with Secretary Pena and Gene Sperling. That will be embargoed. That will go -- a companion piece for the radio address. And then we're going to have, right around that time, some people who will talk to you about other developments.
Q In what?
Q In the same area, or what?
Q What area?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a big story. It involves billions of dollars of commerce.
Q Well, the deficit dropped.
MR. MCCURRY: This is not about the deficit. This is about --
Q The trade gap.
MR. MCCURRY: It's about opening up and liberalizing trade so that markets will be available. Big story and it will affect millions of Americans.
Q Mike, if I could clarify your answer to Helen earlier about --
MR. MCCURRY: Is there no one in the room who even has a clue what we're talking about? What is it?
MR. MCCURRY: No, but what? It's amazing.
Q We don't need more than that.
MR. MCCURRY: As an instructive lesson, the number of people who have worked and spent time on the phone and discussed how they're going to do stuff today --
Q You're going to compare this to the scandal, right?
MR. MCCURRY: No, no. I'm just going to say, just the dichotomy between what people work on around here and what you all are interested in is pretty interesting.
Q Well, this isn't fast track.
Q It's of interest to some and not to others, it's harder work on their part.
MR. MCCURRY: This involves something I think millions of Americans will be instantly interested in.
Q What is it that millions of people will be interested in?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, people who like to travel to Asia. Anyone traveling to Asia would be interested in this.
Q Do you have a new agreement with Japan?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, stay tuned. Stay tuned.
Q Can you tell us a little bit -- this trip the President's making next week to Albuquerque, when was it scheduled and what's the purpose of it?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we had talked a long time ago about taking the budget on the road. Once we saw that the news about the presentation of the budget would be so interesting -- because it was going to be a balanced budget that the President would propose -- we began thinking about going on the road with the budget, much like we go on the road with the State of the Union. They finalized it in the last day or so.
Q And what's the connection to Albuquerque?
Q Yes, why Albuquerque?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you'll see on Monday he is going to -- do you want me to do the week ahead? Is that what you're asking for?
Q What's the weekend like?
MR. MCCURRY: The weekend, the President will probably go up to Camp David with his family. In fact, I think he's going to leave around 6:00 p.m.
Q What family? No one is here.
MR. MCCURRY: His daughter Chelsea is in town. Some of his family are around. I saw Roger in the hall the other day, so he's got some family in town. I think they're going to go up to Camp David.
Q Tonight, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Tonight. And he plans to stay up there all weekend.
Q It's a bad sign.
MR. MCCURRY: Until Sunday or Monday.
Q Who is he going to fire?
Q You said Chelsea's here? You said Chelsea is in town?
MR. MCCURRY: I think so, yes.
Q Is there some sort of school break or did she plan -- has this been planned as a weekend?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. Don't know the answer. You can ask the First Lady's Office, they might be able to tell you.
Okay. As you know, we have the Detroit Red Wings in this afternoon. We've been doing right wings, right wheels, Red Wings, so forth.
Q Did you really say that was a right wheel conspiracy on the plane the other day? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, I said the plane thing was proof positive that there was a conspiracy under our right wing.
Q Did they ever get that plane out of the mud?
MR. MCCURRY: Did they ever get that plane out of the mud? (Laughter.) It's still there? Turned it into a museum.
Q Still there?
MR. MCCURRY: Like the one in Bush's museum. They've got -- if you go down to Bush's Presidential library, they've got like the whole inner cockpit of Air Force One there. But I digress.
Q Why not.
MR. MCCURRY: Might as well.
Q Why is he going to Camp David?
MR. MCCURRY: Because he wants to just get up there and spend some time with --
Q I guess the question is, did he have visitors coming?
MR. MCCURRY: He's going up there with some of his family, I said.
Q Is this going to be just a one-day, one-shot budget trip, or are there going to be other budget trips outside of Washington?
MR. MCCURRY: This is the one we're doing in the immediate aftermath of the presentation of the budget, but we'll be out on the road from time to time talking about the President's initiatives.
Okay. Radio address. Groundhog Day is budget day. We'll do the budget -- the President and Vice President are going to make the announcement in the East Room.
Q That's Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. 10:15 a.m. And then Sperling, Raines, Rubin, and Janet Yellen will brief at 1:00 p.m. on the budget. Then we go to New Mexico on Tuesday and he will do two events. He will tour Los Alamos Advanced Computer Center -- Supercomputer Center, talk about investments in science and technology and how that's part of our economic growth strategy for the 21st century as he discussed in the State of the Union. And then he'll make an address in downtown Albuquerque.
Q Coming back?
MR. MCCURRY: Come back that night, get back very late, probably early Wednesday morning by the time we get back.
Q Any fundraising?
MR. MCCURRY: Wednesday, the President will host a college school partnership event in the East Room. And Thursday is the National Prayer Breakfast. And he comes back here, greets Prime Minister Blair. They've got the official arrival ceremony and then the official dinner for Prime Minister Blair that night.
Q What time is the arrival ceremony?
MR. MCCURRY: 11:00 a.m. South Lawn.
Q The Prayer Breakfast, it's at a hotel usually?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, usually. Washington Hilton. Isn't that it -- they usually do the Washington Hilton.
Then on Friday we're going to do the Press Conference over at the State Department. It worked well doing it last time over there. So the President and the Prime Minister will be over there.
Q Do you know what time that is, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: 11:00 a.m. Friday at 11:00 a.m.
Q The last time you said it was because of the Christmas decorations. We couldn't use the East Room last time, but we're just doing it this time because we liked it over there.
Q Has he given up on East Room news conferences?
MR. MCCURRY: No. We'll use it -- we use the East Room for other stuff. I like the setting over there myself.
Q I don't.
MR. MCCURRY: Why don't you like it?
Q Too big.
MR. MCCURRY: Too big?
Q Too cavernous.
Q Well, he's farther away.
MR. MCCURRY: Get a lot more foreign reporters in there -- ask a lot more foreign questions. (Laughter.)
Q Miguel. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Look, if anyone wants to try to allege that the President ducked questions at that last press conference.
Q Not that one.
Q He was scrounging for questions.
MR. MCCURRY: Let's see. What else? That's pretty much the week. And then we're going to go -- the Blairs may -- the Blairs and the Clintons will probably do some social stuff as well.
Q Like what? Restaurants?
MR. MCCURRY: Stuff kind of stuff.
Q Mike, Saturday the 7th with Blair. What's he doing?
MR. MCCURRY: There is speculation -- and it is credible speculation -- they may do a joint radio address together. And that hasn't been finalized at this point but they may do that.
Thank you. Have a good weekend, everybody.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:36 P.M. EST