THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:57 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Okay, happy news. Tomorrow -- how many have done their taxes? You have not done your taxes.
Q April 15th.
MR. MCCURRY: There are only two people in this whole briefing room who have done taxes. No, I'm serious about this. How many people have done their taxes? In the back.
Q Are you putting out the President's taxes?
MR. MCCURRY: Less than 10 percent. What is wrong with you people? You must not have any refunds coming to you, right? (Laughter.)
Q I owe them.
MR. MCCURRY: The front row here, they all have accountants, so they don't have that problem.
Beginning tomorrow, March 7th, the Internal Revenue Service will open local offices on Saturdays --
Q That's been announced.
MR. MCCURRY: -- for the next six weeks. I know. I'm just taking advantage. (Laughter.)
Q You've announced it.
MR. MCCURRY: No, but tomorrow I wanted to remind people what we did announce, that we were going to have Saturday hours. That begins tomorrow. It's another part of the work that they're doing at the Treasury Department through our new commissioner, Commissioner Rossotti, to improve the customer service of the nation's tax collection agency.
Q What are the hours, and how long does this go?
MR. MCCURRY: Treasury can tell you more. There will be normal walk-in center hours Saturday in almost 170 locations around the country. And that's good news.
Q Those of us who went to the Vice President's briefing --
MR. MCCURRY: The Vice President did brief on that; that's correct. It's part of -- the Vice President talked about that as part of the National Performance Review update because it's an idea that did grow out of that stellar effort.
Q How long does it last, to April 15th?
MR. MCCURRY: It goes until April 11, which is the Saturday prior to the due date for taxes.
The President of the United States --
Q Has the President done his taxes -- on the same subject?
MR. MCCURRY: No, not yet.
Q They haven't done their taxes.
MR. MCCURRY: They haven't. We normally put those out --
Q Why are you whipping it on us?
MR. MCCURRY: -- before then.
Q I mean, hey --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not whipping on you.
Q Leadership begins in the Oval Office.
Q They usually do it on April 14th.
MR. MCCURRY: They usually do it a couple days beforehand.
The President of the United States called President Eduard Shevardnadze of the Republic of Georgia today. They spoke for about 20 minutes. The President wanted to express his personal and strong support for President Shevardnadze, especially in light of some of the recent events that President Shevardnadze has encountered, and also wanted to reaffirm the strong U.S. commitment to U.N. efforts to resolve the conflict involving Abkhazia, and hope that we can continue to work to try to resolve that conflict peacefully.
It was a very cordial conversation and President Shevardnadze welcomed the U.S. commitment to the U.N. observation effort that is currently in country dealing with tensions involving the Abkhazians.
Q What are these reversals -- or efforts -- what's happened to Shevardnadze since this guy got thrown in the slammer here?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't think that's what -- there was a recent assassination attempt on him and I think four U.N. observers were taken, kidnapped; and there have been ongoing -- throughout Georgia, ongoing conflict and violence that President Shevardnadze is dealing with effectively.
Q Did they discuss Kosovo?
MR. MCCURRY: Did they talk to Kosovo? Not to my knowledge -- 20-minute call.
Q Did he describe the assassination attempt, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: A little bit, but not at great length.
Q Why are they trying to kill him?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a very dangerous part of the world.
Q What about Kosovo, Mike? What is the U.S. position now that the violence has escalated apparently?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are continuing to call on both Serbian elements and Kosovoian Albanian elements to try to negotiate their differences peacefully. We strongly condemn the violence that has occurred there, and we have had very high-level contact with the government of former Yugoslavia Serbia proper to encourage President Milosevic to recognize his obligations and his responsibilities at a time of tension. Secretary Albright, of course, is in Europe. There will be a meeting of the Contact Group in London Monday. And following that meeting, I expect Ambassador Gelbard to be going to Belgrade to meet with high level officials in the government of Serbia to express our concern.
Q Does the United States have any intention of making more forceful intervention?
MR. MCCURRY: The United States has a number of options available. I am not going to speculate at this point on which options we might pursue.
Q The Albanians are asking for --
Q How many troops do we have in Macedonia?
MR. MCCURRY: We have about 350 U.S. participants in the U.N. mission that is in Macedonia -- former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. And that is a total -- I think the total size of that is about 700, 750, so we're roughly half of the contingent there in Macedonia.
Q Mike, has the White House developed a position on the news media lawsuit, regarding executive privilege?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- I was afraid you were going to ask that question. I don't have anything for you on that.
Q You said this morning that you did not see any reason why it should not be made public. Maybe those were not your exact words, but we were talking about what issues might be there that needed to be under seal.
Q What happened?
MR. MCCURRY: This is a painful one. There is just nothing I can share with you on that subject.
Q When will the White House file?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything for you on that.
Q As a general proposition, if the President were to assert executive privilege --
MR. MCCURRY: There is a good reason for this, and you'll see that I can't answer any question on that, and later, very soon, I think you'll understand why.
Q But as a general proposition, if the President were to decide to assert executive privilege, would you not believe that that was a matter that the American people ought to be able to see fully?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President would want the American people to be in a position to understand why he would make such an assertion. And, as I have done here, and as we would continue to do, generically, we would certainly describe the reasons why a President is entitled to confidential advice from his advisers. And if there were a way to do it specifically, that would be good, too. But we have to honor and obey whatever judgments are made by a court, and if proceedings are occurring under seal in order to protect the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, we obviously have to live with the law.
Q I guess we're trying to find out whether the President is trying to keep this under seal, whether his position is to ask the court to keep it quiet.
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, there are a lot of problems there. I don't know what the "this" is that you're referring to. I don't know what you think is under seal. I have not said anything from here or talked at all about what may or may not be transpiring in front of the district court.
Q Why is that?
Q Mike, for today's record --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know because if there would be any proceedings like that, they'd be under seal, and the President's attorneys would not be free to discuss them with me.
Q You said we would know very soon, and you also said this is painful for you. Can you explain more?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I mean, can I explain --
Q Why it's painful for you, and how will we know soon?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't explain -- I can't answer that.
Q Mike, for today's record, has the President invoked executive privilege in this matter?
MR. MCCURRY: In this matter, I am not aware that he has, but it's entirely conceivable he could have. I wouldn't know if the proceedings in which he would invoke such privilege were under seal, because the President's attorneys --
Q You're hinting that he has.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not hinting one way or another. I don't know.
Q Why wouldn't you know. I mean, you might say to us, I cannot tell you --
MR. MCCURRY: Because, Sam, if a proceeding has happened in a court and it's under seal, lawyers are restricted and bound by the decision of the court not to discuss it with people who are not participating -- me included.
Q Mike, the last time you gave us guidance on this, you said that the White House was going to file a motion next week.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm clearly not repeating that now.
Q Okay, but has the judge given the parties a deadline, or is this just open ended?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't answer that.
Q Are you suggesting that you are not going to file a motion?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not suggesting to you one way or another. I'm just telling you there's a very good reason why I'm not discussing it, and I can't discuss it.
Q What's the reason?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to be able to say here. You're wasting time.
Q You clearly do know, but maybe you can't tell us. First, you say you don't know --
Q Sam has a point. Which is it? I mean, do you not know or can you not tell us?
MR. MCCURRY: I have nothing -- the lawyers here at the White House at the Counsel's Office has not shared anything with me. I have heard something from another news organization that leads me to conclude I should not address this matter right now.
Q In other words, you're taking your cue from another news organization? You're the President's spokesman.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, this involves a suit that your news organization has filed in court.
Q Wait a second. You're not doing this on advice of counsel. You're doing this because you heard something from another news organization?
MR. MCCURRY: Counsel's Office is not sharing anything with me on this subject.
Q But wait, the reason you're not talking is because of what you heard from a news organization?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Well this is extraordinary --
Q You're not getting any guidance either way from the Counsel's Office?
MR. MCCURRY: It won't be extraordinary as soon as you're in a position to learn more.
Q Well, when will that be?
MR. MCCURRY: As soon as I'm in a position to learn more.
Q Do you know when that will be?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't predict.
Q Why won't they talk to you?
MR. MCCURRY: Because, Helen, this is a very important thing. The lawyers are bound by the canon of ethics and by the law not to discuss outside of the court room proceedings that have occurred under seal. The lawyers here at the White House take that so seriously that they make me go through the kind of torture I'm going through right now because they can't discuss those matters outside court.
Q Do they understand the position it puts you in?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely, and they feel my pain. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: There's nothing they can practically do about it. They just sort of say you have to stand there and endure it because we can't do it.
Q Can we move on?
MR. MCCURRY: I wish you would. It would be very helpful to me if you do.
Q Will the President veto the supplemental if it includes a rider preventing the FCC from giving free TV time to candidates?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, say it again?
Q Would the President veto the supplemental if it includes a rider preventing the FCC from doing what the President wants it to do, which is give free TV time to candidates?
MR. MCCURRY: We'd have to face that issue and analyze it when we looked at the whole bill. I'm not aware that -- we hope we will not be in that position.
Q But are you aware that there is a move afoot to stop the FCC from doing --
MR. MCCURRY: We've heard some discussions of that, but whether that's serious and whether the members of Congress that are so suggesting would actually hold up disaster relief that needs to go to a lot of people who are struggling with the aftermath of the weather that they faced in California and Florida and elsewhere in this country, whether they would hold this all up as a way of forcing action or preventing action on that measure remains to be seen, in our opinion.
Q Are you saying you're willing to go through what you've done before on these supplementals, which is to say that anything extraneous, he's willing to --
MR. MCCURRY: We, as always, will try to work to get -- these are emergency, supplemental appropriations we're talking about for very important critical needs -- the responsibilities we have overseas and to take care of people who are the victims of recent national disasters. If Congress wants to muck around with that and try to hold up those two very urgent needs as a way of forcing action on something else that they're concerned about, we'll just have to see if they'll do that.
They've tried that before and they've usually gotten the American people very angry as a result of doing that. We don't think they'll do that.
Q Mike, if we could go back to the other matter. Have you been subpoenaed in this or has there been an indication that you may be subpoenaed in this matter?
MR. MCCURRY: No and no.
Q Are you taking this position because you want to protect an exclusive of another news organization about what you have learned?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm taking this position because of something that I believe may be true that's been conveyed to me by a news organization -- something I haven't been able to confirm with our lawyers, but something that makes it advisable for me not to address the matter further.
Q Is the White House withdrawing the claim of executive privilege?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware -- you already asked me. I'm not even aware there is a claim of executive privilege.
Q But you're saying -- you were not reasserting what you said last week about the timeframe for an executive privilege claim.
MR. MCCURRY: No, that was a question about the motion filed by news organizations to open the proceedings.
Q Mike, two publications today, the Post and the Times, both used the word "paranoia" to describe the way the President feels about the issues that are raised by current accusations and past accusations. Has it been your experience in discussing these kinds of issues with him that that is an accurate portrayal of the way he feels?
MR. MCCURRY: To the contrary. He finds much of it a nuisance because it detracts from the time that he would otherwise be able to devote to the things that he enjoys working on. But he deals with it and takes whatever time necessary to handle it, which is just a bare fraction of the time that he is at work. And then he moves on to things that he thinks are important, things that he's been talking to you about -- the economy, health care, and the kinds of things that really dominate his agenda and occupy his time as he works as President.
Q Do you know of instances where he's found it necessary to take contemporaneous notes on perhaps conversations he has with --
MR. MCCURRY: I have no familiarity with anything of that nature.
Q Mike, considering your answer to Pete's question, then why has the President made it a practice in recent days and in recent weeks, for that matter, to beat such a hasty retreat from the podium after he's made a statement. He almost knocks over people. He ran into the flag on his way out this morning. Has he become --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, that's not true.
Q Well, it is true.
MR. MCCURRY: Look, he sometimes -- yesterday he sat in the Cabinet Room and took some questions on the matter. We clearly, like any White House, want to make sure that the very strong news on the economy today dominated the President's message today.
We had -- we've now created 15 million jobs since this President came to office in 1993. We've got the lowest unemployment rate in 25 years. We created 310,000 new jobs -- the American people did, in the month of February. That is very good news and the President, like most Presidents have before him, wanted to make sure that you all focused on that very important message that he wanted to deliver to the American people today. And the fact that he didn't want to take the opportunity to get sidetracked by the question that Mr. Donaldson posed I think made pretty good sense.
Q Yesterday, Mr. Jordan said that he had kept the President apprised all along of the job hunt for Monica Lewinsky. And he also indicated -- it's been indicated that he -- through his lawyer, that he has said that it was his understanding that the job hunt was inspired by the President, although we understand from the --
MR. MCCURRY: You know I can't comment on that and I won't.
Q Can I come back to the situation in Kosovo, quickly? What has to happen for the United States to intervene in this area militarily?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on something like that.
Q Mike, why is now the time for a big push on tobacco?
MR. MCCURRY: Because the number of days left Congress will be in session this year are beginning to dwindle. I think they're going to have like less than 70 working days left between now and whenever they adjourn for the year. And it's time for them to start moving on what is clearly going to be an important public health measure.
And the President, I think you'll hear him address this in the radio address, is very concerned about the negative health consequences for children who are becoming addicted to tobacco every day. We know that I think something like 1,000 kids are becoming addicted to tobacco every single day. So every passing day that Congress fails to act on the tobacco proposals that are before Congress means that kids are going to suffer. And that's something the President wants to do something about.
Q What is he doing in the week ahead?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll do the week ahead at the end of the briefing.
Q Would the President consider asking Congress to stay in session until it finishes work on tobacco legislation?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a long ways away from the end of the session. I think what the President wants Congress to do is maximize its work on the pending issues before it, beginning as soon as possible.
Q Is it too long away from the end of the session for the President to be considering such a call?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. If that issue even arose, it would be much closer to the end of the session, correct.
Q Mike, do you have anything on the President's meeting with Dick Armey this morning?
MR. MCCURRY: You know, I don't. Did any of you get anything?
They discussed an education issue that the Majority Leader is particularly interested in. It was a very good conversation. I think the President made clear his views on the particular issue. But they had a good exchange and it was certainly helpful to some at the White House that wanted to understand Representative Armey's thinking better.
Q Is the President going to be willing to separate out the price increase per pack that is designed to stop teens from smoking versus the national legislation? Would he be able to separate those out --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, no, the price per pack -- the increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes is the fundamental measure of how you reduce demand. We haven't suggested how you would do that or what form or what fashion the increase would occur. But raising a price $1.10 over five years, $1.50 over a total of 10 years is a way in which public health experts believe you can reduce demand for the product, which will produce the effect.
Q What I'm asking is can it be cast within the whole -- some people are saying it must be passed within the whole context of a national settlement and others are saying it's separate.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the right way to look at is that a national settlement, or comprehensive legislation on tobacco would produce that price effect. Because that's the kind of revenue that would be extracted from the tobacco companies when likely produce the price incident that we measure in the President's policy.
Q Well, wait a minute. You don't need the tobacco industry's agreement to raise the price. You only need their agreement to do the voluntary marketing restrictions. And that's the only thing that immunity gets you. What we're asking you is --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, or to pay for the kinds of -- to pay into the kind of fund we're talking about for health care and that sort of thing.
Q You can make that fund by raising the price. I mean, by raising taxes on cigarettes. What we're asking is, the things that you need the tobacco company to do --
MR. MCCURRY: That's not the approach that's developing in the compromise legislation that's beginning to emerge on the Hill.
Q A couple questions about the chilly reception that Secretary Cohen and General Shelton got on the Hill today, when they asked for money to support the force we have off Iraq. First, does the administration fear that it may not get the money? And, second, is there anything that you're willing to say or do right now to make happier those on the panel who want to see you do something to get more of our allies to foot the bill here?
MR. MCCURRY: You are correct. I think they ran into a lot of griping. But at the end of the day it did not appear to us that Congress would withhold funding for that very important deployment of men and women in the Persian Gulf or from the work that we are doing in Bosnia. They had a lot of creative, helpful suggestions about how some of those efforts might be improved or particular issues that arose with respect to both -- all of those suggestions taken on board by the Chairman and by the Secretary.
But at the end of the day, the work that we are doing in the Persian Gulf is indispensable to protecting our interest in the region. It's an indispensable part of enforcing the will of the international community as expressed through U.N. Security Council resolutions. And with respect to Bosnia, the work that NATO, that we are doing there in combination with our 15 allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is an important part of the process of building an opportunity for peace in Bosnia, a place where there have been war and bloodshed and which we were just talking earlier, it reminds us that the Balkans remains a very dangerous place.
So whatever the criticism, at the end of the day we think this Congress will certainly support the very brave Americans who are part of both of those missions.
Q But in terms of getting allies to foot more of the bill, anything you can offer?
MR. MCCURRY: In the case of Bosnia, our allies do share -- not only share the cost, I think they pay much more collectively than the United States does as part of that mission. We have significant costs associated, to be sure, but the rest of the alliance carries much more -- I mean, we now represent about 25 percent of the mission in Bosnia and we'll be down to 20 percent as it is extended and the costs accordingly are shared throughout the alliance.
Q Mike, there is some talk at the U.N. of putting a Russian disarmament expert as a deputy to Chairman Butler. Does the U.S. support that?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that would be -- personnel decisions like that are up to Mr. Butler. He's always demonstrated to us that he is a very effective and tenacious person when it comes to fulfilling the mandates of the United Nations. We would certainly be inclined to support his work, but I'm not aware that he's made any decision of that nature.
Q Well, the current deputy is an American. Are you saying it would be all right with the United States if Duelfer was replaced?
MR. MCCURRY: The current deputy, if I'm not mistaken, is in country leading an inspection team right now.
COLONEL CROWLEY: No, he's right. The proposal is a second deputy.
MR. MCCURRY: The proposal is for a second deputy.
COLONEL CROWLEY: No decision has been made.
MR. MCCURRY: And no decision has been made on that. That would be up to Butler.
Q Who's in the President's delegation going to Africa?
MR. MCCURRY: We have not put out a delegation list yet.
Q Isn't Jesse Jackson one of them, one of those members?
MR. MCCURRY: I certainly expect Reverend Jackson to be going, given his -- the role he's been playing as the President's envoy in Africa. But we have not put out an official list yet.
Q Mike, isn't one of the reasons to push for tobacco legislation that your budget depends on those revenues?
MR. MCCURRY: Our budget doesn't. Some of the initiatives that the President has put a highlight on do need some of the revenue from the tobacco settlement. But if it's not from there, then you'd have to look for other sources of revenues if you could find them.
Q A former White House steward named Mike McGrath was quoted today as having said that he was required to leave the President alone with --
MR. MCCURRY: Wait, in the Star, right?
Q Wait, wait, wait.
MR. MCCURRY: Was that in the Star?
Q That's in the Star, correct. Was there anything untoward about the way Mr. McGrath left the White House? Is there any dissatisfaction --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know anything about the circumstances of his hiring, and I don't have any comment on stories in which people are paid to provide information.
Q Did the President get any good news from Walter Mondale on his trip --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't had a readout. Have they called?
COLONEL CROWLEY: The call did occur last night. The President expressed his gratitude for Mondale's work. Mondale reported to him on his impressions. I think that dialogue --
MR. MCCURRY: They did connect last night, and the President got a good sense of the flavor or his discussions with President Soeharto. And you've heard us say publicly, I think, what we will continue to say, that we encourage the government of Indonesia to meet its obligations under the IMF program.
Q But was the impression that Soeharto was going to do that?
Q Is that the message Mondale got?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the discussion indicated that the message was forcefully delivered, and we'd have to wait and see now whether the government and the president follow through.
Q Back on Jesse Jackson, is it true that he has become the President's spiritual adviser through this controversy?
MR. MCCURRY: He is among many who have talked to the President and offered advice and counsel and spiritual uplift. There are quite a -- I think all of you know, quite a number of people in the clergy who play that role from time to time.
Q Billy Graham has said that he forgives the President and anything the President may have done.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's encouraging. (Laughter.)
Q Do you really want us to believe that the President thinks that this investigation of a personal crisis and so forth is a mere nuisance? That's how he portrayed it.
MR. MCCURRY: That's in part what it is for him.
Q A nuisance that distracts?
MR. MCCURRY: It districts from some of the work that he does, but he does not give any of his detractors the satisfaction of keeping him off his game because he knows that in the end of the day his bond and contract is with the American people to do what he was elected to do. And that's what he concentrates on and, with an enormous amount of discipline, that's where he keeps his focus.
Q But, Mike, is he not disappointed in these polls that while they give him great support, they also show that the majority of the American people believe he's lying.
MR. MCCURRY: These polls show that most Americans are quite confident the President is doing a good job, and they give him enormous amount of support for the job he's doing. And part of the reason, I think, is for exactly the type of economic news that we talked about today.
Q Has he ever said he's disappointed in --
MR. MCCURRY: I never heard him --
Q He isn't worried about his credibility?
MR. MCCURRY: He doesn't get too preoccupied by the polls; he like to look at them and he likes to see the numbers that demonstrate the American people are confident that he's doing a good job.
Q Mike, the bond or contract, as you say, that he made with the American people six weeks ago was that he would give us answers sooner rather than later and that these were legitimate questions.
MR. MCCURRY: We've been through that plenty of times.
Q Let me just --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything new to add on that. I want to get on to some other things.
Q Does he regret saying that since clearly his --
MR. MCCURRY: No. No.
Q the advice he's getting from his lawyers has changed since then?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Mike, let me just finish if I may. Yesterday, he said that he's answered the only questions that matter.
MR. MCCURRY: We dealt with that yesterday.
Q Well, the thing is, can we reconcile the two?
MR. MCCURRY: We had a discussion back and forth on that yesterday.
Q Senator Lott has just said in an interview that --
Q I didn't understand the discussion, because all the things that matter --
Q None of us did.
Q -- are clearly not just those two issues he addressed.
MR. MCCURRY: You asked, I answered. I don't have anything new to add.
Q Senator Trent Lott has said that it's time for the Independent Counsel to show his cards in the investigation.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not familiar with his remarks.
Q How would you react to that? Do you agree with that sentiment?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what Senator Lott said.
Q Mike, circle back on something. Yesterday, when the President spoke in the Roosevelt Room it was clear that the White House had a particular message about the deposition that it wanted to deliver. But Mark's point is --
MR. MCCURRY: What was that?
Q I beg your pardon?
MR. MCCURRY: What was -- the message was that we weren't going to comment on it.
Q Well, that's exactly right -- that the President said it was illegal to leak that sort of thing and that he thought that was the wrong thing to do and he wasn't going to do it.
MR. MCCURRY: Right.
Q Mark's point is well taken, though. For the last several weeks, the President has hurried away from the podium. It seems clear that he's been given advice not to answer questions. Does that interfere with his dialogue with the American people?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, Scott, it's a disingenuous question. You know that the President is not in a position to comment on these things. We understand, and he said to Sam --
Q Why not?
MR. MCCURRY: He said to Sam yesterday, we understand that he understands that you have to ask the question. He's not in the position to comment.
Q Why not?
MR. MCCURRY: Sometimes it's because of the gag order of a court, other times it's because he elects not to given the legal jeopardy he faces at the hands of a prosecutor that others have suggested is out of control. So he's in the situation he's in. I think he would prefer to deal with this, and deal with it publicly, but deal with it in a format that allows him the kind of opportunity to state his case. He can't have that until we get through some of the legal matters that are pending right now.
Q So doesn't that interfere with his dialogue with the American people?
MR. MCCURRY: Apparently not. I think the American people want him to have the kind of dialogue that he had with them today where he talks about what he's doing on the economy, what he's doing on education, what we're doing on child care, what we're doing on the tobacco deal we talked about here, how we're meeting our responsibilities with respect to Iraq. That -- if you haven't noticed, that's what they are really interested in hearing more about.
Q It's a monologue, Mike, not a dialogue.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the American people are very interested in hearing about what the President's work is on those areas that are of most concern to them.
Q But there are times when we've shouted questions on Iraq he hasn't come back to the podium to answer those questions.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the only question I think he heard today was Mr. Donaldson's.
Q Mike, yesterday you said that Mr. Ruff and his three deputies had seen the transcript, that none of them were responsible for leaking. Can you also say that none of them discussed it with anyone else who might have leaked it?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know who leaked it, so I don't have any way of answering that question.
Q No, I understand that, but the question is, did they discuss it with anyone other than the four of them? I'm not saying they would know who leaked it. What I'm saying is, did they -- in addition to saying none of them leaked it, can you also say none of them of them discussed it with anyone else?
MR. MCCURRY: Outside the White House?
Q Outside that foursome.
MR. MCCURRY: They indicated to me yesterday that they have not discussed the contents of that deposition with anyone outside the group of lawyers to the President who are familiar with the contents of the deposition.
Q So you're saying that no one at the White House was informed about that deposition by those four people? Right? It's simply sealed within those four. They didn't tell you, they didn't tell anybody else, they didn't tell Bruce Lindsey?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to say that categorically in case they've -- you know, there was some incidental mention of it in some other conversation. I don't know every single conversation those people have had. I think the issue is did they have any contact with the Washington Post in connection with that story, were they responsible for the leak, and they all indicated to me they were not.
Q But what I'm trying to find out is whether they could have been responsible for the leak advertently or inadvertently at one remove? Can you rule that out?
MR. MCCURRY: They manifestly assured me they were not.
Q The Arkansas Gazette this morning, Democrat Gazette, quotes a source identified as one presidential advisor as saying, I think it's helpful -- meaning the leaking of the deposition, "it coordinates Betty's and Vernon's and the President's story." Do you think that came from anyone here?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no clue what that means.
Q Well, it's clear what it means, but --
MR. MCCURRY: And I don't know who -- I mean, presidential advisor usually is not an attribution that you use when you're talking about anyone serious around here. There are a lot of people in Arkansas who consider themselves presidential advisors.
All right, listen. I've got one other thing to do. Are we done?
Q When are we going to see the radio address?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is taping early today, and so he should be able to -- we should be able to get you the embargoed transcript out early.
Q I believe the issue this morning with Mr. Armey was school vouchers. I take it the President has not changed his opposition to that?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. But we are further enlightened by the powerful arguments the Majority Leader makes.
Q Was the Armey meeting shorter than scheduled?
MR. MCCURRY: No, not to my knowledge. In fact, I think it was longer than scheduled.
Q Armey didn't try to blackmail the President in any way?
MR. MCCURRY: A ridiculous question.
Q The First Lady did an event today and she also did not take questions. It was apparently limited to science reporters -- and not to most of us, Mike. Is the reasoning in that case the same?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't even know what you're talking about. What are you talking about?
Q The First Lady had a Millennium event in which she did not --
MR. MCCURRY: She didn't invite the Washington Times?
Q Didn't invite many of us, did not take any questions. Why is she as well limiting --
MR. MCCURRY: She's had events with different people in attendance from time to time, by invitation.
I wanted to call your attention to one thing. The Security Council is in the process of continuing very necessary, important sanctions on Libya as a result of its failure to turn over the defendants in the Pan Am 103 bombing. Libya has tried to avoid, evade, explain away its obligations now for years. And the Security Council has made clear that it accepts nothing less than full compliance, which would require Libya to turn over the two suspects in question either to the United States or the United Kingdom so that they can be brought to justice.
We will remain mindful of the fact that there is one central reality in this case, and that is that 270 innocent men, women, and children from more than 20 countries were murdered, and that Libya continues to prevent those responsible, we believe, from being brought to justice. And so in that sense it was very good news that the Council has agreed to continue the economic sanctions currently in place on Libya.
Q Week ahead?
MR. MCCURRY: There's really nothing on the week ahead. We'll just put it out on paper.
Q When is he going to Camp David tomorrow, what time?
MR. MCCURRY: Probably sometime tomorrow morning, coming back Monday morning.
Q Monday morning.
MR. MCCURRY: Monday morning.
Q Is Kofi Annan coming on Wednesday?
MR. MCCURRY: They are trying to work out a schedule now. I've heard rumors of mid-week or so, but they're trying to work that out.
Q What about tobacco --
MR. MCCURRY: He talks to -- it looks like I'm going to do the week ahead anyhow. He's going to do -- he speaks to the AMA on Monday. And I expect he will talk about public health issues, probably the Patient's Bill of Rights, and most likely the tobacco bill as well. That's over at the Sheraton Washington Hotel.
Q What time?
MR. MCCURRY: It is at -- time to be announced. We don't know when? They are still working on when. It doesn't say.
He does the -- he has the performance tonight. Tuesday he goes to Connecticut and then out to Ohio, as we previously announced. The event in Connecticut will be a child care event, talking about the importance of early child care and early learning.
Wednesday is International Women's Day, and there will be an event with respect to that involving Secretary Albright, Attorney General Reno, and others. And the President also meets with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. The Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission meets here in Washington. The Vice President and the Prime Minister will have a press conference over in Room 450 on Wednesday, and then they go out to California, I believe, correct?
And then Thursday, the President meets with the National Association of Attorneys General. There's a fundraiser for Senator Hollings that night, and he meets with the Prime Minister of Thailand on Friday. That is the week ahead.
Q When will the President's next press conference be?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll see. We had our February press conference. We need to have one in March, and I hope that we have one in March.
Q In Africa?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll see?
Q Whatever happened to that Africa statement?
MR. MCCURRY: They are going to put that out next week, Steve.
MR. MCCURRY: Can I ask a question, take a poll real quick. For people doing setup stories for the Africa trip, would it be helpful to try to begin that kind of briefing next week?
Q Yes, sure.
Q The sooner the better.
MR. MCCURRY: As early as next week, okay. So we'll maybe try to do something like towards the end of next week, and then we'll do some pre-trip briefing the following week before departure.
Q Have you got your shots yet?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Better get them.
MR. MCCURRY: I know.
END 2:32 P.M. EST #479/3-6