THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Dakar, Senegal) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 1, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Meridien Hotel Dakar, Senegal
9:50 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Berger wanted to come back and tell you some more about our Africa trip and what a successful time the President has had here and how much he's enjoyed it here. And as we have done a lot on this trip, if you have questions about this matter, you should call Mr. Kennedy at the White House Legal Counsel's Office.
Q: Are you telling me you're not going to tell us the President's reaction to the news from the court?
MR. MCCURRY: I can tell you the President got a message to call Mr. Bennett, his lawyer, which he did. He called him a little bit after 9:00 p.m. The President got the news from Mr. Bennett. He asked if it was, in fact, an April Fools joke that Mr. Bennett was playing on him, and, assured that it was not, the President thanked Mr. Bennett for his fine work, said he appreciated everything the attorneys had done in this case.
And, obviously, the President was pleased that the judge agreed with the very detailed arguments that the President's attorneys had put forth in this case, and I think he believes that the court's ruling speaks more eloquently than he could on the matter.
Q: But he must be relieved by this, don't you think? Isn't he relieved?
MR. MCCURRY: The President was pleased to hear the news.
Q: How is Mrs. Clinton?
Q: Does the President regret at all that so many other people were brought into this investigation, that other names were made public?
MR. MCCURRY: There will be a lot said by many people on this. I've just told you what the President has to say.
Q: Mike, how is Mrs. Clinton handling this right now?
MR. MCCURRY: The President shared the news with the First Lady after he got it from Mr. Bennett, and I think both of them were pleased to get the news. And at the moment they're doing some shopping.
Q: What do you think this does to Ken Starr's investigation?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on that. I have no basis of information to speculate on that.
Q: Is the President bitter about what happened?
Q: --political calculus in terms of the President being able to get things done, his agenda, which has been--
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on politics or anything else. We've done a lot of very hard work on Africa and the importance of building a new partnership with Africa on this trip. The President has been focused on that, and focused on that to the exclusion of other issues. And I think he's going to remain interested in building the kind of partnership with the countries that we've been here, continuing to build a relationship that's going to matter a lot more to the American people in the long run as we think ahead to the 21st century-- what kind of country we want to live in and what kind of country we want to share our own work with. And that's the purpose of this trip.
Q: Is he bitter about being dragged into this for three years now?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President is pleased to receive the vindication he's been waiting a long time for this.
Q: Mike, how surprised was the President by this decision?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if I would characterize him as being "surprised." I mean, there's been speculation that the judge would have some ruling on that motion. I don't think it was entirely expected, but it was welcome nonetheless.
Q: Mike, did the First Family call Chelsea in California?
MR. MCCURRY: Not at this point, and I don't know whether they plan to or not. I think they plan to get dinner.
Q: What was the President doing when he got the news?
MR. MCCURRY: He was on the telephone with Mr. Bennett. (Laughter)
Q: Well, Mike, before that?
MR. MCCURRY: Right before that he was walking down the hallway to get on the phone with Mr. Bennett. (Laughter)
Q: How much has legal bills in this case--
MR. MCCURRY: We've reported what we have on that at previous occasion.
Anything else? Let's go to dinner.
Q: Mike, will the President address this himself at any point?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't anticipate him doing that. He's got a lot of work to do tomorrow to wrap up this trip, and he will stay focused on the work of this trip.
Q: --to tell us how you think a decision of this magnitude, which has been affecting all of your work-- how's it going to affect --I mean, this whole scandal has been affecting all of your work-- how it's going to affect--
MR. MCCURRY: A decision of this magnitude, which has been long awaited for and is--the President is glad to get. I mean, I don't know how it's going to affect the work we do. The President would have done the work that he is going to do regardless of what this decision was.
Q: Does that President expect it to be appealed? Does Bob Bennett expect it to be appealed?
MR. MCCURRY: We had no way of knowing that. We've heard some of what the attorneys on the other side have said, but we have no way of predicting.
Q: Back on this. Does the President feel vindicated? I mean, he has always denied this.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's about three times already I've said he's felt vindicated.
Q: Yes, I know, but I mean you really haven't addressed it.
MR. MCCURRY: Pleased to receive the vindication that he has long waited for.
Q: Does this change his mind about a news conference, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: No. Not unless, you all have a lot of questions on Africa and the partnership we're building with Africa as we think ahead in this very important relationship the President has worked hard on in the last couple of days.
Q: Does the President believe this may have damaged him, notwithstanding the vindication from the judge, simply by having this for three years in the public print?
MR. MCCURRY: This has been a fact of life and no doubt other matters will remain a fact of life for him. And he has done a very good job of staying very focused on the work that he believes that the American people expect him to do. That's what he's doing on this trip. That's what he's doing when he will get home. And I think the President has shown extraordinary discipline in not letting these other issues distract him from the work that he was elected twice by the American people to do.
Q: Mike, the judge's ruling says that if the allegations are true , they do not amount to sexual harassment. Could you state again for the record whether the President says that Ms. Jones' allegations have merit or not?
MR. MCCURRY: That question relates directly to the arguments that Mr. Bennett filed in numerous briefs before the court, and you can find the answer in the very eloquent pleadings that he filed.
Q: Mike, what are the high points of this trip to Africa?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the major high points of this trip for Africa have been the sense of a new spirit of partnership in which the American people will engage with the people of Africa as we build a common destiny. And I think most Americans will not lose sight of the fact that, irrespective of what the news is back home, this President has worked hard to advance the economic interests of the American people and doing so in a way that will help the people of Africa realize their potential. It's an extraordinary place. The President has been very struck by the energy and enthusiasm of the people and leaders of Africa, and I think he wants to build on that now as we build a new partnership with Africa.
Q: Has the president, Mike, said anything about tactics that the Paula Jones lawyers used in the last few weeks?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has said what I've reported to you, and that's about the last question I'm going to take.
Q: Mike, for the record, does the President deny Ms. Jones' allegations?
MR. MCCURRY: That's been asked and answered so numerous times and addressed so eloquently and pleaded before the court, you don't need me to say that here.
Anything else, and we're done for the evening.
Q: Mike, you talked about what the President did, but can you tell us, did he have a meeting with his aides? Did Bruce come in, Sosnick, you? What happened immediately after he got this news?
MR. MCCURRY: He got on the phone to Bennett. He relayed the news to others here. I think it's fair to say that some people were surprised by that news, and the President shared it with the First Lady and he's going on with his program for the balance of the evening.
Q: Do you expect some celebration, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: I expect the President to do some good shopping of the very fine crafts that they have displayed for him up there, and then have some dinner and then go to bed so that he can get and do the work that he intends to do here in Africa tomorrow.
Q: Were the President's aides surprised? Were you surprised?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to characterize the reaction. I've given you the President's reaction. I think that's the significant thing, and I don't think there's anything to add beyond that.
Let's finish this up.
Q: Is the President asserting executive privilege on behalf of some of his aides in their conversations with Mrs. Clinton?
MR. MCCURRY: Asked and answered.
Q: When was it answered?
MR. MCCURRY: Asked and answered. It's been addressed back home numerous times.
Q: Well, what about you? You're his spokesperson?
MR. MCCURRY: You've asked me and I've already answered that question.
Q: By saying nothing.
MR. MCCURRY: Anything else?
Q: Mike, what exactly did the President say as he relayed his news to you and the other people on his staff?
MR. MCCURRY: He said, as I indicated, that he thought at first it was an April Fools joke.
Q: Can you kind of characterize his demeanor when he spoke to you?
MR. MCCURRY: He just wanted to know more about it and wanted to talk to Mr. Bennett about it and then wanted to share the news with the First Lady.
Okay, that's all I want to do on this subject, and we'll get back to Africa tomorrow. I know you all want to get back to your stories you're doing for tomorrow on our trip here in Africa--which we are here in Africa, not back in Washington. And there's not--I don't believe there's anything further that Mr. Kennedy--if there's anything further to say about any legal aspect of this, Jim Kennedy from the White House Legal Counsel's Office will be the place to go. I don't intend to do anything more on it here.
Q: Mike, is the President staying in tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he will stay here, it is my understanding.
Q: Is there some sort of frustration for the President about the coverage of this African trip?
MR. MCCURRY: No, absolutely not. It has been spectacular. It's been great. He has several times told me that he's been somewhat surprised at how much you all have been able to report on this and get good placement and good air time for the story. And he feels that's important because one of his goals in this trip was to introduce America to the potential and possibility that is Africa today and will be Africa in the 21st century. And the coverage has been great, and he's loved the pictures of him and the elephants. And he thanks all of you. And think you all deserve a night out on the town. And why don't we all go do dinner, which is what we should be doing anyhow.
All right, anybody got anything else before we end this? Thank you and good evening.