THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART, BARRY TOIV, AND ERIC RUBIN
The Briefing Room
2:50 P.M. EDT
MR. TOIV: The White House is filled with the sound of toddlers today. Do you have any questions?
Q Barry, is there any situation in which Clinton would not go to Ireland?
MR. TOIV: Can I ask you to -- since we have three of us here today, before we do the Ireland stuff, if you have any questions about taxes, I can probably start with that. And then we'll move on to the other.
Q Any details about the charitable contribution?
MR. TOIV: As you know, the First Lady has been donating all of her proceeds from the sale of her book to charities, and those are -- while we are not giving out the names of the individual groups, it's primarily to those that help children such as children's hospitals and other kinds of charities. And, in addition, they also provide donations to their churches, to their alma maters, that kind of thing.
Q And that all comes out of Mrs. Clinton's --
MR. TOIV: No, most of it comes from the earnings from her book. It also comes from the Harry Freeman* Pin Money Fund, which you're probably familiar with from past years, in which the spouse of the President receives annual total payments of $12,000. And Mrs. Clinton donates that to charity as well every year. In addition, they've made contributions separate from those, several thousand dollars worth.
Q Barry, refresh my memory -- Chelsea's income is derived from what exactly?
MR. TOIV: Her income is derived from her -- she has her own trust and also from whatever bank account she may have.
Q Is that fair that Chelsea's trust money -- is that money that her grandmother left her or that's from the book or something?
MR. TOIV: This is not -- I don't have the specifics of that. In the past I think there have been some book royalties; that's not the case this year.
Q There is a mortgage interest deduction for the Clintons, about $3,000 -- can you describe what that is?
MR. TOIV: Yes, it's the same as every year. The Clintons pay half of the mortgage on the home in Little Rock that Mrs. Rodham lives in and which is their official Arkansas residence. And that shows up on the tax form every year.
Q On Schedule B Interest and Dividend Income, is any of that interest and dividends on the royalties from the book, and, if so, which items?
MR. TOIV: Yes, the Riggs Bank interest --
Q The $3,000?
MR. TOIV: Yes, a little over $3,000 is interest from the royalties, that collects as the royalties sit in the bank. Those two are contributed to charity.
Again, those contributions are made -- they subtract the amount it costs to pay taxes, federal and state taxes, on the royalties, as well as administrative expensive.
Q On the first page of the return it lists a capital gain, $65,000 and some change, was that taxed in terms of the new tax bill at 20 percent instead of 28 percent?
MR. TOIV: A portion of it was, a relatively small portion. If you look at Schedule D, and if you can understand Schedule D, you'll see that about $11,000 of it was taxed at the 20 percent rate as opposed to the 28 percent rate, or as ordinary income. The short-term gains at the top in part one you'll see are taxed as ordinary income. Approximately $11,057 minus $46,000 is taxed at 20 percent.
Q -- on the second page of Schedule D, is that --
MR. TOIV: Yes, I'll go along with that. Yes, that's right. That's actually right, that's right, Leo.
Q So 8 percent of that figure would be the windfall he got for signing the bill? (Laughter.)
MR. TOIV: That would be the amount that came from the capital gains provision from the Balanced Budget Act last year. You don't want to hear me on capital gains versus the other tax provisions, do you?
Q He got close to $1,000 from that?
Q Does he have any comment on dropping out of the millionaire bracket from last year down to this year?
MR. TOIV: No, he had no comment on that.
Q Barry, the $19,745 in state and local taxes that's Washington D.C.?
MR. TOIV: No, that is almost entirely Arkansas. There is a very tiny amount that goes to California as a result of -- again, many of you will remember from last year -- if you look at their wage income it is not $200,000 , which as you all know is the President's salary -- but $200,076, and that $76 is residuals from his appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show back in '92. And that shows up every year.
Q Do you know whether that's the same sax that he happened to give away today, the one that he played --
MR. TOIV: We don't know the answer to that. It was one of his, but we don't know that it was the same one.
And, again, there's California state income tax on that amount, which I know is under $10 -- if I can find it here -- $7, that is.
Q When was his appearance on Arsenio?
MR. TOIV: The appearance on Arsenio was in 1992, during the campaign.
Q Did the Clintons file a list of the charitable donations with their return with the IRS?
MR. TOIV: No, this is what they filed with the IRS.
Q It said there that if you donate more than $250 you might have to file a statement --
MR. TOIV: Well, I take that back. Let me take that question, actually. I'm not sure of the answer. Maybe folks who are listening will get a note out to me on that one.
Q What's the rationale for not releasing a list of the charities to which the money was given?
MR. TOIV: Well, for one thing, they don't want to make too big a deal out of it. And secondly, I suspect that they're approached enough as it is by charitable organizations looking for donations -- I don't think that they're interested in encouraging any further. They're very satisfied with the contributions they make and they're very careful about it.
Q What was the net donation from the book then, since you separate those from donations the Clintons made -- of the pin money and their own personal resources?
MR. TOIV: The donations from the book this year were $250,000. You've asked for it now -- were $250,000. There was $12,000 from the pin money, and there was about $8,000-plus just from their own funds. And last year -- it gets kind of complicated because -- what shows up on the form -- because they're limited in how much they can deduct. You can only deduct as charitable contributions as much as half of your adjusted gross income.
If you look at their 1040 you'll see that that is exactly double the amount of charitable contributions they've actually deducted. If you also look at the return you'll see there's carryover. There was carryover from last year because they could not deduct it all. You're allowed to carry over the unused deductions to the following year. So they've used carryover from last year; they've also carried over to next year. They carried over about $76,749; carried over to next year $62,718.
Q Going to Chelsea, is this the first time she filed on her own, and where is she getting her money from?
MR. TOIV: The second question has been answered already. The first question, this is the first time she's filed on -- well, she's filed separate returns. This is the first time she's filed her own.
Q And just for the record again, where did she get her money from, if you can tell me again?
MR. TOIV: Sure. She has a trust as well, blind trust, and whatever savings and other bank accounts she might have.
The IRS does not require a list of the charitable entities to which they've donated.
Q Barry, if he were to pay any of these legal bills that -- would any of that be deductible?
MR. TOIV: You would have to ask a tax expert that question.
Q We can assume that this does not reflect that he had paid any of his legal bills, nor has he tried to deduct any of his payments?
MR. TOIV: Right. The trust, the legal defense trust, has paid a substantial -- has paid some of his legal bills, as you know.
Q But he still has an outstanding legal bill?
MR. TOIV: Yes, he certainly does.
Q And he has not paid anything on that out of his own pocket?
MR. TOIV: Not to my knowledge, although I don't know the answer to that for sure, actually.
Q I think he paid $1,000 when it opened.
MR. TOIV: That's the point. It would not be reflected on here anyway since I don't know that that would be a deductible expense.
Q Barry, the President paid $8,000 to have this thing prepared. That seems like a heck of a rip-off. (Laughter.) Why is it so high? Gore's has far more pages and paid far less.
MR. TOIV: Well, first of all, I'm not going to -- that's for the accountants to answer. (Laughter.) But that's for accounting services throughout the year. It's not only for the preparation of this form.
Q Who are the accountants?
MR. TOIV: Is it in there? It's on the release.
Q What's Midlife Investment?
MR. TOIV: Midlife Investments is a long-ago investment partnership that Mrs. Clinton was involved in that, as you can see, is barely dormant -- or barely alive -- dormant is probably the right word.
Q What is it, a real estate thing, or what is it?
MR. TOIV: No, they invested some time ago in a television movie production, and it's unclear to everybody whatever happened to it. But as you can see, it produces a couple dollars of income every year. It's been on previous tax returns as well.
Q Is this with the Thomassons?
MR. TOIV: I don't know.
Q Can we move on to other questions?
MR. TOIV: I'm happy to, unless there is --
Q Two things. A year ago there was a release of the 38 charities that were beneficiaries of the book, so why the change in policy?
MR. TOIV: That wasn't my understanding. You'll have to show me that.
Q And secondly, did the President say anything about his view of the level of taxation that he pays and whether it is fair, appropriate, adequate, burdensome?
MR. TOIV: No, he didn't express any view on the level of his taxation. He thinks that the tax system is fairer than when he took office. There can always be improvements, however. He has proposed a few, as you know. But he did not express a view one way or another on his own level of taxation.
Q Did he express any views on the complexity of the capital gains tax calculation?
MR. TOIV: No, he did not. I suspect his accountants did, though.
Q Barry, can you answer questions about the Gores' taxes?
MR. TOIV: No. Let me refer you to Chris Lehane in the Vice President's Office for that.
Q Can we move on?
Q Can we go on to Irish?
MR. TOIV: Sure.
Q Before we go to Irish, what is the White House position on the complaints by the Hispanic community about the race forum tomorrow?
Q Joe, could you repeat the question?
MR. LOCKHART: The question is about the White House position about some complaints from the local LULAC chapter in Houston, which wrote a letter, I believe to the President. The group expressed some concern about Hispanic involvement in the panel. I think we've had a chance to talk to them, and I hope that they're looking as forward to the discussion tomorrow night as we are.
The situation was, ESPN put together the panel and are doing this program. One of the few things we said to them beforehand is we did want a panel that was diverse and represented both ethnically and racially along the lines to be diverse. ESPN worked very hard to try to bring in an Hispanic. They had put out invitations to about two dozen Hispanic athletes, most of whom had to decline because of scheduling problems. But they did get a prominent college basketball player Felepe Lopez from Saint Johns University. He I think will be an excellent addition to the panel and the President is very much looking forward to the conversation tomorrow night.
Q Was the White House concerned when you all looked at the panel and saw that at first there were none and then there was only one?
MR. LOCKHART: I think you could pick this at any point in time and say that the panel was not complete until I think this weekend. They were talking to people, they got some late commitments from people to come in and were very happy about the panel they put together. ESPN knew full well that were looking to have a diverse panel and they worked very hard to do it, and I think by in large they've done it.
Q Joe, Tom Delay's office is also complaining that tickets went out to Democratic members of Congress, but not Republican members of Congress. And also, what is the President --what message does he want to get out of this event tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, as far as I know, ESPN is controlling the tickets to the event. I think there is about 1,000 seats in the theater that it's being held in. And I haven't heard anything about a problem with Republican members or Democratic members.
The President hopes to do a couple things. As you know, he is seeking through his race initiative to have a national dialogue on issues of race. This is the second one. And this one is a little bit different from the first one in a couple respects; one, we're trying to broaden the audience of the people to get more people involved, and that was one of the attractions of the proposal that ESPN made. Secondly, we think it can make a very interesting conversation, a very good way to start a conversation if you use sports as the vehicle for conversations about race. It certainly doesn't replace what we did in Akron and what we'll be doing throughout the year.
For instance, last week we did, through the President's Initiative on Race, something like 500 dialogues on campuses around the country. At the end of this month the governors from around the country will be hosting dialogues on race. But we think this one provided a very interesting way to deal with the issue, to deal with sports as a way of looking at some of the societal issues as a whole.
Q I understand that some of the larger sports figures, some of the larger names, are not participating in this after requests from ESPN as well as from the White House. What are the thoughts about some of these figures not participating, especially in light of the fact many think that their marketability would be affected if they participate in a conversation on race?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm really not aware of the people who are not participating; I am aware of the people who are and we think we have a great panel. We've got a couple of current athletes like Keshan Johnson who certainly has had a lot of things to say that we think will help the discussion tomorrow; Felepe Lopez, as well as people who have been talking and thinking about these issues for a long time, like Jim Brown, John Thompson. And then we have some of the people from the management part of sports -- Mr. Dooley, from the University of Georgia, and the President of the San Diego Padres.
So we think it's a good group of people and it will be a lively discussion. The President is very much looking forward to it.
Q But there was a large outreach to some big names -- will the White House admit that?
MR. LOCKHART: I know ESPN cast a very wide net, and as far as the White House is concerned, we're very happy with the group they put together.
Q Is the ESPN coverage of this exclusive to ESPN, or is a pool of other television networks and outlets going to get access to it?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the answer to that. I know there is a -- it will be on ESPN and also on ABC Online, and I have to check on the arrangements they've made. I haven't heard the kind of complaints the last time we did this, so I think hopefully we've learned our lesson there.
Q Can you talk a little about the format --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Basically, ESPN has broken it up -- I think it will be a minimum of an hour and a half, it may go a little bit longer, and I think it's broken up into six sections because they'll be breaking six times, I believe, over the hour and a half for commercials. And I think each of them -- they're going to start with what they're calling a video vignette that will hopefully will focus the conversation on that 10-12 minute block. I don't have a list of all of them, but I understand there are a variety of topics from stereotyping in sports along racial lines to the opportunities as far as management goes for various racial groups. So it will be -- it will almost be -- after the opening section where the President will make an opening statement, it will go right to a conversation which -- the natural breaks will be by the commercials.
And I think what ESPN hopes to do is they have five or six different areas they want to talk about and they'll start at each with a short video, and then that will start the conversation.
Q Is the White House convinced that Robert Mulholland will stop his effort to look at the personal lives of some Republican members of the Judiciary Committee?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he'll have to speak to that. I think he has probably gotten a clear message. I think the DNC has communicated to him on that and I'll let them speak for themselves. As far as the White House is concerned, you've heard the President talk now and then about his distaste for the politics of personal destruction, and that view he holds quite strongly. So I think, again, you'll have to talk to Mr. Mulholland and to the DNC, but I know that they have communicated to him their views on that.
Q Joe, can you tell us how the dismissal of the Jones' matter has affected the White House's thinking about whether the President can or can't be more forthcoming about statements that were previously withheld because of the gag order in that case?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware there has been any change.
Q You're not aware that the gag order has changed or that --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not aware of anything changing in our thinking due to the dismissal of the case as far as what we can say.
Q Joe, I let me follow that question. The President himself has cited that gag order as reasons for not answering certain questions. At what point is he going to answer those questions, then?
MR. LOCKHART: Which questions are you asking?
Q I'm going to have to go back to the transcript, but there have been various questions he has, over the last three months, has said, there's a gag order, I probably shouldn't talk about that. You know the questions.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I, actually -- which questions are you particularly talking to? There is broad area of questions that we have talked about that --
Q I guess what I had in mind is the precise nature of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The President said what it isn't, he's never said what is it. And one of the reasons he said he wouldn't talk about that is because this matter was under --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me just repeat what we've said, that the President has denied the central allegations made, and at this point that's all we have to say about it.
Q Joe, The New York Times story about the transfer of technology to China -- a quick question: Why did the President approve the transfer of missile technology and improve the reliability of Chinese nuclear weapons, and how is that in the nation's best interest?
MR. LOCKHART: That's Eric.
MR. RUBIN: Thanks. Well, first of all, the policy in question has been in effect since the Reagan administration, and it's a policy that allows U.S. commercial satellites to be launched from China, and that policy continued through the Bush administration and into the Clinton administration.
We have very strict safeguards for preventing unauthorized transfer of technology of this kind, and we believe that those safeguards have worked. In this case, as in the other cases in question, the President made his decision based on his assessment of the national interest and based on the merits of the case.
Q How is it in the national interest? Can you explain that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, what you're look at -- these are licensing questions in terms of commercial transactions versus potentially sensitive dual-use transactions. As with any other sensitive technology, this is a case where we have procedures in place to ensure that our companies can sell legitimate goods that don't have potential implications for the national security, and at the same time preventing the unauthorized transfer of items that might.
Q To follow up one more time, the suggestion in the New York Times article is that this is an example of the administration decriminalizing something for a big contributor.
MR. RUBIN: The President's decisions were made solely on the basis of his assessment of the national interest and on the merits of the license application.
Q Eric, has the U.S. asked China to help the United States and Thailand cooperate on the capture of Pol Pot?
MR. RUBIN: On the capture of Pol Pot, what we've said in the past and what I would reiterate is that we believe he and others responsible for the genocide there should be brought to justice. We have talked to other countries in the region and elsewhere about how to do that. We're still involved in discussions about how to do that. It's something we believe should happen, but I'm not able to get into any specifics about specific contacts.
Q There is a report that the U.S. did raise it with China.
MR. RUBIN: I can't confirm specific contacts. We've discussed with a lot of countries this question. This is, I think, something that we share with most members of the international community, a belief that those responsible for what happened in Cambodia in those years should be brought to justice. We would like to see that happen. We'd like to work with other countries to help make that happen.
Q And can you explain why George Mitchell earlier this morning on TV seemed to suggest that a Clinton trip to Northern Ireland was a virtual done deal, and the President now is backing away from that?
MR. RUBIN: No, no. If you look at what Senator Mitchell said, he said if the Prime Minister thinks that's useful. What the President has said is he would like to go back at some point, and as he said on Friday, and you'll get the transcript from the pool spray a few minutes ago -- I can paraphrase what he said essentially -- that he wants to be helpful, he wants to help this process continue to succeed, and he would like to talk to Prime Minister Ahern and Prime Minister Blair to see if they think it would be useful -- basically to get their views on this. And until then, he's not prepared to make any announcements or any decisions.
Q How much aid does the United States give Northern Ireland?
MR. RUBIN: About $20 million went into the International Fund for Ireland this year from the United States' contribution. We're hoping to contribute a similar amount next year -- that's for Northern Ireland. There's no current aid to the Republic of Ireland. And as the President has said, he believes that we are going to be in a position, first of all, to see a lot more investment in Northern Ireland as this peace process takes hold, and he's also prepared to discuss other new initiatives.
I just want to mention that Senator Mitchell has just come out to the stakeout; if anybody wishes to talk to him, he's out there. He's left? Okay.
Q One gets the sense, Eric, that perhaps the President is being very, very cautious here, that he's afraid this whole thing might blow up in his face -- that the peace agreement is so tentative.
MR. RUBIN: I have nothing to add to what he said earlier, and as I said, you'll get the transcript soon. But he has said he would like to go back; he would like to be helpful in this process. And we're going to wait and see until after he talks to the Prime Ministers.
Q -- more significant economic assistance package emerging for Northern Ireland in the aftermath of this agreement?
MR. RUBIN: If you look at what the President said on Friday, he is open to ideas, but we have nothing specific. And we have already requested a similar amount for next year for the International Fund that we have this year. That's definitely in our request. But beyond that, we haven't looked at anything specific.
Q There was a report this morning that President Yeltsin has reintroduced the START II treaty to the Russian Duma. Is there indeed any positive indications on that front, and would that open the way for a possible trip to Russia sometime this spring?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'd refer you to what the President said previously, that he would like to go to Moscow after the Duma ratifies START II. We certainly hope they'll move expeditiously to ratify it.
Q On the trip to Santiago, how would you characterize the difference between what the President would hope to get out of this trip without having fast track as compared to what he could have hoped to get?
MR. RUBIN: Actually, the National Security Advisor and U.S. Trade Representative and the President's Special Envoy for the Americas will be here in about five minutes and can take questions on the trip.
Q The White House has talked about it already, but there is some complaining in Houston because there are not enough Hispanics at tomorrow's event. You've talked about it already?
MR. RUBIN: It came up earlier.
Q Okay. I'm sorry.
Q The International Atomic Energy Agency seems ready to give Iraq a near-clean bill of health as far as nuclear weapons are concerned. Are you familiar with that story?
MR. RUBIN: Somewhat.
Q Do you accept that report?
MR. RUBIN: I think that's something we're going to want to be looking at. I wouldn't want to comment on it until we've had a chance to review it. But we have people at the IAA who work on Iraqi matters almost full-time and I think we'll have to take a look at the report before we say anything.
Q Can you sort of give us an idea of what May is all about in terms of Europe? What's the first stop? What's the second stop?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've said the President intends to go to Germany. And we have not outlined the timing for the trip, but that's certainly possible that that would be before Birmingham.
Q Is that a state visit?
MR. RUBIN: No, that is not going to be a state visit and we don't have specific dates and places yet. But he'll be doing that in addition to the Summit of the Eight, and Birmingham and the US EU Summit which will take place in England as well.
Q What are the dates of the EU -- what are the dates of that?
MR. RUBIN: It's the middle week in May.
Q The question here was whether the EU Summit will be in London or Birmingham.
MR. RUBIN: I think that's not yet decided. That's something we're working on with the British government.
Q So the German visit is on the Berlin anniversary?
MR. RUBIN: No, we haven't specified in terms of where the President will be going in Germany or what specific dates he'll be there. So I would not jump to conclusions about locations.
Q Bill Richardson announced a trip to Bangladesh?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
Q Is he correct?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, the President does look forward, as we've announced, to going to South Asia later this year, and we do anticipate that that trip will include Bangladesh as well.
Q Is he going to Vietnam?
MR. RUBIN: No such plans.
Thank you very much.
END 3:20 P.M. EDT