THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
2:40 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I'm sorry I'm late, I was getting an update from staff that had been talking to the President about the GM strike. The President has just had a conference call with the Secretary of Labor to get a report on the negotiations. The White House and the President are encouraged by some of the things that we're hearing from the talks, and believing that the collective bargaining process can make headway here, the President encourages the parties to continue their work to resolve their differences.
The American people have been watching this strike and, of course, it has had some impact on our economy. And we hope that in a short while the parties are in a position to announce an agreement.
Q How does the President feel about Monica Lewinsky making a deal with the independent counsel?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he's pleased that things are working out for her.
Q And how about her mother?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any reaction to what he thinks about her mother.
Q The President sees this as a good development?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that he sees it as a good, bad or indifferent development. He's just pleased that things are working out for her.
Q What do you mean, working out for her?
MR. MCCURRY: That's -- you asked his reaction; that's his reaction.
Q Well, why does he think this means things are working out for her?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that it's other than a self-evident statement that things are working out for her.
Q Ms. Lewinsky has just acknowledged committing a felony. How is that working out for her?
MR. MCCURRY: If I understand correctly, she's been granted transactional immunity. That's what I heard her lawyer report.
Q Right, and in doing so she's admitted she committed perjury when she said she had not had an affair with the President.
MR. MCCURRY: You know more than I know about what she's -- what her testimony will be.
Q -- mean it's working out for him?
Q The point is, how are things working out for her?
Q Are they working out for him? They're working out for her, are they working out for him?
MR. MCCURRY: It will eventually.
Q Did he actually tell you he's pleased with --
MR. MCCURRY: Because sooner or later this matter will come to some kind of end -- one would hope.
Q But, Mike, if she is now going to say that they did have a sexual relationship, he has sworn under oath that they didn't.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what she's going to say -- do you?
Q Well, does that mean, Mike, that he --
MR. MCCURRY: You don't, do you, I don't think.
Q No, I have not seen the deal.
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. I don't either.
Q Did the President actually tell you that that was his reaction?
MR. MCCURRY: That was reported to me as his reaction.
MR. MCCURRY: By Mr. Ruff.
Q Well, that would suggest, Mike, that if the President is pleased that things are working out for Monica Lewinsky, there's still some sympathy that he has toward the former intern here.
MR. MCCURRY: He's a human being; I don't think that would be a surprise to anyone.
Q Did he send her a personal note?
Q What are the President's thoughts about Monica Lewinsky?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any thoughts about her in general --
Q But what are the President's thoughts?
MR. MCCURRY: -- just had a reaction to this development.
Q What are the President's thoughts?
Q Did he send her a note, Mike, of congratulations?
Q The President did meet with his lawyers today? I mean, he's talked --
MR. MCCURRY: He talked to Mr. Kendall earlier, and I think he may have had one or two other conversations.
Q Does he have an agreement to testify?
Q What is the status of Mr. Kendall's talks with Mr. Starr about the President's testimony?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything new to report on that.
Q What about the status of an appeal on the Bruce Lindsey Court of Appeals decision yesterday?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything new to report on that. I know that the lawyers have been looking at the opinion and will come to some kind of conclusion about how they want to proceed.
Q Will we get that today, Mike?
Q Are you able to?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think so today.
Q Are you able to now confirm that the President has, in fact, been subpoenaed by Ken Starr?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information on that.
Q What does this matter do for the President's prestige, image, authority in the eyes of the country and the eyes of the world?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any clue, but I imagine you all will be breathlessly speculating on that for days and days to come.
Q Can you tell us a little bit about the President's schedule in the next month? Because there have been reports that his advisors think he is so busy that it would be hard for him to actually be able to testify in the next month.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to try to speculate on what his advisors may or may not have been concluding. He's got the schedule that we've outlined for you and you know what it includes. It includes some vacation time; it includes the travel he's going to be doing on behalf of candidates for office; it includes a lot of extensive work on the agenda he's put in front of the American people; it includes the kind of work that he's been doing today. We're getting ready in a short while -- and I am going to conclude definitely before 3:00 p.m. -- a tribute to two slain officers who were protecting the American people and their Capitol. He's going to be a busy guy -- he's the President.
Q Don't forget Yeltsin.
MR. MCCURRY: Sam's right, we've got some foreign travel coming up.
Q If it comes between going on vacation and testifying, do you assume he --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I am not in a position to speculate on what he may or may not do. That's in the province of Mr. Starr and Mr. Kendall. And I've told you what I can tell you about that. They're attempting to work out some way in which the grand jury can get whatever information it needs. No change in that.
Q Has the President been in touch with Monica Lewinsky in recent months?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q Has he written her a letter saying he's pleased that this has worked out for her?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. I would doubt it.
Q Mike, in the Roosevelt Room when the President said he had not had sex with Monica Lewinsky, was he telling the truth at that time?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe so, yes.
Q One more try. Isn't it better for the President to get this over with before he goes to Russia and Ireland?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think it would be better for the American people to get this thing over with as fast as possible.
Q Does the President agree with that?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't imagine he wouldn't, but I haven't asked him directly that.
Q Would you say then that he's eager to testify?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he's eager to see it resolved and I think that, as you know, we're eager to see that Mr. Starr and Mr. Kendall make whatever conclusion to their discussions they make.
Q Can you tell us anything about what they're discussing concerning the venue?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't, no. Sam, I can't. I'm not privy to those discussions, nor do I think it would be proper to report on them in public. They're being conducted between the President's attorney and the independent counsel.
Q Well, is it your view the they will, in fact, be able to reach an agreement? Is that what you want?
MR. MCCURRY: I'd be only speculating as a layman and I have no reason to do that.
Q Mike, based on what you know, could you assess the credibility, the mental capacity of Monica Lewinsky, based on what her work here at the White House and her work over at the Pentagon?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to do that. I mean, she's a pleasant person. In the encounters I had with her, she was. We even, I think, interviewed her for a job here at one point. But I don't have any other reaction to that.
Q Did you offer her a job in the Press Office?
MR. MCCURRY: No. We found an excellent, superbly-qualified candidate.
Q Who was that?
Q What kind of a feeling does the President have on her credibility?
MR. MCCURRY: Ms. Newman. (Laughter.)
Q Bring her out.
MR. MCCURRY: Is there anyone here that would want to dispute the notion that we're happier that Ms. Newman is here? (Laughter.) Might make your job a little easier -- I know I am certainly happy with that.
Q Access is everything.
Q What does the President, himself, think of Monica's credibility?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I have no way of judging her credibility. I don't know -- we don't know what she's saying or what she will say or what she's said in her discussions, and it would be useless to speculate.
Q But you know it's widely reported what she's going to say.
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, what is widely reported and what is the truth may or may not be the same thing. You don't know what she has said, and none of us do, and I know you all are going to have to run out and yak and yak and yak forever about this, but it's going to be based on very few facts.
Q Well, we came here for the facts.
Q We yak, our print brethren write, it's our job.
MR. MCCURRY: I gave you something you can report.
Q Mike, in a news conference --
Q He's pleased that things are working out for her. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: This is kind of a minimalist construction, I grant you. It's better than nothing, right? (Laughter.)
Q But if they work out for her, it could sink him. He can't be pleased about that.
MR. MCCURRY: That's sheer speculation on your part, Sam. You don't know that.
Q Well, if she's gotten transactional immunity --
MR. MCCURRY: One would presume that she's -- as her lawyer indicated, that she's going to testify truthfully and accurately. So why would that pose any problem to the President?
Q But if she's got transactional immunity to come forward and say, when I swore that there was no sexual relationship, I was telling the truth, thank goodness you're not going to prosecute --
MR. MCCURRY: We established some time ago you have absolutely no earthly idea what she's going to testify to. I think you already conceded that point.
Q We have earthly ideas. We have not seen the agreement --
MR. MCCURRY: You're all reporting off of what proffer -- you think was in a proffer that Mr. Ginsburg, her prior lawyer, gave months ago to Mr. Starr. So unless you're in the room talking with the lawyers that have been in discussion the last couple of days, I don't know what the basis is for speculating.
Q So it's your assumption that she's going to back up the President's story?
MR. MCCURRY: Her lawyer -- well, let's go by what people said. Her lawyer said that she's going to give complete and truthful testimony and if she does, that should present no problem to the President, obviously.
Q Mike, will Bruce Lindsey be able to debrief Ms. Lewinsky about this deal or about her testimony?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard of any such arrangement.
Q Is it correct that aside from Mr. Ruff, no other member of the White House staff is discussing this matter with the President right now?
MR. MCCURRY: I would strongly doubt that to be the case. I mean, I haven't myself, but I imagine there are others on the staff that have discussed -- I imagine there are others who have, but they can speak for themselves.
Q You just said if she give complete and truthful testimony then she's not going to present a problem to the President. Then you would have an idea of what's complete and truthful and what wouldn't be.
MR. MCCURRY: No --
Q I mean, if she contradicts the President --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any reason to doubt what the President said, so obviously one would assume that they will be one and the same.
Q Mike, elaborate on the President's mood after he heard all this with Monica Lewinsky and her mother.
MR. MCCURRY: The President is very somber today because he's been thinking about what he's about to do in a few short minutes, which is to pay tribute to two law enforcement officers who gave their lives protecting the American people. I think his mind is much more concentrated on that. He did get an update on the GM strike, as I indicated. He's been following a couple of other matters that are in development here, but --
Q Was he somber at all about this, this latest event?
MR. MCCURRY: He had a very brief reaction relayed to me and I reported it to you.
Q Mike, how is the White House Counsel considering the talks between Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr -- how do they characterize them so far? Are they close to an agreement? Are they still wide apart?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard Mr. Kendall offer any characterization.
Q Mike, how was the President informed of the Lewinsky transaction --
MR. MCCURRY: I believe Mr. Kendall -- I'm not absolutely positive of this, but I believe Mr. Kendall was on the phone with him earlier. We'll let you know if that was -- I think Mr. Kendall called through to talk to the President earlier in the day. The President had the morning off because of his late return back to Washington last night.
Q In a news conference a few months ago the President said he would never resign. Is that still his thinking?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't even know why on Earth the question would get posed.
Q Well, the question was posed in a news conference a few months ago for obvious reasons, Mike, and now Ms. Lewinsky is cooperating.
MR. MCCURRY: Answered successfully then.
Q Mike, has the President discussed this matter with any more leaders while overseas or any more leaders discussing --
MR. MCCURRY: Ah, the foreign angle. (Laughter.) Looking for that foreign angle. I can safely report I'm not aware of any foreign angle on this story. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: P.J., you're coming through for me, fella.
Q The NSC has its own take.
MR. MCCURRY: Colonel Crowley, feeling some sympathy for my plight, has given me a little piece of news I can share if I really wanted to divert you --
Q Is there a foreign angle on some other story? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: We've got some paper coming out earlier -- the President is signing an executive order that amends an executive order on weapons of mass destruction. It will help us deal with situation like the one that arose recently with the Russian entities. But we've got paper more coming on that. I know this is much more entertaining to you, so go ahead.
Q You talked earlier about the breathless yak-yak and a lot of what is being said today is that the White House is under siege. He seemed to be portraying --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I didn't say that.
Q No, no, no.
MR. MCCURRY: You mean commentators are saying that?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't feel under siege today.
Q You seem to be putting out a different view. How would you size up the impact of this --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, we've been at this for six months. It's been going on for six months and there's been a lot more speculation, a lot more discussion of this than the facts would warrant. You've got -- I grant you, you've got a factual development that needs to be reported today and I got a reaction to you from the President, but it's been six months that we've been at this, folks, and it hasn't really changed.
Q So this is just another day, another --
Q Don't worry, it will come sooner than later.
MR. MCCURRY: It will go on and my guess is you will find ways in the days ahead, weeks ahead, to continue reporting on this matter and one more day will pass.
Q Has the President decided whether to appeal the attorney-client privilege case?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I indicated earlier they are still looking at those opinions and making some judgment on that. I do expect they're going to resolve that pretty quickly.
Q But not today, you say?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I think, Scott, as far as I know, not today.
Q Did you find out whether there was a deadline for filing a notice of appeal?
MR. MCCURRY: I forgot to check if there was -- maybe one of you guys can find out if there is a period of time in which they have to indicate their intent or file a -- I think it's seven days.
Q Seven days.
Q That's only if they want to go -- if they want to go to the Supreme Court, don't they have more time?
MR. MCCURRY: See, Mara, you have to make it more complicated, you know? We had a nice, simple answer, and --
Q How are you feeling in all this? Is this going to precipitate your plans to leave?
MR. MCCURRY: No. My plans were set a long time ago, irrespective of any of this.
Q Mike, will you acknowledge that today's development at least puts more pressure on the President both to testify and in general?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what pressure has been, so I can't predict or speculate on whether it's increased or decreased.
Q Have you noticed any preparations that he's been making for possible testimony?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not noticed any, no.
Q Does today's development, Mike, change your assertion last week that some time ago, Mr. Clinton turned the corner on all this?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't assert that. I was asked whether my leaving would be an indicator of that, and I answered that question. But I never made that assertion, so it doesn't change that one way or the other.
Q Can I just clarify, although we don't know exactly what Monica said, if she says anything to contradict the President, she is lying?
MR. MCCURRY: Let's wait and see if that ever happens.
Q As a point of fact, as a point of fact, she said --
MR. MCCURRY: Her lawyer has indicated that she will give truthful testimony, so that's the only statement that stands at this moment, and I'm not aware of any contrary indicating information.
Q But if she does --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate.
Any other subjects under the sun?
Q You said the President has told the truth. If Miss Lewinsky --
MR. MCCURRY: I said I believe he has told the truth.
Q Is there a difference?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I believe he's told the truth. I don't think there is a difference.
Q So you're not willing to state flatly that he has told the truth, it's your belief?
MR. MCCURRY: I can only report what I can ontologically know -- right? That's probably wrong, right?
Q Yeah, that will work.
MR. MCCURRY: Does that work? Thanks, Bill. (Laughter.) Resident scholar, Mr. Plante.
Q If a different version of events is told to the grand jury, is that a lie?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I would presume so, yes.
Q Mike, when is Larry Cockell coming back?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. You'd have to ask the Service. They can report to you.
Q Do you expect it soon --
MR. MCCURRY: We hope so, because -- we had hoped that he would be back on detail soon, but how they schedule him and rotate him in is their business to report, not mine.
Q Is it true that some of the Secret Service officers, especially at the Northwest Gate, have been moved because we come through that gate and they don't want us to kind of quiz them ourselves?
MR. MCCURRY: I certainly had not heard that, but you should ask that of the Service. They make determinations and decisions about where they post various people in the Uniformed Division. I don't know.
Q Have you talked with Ruff -- if there is an agreement on the President testifying, are you going to say so, or is something we need to be alert that it might happen and we wouldn't have the slightest idea?
MR. MCCURRY: I will certainly convey to Mr. Kendall --I will do this -- convey to Kendall that people need to know if they have reached some conclusion in those discussions, and that he needs to, to the degree, since we are making him the address for your inquiries on this, he needs to be as responsive as he can. And I know he's tried to do that.
Q But he doesn't talk.
Q You believe the people have a right to know?
MR. MCCURRY: He talked yesterday.
Q He didn't. His piece of paper talked. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I know, Sam, for your purposes, it's not as good as having a nice fresh piece of meat up there. (Laughter.)
Q But you believe the public has a right to know -- you believe that?
MR. MCCURRY: On grand jury proceedings? I think --
Q No, on whether the President has reached an agreement to be interviewed by the prosecutors.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I think whether there are rights to know are really things more in your province, in your line of work, and you should decide that.
Q But this is the White House, Mike. This is the President of the United States.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you should decide.
Q The people of the United States don't have a right to know?
MR. MCCURRY: I think you should decide what you want to report and what is the people's right to know, because you're the safe-guardian of that right, Scott -- you are.
Q In most of the occasions where the President has given sworn testimony to prosecutors, we have been notified after the fact. Is it your intention to notify us in advance this time?
MR. MCCURRY: Most of the statements that Mr. Kendall has been willing to make on this matter, if you read carefully, have referenced past practice. I take that -- I interpret that, but it's only my interpretation.
Q Mike, with the growing prospect that the President may have to testify, how much time has he now been spending on this, and how much has it been detracting from his other duties?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that, other than deciding to have Mr. Kendall make the discussions that we've reported to you, that he spent any time on it.
Q Is that why he might need to take four weeks to prepare?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say that to you. You apparently believe that, but I don't know on what basis you believe that.
Q Mike, why does the President feel the public doesn't have a right to know as to whether he's being subpoenaed or not?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say that, but previous in a discussion said that the lawyers for the President made a judgment that they don't want to have that discussion in public. And I think that, since he has rights as a citizen his lawyers are entitled to have that judgment.
Q Mike, what's the guidance about what senior White House officials are supposed to say about Monica Lewinsky at the moment? Is it supposed to be a positive message towards her or a negative message -- because sometimes we --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard the matter discussed. I haven't seen guidance issued, because I think it's common sense prevails. She worked here, she was held in high regard here and she left and worked somewhere else in our government. And there hasn't been any change in that.
Q Would it be unacceptable for people to put out messages that were demeaning her or were trying to undercut her credibility at this juncture?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't imagine anyone responsibly here would do such a thing.
Q Mike, roughly, when were you considering hiring her --
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. I've got one minute left because then I'm going off the air.
Q And did you not hire her because you considered her less than eminently qualified?
MR. MCCURRY: No. We had a candidate that we considered a great superior candidate, someone who you all know well and I think your judgment would concur, and my judgment, that she was the right person for the job. And she was --
Q Was this earlier this year? When was this?
MR. MCCURRY: It was like last fall, I think, sometime.
Q Well, Mike, if she was held in such high regard why was she removed from her job and sent to the Pentagon?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't tell you that. I don't know.
Q Mike, on India-Pakistan nuclear test --
MR. MCCURRY: Last question.
Q -- on one hand U.S. is not opposing any new loans, IMF loans to Pakistan; and on the other hand they're denying visas to Indian scientists from India and also scientists here that have been asked to leave the country, but the State Department denying that they have denied any visas.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the State Department, when it comes to visas, they are the appropriate agency to inquire. I'd have to check there before I could answer your question. But it sounds like you've already been in contact -- that's the right place to go.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Over and out.
Q Thank you.
END 3:00 P.M. EDT