THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:36 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Let me do a couple of program notes in addition to the schedule. I mentioned to you earlier the President was meeting with leaders from the disabilities community and people on his task force on employment of adults with disabilities. They had a good meeting, and I think you've got some of the paper that we put out about the executive memorandum that he signed today and some of the steps we're going to take that will make the full benefits of the Americans with Disabilities Act available to a wider community of people.
Some of those folks -- Tony Coelho and a couple of others will be available as soon as I'm done here, giving you an incentive to wrap up early today.
And then the other thing is I expect the President will drop by a meeting that Sandy Berger is going to have with the President-elect of Ecuador this afternoon. President-elect Mahuad is here in Washington and has been making the rounds. He's seeing Mr. Berger and I expect the President will talk to him. Jacobo, the one person in the room who might be able to use this -- he's going to do -- we have been working for quite some time to resolve the border disputes that have been ongoing since 1995 between Peru and Ecuador. The President on past occasions has talked to President Fujimori about that. The United States is one of four guarantors of the Rio Treaty, which is the mechanism by which Ecuador and Peru can resolve their border dispute, and the diplomacy that we've done on that has been bearing encouraging results. And the President wanted to review that issue and other issues with the President-elect.
Q Has there been progress toward resolving the questions of when and where and how the President might give his testimony to the independent counsel?
MR. MCCURRY: I know that the discussions between Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr's office have been going on. As you know, I'm not privy to those discussions, so I can't give you a progress report. But I believe they are continuing and I believe it's certainly Mr. Kendall's intention to see if they can't work out some arrangement by which the Grand Jury can get the information it needs.
Q Mike, what reason is there for the President to delay his testimony?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any.
Q You're not aware of any reason the President can't give his testimony immediately?
MR. MCCURRY: I know that they would want to have discussions about how that would occur, but again, I'm not privy to the discussions.
Q Mike, there's no scheduling constraint?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll come back to you, Scott.
Q Well, yesterday, you said the President was a busy guy and you listed some of the things he's doing between now and September. Given what you know of his schedule, is there anything in the schedule that would prevent him devoting the time he would need to testify before September?
MR. MCCURRY: He's got -- I mean, you know what his schedule is. He's got some travel out of town and he's got --
Q He's not canceling anything?
MR. MCCURRY: -- he's got two weeks for vacation, he's got the trip to Russia.
Q He's not canceling anything?
Q Meaning what -- there's a lot of --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any changes in his --
Q -- time to testify or not?
Q Would he prefer to testify before September?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr are having discussions that would allow the grand jury to get the information it needs. I am not the address for questions on what the status of those discussions are. Mr. Kendall is.
Q As far as you know, are there any second thoughts being given to this whole area?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything to corroborate what you've been reporting about the status of those discussions.
Q But the President would like to do it as soon as possible?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he wants to take the advice of his counsel, and his counsel is discussing the matter with Mr. Starr.
Q Are you even there yet on trying to make a decision on picking a date? You're still in negotiations?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not anywhere in the discussions, because I'm not privy to them. But Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr probably know where they are and I have heard that those discussions are going along.
Q Everyone saw that they went to see the judge yesterday. Is the judge stepping in and going to make a decision in this matter, do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know, but I'm sure that somewhere on the airwaves, someone is proclaiming to know what the answer to that is that probably doesn't know.
Q Is there a chance he would not?
Q Mike, is there any consideration being given for the President addressing the nation on this in conjunction with whatever testimony that he --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard any such consideration.
Q Would the President prefer to testify before or after Monica Lewinsky?
MR. MCCURRY: You would have to ask his attorney that; I don't know.
Q Is there a chance the President would go to the Supreme Court and not testify?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any factual basis to give you a speculative answer.
Q Does the President think he's too busy to testify before the end of September?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard him say that.
Q So schedule is not a constraint?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, look, I don't know what the constraints are. And it's subject to the discussions that Mr. Kendall on the President's behalf is having with Mr. Starr. What goes into making -- you know, what the complications are or --
Q What's his mood?
MR. MCCURRY: His mood is, he seemed to be enjoying all the work he is doing today. He's giving a speech on education, which some of you may or may not report, and he's doing all the other work that we're doing around here today.
Q Have you had a chance to talk to him and find out whether he can elaborate on why he said or relayed to you the fact that he was pleased that things were working out for Monica Lewinsky?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't talked to him specifically about that, but I think I have a pretty good idea of why he said it. And I think, as I told you, it was just a genuine human response.
Q Has Kendall been here today in the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he hasn't. I think the President may have talked to him by phone, but he hasn't been here today.
Q Mike, what is the status of the decision-making on an appeal of the Bruce Lindsey matter?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard it's reached any conclusion at this point.
Q Do you expect anything today on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Let me check before I say no.
Q Mike, there is a new poll out today that shows after the last few weeks, more people feel negatively about the President than did, say, a couple of weeks ago. How do you explain that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that that's an accurate poll, but so what? What do polls mean?
Q What are your polls showing, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't been briefed on whatever polling we have, if we have any polling.
Q Do you wish it was October?
MR. MCCURRY: Do I wish it was October? (Laughter.) Let me just ruminate on that for a minute. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, is the President --
MR. MCCURRY: -- on a beach somewhere.
Yes, in the back.
Q Mike, I'd like to revisit something you mentioned yesterday about Monica Lewinsky being interviewed by your office. Who conducted that interview?
MR. MCCURRY: That was a more junior member of my staff for a mid-level position on our staff, and she was one of four people interviewing. I ran through the rest of that in the gaggle this morning.
Q Mike, is the President receiving any advice from congressional Democrats on when and whether he should testify?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, over the airwaves, yes, since a lot of them are being interviewed giving their opinion. But I don't know whether he's talked to any of them directly about that. I'd have to check with him on that.
Q Well, Mike, is there any truth to reports that he'd rather testify later so that it might be a Democratic Congress that would consider Starr's report?
MR. MCCURRY: I think I've exhausted my supply of answers on that matter.
Q Mike, the former Japanese Prime Minister Miyazawa is going to take over as finance minister. He's 78 years old and he himself has said it's not a job for an old man.
MR. MCCURRY: We are aware of conflicting reports on that issue, but let me say the following. The selection by the Liberal Democratic Party of Mr. Obuchi as the head of the party could lead to his ratification by the Diet as Prime Minister. That has not yet happened. And our government, until a Prime Minister has formally been designated, should properly refrain from any direct comment. Obviously, we know Mr. Obuchi well, we know former Prime Minister Miyazawa well, but it would be inappropriate for us to speculate on the formation of that new government until it actually happens. If and when that is the selection made for finance minister, I imagine that we will have an appropriate comment.
Q Well, what would you like to see the finance minister -- the new finance minister --
MR. MCCURRY: I told you the other day, I don't think personalities with respect to the Japanese economy are nearly as important as the policies that the government pursues. And we are very clear on the kinds of policies that we think will be in the best interest of the people of Japan and, coincidentally, in the best interest of the global economy, and thus, citizens here in the United States.
We want to see strong domestic-led growth. We think that there needs to be a substantial undertaking of deregulation and banking reform. We've said that and discussed that at various meetings with the Japanese and we've been encouraged by the response of the leaders of Japan, because they certainly recognize that. Prime Minister Hashimoto has made commitments to pursue those policies. I don't believe we have indication to think that the next government of Japan wouldn't pursue that type of reform. It's very important for the global economy, the regional economy in Asia, to have a strong Japanese economy that can help restore vigor and growth to all of the microeconomies in the region.
Q Mike, is there anything that would prevent the President from testifying during his vacation?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm just not going to speculate on when. The most I can tell you right now is the discussions, as I understand it, are still occurring and Mr. Kendall intends to have them reach some kind of conclusion.
Q He obviously couldn't testify while he's in Moscow, but he could, at least, logistically, testify while he's in Martha's Vineyard.
MR. MCCURRY: He could -- could he logistically do that? That's an idea. Who knows?
Q Mike, senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Hatch and Senator Leahy both want Ken Starr to wrap up his investigation -- in the words of Senator Leahy, "want to wrap this sucker up." Do you sense from the White House standpoint that they're coming to the end, or how would you react to his statement?
MR. MCCURRY: Could we ever see that glimmer of hope on the horizon that we think that this, too, might end some day? Who knows? Maybe, but I suspect we're going to go through many more days of this before we get to that.
Q Why was Leahy here today?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Leahy was -- Senator Leahy was here talking to Sandy Berger on a sensitive foreign policy matter and nothing related to the subject we're discussing right now.
Q What's happening in Russia?
MR. MCCURRY: What's happening in Russia right now? Lots of things. A country that used to be a totalitarian communist state is making a remarkable transformation -- (laughter) -- and thus setting the stage for the post-Cold War era in a millennium of which the United States can help lead countries into --
Q Very funny, Mike. Very funny. How about the prices now?
Q They've got no money. They're running out of cash and --
MR. MCCURRY: They've got significant economic difficulties that we have been working with the IMF to address, and we believe that the support that we have rendered through international financial institutions, like the IMF, to the work that's being done in Russia have helped give the Russian government and the Russian people good prospects for economic recovery, stabilization and future economic growth, which will improve the quality of life for the Russian people.
It's very important for the Russian government to work through a lot of the modernization and reform commitments that they have given to the IMF. We have been encouraged by Prime Minister Kiryenko's response to economic authorities that he has met with, that Mr. Chubais on behalf of the government has met with, and the Vice President had a good review of --
Q Do you know why Yeltsin rushed back from the Black Sea?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have any information contrary to what the presidential office has indicated.
Q Mike, there have been two days of virtually non-stop reporting of what Monica Lewinsky may or may not have been telling prosecutors. Does the President not feel obliged to try to clear this up?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, on this, there have been -- you're correct, there has been non-stop reporting for six months now about what she might or might not testify to. And I recall spending lots of time with all of you in this room -- and I mentioned a report that NBC had, not to be disparaging of NBC, that was meant more to disparage sources in Mr. Starr's office who at one point suggested that these talking points had emanated from the White House. And that was duly reported by NBC.
And you all are reporting now what she's going to say, and that's based on anonymous sources. But nobody knows. And you all are going to rush to judgments based on the barest shred of information and based on anonymous sources who you can't identify to your consumers of news, for all the reasons that go with your trade craft. And yet you're asking us to make profound judgments and final statements absent what is a factual record. And it's just not going to happen.
Q Does the President not feel compelled now to set the record straight?
Q Why can't you give us a source we can quote on the question of where the subpoena negotiations are? Why can't you --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I just gave you -- I just told -- you know who's conducting the discussions and they're going --
Q Right, and he's not returning phone calls. I mean, you know that.
MR. MCCURRY: Look, what I told you yesterday -- I told you yesterday that when those discussions had reached some conclusion it was my view that it would be important for Mr. Kendall to say so. And I conveyed that yesterday and I hope that he will.
Q You said that -- after the fact --
Q Mike, would the President today make the same --
MR. MCCURRY: Hi, Bill, how are you? (Laughter.)
Q I'm fine, Mike.
MR. MCCURRY: Good to see you. What's going on in Atlanta these days?
Q Well, we're interested in --
MR. MCCURRY: You're up here today, huh?
Q I come up at all the right times.
MR. MCCURRY: Broadcasting out on the beach, that's good.
Q Mike, would the President today --
MR. MCCURRY: I met a guy from WS -- last night -- we were just talking about you last night. (Laughter.)
Q You just blasted him off the air. (Laughter.)
Q Would the President today --
MR. MCCURRY: Nigut -- you can't put Nigut off the air.
Q When you shout like that it's an overload on the circuits.
MR. MCCURRY: Did I just conk out the sound? I'm sorry, all the technicians back there. Yes, Mr. Nigut, you had a question.
Q Mike, I'm sorry for yelling, but I wanted to get impressions. Would the President today be willing to make the same unequivocal statement about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky that he made six months ago?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no reason to think he wouldn't.
Q You would be surprised if that account changed?
Q Mike, from a political standpoint, how can the President provide information to a grand jury, whose members are representatives of the American people, in a legal matter, without speaking directly to the American people and providing that same information?
MR. MCCURRY: I mean, he could conceivably, but remember, grand jury proceedings, for all the reasons we've talked about in the past, are conducted in secret, first and foremost, to protect the rights of the innocent. Grand jury proceedings are not public events. Even though you all have tried to make them public, they are not, by definition, because they lead to allegations. Remember the purpose of grand juries are to assess the information that's available and then for a grand jury to decide whether they want to deliver a true bill and indictment of someone who's going to be charged with an alleged crime. Okay? So that's why --
Q The President is free to talk about it.
MR. MCCURRY: -- to protect the rights of the innocent. That's why those proceedings are conducted in private.
Q They're not conducted in secret, they're only secret to the prosecutors --
MR. MCCURRY: Will the President talk about this in public? He has in the past, and maybe he will in the future.
Q Mike, can you acknowledge now -- it's been 12 days -- can the White House acknowledge that the President has, indeed, been subpoenaed by the OIC?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to because I don't know that's factually true.
Q Mike, I know you visited this in the gaggle, but we didn't have cameras. Can I just ask one more question on the other issue? We heard yesterday about Monica Lewinsky and this job interview in your office, yet --
MR. MCCURRY: She didn't get the job.
Q I understand that, sir, but we've been talking about Monica Lewinsky --
MR. MCCURRY: We found someone better qualified.
Q Please take my question, Mike. We've been asking questions about Monica Lewinsky for weeks and weeks and weeks and months, and yet yesterday, you chose to kind of just drop this as an aside. How come it never came up before now?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't consider it particularly significant, to be honest with you.
Q You say you can't confirm the subpoena because you don't know, but you're the Press Secretary -- why don't you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know because when I have asked of the President's Counsel for an answer to the question of whether he has been -- whether the President has received a subpoena, the Counsel's Office, presumably in coordination with the rest of the President's attorneys, have elected not to answer the question.
Q But why is this piece of information something that should be withheld from the American people?
MR. MCCURRY: It's a fair question. The answer that -- I've also posed that question, and the answer is that the President's attorneys elect to conduct their discussions with Mr. Starr confidentially. And that's the best answer that --
Q What's your reaction to the apparent development that the talking points are no longer the focus of the investigation?
MR. MCCURRY: I sort of reacted to it already. I mean, look, we've spun endless tales here for six months, and some of them end up not turning out to be worth all the spinning that occurred. And I think that's why it's another useful reminder to all of you to be very careful and cautious as you report, because we've had some pretty serious allegations raised on national television.
Q You can always clear up the things that -- mistakes that are wrong, and you haven't made any attempt to.
MR. MCCURRY: That's not true with respect to that particular thing. I don't think -- we certainly took some dispute with the notion suggested by sources in Mr. Starr's office that the talking points in question emanated from the White House.
Q Is it true that all the senior aides, or many of them, are very unhappy with Ruff because he is not forthcoming?
MR. MCCURRY: It's not fair to Chuck Ruff. He is a fine attorney, a good guy, he's got a very tough brief, and he's doing what is in the best interest of his client and of the presidency as an institution. Does he sometimes disagree with other people and take a different view about how you should handle this matter? Sure. But on the other hand, he is well-motivated to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the American people, and he is a man of uncommon integrity.
Q He and Mr. Kendall seem to be treating the President as if he is just another common person accused of crime, when, in fact, he is the political leader of this country.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that's not fair to either Mr. Kendall or Mr. Ruff. I think they both know the political realities. They work here and they are conscious of what's going on here, but they're doing what they think is in the best interest of this country and of their client, the President.
Q But how does it appear when you won't even confirm a subpoena that now is just about on the record everywhere else?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. You should go ask the American people how it appears. I think that they're kind of tired of all of the back and forth on this, to be candid.
Q You said a few minutes ago that we should be careful, so many of these reports have turned out, as you said, to be untrue over the last few months.
MR. MCCURRY: Paper trails. And we're not here to chase the paper trails and go off into the atmosphere and there's nothing there.
Q Why were White House aides today so eager to jump on the phone and jump up and down and say, this report about the talking points is true and were right?
MR. MCCURRY: Because it's a good reminder to all of you that you've been reporting this stuff for six months --
Q That's not a paper trail. Well, how do you know that's not a paper trail? You're believing --
Q Suddenly this one is accurate.
Q -- that she wrote the talking points. You're saying don't believe everything is in the --
MR. MCCURRY: Maybe it is. Maybe -- you don't know factually anything about what she's going to testify, other than what you've been told by anonymous sources.
Q So why is Chuck Ruff quoted in The Post --
Q Why are you using it as an example --
Q -- this morning, saying he's glad that information came out, he's glad it's all cleared up?
Q Why is that believable, suddenly?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that statement and everything about this matter you ought to take with some grain of salt until you know what the facts are, and you don't know what the facts are.
Q Mike, House Republicans said today that they're going to schedule a vote on fast track. They obviously think they have the votes to pass it. So why won't the President support that effort?
MR. MCCURRY: Because they're doing it in a way that's designed to make it a political issue, not international economic policy. What they're doing is linking it to other issues that don't stand on their own merits, and they know that they're doing it -- you ask them, point blank, are you doing this for well-motivated interests of the U.S. national economy, or are you doing it as a way to embarrass Democrats or divide Democrats, and see if they give you a truthful answer.
Q Wait a second. On that, the result would be the same, though; the President would have the fast track authority he says he wants, and so why wouldn't he support it?
MR. MCCURRY: That's making judgments about what the action would be in the House and I don't know what the action would be.
Q Could you just clear up something that you said in answer to Karen's question? You said that grand juries are conducted in secrecy, and you left the impression that if the President did give information to the grand jury he would be under some order not to discuss it. In fact, that's not the case.
MR. MCCURRY: No, if he wanted to talk about it, he could talk about it.
Q To the American people.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q So there is nothing stopping him. The grand jury secrecy is totally irrelevant.
MR. MCCURRY: There is nothing that prevented him from talking about this other than his decision to say what he had to say on it and to get on with doing his job. So he has stayed focused on doing his job even though you focused on this matter.
Q If you can't get your patient bill of rights, is the Chafee managed care bill and acceptable alternative?
MR. MCCURRY: We are looking at that bill, but I don't think -- it's premature for us to have a final assessment on it.
Q Mike, is there a reason to question the specific reports that Monica will testify to having a relationship with Clinton and to discussing -- concealing that?
MR. MCCURRY: There is reason to be skeptical -- if you're a good reporter, I would think, a reason to be skeptical about all of this, because you don't know for a fact what she's going to testify to until she testifies. You've got people characterizing what her likely testimony is going to be. We can't -- you don't know in some cases, we certainly don't know, the source or identify of the information about what she's going to testify to.
Q Do you have any information to the contrary?
MR. MCCURRY: So trying to make judgments and ask us to make final pronouncements on things that we, frankly, don't know are facts is a little bit bizarre.
Q But if you know specific information to the contrary you can rebut that with --
MR. MCCURRY: Do I have any -- I don't have any specific information about what her testimony will likely be, so I can't possibly have any information that will help me rebut it.
Q Mike, on the subject of the subpoena, why can't the President of the United States go to his attorneys and say, I have to do the right thing, I have to level with the American people?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. He could if he wanted to.
Q But the President doesn't want to.
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't asked him whether he would like to do that, but otherwise, that's been asked and answered.
Q Mike, is the President concerned that the investigation, all the attention to it, and the impact that it has on Congress and the way that they see him is hurting his ability to do his job as President?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't see any evidence that that's the case, and I haven't heard the President suggest that there's any evidence that that's the case.
Q I just want to make sure that I understand what you're saying about the President's schedule. You're talking about how busy his travel schedule is. Are you taking off the table the next four or five weeks?
MR. MCCURRY: Jim, come on.
Q Well, no, I mean, you said --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I don't know what the schedule is going to be with respect to the discussions that Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr are going to have or how that impacts -- the President's got a schedule; you roughly know what it is because we've told you what it is. How this other matter impacts it, I don't know.
Q What are you saying when you say his schedule is busy with travel --
MR. MCCURRY: It's busy. He's got a lot of stuff going on. That doesn't mean that every single second of every single day he's busy, so it means that there's probably time that could be put on that calendar for other purposes. But I don't know if that's going to happen, when that's going to happen, and you all know that and -- how much can you wring out of this?
Q I just thought you were trying to make a point.
MR. MCCURRY: No, I was trying to make the point that I don't know.
Q Do you think that Senator Leahy's comments and desires to wrap this up quickly may have any effect at all on whether the President decides to testify sooner rather than later?
MR. MCCURRY: Probably not.
Q Mike, yesterday when you said this might be good news because it will get this thing wrapped up sooner, if I recall your comments from yesterday's briefing, but in fairness, you don't really know that that's the position of the White House lawyers, right, because you're not in a position to know whether or not they want the President to testify sooner, or in September, or October, or November, or whenever?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. I don't know factually what the status of the discussions are, but I have every reason to believe that they are trying to do exactly what my statement last week indicated, to find a way to provide the information to --
Q Several times on the September question, you said you just don't know if that's true or not.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't have -- you're correct, I don't have an up-to-date status report on the conversations between Mr. Starr and Mr. Kendall.
Q Mike, what's the status of the review of the trip to India and Pakistan? The President spoke about it over the weekend in the past tense.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything to add to the way Barry handled the questions on that over the weekend.
Q Mike, you've said now the President is staying focused on his job, whether it's the education speech today or something else. Can you tell us, though, or give us an idea how much time these last few days the President has spent meeting or talking with his lawyers?
MR. MCCURRY: He's had some phone calls with Mr. Kendall, but otherwise I'm not aware that he's had any office or residence appointments with them. He's stayed in touch with Mr. Kendall on the status of these discussions that I've been relaying to you, and beyond that, he's been pursuing the full range of things that I've been telling you about in the morning.
Q Will there be a news conference soon -- general news conference?
MR. MCCURRY: We will have one -- we've got someone coming for a foreign --
Q I mean a general --
MR. MCCURRY: General news conference? I had not planned on doing one prior to vacation, but no doubt after.
Q Could you have one? Could the President have one?
MR. MCCURRY: I can always ask, of course.
Q Mike, are there major tensions here between the President's legal team and his political team?
MR. MCCURRY: No. There are sometimes disagreements on how you -- what kind of approach is the most useful one for the President. But, look, those are good-faith discussions, and you've heard me give you some sense of my own read of Mr. Ruff and why he sees things the way he does. I think he's genuinely motivated by a desire to do what he thinks is right. And I fully acknowledge the wisdom of the counsel that he gives to the President sometimes. I think he understands the position that I'm in here with all of you sometimes, too. I think there is genuine good faith.
Q Does he know what you go through every day stonewalling?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he's probably got -- he's got a very good idea. He's got a very good idea. And I think he still -- he thinks that what he's recommending to his client is in the client's best interest and the country's best interest.
Q As a political leader, how does that help the President and the people that he leads, as opposed to a prospective defendant in a criminal case?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, the President, by not being as obsessed with this matter as you all are, has been able to focus his energy and time to the job that he was elected by the American people to do. So it may be that the American people appreciate that fact and they think that the President is right when he keeps their interests first and foremost in mind rather than responding to your agenda.
Q But, Mike, eventually the facts will come out.
MR. MCCURRY: That's the answer to the question you posed.
Q Eventually they will come out.
Q Is the President heeding political advisors' advice on the timing and what he does and what he doesn't do in this case, or only legal advice?
MR. MCCURRY: The President gets a lot of different advice from a lot of different sources and does what he thinks is the right thing.
Q Did you mean to say earlier that Mr. Ruff's statement to the Post this morning should be taken with a grain of salt?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, yes. He'd say the same thing to you, because we don't know the exact status of that particular matter. We do know that there was an awful lot of reporting by an awful lot of people in this room that certainly raised the prospect that a member of Mr. Ruff's staff was criminally liable for perjury or obstruction of justice. And now all of the reporting that you're doing indicates, well, no, it turns out that wasn't the story.
Q Where was that reported?
MR. MCCURRY: That was on NBC News and then translated into an allegation made against a deputy White House legal counsel, and everyone here knows that. Don't pretend otherwise.
Q But where is the report saying that that's wrong?
Q I'm not saying I don't know it; I'm saying we haven't reported it.
Q Where is the report saying that that's wrong? I'm not saying it's right.
MR. MCCURRY: You've all -- every single one of your news organizations has reported, well, now it looks like Starr is not so concerned about these talking points issues, and according to sources who are familiar with their testimony, da dah, da dah, da dah. Every one of you reported that, so don't pretend otherwise. And so you all know what you put an individual on this staff through as a result of your prior reports.
Q The reporting I've seen simply says --
MR. MCCURRY: Okay. Are we done?
Q Update on Lindsey?
MR. MCCURRY: I think you just got one.
Okay, what else?
Q Did you get an answer on the Lindsey --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, you got that. Yes, on the status of the appeal, not likely to have any decision on that today.
Q Mike, could I just ask one logistical question about how you come up here and be sort of semi-forthcoming? (Laughter.) Maybe accent on "semi." Do you talk with Ruff prior to coming out here? How do you get the answers or the non-answers to these questions?
MR. MCCURRY: I talk to everyone that I think it would be useful for me to talk to before I brief.
Q Well, how do you talk to them and still maintain the posture that you really don't know?
MR. MCCURRY: Because they sometimes elect not to tell me, so I will be in a position that I don't know.
Q Do you ask them not to tell you?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I do not. Particularly on the matter of the subpoena. I've sort of said I think it would be best if we could answer that question in a straightforward manner, but for whatever reason, we're not.
Q Is that a legal reason, do you think?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I don't know.
Q They didn't even tell you the reasoning behind --
MR. MCCURRY: The reasoning is that it's the lawyers to the President's judgment that they would prefer to conduct the discussions that I've been mentioning to you confidentially.
Q Well, does the President ever get to weigh in on this matter?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not asked --
Q I mean, is it in the hands of his lawyers?
MR. MCCURRY: I have not asked to. I did not appeal this decision to higher authority. You know, I trust the judgment that Mr. Ruff and his staff have.
Q Who is more interested in what happened to this, as far as the individuals go, than the President himself? Doesn't he get to say, hey, fellows, put it out?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he's interested in it, but I think he's also -- I think he's interested in seeing that what happens is ultimately what I already told you, that the information that the grand jury needs in order to bring this matter to some conclusion is -- that there's some way to ensure that that happens. And that's what Mr. Kendall is trying to do and that's what we've told you.
Q Simply put, the President is not leveling with the American people.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, Scott, come on.
Q What do you mean, come on? He's been subpoenaed in a criminal case, the first time in American history, it happened 12 days ago, and the President refuses to comment.
MR. MCCURRY: The President, back in January, leveled with the American people and he said what he had to say about this matter, and nothing has changed about that in the time since.
Q Mike, as far as you know, has there been a dispute between the legal team and the political team in which the political team won out over these past six months?
MR. MCCURRY: It's not like win-loss, one side against the -- the red shirts against the blue shirts. It's like serious people having serious discussions and doing what we think is the right thing to do.
Q But the lawyers always win out.
MR. MCCURRY: I think sometimes we acknowledge the wisdom of their position, sometimes they acknowledge the wisdom of our position. No, they don't always win out.
Q So it is us against them?
MR. MCCURRY: People have different points of view. Sometimes, the "political" --
Q You just said it was their position against our position.
MR. MCCURRY: Sometimes the "political" people have got splits among themselves and don't agree with each other. You guys all work in human institutions and you know that people have different points of view. Think of the editors that you argue with, and if you don't find one editor, you go to a different editor. Come on, it's no different here.
Q Have you taken Mr. Ruff's decision directly to the President?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I have not. I've just said I elected not to appeal that to the President.
Q Is it best not to bring these things up with the President as a member of the White House staff?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't necessarily say that. I mean, there's some things that you do talk to him about and some things that you don't. And we've covered that before.
Q Does he get angry? Does he fly off the handle if you would say to him --
MR. MCCURRY: Not ever.
Q Is it just to protect -- self-protection?
Q You're his only pipeline to the people. You should be telling him what we're asking.
MR. MCCURRY: He knows full well what you're asking.
Q How does he know? Does he read the briefings?
Q Does he read the transcript?
MR. MCCURRY: He gets to watch you from time to time. C-SPAN is so kind as to put on the briefing late at night.
Q I'll bet he's not watching now.
Q Well, if he's watching right now, could he come on down and talk to us?
MR. MCCURRY: He's not -- he's doing his job right now and he's not as preoccupied with all of you as you are with yourself. (Laughter.)
Q We're preoccupied with him, Mike, not with us.
Q Given the fact, though, that there is a political dynamic in play as well as a legal dynamic, is there any indication that the President is rethinking what has been his strategy of not producing anything for the last six months?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that when we told you last week that Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr were in discussions about how to provide information to the grand jury the grand jury was seeking, that as a significant statement, and that's certainly not necessarily the condition we've been in for the last six months.
Q Mike, what is the President's strategy here?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that strategies are usually seen and understood in the context of facts that unfold. And as you report the facts, you will no doubt discern the strategy.
Q So are you saying that that statement is a change in policy and we're going to start to get more information in the coming weeks?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say that. I thought I had said something a little more clever than that.
Q Mike, over the weekend and on Monday, the President ignored his press corps asking him questions about this issue. How uncomfortable is he when he's ignoring the questions, and is that making a more hostile relationship?
MR. MCCURRY: He has a time when he -- he likes to stay focused on the work that the American people expect him to do. And he does that. And sometimes you're gracious enough to report on that to the American people. And that's where he's keeping his focus. On this matter, there's, quite frankly, not much that he can say at this point.
So I think he elects not to take those particular questions. But on other occasions he has, and you know that, and you know that probably in the future there will be occasions where he will take questions on this matter. So don't try to pretend as each day -- I know you've got to have something to kind of feed the time that you've got every day, but if he takes a pass on a question every once in a while, that's not unlike what previous Presidents have done and what all Presidents do, and then there will be times when he takes the questions. So some days, you get something, some days you don't.
Q Is it consistent with his commitment, he said -- repeated many times over the years -- to open government, to transparent government, not to acknowledge -- if he is served with a subpoena, which is a rather historic event, not to acknowledge it publicly to the American people.
MR. MCCURRY: On this matter, I think the President has been open and candid and said what he has to say. And on the other issue, specifically, of subpoena, we've already covered that territory.
Q One of the best things you've had going for you politically is the American people seem to blame Ken Starr for the delay and every time a poll asks, do you think this investigation should be stopped, a majority of people say yes. And you, yourself, have pointed out many times how this is longer than World War II -- or whatever the analogy is. Is the President now in danger of having that opinion shift, that he's going to be blamed for the delay of keeping this dragging on?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think so.
Okay, anything else? Where are we?
Q In terms of the new peace talks between India and Pakistan, does that change the President's mind about a trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are encouraged that the two Prime Ministers are meeting, and we hope that they will directly address those things that can limit tensions on the subcontinent. We imagine that they will review positions that they have taken in the past. And certainly, we expect that there will have to be much greater dialogue before they can resolve all the issues and dispute between the two nations. But I think it's encouraging that they are going to meet directly and the opportunity in this regional conference to take that opportunity. And we hope that they will seriously address the issues that both countries need to address and that we have raised directly with them in recent days in our high-level contacts with them.
Q The President just met for a few minutes with the President-elect of Ecuador. The President-elect of Colombia is arriving here next week. And I understand that he is meeting with President Clinton over better relations with Colombia now that the new President's opposition party is in power.
MR. MCCURRY: We hope it will. I think the President does intend to see President-elect Pastrana on Monday, August 3rd. We will -- it certainly will be a chance for them to address a broad range of issues in the bilateral agenda, including narcotics cooperation as well as President-elect Pastrana's efforts to begin a peace process in Colombia.
Those of you who follow what the President-elect has suggested to some of the rebel insurgent elements within Colombia who sometimes work in cooperation in and around narco traffickers --here's been a suggestion that a peace process can develop there that can lead to some diminution of tensions in the community and a genuine effort at reconciliation, which I think is a very hopeful thing. And obviously, the opportunity to review that issue and the status of our cooperation in fighting drugs will be a welcome one.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Ending on a sober note. Very good. Good-bye.
END 2:10 P.M. EDT