THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY BARRY TOIV The Briefing Room
2:18 P.M. EDT
MR. TOIV: Good afternoon. First of all, as you know, there are two birthdays that the world is celebrating today. The first is the Queen Mum, whose 98th birthday is being celebrated today. The second, of course, is our own Queen Mum, Helen Thomas, who is celebrating her birthday today. We all wish her a very happy birthday. (Applause.)
QQ Which one is that?
MR. TOIV: Which one is that? I have no idea.
Q Thank you. My loyal subjects. (Laughter.)
MR. TOIV: Helen, you get the first question anyway, but it's your birthday, so you get the first question.
Q What's going on? (Laughter.)
MR. TOIV: Well, that's a pretty easy one.
Q Well, I mean --
MR. TOIV: What's going on? The President is going to, very shortly, going to celebrate the second anniversary of welfare reform and make some very important announcements, which you've already been briefed on, but which are going to further encourage people to work and make it possible for those who do work and remain married to receive Medicaid, to receive health care. That's very important.
Q Has the President received a subpoena from the independent counsel asking for a DNA sample?
MR. TOIV: I'm not aware of that, but you'd probably want to ask Mr. Kendall that question.
Q We can't ask Mr. Kendall. He is never available.
Q Mr. Kendall is the seldom seen. Mr. Kendall is the third man --
Q -- does not answer questions.
Q Mr. Kendall is not to be found by mortals.
Q Speaking of Mr. Kendall, is he meeting with the President today? There is a report that Mr. Kendall and Ms. Seligman were meeting -- closeted I believe is how it was put -- with the President today?
MR. TOIV: I actually don't know, Bill. I do know that the President will be meeting with his attorneys now and then between now and the 17th. Obviously, he's going to want to prepare. I'm not going to, day by day, let you know -- be in a position to let you know whether he's meeting with them or not.
Q Why is that a state secret? I mean, that's not anything that reveals strategy or attorney-client relationship.
MR. TOIV: Because it's just not necessary. And you know that he will be meeting with them. But on a day-to-day basis, I'm not going to be in a position to let you know whether he's meeting with them or not.
Q Barry, do you know about how many hours a day he meets with them?
MR. TOIV: No, I don't. And you say, "hours a day" -- I don't know that he meets with them every day.
Q Barry, the clamor is building from the American public, from Republicans and Democrats on the Hill -- will the President address the public about this Monica Lewinsky scandal?
MR. TOIV: Well, I have seen a lot of clamor, a lot of talking heads and some others. But, as you know, the President has addressed this. I really have nothing to add to that. The President has said that he won't have any comment in the interim before his testimony.
Q Well, let me just ask you this --
MR. TOIV: -- and I don't know of any plans beyond that to address this in any other way besides the testimony here.
Q Not even the issue -- people are not looking to hear the issue of all the intricate details -- at least just to go back on television again to say "no," once again, "I did not do this, I am not guilty of what I am being accused of" -- nothing of that sort?
MR. TOIV: I don't know of any plans at this time.
Q Let me just ask you this -- is there any response inside the White House to the many calls by people in both parties for the President to make some sort of a statement on this to the nation?
MR. TOIV: There's no further response beyond what I've given you.
Q Nobody's talking about this? Nobody's saying, "Gee, we should think about this," or maybe the President --
MR. TOIV: Are people in here talking about whether or not -- I'm sure that people have their ideas about what should happen, what shouldn't happen, but I'm not aware of any real discussion of it at this time.
Q But is your position still that the President's last known public statement, which is he had no sex relationship with Monica Lewinsky, still stands?
MR. TOIV: I've not heard anything to suggest otherwise.
Q Barry, when he goes to the Hill tomorrow, will he try to ease some of the concerns of Democrats about this case?
MR. TOIV: Well, actually, when he goes to the Hill tomorrow, he's going to be focusing on the agenda that we have for the remaining two months of this congressional session. He's going to be talking about Social Security, about public schools, about a clean environment and other key issues -- patients' rights. Those are the issues that he's going to be talking about, which Democrats are trying to pursue on the Hill, which he is trying to pursue. These are issues that are probably going to be the primary focus of what we're doing between now and October, and we hope to have some success, some legislative success in these areas, and that's what the purpose of tomorrow is going to be.
Q Barry, the reason why Democrats are clamoring for him to make some kind of speech is because they're afraid that these exact issues that you just listed are going to be completely drowned out and they're not going to get the traction on them that they have planned in November because this thing is hanging over it, and that's why they want him to make a statement. So how can you say that those things are completely --
MR. TOIV: These are the issues that the President will be talking about. These are the issues that I expect that they will be talking about. These are the issues that will be considered in the Congress over the next two months. And those are -- at least we hope. Right now there's a lot of resistance to most of these issues from Republicans in the House and Senate. We're going to continue to make them the highest priority and I think that's what the American people want us to focus on here. The American people want the President and the Congress to focus on getting a patients' bill of rights, on investing in education, on saving Social Security. And that's what we're going to be focusing on.
Q Well, is it your position the American people don't want to know the truth about these accusations that have been made about the President?
MR. TOIV: I didn't say that. What I said, though, was that their first priority is for the Congress and the President to focus on these issues.
Q -- Congress's ability to focus on these issues is completely unaffected by this other matter?
MR. TOIV: It's up to the Congress --
Q No, I'm asking what you think. Do you think that the President's ability to lead on these issues, and the Congress's ability to get them done is completely unaffected by the Monica Lewinsky matter?
MR. TOIV: The President has been focused on these issues and I think the Congress has been, as well. Democratic members of Congress, particularly, have been focused on these issues. That is what they have been working on and will continue to do that.
Q Will he be surprised if it comes up tomorrow? I mean, the question of federal investigation.
MR. TOIV: In the Democratic Caucus? I don't know what they will bring up with him. I mean, presumably, they'll have some give-and-take and that will be up to them.
Q Were you in the meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus?
MR. TOIV: I was not in the meeting.
Q Have you heard whether it came up in that meeting?
MR. TOIV: I believe the members were outside just now and indicated that it had. But I think they've provided a fuller accounting than I could, since they were in the room and I wasn't.
Q Barry, given the jitteriness in the markets today, isn't there a fear that Ken Starr's aggressive targeting of the presidency, combined with the frenzy, may perhaps cause an even more serious situation, perhaps even bring on a stock market crash, by causing a constitutional crisis in the United States?
MR. TOIV: We don't comment on the markets.
Q Because many of you have said for months that the American people cared more about Dow Jones than Paula Jones. Now, if the Dow Jones -- it was down 200 points a few moments ago -- continues to go in the dumper, then he must be in trouble by your own reasoning.
MR. TOIV: I don't see how that reasoning follows, first of all.
Q Well, if the Dow Jones is no longer -- sorry.
MR. TOIV: Secondly, I'm not going to comment on the markets.
Q Barry, do you know whether or not the President has given in the past a blood sample or a hair sample or anything else that could be used for a DNA match?
MR. TOIV: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Would you take that question?
MR. TOIV: Sure, I will take that question, but as I've said before, any questions related to this whole issue are really going to have to be handled by Mr. Kendall, difficult though that may be.
Q Except that he's not handling them, so our only option is to come to you and ask you to give us answers to questions that seem to be legitimate on the face of them.
MR. TOIV: And from here, you're probably going to get the same non-answers.
Q Is it correct -- the President's physician has said that there is no depository of blood, for instance, of the President's either here or out at Bethesda or anywhere else. Is that your understanding?
MR. TOIV: I don't know.
Q Isn't that a basic question --
Q And if there were, could the FBI get at it without his permission?
MR. TOIV: Wait, you're all talking over each other.
Q Isn't that just a question that the President's doctor could answer? I mean, this is about how the President's health is provided for --
MR. TOIV: Well, you're clearly asking this in a context that has nothing to do with his health. His health issues we're very open about, as you know. And so that's not -- any questions related to this issue are going to have to be handled by his attorney.
Q Has the President now definitely ruled out the so called mea culpa option?
MR. TOIV: I don't recall saying that.
Q I'm asking.
MR. TOIV: Do you mean in terms of what?
Q Of a confession, so-called?
MR. TOIV: Are you talking about a public statement of some kind? Will the President make a public statement? I already answered. That was one of the first questions I answered today.
Q Will he change his story?
Q -- on whether or not the White House will reapply its appeal to any of the other Supreme Court justices?
MR. TOIV: I'm not aware of any plans to do so. Obviously, this is a critical issue. This is not merely about whether one person is required to testify, this is an issue of principle. This is an issue of whether the President -- this President and future Presidents -- are able to have access to the attorney-client privilege, which is the bedrock of our legal system. And it's a critical issue that we have already appealed to the Supreme Court and that appeal is one that we hope will be heard. As far as the issue of one person testifying, as you all know, Mr. Breuer is apparently at the grand jury now, and so that's happening.
Q It seems that by pressing the issue of attorney-client privilege that you will have ruined it for future Presidents at this point.
MR. TOIV: No, I think the blame lies elsewhere. I think that it is not we who are seeking to breach the attorney-client privilege. This has been done on a couple of occasions and in a couple of different areas, and it was not by this White House.
Q Many legal scholars, in fact, say it is your fault, that you're using the attorney-client privilege for unofficial behavior and sorts of things that have never been rule covered in the past.
MR. TOIV: Look, this White House has an excellent Counsel: his name is Charles Ruff. And he has a very strong view on this issue, and he has made this decision to appeal this because he feels this is a bedrock principle. And so that is something that is going to go to the Supreme Court, and we hope that they will hear the case.
Q Surely, the President has made the decision. You're not telling me that the President hasn't made the decision --
MR. TOIV: The President is well aware of and approves of --
Q -- and approved it. It's not Mr. Ruff. He is not the President.
MR. TOIV: He is not the President, but he is the Counsel and as such, he is the person who has the highest responsibility of protecting the institution of the presidency. And that's the issue -- that is what this issue is about.
Q You mean his responsibility is higher than this President's?
MR. TOIV: No, but it is his -- that is one of his primary roles, if not his primary role, in this White House, that is to protect the institution of the presidency.
Q Has the Supreme Court appeal actually been filed?
MR. TOIV: No. Let's clear up the confusion a little bit from yesterday. We all knew there was a seven-day deadline. The seven-day deadline, however, was to decide whether to appeal the decision by the panel of the Court of Appeals to the entire Court of Appeals. The deadline for appealing to the Supreme Court was actually a 30-day deadline, which, of course, has not expired. I expect that that will be filed within the next week or two, but I don't have an exact date for you.
Q Isn't there guidance on Bruce Lindsey and when he might be available to testify?
MR. TOIV: No.
Q Barry are you aware of any subpoenas to other members of the White House Counsel's Office, and can you tell us whether Mr. Ruff will testify, as Mr. Breuer did, if he is subpoenaed?
MR. TOIV: I'm not aware of any other subpoenas, and in light of that I'm not going to answer any hypothetical questions.
Q On that point, Barry, were you saying earlier that you do not intend to fight each one of the subpoenas that may or may not come to members such as Lanny Breuer, that you won't fight them individually, that you have given up the fight to stop members of the White House Legal Counsel's Office from testifying at this point?
MR. TOIV: That is a fair question to which I don't have the answer and I'll take that question.
Q While we're on this, can I just make one other thing clear? Are you saying that there is any sort of attorney-client privilege that deals with public policy, not private behavior, that is somehow infringed upon by this decision by the courts?
MR. TOIV: Look, Mr. Ruff has filed briefs on this case before the courts. And I would much rather rely on his legal reasoning than my own.
Q Back to the issue of tomorrow, the President on the Hill. It's one thing for Republicans to have issues with the President, but when some members of his own party -- I mean, isn't that a bother for the administration, especially the President, that some Democrats are saying, look, you need to come clean?
MR. TOIV: The President is looking forward to a warm welcome tomorrow from people who are fighting alongside of him on behalf of these important issues -- whether it's education, or a patients' bill of rights, or a clean environment, or saving Social Security. And that's what he's looking forward to tomorrow and he's very much looking forward to it.
Q Barry, with all due respect, this issue is not about a warm welcome. This issue is about a scandal that's kind of kept America at bay for six months.
Q Is it going to be open to coverage?
Q -- the answer?
MR. TOIV: I've already answered the question as to whether or not there will be a public statement and I don't know how I could possibly elaborate on it.
Q Barry, can I try the mea culpa question another way? Is it still the President's intention not to change his story?
MR. TOIV: The President said on Friday that he is going to testify truthfully and completely, and I don't know what I could possibly add to that.
Q Barry, is there any thought being given as to whether Lindsey or other White House counsel could be covered by executive privilege as opposed to attorney-client privilege? In the opinion that the three-judge panel gave, they mentioned executive privilege, but then they said that's not an issue right now, so we won't go into it. Is there any way that that could work?
MR. TOIV: You're asking a legal question that I don't have the answer to. I'd be happy to take that, but I'm not sure the answer to that.
Q Barry, did you ever hear whether grand jurors would be able to ask questions of the President at his testimony?
MR. TOIV: No, same answer as yesterday on that. Whatever the agreement is between Mr. Kendall and -- whatever the agreement is between Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr, I don't have that information and they have apparently reached an agreement between themselves as to how much they are going to say about it.
Q We could ask Mr. Kendall.
Q But that's just process.
MR. TOIV: Sam, that's an excellent idea.
Q Why should that be a secret?
MR. TOIV: Because Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr apparently reached an agreement on this issue, and this is between the Office of the Independent Counsel and the President's attorney.
Q Why should they run the world? Why can't we find out what's going on?
MR. TOIV: I think that's a little strong, Helen.
Q Why should it be secret? What state secret is involved here? What breaching of the grand jury secrecy is involved here?
MR. TOIV: Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr have reached this agreement and I --
Q Have reached an agreement -- right.
Q They apparently didn't even agree on the agreement, because what Kendall said turned out to be wrong.
MR. TOIV: I disagree with that. If you look at Mr. Kendall's statement from Saturday, they agreed not only --
Q Well, it's decidedly incomplete; it certainly turned out to be that.
MR. TOIV: They apparently agreed not only how the testimony would take place, but about how Mr. Kendall would describe the testimony. And it was only after -- as I understand it -- only after news reports provided additional information that Mr. Kendall came out with an additional statement. I don't know if he agreed with Mr. Starr on that additional statement, but they had certainly agreed on the first part.
Q Who leaked the first saying that?
MR. TOIV: You got me.
Q You're saying that they agreed to mislead the public about what the testimony was going to be?
MR. TOIV: No, they agreed with each other on how they would speak about the testimony, how they would speak about the method of the testimony.
Q -- the word "videotape" instead of closed-circuit feed. Is that --
MR. TOIV: Well, I'm not going to get into details of it because I'm not a part of their discussions. But that seems apparent to me, though.
Q Doesn't it strike you as odd that the President's lawyer would want to put out an incomplete statement?
MR. TOIV: I don't know what the reasons are for the agreement they reached, but, apparently, that was the agreement.
Q Barry, as opposed to an actual subpoena, has the President received a request of any kind for a DNA sample?
MR. TOIV: I'm not aware of any. Again, I would refer you to his attorney.
Q Does the White House -- there have been a lot of the President's allies hinting that Starr ought to be duty bound to reveal the results of the DNA test on the famous dress before the President testifies. Does the White House share that view?
MR. TOIV: I think I answered that question yesterday.
Q What was your answer?
MR. TOIV: I'm afraid I referred you to Mr. Kendall. (Laughter.)
Q A question you didn't answer yesterday, though --
MR. TOIV: That's right. There are a lot of those.
Q Can you tell us if there has been any discussion here about invoking executive privilege to prevent the Attorney General from having to turn over the two memos that Chairman Burton of the House committee is looking for?
MR. TOIV: I don't know. I haven't heard of any such discussion.
Q How could the White House consider such a thing, given the President's status then as both the executive leader of the Executive Branch and also a potential target of that investigation?
MR. TOIV: It's an interesting hypothetical question. Since I'm not aware of any such discussion I don't have an answer for you.
Q What's your reaction to Mr. Burton's assertion he may try to hold the Attorney General in contempt?
MR. TOIV: Well, our point of view on this has been very clear. We have stated it at least 100 times. And that is that the Attorney General will make this decision based upon the facts and based upon the law. And, obviously, there are others who will seek to apply pressure from one direction or another --
Q Like the FBI Director?
MR. TOIV: No, I'm not referring to -- I'm talking about from outside of the Justice Department. And we are not going to engage in such pressure.
Q What about the FBI Director? He said today that there may be evidence that directly leads to the President and Vice President on campaign fundraising abuses.
MR. TOIV: I don't have any comment on that. And again, whatever -- that decision that they are talking about will be made by the Attorney General.
Q But aren't you concerned, though, when you have the FBI Director saying that there is evidence that may lead directly to the President and Vice President? I mean, that's a very serious charge. Shouldn't the White House have something to say about that?
MR. TOIV: It's a charge that I would assume is being investigated by the Justice Department and I would have nothing to say about it.
Q But the Attorney General, under the act, must, unless she can immediately find such a charge to be groundless, must invoke the act and ask for the appointment of an independent counsel.
MR. TOIV: Back to square one -- the Attorney General will make this decision based upon the facts and the law.
Q But she has to follow the law. She's not above the law, is she?
MR. TOIV: No question about that.
Q How concerned are you about the breakdown with Iraq? Can you get into that?
MR. TOIV: Do you want to come up and do some foreign policy?
Q Can we stay on this?
MR. TOIV: I'll come back. Do you want --
Q It works well for Barry, you might as well try, P.J.
Q What does Kendall have to say about Iraq? (Laughter.)
Q -- sort of scenario here with Iraq?
COLONEL CROWLEY: What do you want to know about Iraq?
Q Is there any Star Trek connections?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Pick your movie -- Star Trek or Groundhog Day, whatever you want to do.
Q Richard Butler is not -- he has said publicly now that Iraq has not complied and that it's becoming a very dangerous end game. Will there be any measures taken to force Iraq to comply?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Sam, first of all, we find Iraq's breaking off the talks with Richard Butler to be very disturbing. He was in Baghdad to follow up on a blueprint that UNSCOM had worked out with Tariq Aziz that paved the way for Iraqi compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
This followed a series of technical meetings over the past few months. The Iraqi decision is inexplicable on its face, since it only puts further back the day that Iraq will get what it says it wants, which is relief from sanctions. At the end of the day they must, as they always have been for the last seven years, comply fully with U.N. Security Council resolutions and provide a full accounting of its programs of weapons of mass destruction.
Richard Butler will shortly leave Bahrain, return to New York and report to the Security Council on Thursday, and we'll make an assessment of next steps once we hear from Chairman Butler.
Q Who's going to make him comply? If they don't want to comply, who's going to make them do it?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, this only goes back to what Iraq says it wants. It wants relief from sanctions; it's not going to get relief from sanctions until it fully accounts for its programs --
Q At the end of the day it must comply -- those were your words. Why must it do it if no one makes them do it?
COLONEL CROWLEY: This is up for Saddam Hussein to determine what he wants to do. It's clearly not in the best interest of his people. And it just -- it is inexplicable, it's disturbing, but it's not surprising to us. We've had this lack of cooperation for basically seven years.
Q In the past you've hinted at other kinds of consequences. Right now the consequence is no relief from sanctions, is that what you're saying?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Clearly.
Q Okay, but that's it?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, Chairman Butler will come back to the Security Council on Thursday. We'll hear his full report; we'll consult within the Council on next steps and we'll go from there. But this is something we have encountered before. Let's not raise the temperature until we get a full report from Chairman Butler.
Q In that vein, are all options still open including military options?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Absolutely.
Q The last time this situation developed in February, we had a big build-up of troops in the Gulf. Are there any consideration of that being --
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, Alex, the build-up of the troops really started last fall when Iraq kicked the inspectors out of Baghdad entirely. Nobody is suggesting at this point that that's where we're heading. Again, we'll await a report from Chairman Butler, consult within the Council, consider next steps.
Q P.J., there's a high-level Israeli Labor Party delegation in town. Are they going to be meeting with anybody here, and if so, with whom?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Ehud Barak met today for 30-minutes with the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger. They reviewed the situation with respect to the peace process in the Middle East. Mr. Berger affirmed that the United States will continue to push for a breakthrough. And if that proves impossible, we are prepared to offer a public explanation of our ideas, but we're not there yet. We continue to hope that the parties will be able to address the remaining issues that separate them and come to an agreement that allows the peace process to move forward.
Q What do you mean that you'd be willing to make -- if that doesn't happen, you'd be willing to make a --
COLONEL CROWLEY: As we've said all along, if this aspect of the peace process doesn't work, we'll be happy to say so. We will say so -- we're not there yet. We continue to believe that progress has been made, progress can be made if the parties are able to make the remaining hard decisions and move the peace process forward.
Q On South Africa, what will the President discuss with Thabo Mbeki?
COLONEL CROWLEY: He will -- it's not only the President, it's the Vice President. It's the biannual meetings that we have with the South Africans and also continuing the dialogue that we had earlier this year when the President was in South Africa.
Q On India, scores of innocent people have been killed in Kashmir by the militants, and also two prime ministers from India and Pakistan met in Colombo in Sri Lanka -- meeting but no results yet. So what is the future? And also, Washington is planning to --
COLONEL CROWLEY: We have had some dialogue in recent weeks with both the Indian government, the Pakistani government. That dialogue will continue later this month here in Washington. We are pleased the two Prime Ministers met last week and then they ordered their foreign ministers to continue those discussions. We think it is critically important that India and Pakistan continue their direct dialogue and urge them to address all the issues that add to tensions in South Asia and in particular Kashmir.
Q What do you think of what the Indian Prime Minister said today at the Lok Sabha about committing India to talks that lead up to joining the CTBT? Is that a good sign for the talks later this month?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, it is along the lines of what we have encouraged both governments to do since their nuclear tests back in May, to stop further testing, to move towards signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to take concrete steps to ease tensions on the subcontinent. If India is serious about moving in that direction, that certainly is encouraging.
Q P.J., South Africa -- will the President and Thabo Mbeki be speaking about the floundering African Growth and Opportunity Act?
COLONEL CROWLEY: About the African trade legislation? I can't predict --
Q Floundering African trade -- (laughter.)
COLONEL CROWLEY: Given that the centerpiece of the President's trip to Africa earlier this year was increasing trade investment, I would not be surprised if that comes up.
I'm pleased to announce the final escort for the event at 2:45 p.m. is now gathering at the side door.
Q -- finance minister expressed concern about the decline of the yen. Does the White House share that concern?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Alex, I don't think that this is a time to sound alarms. I think this is a time for concrete action. What's important for the new Japanese government is to move quickly with decisive action to strengthen its banking system and restore robust domestic demand-led growth. We hope that they will take early steps to ensure substantial and sustained fiscal stimulus, as well as decisive actions to strengthen its financial sector. We hope that they will continue to deregulate and open their markets.
Q Thank you.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Thank you.
Q Barry, can you tell us what role the White House had in the un-nominating of Charles LaBella as U.S. Attorney?
MR. TOIV: First of all, as I understand it, that is a position which has not been announced yet. You're referring, I believe, to news stories that suggest that he will be -- that another individual will be the nominee for U.S. Attorney, I believe it is. We normally do not discuss nominations that have not occurred yet. I'm not going to dispute stories that suggest this other individual is the preferred candidate. As I understand it, the usual process was adhered to in this case, which is that we rely heavily on home-state senators for their suggestions. And as far as I know -- I have no reason to think that that was not the case in this situation.
Q Can you comment on the charge that Mr. LaBella was dropped out because of retaliation for his strong stance on the need for an independent counsel?
MR. TOIV: I have not reason to think that that's the case. The only thing I know is that we relied on our usual process, which, again, does rely heavily on a home-state senator's recommendation.
Q Barry, do you know, when Lanny Breuer went down to the grand jury this morning, the instructions he was given? Was he instructed to testify fully and truthfully, or was he instructed that there were still legal privileges he needed to preserve today on behalf of the President?
MR. TOIV: I don't know what instructions he received.
Q Is there anybody that can answer that question here?
MR. TOIV: Let me check on that for you.
Q Thank you.
MR. TOIV: Okay, thank you.
END 2:51 P.M. EDT