THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY BARRY TOIV AND COLONEL P.J. CROWLEY The Briefing Room
1:06 P.M. EDT
MR. TOIV: Good afternoon, everybody. I have a couple important announcements to make about the President's schedule. Tomorrow the President will sign the Credit Union Membership Access Act in the Oval Office with a small audience, including a bipartisan group of members of Congress, representatives from consumer groups and credit unions.
Q The Credit Unions Access Act
MR. TOIV: I think that will be -- the coverage will be -- yes, Credit Union Membership Access Act.
Q What time?
MR. TOIV: This is the bill that Congress passed with the President's support that enables credit unions to carry on activities that were brought into question by a Supreme Court decision. I think the coverage on that will be White House photo or stills.
MR. TOIV: Hang on, hang on. Then the President will sign the Work Force Investment Act in a Rose Garden ceremony, also with members from both sides of the aisle, along with business, job training and local elected officials.
Q Will the Marine Band be there? (Laughter.)
Q And will we be far enough away?
Q Will the Marine Band be there to drown out any potential questioning of the President?
Q Why can't we be near?
MR. TOIV: I'm not sure if they've finalized the entire program, Sam, but --
MR. TOIV: -- I found the music refreshing.
Q What time is the Oval Office thing -- credit union?
MR. TOIV: Yes, you know something, the one thing my piece of paper doesn't have here is the times on those two events. That would have helped.
Q Why can't we go in for that? Are you trying to keep us out of the Oval Office?
MR. TOIV: No. We're doing the one event in public and frankly that's --
Q Well, why can't the credit union be in public?
MR. TOIV: To be perfectly honest, that is a bill that represents a lot of very hard work on the part of the President over the last five years, really. And that's the bill that we want to have the primary focus on tomorrow.
Q But this is news, too -- 70 million people, you put a paper out a couple days ago hailing it.
MR. TOIV: And we're going to hail it tomorrow as well.
Q When was the last time an Oval Office event has been closed to the in-house pool? Usually it's in-house pool coverage.
MR. TOIV: He signs things in the Oval Office all the time.
Q The President is in hiding, isn't he?
Q With an audience, without us?
MR. TOIV: Yes, small audiences. Yes, sure. And we put out a photo when he signs bills, happens all the time.
Additionally, let me just give you some more detail on the President's travel next week, because we've got some more information on it and want to let you all know. On Monday, the President leaves in the morning for Louisville, Kentucky. He leaves at about 8:25 a.m. And he'll be doing an event in Louisville on the patients' bill of rights. And he will attend a fundraising lunch and Victory in Kentucky fundraising lunch in the afternoon. That evening in Chicago he'll do the second Unity '98 event at the Chicago Historical Society, and overnight in San Francisco.
San Francisco on Tuesday, we will have a crime event and then in San Francisco and Los Angeles he will attend fundraising events for Gray Davis, our gubernatorial candidate in California. He'll overnight in Los Angeles. Wednesday in Los Angeles is an environmental event and then on to Milwaukee, where there will be a Unity reception. And then back to the White House at about midnight Wednesday night.
Q Can you tell me what time he gets to Milwaukee? Do you have that?
MR. TOIV: No, I don't have that. Somebody can get an approximate time.
Q Can you tell me what time he leaves Los Angeles? I can figure it out.
MR. TOIV: If I could tell you one I'd probably be able to tell you the other. Maybe before the end of the briefing we'll get that information.
Q Why shouldn't we conclude that the President does not want to get near any of the press?
MR. TOIV: To what?
Q Why shouldn't we conclude that we're being absolutely isolated from the President and vice versa?
MR. TOIV: I just don't think that that's true. You've seen him -- you're going to see him twice today. You've seen him --
Q There's no opportunity to ask him any questions.
MR. TOIV: -- twice earlier in the week. You've seen him twice earlier in the week. Well, you had the opportunity to ask him, but he chose not to answer.
Q Not today. I mean, you saw him at the end of the ceremony -- he turned to his left and that smart salute to the Marine Band; on cue they began playing as loud as they could -- (laughter)
MR. TOIV: Thank you.
Q It's all sort of sad.
MR. TOIV: The time tomorrow is the credit union -- the signing of the credit union bill in the Oval Office, 10:15 a.m. tomorrow; and then 10:40 a.m. in the Rose Garden is the Worker Investment Act. Oh, also, the times in L.A. and Milwaukee are still fluid.
Q How does the President feel today about Monica Lewinsky's finally testifying before the Grand Jury?
MR. TOIV: Well, the President has not expressed any views to us on this, except we know that he does agree with us -- and probably all Americans -- that if this means that we're coming to the end of this four year, over $40 million investigation, then that would be a good thing.
Q Well, if he's not expressed any views to you, how do you know he agrees with you?
MR. TOIV: Because we've heard him express that view before about the investigation.
Q Is he paying any attention to the testimony today or to the arrival at the courthouse, anything?
MR. TOIV: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Is he talking to you?
MR. TOIV: Yes, he talks to us.
Q Is he seeing his lawyers today?
MR. TOIV: I don't know if he's going to see his lawyers today. He'll see his lawyers on a number of occasions between now and the 17th. I'm sure that if they come today that you'll have an opportunity to see them coming in the door.
Q As far as you know, is he staying with the story that he's told publicly -- that he did not have a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky?
MR. TOIV: As I've repeated about every day, the President said on Friday that he will testify truthfully and completely.
Q Is the President still --
Q Is that the truth?
MR. TOIV: And, again, I have no reason to believe otherwise.
Q Is the President still happy that things appear to be working out well for Monica Lewinsky?
MR. TOIV: He hasn't expressed a different view since he expressed that one to Mike.
Q Barry, why do you say it's a good thing that the investigation is coming to an end? Could it be a bad thing, depending on what Mr. Starr comes out with? (Laughter.)
MR. TOIV: No, I think that the American people would agree that an investigation that is now entering its fifth year, that has cost well over $40 million by now, that it's about time to come to a conclusion.
Q More importantly, can you please respond to Iraq's lack of cooperation with the missile inspectors, due to the longstanding sanctions?
MR. TOIV: Colonel P.J. Crowley will answer that question.
Q Barry, before you leave --
MR. TOIV: I'm not going to leave.
Q Just on the same subject, do you have anything -- any more idea as to what the President might say, or if he's going to say anything in public, either right prior to or after he gives his testimony on the 17th?
MR. TOIV: Well, as the President has said, he's not going to have any additional comment prior to the 17th -- which is another reason, I might add, that he's not answering any questions about this or expressing any views, because he said he's not going to have any additional comment.
Q What about --
MR. TOIV: But there are no plans that I'm aware of to speak publicly on this at this time.
Q Barry, if there's an innocent explanation for their relationship, why doesn't he come out and tell the American people what exactly was the nature of the relationship? If it was so innocent why can't he come forward and just say so?
MR. TOIV: Well, first of all, the President has said that he's going to testify to this fully and completely -- completely and truthfully. And in addition, I don't have any information that there will be any public statements on this.
Q You said he will not have any additional comment until he testifies. That's what he said on Friday. Are you basing your statement today on what you heard him say on Friday or do you have, today, additional guidance that that still stands?
MR. TOIV: I'm basing my statement on what the President of the United States said on Friday.
Q Are there any concerns out of the White House about a possible effect on consumer confidence or the markets, to some extent, which are down 10 percent over the last couple of weeks -- just about the situation in Washington?
MR. TOIV: I gave a very long answer to that question yesterday.
Q Well, his question is a consumer confidence question.
MR. TOIV: Well, I think American consumers know that the economy is strong, that the fundamentals of the economy are strong regardless of day to day movements in the markets. And that will remain the case. We have strong growth with low inflation, low unemployment, and we have every reason to expect that that will continue. Unless, of course, we veer from the economic strategy that has gotten us here -- that is fiscal discipline, that is investment in the American people and maintaining strong markets abroad.
Probably the biggest concern with respect to that would be what the President mentioned today, and that would be a proposal for massive tax cuts that are not paid for, which has been proposed by the Speaker as recently as today. That would probably be the biggest danger to the economy right now.
But I think that as long as maintain the course that we're on, the economy will be fine. I think the American people understand that.
Q Barry, you said that you have no way of knowing what Monica Lewinsky is going to testify to. Are you concerned that that testimony is going to leak, or would you like to know what she has to say?
MR. TOIV: We have no comment on that testimony, other than what I've already said.
Q Barry, you said you didn't know whether the President was going to meet with his attorneys today, but do you have a sense as to how much time he has spent with his attorneys preparing so far?
MR. TOIV: No, I don't know. I don't know.
Q Barry, is there any possibility at all that the President could make a public statement about this, just after his testimony?
MR. TOIV: I'm not aware of any plans to do so.
Q Barry, isn't there a concern today about Monica Lewinsky's testimony, especially since she was a young lady supposedly carrying a dress for a while that supposedly had a substance on it that -- from an alleged sexual relationship with the President? Is there a concern that this woman could have some kind of mental problem or mental issue that she can just say anything to Ken Starr today?
MR. TOIV: I think I'll rest with my previous answer.
Q Have you seen the President today and, if so, can you describe his mood?
MR. TOIV: His mood is great.
Q Have you seen him outside of --
MR. TOIV: Outside of the event? Yes, his mood is --
Q How do you know his mood is great?
Q He said he saw him.
MR. TOIV: Yes.
Q What were you talking about?
Q You mean in the Rose Garden?
MR. TOIV: Before the event.
Q But what did you talk about? It wasn't this, you've told us.
MR. TOIV: His mood is very good.
Q How do you know?
MR. TOIV: Well, because he certainly appears to be that way.
Q Well, he could be --
MR. TOIV: I'm not sure --
Q Why did he say he would testify truthfully and completely? Why did he feel he had to say that? Isn't it a given that he has already basically testified?
MR. TOIV: It is a given that the President would testify truthfully and completely.
Q How does the President feel about the over-sensationalism and the over-speculation in the media going on in the past six months?
MR. TOIV: The President is really not going to have anything additional to say about this entire matter during this time, and so I don't think there is anything that I could say about that.
Q Does he feel it has been handled sensationally?
MR. TOIV: Well, he -- again, I've got no comment from him on this matter during this time.
Q Barry, you make it sound as if no one in the White House is even aware that all this is going on down at the courthouse. (Laughter.)
MR. TOIV: That what is going on? (Laughter.)
Q I like this guy.
Q Just as I suspected. Surely you people at least are concerned that there is someone a few blocks away accusing the President of being a liar?
MR. TOIV: You know, I got to tell you, Jim, that people around here are doing their jobs. There are all kinds of stuff going on here today, some of which you know about, some of which you don't. I mean, of course you know that we're going to have, in addition to the events that the President did today, the Chief of Staff is going to be making an important announcement this afternoon relating to clean water down in his home state of North Carolina.
Q He's for it?
MR. TOIV: He's very much for it and they have a real problem with it. The Vice President, as you know, is meeting with Deputy President Mbeki today and will have a press conference this afternoon. There are officials of state and local government here today being briefed on Y2K by our Intergovernmental Affairs Office and by John Koskinnen, the head of our Y2K effort. The Office of Public Liaison is having their monthly meeting with Washington business representatives.
Work goes on here every day, and it continues to go on, and it is unimpeded and unaffected by events outside of here.
Q What time is the Vice President's press conference?
MR. TOIV: Two-thirty.
Q Is the President going to meet with his foreign policy team about the Iraq situation today?
MR. TOIV: Do you want to move on to Iraq now?
Q No, one more question. Mike McCurry recently said some complimentary things about Monica Lewinsky as a prospective employee in the press office. What is the White House position -- what does the White House think about Monica Lewinsky? Is she a trustworthy person?
MR. TOIV: I would not take it beyond what Mike said, because I think Mike expressed the views of the White House fully on that at that time.
Q As far as you know, Barry, has anyone at the White House been asked to get the President to provide a DNA sample?
MR. TOIV: Not that I am aware of. The best person to ask that question, though, of course would be Mr. Kendall, his attorney.
Q And as far as you know, has the White House or anyone at the White House, including the President, been informed of the FBI tests of that dress?
MR. TOIV: Not to my knowledge.
Q Barry, I thought that Erskine Bowles was taking vacation this week. Was that a mistaken impression?
MR. TOIV: That would be a mistaken impression. He's here.
Q Barry, when the White House withdrew the assertion of executive privilege for Bruce Lindsey, Chuck Ruff issued a statement saying we have no intention of asserting the privilege -- executive privilege in any situation I'm aware of. Does that remain an operative statement from the Counsel's Office, or is that something that's been withdrawn at this point?
MR. TOIV: Yes, you're touching on an issue that is under court seal, and I'm not in a position to talk about it.
Q Mr. Ruff talked about it.
MR. TOIV: That is an issue that is under court seal right now, and I'm not in a position to talk about.
Q So there may be false statements on the record from the White House that you can't correct?
MR. TOIV: That is a matter that is under court seal.
Q But, Barry, isn't the seal over the specifics of the argument --
MR. TOIV: My understanding is that the court seal covers this issue and that I'm not in a position to talk about it.
Q Does the White House believe that the court seal also affects what he did in his grand jury testimony, which you have a perfect right to disclose?
MR. TOIV: As I understand it, there is a court seal over matters related to the issue that Josh just brought up, and I am not in a position to talk about them.
Q But isn't that -- isn't the seal over the argument over the specific things over which privilege may have been invoked, not over the question of whether or not privilege had been invoked?
MR. TOIV: I am not in a position to go beyond that.
Q Can you tell us whether Lanny Breuer answered all the questions he was asked?
MR. TOIV: I don't know the answer to that.
Q Do you know if the First Lady is in the White House today, and if she's not, what she's doing or if she is, what she's doing?
MR. TOIV: That's a good question. I did not hear her schedule for today, so I don't know if she's here or not. If anybody has an answer to that, bring it on.
Q Does she sit in with the President and Mr. Kendall and --
MR. TOIV: I don't know the answer. I don't know the answer to that. I have not attended or seen any of those sessions.
Q Would you ask?
MR. TOIV: I'll take the question. I don't know if I'll be able to answer it, though, because we really -- you know, we're not going to get into answering questions about the specifics of his preparation for this.
Q You took a question yesterday regarding the First Lady and Chelsea, how they're holding up under this pressure. Do you have an answer to that?
MR. TOIV: I took it, but I haven't brought it back. (Laughter.)
Q Did you dispose of it? (Laughter.)
MR. TOIV: I thought I was pretty clear on that yesterday.
Q Barry, you wouldn't comment on the question about whether the President has any reaction to sensationalism in the press over this, but do you know if the President is still reading newspapers and watching television -- watching the news -- is he aware of what's going on?
MR. TOIV: I don't know to what extent he is reading the papers and watching television news. I can try and find out to see if he's reading or watching more or less than usual.
Q Is he listening to the briefings at least?
MR. TOIV: Listening to the briefings?
Q Yes, to find out --
MR. TOIV: Doesn't everybody? (Laughter.) No, I suspect he's not. As a matter of fact, I suspect he's not -- I hope he's not. (Laughter.)
Q That's not what he was elected to do.
MR. TOIV: Well, that probably could some days come under that category, probably not today.
Okay. Want to move onto real subjects?
Q Oh, it's a real subject -- the President's under federal investigation.
Q What about the situation with the Iraqis, P.J.?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, the Security Council continues to meet at this hour, and they have heard the report from Chairman Butler, and I think are consultations with the United Nations on the appropriate next steps.
Q What are the appropriate next steps in the view of the United States?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, we think that the Iraqi goal is clear: to force the international community to abandon the sanctions regime that was created in 1990. This is unacceptable. We think it's counter-productive, and we don't believe it will work. And the United States is determined that sanctions remain in place until Iraq is in complete cooperation and compliance with the U.N. Memorandum of Understanding and all Security Council resolutions.
Q Other than sanctions being in place, is there any other action to try to force Iraq to comply with the U.N. resolutions?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Sam, we're not going to play Iraq's game here. We've had situations over the past eight years of Iraq withholding support, granting support, and we're just not going to play this game. Their obligations are clear. They must fully comply with UNSCOM, fully comply with the IAEA in having a full accounting of their programs of weapons of mass destruction, and sanctions will remain in place until they do so.
Q But if Iraq's game is to not comply, they win if no one makes them comply?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Quite the contrary. Over the past eight years, Iraq has -- it's cost Iraq $120 billion, money that Saddam could have used to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction program, could have used to threaten his neighbors, as he did in 1990. He will not regain control of his economy until he is fully in compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Q P.J., last time we had forces on stand-by, ready to strike in the Gulf when Saddam prevented inspections. This time, it doesn't sound like we're going to do that. Why?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Let's not raise the temperature before it's appropriate. We are consulting within the Security Council. We are going to judge Iraq by its actions, not entirely by its words. We are concerned about the situation, but the U.N. has bent over backwards in the past few months to show Iraq the way forward, starting with the Secretary General's Memorandum of Understanding in February.
We've had technical meetings to clarify exactly what Iraq has to do, and the gaps that remain, in terms of Iraq's accountability on missile programs; chemical, biological, nuclear programs have been verified by outside experts. In June, Chairman butler laid out a clear program of work for Iraq to follow and ultimately they must comply fully and cooperate fully with this international effort. Sanctions will not be lifted until they do.
Q What's the President doing about the deteriorating situation in the Middle East?
COLONEL CROWLEY: The deteriorating situation in the Middle East with respect to the peace process?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Secretary of State Albright has been on the phone with both parties in recent days to encourage them to continue to move forward, to try to bridge the remaining gaps so that we can move on to final status talks.
Q Is the President himself making any phone calls regarding this Iraq situation, to allies or to --
COLONEL CROWLEY: Not at this point, that I'm aware of.
Q And do you think he'll be briefed at all this afternoon on what happens at the Security Council meeting?
COLONEL CROWLEY: He is maintaining up to date information on this through his National Security Advisor, Mr. Berger.
Q Apparently NATO has approved a plan for the use of force in Kosovo. Under what conditions would the U.S. support the use of force? How bad does it have to get there before we take action?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, we find the situation in Kosovo to be totally unacceptable. We are outraged that the Serbs continue to systematically use violence against civilian populations. We are closely consulting with our allies on the appropriate next steps. We've intensified the military planning within NATO -- in fact, within a day or two that should be brought to a conclusion.
And Ambassador Chris Hill met yesterday with President Milosevic, gave him a very firm message of what we expect him to do in terms of creating a climate that would allow negotiations to go forward. Clearly, the Serb offensive is mostly responsible for the climate that exists there and the lack of progress in terms of moving forward the negotiations. This has to change.
Q How soon? So it could be soon, action?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, we continue to believe that the diplomatic solution is the best solution. That's the course of action that Ambassador Hill has been intensively engaged in in recent weeks. Ultimately, we think there has to be a political solution that gives the Kosovor Albanians the autonomy that they had previously enjoyed.
Q And what do you know about the mass graves? Apparently the U.N. and NATO said that they don't have any evidence to substantiate that there are some 500 civilians buried.
COLONEL CROWLEY: The Kosovor diplomatic observer mission was able to view that area yesterday. They did find roughly 50 marked graves. And they continue to look at that situation. We at this point have no evidence to specifically verify that it's a mass grave, but we are continuing to look at it.
Q Is Sandy staying in town this weekend? I know a bunch of NSC people were going to go to Italy for a certain wedding of a State Department spokesman and I thought Sandy was among them.
COLONEL CROWLEY: The National Security Advisor has vacation plans in the next few days.
Q He's not changing that due to the --
COLONEL CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
Q On Iraq, you keep referring to actions versus rhetoric. Are you suggesting that some of this is designed for internal Iraqi consumption, and that in fact it might not be carried out?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Oh, no. I think that Saddam has at various times tried a kind of divide and conquer strategy with respect to the international community, where he has seen what people refer to as sanction fatigue. It hasn't worked before, it won't work this time again. And we believe that we have the international support to keep the sanctions regime in place until Iraq is fully in compliance.
Q The other thing is there are some diplomats and other analysts who are suggesting that the Lewinsky matter might be factored into his calculations. What message could you send him that would let him know that Lewinsky is not, you know, tempering your response?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I don't think there is any doubt what our message to Saddam Hussein has been, both today -- it has been the same message that we have provided him for eight years: he must fully comply with all U.N. Security Council resolutions. He must fully comply with the Memorandum of Understanding the he signed with Kofi Annan. Iraq must meet its international obligations or the United States will be sure and keep the sanctions regime in place until he does.
Q And nothing going on domestically would alter that?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Nothing going on domestically --
Q Lewinsky or any other factors.
COLONEL CROWLEY: We've been at this for eight years. This is not something that's driven by current events. This is something that's driven by Saddam and his totally unsuccessful effort over the years to evade his national responsibility.
Q Who is leading the U.S. delegation tomorrow to the assumption of President Pastrana --
COLONEL CROWLEY: Actually, I don't know. I'll take that question and find out.
Q Are there any plans to evacuate Americans and other foreign nationals from Congo, which is deteriorating, as you know.
COLONEL CROWLEY: There was an order evacuation in the Congo; roughly 20 non-essential personnel, dependents, left Kinshasa this morning by commercial means. We would expect the official footprint, if you will, in Congo to reduce in the next couple of days down to roughly 30.
Q I meant non-governmental employees, those that are working for the companies there. There are over 2,000 foreign nationals there, they may be in danger. Are there any --
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think there are only roughly 500 Americans in Congo, is our information. We have issued a travel advisory and suggested that now might not be the best time to be in Kinshasa. The airports remain open, there are commercial flights available. My understanding is that, by and large, most Americans are staying at this point.
Q Finally, if I could, Mr. Mbeki is here and there is discussions going on about what the United States and South Africa can do regarding Congo. Are you privy to that? Could you tell us, please, what is the thinking on that?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, Deputy President Mbeki and President Clinton did discuss the Congo, among several regional issues, in their meeting yesterday. South Africa has played a very constructive role regionally in both respect to Congo, Angola, other regional conflicts in recent years. President Mandela, himself, personally, was engaged in negotiations a year ago during the transition from the Mobutu regime. So they play a very productive role.
We have had some discussions here and we'd hope they would be able to continue their constructive effort.
Q P.J., next week is the -- the first Japanese cabinet ministerial visit, the Japanese Foreign Minister will be in town. Do you expect the President to stop by a meeting or to see him in any way?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Nothing is planned, that I'm aware of.
Q Thank you.
Q Barry, today is another anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Does President Clinton believe that was a correct decision by Harry Truman?
MR. TOIV: I'll have to go back and ask him. I believe he has said it was, but I would have to double check.
Q Thank you.
MR. TOIV: In answer to a previous question, the First Lady is in town, she has no public schedule. And as for questions about how she's doing, you should probably call Marsha Berry, her Press Secretary.
Q She won't say. Kendall won't talk, Marsha Berry won't say.
Q Thank you.
END 1:35 P.M. EDT