THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART AND COLONEL P.J. CROWLEY
The Briefing Room
1:30 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm looking to see if there are any hearty souls who actually were with us last night on our adventure back from the West Coast. Mr. Bloom.
As you know, the President has spent the morning, after getting a little rest himself, with his national security team. So I'm going to ask Colonel Crowley to come up and give you a readout on his meetings, and then after that I will be available for any other questions you might have.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Let me run through a little bit of the President's day overall. As Joe said, actually en route back from Andrews this morning he had the opportunity to talk briefly with Secretary Albright as she was heading to Ramstein Air Base. I'm sure the President shares the Secretary's view that -- for the deep respect that she feels and that he feels for the 10 Americans that the Secretary will bring home to Andrews Air Force Base tomorrow, and our determination that we will hold accountable those who are responsible for these attacks.
Later on in the morning the President had his regular briefing with Sandy Berger, the National Security Advisor, and then went into the Sit Room for discussion with his foreign policy team on the situation in Kenya and in Tanzania. The President used the opportunity first to thank his foreign policy team and to ask them in turn to thank all those both on the ground in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and others who have worked so tirelessly in response to the attacks on Friday.
He received an update from Under Secretary of State Pickering on the current situation on the ground in Africa. We have between 600 and 800 agents on the ground now doing the hard work not only of assisting the injured, tending to the families, and seeing what we can do to help the people of Kenya and Tanzania, as well as conducting the investigation. The Attorney General and her team updated the President on the status of the investigation. Obviously, it's not something we're going to go into here.
But at the conclusion of the meeting, the President asked the State Department in conjunction with OMB to review what will be required to reconstitute the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, to assess the costs of the continuing emergency response that we have in Africa and to evaluate and come back with the list of the priorities for improving our security, particularly at high-risk posts around the world. And we would expect the President to receive a report from the State Department and OMB in the next few days. And he will consult with Congress, in the meantime, looking towards the prospect of an emergency supplemental on those security steps that we need to take.
Q P.J., what do you make of the report of these arrests in Nairobi?
COLONEL CROWLEY: David, we're aware of the reports. I think one of the things that the Attorney General briefed the President on during the course of his trip -- or during the course of the meeting, I'm sorry -- was the fact that we have had outstanding cooperation from both the governments of Kenya and Tanzania from the outset following these attacks. And they are cooperating fully in the investigation. We have had access and would expect to have access to all of the suspects that have been detained in conjunction with last Friday's events.
Q If I could follow up, P.J., is there a break -- do you think there has been a break in this with those arrests, or is this more just a roundup, as you talked about last week?
COLONEL CROWLEY: David, I think there's no way of assessing at this point. We expect and will have access to interview these suspects and we'll evaluate that as part of the investigation.
Q You've already had access or you're going to have access?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think -- we have had access. These are not -- if this is true, these are not the first suspects that have been detained. We have been impressed with the access we've had throughout the investigation since last Friday and we expect that to continue.
Q If the Senate gets around to appropriating more money, how quickly, realistically, do you think it can be done and how quickly can you implement greater security?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think those are exactly the kinds of questions the President asked during the course of his meeting and we'd expect to have those kinds of response in the next few days.
Q Any suspicion of the motivation, or was this a Muslim cult of some sort?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think, Helen, you'd be asking me to speculate about that. This is all the kinds of things that are underway as part of the investigation.
Q You have no motivation at all, and no threats, nothing that would have led --
COLONEL CROWLEY: Other than going back to where we were on Friday. You know, obviously, this was a coordinated attack. Obviously, it was aimed at the United States. And beyond that I think this is all a matter to be investigated.
Q The money you talked about, the emergency supplemental for security -- will there be money to rebuild these two embassies and what's the President's idea on that?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think that's exactly the kind of thing he asked the State Department and OMB to come back. Obviously, we want to reconstitute these embassies as quickly as possible. Obviously, it's a clear statement that we want to make both to the perpetrators of this attack and to the world that we are not going to create a fortress America, we're not going to retreat from the world. The world still looks to us for leadership and we will be there when it's required.
Q Does the President feel that there's any need for a new law or change in policy in order to bring the perpetrators to justice?
COLONEL CROWLEY: This is one of the things actually that we've anticipated in recent years, the emergence of terrorism as a major global threat, and we've taken a number of steps including implementation of a number of laws to give our law enforcement agencies the best tools possible in order to address terrorism as the threat of the '90s and will be, I think, the threat into the next century. Just for one example, new laws that restrict fundraising within the United States as aiding and abetting terrorism, to try to cut back on the resources that these groups would have at their disposal.
Q Well, if I may follow up, I have in mind specifically the question of whether U.S. law and policy should change so that if we apprehend terrorists overseas they could be executed, assassinated.
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think these are the types of things the President raised in his meeting today, what are the lessons learned and the implications of these bombings, and what kind of steps do we need to take both in terms of physical security and other steps that will help us give law enforcement the tools that they need in order to address this in the future.
Q Just so it doesn't go too far, though, I mean, you're not suggesting that the President of the United States discussed potential assassinations?
COLONEL CROWLEY: No. Right -- thank you. No. Obviously, we have worked hard -- (laughter) -- maybe you should come up here, I should go back there, we'll do better at this. We have seen terrorism as an emerging global threat among various transnational threats where there are rogue groups that, rather than try to address America where its strengths lie, they're addressing America in other ways. And we have anticipated this. We have already taken major steps in recent years in terms of laws, in terms of restructuring the federal government to be able to anticipate counterterrorism efforts, to be able to counteract and combat these threats before they occur, but also to be able to respond more appropriately and better if we have situations like we did on Friday where they do happen. And I would expect that effort to continue, without getting into specifics about what that would be.
Q Are we in a state of war -- we have a war on drugs. Are we in a state of war against terrorism, or does that require a declaration in order for us to fight?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think we see terrorism as the emergent threat of the '90s. It will be the major threat that America faces globally into the next century.
Q Are we in a state of war against it so that we can fight these people if we can't apprehend them?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think we recognize the dangers and we're taking appropriate steps to address them.
Q P.J., did the President make any decisions today, or did he simply listen to all the briefings?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think primarily this was an information briefing. He was very active, very engaged in terms of the situation on the ground in Africa, some of the implications of last week's bombings and obviously set in motion a process where the interagency will come back with some specific recommendations on improving security around the world and he would receive those in the next few days.
Q Did you sit in on them, the briefings?
Q Sir, did the President raise at the meeting the issue that several embassies have been closed recently, and is he concerned of how that may be perceived worldwide?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think in a broad sense, Under Secretary Pickering updated him on the response to the bombings in Africa. I think that probably would involve just the security steps that we have taken. They had a discussion of some of the additional measures that were being contemplated. I can't tell you whether that was specifically mentioned.
Q As a result of today's meeting, does the President have a better idea of the perpetrators?
COLONEL CROWLEY: To the extent that he was updated on the status of the investigation. I won't get into specifics about what we know or what he was told at that point.
Q Can you more fully address the impact of the closing of certain diplomatic facilities and the restrictions of some operations and how long that might be expected to continue, and what impact the might have on U.S. citizens abroad or foreign residents wanting consular services.
Q He just asked that.
COLONEL CROWLEY: All right, let me answer that more broadly. Yesterday, the State Department went into great detail about the specific steps they've taken with respect to five posts that they assess that have taken kind of a temporary suspension as they work out additional security measures. I think it's safe to say both from a diplomatic standpoint and from a military standpoint that ambassadors, commanders around the world are assessing their security measures in light of last Friday's attacks, and taking appropriate security steps.
The context of temporarily suspending operations in five posts was taken within the context of giving the embassy kind of a time-out, so to speak, so they could take some prudent measures in light of last Friday's events. But this in no way signals that America is planning to retreat from the world.
Q The security that you're talking about, improving security at other embassies in the supplemental or whatever efforts you now make -- are those things that you wanted to do before that Congress would not provide the money for? What is it that you're doing that you hadn't already tried to do?
COLONEL CROWLEY: What the President asked for was a kind of, in priority, a list of those short-term to medium-term security measures that could be taken where perhaps they had not been undertaken to this point because of a shortfall in funding, and what steps could prudently be taken around the world that would improve security overall around the world at our embassies.
Q You mean, the things that Congress had refused to give you the money for?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, things where resources had not been available to fully do all the things -- we've had a systematic effort throughout the '80s and '90s assessing our diplomatic security, reviewing at least on an annual basis -- assessing our security at posts around the world. Obviously, that process will intensify in the next few days. And to the extent that there are concrete measures that we can take in the short-term, the medium-term, to improve our worldwide security, these are the kinds of things the President wants a full report on.
Q I'm trying to figure out, is this something that you think that you overlooked, that people weren't aware that there was this big a threat, or it was something that Congress prevented you from doing.
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think you heard from various briefers last week that we believe our process of evaluating security has been a good one. Posts are evaluated based on the perceived threat. Lots of security measures have been taken worldwide. But to the extent that there are some buildings that were older -- those buildings, for example, built after 1985, fully incorporate security measures that were evaluated and recommended in the Inman report. But he wants an assessment of those things that -- additional steps that could be taken in light of Friday's attacks.
Q What are you trying to do that you weren't already doing?
COLONEL CROWLEY: These may be things that we'd already evaluated as being necessary, however, might not have yet been implemented because of a lack of funding.
Q Are we getting the full cooperation from intelligence sources in other countries, intelligence agencies in other countries that we would expect to get for this kind of thing?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Let me simply answer that by saying that part of the effort that we have recognized in combating terrorism more effectively around the world is to increase international cooperation. I've heard of no problems that we've encountered thus far. I think we, along with our allies and friends around the world, recognize terrorism as an emerging threat and we are cooperating fully and taking appropriate steps.
Q Is there a concern that the perpetrators in these two bombings might strike again?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think that we recognize that terrorism is a continuing threat that we always have to try to combat, evaluate, and be able to effectively preclude those attacks where we can or respond effectively to them if we can't.
Q Do U.S. investigators believe that they have found the vehicle used in the bombing in Nairobi?
COLONEL CROWLEY: David, I think it's not appropriate for me here to do a play-by-play in the investigation. I think you'll just have to let the investigators do their work out there and when we have things we can share with you, we will.
Q Can you just clarify one thing on the suspects? You were saying at the top the U.S. investigators have interviewed the people who have been arrested in Kenya?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I cannot speak for this latest report of new suspects being arrested. To the extent that there have been suspects arrested beginning on Friday and over the weekend, we have had full access to those suspects, and we would expect that any future suspects arrested by Tanzania authorities or by Kenya authorities we would have the complete cooperation that they have shown us this far.
Q Suspects in both countries?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I believe there have been suspects arrested in both countries.
Q And you have interviewed -- have American investigators interviewed them?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Yes.
Q You said the President had asked for recommendations and expected some answers in the next few days. What specifically is he asking for, and when we will get these answers?
COLONEL CROWLEY: He's asking for what short-term or medium-term additional security measures could be implemented at posts worldwide, but more specifically at what we would assess to be high-risk posts in light of Friday's attacks. And he would expect to have that kind of response from the State Department and OMB in the next few days.
Q Sir, besides the discussion about improving security, did the President ask Defense Secretary Cohen about possible military options should the investigation reach a rapid conclusion?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I'm not aware of that kind of briefing this morning.
Q To follow up on Larry's question, which isn't really facetious, this is a country that believes in capital punishment. Innocent Americans and Africans were killed. How would the U.S. look toward other countries assassinating or taking out foreigners who were involved in this? I'm serious, now, it's a serious question.
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think that you're getting way down the road here in terms of if we have suspects, if they eventually prove to be a part of these attacks who would have jurisdiction. These are all elements that will be reviewed by law enforcement officials as we go through the investigation.
Q P.J., are you aware of the article in the Israeli newspaper about Israeli security officials telling the United States not to trust a warning that the U.S. got from a source about an imminent attack on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi? And if so, what's your reaction to the article?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I'm aware of that article, but again, warnings, specific information, what we may or may not have known at the time of the attack is also subject to the investigation. I'm not going to comment on it.
Q Let me take one more stab at Larry's original -- can you state for us exactly what U.S. policy is in regard to assassination, not of head of state but of potential terrorists now, and whether it's under review?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Let me take that question. I just don't know the answer.
Q You say that what the President wants is an assessment of what the high-risk sites are. But the original explanation that we got for this bombing was that it was precisely because they were targets of opportunity in places that were thought not be high risk that they were attacked. So how does assessing high-risk targets prevent something like this from happening?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think that what we have done prudently, from a diplomatic standpoint and from a military standpoint is simply, in light of what we know about the attacks on Friday, we're asking our posts around the world to evaluate their security measures and to take those additional measures that are appropriate. But we can also calculate that there are places around the world in dangerous places, dangerous capitals, that if there are things that, in light of these attacks, that we can do, that's the type of feedback the President wants to receive from the State Department and he'll get those answers in the next couple of days.
Q Well, will he be told that there was a breakdown in intelligence, where we actually got a warning and didn't heed to it?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Helen, I think you just have to let the investigation take its course.
Q Usually you never tell those things --
Q It will leak.
Q Is Congress being briefed on the status of the investigation and on what the administration may want from them further? And who are you talking to over on the Hill?
COLONEL CROWLEY: The President indicated in his meeting today with his foreign policy team that, just as the State Department and OMB are evaluating what additional security measures could be taken, he will be consulting with leadership in Congress to see what kind of action could be taken on an expedited basis once they return from recess.
Q And they haven't been consulted with at this point, the congressional leadership?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think the President will discuss this with the leadership, see what the prospects are for an emergency supplemental, based on the feedback he gets from the State Department on his directive today, once Congress returns.
Q No sense at this point about what the prospects are for getting that money from Congress?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think other than there have been some indications from the congressional leadership that they'll be very supportive, in light of this. I think that's the kind of thing the President will be talking to Congress about.
Q In this meeting today was there any kind of ranking for U.S. embassy vulnerability across the country -- I mean, in the world?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Again, that's the kind of thing that the President asked the State Department to come back to -- is exactly those kinds of -- assess the additional risks that we perceive in light of these attacks and what steps we should take as quickly as possible to improve security around the world. So to the extent that the state Department might access specific needs in specific posts that have not yet been implemented, these are the kinds of information the President is expecting to get from State in the next couple of dates.
Q What kind of overall vulnerability ranking would you say right now at this point -- vulnerability for another attack for any other embassies in the world.
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think we recognize terrorism as an ongoing threat to our diplomatic posts around the world. We have had a very intensive system of evaluating security through the years, and particularly in the last decade or so. Many of those steps have already been taken. And the President asked today for what additional measures that we could take in the short-term and he'll expect that report from State in the next couple of days.
Q It's my understanding that the President also had a meeting today with his top economic advisors to discuss -- in international financial markets? Can you give us a readout on the meeting? And also, how concerned is President Clinton about the financial crisis in Russia that has engulfed the ruble and the stock market there, and also the eight-year low in the Japanese yen?
COLONEL CROWLEY: The President did have a meeting with some representatives from both the National Economic Council and the National Security Council to talk about the current international economic situation and how it might affect certain economies around the world. In this particular case, they spent much of this meeting talking about the situation in Russia. The President, of course, will be going to Russia right after his vacation and he got an update on the steps that the Russian government has already taken in the area of fiscal and structural reform and how the current market conditions are affecting the situation in Russia.
Q What prompted the meeting? Was this scheduled for weeks and weeks, or what prompted the meeting?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think, in light of the turbulence that we've seen in the international markets over the last few days, the President asked for an update that began more broadly and then, in light of his upcoming trip to Russia, narrowed down to the specific situation there.
Q Just to follow up briefly, the Duma this morning refused to go forward with austerity plans. Is that helpful? And also, are you disappointed that only three weeks after the IMF loan we're back basically with the markets being shut down in Russia?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, first of all, the Duma took some action on some specific economic reform measures that they need to take before they went into recess. The Russian government has been looking at what else needs to be done in the time since then. We are carefully monitoring developments in Russia. And as we've seen, the international markets are very volatile, it's caused some turbulence, and we continue to monitor those actions by Russia and other governments very carefully.
Q Also the Japanese yen -- on the first question. What is the reaction to the fact the Japanese yen hit an eight-year low yesterday?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think it's a tried-and-true tradition here not to comment on currency markets from the podium.
Q Is there a particular concern about political instability in Russia? I mean, Japan is politically stable, but how much concern is there about political instability in Russia?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think what we're primarily concerned about is the status of economic and structural reform in Russia. I think the President has complete confidence that President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Kiriyenko and his team of reformers have the know-how to be able to carry that out. And we are continuing to monitor that very carefully.
Q Did they discuss the Japanese -- the state of Japanese economic reforms? I mean, Obuchi last Friday had a big speech and so on. There has been a market reaction and it seems to have prompted falls in Asia. The origin of the latest crisis seems to be Japan. Was that discussed in the meeting today?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I can't tell you, Chris, how specifically they got into other countries. I think they took assessment of the overall international situation. Obviously, I'm sure they went into some of the contributing factors and then, in turn, how it's affecting countries like Russia.
Q P.J., do we or do we not support additional IMF funding for Russia? And in terms of China, there has been some signals despite official Chinese comments, there is some concern that China may devalue the renminbi. What's going to happen if China does take that course?
COLONEL CROWLEY: On the first question, I would say that we continue to maintain touch with both the IMF and Russian authorities to assess the status of the current package and its implementation. I can't at this point -- we have in the past supported conditional financial assistance to Russia through international financial organizations. I can't at this point assess what else would be required.
Q Is there any discussion of emergency funds for Russia at this point?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I don't think that the President's discussion today got that specific.
Q You won't tell us whether there was a specific threat against the embassy in Nairobi; I can understand that. Will you tell us, was the President informed that the American ambassador to Nairobi had specifically and recently complained about the poor security at her embassy?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I'm not aware of that level of discussion. But again, on the broad topic, that's part of the investigation.
Q Can I ask you a follow on that point? The question is whether or not, on the medium- and short-term security measures you're talk about the President seeking, is it the case that you previously tried to do these things and could not get the money from Congress, or are these things you just thought of?
COLONEL CROWLEY: We have had a very intensive review of security worldwide in recent years in light of the increase in terrorism globally. We have gone through a systematic program of upgrading embassies and particularly incorporating upgrades into new construction. But systematic also means that progress has been made and there is also progress to be made. So what the President asked for was, in light of restrictions in funding that has perhaps not allowed us to make these improvements at a pace that we would like, what are our top priorities in terms of things that could be done and could be done perhaps more quickly should additional funding be available to improve security around the world.
Q According to so-called top secret document published in Athens, -- Turkish invasion forces to remain in Cyprus because their removal in not in U.S. interest. And the U.S. favors -- Since that contradicts President Clinton's policy vis a vis Cyprus, could you please comment?
COLONEL CROWLEY: We're aware of this article that is based on an alleged 1975 document. I have no specific comment on that story or that document.
Q Could you please repeat the President's policy vis a vis to Cyprus?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Our goal for Cyprus is clear: We want a unified Cyprus, based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
Q There's a story that the United States has made the decision not at this point to go in to support the yen, rather to wait for the Japanese to go further with their reform policy and then see what happens. Is that what, in fact, is the U.S. policy with regard to the Japanese yen now?
And, secondly, the Chinese government is under extreme pressures, a lot of discussion at the chief's meeting at the seaside resort today about the question of the yuan and the renminbi. The U.S. has given aid to China with regard to the flooding. Is there more aid packages being prepared for the Chinese in light of their situation?
COLONEL CROWLEY: There are several questions in there; let me try to take as many as I can remember.
First of all, once again, we don't comment on currency markets. I think for the Japanese what's important is that the new Japanese government move quickly, with bold and decisive action to strengthened the banking system and restore robust domestic demand-led growth.
As to the Chinese, we had very encouraging discussions with the Chinese during the President's trip to China last month regarding the status of their currency and their determination not to devalue. And I'm sure that we continue to monitor the Chinese action very carefully. As to what aid we have offered and might offer the Chinese government in light of their severe flooding, I'd refer you to the State Department.
Q Back to China, I had asked you a question before. What if the Chinese do devalue their currency?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Again, you're asking me to speculate. First of all, I won't do that. And, secondly, I won't comment on currency markets.
Q On the unspecified threat that was received in Kenya, is it true that that did talk about -- it was from another intelligence source and it did talk about perhaps an Islamic group staging an attack in Kenya, not necessarily against an embassy? And also, is it a coincidence that there are large Islamic populations in Yemen, Malaysia, and Egypt? Is there some connection here with some of the threats you're receiving?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Any answer I would give you, Eileen, would be based on speculation. Other than any answer I would give you on warnings would be subject of the investigation. I just can't go down that road.
Q Do you have any credence to this report about the Iranian ambassadors having been withdrawn two weeks before, their ambassadors to Kenya and Tanzania?
COLONEL CROWLEY: If the Iranian ambassador were withdrawn for any reason, it would be up to the Iranian government to explain the reasons for that.
Q You mentioned that there was not quite enough funding to change these embassies over as quickly as the administration would like. Is that because Congress failed to appropriate enough? Did the administration seek more funding than was actually appropriated?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think it's fair to say that we have been concerned for a number of years about the lack of money to fully fund our diplomatic program around the world. What the President asked his foreign policy team is to assess, in light of restricted funding, what we could on an expedited basis to improve security around the world.
Q But is it less money than the administration actually asked for? Is this Congress's fault that there wasn't enough money?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think we have been asking for additional funding to make sure that the United States is able to play its global leadership role. Full funding for our diplomatic programs or foreign policy is essential to that.
Q On the bombing investigation, is there anything about the investigation so far that would lend any sort of hope that early progress can be made? In other words, is the investigation at this point in any way different from previous terrorist attacks that you may have more data, what with reports of the vehicle against the wall or suspects being questioned?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Again, I think it's very difficult for me to do a play-by-play of the investigation. We'll just have to let it take its course.
Q Treasury Secretary Rubin and Larry Summers have been hammering home for two or three months now that Japan needs to take specific reforms -- tax cuts, changes in its banking structure -- and the leadership just seems to be paying lip service to what America wants. It's like the White House is talking to a brick wall. Is it time for a change of policy, perhaps different thinking in this regard? The yen just keeps sinking.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Yes, but by the same token, the Japanese just underwent a change in government. I think it's fairly understandable that we need to give the Prime Minister and his new team some opportunity the get their feet on the ground. They've had -- the things that we've been hearing have been very promising. We just need action on their financial structure and economic stimulus to follow through on some of the discussions that we've had with the Japanese over several months.
Q You've said that the governments of Kenya and Tanzania are being very cooperative in the investigation, and I know that Israel is helping to contribute to the investigation as well. Are we seeking assistance from the Saudis in this investigation, since they obviously have a great deal of experience in situations like this as well?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think to the extent that one of the keys to combating global terrorism will be seeking greater cooperation not just from the immediate victims of this attack, but overall from various governments around the world, if we have a need for support from various governments around the world, I would imagine that would be forthcoming.
Q Indonesia is a Moslem country. Any indication of any special threats or trouble ahead over there for us?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I can think of -- I think the Indonesians have experienced their share of both social turbulence and also economic turbulence. I'm not aware that that is related to this issue.
Q Thank you.
Q Great brief. Well done.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me just do a couple things before we get to your questions. After the economic meeting, the President signed the Emergency Farm Financial Relief Act. We'll have a statement for you later, but it will include the President saying this legislation is necessary in a year marked by low crop prices, a series of natural emergencies, and other financial stress in agricultural markets. By speeding up payments to farm families, this law will help many farm families, particularly those facing financial strain through no fault of their own.
You'll remember from the radio address a week or so ago, that the President laid out a number of steps. This was one of them, to move up some payments.
Q How much -- is there an overall price?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have it here. I will try to get that for you, but it's basically not any new money. It's just moving payments up now. This was Secretary Glickman's idea earlier this year that Congress came around to within the last month.
Also, for housekeeping, I am told reliably that the Russia-Ireland sign-up will go up after this briefing, and I think it's due by the end of the week so you should grab one.
Q How is the President preparing today for his testimony next Monday before Ken Starr's grand jury?
MR. LOCKHART: If the President feels anything like I do, I hope he's resting this afternoon. We had a long flight back. We had a long trip. I don't have any particular information about any preparations this afternoon. I think you all have seen that the President's personal attorneys have been spending some time over here. He's been trying to fit in some preparation around the other work he's been doing, which those of you who followed this the last couple days, will see we went pretty wall to wall for a couple days. But I don't have any specific information.
Q Will the President continue to assert that he had no sexual relationship with that woman, Monica Lewinsky? And does he still have no plan to address the nation on that subject around his testimony?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me take it back to what he said to you now two Fridays ago. He plans to testify completely and truthfully. And I'm not in a position to preview that testimony or to preview any plans to speak subsequent, before or after.
Q Any reason to believe he's going to change his story? Which we all know he said publicly he had no relationship with her.
MR. LOCKHART: I have no reason to preview anything he's going to say, other than to tell you again what he's told you, that he'll testify completely and truthfully.
Q Does the White House know of any accusations of discrimination against Californians because of the 1973 House Impeachment Committee's of Stans, Ehrlichman, Haldeman and Nixon?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q And is my recollection correct that one of the impeachment committee staffers was a Hillary Rodham?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q When you said that the President says he's going to testify completely and truthfully, the word "completely" suggests he will answer every question. Is there --
MR. LOCKHART: That's what it suggests to me, yes.
Q So the President will not dodge or will not say he can't answer certain questions?
MR. LOCKHART: The statement I think is pretty straightforward, that he will testify completely and truthfully. He told you that and I have no reason to --
Q Wolf brings it up, I guess -- he'll speak for himself -- but there is a story going around that somehow the President ought to say, I'm not going to answer questions about my personal sex life.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me make a general point on that. There are a lot of stories going around. I could stand up here all afternoon responding to each and every one --
MR. LOCKHART: -- and we could go hour to hour.
Q Be our guest.
MR. LOCKHART: But to take a page from P.J., I'm not in a position to comment, give a play-by-play on what's going on here.
Q Why did he have to say he was going to testify truthfully? Isn't that assumed?
MR. LOCKHART: Of course, it's assumed. Of course, it's assumed. But I think there were several questions shouted at him that day and he was happy to take them.
Q Have you received any briefings at all from any of the legal counsel on any of these issues? Or are these answers that you're giving us because you believe they might be correct?
MR. LOCKHART: On any of which issues?
Q On the issues regarding the President's testimony. Have you received any briefings at all, from Ruff or anyone in the Counsel's Office?
MR. LOCKHART: Not specifically to the content of the testimony, no.
Q Or any briefings at all about whether the President is intending to change his testimony or in any way modify it?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q You have not been briefed in any way?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I have not -- which should not come as news to any of you. I think I've said that to anyone who has asked me in the last 10 days. I think Barry said it repeatedly.
Q When you say it's your impression that he's going to answer every question, that is not based on anything other than the President's statement.?
MR. LOCKHART: It is based on a statement he said that I think we all heard.
Q So, specifically, Joe, you don't expect the President to take the Fifth Amendment or the Fourth Amendment?
MR. LOCKHART: I think I answered that question.
Q What's the answer?
MR. LOCKHART: The President told you he'll answer truthfully and completely. I think that answers that question.
Q Can you at least give us some idea now of the physical arrangements of where the testimony will be taken?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any of the logistical information. I have talked to Counsel's Office, and we are working together and we will try, hopefully by week's end, to give you some sense of some of these logistics. I understand the questions you have. I don't have them myself now, but I hope --
Q Including the time of the start of the testimony?
MR. LOCKHART: I hope to. I don't -- it's hard to know. We have a whole list of questions to ask. I don't know which ones I'll be able to get answers to, but we will make our best attempt to get some answers.
Q Maybe you know the answer to this. Does the President share his wife's view that his troubles may emanate to a large extent because he's from Arkansas, that people don't like Arkansans or else look down their nose at them or something?
MR. LOCKHART: First off, let me -- I talked to Marsha Berry this morning, and I think some of the context on that quote has been twisted around a little bit. I'll get to the answer that you're asking.
Q Are you saying she didn't say it?
MR. LOCKHART: No, no, absolutely not. But I think the question put to her was, why do you feel like people are always picking on people from Arkansas, so that's the context.
I didn't talk to the President specifically about this, but I think any of you who have traveled with us to Arkansas understand the sentiment of people there, that they do feel like they've been treated unfairly. There have been a number of people who have little or no dealings with some of the matters that the independent counsel has looked at who have had their lives turned upside down and have run up legal bills. So I think there is a sentiment among some people back in Arkansas that they've been treated unfairly. And I think that's -- the President has heard that when he has gone home, and I think he understands that.
Q They may have that sentiment, but is it based on the fact that they think it's because they come from Arkansas, as opposed to just they're being treated unfairly for other reasons?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that given the amount of attention and time that the prosecutors, when they went into Little Rock and around the state, they feel like they were singled out because they were from Little Rock or they were from Arkansas. So I think it is partly because of where they come from.
Q Do you see the First Lady's remarks as conflicting in any way with her previous remarks that a vast right-wing conspiracy was to blame?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't. I think she was asked the question by an Arkansas reporter, specifically, as I said, why do you think everybody is always picking on us here.
Q So this is a vast geographical conspiracy. (Laughter.)
Q A vast Ozarks conspiracy?
MR. LOCKHART: I think with two hours I'll pass on that one, Jim.
Q Joe, but are you suggesting that Ken Starr personally has some sort of anti-Arkansas bias?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I'm suggesting that there is a sentiment if you go -- and again, for those of you who have come from time to time when the President goes home, and you talk to people, you'll find people do feel a little singled out based on where they're from.
Q Isn't it true that Californians might have had that feeling with all those people in the Nixon administration they were going after, do you suspect, and do you think that's a rational reaction, Joe? You don't share that, do you, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no idea what people in California thought in the '70s. I really don't.
Q Is the President going to speak at the memorial services tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Will there be a pool going up there?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, it's open coverage. The President will travel there with the First Lady and will speak. I think at some point today we may have a rundown of the ceremonies and the order of speakers and the various ceremonial aspects of the event.
Q On that, can you say anything about how either challenging or difficult it is for the President to go to Andrews tomorrow on this matter?
MR. LOCKHART: I think those of you who have covered the President for the last six years understand, events like these touch him very deeply. But I think he feels it's important in his role as the President to convey a sense as a nation to the families our sympathies, our respect, and our gratitude for the contribution these people and their families have made for this country. So it's, obviously, an event that I think weighs heavily on him, but he believes it's important for him, in his role as President, to speak for the country.
Q Joe, could I just tie up a couple loose ends on the testimony on Monday? As far as you know, are there any plans for the President to address the American people either before or after the testimony?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any plans.
Q Do you know if Ken Starr's office or anyone else has asked for any DNA samples from the President?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any, but if that were the case, my guess is you'd get that information from the President's private attorney. But I am not aware of any.
Q Do you know if the President or his attorney has received any communication from Ken Starr's office or the FBI about their examination of this dress?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any.
Q Joe, I'm not sure we ever really got an answer to Sam's question. Does the President share his wife's view that Arkansans are being picked on? I understand he understands Arkansans, so what does he think?
MR. LOCKHART: I think I explained it the best I can without taking the specific question to the President. It just never came up yesterday and I tried to provide some context to what I think his views are and what I think spending some time in Arkansas allows me to understand how people feel there, and I really can't go any further than that.
Q Does the President feel, after he gives his testimony, doesn't he feel some sense of accountability to the American people that we should know what his testimony -- the context of it and what it was basically?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President is basically concentrating now in this particular respect on the testimony and getting ready and going forward and testifying truthfully and completely. And that is really what his main focus is.
Q And he doesn't feel that the American people should know what that testimony is?
MR. LOCKHART: I think his main priority right now is to go in and testify completely and truthfully.
Q And he'd rather contend with the leaks rather than presenting it himself?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, if the rule of law is followed and the President decides not to discuss his testimony, then there shouldn't be any.
Q Does he think that Ken Starr has been leaking?
MR. LOCKHART: I think Mr. Kendall, his private attorney, has been completely clear on that subject.
Q Joe, would the President like to know the results of the DNA test before he testifies?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.
Q Some people who at one time or another, anyway, have been close to the President have suggested that he should just tell Starr he has no business asking him questions about his sex life. Does the President believe the independent counsel has a right to ask questions about that subject?
MR. LOCKHART: The President hasn't indicated to me what he thinks is an appropriate question and what is and what isn't. I think he's made it as clear as I can be that he'll go in and testify completely.
Q When will we be able to question him?
Q Do you have any more information about limits on questioning that were agreed to by Kendall --
MR. LOCKHART: I am not aware of any parameters that have been set, but I'm not sure that I would be aware. These conversations are going on between Mr. Kendall and Mr. Starr. I think to the extent that you want to learn more about that, and to the extent that Mr. Kendall wants you to learn more about that, you should speak --
Q Does the President believe that Ken Starr has at least a moral obligation to provide him with the results of the DNA test before he testifies?
MR. LOCKHART: The President has not expressed a view to me on that subject.
Q The President and the First Lady have both expressed the view over the years that they've had the come to terms with their zone of privacy being smaller in the White House than they had hoped it would be or expected it would be. Does the President feel now that his privacy has really been invaded in the last couple of months?
MR. LOCKHART: I find it hard to believe -- without having the specific discussion with him, I'd find it hard to believe that he wouldn't. But, again, I have not had -- I think he has spoken on and off about the tradeoffs that involve -- assuming this office, one of the negatives is a loss of privacy and privacy within your family. So I would find it hard to believe, having watched the last few months, that he wouldn't believe that there were this new inroad to that privacy. But I haven't had this conversation with him.
Q Joe, when the President testifies on Monday, will his lawyers be able to, "I object," or "point of order," and so forth? Or do his lawyers have to keep quiet and, except for, whispering advice the him?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the answer to that question.
Q Does anybody know?
MR. LOCKHART: His lawyers do.
Q And they won't say?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't know the answer so rather than make it up I just have to leave it to his lawyers.
Q Joe, do you know who is specifically sitting in or is in on the meetings to prepare the President for his testimony?
MR. LOCKHART: I think his legal team, his private legal team is fairly widely known. Having not gone to the meetings, I don't know who sits in on what and who doesn't. But I think Mr. Kendall is leading this effort and I know his partner, Nicole Seligman, is very involved, and Mickey Kantor.
Q What about Mrs. Clinton, is she involved in any --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the extent of her involvement in the preparations.
Q Is she involved at all?
MR. LOCKHART: My assumption is that she had some involvement, but I couldn't detail that for you because I don't know.
Q Just a quick follow-up. Is she going out to the Vineyard early, or will she be going out with the President?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that question. I know that she's going to Milwaukee tonight to fill in for the President at the Feingold fundraiser. Beyond that, I don't know her schedule.
Helen, you asked about Ruff. I'm not aware of any subpoena, but, as you know, it's not our policy to comment on when people have been subpoenaed and when they haven't.
Q Will Ruff be involved? Will he be present during the testimony? Because they have been in previous occasions when the First Lady or President testified.
MR. LOCKHART: That is a good question, and let me put it on the list of sort of logistics questions. I honestly don't know the answer to that.
Q We were told when Cheryl Mills was going to testify. I mean, so it's not exactly in limbo on the question. We are told at times when different people here are subpoenaed.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not aware that he has any subpoena. If he had one, generally our policy here is it's up to the person if they want to make it available; if somebody here at the White House says go ahead and tell people I have been subpoenaed, I'm happy to do that, as some of you know. I have not had that conversation with Mr. Ruff.
Q Joe, can I clean one thing up on the First Lady's comments? You say that the people from Arkansas feel in some way persecuted or at least a bias against them because they're from Arkansas. Even the state Democratic Party Chairman there yesterday said it's not anti-Arkansas; it's because these people are connected to the President, and they're the ones who are being interviewed or brought before grand juries. So is it anti-Arkansas in your view, or is it anti-Clinton?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it is impossible for anyone to know the answer to that or to separate the two. I'm sure that there are some people who feel like they are treated unfairly because of their connection or their friendship or their relationship with the President. And I'm sure that there are others who feel that it's their connection to -- whether the fact that they live in Little Rock or they're from Arkansas. I can't separate and I'm not sure of the utility of going through the process of trying to figure that out.
Q Is Harry Thomason staying at the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of. I don't know. Again, I just got back here this morning so I'm a little out of touch.
Q Is he helping the President prepare for his upcoming testimony?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any formal role that he has.
Q How about informal role?
MR. LOCKHART: There certainly may be. There's a lot of advice is coming in from every possible place imaginable.
Q Do you think it's good advice?
MR. LOCKHART: Some.
Q Thank you.
END 3:43 P.M. EDT