THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY AND COLONEL P.J. CROWLEY
The Briefing Room
2:12 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Since, as you'll quickly see, I have nothing on anything, P.J. -- Colonel Crowley, who, in my absence the last week, I think has done a masterful job in talking about the events in East Africa -- he went out to Andrews with the President today, and if anyone wants to start at that point, Colonel Crowley is here.
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think, just to show you how I can date myself, I feel like Arnold Zanker (sp) about to give the podium back to Walter Cronkite after the -- how many years ago was that? A few. (Laughter.)
Q Who's Walter Cronkite? (Laughter.)
COLONEL CROWLEY: Touche.
Q That was 1967.
COLONEL CROWLEY: We were all younger.
Q The President of the local --
COLONEL CROWLEY: Very good.
You, of course, were observing the very moving tribute to the 12 Americans, 10 of whom came home this morning out at Andrews Air Force Base. For about an hour prior to the ceremony the President and First Lady met with the families in an area adjacent to the ceremony site. They were escorted through the room -- each family was situated at a separate table -- by Under Secretary Tom Pickering who was kind of overseeing the support that the State Department and the other agencies have provided to the families as they've either come to Washington or returning to the United States.
The President and the First Lady spent about five minutes or so -- some families were a little larger, some smaller -- with each. I think you could feel in the room a tremendous sense of loss, of course, but also an enormous sense of pride that these families had in the service that their sons or daughters, husbands or wives, sisters or brothers performed in service of the country.
During the course of the hour, Secretary Cohen, Secretary Albright, after she landed with the C-17 -- also Secretary Shalala and Surgeon General Satcher also were in and out moving and greeting the families as well.
A couple of things that struck the President -- I think each of the families, in way or another, had a history of service to the country. Many had served in the military or other ways of serving the country. So I think in a sense they understood the dedication that these people manifested and also the risks that were involved in the career choices that they had made.
The President afterwards, on the helicopter back, said how fortunate we are as a country to have people like this serving in the foreign service or serving in the military. And I think he was also struck by the strength of the families. They obviously had enormous pride in the accomplishments of their loved ones even through the loss that they are suffering. There were many smiles in the room. They were telling the President stories and the First Lady stories that brought these great Americans alive for the benefit of the First Family.
And a couple of families had some just practical requests of the President that the staff is already working just in terms of how they are coping with the immediate aftermath of this tragedy. One family, for example, who has a nephew in the service wanted to be sure that the nephew would be able to return home in time for a funeral. So that gives you a sense of the ceremony that you saw, or of the family meeting beforehand. But I think the President was struck by the extraordinary strength that these families have manifested throughout this tragedy.
Q P.J., did any of the families express concerns that security had not been up to standard at the embassy in Nairobi?
COLONEL CROWLEY: The President specifically -- we asked him that afterwards, and he said no.
Q P.J., can you say -- can you give us some idea of how high a priority it has been for the administration to push for funding for security improvements?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think as we explained yesterday, this will be a high priority. The President gave clear instructions to the State Department and OMB to come back with a prioritized list of additional security measures that can be taken at various embassies around the world. And we expect that list in a couple of days, and we would expect to consult with Congress about an emergency supplemental.
Q I know it's something that you're concerned about now. The real question is, what about before the embassy attacks? And obviously, it's been 13 years since an attack; is it something that both the administration and Congress just didn't seem to be quite that concerned about?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Jim, actually quite the opposite. There was a detailed briefing last evening at the State Department which clearly showed the priority that we have placed on security at our embassies around the world. This was an embassy, for example, in Nairobi, that had undergone a series of security reviews. In each case, once there was a review there were practical implementations made that improved the security measurably at the embassy.
The one thing that was agreed to by the State Department was that this was an embassy that did not meet the Inman standards, and it was not something that could be done in the time that Ambassador Bushnell surfaced it with the Department. Hey, she said, we need a new building; the Department agreed. But it would have been four years at a minimum before we could have reconstruction at Nairobi, so that would not have changed the outcome.
Q You acknowledged yesterday there was a shortfall of funds. What I'm trying to get a sense of is whether or not you think that is because Congress has not been sensitive enough to this, or that the administration perhaps, having had 13 years of no attacks, wasn't quite as concerned about it. I mean, why have we had a shortfall for what you think -- where you should have had more money?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I don't think that there is an ambassador or a commander or anyone who would say I'm always going to have everything that I need. These requirements have been clearly identified. The State Department is working through these requirements in a systematic way, making measurable security improvements as the process goes along. But as was explained yesterday at the State Department, there's a great deal of competition around the world for new construction, for example. That's something that is prioritized at the State Department based on the construction needs around the world -- for example, if there's a new country that pops up, there's a new embassy requirement. If a country decides to move a capital, then there's a construction requirement there as well.
They had made a prudent judgment based on their risk evaluation of this embassy that, relative to other posts, this was not as high a priority as other locations for new construction.
Q Is it clear, P.J., why -- the Ambassador seemed to feel fairly strongly about the risk. Is it clear why the Secretary of State, even if it wouldn't have changed the outcome now, why the decision wasn't made to either ask for funds to go ahead with a new embassy or --
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think what was clear from the briefing you received yesterday at the State Department was that every time there was a security issue raised at that embassy, just as there are in others, reviews were undertaken and measurable improvements were made. The one thing that could not be done was the construction of a new embassy.
Q Why couldn't -- because there were no funds for it?
COLONEL CROWLEY: It's a management of risk that is reviewed by a board over at the State Department, and they set the construction priorities overseas, based on the funds that were available.
Q How concerned is the President that on two or three occasions, Ambassador Bushnell asked for help, and it was ignored?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Wolf, I take exception to that. Her request for assistance was not ignored. She raised her concerns; reviews were done even as earlier as this year; funds were appropriated for additional improvements that, it turns out, probably were not made at the time of the blast, but had been programmed to be done. So all of the concerns that she raised, all of the concerns, likewise, that Central Command raised, were clearly addressed and action was being taken.
Q Some of the critics say the tragedy is it takes a tragedy like this to get the administration and Congress to appropriate the funds to protect U.S. diplomats abroad.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Wolf, security has been a clear priority for the State Department, for the administration. As we've seen that terrorism has been an emerging threat for us in the last decade or so, both the State Department, Defense Department, all agencies that have employees serving overseas have taken measurable steps to improve security. In fact, the Defense Department said a couple of days ago that actually instances of threats against Americans and attacks against Americans have actually been diminishing as a result of some of the steps that have been taken to improve security around the world.
Q Did any of the families complain to the President about anything, either the security issues beforehand or the treatment and timing of what's happened in the aftermath of the bombing?
COLONEL CROWLEY: No. Not that they expressed to the President.
Q Do you have any developments to report in terms of the investigation -- any developments you can report in the investigation of the bombing?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Actually, I think there has been a briefing today in Africa by Kenya officials and FBI officials, and I will defer to that briefing.
Q The reasons why she kept asking for money to enhance or beef up security -- were there specific threats against this embassy?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Again, Helen, on the aspect of threats and actions taken, other than the systematic reviews that we had done at this embassy and others, other warnings that were in the system at the time, I think we'll refer to the investigation.
Q What improvements were planned for the Nairobi embassy and why were they held up?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think I'll defer to the State Department on the specifics. Pat Kennedy gave a detailed briefing on that yesterday. I don't know the specifics.
Q P.J., on the review that the President has ordered, is it strictly applying to embassies? What I'm saying is, what about U.S. installations worldwide? Why wouldn't they be at risk?
COLONEL CROWLEY: To the extent that -- I'll check on that. But it was a direction to the Secretary of State. I will check and see to the extent that there may be some concerns within Defense Department or other agencies. Absolutely, if there are needs that need to be met around the world, we'll do it.
Q P.J., there were reports this morning that the President's going to ask Congress for a billion dollars, approximately, for work on embassies. Is that accurate?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think there's no final figure until we receive a report back from the State Department and OMB in terms of what they think the priorities are.
Q Did Clinton have any reaction after he met with the families other than what he said in his public remarks?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I mean, he was clearly struck, he was clearly moved by the event and by both the distinguished service that is obvious when you read the bios of these 12 Americans. But also, you could see palpably in the room how the families that have so well supported these great Americans -- you could feel that, you could see that in the way that they reacted when the President and First Lady came over to them. The mood started out, it was a very solid group of people, very proud of what their loved ones have accomplished. I think it became a little more poignant towards the tail end of the reception as they realized that the plane had landed with their loved ones on board. But it's what you would expect on an occasion like this -- pride, sorrow, joy, sadness all mixed in, and the First Family felt that the same way.
Q P.J., in that connection, did you notice any tears in the President's eyes during this meeting?
COLONEL CROWLEY: You could tell he and the First Lady were both deeply moved. They spent a lot of time with each individual family member. In particular, the President spent a lot of time -- two or three of the families had very young children, bent down a couple of times to talk to the young children and make sure that they were taken care of during the course of the event.
Again, what he said on the helicopter was how lucky we are to have both these Americans who have served us so well and the families who are so strong and have supported them so well.
Q P.J., is there a sense that there is a new threat environment now as a result of these two attacks? I mean, we're looking for a lot of extra money to do medium- and short-term security improvements, things that you might have pursued before these attacks. So is there a sense that you have a new level of threat that you must now respond to?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Jim, I think if you look back to the start of the administration, the President has been at the forefront in this post-Cold War environment of viewing where the new threats were going to come from, both from terrorism, from cyber-terrorism, from counternarcotics, from international crime -- that's something that he spoke about back in May. So this has been something that we have -- we have seen attacks on Americans growing through the years. We have anticipated in the post-Cold War environment that this would be something that we'd be confronting more and more. We've taken concrete steps to both improve security, improve the way the federal government anticipates these kinds of threats, combats terrorism in improved cooperation with our allies and partners around the world; have reorganized the government and reorganized the office of the President to be able to respond more aggressively to these kinds of emerging threats.
So this has been something that I don't think we're surprised -- regrettably, we're not surprised by what has happened, but it is clearly something we anticipate as being the emergent threat for today and one we'll face into the next century.
Q But you're asking for additional emergency money now that you didn't ask for a month ago, so clearly, something has changed.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Well, clearly, we had a very coordinated bombing against two embassies last Friday. We are assessing the implications of that, and to the extent that there are specific steps we can take in light of that, we're prepared to take them.
Q Did either the President or the family members mention in any way the possibility of retaliation or the desirability of that?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think the President, as did the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, spoke clearly about our determination to see that the perpetrators of this crime see justice.
Q P.J., any progress in finding those responsible?
COLONEL CROWLEY: The investigation, Wolf, continues.
Q P.J., is there anything on Iraq? What's the U.S. --
COLONEL CROWLEY: Before we leave this, you guys gave me a little bit of homework yesterday to follow up on. There were questions yesterday about the United States policy towards assassinations. I want to report back that Executive Order 12333 prohibits assassination by the United States government. It states, quote -- that's true of spokesmen as well as other government officials -- (laughter) -- "no person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States government shall engage in or conspire to engage in assassination." And while we repeat our objective to bring the perpetrators of these terrorist attacks to justice, I'm not aware of any plans to change this directive.
Q Well, that was the question, P.J. We knew the policy. The question was whether the President thought a new law or change of policy might now be necessary.
COLONEL CROWLEY: We contemplate no change in that directive.
Q What year was that executive order?
COLONEL CROWLEY: It was 1974.
Q So that would have been Ford?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Ford.
Claire, on Iraq, the Security Council has received a report from Chairman Butler and its contemplating next steps. Iraq, clearly, by refusing to cooperate with UNSCOM, is something that we find unacceptable and the sanctions will not be lifted until this cooperation is restored.
Q Well, what can the U.S. do to get the inspections going again?
COLONEL CROWLEY: The special representative to Secretary General Kofi Annan is in Baghdad right now. He will talk to Iraqi officials about their decision to suspend cooperation both with UNSCOM and the IEA, and he will urge Iraq to resume that cooperation, and he will forcefully communicate that this violates both Security Council resolutions and the memorandum of understanding that Kofi Annan negotiated personally with Iraq. And he'll report back to the Council in the next few days.
Q But P.J., on that, is there any concern that the United States, because it hasn't been saber-rattling, is actually encouraging Saddam to take this further?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I think that, Larry, we have been encouraging Saddam Hussein for eight years now to do a very simple thing, which is declare fully his weapons of mass destruction capability, and he knows exactly what he is expected to do. As we've said before, this has been a cat-and-mouse game that we've experienced in the past with Iraq. We're not going to play his game. Sanctions will not be lifted until he complies fully and declares fully his remaining WMD capability. And we will respond as the situation goes along as we feel fit, not being dictated to by Iraq.
Q Clearly, the monitoring devices are still operating; some of them, anyway. But the inspectors can't check them. And some of them are saying that this is the most serious setback to the inspection program since it was imposed. Do you agree with that?
COLONEL CROWLEY: UNSCOM and the IAEA have clearly indicated that they cannot continue their inspection programs under these circumstances. That is the situation the Security Council is evaluating, and we will continue to consult within the Council on the next steps.
Q P.J., the President had a meeting with his foreign policy team yesterday. Is he going to meet with them again today or later this week? What's the schedule?
COLONEL CROWLEY: He's remaining updated and engaged, I know, this afternoon with Sandy Berger on the issue. I'm not aware of any larger meetings at this point.
Q P.J., I don't know -- for you or Mike -- the financial situation in Japan and Russia and Asia?
COLONEL CROWLEY: Do you want to take that? Okay.
Q Before you leave, along the lines of the assassination report you gave us, is there a presidential executive order or directive on the subject of extraterritorial arrests that you might be in a position to share with us?
COLONEL CROWLEY: On that issue, I think I'd probably refer you to Justice on exactly -- we have extradition treaties with a number of countries, and that is you work through law enforcement channels.
Q There is a policy in place now which allows that as far as our government is concerned.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Again, I defer to Justice on those kinds of legal questions.
Q P.J., on that executive order, would that also bar action like shooting up a terrorist's safe house or dropping a bomb on a terrorist's home?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I don't think it's appropriate to get into a legal seminar here. There's a very clear declaration of policy there in that statement and we have no plans to change it.
Q What does that definition mean?
COLONEL CROWLEY: It says we do not engage in assassination, period.
Q Does it define assassination -- so that's up to an interpretation?
Q The killing of somebody without the color of law.
Q P.J., in Kosovo today there has been some movement, I gather, that the Albanian Kosovar leader is wanting to be in talks --
COLONEL CROWLEY: Through the hard work of Ambassador Chris Hill in Kosovo, Dr. Rugova has formed his negotiating team, and we await a similar response from President Milosevic.
Q Any announcement of Korea talks?
COLONEL CROWLEY: On Korea talks? Let me take that question. I'm not aware of anything coming up.
Q Do you know when the last time there was a President in a ceremony at Andrews for bodies returning home?
MR. MCCURRY: I think President Clinton has participated both at Dover, and I believe at Andrews as well, and, unfortunately, has had too many occasions like that to celebrate.
Let me underscore two things that P.J. said first. The briefing that Assistant Secretary for State for Administration Patrick Kennedy gave last night at the State Department, which was both informative and heartfelt, covered a lot of the same questions that you've posed. So if you have not seen that transcript from State Department, you should get that.
The second point I would make is for six years this administration has been trying to make clear the case both to Congress and the American people that we don't spend all that it takes to assert America's presence overseas in the way sometimes we would like. The Function 150 account in our federal government represents something like 1 percent of what we spend as a government. If you ask most Americans, they think it's much higher than that.
And one of the arguments we've made is that chiefs of mission, as they try to carry out the work of U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy abroad, have to balance out risk assessment with performance of mission. And sometimes it requires difficult choices when resources are scarce. I think this is another argument that to do what we expect of the United States of America in the world requires the kind of support and funding that this administration has sought.
Q But, Mike, you're saying you believe the administration pushed as hard as it should have or --
MR. MCCURRY: I know that we have pushed very, very hard over the last six years to get the kind of funding for the U.S. presence overseas that this administration believes is warranted in the post-Cold War era. And from that account comes the resources that are available to an ambassador both to protect the mission, but also to perform the mission, to carry out the kind of work that these brave U.S. personnel carried out and that others every day carry out.
Q But on the matter of U.S. embassies abroad and construction and security, hasn't Congress increased the funding over what the administration asked for?
MR. MCCURRY: There have been some increases if you look at specific programs. And remember, too, that the military has done some assessments, particularly in the wake of the Khobar bombings, on other U.S. installations. So there's different pots of money for different types of programs. But it generally comes out of the 150 account, which is the account that we use to support our overseas presence, and as this administration has argued, has been under-funded given the challenges that we face.
Q Mike, are you saying Congress shares the blame here for what happened?
MR. MCCURRY: No, this is not a question of blame; it's a question of making a positive case for support for the kind of work these diplomats were doing and hundreds of thousands of other diplomats do around the world every single day. And to acknowledge that when you have scarce resources, you have to set priorities -- and Pat Kennedy described very clearly last night that the question of a new embassy in Nairobi ranked less in priority than others. And I think in a very heartfelt way, he said that choice -- in hindsight, of course -- is a tragic one, but it's the reality of what American administrations have been doing for quite some time now.
Q Mike, can I just follow up on that one point --
Q -- a Russian aid package, and is there going to be any sort of decision memo going to the President soon on that?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on what actions will be taken. Let me just tell you what we have been doing. First, we are following the developments in Russia very closely. It's critical that the Russian government act quickly to restore confidence in their economy and that is something that we have communicated directly to Russian officials.
The international community has a big stake in seeing that Russia gets their economy moving in the right direction. We have, obviously, have been in very close contact with the IMF, and our Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs, David Lipton, has been in Moscow. He has met with a range of Russian officials from Prime Minister Kiriyenko on down, including Central Bank officials, finance minister officials, communicating the sense of urgency we have about the need to restore both confidence and stability in the Russian economy.
But beyond that, I'm not going to speculate about specific steps that might be contemplated. You've seen some reports, no doubt, of work that the G-7 has been undertaking at the deputy minister level, and all of that work is obviously important. And we are fully participating in that.
Q There are reports out of Europe that there may be a G-7 meeting called specifically to deal with this -- is one question. The second question is, what is the U.S. viewpoint on either devaluation of the ruble or establishing a currency board in Russia?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, on currency matters, this is not the right venue for the discussion of those issues. As you know, we rely on the Treasury Secretary and his designees for those issues. There has been some work, as I just indicated, by the G-7 today, and I would not be surprised if the G-7 remains fully engaged in monitoring both the developments in Russia and in Asia generally.
Q Can you just clarify what you mean by this work by the G-7 today? I mean, were there talks among the G-7 --
MR. MCCURRY: It's been reported that there was a conference call at the deputy minister level, and I believe that's correct.
Q Mike, has this changed the agenda or changed the goals for the summit between President Clinton and President Yeltsin?
MR. MCCURRY: It doesn't change the goals for the summit because the full engagement across a range of issues is the President's goal when he sees President Yeltsin. But it has been true of every meeting that President Clinton has had with President Yeltsin that economic reform, the health and vibrancy of the Russian economy, the transition that the Russian people are making away from communist economics to market economics is always a part of that agenda, and what we can do to be of help has been a major feature of the bilateral relationship.
Q Mike, has Clinton been in contact with King Fahd following the King's recent surgery?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe he has been personally in contact, although we have conveyed the President and the First Lady's best wishes for a speedy recovery to the King through appropriate officials. We saw the Prince recently and we've communicated to the Crown Prince as well the President's concern.
Q Mike, on another subject, the President said that he would testify truthfully and fully next Monday. Does "fully" mean that he intends to answer all the questions put to him?
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, when I left on my vacation, blissfully, July 31st, the President addressed these matters and made it clear that he wasn't going to have anything more to say on it until he testifies on Monday. And I know you've had some sport with my deputies in the interim, but I'm not going to play that game. I don't have anything to add to it, don't have anything new.
Q Well, we haven't any sport with him, we've asked legitimate questions and we've gotten some sort of answers which suggested that he would --
MR. MCCURRY: The President made clear what the answers were on July 31st. I don't have anything to add.
Q Why can't you say he'll testify fully meaning he'll answer the questions? Why would you try to be cute about that?
MR. MCCURRY: You played this same semantic game with Mr. Lockhart yesterday and he was trying to make it very clear he wasn't playing a semantic game, and neither am I.
Q This is not a semantic game; this is whether the truth is going to be told or not.
Q To follow on my esteemed colleague, will the President make a speech to the nation on Monday after he --
MR. MCCURRY: That's been asked and answered.
Q How has it been answered, Mike?
Q What's the answer today?
Q The answer is yes or no?
Q You haven't answered it.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not playing this game today. I don't have anything to add to this.
Q This is not a game.
Q Mike, you said that the White House is watching closely events in Russia. Has anybody talked with the President specifically today, and who is keeping him up to date on these matters with both Larry Summers and Gene Sperling --
MR. MCCURRY: He has seen -- heard from Treasury officials. There has been contact and conference calls between Moscow and Deputy Secretary Summers and Secretary Rubin, who has also been participating in those calls, and that's been relayed back through Lael Brainard, who is newly named as our Chief International Economics Person at the NEC/NSC.
Q Can you give us some sense of the President's schedule, though, over the next couple days and any insight into what kind of preparation he'll make for Monday's session?
MR. MCCURRY: It's just as it's been indicated earlier. He'll spend some time with his lawyers participating.
Q Why do you insist on calling legitimate questions about the President's testimony a game?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say they were anything but legitimate questions. I just said I was not prepared with any information to add to what's been said on this.
Q But why do you call it a game? They've been put to you civilly. They've been put to you --
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, the same questions were asked yesterday and there is no new answer today.
Q But not answered, Mike.
Q But wait, actually, to follow up on this, yesterday when Joe was asked this, he indicated --
MR. MCCURRY: He gave a good answer.
Q Wait. He indicated that he expected that the President would respond completely.
MR. MCCURRY: That was a good answer.
Q Are you today pulling back from that?
Q Do you stand on that answer?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Are you pulling back?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything new. I'm not adding.
Q Is that answer still operative?
Q Does that answer stand or is it inoperative?
MR. MCCURRY: That answer is the same answer, and it's the same answer the President gave July 31st.
Q But Joe said yesterday that he hadn't been briefed and had no basis on which to make that statement. Do you agree with that?
MR. MCCURRY: Do I agree that you are ill informed or uninformed? (Laughter.) Look, I'm not messing around with this today.
Q Going back to Russia. What are the American people or other people supposed to make of the fact that three weeks after a $22-billion loan was arranged for Russia, we find that Russia is again in a financial meltdown?
MR. MCCURRY: There are significant structural challenges in the global economy; that the difficulty the Russian economy is experiencing reflects the difficulty that transitions in this global economy present for many industrialized and developing economies around this world; and that the United States, for that reason, participates in the work of the international community through international financial institutions like the IMF to help lend stability and encourage growth and improvement of quality of living for people who live in those kinds of economies.
Q Is there any talk of unilateral action ahead of the trip to Russia if the G-7 cannot work something out?
MR. MCCURRY: As I said earlier, I'm not going to speculate on the kind of action that might be undertaken, but, clearly, as answers earlier indicated, there's some work going on on that.
Q Does the U.S. still have confidence that the Russian government can implement the economic reforms that are needed to reform stability?
MR. MCCURRY: The United States and others in the world community have a great deal of confidence in the reform-minded leaders of the Russian government, a great deal of faith in the economic team that President Yeltsin has assembled, led by Prime Minister Kiriyenko, and confidence that if everyone works together, it can be in the best interest not only of the people of Russia, but the people of the world economy.
Q Can Clinton do anything in Russia on START II? What does he plan to say about that?
MR. MCCURRY: We can -- he will build on what the two Presidents agreed in Helsinki, that there needs to be an additional work to reduce the nuclear arsenals of both countries, assuming full implementation of START II. We obviously will discuss the need for ratifying and moving ahead with START II, but it's always been foreseen that there is an arms control agenda that moves out beyond START II that includes the kinds of outlines that the two Presidents considered in Helsinki and that could conceivably lead to a START III agreement.
Q Is he going straight to Russia from Martha's Vineyard?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what that travel is yet.
Q Mike, you and the deputies have not answered the question about what sort of statement the President plans to make to the nation. Do you intend to let us know before Monday evening?
MR. MCCURRY: Joe indicated yesterday if we can get any logistical information, we'll share it. I obviously don't have any today and so I don't have any to pass on.
Q Well, you know it is a moment in history and you have to --
MR. MCCURRY: There are moments of history here at the White House every day.
Q No, that's not true.
Q Mike, the appeal of Joe's statement yesterday was that it seemed to have clarity and this exchange just now has -- succeeded in muddying it.
MR. MCCURRY: I meant to do nothing in any way, shape or form to add to the good record that has already been developed for you on this. I have nothing on the subject to share with you today.
Q Why do you seek to denigrate the questions or the questioner?
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, you're -- over on that point and I'm not. Those are legitimate questions.
Q You call it a game.
MR. MCCURRY: It's a legitimate question. I just don't have any answer today, and going back and forth when it's clear I don't have any answer is a game.
Q We want to know are we going to be told anything.
Q On the preparations, is the President getting any advice from Harry Thomason?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that.
Q Is Harry Thomason staying here at the White House, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: That was asked and answered yesterday, I believe.
MR. MCCURRY: Asked yesterday; I don't know the answer. I haven't seen him around.
Q Regarding the President's new legal defense fund, can you give us some of the totals? And to what do you attribute the increased success?
MR. MCCURRY: Remember back in February when the trustees announced the creation of this fund, it was set up separate from the White House and administered separate from the White House. My understanding is that the Executive Director of the Fund, Anthony Essaye -- Tony Essaye -- will be reporting publicly as they promised they would do on receipts and presumably expenditures of the fund, and they plan to do so by the end of the month. We checked with him earlier and his plans haven't changed. You can give him a call. He probably will not have much definitive to put on until the end of the month. No one has, to my knowledge, has disputed some of the figures that were in The New York Times today, but --
Q To what do you attribute the increased success in collecting money?
MR. MCCURRY: That they can ask people for money. The big difference between this fund and the previous one was the previous one, as it was established by the trustees, did not allow solicitation, and this fund does allow the managers of the fund to tell people of its existence.
Q Mike, given that it's supposedly flourishing, is there any discussion at all between the Clintons on maybe sharing -- helping pay some aides' legal bills?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President's made himself clear in the past that he really would like to help those who have incurred debts to retire those. But obviously, the receipts of that fund to date are far less than the total expenses that the Clintons of incurred.
MR. LOCKHART: Mike, that fund can only pay his expenses, by the way it's structured.
MR. MCCURRY: And the fund that is -- Joe's right -- the structure of this fund, if we understand correctly, can only allow defraying the President and the First Lady's expenses, although the President has on other occasions made it clear he would like to help those on his staff who do have some indebtedness.
Q So it formally cannot be --
MR. MCCURRY: Not out of this fund. But the President has indicated he'd be willing to do that.
Q Mike, has a decision been made on whether the President will go ahead with his trip to India and Pakistan, and if not, at what point does a decision have to be made because of the need for planning?
MR. MCCURRY: A decision has not been made. It is still under review. And as a practical matter, it would have to be made some time, but not necessarily -- not too much in front of the proposed departure -- (laughter) -- as we have demonstrated in the past. (Laughter.)
Q Do you think that you'll be able to answer some of these questions that you're not able to answer today on Monday after his testimony? I mean, do you anticipate being able to tell us Monday, yes, he did answer all of the questions --
MR. MCCURRY: We anticipate to be in the same position we've been in all along. We suffer at the mercy of lawyers. And if they've got information for us to pass on, we pass it on. We press them to try to get answers.
Q The simple logistics of him testifying, when he starts and when he --
MR. MCCURRY: You would think that would be a simple question -- or a legitimate question as Mr. Donaldson would call it, and I would declare it that, too.
Q Aren't those legitimate questions?
MR. MCCURRY: Of course, they are. But I don't have any answers.
Q Why don't you have the answers?
Q Are you telling us that lawyers have prevented you from telling whether he would answer all the questions? Have they suggested to you, you should not answer them?
MR. MCCURRY: They have not passed on any answers to us. We've pressed them for answers to the questions, and they have indicated they will take our request under advisement.
Q But may I just follow that up, because the lawyers that we talk to say that before a grand jury situation, unless a witness asserts a constitutional privilege -- or I suppose the President could assert a different type of privilege -- they are required as a matter of law to answer all the questions. So if you can't say the President is prepared to answer the questions in some form, it raises a --
MR. MCCURRY: I wasn't making any news today. I made that clear earlier.
Q Mike, earlier you called on the Russians to act quickly to restore confidence. What are you referring to there? Are you referring to boosting tax collection? And would any unilateral U.S. assistance be conditioned upon specific action on the Russian side?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't want to comment specifically because that's been raised by our Treasury official who's there. But we have in the past noted the importance of revenue collection among other things -- transparency, some of the regulatory reforms that had been undertaken, other things that we have pointed to in the past.
Q Mike, is it still certain that the President will testify from here on Monday rather than going to the court?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information contrary to what's been indicated earlier.
Q Do you whether Starr himself will be at the White House Monday?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know.
Q Mike, will you say anything regarding the administration's thinking on the bad debt situation -- you talked about the structural changes and the global economy. And with regard to Japan, it seems that the decision was taken that the Japanese have got to get rid of what is unpayable debt within their own system, but in Russia, there's a tendency to try to do a bailout in order to maintain some debt which is obviously unpayable.
MR. MCCURRY: Good question. Different parts of the world; different economic realities in both. Let me do some homework on that and answer in greater detail tomorrow. It will give us something to talk about. (Laughter.)
Q We've got something to talk about except you're not talking.
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I don't -- I mean, the President made clear to all of you and to all of us that he was not going to proclaim on these questions until after.
Q We're not asking what he's going to say; we're asking what we're going to find out on Monday. Are we going to find out where he testifies, when he testifies? Those are simple facts.
MR. MCCURRY: We'd like to get those answers and like to make it easier for you to make your plans for the coming days and if we can, we'll pass it on.
Q But aren't you able to talk to the President?
Q Well, forget our plans. I mean, the President said fully; yesterday Joe said, hey, I have no -- he spoke for it.
MR. MCCURRY: We've been back and forth over that several times.
Q And the buzz then sounds --
MR. MCCURRY: Sam, we've been through that already --
Q -- that you're going to come out here and do something which you, in fact, have done.
MR. MCCURRY: I have not done a thing here other than refer to the previous answers given by the President and Mr. Lockhart.
Q Were you implying by your statement about the lawyers that the lawyers are causing the President --
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't say anything about that.
Q Does the President think this is a game?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I haven't talked to him about it. But I think most people around here think that a lot of this is a game, and sometimes I think it's pretty childish.
Q Do you think the President thinks it's a childish game?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's -- I don't know how much he bothers with the day-to-day briefing here, because it's usually not that illuminating.
Q Mike, Senator Specter sent a letter to the President today on this same subject of concern that --
MR. MCCURRY: We'll take a look at it and see if there is anything to pass on.
Q Getting back to the security of U.S. embassies abroad, since it's a matter of money, limited number of dollars available, that you have to go through priorities --
MR. MCCURRY: And an assessment of the threat and reassessments of the threats when you have tragedies like the ones that have been experienced.
Q Would the President be willing to make an exception of the budget surplus for Social Security in order to protect the U.S. embassies abroad?
MR. MCCURRY: Requests for emergency funding by the Budget Act fall outside the calculations that are made for long-term surpluses -- I think is right. When you make an emergency supplemental request, it doesn't count against what the overall numbers are. For exactly that reason -- if you need to do it, you don't have to calculate it as part of the surplus.
Q What if the President said, let's just use some of the budget surplus to build new embassies?
MR. MCCURRY: The point is you don't have to use "the surplus" because emergency supplemental requests are considered differently by federal law.
Q Do you think the billion-dollar figure is about right for the supplemental?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know.
Q Two years ago when Senator Phil Gramm was chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that was over the State Department, he accused them of building marble palaces, in reference to the embassies. And there was a great deal of hostile rhetoric toward the State Department budget at the time. Can you talk about that and the kind of politics that's been involved with the State Department?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there have been -- I mean, when there has been debate about the State Department budget, it's been good that there has at least been a debate. I think the problem has been more one of lack of engagement. People are not -- you frequently here the argument, why are we spending all that money overseas? The answer is because we're doing very important work overseas and we need places to do it and those places need to be secure and they need to be adequately funded.
My point -- the larger debate has been a more interesting one, which is that most Americans don't know how much we spend overseas. It's far less than they think. You ask them, how much do you think we spend on our presence overseas, and they say, 10, 15 percent. And they think it's too much. Then they say, well, what do you think is about right? And they say 5 to 7 percent. And then when you tell them it's really only 1 percent, they are usually quite surprised by that.
So I think it's a question of helping people understand what our commitments are in the world, helping them understand what it takes to get the job done, and hopefully doing it in an environment where we don't need a tragedy to underscore the reality.
Q The new Japanese foreign minister comes to Washington tomorrow. What kind of message are you going to convey to him?
MR. MCCURRY: It will be an opportunity for us to renew acquaintances with people in this government that we know, make new acquaintances with some, like the foreign minister who we have not spent as much time with -- I believe Secretary Albright is seeing him, correct -- and also an opportunity for the United States government to underscore the importance of quick action to do what the Japanese government has said it intends to do.
Q Mike, regarding the Lewinsky investigation, do you receive instructions on what to say and what not to say from the lawyers? Have you ever personally spoken with the President about what you can say with regard to Lewinsky?
MR. MCCURRY: I've made it clear today I don't have anything to offer up on this subject today.
Q The request for upgrading the Nairobi embassy was made only recently, so there is no indication that if Congress had been appropriating the amount of money that the administration says it has wanted, that it would have changed this specific situation, is there?
MR. MCCURRY: As made clear by Pat Kennedy last night, correct.
Q Mike, if Starr does come on Monday, will you ask him to come to the stakeout? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: He meets with you down in his driveway every morning, I thought.
Q Mike, do you know what the President's outstanding legal bills amount to?
MR. MCCURRY: I've seen reported $6 million, and I've heard in the past that's about right. But that's a question I'd have to talk to the managers of the legal expense trust to know better. It will be something that will be reported formally when they do that disclosure, as it has been in the past when we did the previous disclosures.
Q What's he doing this afternoon?
MR. MCCURRY: He had some time off and I think he was going to spend time preparing for this event on Monday that you're interested in.
Q Without reference to the specifics of his testimony, how important is it to the President, to the rest of his presidency, to get beyond these questions that exist in Congress --
MR. MCCURRY: You will all disgorge thousands, if not millions, of words on that, and you'll do very good without my assessment.
Q Will there be a news conference soon?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure. (Laughter.) Whenever.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:58 P.M. EDT