THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 20, 1998
REMARKS OF MIKE MCCURRY TO THE POOL
En Route Washington, D.C.
MR. MCCURRY: -- (in progress) -- this flight and just prior to this flight, while we were holding back at the school. He has spoken to Speaker Gingrich, Majority Leader Lott and Senator Daschle. Congressman Gephardt is out of town, but we have been briefing his staff and have had contact with his staff, as well. I'll let all of them speak for themselves, but I'll tell you, from the President's viewpoint, those phone calls went quite well.
Right now the President is going to go to the Oval. He's going to do a series of calls to some of his counterparts overseas. He will be on the phone probably a fair amount of the rest of the day. At some point, probably around 4:30 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. I expect him to make another public address from the White House. I'll know more after we get to the White House about where we're doing it. I think you'll probably discover when you land that most of your colleagues have been getting prepared to do stuff at the White House, while we've been in the air.
Sandy Berger will do a briefing at the White House, either before or after the President talks. I'm going to check on that when we get to the office. And I think it's almost definite that the President will stay here in Washington tonight. We apologize to those of you who don't have any overnight stuff for you, but there was no way we could help you get better prepared.
We'll be -- you should hang loose tomorrow. I think we'll probably do some public stuff at the White House tomorrow, we'll let you know about that later. The President's plan now is to go back up to the Vineyard sometime during the day tomorrow, probably in the afternoon.
Q Will you take the same people back on this plane?
Q Go back when, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll kind of reconnect through the press office and see how many of you are going back up, how many are staying. We'll try to take the same package back up.
Q Going back when, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Probably sometime tomorrow.
Q -- we considered bin Laden just a suspect, but no evidence linking him to the explosions --
MR. MCCURRY: I want to make it clear, we've known a great deal about him for a long time. You'll hear from the briefings that have been occurring around town while we've been in the air that a considerable amount of information came together in the time since August 7th, both about the bombings at our two embassies and about other events in the past and other possible events.
I'd like to not say anything more than that right now, but you'll see in the course of this afternoon that a lot of this information is going to be made available.
Q When did the President make the decision -- when did you find out?
MR. MCCURRY: The President for some time has been -- the President authorized planning for this action sometime ago. Mr. Berger will do the complete chronology and tick-tock this afternoon, but the go-no go decision was made by the President very early this morning.
Q -- he was on the phone with foreign policy advisors --
MR. MCCURRY: I've been dropping into my briefings that he has been working on foreign policy stuff and on the phone with Berger and doing stuff for the reason that he's been doing a lot --
Q Is the Vice President coming back?
MR. MCCURRY: The Vice President is -- I don't know the answer to that whether or not -- he obviously couldn't because that would have been interrupted operational security. But I don't know what his immediate plans are. I don't think so.
Q Mike -- (inaudible.)
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not absolutely certain that I should answer that. I think that Secretary Cohen and General Shelton, who were briefing while we've been in the air, have probably already answered that. But it was -- I don't want to say exactly when, but by the time that I came out and told you that the President was coming to speak it was over.
Q Did you get him?
Q Did you get Osama?
MR. MCCURRY: You'll be hearing from others about what our assessment is. For a lot of different reasons, it will be some time before we have a thorough assessment of the attacks themselves and how and what the damage was.
Q So you don't know if we got him --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe we'll know for some time. But I will leave that to others who are more proficient.
Q There's going to be inevitable --
MR. MCCURRY: I know, and that will be -- I don't need to answer that, that's already been answered by Secretary Cohen and others. What they have made clear is the President acted on a unanimous recommendation from his entire national security team, based on what was conclusive information, and the President is very comfortable with both the decision -- the timing was not his, the timing was that of the terrorist organization that was the target of today's action.
Q Because of what he mentioned, that --
MR. MCCURRY: For a lot -- that is correct. This is an action of self-defense and a very prudent one given the threat.
Q Are they going to be able to elaborate on what's what?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, there will be a lot of elaboration. You don't need anything more from me on that because there is going to be lots of briefings further.
Q Did you know when you came into the briefing room?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I've known for several days.
Q Was bin Laden the target?
MR. MCCURRY: There were not individual human targets, it was an organization and infrastructure that were targets.
Q Did he talk to any foreign leaders before the attack?
MR. MCCURRY: No, but he's had a brief conversation with Prime Minister Blair, but the phone connection was bad so they're going to wait until they get to a better --
Q Since we don't have Teague to tell us, are we just standing in on our own here or is there --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think that we've got -- I told Teague to stay up with his wife since his wife was up there. He was going to come down. I'm going to assume that we've got a pool wrangler here that will be able to shepherd you guys down to the White House. That's where we're going, to the White House.
When you get to the White House you'll find out more about what our schedule is for further briefings.
Q You're pretty sure we're staying in Washington tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I'm pretty sure. He just thinks -- for a lot of different reasons, it was -- I talked to him and the First Lady this morning and she said -- he said, I think I should probably stay up, and she thought he should, too, depending on what kind of information that we have available -- I think we'll probably stay up overnight.
Q Mike, to clarify, he talked to Tony Blair or he had a bad connection and they weren't able to --
MR. MCCURRY: He talked very briefly and they just said -- he said, I can't hear you very well, are you going to be around so I can call you on a better phone line when I get to the office. And he said, yes.
Q So he didn't get time to actually say that he had done --
MR. MCCURRY: Very briefly.
Q Were there conversations with allies before we did this, or was this just unilateral?
MR. MCCURRY: The State Department is -- Secretary Albright is going to be addressing this.