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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 4, 1998
                         IN ANNOUNCING HIS STAFF
                           The Briefing Room   

2:30 P.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: Hello, everyone. And a very special event this afternoon here at the White House -- John Podesta is going to talk to you and bring you up to date on some of the personnel changes that he's instituted here, and introduce you to his new management team here at the White House.


MR. PODESTA: Thank you, Joe.

I want to start off with an important announcement. On the advice of my new team, I've decided to change my nickname from Skippy to John "the Body" Podesta. (Laughter.)

After many years and several jobs in the White House, I have a strong sense of how we, the staff, can best serve the President as he leads our nation. So in selecting my new team, I wanted individuals who are talented and experienced. They must be passionate about the President's agenda. They must fully appreciate the high honor of public service. They had to be able to work together as a team. The President deserves that; the country deserves that; and so does the White House staff.

Maria Echaveste will continue to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff. She has proven to be a gifted manager at the Labor Department and here at the White House, and will continue to steer our domestic policy, to drive our outreach efforts, to keep the White House staff focused and well-managed, and to make sure that the President's appointees throughout the administration are first-rate.

Joining Maria as Deputy Chief of Staff will be Steve Ricchetti. I'm very happy that Steve will bring his powerful combination of political, private sector, and legislative experience back to the White House. He has been a very successful businessperson and has been a terrific public servant, working for Senator Robb and working here at the White House in the Legislative Affairs Office. He has strong relations with Democrats and he has strong relations with Republicans.

And now he has a lot to do. As Deputy Chief of Staff, Steve will manage our efforts to build bipartisan coalitions, to strengthen our leadership abroad, and strengthen our economy at home.

Paul Begala will continue to serve as Counselor to the President, advising the President on the development and definition of his public agenda. He will play a central role, along with Maria and Director of Speechwriting Michael Waldman, in the State of the Union process, which we are well at work at. Of course, Paul will continue to serve as one of the President's principal public spokespersons.

Doug Sosnik will serve as Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy. In his years here, and many hours advising the President, Doug has shown himself to be someone who can be counted on for strong and subtle advice, and someone able to tell the President what he needs to hear. In his new post, we can stop guessing which of the great lines in the newspaper came from Doug, because now Doug will be speaking on the record. (Laughter.)

Q That will be the day. (Laughter.)

MR. PODESTA: Karen Tramantano will serve as Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Chief of Staff. She has served as Chief of Staff to the Mayor of the District of Columbia and in high-level positions in the labor movement. She has worked tireless on important issues at the White House. She'll continue her labor and economic portfolio and her leadership on the census. And she will be my right hand, making sure things get done and that they get done on time.

As I said when I was appointed Chief of Staff, one of the great pleasures of working for this President is his determination to make every day count. This is a staff that will bring that task energy, intelligence and a passionate commitment to public service.

Now I'm happy to take questions if you have any.

Q What message were the voters sending yesterday on the impeachment process as far as the White House is concerned?

MR. PODESTA: I think the President addressed that earlier. The voters I think were sending a powerful message that they wanted Washington to work for them, that they wanted an agenda that the Democrats set out before the American people to save Social Security. They wanted to invest in education. They wanted a real patients' bill of rights. And I think that's the message that was loud and clear, that people who supported those issues and initiatives, that people who brought a positive message to the public about what they could do for them were rewarded with success at the polls.

Q If Steve is moving over to your operation and Susan Brophy, I believe, is gone, does that mean the President is reducing the size of his impeachment quarterback team?

MR. PODESTA: Well, as you know, under the able leadership of Chuck Ruff and Greg Craig, who we brought in to quarterback our efforts on the Hill, the team has been well at work over the past couple of months, but Steve will continue to be involved with that group of people who manage that process in dealing with the committee and in dealing with Capitol Hill.

Q When the President says today that he is not going to have anything more to say about impeachment, it's really in the hands of the Republicans on the Hill, does that mean the White House isn't going to give the Judiciary Committee any advice on how it thinks the hearings should proceed?

MR. PODESTA: I think we want a process, as we've said before, that's fair and expeditious, and I'm sure that our people will be there discussing that with both the majority and the minority. And I think that the Congress, and I think the President suggested that the Congress has to digest what happened this week, and they will make their determinations about how to go on. But I don't see a major change in the way that our folks, principally Mr. Ruff and Mr. Craig, are relating to people on the Hill.

Q But is Ricchetti -- is he going to do both jobs?

MR. PODESTA: Mr. Ricchetti will again have a portfolio that takes over many of my duties, to deal with foreign policy, to deal with economic policy, to deal with other matters in the White House. But as you know, I played a role as Deputy Chief of Staff in dealing with Counsel's Office, in dealing with the team, and Mr. Ricchetti will continue to do that.

Q Every time I pick up a newspaper, Doug and Paul are going to greener pastures. What convinced them to stay on?

MR. PODESTA: That may be a question better addressed to them. But I think it's again the powerful agenda that the President has laid before the American public, and I think that they are committed to that. They're committed to him. They see that we were able to make progress in this Congress, and I think they look forward to doing that this year.

Q John, now that the election is over, is there any willingness on the part of the White House to reopen discussions about some sort of a plea deal, some sort of a censure arrangement that could be arranged in Congress? That was sort of frozen out before the election because of politics, what was going on.

MR. PODESTA: I think what's important is for the Congress to consider what they want to do. I think that's not our place to make that judgment. And the President has apologized to the American people for his conduct. I think that what we want to do is get to work on the agenda that's facing the American public.

But I think first things first. I think the Congress has to come back and consider what it wants to do and how it wants to handle this matter.

Q You act so detached. This is the most important thing that is affecting the President. How come -- and you act like it isn't there.

MR. PODESTA: I think -- we're acting like what isn't there? I'm sorry.

Q The possibility of impeachment and the process.

MR. PODESTA: I think that over the course of this year, and in fact, over the course of many years, we've understood that there are going to be -- these matters would be before the Congress. We've had partisan investigation before, we've kind of learned to deal with them. But we've also learned to do our work, our substantive work for the American public. That's I think proven to be both the right thing to do for the American people, the right thing to do for the White House, and I think that's what all of us are about.

There are a number of people here at the White House, and we've talked about them, who spend most of their time dealing with that issue. But what we need to do is try to keep that separated from the work we're doing for the public. And that's what we're going to try to do. I don't consider that detachment. I think that's a realistic way to approach both tasks at hand.

Q John, just one on Ventura?

Q What are you going to do if they're doing all the work, John? What are you going to do?

Q Ride a roller-coaster.

END 2:40 P.M. EST