THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:32 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Questions?
Q Joe, Henry Hyde said today that he wants the President to stipulate or deny facts in the Starr report. But if he denies the facts, the Republicans might be forced to call more witnesses and prolong the hearings. If he admits the facts, he risks perjury charges and liability in the Paula Jones case. How does he respond?
MR. LOCKHART: The best way to do it is to actually get the letter, take a look at it, and make an assessment, and then respond.
Q You do not have the letter?
MR. LOCKHART: The letter, as I was walking downstairs, I'm told, was outside the gate someplace. So I assume the White House Counsel's Office -- since I sat and watched the previous briefing, it has arrived. But when I left them upstairs at about 1:00 p.m., they hadn't read it yet so I can't really comment on it.
Q This is not a new concept. The administration has been asked before about stipulating certain facts within the Starr report. Is Mr. Ruff, is Mr. Craig working on that content on that kind of approach?
MR. LOCKHART: We got the letter within the last 30 minutes, so I doubt any serious work has been done on it yet. But they will look at it, and I expect they will respond to the letter.
Q Has the President read the Starr report yet?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Does he intend to?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think he told you that himself directly.
Q Joe, would the President's lawyers be inclined to call their own witnesses before the committee? And if so, how many?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know there has been any discussion of that. The first we heard of Chairman Hyde's plans today were when we saw it on television. I think the first the Democrats on the committee heard of Chairman Hyde's plans was when they watched it on television.
So we're now -- we have received the letter. We'll review what's in the letter. We'll make some decisions after we've had a chance to think about what the Chairman has laid out. And we'll let you know sometime in the future.
Q If I may follow up, are his attorneys considering drawing up their own witness list, calling their own witnesses?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of what they're considering, but I'm certainly not going to do a public discussion here of what's on the table within our legal team.
Q What is your overall reaction to the scenario or the timetable?
MR. LOCKHART: I think you've probably heard more times than you want what we think about this. We've said repeatedly that we want this to be fair; we want it to be constitutional; we want it to be expeditious -- or, you know, finding similar words so we don't bore you to death.
But I think on the last point, expeditious, this is clearly a positive development. This in some ways adopts the kind of timing approach that the Democrats laid out earlier. I think there was some reporting that Thanksgiving might be the end date, but the Chairman, I think, said that he didn't want to be tied to one date. But it looks like a process that will be done promptly and expeditiously, so that's positive.
On the constitutional front, I still think there has not been a serious attempt to answer our concern that the standards of impeachment, what you judge allegations against, hasn't been discussed. So we still feel like we've come up short there.
On fairness, I'm not sure that I can reach a conclusion at this point. I think it depends on how things play out. We have said in the past -- so it should come as no surprise -- that we thought that the Starr referral was one-sided, and we saw in subsequent releases of documents, as more, or most, interesting what was not in the Starr referral as opposed to how it backed up any claims that he might have made.
So if Chairman Hyde is looking for Mr. Starr to be the main and primary witness, I think fairness would dictate that there will be some access or release to the Democrats, and hopefully to the White House, of all the information he's compiled. So I think it's an open question.
But certainly on the issue of whether this gets done in a timely or expeditious way, this is a positive development.
Q Would you like to see other witnesses called, though? Is it fair to limit it just to Starr?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think we have a sense yet of beyond a couple dates that the Chairman has laid out for both the CRS seminar and the subcommittee and then Mr. Starr's testimony. I don't think we have a sense yet of how that will be structured, what subjects will be discussed, what he'll be asked about. So I don't think it's productive at this point to try to lay down any final judgment on what we might seek to do.
Q On the constitutional question, they're planning to have a subcommittee meeting to talk about this. Does that in itself satisfy the serious test that you identified, or is there something in particular that you will insist on seeing in that subcommittee hearing?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think that, as I said yesterday, that could be a potentially interesting session as far as it goes on the history. My understanding is they're going to be looking at judges, which I'm not sure how relevant that is, but the committee has a right to look at these issues. They will be looking at some precedent from the past as it pertains to the President.
But it's not a session, as the Republican majority has so defined, that looks at the standards by which they'll judge these allegations.
Q When you say that you'd like to see all the information that Starr has gathered, what are you referring to?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you remember, we've seen things in waves. You saw first the 445-page referral from Mr. Starr -- basically, the report he wrote based on the information. Then we saw many thousands of other pages released that, again, what was most interesting to people here at the White House was information that was not included in the referral, information -- repeated statements that either contradicted, weakened, muddled some of the direct claims and assertions he made in the report.
Now, there are many more pages that did not get turned over. The Democrats have sought, with mixed success, the ability to see those and review those. And I think as a fundamental litmus test of whether this process is fair, which we have laid out from the beginning, will be if Mr. Starr is the witness, the one person who comes up and talks about the evidence -- and we certainly know what his view is, he wrote 445 pages on it -- whether they will have access -- whether we will have access to that underlying information.
Q Would you also like to see the information that he presented to Janet Reno?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think Mr. Conyers has spoken about that. He has requested that information. It's unclear whether he'll get it. I think Mr. Starr's staff has indicated that there may be some problems on that. But I certainly think that if Mr. Conyers is available -- is able to get that information, we'd be interested in that.
Q Joe, this is not the first time that you have said, we just learned about this, we just read it in the newspaper. Is there some bad faith going on here --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't want to jump to the conclusion of bad faith. We have called for a nonpartisan or bipartisan process. And I don't know that it's particularly helpful that we find things out by reading them in the newspaper or seeing them on television.
I know that we didn't know about the announcement today. And in talking to counsel's office, I think, at least on the staff level among the Democrats, they found out from watching it. And I think what has damaged the effort to date has been the label that it has been partisan, that it hasn't been fair. And I think that allowing the Democrats on the Hill to participate -- I can understand when they're making decisions that they might not want to hear from us, but I certainly think there should be adequate consultation with the minority party on the Hill.
Q Joe, was there any reason to believe that the President might say more or stipulate, which is the legal term, more about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky than he has already said in the videotaped testimony?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no idea since I don't know what the questions are.
Q Joe, do you think it would be fair for Starr, during his testimony, to go into other matters that he's been investigating, or would it just be appropriate for him to stick to the Lewinsky matter?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that's something that clearly the Democrats, the minority party, and the majority party have to discuss on the Hill. And I think we are of the belief that we should have some sense of the subject matter that he's coming in to talk about. I don't think it should be something where any subject is open, that people should know, and people should have the ability to prepare in advance for this hearing, particularly if it's, as described by the Chairman today, the only or the primary witness.
Q Joe, the Chairman said that he was going to have Ken Starr testify on the 19th. Is the White House or the President's lawyers ready to go, or is there a chance they'll ask for a delay?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't heard anything that would indicate to me that we would ask for a delay.
Q Do you have any objection to calling Ken Starr as a witness, given that he's already had the opportunity to express himself?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't -- I wouldn't explicitly object to that. We certainly do know what he thinks. He certainly has had a forum via the Government Printing Office, via the Internet, being given your paper, every newspaper and television station in the country. We certainly know what his view of this is. But it's for the committee to make this decision, and I haven't heard any explicit view that would object to his testimony in this building.
Q When the Chairman says that he wants an investigation that's fair, honest, and expeditious, do you take Henry Hyde as a man of his word?
MR. LOCKHART: I certainly hope that that's the case. We certainly have -- in the past, we have a history, I think, of positive dealings with Chairman Hyde. The track record to date isn't good on this particular issue. I don't think you can go around the country and find many Americans who believe that, to date, they've met that standard, which sounds awfully familiar, the one that I've repeated here every day for the last four or five weeks. But we are hopeful that the atmosphere can change, and we can meet that criteria.
Q Mr. Hyde seemed to be saying he might bring additional charges if President Clinton doesn't cooperate with this query for a stipulation or a denial. Do you take that as a threat, or do you have any reaction to that?
MR. LOCKHART: It's very difficult to respond to something, when there is -- whether an explicit or implicit threat, about cooperating with something that you haven't seen yet. So I don't take it very seriously.
Q Joe, have the lawyers at this stage made -- on principle, made a decision whether or not they would cooperate with making stipulations. In other words, has there been kind of a basic decision --
MR. LOCKHART: We have talked from here -- the President, the President's representatives, Mr. Craig, Mr. Ruff -- that we plan to cooperate with this committee. And we expect the process to be fair, constitutional, and expeditious. I can't give you any guidance yet on a letter that they clearly haven't had a chance to review.
Q Any additional meetings scheduled? Any additional meetings between the White House lawyers and investigators?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Ken Starr is going to --
Q The day the bottom dropped out. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we have a very peculiar way of letting people know at the White House when their time has come. (Laughter.) David will be standing from now on. (Laughter.) That could have been me. (Laughter.)
Q Is Ken Starr going to present his case to the committee? Is there any thought at all being given to the President himself making an appearance, giving his side to the committee in a personal way?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't heard any discussion of that.
Q Joe, the acceleration, scaling down, or expedition of this inquiry coming just 48-hours after the mid-term elections -- coincidence, connection, any link to the way it turned out?
MR. LOCKHART: The decisions on these matters right now are being made exclusively by the Republican majority in the House. And I think that goes to some of the things I've just said in response to other questions. I don't get the sense that the Democrats had a big say in going forward. I don't know whether they agree or disagree with this. You'll have to ask them. And I think I think I've given you sort of a mixed view from here. But there is just no way for me to know to what extent politics or political calculation has come into play beyond, I read the same things you read in the newspaper.
Q Well, should there be a link? Should the Republicans curtail the hearings in response to the vote?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we have said all along that these should be fair and they should be constitutional. And it shouldn't be a partisan process. If they have reached that conclusion at a different point than we have, based on a different set of external stimuli, I'm not going to argue with it.
Q Joe, did the elections reduce the President's interest in settling the Paula Jones suit?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no way of judging that. I'd suggest you talk to Mr. Bennett.
Q Joe, to follow up on Peter's question of a moment ago, given the election, given the President's admonition this morning that he wants to move on, the country wants to move on, is his testimony before the committee now essentially off the table? Does he no longer see that as even remotely necessary?
MR. LOCKHART: I think since the Republican majority sets the table, and they have set the table now with a very quick and perhaps one-witness testimony, you'll have to make your judgments based on what Chairman Hyde has said.
Q Joe, what effect will it have on the process if the President's going to be out of the country as it begins and as it reaches perhaps its most important point?
MR. LOCKHART: It means people like Jim Kennedy are going to not only have to work during they day, they're going to have to stay up all night to tell us what has happened during the day. (Laughter.) I can't judge an impact, except probably you will all have to stay up 24 hours a day.
Q The President's presence isn't necessary in the process, his presence in the city?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't believe so.
Q Do you think it's -- you're were talking about a fair process -- do you think it's fair to not have a chance to cross-examine the witnesses other than Ken Starr? I mean, is that an issue for you all? You all talked all along that the presentation of fact has been one-sided and there's been no opportunity for the adversarial process of cross-examination. Don't you want a chance to have some of the people up there?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, I have tried hard not to deliver a verdict on what we think of what happened half an hour ago. So it remains to be seen. I'm certain that the Democratic minority on the committee will be in conversations today, either at the staff level or among the Chairman and the ranking member, and we will in some way, shape, or form be involved. We're just going to have to withhold judgment on whether that process will ultimately be fair.
Q Do you think we'll have something later in the day?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so.
Q Joe, is the White House encouraged that so many lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, are coming forward and saying a censure is not an appropriate remedy to this situation?
MR. LOCKHART: Our view on that is the same, no matter what people are saying.
Q What is that?
MR. LOCKHART: Which, to repeat again, I don't believe we're in a position to discuss or prescribe any remedy that either the House of Representatives or the Senate believes to be appropriate.
Q Joe, what's the administration's thinking behind sending Secretary Richardson out to Taiwan this coming weekend? Is it in return for -- well, to assuage Taiwanese concerns after the President's trip to China and what he said about the three noes?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think he will -- Secretary Richardson will be in Taiwan from November 9th to 11th -- I'm reading here from an announcement -- to attend the joint annual conference of the Washington based U.S.-ROC Business Council and its Taiwan counterpart.
I think, as we've said before, our policy to Taiwan, the People's Republic of China, continues to be governed by the Taiwan Relations Act and by our three joint communiques with the PRC. The United States recognized the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China in 1979 and since then we've had unofficial relations with Taiwan. Secretary Richardson's trip is consistent with this framework.
Q Will he be meeting with any government officials there?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have a -- let me get a better sense of his itinerary. It's not all here and I don't want to give you one snapshot that might mislead. We'll come back to you.
Q Joe, listening to the President today, he plans to put the patients' bill of rights at the top of his legislative agenda. What place on that agenda is occupied by fast track?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the President -- I don't think -- I was in the meeting for the second half, but I don't think fast track came up. The President believes that as far as his overall economic policy, having the ability to negotiate trade agreements with other countries, with fast track as an important tool still remains.
Q The steel industry people are coming by this afternoon to complain about dumping of illegal -- illegal dumping of steel products. Would fast track, having that authority, would that take care of this kind of problem?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we've said that fast track is an important tool in our overall economic policy, particularly with negotiating and opening markets around the world. Thirty percent of the jobs that have been created in this country are export -- directly related to our ability to export more, open markets around the world.
So I don't know that that's necessarily come up in the context of today's meeting. But I think overall the President believes that fast track -- having fast track authority is important and we'll continue to find ways to push for it.
Q So with the steel problem, how is this affecting the White House's view of free trade, of opening borders even more?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think in steel, as well as some other domestic industries, we recognize they are feeling the effect of the international financial crisis and the currency crisis around the world. We are committed to enforcing fully our trade laws. The President was pleased that Secretary Daley moved so quickly to expedite some of these dumping cases by putting more resources in so they could be done and litigated more quickly. And we believe that our partners around the world have a role to play.
Take Japan, with stimulating their domestic economy and opening markets, and other economies around the world -- Europe and other places, for opening markets.
Q But how about domestic support in the Congress and among union leaders? This looks like -- this kind of episode seems to undermine support for any further free trade for the U.S.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think there are certainly legitimate concerns from domestic industries, steel included, and that's one of the reasons, after a couple of meetings at the staff level, that the President wanted the chance to talk to both industry leaders and labor leaders that work in the steel industry.
Q Paula Jones' lawyers have said they're not going to stick around for the appeal. Do you read anything into that, as far as the future of the case is concerned or have any sense of how it might affect --
MR. LOCKHART: I came prepared for this one.
Q I saw you look with glee -- (laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: I was trying to decide how to answer this question and Amy provided the perfect way earlier today, which is it's very difficult to decipher what's real and what isn't in this case. We woke up this morning with a story saying that they were withdrawing from the case, or considering withdrawing -- and I have no reason to believe that's true or not true.
Then later on today there was talk about an offer being accepted or rejected from the same lawyers. Then to top it off, there is a very good picture of Mr. Whitehead and Mr. Campbell and the caption reads, "President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Chief of Staff John Podesta are all smiles at the White House Wednesday after election returns showed that the once feared electoral disaster never materialized." So I think I'll just let it all hang out there and let others figure it out. (Laughter.)
Q Joe, Sandy Berger is going to Europe this weekend to consult with allies on Iraq. Why isn't Madeleine Albright doing that trip?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President's National Security Advisor had a previously scheduled trip to the region. The President asked him while there to get together with his counterparts to further explore and discuss the international community's opposition to Saddam Hussein's latest steps in ceasing cooperation with UNSCOM and to discuss the available options that remain available to the international community.
Q What is the White House response to the letter that was delivered to President Clinton by the Cuban American National Foundation asking the United States initiate a criminal process against Fidel Castro, using charges like the ones the Spanish are using against Pinochet?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't seen the letter, so let me go and have them take a look to see if we've got one and we can get an appropriate response for you.
Q Joe, Chairman Hyde has said he may introduce other evidence beyond the Monica Lewinsky affair before the committee. If he does, would the White House still consider the hearing process judicious and fair?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't know that we've pronounced that we think it's judicious or fair. I think one of the things we've talked about is what the scope of it is. And I think that they should be clear in advance of what the scope is and this shouldn't be some sort of wild fishing expedition over a couple day period.
Q Dalai Lama is coming to town this weekend. Is there any plan for the President to meet him, and do you expect any kind of a breakthrough on the Tibet issue?
MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is that the Dalai Lama will be visiting Washington between November 7th and 10th. We welcome his visit. We have great respect for him as a spiritual leader and spokesman for his people. As for meetings here at the White House, the schedule has not been set. We'll let you know within the next coming days if there is something to report.
Q Joe, Chairman Hyde has put the onus on the White House to expedite the hearings by stressing the need for cooperation. Are there limits to gaining the cooperation of the White House? I mean, where do you draw the line?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not going to try to forecast or create problems, so I can tell you what we're willing to do and what we're not willing to do. We have said to the committee all along that we're willing to cooperate if they move forward in a way that's fair, constitutional, and expeditious. And as I said earlier, today's news, certainly, directly meets one of the concerns we've laid out. And we'll just have to keep an open mind as we go forward over the next days on the other issues that we've discussed.
Q Joe, one of the things that Mr. Hyde said today was that it was likely his committee would refer a bill of impeachment to the full House. Does that signify to you that he has, perhaps, preordained the outcome of this --
MR. LOCKHART: The Chairman has made comments to the news media about what he thinks the end result will be. He's made comments about how politics impacts this process. So I think you can certainly, just by going out and gathering empirical data, draw some conclusion that there's an element of preordaining here. But we continue to keep optimism alive and hope that the process is not preordained, that it's real, and that it will be fair.
Q Just to be totally clear then, the door is open that the President might stipulate to some of these facts? I mean, you're not ruling anything --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, we certainly need to look at the letter. I certainly think we'll respond to the letter.
Q Also, thank you for not naming that newspaper.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. (Laughter.) Amy's idea.
Q Would you like to see the full House vote this year instead of next year on impeachment if it reaches that --
MR. LOCKHART: We'd like to find the most expeditious way to move forward. But the question implies that the committee's actions are preordained, and I don't think we should assume that.
Q Why has the White House said so little about Iraq over the last few days given that we're faced with yet another standoff there or possibility for --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think -- I mean, the President took a question on it today, and Secretary Cohen has been in the region. And I think before we make many more public pronouncements, we want a chance for Secretary Cohen to come back, report to the President, have Mr. Berger do his trip to Paris this weekend. And there are serious discussions and talks ongoing in the United Nations on a new resolution laying out an unequivocal message to Saddam Hussein along the lines of the statement they put out last week.
So I think we have talked about it, and we will certainly have more to say once some of the things that are in play or in process now have a chance to complete themselves.
Q Joe, the markets were pretty dismayed when someone at the Labor Department put the monthly jobs report out on this web site a day early. Since that's one of the most important statistics released monthly, is the White House doing any follow-up on that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, as you know, unemployment numbers, which were scheduled to come out tomorrow, were inadvertently put on a web site earlier today. I think the Labor Department and the BLS, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is looking into now how that happened and what they can do to prevent it. We have, obviously, inquired with them because we got some calls based on the numbers, which we didn't expect to be out until tomorrow. And I think Labor will take a hard look at how this happened and take steps to make sure it doesn't happen.
Q What's your reaction --
MR. LOCKHART: And I won't mention a news organization that put some numbers up on Monday night that -- were they right?
Q They said D'Amato was going to win. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Anyone out there?
Q Do you have any reaction to the new numbers?
MR. LOCKHART: No -- (laughter) -- they're not out yet.
Q How about to the ABC numbers? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: A couple of them were wrong.
The numbers have not been officially and we're going to continue to follow our one-hour rule of not commenting.
Q Out of curiosity, when the statistics are compiled, which organization in the White House was the first to receive it and when did they receive it and when does the President usually get the numbers?
MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is that the Council of Economic Advisors get the information late in the afternoon the day before. They prepare a document for the President, which is transmitted to the President late in the day. The practical effect of it is, I think, he generally sees it the next morning, as it's in his in-box, pile of things to look at.
Q This release also scooped the President in this case?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, it did. And he's very upset about that. (Laughter.)
END 2:03 P.M. EST