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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 17, 1998
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                              JOE LOCKHART

The Briefing Room

11:40 A.M. EST

Q Who else, Joe? Who else is on the trip?

MR. LOCKHART: Who's going? The National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, Gene, Larry, we'll get a manifest for you.

Q Albright is not going?

MR. LOCKHART: We'll get a -- she is not, not that I am aware of.

Q Just take us through, if you would, whether there was any thinking at all, any concern at all about Iraq when you were weighing whether the President should go on this trip or not.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, obviously, as you can tell by looking back, we take a lot of things into consideration, including the situation around the world, into account when we look at the President's travel. But we've made the judgment here that the situation is such that it's appropriate for the President to make this trip.

Q What do you hear from Iraq today? Are the inspectors going back to work?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, my understanding is that they've gone back in today and they'll spend some time --

Q We know what the news report is. What does the Administration know? Does Butler report back to the United Nations or to you or to --

MR. LOCKHART: Mr. Butler reports back as appropriate to the United Nations. Our representatives there keep Sandy Berger here fully briefed on the situation.

My understanding, from talking to some of my colleagues, is that they are back in today but it will take a short time for them to do the logistical work they need to do before the get back out and are back into the inspection business. But I think that that's something that's a matter of days.

Q Is that why you're confident that it's appropriate for the President to make this trip at this time, because it's going to take as much time as the trip will take for UNSCOM to really put Iraq to the test?

MR. LOCKHART: I think it's impossible to try to predict in advance if Saddam Hussein decides he's not going to cooperate how that will manifest itself. But I think given what we know about how UNSCOM works, that is not a situation I think that we'll see within the next couple of days.

Q Did the President ask for the opportunity to speak to the Japanese people, or was it just provided?

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, no, it was something we thought, as I think you've seen, that's worked quite effectively for us and also for the host countries -- two or three of the last couple of trips, both within Russia and China and in Argentina, when we went down there last year, that it's been a good format for the President to exchange ides directly with the people of the country he goes to visit.

Q Is the President working on the Judiciary Committee's questions today, and do you anticipate having those finished before he leaves the country?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know as far as his schedule; I know they are finishing up on that. Whether they will be finished and sent before the President leaves, I don't have a definitive answer to that.

Q Can I follow up, what about before Thursday? Is that a goal of the White House to finish the questions before the Committee opens its hearings?

MR. LOCKHART: The goal is to get the questions answered as quickly as possible and provide them to the Committee. We don't have any artificial deadlines.

Q How about Hyde's offer of 30 minutes of cross examination time?

MR. LOCKHART: There are some conversations going on concerning that internally, and I expect that we will be speaking with the Committee sometime later today.

Q Is 30 minutes enough?

MR. LOCKHART: There are some deliberations on that subject internally.

Q Will you let us know what they decide?

MR. LOCKHART: Presumably because it was a letter, we will respond in writing to Chairman Hyde. I will check with the lawyers to see if they believe it's appropriate to release the letter from here. Again, I think that's not all that big a decision since if we don't, they will.

Q Is the White House putting together its own witness list, Joe?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any witness list development that's going on.

Q And what about Hyde's expanding the purview of the hearings and calling additional witnesses? Do you think that since the Administration had argued that this thing should be fully -- both sides of this should be fully looked at, does the Administration object to that?

MR. LOCKHART: I think first off, it's hard to know or hard to say where Chairman Hyde on this is. So the best way, I think, and the most appropriate way for me to deal with it is to discuss what he said and what he said publicly and not respond to every leak that comes out in the paper.

What I would say is that we've said all along that we want this to be fair, constitutional and expeditious and limited in scope. They have a referral that they're looking at. If the Committee decides that they want to go on a fishing expedition and bring back some of the greatest hits of some of their previous adventures into other issues, then I think that will reinforce the American public's view that this process is not fair, expeditious and limited.

Q Joe, with respect to the Asia trip, will the President reinforce the Vice President's message calling for democratic reforms in Malaysia and other Asian countries? Will he do that on this trip?

MR. LOCKHART: I think it's a common theme when the President travels around the world. Whether he'll find an appropriate venue on this trip to reinforce that idea, I don't know the answer to that.

Q Does he have any concerns about splitting APEC? Some other members, not just Malaysia, have said that by injecting political issues like this you're undermining the organization.

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President believes, and the Vice President articulated, that the movements of reform are positive and it's appropriate to highlight.

Q Joe, for clarity, you said a moment ago that you're not aware of the White House working on any witness list. Are you saying that you have no idea whether that's happening or not, or that you don't think a witness list is being developed?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm saying I'm not aware. Certainly, no one's told me that we're working on a witness list.

Q Could be happening, for all you know?

MR. LOCKHART: Could be.

Q Joe, on the 81 questions, is this something the President has as yet even taken a look at?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think I've told you -- I told you yesterday that the President -- I know of one time block that he spent on it last week. I don't know if he's spent any time between then and now as we were preoccupied over the weekend. But he has spent some time on it.

Q And so before these answers are given he would presumably want to read through them and make sure --

MR. LOCKHART: Generally, since he has to sign --

Q -- and you say they're not done yet and he's ready to go, right?

MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is, is that the process is not complete, and you certainly know what our schedule is.

Q Will this be completed before he leaves if he's going to --

Q Joe, what was his reaction to the questions? You've said you thought some of them were silly. Does he agree with that?

MR. LOCKHART: I didn't talk to him about it. I think any reasonable person would reach the same conclusion.

Q That they are silly?

MR. LOCKHART: That there are some of them that are frivolous.

Actually, Helen, you asked me earlier a question which I did get some information on about the valet who took ill this morning. Chief Petty Officer Ronald Guy, who normally works in the mess, but was filling in in a steward capacity because many of our stewards are already overseas in advance of the President's trip, he fainted outside near the Oval Office near the Roosevelt Room. He received medical attention, was taken to GW Hospital. He was conscious when they took him there -- and while I haven't gotten a diagnosis, from what the people told me they thought he was in good condition.

Q Do you know his age?

MR. LOCKHART: I have mid-thirties. They didn't know precisely.

Q Joe, up on Capitol Hill they're releasing the Lewinsky tapes. Great chunks of these things are being played on the various cable news networks.

MR. LOCKHART: What a surprise.

Q I'm just curious if there's any reaction from the White House or what you think about all that?

MR. LOCKHART: This won't be played on cable networks. Listen, you know, everybody knows what's on these tapes. I think everybody has seen all of the information they're going to see on this story. My guess is that most people around the country won't be paying much attention. But the people who are obsessed with this story, this will just be a day in heaven for them.

Q You seem -- all your comments in connection with the committee seem to be -- there is a disconnect. Is there any kind of a relationship between the White House and this committee -- judiciary? I mean, you seem to be always at sword's ends.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, you ask me questions every day about what the committee is planning to do and about this idea and that idea and we don't get that information from the committee, we get it from reading the newspaper through anonymous quotes. So I think it's most appropriate for me, as the spokesman for the President, to respond to authorized communications from the committee to the White House, and there hasn't been many of those.

Q Is that why you said earlier that you have to be seen -- will be balanced? Is that where you get that from, the fact that you're not getting stuff from the committee?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not trying to play this into -- I don't --

Q Is the Congressman's office telling you anything?


Q I mean, are they getting -- do they have a pipeline?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, they speak to both the minority council, the majority council and I'm not -- my point there is not complaining that we're not getting enough information, I'm just telling you that it's not a useful process to go and try to comment on every anonymous leak that comes, because we have no idea how authoritative is, we don't know if it speaks for the Chairman of the committee, for the Republicans on the committee. We know that one person who doesn't want to put their name on a story talks in the paper, in the newspaper every morning.

Q Joe, does the White House believe that these Tripp tapes should have been released today?

MR. LOCKHART: I haven't heard a view expressed. I mean, we have all of the information that was supplied to the committee that's already been put out, so I don't think we take a particular view one way or the other. We do take a view on the overall effort to, before ever looking at what the standards are, to apply to the allegations against the President as far as impeachment goes before ever sitting down and even as a committee, looking at how you're going to go forward with this process to just gratuitously dumping out all of the salacious material.

Now, I think there are some commentators who have made the point that this was done as a partisan attempt to hurt the President, and we're going to have to -- we'll find out whether that worked or not.

Q Joe, are all of the 81 questions going to be answered?

MR. LOCKHART: I haven't looked at where they are in the process, so I can't --

Q So you have no idea whether all of them or a portion of them or --

MR. LOCKHART: When we send the answers up to the Hill, we will let you know.

Q Will the President sign his name at the bottom?

MR. LOCKHART: He will.

Q Do you have any reaction to Monica's reported book deal?


Q Joe, the transcripts from the tapes that are being released today have been available for some time. Does the White House or the President dispute any of the allegations Ms. Lewinsky makes in these transcripts?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have anything to add beyond what the White House has filed with the committee and the President's personal lawyers and counsel.

Q What has the White House filed with the committee?

MR. LOCKHART: Several briefs. We also have questions now before us. That's the appropriate place to do it. I'm not going to do it here.

Q Can you describe the nature of the briefs?

MR. LOCKHART: I believe that we've released them publicly. You can read them.

Q Joe, is there anything else for those of us who now have to go to the airport? What are we going to miss this afternoon?

MR. LOCKHART: No. The President is doing his briefing now. He wanted to do it a little bit earlier in the day, that's why the group had to leave. That's about it for the day.

Q And why is the Secretary of State not going on this trip?

MR. LOCKHART: She had not intended to. She had another schedule. She's come back, and was not going to do the Korea and Japan portions. If you remember, when we were all back on our original schedules, she was going to do APEC and then go on to Thailand and Indonesia. She's come back, as her spokesman has described her travel schedule; but she was not, as I understand it, going to do Japan and Korea. She does some foreign trips with us and some she doesn't.

Q The First Lady has visited Honduras and Nicaragua and announced a doubling of U.S. aid from $125 million to $250 million. Is she expected -- is the President expected to talk to her before he goes off on his trip?

MR. LOCKHART: I expect the President talks to her on a regular basis. I don't know if he will between now and tomorrow morning. But she is keeping, both directly to the President and through her staff on her national security staff, the President apprised of relief efforts.

Q Why did he move up the briefing? Did he want to go play golf or something?

MR. LOCKHART: I think he was so anxious to listen to the briefing that he probably got a little bit of what you guys were getting out here on the internal TV and said, I have to get some of my own.

Q Do we need a pooler over here this afternoon for activities?

MR. LOCKHART: No. Oh, for activities. I don't know. Let me look into that. You mean of the outdoor recreational variety? Let me look into that.

END 11:54 A.M. EST