THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Seoul, Republic of Korea) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 21, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Shilla Hotel Seoul, Republic of Korea
6:13 P.M. (L)
MR. LOCKHART: Any questions for me?
Q What do you think about the resignation of Sam Dash and a couple of Republican moderates saying today that they don't think there is enough votes for impeachment?
MR. LOCKHART: I think as to Mr. Dash -- his actions speak for themselves and I don't have anything further to add. I've seen the reports of some of the moderates and it looks like there are some people who are reaching the same conclusion that we have reached -- that we reached some time ago -- that there is nothing involved here, there is nothing in the referral or in the allegations that have been made that rise to the standard of impeachment.
Q Joe, would you explain the President's enthusiasm and near commercial for the cruise ship that's going up to North Korea? It was like it all of a sudden hit him, oh, yes, I forgot to do the commercial.
MR. LOCKHART: As I had the great honor of hearing that twice, first this morning and then in the press conference -- I think the images that were on the television -- when we got here last night the President turned the TV on and saw this and it kind of brought into focus for him the advantages of the system that the South Koreans have been talking about and that he was planning to talk about today. So it offered a visual picture of what the potential advantages to this open and engagement policy is.
Q I didn't quite get the President's answer. Why isn't it appropriate for him to discuss whether he thinks some sort of punishment is appropriate and whether he would be open to bringing closure?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, it's not a new answer, it's an answer that he's used and that other's who speak for him have used. This is a situation right now where it's Congress that's charged with making decisions about whether there are steps that need to be taken.
Q In the last 30 seconds you as the President's spokesman have just proffered your view of this question that it's not impeachable.
MR. LOCKHART: No, you've asked about prescribing what the punishment, for lack of a better word, should be. And the President doesn't -- he's in a position to do that. I was asked about whether some of -- a few moderate Republicans, a reaction to what they said today, and I think I offered the view that it's similar to ours, which is, there is nothing in the referral or in the allegations that rises to the standards of impeachment.
Q Joe, it certainly seems to some of us as though the President was suggesting that maybe the right thing would be nothing at all.
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President was saying something very directly and was suggesting nothing, which was he is not in a position and he doesn't believe it's appropriate for him to be discussing what the appropriate measures or actions should be taken.
Q Do you think that there should be something, some action that would bring closure, some action by the President that would bring closure?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know what action there could be by the President. I mean, we certainly believe there should be closure to this, that it's time to put this behind us. But this is an issue that Congress is dealing with and I don't think it's appropriate for the President and I don't think it's appropriate for me to try to prescribe or dictate what that might be.
Q But won't the President at some point have to approve it or acquiesce in it?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, you're dealing with a hypothetical which I don't know whether he will or he won't. It depends on what it is.
Q So once some punishment is put forward and not until then, until it's voted on, the White House won't express any opinion about whether it's appropriate?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm certainly not willing to express any opinion now on something that you can't articulate what it is.
Q Joe, explain why it's logically consistent to say what the Congress should not do -- i.e., impeach -- but not appropriate for you to say what they should do.
MR. LOCKHART: You asked our opinion on whether the President -- whether the House Judiciary Committee or the full House should vote articles of impeachment. And we believe that, as we've stated in filings with the House, with the Judiciary Committee, that there's nothing in any of the information that has been brought before them that rises to the level of impeachment. That is a matter of record. We have filed that with the committee and released it to you. So that's not breaking any new ground.
There is a separate question about what might be done outside the subject of impeachment -- if it's appropriate for the House to do something. And we have said -- or I believe I have said consistently, as the President said today, that it's not appropriate in our view for the White House or the President to be in a position of trying to prescribe what that might be, or to comment about it.
Q If members of Congress or their representatives want to begin, initiate conversation about this, are you receptive to that effort, would you cooperate with them?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, to the extent conversations are going on, they're going on among members of Congress. And I can't -- I'm not in a position to speculate on what we'd be receptive to and what we wouldn't.
Q But there can't be an end game until somebody from the White House begins talking.
MR. LOCKHART: There are certainly conversations that go on all the time, and we are aware that people talk about this, but I don't believe there is anything at this point that is specific or concrete that has been brought to our attention.
Q Joe, is the President going to do anything beyond just making a statement of concern about the subpoena to Bob Bennett for his deposition? Does the President feel he should waive attorney-client privilege on this issue?
MR. LOCKHART: I think Mr. Bennett has spoken for himself and he will handle this matter in whatever way he believes appropriate.
END 6:20 P.M. (L)