THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, welcome back. Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving. I have no announcements, so questions?
Q Joe, has the President and the legal team decided whether to respond to Chairman Hyde's offer to let the White House make its case before the committee in some form?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I expect -- as you already know from reading the response to the 81 questions, the President's attorney, Mr. Kendall, indicated that there will be at a minimum a written response that will go up to the committee. I think as far as anything beyond that, we will be in touch with the committee later this week with what we plan to do.
Q When will that written request go up to the Hill, do you know?
MR. LOCKHART: I wouldn't expect that to be this week. I think, at the earliest next week. But I think we'll make our intentions known to the committee later this week.
Q Does the President see any advantage to having a chance to go up and sit down to talk to these members face to face?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you look at the process to date, there's been very little comfort for those who are looking for something fair and nonpartisan and constitutional. I think the President has answered the questions of the committee. He sat and answered the questions from the Independent Council, so I don't expect that you'll see the President anytime in the near future talking to members of the committee.
Q Are you saying then, your process is not fair?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry --
Q Are you saying that the process is not fair?
MR. LOCKHART: I've been saying that probably for about two months. I can show you the transcripts.
Q Is it fair to say, Joe, that what you're saying today is that the President is not going to appear before the Judiciary?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think it's very likely that you'll see the President appear before that committee.
Q Is the White House planning on calling any witnesses at all?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that sometime this week we'll let the committee know and the Chairman of that committee know what our intentions are on that subject and other subjects.
Q Are you saying that there's something about the hearings that have been unconstitutional?
MR. LOCKHART: No, no, no. I think in our mantra of what we were looking for, we've talked about constitutional -- something that sets standards for what the Constitution was looking for as far as what an impeachable offense is. So it's not something that's unconstitutional; I think they just haven't spent any real time looking at the constitutional issues.
Q Any comment on Landow taking the Fifth?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q There is a D.C. voting rights lawsuit which was filed in August that provides full congressional representation for the District in both the House and the Senate. The Justice Department has filed a brief against this lawsuit. They also have -- the Clinton Justice Department has also filed a lawsuit against Initiative 59, the marijuana initiative, which we were forbidden from casting our own -- counting our own votes. Isn't this a contradiction to what is the Clinton administration position for statehood for D.C. and also for expanding voting rights for D.C.? Why is Clinton's Justice Department filing briefs against the interests of expansion of voting rights for D.C.?
MR. LOCKHART: I am not familiar with either of the briefs that you reference, so let me take a look at that and we can come back to you.
Q I have a follow-up. I just asked the President Thursday at the Tony Williams thing about the voting rights lawsuit, which is really the equivalent of Brown vs. The Board of Education for D.C., and he had no awareness of that lawsuit whatsoever.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we share that, and, see, we do give interviews.
Q Do you have some more readout on the --
Q Will you come back to this?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, sure.
Q This statehood issue especially.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm sorry, it's a legitimate question and I will look into it.
Q Can you give a justification for why the Justice Department is acting in the way that they're acting? The Solicitor General has filed reports to the President, and the President could stop him from filing this lawsuit, and filing a lawsuit on behalf --
MR. LOCKHART: Clearly, you know more about this than I do, and I will get the information I need to.
Q Give us some more readout on the Arafat talks this morning. Did they discuss statehood? Where is the money going to come from that the President is promising?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the money, as we discussed this morning, is about $400 million in additional assistance on top of the yearly assistance that the administration requests. OMB will work closely with Congress in coming up with that money over the coming months. As far as the meeting goes, I didn't get a complete readout, so I don't know which subjects came up beyond the President was looking forward to this to discuss the upcoming trip and the status of the peace process and the implementation of the Wye Accord.
Q On the issue of statehood specifically, Arafat has been making statements recently which drives the Israelis up the wall. Did the President have some comments to make to him about the timeliness of --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me come back to you on the meeting, but our position has been clear. As we've stated many times, we believe that statehood is an issue for final status talks, an issue to be negotiated between the parties and not unilaterally decided.
Q Joe, have you discussed the aid with Congress yet, gotten any signals?
MR. LOCKHART: I think OMB has had some preliminary conversations. I can't speak to the extent of them. But this issue certainly, in general, was discussed at the time of the peace talks. So I think there is broad bipartisan support for this kind of effort because, as we've said before, we think this kind of economic assistance, both for jobs, education, and health care, gives the Palestinian people a stake in the process.
Q Joe, the London Sunday Times report yesterday that some of the European aid that was earmarked for Palestinian low-income housing instead went to buy luxury apartments for supporters of Yasser Arafat. And I was wondering if there's any concern that some of this new funds that's been promised today by the U.S. might be mismanaged.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't think we really have a concern on that front because this money goes directly to NGOs and to contractors. So we believe this money will go directly and will be used directly for what it's been appropriated for.
Q Joe, do you have any idea where you're going to get the money for this? Is OMB starting from scratch? Do they have any notion of where --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think OMB will be talking with Congress on how this will be financed, and that will all unfold in the coming months.
Q And over what period is this money likely to be dispersed?
MR. LOCKHART: I think in the next several years. I don't know exactly what the time frame will be, but we're looking at over the next several years.
Q But this will be in the President's next budget request, or is this something separate?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, that's what OMB is looking at now is how this will be financed. But I expect that this will be -- in whatever way they come up with -- will be referenced in the budget.
Q But is the $400 million a one shot deal, or a $400 million every year from now on?
MR. LOCKHART: We're looking at $400 million in addition to the average annual contribution, which is about $100 million a year.
Q Well, $400 million -- so that would bring the average annual contribution to $500 million?
MR. LOCKHART: No, because that would then imply there was $400 million every year. I think it's $400 million over the next several years in addition to the yearly outlay of $100 million.
Q So "several" meaning five or ten?
Q Do you anticipate keeping the aid to Israel at the same levels it is now? Does the President anticipate keeping his aid to Israel at the same level --
MR. LOCKHART: I think in the context of the Wye peace discussions, we also had discussions about the increasing need for security in Israel and additional funds being needed. And we are continuing working on that. I don't have a precise figure for you, but we are working on providing additional funding for Israeli security, on top of the --
Q Do you know what the figure is?
MR. LOCKHART: Is it $3 billion per year?
MR. LEAVY: Yes, it's a little less than $3 billion. We don't have a final figure on the Wye --
MR. LOCKHART: Right. But that figure exists, and they're looking at additional funding.
Q Joe, do you anticipate that Bruce Lindsey will appear in response to the subpoena for his deposition, or will he fight that subpoena?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any way of knowing. As far as I know, no subpoena has been issued, so I will look into that once one is.
Q What is the White House position on his appearing for a deposition -- that he should do so voluntarily? Or is the White House interested in him not appearing?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that the White House has a position.
Q Back to the question on statehood. How damaging do we believe it is to the implementation of the Wye Accord or to the overall peace process to have this talk of a unilateral declaration of statehood?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that I'm in a position to assess or to quantify "damaging." Our position is clear that it's an issue for final status talks, and we don't view unilateral statements as helpful.
Q Were you saying before that it did not come up, or you don't know if it came up between the President and the Chairman?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. We'll check for you.
Q Israel declared itself unilaterally a state in 1948, just for the record.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, note that in the record.
Q And the U.S. woke up at 3:00 a.m. in the morning to recognize it.
Q Joe, the Spanish magistrate who is trying to extradite General Pinochet from England is also interested in getting information from the U.S. government regarding the 1970s, after the coup in 1973. Will the U.S. government provide him with information?
MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is that there is a review now ongoing of documents relevant to that case, and the President has always been a proponent of releasing information as widely as possible with an eye and an interest to our national security. So I think that we have demonstrated an openness and a willingness to release documents. We will have to look at these and they will be reviewed. And documents that do not compromise our national security I expect to be released.
Q Joe, on a new subject, there seems to be a vacancy in the President's Council for Physical Fitness with Flo Jo's death. Could it be filled by Body by Jake?
MR. LOCKHART: You're right that there is the chairperson's slot to be filled. I don't have an announcement for you today on who that will be. The President is currently considering options. On the idea of Mr. Steinfeld taking the position, it's my understanding that he has indicated that he is no longer interested in the position.
Q What about the Body?
MR. LOCKHART: Was that Sandy? (Laughter.)
Q No, it was John Podesta. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: John can do it. (Laughter.)
Q So, Joe, okay, going back to that question, there was controversy about Body By Jake coming in after this contribution to the Democratic Party. Who are the candidates, and did they give money to the Democratic Party?
MR. LOCKHART: It's not our practice to discuss in advance who candidates are for a job. When we announce the name of the candidates, you are welcomed to scrutinize his or her background.
Q On Pinochet, does the President have a view on the merits of the case before the British Home Secretary?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think, as we've expressed here several times, that this is an issue of the governments there to decide. We are currently reviewing the decision made by the House of Lords, but don't have anything further to add to that.
Q Can I just follow up on that? A report that the President's legal team will eventually send back to Congress the written report -- not this week, maybe next week. Will that report make the case why the President should not be impeached and provide all the reasoning for that? Or will it go after the way Ken Starr conducted his investigation?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't -- having not seen the report, I can't tell you what will be in it, what won't be in it. What I can tell you is the President's legal team filed two memorandums with the committee right at about the time when the referral was released. Since that time, other documents have been released. Mr. Starr has testified before the committee. So there is new information that's out there. So I expect that that might be the kind of areas that it will go into, but I haven't seen it, so I can't tell you with any finality what may or may not be in there.
Q -- is this coming from the Counsel's Office, Joe, or from the private attorney?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it will be some association between the two.
Q What new information are you talking about?
MR. LOCKHART: I think since the referral came out, many thousands of pages of underlying documents were released. I think since then, the committee has heard a 58-page opening statement from the Independent Counsel and then many hours of testimony. So there is information that's come out and been put in the public record since the legal team had a chance to file their initial response to at first what they thought was going to be in the referral.
Q Joe, the committee tomorrow is going to hold hearings on the consequences of perjury. What are the President's views on the consequences, whether they're serious enough to perhaps result in impeachment?
MR. LOCKHART: We, in the filings that I just mentioned, have made our views very clear. As far as the hearing tomorrow, I think we're going to have to leave it to the American public to decide who is spending their time more wisely. You all know what the President is concentrating on this week. The Republicans, week after week, seem to make this their top priority, and we'll have to let the public decide who is doing their business.
Q Well, isn't that a major priority of the country, when a President is threatened with impeachment?
MR. LOCKHART: Certainly, if they decide that that's the way they should move forward, I don't think -- I think if you go out and talk to people around the country, this is not what they put as one of their major priorities.
Q Joe, how do you think a hearing that invites people who have been convicted of the federal crime of perjury -- how do you think it might contribute or not contribute to the process that's going on on the Hill?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that it won't add any information and that it can be put in the category of a stunt.
Q How do you think it affects the case that the President or the President's attorneys have been making about perjury, per se?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think it does, because I don't think the President's attorneys have made the case that he belongs in the same category as any of these people.
Q Joe, you said that the United States is not giving documents that compromise national security. That includes the death of the American citizens? I mean, the United States supported Pinochet during his years in power. Why is the United States very silent about this issue? Why are they not making public these documents?
MR. LOCKHART: I think what I've said here is that there is a review going on of the documents, that this administration has probably been more aggressive and more open as far as releasing these kinds of documents, and we will release the documents that we feel are appropriate that don't compromise our national security.
Q Is the President ever going to have a full-scale news conference sans any foreign leader, where he will really answer the questions that we're putting to you every moment, every day?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Can I give you a date? No. But he will.
Q Will it be before the impeachment vote is taking in the Judiciary Committee?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I don't know when that vote is being taken.
Q A DOS official told me on condition of anonymity that your government does not recognize the Greek-Turkish borders in the Aegean, but only the two countries. And I'm wondering why?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, as my colleagues at the State Department advised me, they don't comment on these issues, nor will I.
Q Why not?
Q Don't recognize the Greek-Turkish borders?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to stick with my answer.
Q Yes, Joe, none of the 81 questions asked the President specifically what he did with Monica Lewinsky. Did you all find that odd, first of all? And also, isn't it sort of relevant to determining whether or not he committed perjury?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure I understand the question. No, I didn't find that odd about the questions.
Q But do you think that it was appropriate that they would ask the President what he did with Monica Lewinsky, what was the nature of his relationship? He said it was improper and so forth, but there was not a question asked to him --
MR. LOCKHART: I think there is an abundance of information on the public record that they put on the public record from various testimony. So I think that -- I don't know that anything new could have been added.
Q Joe, you talked earlier about the lack of fairness in the Judiciary Committee. President Clinton has said on several occasions that his fate is in the hands of Congress to some degree on this issue. Why wouldn't he take advantage of the opportunity to come before the committee and use his considerable persuasive powers to make his case that he is innocent, that he should be cleared of this, and that way he could take it not only to the committee, but also to the American people?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President had several opportunities to do that. He's done that. And I don't think going up before this committee that has conducted themselves in the way they have would be conducive to any serious discussion.
Q Can I follow that up by asking you, if he doesn't go are you worried that it might send a signal that he has either got something to hide or that he is guilty on some of these issues? Do you risk sending that bad signal to the American people?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so.
Q Who is conducting the review of the documents pertaining to Pinochet, and what's the time frame on that? And when you say, make public -- will they be made public or turned over to Spain or --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think -- for the logistics of this you should talk to the Justice Department. There's a vast effort that's gone on over the last six years to make information available; this is a small piece of it. But I would suggest you talk to them on how this is. But I think when they talk about something that's made public, it is actually something that the public can access.
Q But is there a special review as regards Pinochet or are you talking about --
MR. LOCKHART: I think there's been broad action, but I think now there's an ongoing special review of just these materials.
Q And is that in response to the request from --
MR. LEAVY: Well, we have been working with the Spanish government to release documents on this case.
Q Just so I understand, when you say the President doesn't belong in the same category of those people -- you mean the witnesses?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, that's what I meant.
Q Why not? Why doesn't he belong in that category?
MR. LOCKHART: Because he did not commit the offense that these people are charged and convicted with.
Q Has the President reached a decision about his recommendation to create a national committee to review the policy with Cuba?
MR. LOCKHART: We are continuing to review the letter that we received from those on the Hill and I believe from Senator Warner. But I don't have any final response on that.
Q Joe, are you surprised at all at the course the Judiciary Committee's investigation has taken since the election, when in the immediate aftermath of the election it appeared there were calls to wrap it up quickly, get it over with, call one witness -- that sort of thing.
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think the one pervasive thing in this process, in the Judiciary Committee from the beginning, is that this has been about politics and that it hasn't been about gathering facts, because most of the facts they need were delivered to them bound in a 450-page document. And what this has been about is trying to score political points.
Q This coming Thursday a meeting will take place here in the White House between Mr. Sandy Berger and the Greek American leader -- from California -- by 16 others to discuss the Turkish claims -- do you know what this is all about, this meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: I understand that Mr. Berger has a meeting this Thursday. I don't know who will be attending that meeting. But it is a part of our outreach to citizens in this country who are interested in these issues.
Q Joe, you said just a minute ago that most of the facts were delivered in this 455-page report -- or 445-page report. Do you mean to say that -- are you stipulating that those facts are true?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Or are you saying that they should be --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I said facts that they think they needed. So my point was not to get into the validity of any of the information that was in there, it was to get into the fact that there hasn't really been any fact-finding.
Q But, Joe, if there hasn't been any fact-finding, why do you feel the need -- why does the White House feel the need to send up yet another written refutation of what you said a few minutes ago for this new information that has surfaced in the last couple of weeks?
MR. LOCKHART: Because they're -- if you look at the information that has been released, there were some underlying documents. You remember, the referral was based on tens of thousands of pages, which were not released, that were subsequently released. Mr. Starr has come in and made some further statements about how he views this case. So I think there is some body of information that necessitates us filing another memorandum.
Q I thought the Democrats in the White House didn't want any more fact-finding.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm talking -- I'm not making a judgment on whether there should be or there shouldn't be. I was asked what I thought about the process.
Q Has the President made any impeachment-related phone calls to Capitol Hill lately, and does he plan on any in the future?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q How will he be trying to fight this?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry?
Q How will he be trying to fight this?
MR. LOCKHART: As I say, and the President has told you all, that this is out of his hands. He's concentrating on the job the American public elected him to do, and he's going to leave it to others to sort this out.
Let me just say one thing, that I misspoke when I talked about a special review. At this date, there is not an official special review, but we have given documents on the case, DOJ to the Spanish government. We'll cooperate in the future.
Q And those documents that you've given to the Spanish government, are those public now?
MR. LOCKHART: I'll look into that.
Q Joe, you said there was new information -- getting back to that line of questioning. What, for example, is out there that is new that the White House would like to respond to?
MR. LOCKHART: I mean, new information may not be the best way to describe it. I think if you -- for example, though, there were several assertions made in the referral that relied on testimony -- and quite often, just one citation of testimony. Then when you looked at the 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 pages that were released, you found a contradictory testimony from the same people. So I think on that front and possibly some others -- and again, I don't know what will be in this at all. I don't expect that this document has been written yet, but I think it's appropriate, as Mr. Kendall said in his letter on Friday, that we had the chance to give this to the committee.
Q Do you consider Wednesday to be the deadline for the submission of a witness list to the committee and whether there will be a presentation before the committee?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that before the end of the week, we'll let them know. I don't know that Wednesday is a drop dead date.
Q Well, it is for Chairman Hyde.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we'll see --
Q You don't consider Wednesday to be an important date in this process?
MR. LOCKHART: I expect that sometime, by Wednesday or later in the week, we'll make our intentions known to the committee.
Q Anything on the Kurdish leader -- says there is a deadlock according to the Italian Prime Minister.
MR. LOCKHART: No, only what we've said in the past, which is we believe that this is an important step toward fighting global terrorism, the arrest.
Q Thank you.
END 1:45 P.M. EST