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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 18, 1998
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                             JOE LOCKHART  
                           The Briefing Room            

1:10 P.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: Let's do one piece of business before I take your questions. At 2:00 p.m. today, out of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and HHS, they will release their yearly study, which actually has very good news on the issue of teenage drug use. We have in this report, it will highlight that all drug use categories were either statistically unchanged or decreased significantly. Eighth graders are increasingly, according to this report, rejecting drugs, say marijuana and alcohol are risky. Those same 8th graders, drug use has dropped. Drug use has also dropped among 10th graders, and drug use and smoking dropped among 12th graders.

So I think it's, as General McCaffrey will tell you, there is still a lot of work to do, drug use among teens is still too high, but this is a significant study and highlights perhaps a turning point as they try to reach their goal of reducing teenage drug use by the millennium.

Q Are there copies here?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, at 2:00 p.m.

Q How do they know that? What sort of statistical model did they use to get at people who are in the 8th grade or 6th grade --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, they do a comprehensive yearly study on this, and this is basically the benchmark that we use to judge both from the congressional standpoint and also from the administration's standpoint of how our efforts at reducing teenage drug use is doing.

Q Joe, how is the President keeping up with the impeachment debate?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that he's gotten a report on it yet. He's had quite a busy morning with a series of meetings on other subjects. I expect near the end of the day when he comes out of the meeting with his HIV and AIDS Council he'll probably get a report of how the day's gone.

Q Why did Shays sneak out?

MR. LOCKHART: You'd have to ask him.

Q But I mean, did he tell the President how he was going to vote or anything?

MR. LOCKHART: That meeting was a private meeting between the President and Representative Shays and we will respect the privacy of that. If Congressman Shays wants to talk about the meeting I'm sure that would be appropriate, and he'll do it if he feels that he wants to.

Q Joe, is he going to watch any of the debate?

MR. LOCKHART: He may catch a moment or two between things, but I don't know that -- he has got no time on his schedule for today to sit down and really watch.

Q Yesterday, the President said in answer to a question that his authority, he did not believe, would be degraded by the fact that this debate might get underway. Does he still feel that way today, the debate can go on and his authority as Commander in Chief is not degraded?

MR. LOCKHART: I think if you turn on your television and watch what's going on, you'll get an answer.

Q Could we get one from you? Because there are many people --

MR. LOCKHART: I think I just answered it.

Q Joe, you didn't answer it.

Q It's too subtle. It's too subtle for us.

Q A lot of people are saying, and mean it, apparently, that they believe it's wrong for this debate to go on and they give us a reason that it will somehow injure, possibly, American service personnel. And I wonder if the President shares that view?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, our view, as I have expressed to you before, that the President, as the Chief Executive of this branch of government, makes decisions based on what he believes is in the best interest of our country and our national security.

Congress, which is currently being run by the Republican majority, is also duly empowered to make decisions based on what they believe is in the best interests of our country and our national security. And it's a judgment for them to make. And I think if you have watched the debate at the Capitol today you've seen a debate.

Q Will you at least say whether the President still holds the view he held yesterday, which was, no, he answered the question. Is that still his view?

MR. LOCKHART: The President remains of the view that he is the Commander in Chief. He will continue to pursue what he thinks is in our national security interests. And he's able to pursue our national security interests, regardless of what Congress does.

Q Joe, in addition to Shays, what has the President been doing the last 24 hours to influence the impeachment vote?

MR. LOCKHART: Very little. He's been working hard on other issues. He's been working hard on keeping up with the operation that's ongoing in Iraq and focusing on things like the budget -- like our relationship with the European Union, which he's meeting now; and in a very worthy cause last night with the Special Olympics.

Q You said very little, so what little has he been doing?

MR. LOCKHART: Very little. I don't have any details. He made a couple of calls yesterday and had a meeting this morning with Congressman Shays, which you all know about.

Q Calls to whom?

MR. LOCKHART: He made some calls to members of Congress. I'm not going to get any more specific.

Q To make what case?

Q But no calls today or --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get any more specific.

Q The calls were yesterday or today?

Q Is the President doing so little because he believes the vote is lost?

MR. LOCKHART: No, he's doing so little because he's got other things to do right now.

Q Does he believe the vote is lost?

MR. LOCKHART: We're going to see the vote, so I don't see any use in speculating on what people believe might or might not happen. Let's watch the debate --

Q Joe, are you satisfied with the amount of time that's been allotted for debate?

MR. LOCKHART: It's a decision for Congress to make.

Q Joe, you were talking this morning about the cynical strategy to force the President to resign and other White House officials have used the word, in private at least, too. Do you think that's what's happening?

MR. LOCKHART: I have not used that word and I don't -- let me talk about what I've said. I think there is a political strategy at work here that is cynical and is not in the best interests of the American public. I think if you can go back and remember over the last few months, we have had members of Congress, members of the Republican Party on the Judiciary Committee saying over and over again that they are not trying to remove the President, that all they are is step one. In fact, they've likened their work to a grand jury, that basically looks at evidence and decides whether there's enough reasonable concern that another body should deliberate it.

I will quote to you from Chairman Hyde, who has said, "But I also want to emphasize that ours is but a partial role in the drama of impeachment. The trial, which has been safeguarded by our founding fathers to require a two-thirds vote, is held in the other body. And it is our function under the Constitution, and significant and solemn as it is, to decide if there's enough information and enough evidence to warrant a trial."

There have been other members -- Congressman McCollum, who likened it only to censure. He called impeachment "the ultimate censure." He called it "a scarlet letter," and went on to say that the Senate will take care of this and it's not at all clear that they'll even do a trial.

Congressman Pease, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has said that "I believe that there is a parallel between the decision to indict and the decision to impeach" in this regard, that all they're doing is testing, that it's not really all that significant, it's really just looking at things and seeing for the other body because that's where the real work is done.

Now, that was step one. Step two I think you saw starting this past weekend. You have Congressman Hyde on a Sunday talk show, after making the case that they were just but one small part of this process, that now he thinks -- now that he's finished in his work, that yes, "I think the President should step down. I really think he would be really heroic if he did that."

Also on a Sunday show, another member of the leadership, Mr. DeLay, said, "You know we've seen through this whole process a very sad thing, the President puts himself above the people. I think he should put his own ambitions aside and resign."

So what you have here is what I believe is a cynical political strategy where the Republican leadership tried to tell the American public that what they were doing was not a final step, what they were doing was just a first step, a small first step, and the Senate was really where they would look at the evidence and be tested, the President would have a chance to defend himself -- that's really where the action -- but I think we're now in phase two, where they're saying, well, now that the President is impeached, he really should resign.

And I think, beyond being cynical, and beyond not being straight with the American public, this doesn't do a service and doesn't speak well of what they're really supposed to be there doing.

Q Joe, you blame the Republicans, but doesn't the President bear any responsibility for where the country is today?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, and the President has acknowledged openly -- he spoke to you all as recently as last Friday about his responsibility in this activity. But I think the tenets of fairness, the tenets of common sense -- we've grown fond of the phrase, "how do you explain this to your children." Well, let me explain something that was explained to me many times, which is you don't make something right by compounding it with another wrong.

Q What's unfair about calling on the President or saying he ought to resign? The President doesn't have to do it. But I mean, what's unfair about simply suggesting he do it?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm discussing the strategy where a conscious effort was made to, in effect, dumb down impeachment, to dumb down and say that this process wasn't important, that the real action was someplace else. And then having gone through it, turn 180 degrees in the other direction and say, it's so important, it's so important to this country and it's so damaging that the President should resign. I think that that is a strategy that betrays partisanship and cynicism.

Q Joe, what I'm confused about is that when they were in step one, you used to say, no, this is serious, it's the first step towards removing him from office, it's not just --

MR. LOCKHART: And I agree with that.

Q -- and now they're agreeing with you.

MR. LOCKHART: No, I agree this is a serious process and I've said that all the way along. I'm discussing a strategy here.

Q But Congressman DeLay has asked the President to resign from the word "go." You're just saying that finally now they're being honest that they want him out of office.

MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm saying that there are people who all along on the Judiciary Committee made the argument that what they were doing was akin to a grand jury, not akin to someone who was -- a trial or a conviction. And now that that process is over, they have changed their view radically.

Q If he's removed, if he resigns and Gore becomes --

Q The process isn't over, is it?

MR. LOCKHART: It certainly is not over. I'm talking about what I view here as the strategy that's being played out. You can not take that view, you can not believe it, you can look at the same set of facts and come to a different conclusion. But you can't dismiss these set of facts.

Q Joe, granted you're saying this is a cynical political strategy that's not good for the public, but is it the White House's view that it's also a hypocritical strategy because of the personal lives of Livingston, Hyde, as well as Bob Barr?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any comment on that.

Q Joe, you characterize the strategy as answering a wrong with a wrong. But by characterizing step one, step two, the cynical political attacks, isn't that doing just the same thing, ripping the other side?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think it's important to point out the motivations of what's going on here. And I've said here for months that this process has failed to set the standards that were set at the beginning by Chairman Hyde. You remember what he said at the beginning of this process was, we won't do this unless we can do it in a bipartisan way.

Q Well, what is there to fear, though? I mean, the President, if he is impeached by the House, has a right to defend himself in the Senate.

MR. LOCKHART: He certainly does.

Q There would be a trial.

MR. LOCKHART: He certainly does.

Q The fact that people say he ought to resign need not affect that. What's the strategy that would force him to resign?

MR. LOCKHART: Sam, I've explained it. I'm sorry if you don't understand it. I don't know that's it's --

Q Do you think he'd resign because they call on him to and you don't like the fact they're calling on him to do it?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not talking about what we would do or what we might do or not do. I'm talking about a strategy where at the root of it and at the beginning of it is a way to try to take steps to try to remove the President. And what we've seen here is a two-step process. The outset sought to diminish the importance of the impeachment process. And once they got to the end of their part of the process they turned 180 degrees and sought to maximize the importance. And that's what we see.

Q I'm pretty slow, I really am --

MR. LOCKHART: Let's take some time on this.

Q Clearly, lots of people want to remove the President. The Republicans have made that clear. But they don't get to do that simply because they say it -- there is a constitutional process. Now you say the strategy is to call on him to resign. He can say, you know, take your advice and shove it. I mean, excuse me, but I don't understand why that seems to be a loathsome thing if they would call on him to resign.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you put it in the context of what they said before and they put it in the context of what they're saying now, I think you'll see, as some commentators have already -- you'll see a fine article in the paper this morning making this point. It could have no effect -- I don't expect it to have any effect, I know it will have no effect. I'm talking --

Q You said he's not going to resign.

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. But what I'm talking about is what's going on on the Hill today. We've got a process that has been marked with partisanship from the very beginning. America is now finally tuning in to this. They turn on their TV this morning and for the first time on the organizations that you work for, they're seeing what Congress is doing and what Congress is up to on a real-time basis. And they have a right to understand what might be going on here. And I'm offering a theory as to what it is we've seen over the last two months.

Q Joe, the President has insisted upon his innocence. Would he welcome a trial in the Senate?

MR. LOCKHART: What the President would welcome, as we've said over and over again, is a bipartisan solution, short of impeachment, that would put this behind us.

Q No trial.

MR. LOCKHART: What the President has said over and over again, and what I've said from here over and over again, is he'd welcome a solution that's bipartisan and that puts this matter behind us, that is short of impeachment.

Q -- certain to exercise, assuming Congress does vote his impeachment, to exercise his right to a trial and vigorously defend himself in a Senate trial. Will he do that?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into hypotheticals of something that hasn't happened yet.

Q Just in terms of what you described about Americans finally tuning in today and seeing what's happening. What they're seeing is they're seeing a process that seems really serious -- you know, you have the clerk reading out the articles and it confers a sense of legitimacy to the result, because this is a co-equal branch of government doing this. Are you concerned that the American people are going to see this as legitimate, instead of the illegitimate process that you --

MR. LOCKHART: I can't --

Q I mean, what can you do to convince them it's not legitimate?

MR. LOCKHART: I can't predict how people will view this. I know how they viewed it to date. They haven't seen much of the actual proceedings. So I can't predict with any certainty, beyond where they are now, which is they overwhelmingly oppose this. But what we can do is point out the partisan nature of this.

It came up this morning about -- someone asked about the differences between '74 and '98, or the similarities. I think the best person to speak to that is not me, but it's Peter Rodino. Let me just read to you a couple of the things that he said in a story this week in the paper: But now, he warns, that impeaching Clinton for perjury will cheapen the Constitution and weaken the presidency. Rodino, a Democrat, endorsed censure of the President as an appropriate punishment for what he called Clinton's appalling behavior and urged members of Congress to heed polls showing the majority of Americans are opposed to impeachment. "I believe Hyde said the country is going to be put through tumult and turmoil. Well, let's save it from that, not just because we want to save President Clinton, because it would be wrong."

And then he got to the differences between what's going on here, which is a behavior that the President has acknowledged is wrong, has acknowledged his role in it, and has worked hard to seek the forgiveness of this country, his family, his friends. But there is a difference. He recalled listening in sorrow as Judiciary Committee Chairman to a recording of Nixon instructing his Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, to order the FBI to stop investigating the Watergate coverups, citing fictitious national security concerns. "It was a lie," Rodino said. "The political intelligence committee's blackmailing their enemies, ordering IRS audits, the break-in at Fielding's office, the wiretaps, these things affected our rights, our liberties our privileges. They affected me as they affect you."

On the totality of the offenses: "It's the totality of many actions which resulted in grave harm to the Republic which, if permitted to go on, would have destroyed the constitutional system." Nobody -- nobody -- nobody has made the case at any time in this process of anything that reaches this standard.

Q Didn't Paula Jones have the right to accurate testimony in her case?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm talking about the totality of "many actions which resulted in grave harm to the Republic." And everyone has put Peter Rodino, Republican and Democrat, in a position of authority and respect; whether they did it out of belief or out of political expediency, everyone has. There's no disagreement. And I will repeat: "It's the totality of the many actions which resulted in grave harm to the Republic which if permitted to go on would have destroyed the constitutional system." "We have to consider what has been committed by Clinton that warrants that kind of action. One had to find that the system of government is harmed so greatly, so seriously as would have been the case had Nixon been permitted to stay on." And I repeat that no one has demonstrated that.

Q That argument was made in committee, it's being made on the floor of the House now, too. But I guess the question that Scott asked, and I'm not sure you answered it, if the House does impeach the President will he then vigorously defend himself in the Senate? Because Trent Lott has already said there will be a trial. Lott, the Majority Leader, has already said, no censure.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, as I said the President is looking and will continue to push for some sign of bipartisan solution that can put this behind us as quickly as possible.

Q Does the President believe that a trial in the Senate would be damaging to the country, Joe? Does he believe a trial in the Senate would be damaging?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that any reasonable person thinks that there is a potential there.

Q Joe, a Republican congressman from Georgia, John Linder, yesterday accused the White House of being behind the leaks that led to Congressman Livingston's admission.

MR. LOCKHART: Did the Congressman provide you with any evidence when he made that accusation?

Q No, but I --

MR. LOCKHART: Do you think that's a responsible thing for you to do, to repeat an accusation without any evidence?

Q Do you have any reaction to his --

MR. LOCKHART: I actually asked you a question. Do you think that's a responsible thing to do?

Q I would think that's --

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, then I'm not going to answer. Next question.

Q That's a legitimate question.

MR. LOCKHART: I said to you -- you know what I said --

Q You're the Press Secretary, Joe.

MR. LOCKHART: And you also know what I said to you this morning on this subject. And I have nothing more to add to that.

Q Well, you denied it this morning. Why won't you deny it now?

MR. LOCKHART: Because I have nothing more to add to what I said this morning.

Q Russia and the United States have always had differences on Iraq policy, and now there are more strains than ever. For the first time, Russia has recalled its ambassador. I understand President Clinton has sent Boris Yeltsin a letter. Does he intend to try to speak with him on the telephone?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's certainly possible that the President will speak directly with President Yeltsin in the coming days. Already, the Vice President spoke to the Prime Minister Primakov. The President did send him a letter and he made a couple points in that. One is that he recognized both the difference in approach that we have taken to containing the threat of Saddam Hussein -- that the United States government has and the government of Russia has. And he recognized that the efforts that President Yeltsin has made in the past to try to use his influence to change the behavior of Saddam Hussein.

He went on to recognize that that hasn't worked and discussed in detail the rationale for why we needed to move forward, why it was important to compel Saddam Hussein and why it was important to significantly degrade his ability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction, to deliver those weapons and to threaten his neighbors.

And, finally, he made the point, which is an important point, which was we have an important bilateral relationship that is important both to the Russian people and to the American people. And he argued that we shouldn't let a disagreement in this area sidetrack progress we're making in other areas.

Q Joe, the President has been trying to reach Yeltsin on the phone. Is Yeltsin not taking the President's calls?

MR. LOCKHART: Scott, you've had your chance.


Q Joe, the bipartisan solution you keep referring to, it's obviously not going to come in the House. Where is it going to come? How do you --

MR. LOCKHART: Say again?

Q The bipartisan solution that you keep referring to over the days, it's obviously not going to come in the House. Where do you think it's going to come and how do you envision --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, if it doesn't come in the House, one would expect members of the Senate to consider this.

Q What kind of solution do you expect them to --

MR. LOCKHART: Again, that is something for members of the Senate to address.

Q The First Lady today apparently made some comments about reconciliation. Can you give us some idea, how are they managing to get through this Christmas season with all these pressures on them? And can you give us an update on the healing process between the two?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, let me do this, because, no, I have no intention of giving you an update on the healing process because that is a personal matter and not appropriate to be discussed here.

But anticipating a flurry of mood questions, just before I came down I dropped in on the President to ask him what his mood was, and he reported it to be very good. So I asked him to account for the fact that it was very good, and he told me, for one thing, that he got seven hours of sleep last night, which is about what he got in the previous three or four nights, given all the things that have been going on and the travel.

He also cited the Christmas season, as you mentioned, which is a time of good cheer, and also the fact that we've got a serious military operation that's gone on for the last -- for two days, and for two day the heroic men and women who serve from the country have come home safely.

Q Is he not going to pay much attention to this debate on the House floor?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, clearly it's an issue that impacts him, but his attention is focused right now on the schedule that he has and the important work that he's doing.

Q Is he out of his mind?


Q You mean he is not worried about his future fate?

MR. LOCKHART: I think I acknowledged that he's clearly interested in the subject, but he does not have the luxury of not staying focused on his duties, the things that he's promised the American public he will do and that's what he's done.

Q Joe, to go back to the --

Q How do you get to a bipartisan solution if you stand at this podium repeatedly and attack this process as illegitimate and filled with partisanship?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that we need to look at the process the way it has. And maybe as it moves, if it moves over to the Senate, there will be a fresh approach taken. But the bottom line on this issue is the House set a standard by which they were going to judge this matter and a standard by which they would move forward and they have fallen well short of that. I come back, again, to the words of the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee who said we will not proceed with impeachment unless it's done on a bipartisan way. I defy anyone to say that this has proceeded in anything but a partisan way.

Q What is the value today of attacking what the House is about to do if the votes seem as though they're almost certainly going against the President?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't know that I can look at it in terms of what the value is. The questions are about the process and I'm trying to communicate and --

Q But if your goal is to bring it to a speedy resolution in a bipartisan way and get it behind people, isn't what you're doing likely to prolong the argument --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't necessarily believe that and I think another objective is to make sure people understand what this process is about, how it's been conducted and why we are where we are right now.

Q But why isn't the majority vote a legitimate vote? Why isn't a majority vote in the House legitimate?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not saying it's not legitimate. I'm saying that at the beginning of this process the people who ran this process set a standard, which is, we will not do this, we will not move forward unless we can do it in a bipartisan way. That is the standard set by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, not the standard set by me. But I think that's an appropriate standard and it certainly was the standard in 1974 when, in a bipartisan way, the committee moved forward and voted out articles of impeachment.

Q Do you think they meant by that that the actual vote had to be bipartisan?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, the process started in September and it's led up until now, so I don't think anyone can say that it's met that standard, nor is it meeting it today.

Q The criticism of the Republican strategy calls for the President to resign. That part of their strategy could be stopped if the President or you could state clearly that Mr. Clinton will exercise his right to defend himself in a Senate trial, that he will not resign.

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know how I can make it more clear than to use the words the President has used when asked that question -- and he answered, no.

Q No, he will not resign?

MR. LOCKHART: You're trying to take me down a road where I speculate about what happens next. I'm not going to get into a theoretical of "if it gets here, what will you do then." I can't imagine a scenario where if this were to be -- there would be a trial on the Senate floor that the President wouldn't vigorously defend himself. We're not there yet.

Q Hey, Joe, when the President said last week, in the wake of the committee vote, that the outcome of those votes was preordained, does he feel that way about the House vote?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think there are still some people who are undecided. There is still a debate going on and there is still a chance that people will be swayed by the arguments. So I would certainly say that most people have indicated publicly where they are, but not a majority. There's not a majority. So I think we should wait and listen to the debate.

Q So the President is not going into this with a sense of resignation, that it's preordained, it's all but over?

MR. LOCKHART: I think that he believes that it's important for those who will argue forcefully and, hopefully, persuasively, that there's nothing here that reaches the standard of an impeachable offense, have their day on the floor, and for those who will make the case that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of constitutional scholars who do not believe there is an impeachable offense here, that there are a bipartisan group of prosecutors who argue that the articles on perjury did not make the case. So I think that he believes that those people ought to have their chance to make their case.

Q Looking back to the last month, do you here at the White House feel that there's anything you might have done differently to influence the vote? You talked today more on this subject, we've heard you talk recently. I mean, do you think if the White House had been aggressively making this case a couple of weeks ago it might have helped?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the answer to that and I'm not sure how useful it is to look back and speculate on that.

Q Well, you must be looking back a little bit because you're going to have to look ahead to face the new battles. I wonder, do you draw any lessons from what just happened, as you're looking to the next phase?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have compelling lessons. There are smarter people than me who will probably take a look at that.

Q Will he tape his radio address?

MR. LOCKHART: It's live tomorrow.

Q To reach back to the Yeltsin follow-up, if I may, the President has been trying to reach Yeltsin by phone for a couple of days, hasn't been able to -- now he sent a letter. Do we believe that Yeltsin is refusing to take the President's call?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any information on that.

Q Is the President addressing the country tonight?

Q Could we elaborate on that? Sandy told us yesterday that the President was trying to reach Yeltsin and he couldn't get through.

MR. LEAVY: And he sent a letter last night. The Vice President talked to Prime Minister Primakov.

MR. LOCKHART: Why don't we do this here, okay? Why don't you put your question to --

Q That's fine. We were given to understand that Mr. Yeltsin has -- given to understand that the President has not been able to reach Mr. Yeltsin by phone over a couple of days.

MR. LOCKHART: The President has communicated with President Yeltsin by letter. The Vice President has communicated with the Prime Minister directly. And, as I said at the beginning of this briefing, I wouldn't rule out that he talk to him sometime soon.

Q Might the President address the country again tonight on this subject of impeachment?

MR. LOCKHART: Not that I know of.

Q What's the subject of the radio address tomorrow?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the subject of the radio address will be the ongoing military operation in Iraq.

Q If I could just follow up on this point, if I may. Is there no direct communication between the President of the United States and the President of Russia?

MR. LOCKHART: Can you rephrase that so I can understand it?

Q I'll try one more time. Is there no direct communication right now between the President of the United States and the President of Russia?

MR. LOCKHART: The President of the United States sent a letter to the President of Russia. The Vice President of the United States spoke to the Prime Minister. I've said to you that the President of the United States could be speaking soon to the President of Russia. I don't know how you define direct communication.


Q Joe, is any consideration being given at the White House to changing the team that represents the President on the impeachment issue?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of anything like that.

Q Yeltsin question. Is the President disappointed, however, that Russia has withdrawn its ambassador --

MR. LOCKHART: I've already answered that question.

Q Do you expect any resolutions of the EU-U.S. summit and are any real issues being discussed, any decisions being made?

MR. LOCKHART: There are certainly a series of issues from the Transatlantic American Economic Partnership -- there's some trade issues, there are some security issues, specifically, Kosovo. But the meeting is ongoing and I think that Mr. Bandler, the Senior Director for the NSC for Europe, will be down here about 2:30 p.m. to give you a readout.

Q Do you expect the President to have a reaction tomorrow when the vote is taken? Will you folks be here?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, first off, I don't really know when it's going to be taken. But I expect if it happens late tonight, past --

Q It's tomorrow --

MR. LOCKHART: I expect that we'll give you a piece of paper and at some point in time you'll see the President.

Q Joe, Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr. Sharif, was the United States guest here on December 2nd. And now he has condemned and criticized the United States for attacking Iraq -- any reaction?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think our message to any world leader is that we felt that it was in the best interest of the United States and the world, the safety of the world, that the President act to significantly degrade Saddam Hussein's ability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction and his ability to threaten his neighbors. That is the message that the President has made to the world leaders he has spoken to and I'm certain it's a message that many capitals are hearing around the world.

Q Do you expect at some point tomorrow we'll see the President, is that what you said?

MR. LOCKHART: I expect that at some point you will probably see him.

Q I mean will it be a formal thing or an informal thing?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.

Q Are you saying that he intends to speak, an address to the country?

MR. LOCKHART: Sam, I'm not trying to send any signal from here.

Q But I'm using your words.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I will let you know. If there is something on the schedule I will tell you.

Q Joe, Sandy spoke to us this morning about the Ramadan's beginning is not automatic, drop-dead date for military action. The President in announcing this military action spoke of Ramadan as being a time when initiating military action would be deeply offensive to the Moslem world.

MR. LOCKHART: That is correct.

Q Does the President believe it's okay to start this action during Ramadan -- that it's wrong to start the action during Ramadan, but it is okay to continue it during Ramadan?

MR. LOCKHART: The President believes, as he said, that it would have been counterproductive to begin this during Ramadan. But I think what he's also said and believes is that we have no artificial deadline here, that we need to continue this process until we've met our objective.

Q One does not expect any deep offense being taken in the Muslim world by continuing?

MR. LOCKHART: I think he will continue -- this will continue until we've met our objective. And I don't believe that that will be met with any great offense.

Q Joe, what kind of Arab support are you getting right now, what are you hearing from the Muslim countries?

MR. LOCKHART: I think there has been very solid support. I can tell you -- we've talked a little bit about phone calls. The Vice President has also made a couple of phone calls. He spoke today with Sheik Zayed of the United Arab Emirates and also with the Crown Prince Abdallah of Saudi Arabia -- think the Vice President thanked him for the strong statement of support that he put out yesterday.

I think also I will note that the operation couldn't have been undertaken without the support of other countries in the region and without the spirit and the diplomatic effort that you saw first a month ago in the Doha statement and also -- which was reaffirmed in the GCC statement last week. I think it's important that the countries in the region share our belief that it's Saddam Hussein that's put us all in this situation and that he has the ability to unwind this knot.

Q Does it still trouble you that, again, the United Nations Security Council just seems to hem and haw about this issue, there seems to be no particularly strong support for this?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that there are certainly those who have opposed this effort, and they are well-known. But I think, by and large, the international community supports this effort and understands the threat of Saddam Hussein to the world and understands what we need to do to address that threat.

Q -- you and Richard Butler -- did he share his report with the White House before it was made public?

MR. LOCKHART: I'd say that Chairman Butler did -- if you look back over the last month, he consulted very widely with the United States and with the Security Council. If you look at November 17 on, he filed weekly reports, which he gave to the Security Council and were made available to the public on the Internet, and then proceeded to go about setting up a series of inspections, which he consulted -- he traveled to Moscow, to Paris, met with U.S. representatives in New York about what he was doing. He consulted during and after the process.

When the inspection -- when the test inspections ended over the weekend, he consulted with members of the Security Council on what he thought his conclusions would be, which ended up being his conclusions that Iraq was not in compliance with the commitments they made on November 15th.

Q Joe, I understand that this time oil is flowing from the Gulf. But will that continue? What is the future of the world oil supply --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, actually, I do not believe that I'm in a position here to speculate on the oil market.

Q Joe, what can you tell us about the President's meeting with the AIDS Advisory Board later this afternoon?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, he meets with this group on a regular basis. He will announce the release of $479 million in Title I-Ryan White grants, and have a discussion with the Council on the state of the fight in this country against AIDS.

Q Joe, just to follow up on that. Federal law requires that advisory board meetings be open to the general public. Can you explain why this meeting wouldn't be open to the public?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, this meeting is being opened. Thankfully, the press can serve as the conduit to the public. We're allowing in a print reporter to watch and we'll be releasing a transcript of the entire meeting -- which meets the federal requirements.

Q Joe, one of the harshest critics of the Iraq action has been the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, and it seems as if the Chinese and the Russians are coordinating somewhat in the Security Council to block action and to bring their viewpoint forward. Has there been any attempts by the United States to get in contact, with the President contacting President Jiang, or at a lower level, to clarify the U.S. objectives?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me take that question and get back to you.

Q Are there any contacts in?

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, there are -- we're in touch with the Chinese government, diplomatic contacts. They are aware of the case we are making, both at the U.N. and

Q Joe, what has the First Lady been doing the last 24 hours on the impeachment front in order to help her husband?

MR. LOCKHART: I suggest you talk to her Press Secretary.

Q Joe, as much as one congressman is raising -- making allegations about the goings on of the Livingston matter --

MR. LOCKHART: Who are the others?

Q Salon Magazine last week said that -- claimed that some people in the White House were considering releasing revelations about a number of Republicans --

MR. LOCKHART: And what was their source for that?

Q Cokie Roberts last night said that someone close to the White House --

MR. LOCKHART: And what was her source for that?

Q I'm just telling you.

MR. LOCKHART: I'm asking you.

Q Her source, as you well know, was an unnamed source close to the White House.

MR. LOCKHART: I can't -- I am not going to allow this room to become a place where unnamed people can pass rumors around, and where innuendo lives in the same place as facts. I'm just not going to do it.

Q Joe, why is the President out of sight today?

MR. LOCKHART: The President is very busy today. He's got a schedule and I don't believe he's out of sight.

Q Does he have no responsibility to speak to the American people on the day that the House takes up the impeachment debate?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has a responsibility to do the job that the public elected him to do, and that's what he's doing.

Q Joe, on the point of naming names, could you be specific about who is responsible for the strategy, the cynical strategy?

MR. LOCKHART: I certainly don't know how the leadership sets their political strategy, but one would assume it comes from the leadership, but I'm not certain.

Q You mean Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Livingston --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I can only tell you that what appears clear to us about the differences in the statements.

Q Were they behind this fax campaign that you were talking about this morning, the fax campaign?

MR. LOCKHART: They're -- some Hill Democrats have told us that there was a concerted effort to fax to newspapers, editorial boards around the country, urging them to editorialize that the President should resign.

Q Why is that bad?

Q What's wrong with it?

MR. LOCKHART: It's not bad. We're talking about trying to unmask what, on the floor of the House, is being presented one way, and unmask what, perhaps, might be the motivations behind the strategy.

Q Joe, if he were to resign, how would that benefit the Republicans? If Gore were to be President?

MR. LOCKHART: That's a good question to ask them; for the life of me, I don't know the answer to that.

Q Joe, we understand the President's a busy man, but given the gravity of impeachment, it's hard to understand why he hasn't read the Starr Report, why he didn't follow the Judiciary Committee hearings, and why he's not even watching any of the debate today?

MR. LOCKHART: Because the President has important work to do and that's what he's going to continue to focus on.

Q Thank you.

Q But isn't that his job?

MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.

Q Week ahead?

Q Week ahead?

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, week ahead. Week ahead. If I can find it.

Q Joe? Joe?


Q Do you know why Secretary Slater was here today, walking out with the President in the colonnade earlier?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't.

Q How do you know he was?

Q Slater was here for the drunk driving thing.

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, he was probably here for the drunk -- yes, for the event that the First Lady did, the drunk driving event.

Okay, the week ahead. Saturday, the President will deliver the weekly radio address in the morning. Saturday night, he and the First Lady will host a holiday dinner at the South Lawn Pavilion. Sunday --

Q For whom?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. He's got a series of these that go on, starting in early December, one of which --

Q Can we find out? It's really important. Can we find out?


Q Is that what you meant, we'd see the President? Maybe at this --

MR. LOCKHART: No. Listen, the President has, beyond that, no public schedule tomorrow. If, after the briefing's over, you'd like to have a discussion about what might happen or might not happen, I'd be glad to do that.

Q Okay.

Q Joe, will the President and the First Lady go out and greet the guests at this holiday party? Will he greet them? Will he actively stay out for, maybe, 10, 15 minutes and greet them?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure I understand that. He's going to a party with these people; he'll see the people; he'll greet them and --

Q What I'm saying is, are you just going to host -- is the White House going to be host of the party, for the party, to have it here? Will he come out and see these people, or will they just be --

MR. LOCKHART: No, the President and the First Lady will attend the party. I think that's what I said.

Q I know, but will they attend for a few minutes, or --

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, he will not only host it, he will attend it. (Laughter.)

Q Now we can get on to Sunday, right?

MR. LOCKHART: Sunday, no public schedule. Clear? Good. Monday, December 21st, the President and the First Lady will make a visit to the D.C. Central Kitchen to help prepare food for the community's homeless. Following the event they will attend a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Pan Am 103 bombing. Later that evening the President and the First Lady will host the press Christmas reception. Who put that on the schedule? (Laughter.)

Q Is he attending? (Laughter.)

Q He's the host. Is he hosting?

Q Will he shake our hand?

MR. LOCKHART: This is not always the most reliable document. Tuesday, the President and the -- yes?

Q This year there will not be the traditional picture taking with members of the press?

MR. LOCKHART: You will be correct that after doing this the same way for six years, we're going to try something new this year, which involves you and your family and hopefully more fun for everyone.

Q Meaning no pictures?

MR. LOCKHART: Meaning no one has to stand in line for an hour to get a picture.

Q What if we wanted one, though?

MR. LOCKHART: What if you wanted one? Well, why don't we take the picture you got last year and we'll put it in a different frame and we'll color it a different color on the dress and we'll call it the new one, this year. (Laughter.) We're going to try something new. We had a very successful springtime -- or summertime, whenever it was -- event that, in fact, the only complaint I heard about was that we had not promoted it well enough so that people could bring their family. We're going to try something different. I think it's going to be better. If it's not, I'm sure you'll let me know.

Q So it's not like he's mad at us?

MR. LOCKHART: Barry informs me that this is at the request of the Correspondents Association -- Stewart -- did he duck out? (Laughter.) Wise man. You're right, by the way, no pictures. I think I made the news.

Tuesday, the President and the First Lady will host the Annual Children's Christmas Reading event at the White House. Wednesday, no public schedule. Christmas weekend, no public schedule. The President and the First Lady remain at the White House through the Christmas weekend.

Q So you're saying Wednesday and Thursday --

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Okay?

Q All right.

Q But you'll be briefing every day, won't you?

MR. LOCKHART: I'll probably brief through Wednesday, and probably not brief Thursday and Friday, if that is okay. I'll be around.

END 1:55 P.M. EST