THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART
The Briefing Room
12:58 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, I start today with an announcement. We have a new member of the NSC spokesmen team. Mike Hammer, who is a career foreign service officer who just arrived from our embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Q Mike Hammer?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Now, for those of you who were looking forward to the Icelandic simultaneous translations, they will start immediately. Mike will be responsible for Latin America and Europe, as well as general duty questions. Did they tell you about the weekends? Oh, we'll tell you later.
He's from here in Washington and is also a distinguished fellow alumni of Georgetown University. So those of you who get tired of me regaling you about Georgetown, you now have more help.
Q Did you go to Georgetown?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Helen, I have a degree. (Laughter.) I went to school. (Laughter.) I studied. I've trained to take this position. Next.
Tomorrow's event. Friday morning the President will make remarks at the National Academy of Sciences at 10:00 a.m. in an effort to highlight the administration's efforts to combat the new threats posed to the American people by chemical, biological and cyber terrorism. The President will explain further the new initiatives that he mentioned in the State of the Union address to better prepare for and deter these threats.
The event is open press. Attorney General Reno, Secretary Shalala and our national coordinator for these such things, Richard Clark, will brief here at the White House after the event.
Q If the President is acquitted of the charges in the Senate, will he then stand down from these daily public events? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Sam, if that's the price, we'll pay it.
Q What is the White House reaction to the Justice Department investigation of Holbrooke? Because of that investigation, is there any plan to withdraw his nomination?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think there's been an ongoing review at the Justice Department, and I'll leave it to them to discuss. But the President believes that Richard Holbrooke is a gifted diplomat. He has made incredible contributions to our foreign policy team during this administration, particularly most recently in Kosovo and the Balkans where he has great expertise, as well as other parts of the world. I think you can see, as you look around the world, it is important that we have men and women of his caliber on the team, and we look forward to sending forward the nomination once this review is complete.
Q But would it make a difference if the Justice Department concludes that he has, in fact, broken the requirements, the regulations?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not going to speculate on what they might find one way or the other.
Q I'm just saying, would it make a difference?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to try to speculate on what they may find. I'll be happy to answer those questions once the review is complete.
Q Do you think the prospects are greater, now, for an abbreviated trial -- or not?
MR. LOCKHART: It's certainly been our hope from the beginning that once we've had a chance to lay out our case, talk about the facts and the evidence in a factual way, rather than in a way that involves assertions and what we've seen as overblown rhetoric, that senators would have a different view of this case. But we're going to have to leave it up to senators to make a decision on how they move forward from here.
Q Do you think the prospects of that are greater now?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's impossible to predict from here any prospects for how it will go forward. It's our hope, as we've said all along, that we find an expeditious and fair way to bring this to a conclusion. But I think, as we've seen in the past, there have been times when the process has proved difficult to bring to an end.
Q Joe, clearly the defense raised a lot of questions about the prosecution's case. Does that make it more likely, now, that there will be depositions and witnesses? Isn't there a better case for having depositions at this point?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so, because I think you have 60,000 pages of testimony and interviews and depositions. People have been deposed and interviewed over 20 times. We're willing to have this discussion based on the record that the Independent Counsel and the House Judiciary Committee -- two groups who, we believe, did not do an adequate job of presenting a fair and unbiased account of these events -- and because we're willing to do that, because we believe that the case that they presented is so weak, we don't believe that there's any need at this point to extend this process.
Q Joe, to follow up on that, this is like -- the past couple of days, the first time that the lawyers have come out and specifically said, well, this is the time frame, this was the phone records, this and that. They are finally disputing the actually facts --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me say this once, and I won't repeat myself on it. This isn't the first time. The lawyers have filed briefs, and I suggest that you go back and read them because they were always there. It's the first time, though, we seem to be having an informed discussion of this case. And that's a good thing, and it's a good thing that the Senate -- that the senators have the ability to listen to this.
Q How does the President feel about the defense thus far? What's his reaction?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, he has -- he's not seen much of it, but he's gotten the various reports. And I think he believes that Mr. Ruff, Mr. Craig and Ms. Mills did a very effective job presenting a defense based on the facts and the law.
Q On that point, there has been much favorable comment about Cheryl Mills' appearance yesterday, but the radio talk show that people listen to in this town, Don Imus, complained bitterly apparently this morning that it was embarrassing and that if she had not been an African American woman that would have been the commentary. Do you have any comment on Mr. Imus --
MR. LOCKHART: Cheryl Mills has been a valuable member of the legal team here for six years. And those who believe that it had something to do with her gender or her race are grossly misinformed.
Q Joe, why wouldn't the President want to watch his defense? You stated --
MR. LOCKHART: The President has a lot of things he likes to do, but he's got a pretty important job. He spends a lot of time concentrating on that.
Q But this is his job at stake. Why wouldn't he --
MR. LOCKHART: Because one of the reasons I think the American public supports him is that he continues to concentrate on his job. We've had a very busy week here -- State of the Union. We've done -- we had a very busy and long day yesterday, as those of you who trudged around after us know. And we've got a busy week and a budget that's in it's final stages of preparation.
Q Joe, do you think that the Senate should take into account the 76-percent approval rating for the next few days of activity in the Senate Chambers?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the Senate is always wise to consider what the public believes. I think the Senate is also wise to consider what the facts are, what the law is and what the Constitution says.
Q This is not a typical trial, this is not a typical jury either, so they are responsive to their constituents. Do you really think --
MR. LOCKHART: I think I've weighed out four elements that the Senate would be wise to consider, and I think from what we've heard -- I haven't heard anyone who isn't finding some way to blend those different and weigh those different areas in trying to come to a decision. I think all of them are legitimate.
Q Joe, there's some talk among Democrats in the Senate of sort of cutting to the chase here and going right to a vote on the articles themselves. What do you guys think of that idea?
MR. LOCKHART: As we've always said, we're looking for a way that's fair and is also expeditious to find a conclusion. We are in the final day of presenting our defense today. There will be two days or so of questions and answers from the senators where they get a chance to question the two sides. And then we'll get to a period where the rules and the process dictate that motions get considered. I'm not in a position now to speculate or to advocate any particular method except for finding a way to bring this to a conclusion.
Q Well, clearly, Joe, there will be a motion to dismiss. Would the White House put that motion forward or would a member of the Senate?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we're going to continue to put our defense forward. And when we get to the point where motions are appropriate, we'll discuss it then.
Q But it's safe to assume you would support a motion to dismiss, surely.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's safe to assume that if 51 senators found it in their hearts to dismiss this case, we would think that was fair and expeditious.
MR. LOCKHART: Bipartisan, too.
Q You're not pulling back from the comments of John Podesta just a few days ago that the White House will definitely file a motion to dismiss --
MR. LOCKHART: No, in fact, I think that we all have trouble sometimes doing morning television. I think what John was saying was that he expected as part of the process and as part of the rules that there will be a motion. I don't know where that motion will come from. I don't know whether it will come from a senator or from the White House.
Q Does the White House have any part in crafting Senator Kerry's proposal or was that done completely --
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of, as evidenced by the fact that I didn't know what it was this morning.
Q Joe, could I change the subject to Kosovo? Could you discuss what's going on and the situation with Ambassador Walker? Is he still there?
MR. LOCKHART: Ambassador Walker is still there. He is still the Director of the KVM and the representative of the 54-nation OSCE. And he continues to perform his important work there.
Let me add, since it's a few days since I've been here, that we believe, the President believes, that the Serb actions are clearly unacceptable. We're consulting with allies on the next steps. It's important for the stability of the region that the international community insist on Serb compliance, through the use of force if necessary.
We continue to consult closely with our allies. There's a series of meetings -- I think the NAC meets tomorrow, there's a Contact Group meeting tomorrow. And we will continue to send the message that Ambassador Walker needs to stay and continue the important work he's doing; that we need to have access to the area of this atrocity, so that those responsible can be brought to justice; and there needs to be a return to compliance, from President Milosevic and the Serbs, for the agreements they made last fall.
Q Has there been any movement in the right direction in Kosovo? Have you seen anything that gives you reason to be encouraged?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any encouraging signs.
Q But they're allowing him to stay, apparently.
Q Yeah, there's one.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think what's important here is that we take positive, forward steps towards access and towards bringing those -- identifying and bringing those responsible to justice.
Q But have they executed this order for him to leave?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, he is still there.
Q Joe, both Russia and China reportedly object to the President's plans to go forward at least with the initial funding of the missile defense system. Any reaction to their --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, let me do one thing. I know that there are a lot of people who are interested in that, and there are a lot of people who are interested in going and watching the trial, so -- and since I so mangled that issue this morning, I've asked Bob Bell, the Senior Director at the NSC, to come in once I'm done, and those who are interested can have a hearty discussion with him.
Q Can we go back to Kosovo for a moment? Before, when you were asked about the use of force, you said the ACTORD is still in place. Now you've explicitly said, you know, talked about the use of force. Is this a solely American view, that NATO still has the requisite authority --
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q -- to use force? Or is that shared by our allies?
MR. LOCKHART: I think if you look at what came out of the NAC meeting from last weekend, I believe it was the timing of it, NATO believes that the ACTORD remains in effect.
Q Joe, after two days of defense presentation, what's your appraisal of where the Democratic caucus in the Senate is right now, and whether you've made any inroads into the Republican caucus? What's your appraisal?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it would be folly for me to try to speculate on where particular members are. I think those who have listened to our case have found it to be comprehensive and compelling, and it has raised serious doubts and poked serious holes in the case that was presented to them just last week by the floor managers. But as far as predicting how that, in particular, has moved various senators, I just can't speculate.
Q Joe, do you expect pretty solid Democratic support when these motions are made on Monday?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to leave it for all the senators to vote, and we'll find out then.
Q Have you had a chance since this morning to ask the President about his reaction to Reverend Pat Robertson's declarations that it's all over and we should all go home?
MR. LOCKHART: I have not.
Q What do you think his view is?
Q Have you seen him?
MR. LOCKHART: Have I seen the President? Well, I spent about 16 hours with him yesterday, so I gave him a break from my presence this morning.
Q Well, what do you think his reaction is to Reverend Robertson?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I think he has joined the vast majority of Americans who believe that the time has come to put this issue behind us and get on with the country's business. We have policy differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party from all sides of the political spectrum. But I think the one thing that the vast majority of Americans agree with is that it's time to get back to the issues that people care about, and it's time to join these debates on Social Security, education, welfare. And I think that's what Reverend Robertson was alluding to in his comments.
Q Joe, do you think that his comments, or do you hope that his comments in some way will give cover, political cover, to Republicans, as the votes start on Monday or Tuesday?
MR. LOCKHART: Now you're asking me to speculate about a group that I don't always understand what drives them. So I think they're a better answer to that.
Q But you've commented in a couple of campaigns here or there.
MR. LOCKHART: You had to remind me of that, didn't you? Now we're going to have to talk about the '80s again, Peter. (Laughter.) No, listen, I'm not going to offer any analysis, and I think the conservative members of the Republican Party can answer that question themselves.
Q Joe, is the President seeing any of these senators? Or is there absolutely a no-man's land --
MR. LOCKHART: No, he sees -- I think there were several at the event today. He continues to conduct business, whether -- on the State of the Union alone, there were several policy conversations with senators who had particular interests in one issue or another, so we continue to move forward.
Q Alex asked you this morning about the U.S. involvement in the Congo. Do you have an update for us?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Yes.
Q Can I add also, the war in Angola is now heating up, the U.N. is pulling out. Can you cover that, perhaps, as well?
MR. LOCKHART: You didn't ask me that this morning. Let me --
Q Save that for the gaggle tomorrow. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Let me deal with the Congo. Our special envoy, former House member Howard Wolpe, is in the region now, and he, as well as others in the administration at the State Department and the NSC, are fully engaged in supporting efforts by regional leaders to bring about a cease-fire and find a way for a regional long-term peaceful solution. The United States government supports the regional efforts, led by the Zambian President, to bring a cease-fire between the two parties.
Q What's his name?
MR. LOCKHART: The Zambian President? Chiluba. We also all note --
Q I apologize. I set that trap on purpose. (Laughter.) That was beneath me.
MR. LOCKHART: You're not sorry. You're not sorry, Sam. Nobody believes that.
Q No one believes that.
MR. LOCKHART: I suffered from that, but you'll suffer more. (Laughter.) His negatives are going up, I can feel it. (Laughter.)
One last point. We do believe that President Kabila's recent announcement agreeing to direct talks with the rebels is a step forward. And I'll take your second question.
Q Okay, but what is the goal in terms of the Congo? Do you want to preserve it as a single entity?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I mean, we support the integrity of the territory there, and we're trying to work to bring about the first step being a cease-fire, the second being a long-term regional and peaceful solution.
Q And does that include support for Kabila?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we certainly support the territorial integrity of the Congo, and we're going to work with the regional efforts. I mean, as you pointed out this morning, there are multiple countries that have an interest in the dispute, so we're going to continue working with regional organizations.
Q Is this sending messages to the Presidents of Zimbabwe, or maybe Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda, about this issue, saying back off or leave --
MR. LOCKHART: I think we've committed both through people like Gayle Smith here at the White House and Assistant Secretary Susan Rice, and our Special Envoy Howard Wolpe -- our commitment to working through the regional organizations and through the countries to bring about a peaceful solution.
Q Is there some acute or immediate threat to national security and to computers and threat from chemical and biological terrorists that has led the President to announce this --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the President has articulated over the last year, but particularly this week, that there is a growing threat to this country of chemical, biological and cyber terrorism and we need to take the steps to prepare ourselves to both again be prepared for and to deter these threats. And I think he will talk in some detail tomorrow about what the government has done. He laid out some of the things in the State of the Union, but he'll certainly talk in much more detail tomorrow.
Q Is he thinking, he and his advisors thinking more of an internal, domestic threat like Oklahoma City, or is this a rogue state type thing?
MR. LOCKHART: I think both issues are one that have taken -- are believed to be issues of concern and need to be addressed.
Q This is the first anniversary, as you know, of the Lewinsky scandal breaking in public, and the first anniversary of the original series of denials that the President made on television and on the radio. Looking back on that time a year ago, how does the President view that first series of denials?
MR. LOCKHART: I have not discussed that with him.
Q Joe, what has the reaction been on the Hill among Democrats to the President's proposal of investing part of the surplus in the Stock Market? And isn't there a certain risk, aren't you putting at risk some of these funds, given the volatility of the market?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the proposal has been generally positive. I think we've heard positive comments from some of the leadership and some of the leadership on the Ways and Means Committee. And I think that the President articulated the need to try to raise the return in Social Security, but I think if you look at the proposal you'll find that the risks are small and these are risks worth taking. I think if you look at the total breakdown of Social Security and the trust fund, that most of the funds, probably 95 percent of them, even with some of these funds in the surplus being invested, would be invested in Treasury bonds and the safest and most guaranteed of government investments. So you're looking at 5 to 6 percent, which would help raise the return, but would really limit the downside risk.
And I think -- the second point is, as part of the proposal, we will work very hard to do this through an independent agency where you have portfolio managers and experts in the field. And secondly, they will work in the context of passive index funds investments that have become very popular. So it will be highly diversified and I think the risk quite low.
Q But Chairman Greenspan doesn't seem to be that positive about it. How do you react to his testimony?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think -- to his testimony, I think the administration is very encouraged by his testimony, particularly his views that it's wise to take the approach the President has put forward to pay down the debt and reserve the surplus for strengthening Social Security and Medicare. I think there were quotes from Republicans in the paper today who were disappointed that he took that approach over the tax cuts that they've presented.
I think the Chairman has raised some concerns in the past, legitimate ones that we take seriously, about putting any money at all into the federal government. But we believe we can do that. We believe, like local and state governments with pension funds, we can do that. And we can do that in a way -- and we can create an independent body, and independent body like the Fed, because I think we all agree the Fed has been enormously useful as a monetary body and it is independent. So I think we believe that we can do that and we'll work hard to make sure we do it.
Q The proposal is still alive and well?
MR. LOCKHART: Absolutely.
Q Joe, have you heard from some critics who say that this is almost like someone taking retirement, going to Las Vegas and just blowing it in Las Vegas?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, that would be an ill-informed critic, because I think if you look at the Social Security trust fund, what we do here is we extend it out for 55 years, and if we can get everything done, 75 years. And you're looking at a trust fund, when you add all the numbers up, that -- and if you took the 6 or so percent maximum that could go into the Social Security fund and the stock market went to zero, and it became worthless, you would still have a 94 percent, 95 percent payout available on the Social Security system. If we do nothing -- if we do nothing and we allow -- we don't reinforce the Social Security system, you'll be looking within 20 years or so of a 70-percent payout. So I think the risks are limited, they're small, and they're worth taking.
Q Joe, do you think you can try to get Greenspan on board with this idea, convince him that you have the right options, and let him keep at arm's length that he always like to keep from --
MR. LOCKHART: It's out hope that our ideas are compelling. I think the most important point here is on the broad policy that the President has put forward -- preserving the surplus to save Social Security and Medicare. Chairman Greenspan has had very positive remarks on it. He has commented on one of the sections of this and expressed a different view. But we believe we can make this workable and it will, in effect, raise returns within Social Security, which will benefit all of us. But I think on the broad policy, Chairman Greenspan has had very good things to say about it.
Q Joe, a lot of the index funds invest in tobacco companies; a lot of them make good returns. How are you going to deal with that issue or other types of issues that are inevitably going to be raised about whether public funds should be supporting companies a lot of people find objectionable?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think -- I'll defer to Secretary Rubin who addressed that question this morning, that these should be kept separate and should be independent, and that we can move forward on a limited basis with an independent entity or board that goes ahead and makes investment judgments; and that the federal government will pursue policy and actions that they think are in the best interests of the country. And the two don't need to collide.
Q Joe, two points on this. What about the arguments that it's better to just let individuals makes the investments themselves? And did you say you would create another entity?
MR. LOCKHART: We talked about creating an independent entity to manage the money that's reserved for investment in equities or other financial instruments.
Sorry, the other question?
Q About just letting individuals --
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, okay. We believe we've taken the best approach here, like state and county pension funds, of managing the money through an independent board. But we also think -- and I'll remind you of another part of the President's proposal with the USA accounts, where we're actually going to reserve some of the surplus so that people can set up an account where the government will match some of the money that goes into it, which is self-directed, which they can invest themselves.
So I think there's a combination here and it clearly -- the President's economic team spent a long time trying to work out what the best combination of elements were to do something that helps people create wealth, helps people save for their retirement and helps people be sure that for their children and their grandchildren down the road these systems that the government handles -- Social Security, Medicare -- will be there for them.
Q Well, where does the money come from to create the entity? Does it come out of the Social Security --
MR. LOCKHART: It comes out of the surplus.
Q Would that entity operate in sort of a blind trust to avoid these problems?
MR. LOCKHART: All of these things we will work out as we move forward with Congress. But certainly it would be an entity that is independent.
Q Joe, yesterday for the first time by my reckoning, the President's lawyers suggested that Monica Lewinsky did not tell the truth to the grand jury, particularly on the issue of the gifts. Is it the defense contention now that Ms. Lewinsky committed perjury before the grand jury, and is she now an unreliable witness in the view of the defense?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think if you look carefully at what they said, we took some exception with the fact that on the gifts, they highlighted one statement when there were actually 10 statements which offered varying recollections.
Q So her testimony is reliable in the --
MR. LOCKHART: I think as we've said a number of times here, people can have a variety of recollections.
Q Joe, to follow up on an earlier question, what lessons do you think the President and the White House has learned in the year since the Lewinsky story first broke?
MR. LOCKHART: That's an interesting question. Let me think about that one for a while. (Laughter.) I don't even know how to approach that one, so let me think about it and we'll answer it another day.
Q Is it clear to the President, Joe, that -- I mean, in retrospect he should have told the truth at the very beginning and spared the country the last year?
MR. LOCKHART: The President has made very clear over the last several months that his deep regret for misleading the country and certainly that is a view he still holds.
Q How is the President going to pay for these new teachers that he's suggested today? It sounded in his speech like he suggested paying for it out of the surplus. I thought the surplus was being saved from Social Security.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so. I think you'll see that -- my understanding is that that is fully paid for in the budget, which will be released in February.
Q Does the President believe that there's a choice between setting aside the roughly two-thirds for Social Security and the broad-based tax cuts the Republicans are proposing, that the country has to choose between those two options?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it offers a fundamental choice. And I think the President believes that there's two ways to do this. One is to set aside this money to unburden further generations and to make sure that people can depend on things like Social Security and Medicare and to worry about the future, or there is sort of instant gratification way of just doing an across-the-board tax cut.
Q He doesn't believe both are possible.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think -- certainly not on the scale that some of the Republican leaders have talked about, no.
Q Do you believe that the public doesn't necessarily want a tax cut? The polls seems to indicate that.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the public wants us to pursue a policy of fiscal responsibility, fiscal discipline. I think the public understands that when this President took over -- and now with hindsight, we can say in a radical way changed the way our fiscal house is run -- we have gone from an era of deficits to a era of surpluses through making some tough choices. And I think what the public wants is they want that fiscal discipline and fiscal responsibility to continue. They don't want to go back to the old ways of if there's some money or even if you don't have some money, just use it any way that makes sense on any given day.
I think the public understands is that we have an opportunity here, the surplus gives us an opportunity to make choices for the long-term. And the President, I think, has articulated in a very compelling way choices that we can take now that use this surplus to make sure that Social Security, Medicare, private retirement will be there for generations to come in the future.
Q Joe, the President also mentioned new ideas about helping elderly women and helping the elderly also work even if they're on Social Security. Aren't these new spending programs -- doesn't it run contrary to the idea of beefing up Social Security and saving the money?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think what the President is doing is we're taking a hard and comprehensive look at how Social Security works. There's a lot about Social Security that works for millions of Americans. There are some issues that we believe don't work. We don't think we've done enough with elderly women, because the poverty rate among that group is too high. And we think that the working or earnings test that is now far too complicated and outdated and we think we can get rid of that without a significant cost. So we think as we look at the entire Social Security system, it's important to make sure that in addition to shoring up the solvency of the trust fund, we take whatever steps we need to do to reform the system so it works for people.
Q Do you think we can ever ask him how he feels and what he thinks?
MR. LOCKHART: You saw him last week.
Q She's asking about a new conference that many Presidents have held in the past. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Sam, tell me about that ancient custom. (Laughter.)
Q Yes, it was an ancient custom of Presidents who have answered questions and sometimes --
MR. LOCKHART: Way back when we didn't have all these commentators and pundits who are on 24 hours a day. They tell us how he thinks and feels.
Q I have also opposed these cable networks have gotten in the picture, too. (Laughter.)
Q Going back to Scott's question, is it the position of the lawyers that the difference between the President's testimony and Monica Lewinsky's testimony with regard to the sexual matters is a difference of recall and not a he-said, she-said type of situation?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure I understand the legal distinction. The point you're making, though, is that the two --
Q -- is of recall and not that she perjured herself and that he didn't.
MR. LOCKHART: No, because -- and that is the entire argument about perjury. And I think it is an important legal note that perjury is not based on he-said, she-said.
Q What he's saying is that your defense has to be one of two ways -- it's either Monica Lewinsky tells the truth and hence there's some recollection problem that she has in terms of when the affair started and the type of sex that she had; or when it comes to those two topics, she's not telling the truth. I mean, you can't have it both ways.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you understand the legal foundations of perjury, that is a simplistic version. But let me answer the question, which is the -- I have not heard a single word in this building utter the words that they think that anyone in this case has committed perjury.
Q So her testimony is truthful, their recollections are different.
MR. LOCKHART: I answered that question twice now. I don't need to go a third time.
Q Well, you know, her testimony is pretty graphic. How is it possible to have a different -- such a different recollection about a matter like that?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no idea.
Q To follow up on that, Joe --
Q Maybe Kendall's explaining it now.
MR. LOCKHART: We could all go watch, you'd have a better source.
Q I think you recently said that you couldn't imagine the White House would ever attack Monica Lewinsky's veracity. Do you still stand by that?
MR. LOCKHART: That's right.
Q Joe, what's the President's position on the NIH decision to fund embryo research on using the stem cells?
MR. LOCKHART: I will have to take that question. I know we've spoken about that from time to time, but if there is a new decision, I'm not aware of it.
Q Let me try on another subject briefly. Tomorrow is the 26th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. A number of abortion opponents, thousands of them, are expected tomorrow. Does the President or the White House have any message to them on this day, tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President and the White House respects their point of view and hopes that they will respect the law of the land on this issue.
Q Joe, when does the White House plan to file, or the administration plan to file the lawsuit against the tobacco companies --
MR. LOCKHART: I think the Attorney General is the proper person to put that question to, because this will be done at the Justice Department. And I think she answered that this morning with a noncommittal answer.
Q Joe, can you tell us more about Cheryl Mills and if she's going to be taking a more prominent role in the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: Cheryl has always played a very prominent role in the White House for every one who knows her. She has been a very important member of the President's Counsel's office since the day we began. She's played an enormously productive role on a wide variety of issues, but particularly on some policy issues like affirmative action, some of the legal issues surrounding that and some other issues. And I think the President when informed that she had done a very good job was not surprised at all because he knows her abilities, but was also pleased that now the world knows how smart and effective Cheryl Mills is.
Q Except for Imus.
Q I think the question about Cheryl Mills was, is it a sad commentary that because of her race she is standing out, and because of the issue of civil rights yesterday, that's why she is standing out?
MR. LOCKHART: I think she should stand out because of the effectiveness of the presentation she made. And I think others who dwell on other issues should do some soul-searching of their own.
Q That was Imus's point, apparently.
MR. LOCKHART: There you go. Imus dominates the briefing room.
Q Has the President heard from Yeltsin at all on this Star Wars --
MR. LOCKHART: For those who want to have a discussion on the national missile defense, Bob Bell, the Senior Director for Nonproliferation.
Q Thank you.
END 1:34 P.M. EST