THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
12:05 P.M. EST
Q Is the President going to Arkansas?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, as the President indicated when he returned and made a statement, he's quite concerned about the damage and the devastation caused by the multiple tornadoes. He'll be looking for a recommendation from FEMA Director James Lee Witt on whether his traveling there would get in the way of relief and repair efforts. So I expect he'll get an assessment before the day is out and we'll let you know.
Q Would the President's view, or your view, that there will now not be witnesses called in the Senate trial and, in fact, they'll move expeditiously to end the trial?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's the President's view and the White House Counsel's Office view is that decision has been deferred until Monday. It is our belief and our hope that however the Senate decides to move forward in their wisdom that they find an expeditious and fair way to bring this to a conclusion.
Q Well, would that be to go ahead and vote on the articles of impeachment without further delay?
MR. LOCKHART: That certainly would fit the expeditious criteria. And if they could -- I think we would look forward to the day that they could find a way to put this behind us.
Q The President and the First Lady have always zealously guarded their own privacy and particularly that of Chelsea. So it was striking to hear Senator Bumpers talk with such specificity about the family problems. Had he cleared those remarks in advance, or were these improvisational?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think Senator Bumpers certainly had access to the arguments we've made through our briefs. But the statement he made was something particularly on that issue that he made based on his personal feelings and his personal knowledge and longstanding friendship with the President and his family.
Q Is that okay for them, from the Clinton's perspective, that somebody would talk about their personal family situation?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think in talking to the President about it, his reaction was that they've known each other for 25 years, he understands the difficulty that he's caused for his families, and that Senator Bumpers had added an element of personal -- a personal element to his comments. And he thought it was appropriate.
Q Bumpers said -- if I may -- it was very eloquent, maybe, but very tough. He said, the President would rather have died than to have done this.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the President has expressed similar feelings over the past year about the damage he's caused to his family.
Q Senator Bumpers' statement yesterday that the President should have "thought it all out beforehand, just as Adam and Eve should have" -- how does the President believe that Adam and Eve should have, since they didn't know the difference between right and wrong?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think that's what he said.
Q Yes, he did, that's what he said, that he should have thought it --
MR. LOCKHART: Lester, let's spend part of tomorrow reviewing the transcript together -- that would be great.
Q Has the President been speaking to any senators personally on the issue of impeachment during the course of the trial? And if not, why not?
MR. LOCKHART: No, the President has, as a matter of normal course of business, spoken to senators over the last couple of weeks, from legislative issues, budget issues, State of the Union issues. And I'm certain in the course of those conversations the subject of impeachment has come up.
Q What has the President's message been to these senators on the subject of impeachment?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President's message to the senators is something that he talks about with the senators. And if they want to talk about it, they can -- but I'm not going to.
Q Can you tell us what the President said on the impeachment, the one question he got in the New York Times interview?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I think the interview reflected it. I'd be glad to release the transcript.
Q No, I mean on impeachment.
Q There's a direct quote?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. And it's in the paper this morning.
Q Joe, there's no quote in the paper.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, there is.
Q There is? There wasn't in my paper.
MR. LOCKHART: In a story written by Mr. James Bennet about the very issue we're talking about, about the family and -- I'll release the transcript.
Q So the quote from that interview is in Bennet's piece.
MR. LOCKHART: That is correct.
Q I see. I see.
Q Did the President agree with the characterization by Senator Bumpers of the ordeal for his family?
MR. LOCKHART: I'll let the President's words speak for themselves and I'll release that transcript to you. But it is in the story this morning.
Q Did the President confer with Senator Bumpers --
Q Now that you've offered your defense, the President gave a State of the Union that was fairly well received, do you feel optimistic about things now, that you've put this behind you?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President is gratified that his State of the Union was so well received. I think he believes it's important, as I've said many times from here, that he remain focused on the people's business. And that's what the State of the Union was all about.
As far as our ability to predict the future, I think we have from time to time during this process, starting in the House, gone through periods where a consensus has developed that would be in the best interest of this country to put this behind us. Unfortunately, a consensus has never developed on how to do that. We hope that the Senate in their wisdom can reach that consensus and we can move on with the people's business.
Q Joe, in the State of the Union speech, the President mentioned that in June he would be meeting with other world leaders. My question is does this mean that he believes the trial will last through June or was he announcing his acquittal before the trial's even over?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think he was announcing that he would attend the G-8 meeting this year like he's done for the last six years.
Q Joe, just to clarify. Did the President talk at all with Senator Bumpers before the Senator made his speech?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I know of while he was preparing the speech. I think the President did speak to him early in the week as we reached out to him as this -- with the idea that he could join the team and make the statement. So I think on Monday he spoke to him. I'm not aware of any specific conversations between then and the speech, but I can't rule them out. I didn't ask directly.
Q Bumpers raised this issue and particularly the question about the President's daughter Chelsea and the way the President feels about that. So how does the President himself feel about his daughter and whatever it is she feels about this?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me paraphrase what the President said when he was asked about that last night. He said, in effect, that Senator Bumpers knew him and his family for 25 years and he thought was trying to add or inject a personal sense to this whole proceeding for the benefit of the senators. He also said that it had been hard for his family -- for his wife and his daughter; that they had worked very hard at this; that he believed that they were through the worst, but they would continue to work hard because they loved each other very much.
Q Joe, does it appear to the White House based on statements made by some of the senators yesterday, especially Republicans, that sentiment now seems to be moving away from calling witnesses and towards a short end to --
MR. LOCKHART: Again, I would only repeat, and it's as responsive as I can be to this, that we've been at points before where there's been a consensus to end this. We've lacked any mechanism for finding a consensus for how to do that. So again, it's our hope that the Senate in their wisdom can look at the presentations that both sides have made, look at the way that both sides respond to the questions that they put forward and find a way to end this expeditiously.
Q Joe, some of the Democrats yesterday spoke of informal discussions going on about some way of bringing closure here. Is the White House involved in any of those discussions?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Not at all?
MR. LOCKHART: No. Not that I'm aware of. I read with interest stories in the paper about informal discussions, but I'm not aware of a role that we're playing in those.
Q Joe, the President told the Times he stays awake at night worried about the possibility of germ warfare, but he's still not, as you say, paying that close attention to his own problems. Doesn't that at some point strain credibility?
MR. LOCKHART: I urge you to look at my words and not try to read more into them or less into them. I have never said that the President's not concerned about this. I've never said that the President's not informed about it. But I have also said that he's not going to sit in his office all day and watch the proceedings or allow himself to be diverted from the reason that he's here, which is to do the people's business.
Q Joe, there was a story that was going around the markets yesterday that Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan had talked to President Clinton about extending his term beyond June 2000. Do you know if there was a conversation between Greenspan and Clinton and can you debunk that story or support it?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware, nor had I heard that. You should check with Chairman Greenspan's office on that.
Q As far as you know there's been no conversations between the President and Chairman Greenspan on --
MR. LOCKHART: I can't tell you when the last time they spoke was, but I've never heard anything like that as far as conversation.
Q Joe, the President announced today a big increase in spending to defend against weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, and he also said in that interview that there's a high probability that there could be such an impact in the next few years. Is there any new information that's come along to spark this concern?
MR. LOCKHART: No. Let me -- the President has since the first day he came into office was very interested in making sure that we both prepare for and work to deter this kind of threat, whether it be chemical, biological or the increase threat of cyber terrorism. I think in his speech today he detailed some of the things he has done and some of the things he will or is proposing that we do. So this isn't something that has become -- that has just entered sort of his policy or areas of the concern he has for policy.
I think one of the things that he did mention today and he believes has been a big step forward is the consolidation of how the government deals with these issues. I think, as he said, it was a legitimate criticism 18 months, two years ago, that we had 12 different offices around the government that dealt with these issues. Now there's one. We have a national coordinator. We have a center at the Justice Department that deals with these. And I think the President, as he stated, believes we must remain vigilant on the threats that face us, both to prepare for anything that could happen and to deter those who would consider using these threats against the American people.
Q But, I mean, if someone were to launch a biological attack on the United States it would be very serious. Would the United States consider ever taking preemptive action?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't think I'm going to get into the range of options that are available or that might be used. But I think the President's speech today should demonstrate his commitment to taking all steps necessary to deter any threat against the American people.
Q Joe, as the defense rested its case in chief yesterday, how was the President briefed on how things went, what was his reaction? Did he watch the Bumpers speech on television?
MR. LOCKHART: He got a short briefing yesterday on Mr. Kendall's presentation. And I think he watched the bulk of Senators Bumpers' presentation. He had had a break in his schedule and sat down and watched a bit of that in the dining room. I think he was interested in seeing how Senator Bumpers approached this. He's obviously a longtime fan of the oratory skills of Senator Bumpers, going way back to the days of Governor Bumpers and even before that. I think was he impressed with the arguments that he made and was gratified that Senator Bumpers would use his skill, wisdom and institutional knowledge in the President's defense.
Q Did they speak afterwards, the President and Senator Bumpers?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me check on that.
Q Was it the bulk or a bit of that? You said he watched the bulk and then you said he watched a bit of that.
MR. LOCKHART: I meant the bulk.
Q Joe, as Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, does the President believe it is equal justice in the law that midshipman Michael Pilson (phonetic) has been expelled from the Naval Academy for fornicating in Bancroft Hall with Midshipman Hanna Kessler, (phonetic) who was not expelled?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that the President is aware of the facts of that case. I am certainly not.
Q It's page one of The Washington Times, also reported in The Washington Post.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, that probably ensures that I'm not --
Q As Commander isn't he concerned?
Q -- this relatively dry assessment of the President's looking at Senator Bumpers' speech -- it's a very emotional speech. You said he was impressed with the Senator's arguments, gratified the Senator would use his skill, wisdom and institutional knowledge. Tell us how the President was moved by that.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think -- I mean, the President is very familiar with the speaking style of Senator Bumpers. I think he appreciated the lighthearted and humorous moments, as did -- it sounded, from watching it on television -- most of the Senate did. I mean, we've sat through six days of this and it's the first time there was someone who got a laugh intentionally, which was, I think, good for the viewing audience.
You know, he believed that Senator Bumpers made a compelling case. And he made a case that was slightly different than those that had gone before him, that had argued primarily on the legal front. I think Senator Bumpers sought to look the Senate in the eye and ask them, and implore them, that now was the time to do the right thing, to end what he called, this nightmare. And, you know, let America get a good night's sleep, I think, was one of the lines. And I think the President was impressed --
Q Forgive me for interrupting -- where did the idea for Bumpers come from? Whose idea was that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there was some sense -- I don't know any particular person -- there was some sense that we had a very effective case to present on the law, the Constitution, the facts, but there was not someone going in on our side that had any institutional knowledge. There was no -- on our team there's no former senator in the Counsel's Office. Our lawyers are quite effective, but we thought it would be very useful -- and I think we'll let senators make the ultimate judgment -- but we think it was useful to have someone who knew the President well, but, more importantly, knew the Senate well and could make a case to those who were going to sit in judgment in this case.
Q Was it the President's idea, Joe? Did the President say to his legal team, look, let's get Dale Bumpers, he'll do a great job?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so.
Q Bumpers strongly suggested that if the President were removed, chaos might result. Does the President believe that if he's removed and Mr. Gore becomes President, in fact chaos, dark night --
MR. LOCKHART: I have never had a discussion about what would happen after the President's removed with the President, so I can't answer that question.
Q If I may just follow up, Scott. It's much remarked on in this morning's reportage of Bumpers' speech that particular angle of Bumpers' argument. And I think it's legitimate to wonder whether the President believed his removal might result in chaos and great disruption.
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's equally legitimate to just let you continue wondering.
Q Does America have anything to fear from a Gore administration, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: I think America has a lot to look forward to, but they've got another couple years to wait.
Q Forgive me if you went through this already, but did the President know that Bumpers was going to raise the personal family issue?
MR. LOCKHART: No, not that I'm aware of. I don't believe that there was anyone here who, beyond talking about the general outlines of the case, knew how Senator Bumpers was going to approach his presentation. I think it was a highly personal effort to weigh out the important facts as he saw it before the Senate and the important obligations as he saw it -- he thought the Senate should take up.
Q Did the President think it was appropriate, though, after hearing about it or watching it?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, as the President said -- and you'll see the transcript right after the briefing when we get it out -- that he thought that what Senator Bumpers was trying to do was to bring a human element, an element of compassion to what had otherwise previously been a dry recitation of legal facts and the law.
Q Joe, a small point -- who was with the President when he watched Bumpers on TV?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I think he may have been watching by himself. I'm not sure.
Q Joe, we've taken a crack at this before without much success, but I'll try again today --
MR. LOCKHART: It's Friday.
Q Any clue what's going to happen on Monday, what is going to happen when the Senate begins to consider motions?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the Senate has laid out a procedure where they'll deal with a series of motions. What happens between now and Monday, I don't think anybody here knows, nor do we know precisely what will happen Monday.
Q If there's a vote to subpoena witnesses, does the White House have a list of witnesses it will put forward?
MR. LOCKHART: We're going to follow the rules here. We'll see if the Senate in their wisdom decides to move forward with witnesses. If they do, we will deal with that matter then.
Q Joe, this has been a very difficult personal year for the President. He's going to be meeting the Pope on Tuesday. What is his state of mind on meeting the Pope?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President is always anxious to spend time and share views with the Pope. He's very much looking forward to next week's visit and is gratified that the Pope has chosen once again to come and visit our country.
Q Will they have a private meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
I've also got the week ahead here before we all -- if I can do that.
Q One more thing, Joe. Did Chuck Ruff for Greg Craig read what Bumpers was going to say or -- I mean, did anybody review what Bumpers was going to say?
MR. LOCKHART: Say again?
Q Did anybody review --
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Not even Chuck Ruff?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q High-level meetings have been going on between India, Pakistan and the U.S. on -- and other affairs -- presidential visit can take place if the right moments are there. Also the President mentioned in his address to the union -- a meeting between India and Pakistan. Now, during his visit to Russia is he going to make this case that Russia should pressure India to sign --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry, during his visit where?
Q Is he going to mention this to President Yeltsin or he has spoken with him, that Russia should pressure India to sign --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any particular knowledge of something going on there. Obviously, our position on non-proliferation, CTBT and other issues are well-known. We have laid out a very clear path, we believe, for both India and Pakistan to take. And I think it's clear also the benefits for both countries in taking them. But I don't have anything more specific than that.
Q Has he heard back from Yeltsin on the ABM?
Q If I could follow -- Pakistan is also ready to fire another missile, and during this -- crisis, nuclear testings, and the U.S. is trying to hold nuclear missile testings on all them. But still, Pakistan is trying to test another missile.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think, again, both parties know exceedingly clearly what our position is and how we believe both countries can move forward in a way that mutually benefits to them and to our relationships with both countries.
Q Has the President heard back from his letter?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so. I don't know that --
Q What was the question?
MR. LOCKHART: Has the President heard back on the letter he sent to Yeltsin. I don't think the letter was designed to elicit a response. It was more of a, as we described yesterday, a heads-up on some of the things that were going to be in the State of the Union.
Q Joe, given the argument the White House has made that there is really no way to know if two-third of the senators have voted for conviction on a specific charge because of the way the charges are structured, and then Senator Bumpers' argument yesterday that there would be havoc following a verdict to remove the President -- does that mean that the President might challenge such a decision by the Senate, say in the Supreme Court, or somewhere else?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't -- I'm not aware that there is an available legal challenge. I think this is the one trial that goes on where there's no appeal.
Q Week ahead?
MR. LOCKHART: The week ahead. Does that mean I'm almost out of here?
Q How about us?
MR. LOCKHART: Saturday and Sunday, the President has no public schedule at this time.
Q What does that mean, "at this time"?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, who wants to take a crack at "at"? (Laughter.) You know what it means.
Monday morning, the President will host a welfare event at Presidential Hall. Quiz: Anybody know where that is?
Q It's 450 OEOB.
MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.
Q When did it get the new name? And why?
MR. LOCKHART: I was informed yesterday it had been renamed following the renovations. I didn't know it was being renovated. But 450 Old EOB is now called, by executive decree, Presidential Hall.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have the slightest idea.
Q Is it call Presidential Clinton Hall?
Q When was this done?
MR. LOCKHART: Sometime this week? I'm kidding about executive order. Just a joke.
In the evening, he and the First Lady will host --
Q Wait a minute, what is this?
MR. LOCKHART: It was renamed -- they did some renovations in there; when they reopened it, they renamed it Presidential Hall.
Q Who's "they"?
MR. LOCKHART: They -- the excellent people that run administration here at the White House.
Q Is that for the whole building or --
MR. LOCKHART: No, just for 450.
Q And what are they doing that evening --
MR. LOCKHART: We're talking about 450 Old EOB, Wolf -- don't interrupt us. Sorry. They are doing Monday evening, the fifth millennium lecture series. Pool coverage. This lecture will feature Professors Natalie Davis and Martin Marty, who will present a broad view of the millennium in a historical and religious context.
On Tuesday, the President and the First Lady will travel to St. Louis to greet Pope John Paul II. There will be an arrival ceremony for the Pope and the President and they'll hold a brief -- there will be a meeting with them. I expect there to be a pool opportunity at the top of that. Back at about 5:00 p.m.
Q Joint news conference?
MR. LOCKHART: It's not written here, Sam. I'd be for it, but it's not written here.
On Wednesday the President will participate in an event at the White House to highlight support for the President's Social Security plan, which he addressed in the State of the Union. Later that afternoon, he'll meet briefly with the President-elect Chavez of Venezuela and will host his annual dinner for the CINCs -- CINCs, commanders-in-chief.
Thursday, the President will hold an event to announce his new work force development initiative. Don't have a time, place or location -- place and location would be the same, I guess. Later that day he will host the Detroit Red Wings at a ceremony to celebrate its team's Stanley Cup victory. Open press, including Mr. Fournier, who takes a special interest in that.
Friday the President will host the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors breakfast at the White House. No public schedule as of now for Saturday and Sunday. See you Monday.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:33 P.M. EST