THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
10:07 A.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Hello, everyone. I know it's just 10:00 a.m. in the morning, it's very early for this group. So we're going to try this as an experiment.
Q Except you don't know what the deal is yet. You don't know what it is, so how can you react to it?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to react to it. I've got a whole briefing book, though, of other issues that you're welcome to --
Q Do you stand by what you said yesterday?
MR. LOCKHART: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Q Which part? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: I'll stipulate to my own record. Well, not all of it, but --
Q In terms of depositions? In terms of witnesses?
MR. LOCKHART: As we have said over the last several days, there are some fundamental issues of fairness about how the President and his legal team can prepare for the next phase of this process. We also understand the arithmetic of the Senate, which is 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats. So, ultimately, the Republicans can do what they feel is best, even if it's not something that is fair to the President.
Q Do you take issue with the suggestion that has been advanced that if there is a guarantee that things will move quickly to an up or down vote, the White House will not call witnesses?
MR. LOCKHART: I believe, as we've said before, that we'll make a decision on whether we need witnesses -- at the point when the managers have finished their part of the process, we'll make a decision.
Q Well, what about the discovery issue -- do you need discovery now before you start the depositions, or can you wait until later?
MR. LOCKHART: As a fundamental issue of fairness and in any other legal proceeding, we would have a time for discovery now. Again, the arithmetic of the Senate will argue otherwise, so I don't believe that the Senate is going to allow that. But we will continue to work however the system is -- if it's tilted against us, we still have to work within that system.
Q Have you not demanded discovery before the deposition?
MR. LOCKHART: The Senate is setting forth their procedures. We don't have the ability to demand what we want. We have made our views known on what we want, and I will remind you what we've argued for and what 44 senators voted for yesterday was to dismiss this case. The 44 -- more than a third of the Senate voted yesterday that despite everything that the House managers have said, and taking into account everything the House managers said, they haven't presented a case that warrants removing the President.
So from this point on, we know that a third of the Senate is not going to vote to remove the President. And what was the first thing the Republican majority did after that vote? They voted along party lines to call witnesses, to extend this process.
So America, looking in on this process, now understands that this extension and the fact that this trial continues to go on, and the fact that the Senate continues to be diverted from their business, is the responsibility of the Republican majority.
Q May I just ask you, if the Senate agrees today to the unanimous consent resolution, and I think it would not carry unless the White House -- the Democratic side had also agreed -- to a time certain for ending the trial -- February 12th is commonly talked about -- under conditions of calling these three witnesses on videotape, how would you, at the end of that process of the videotape depositions, then have the ability to assert that you had to call witnesses? You could assert it, but if the Senate has agreed to unanimous consent resolution, wouldn't that be it?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the Senate is in discussions now about how to move a process forward that is fair to all parties, including the White House. We're going to have to wait to see what that agreement is.
Q Can we not conclude that if they agree to an unanimous consent resolution it means the White House lawyers have agreed to it; otherwise there would be some loyal Democrat who would object?
MR. LOCKHART: No. You can conclude if they reach an unanimous consent agreement, that Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans have agreed.
Q And let me just finish it up. So you think Senate Democrats would not object to a resolution, even if they knew White House lawyers objected?
MR. LOCKHART: I think Senate Democrats are fully aware of our views on this subject. They are presenting their own views to Senator Lott and the Senate Republicans, and they're trying to reach an agreement. They have not reached an agreement. And I'm not sure that what you think the agreement may be is what the agreement will be at the end of the day.
Q Joe, those Senate Democrats are also making clear that the White House is saying to them, look, we won't stand in the way of this process ending; we're willing to defer our rights in the hopes that nothing comes out of these depositions. Are you saying that is not the case?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not. But what I'm saying is, is I'm not going to stand here, in front of all of you, and do what they are not doing up in the Senate. They are negotiating behind closed doors. We have made our views known. I'm not going to articulate in any detail what those views are, except to say that we believe, at the end of the day, that the President has some fundamental rights, as part of his defense, and those ought to be protected.
Q Joe, how can you talk about concluding the trial when these three witnesses could say something? We haven't heard from them. They may say something that turns this around and throw new evidence in.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, that's part of the discussion that's going on up on the Hill, about what the scope of any new testimony will be, and that has to be worked out.
Q Joe, you said that a third of the Senators have made clear that they're not going to vote to remove the President. So why would you need to go to discovery or call witnesses for the White House, if it's clear that he can't possibly be convicted?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I would then turn that question on its head, which is: Why do we possibly need to go to witnesses? Why do we possibly need to go to discovery? Why do we possibly need to delay this trial any longer? The Senate now knows that they will not remove the President, and the Republican majority has to answer to the country of why they want to continue to extend this process.
Q But the Senate has voted to go ahead and --
MR. LOCKHART: They have indeed.
Q -- and depose witnesses.
MR. LOCKHART: So we will go forward.
Q So that's reality. What I'm saying is, what are you saying about the need to depose witnesses on the part of the White House if you've already stated clearly there's not a chance in the world the President can be convicted?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we'll continue to assert the fundamental rights of anyone in a judicial proceeding, and that includes the right to know the information that those who are trying to prosecute a case know.
Q You spoke of the Senate being diverted from its business. But isn't this a traditional time when they don't do much business, plus isn't this a very important piece of their business?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'll tell you -- I'm not a Senate historian so I can't really tell you whether this is a traditional time. I can tell you from looking at last year that the Senate, nor the House, could get their business done on time. They still have yet to pass a budget for last year. So I think they may need all the time they can get.
Q Joe, what's the White House reaction to the notion of a finding of fact or a bifurcated vote in which guilt or innocence would be decided?
MR. LOCKHART: I addressed this question yesterday, and I'll tell you, if you need any indication that that's a political play, just look at the fact that -- I think it was Senator Collins yesterday who went and made an impassioned plea in the gallery about how she needs more witnesses, she needs more facts in order to find the right way to the answer. She then left there and went to another press conference and said, we need this finding of facts because we know he's guilty of obstruction of justice; we know he's guilty of perjury. They want to have it both ways. They can't. The Constitution doesn't allow it.
Q Joe, you described the White House as being pretty much powerless to -- the Republicans have the vote to design the process as they see fit. When you say this finding of fact is unconstitutional, that's only if they plan to convict him as part of the trial, but they can pass a sense of the Senate resolution that the guy is guilty, that they could say it's our sense that he should be convicted.
MR. LOCKHART: They absolutely could. Outside the impeachment proceedings, they could.
Q Yes, but they could do it during the impeachment proceedings. They could do it before the up or down vote on the articles.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think there is --
Q And I'm just asking, what powers do you have to stop that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that -- again, I'm not an expert on how the Senate works, but constitutional issues I think are subject to the rule of the chair.
Q But why would that be a constitutional issue if they're not planning to convict him, they're just planning to pass this sense of the Senate resolution that he is guilty of these --
MR. LOCKHART: Because they're not talking about a sense of the Senate resolution here, because I don't believe under the rules that have been laid out you can do a sense of the Senate in the context of an impeachment proceeding. But what they're trying to do in a very political way is construct a procedure where they can convict the President, but not remove him. And you can put as many fancy words around that as possible, but the Constitution is clear; the Senate has one role, which is to convict and remove.
Q But, Joe, aren't they in a way just listening to what the White House argument has been? What Dale Bumpers said was that this is not proportionate. What the White House lawyers have said, look, even if he was guilty of these crimes, he ought not be thrown out of office for them. So they're essentially saying, if they were to follow this line, yes, you're right, we think he did it, but it's not deserving of him being removed from office.
MR. LOCKHART: Right, but that, under the Constitution, cannot be done in the context of an impeachment proceeding. The Senate is free to move forward with any kind of censure resolution that they see fit. The President has indicated that he is open to that. They can work out the details. But you can't -- again, I'll repeat what I said yesterday, which is the frustration here at the White House is that every time things seem to move against them, they try to change the rules.
I'll remind you that House Republicans argued as a constitutional matter that you cannot take up an issue of censure. And I don't remember a lot of Senate Republicans jumping to the White House defense at that point. Now we're in a different situation. Now they know by virtue of yesterday's vote that they don't have the votes. So they're trying to come up with some new political set of rules to get done, to somehow save face for the House managers and do something that the Constitution doesn't envisage.
Q Why does the White House believe that censure is constitutional?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the Senate can do something outside the context of this impeachment trial that's going on, which is a very particular thing, which expresses the will and the views of the Senate.
Q Wait a minute. You're saying that if censure was going to be taken up, in your view it would have to be taken up after the final vote on the articles? In other words, that would end the impeachment process --
MR. LOCKHART: I think what the articles do is -- there are two articles that have come over from the House, and the Senate has a choice, which is to convict and remove, or to not convict and not remove, allow the President to remain in office. Now, there are probably motions in order for -- to add, like I know there was some discussion on Byrd's motion. But I think to try to -- I mean, you talk about legalisms here -- to try to somehow say, which is something we've been accused of -- to somehow say, well, now that we know that we can't remove him, we're going to convict him anyway by changing the rules. You know, I just don't think that that's an argument that can be sustained.
Q I just want to get clear, because you have argued pretty strongly for censure as an alternative to this process.
MR. LOCKHART: No, we argued during the House --
Q Well, no, even after it, when you stood on the lawn --
MR. LOCKHART: -- that they should be allowed to consider it.
Q When you stood on the lawn after he was impeached, he was arguing for censure as an alternative to a Senate trial. So you're saying now that you can't bring up censure until after this is dismissed --
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I'll leave it to the parliamentarians of the world to tell you what can be ruled in and what can be ruled out of order. What I'm saying here is this finding of fact is a political effort for the Republicans, I think, to somehow save face for the House managers, to try to legitimize the process to date, and to do, in trying to convict, what they know they can't do under the rules.
Q Is the President open to signing a censure, joint resolution if Congress asks him to?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have anything new on the censure issue.
Q What's the old? Is he open to signing it?
MR. LOCKHART: You know what the old is. I refer you to about a hundred transcripts.
Q On this vote to convict separated from the removal, I don't understand what your concern is. Are you concerned that senators might vote to convict the President, including those who would not remove him?
MR. LOCKHART: My concern is that every time we turn around, the rules get changed, and they're done in a political way. And it's time to put the politics aside and get this over with. The Senate has a constitutional duty, now, to convict and remove the President, or to move forward. They have a choice. The Republicans have made the choice that they want to keep this around for a while. We're going to be doing this for another couple of weeks. That's their choice. They need to explain why they're doing that, but they can't have it both ways.
Q But what rules have been changed? There are no rules after yesterday's vote.
MR. LOCKHART: Pardon?
Q What rules are being changed? After yesterday's vote, the road map ran out. There are no rules.
MR. LOCKHART: No, there are rules. There's still a Senate Resolution 16, which governs this process.
Q Joe, the only threat to that bifurcated --
MR. LOCKHART: I'll take another side of the room.
Q When the President gets up on the Hill this morning for the memorial service, he'll probably bump into a few of these folks. What message is he going to convey to the senators when he meets them individually, in the context of this memorial service.
MR. LOCKHART: I expect that he'll share some very valuable and treasured memories of Lawton Chiles as a governor and a close friend.
Q Well, what about privately, when he sees these folks?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that's why he's going up. I think that's what he'll discuss.
Q Joe, I know you all are outraged about unfairness, depositions. But is there not some sense of relief of having that less than two-thirds vote on the record?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's a very important statement that the Senate made. The Senate -- well over one-third of the Senate said, even if you accept everything the House managers said and argued, that --
Q But this doesn't mean you're relieved --
MR. LOCKHART: -- that this should not go forward, that they should put an end to this. I think the burden now is on the Republican majority to articulate to their colleagues and to the American public why we're still doing this, why each --
Q Joe, Joe --
Q Is there a sense of relief in the White House at all about having that on the record?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there is certainly -- there is no one here that was surprised by that vote.
Q Is there a sense of relief, Joe, that instead of 10 or 15 witnesses appearing live, that there will only be three witnesses videotaped and then possibly live?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there is a sense that, because the rules get made up as we go along, that the final rules haven't been set yet. So I'll withhold judgment.
Q Joe, I'm still not clear on discovery. Are you still asking for access to the House documents?
MR. LOCKHART: We still believe that before depositions go forward we should have some period of discovery to level the playing field. What I'm trying to express is we also understand the reality of the world -- we ain't going to get it.
Q Why not?
MR. LOCKHART: Because the Republicans don't want to give it to us.
Q Did they turn you down?
Q What about the House Democrats -- the Senate Democrats? Do you think that they all wanted to give that to you, they just couldn't convince the Republicans?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the reality is the people know the arithmetic; there's 55 votes. You can't get everything you want in a process where you don't have the votes.
Q The finding of fact -- it sounds like your complaint on that is a lot of the procedure and the way that the -- it's not constitutional. But in some ways the finding of fact and censure are very close to being the same thing, they just have different labels. So what is the difference fundamentally with the content of finding of fact as opposed to censure that you have a problem with?
MR. LOCKHART: I would refer you to the political wizards in the Republican Party who thought up this idea, because they seem to believe that you can convict without removal by doing this. And we're going to continue going down this path of playing politics with this. We think it's time for that to stop and get on with it.
Q Joe, for clarity, did you just say in the previous answer that the White House is asking for a period of discovery?
MR. LOCKHART: I said that we've made clear that we believe we should have discovery. I am not going to get into what case we put forward to the Senate leadership. We accept the idea that we're not going to get it.
Q But one of the reasons may be that the Democrats in the Senate agree with the Republicans on some further way to proceed in this trial by unanimous consent. So it would be both parties then, if that happens, that go forward.
MR. LOCKHART: That's correct.
Q So if you then decide not to assert some defense, it would be because both parties have made the --
MR. LOCKHART: That well could happen. We may find out this afternoon. That doesn't mean that that is something --
Q What reason did they give you for that?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me finish -- that may well be at the end of the day that they move forward, and we certainly don't expect to be given discovery before the depositions. They're talking about doing them this weekend. That doesn't mean that that's fair.
Q You're just keeping your options open, in other words?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there is certainly a lot of discussion going on, and once it gets resolved we may have more to say.
Q -- if something new comes up from the testimony. If there is nothing new, then you wouldn't need to proceed with witnesses or discovery?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we'll see how the Senate moves forward with this process and what the procedure will be.
Q Do I understand one thing, Joe, on the fact-finding or bifurcated vote, or whatever you want to call -- I understand your point that the goalpost keeps moving, so you can't ever figure out where you finish this process. On the other hand, is there any danger to the President from that, other than the fact that some Democrats would vote that he's guilty but not remove him?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, let me ask you this: What would happen if they changed their mind between the votes and passed a new procedure through on a 55-45 that said, if you vote to convict you do remove. What about that? That would be a danger. That would be a problem for us.
Q What about the stories that there is a split in the President's defense team?
MR. LOCKHART: I've talked to the members of the defense team. They were as bewildered as I was that the newspapers were talking about a split between them.
Q It is not true that some people want to end this quickly and others worry about the collateral business --
MR. LOCKHART: Everyone on the White House legal team and the White House political team want to end this quickly in a way that protects the President's rights.
Q Joe, where would the President be left legally if he were found guilty and not removed from office? Where would he be left legally after he leaves office?
MR. LOCKHART: That's an interesting question that you might want to put to those who might want to prosecute the President.
Q Well, where do the lawyers here --
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't asked them about that.
Q Joe, did the President have any reaction to the votes yesterday?
MR. LOCKHART: No, not that I'm aware of. I talked to a couple of his advisors who walked in and told him after the vote, and they just said that he wasn't surprised that they had followed party lines.
Q Following up on that, from the beginning you've urged bipartisanship. Given that position, did the White House welcome the votes of Senator Feingold?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think we welcome a vote for someone who wants to extend the process, but we don't have any particular concern about the vote.
Q Joe, on Social Security, Chairman Greenspan again this morning condemned the President's plan to invest part of the surplus in the stock market. Any reaction from the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I'm glad you asked the question, because I think what he spent a good bit of his time talking about was how the President's proposal to reserve the surplus and pay down the debt was a very positive step forward and fundamentally the right decision. And I think it's a very important validation of this program that the Chairman of the Fed -- now, on the issue of investing in the stock market, the Chairman's views have been known for some time. We respect his views. But we do think that we can construct this in a way that's limited, that limits the amount that goes in, and creates the kind of structure, similar to the Fed, that's independent of the White House, that allows professional money managers to do the investing, that will bring us the higher returns we think the system needs.
Q But he says that's impossible. He says it can never be insulated from political interference.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, we respect very much Chairman Greenspan's views. We appreciate the validation on the overall policy proposal we've made. But we will disagree on this one point.
Q Chairman Greenspan also said that merely using the surplus to try and shore up the Social Security system is not going to be enough, that the system is chronically underfunded and we've got to do something that cuts benefits or raises taxes.
MR. LOCKHART: We could not agree with him more on the fact that we need to do more. The President has made clear that he needs to work with Congress in order to reform -- in addition to reserving the surplus and paying down the debt, we need to do more to reform the system. And we look forward to having that debate with Congress.
Q How wedded are you to the idea that the government would have to invest this money in the stock market? I mean, there are other ways to invest money besides into the government that would probably satisfy Mr. Greenspan's concerns.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President believes that the proposal he puts forward is the best way to do this. Again, we look forward to working with Congress on implementing the policy proposals.
Q But you've also lost the support of some key congressional Democrats. Charlie Rangel doesn't like the idea any better than Bill Archer does. So how does the White House respond to the fact that some key congressional Democrats don't like the idea?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think -- I haven't seen all of the statements that Rangel has -- I'm not familiar with any statements he's made --
Q Most of the left wing of the party thinks that it's an equally bad --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, you ask me about Charlie Rangel, and I haven't seen any statements that he's made that have been critical of it. I'll be glad to review them if they are. I think the important point to remember here is many key members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, have fundamentally endorsed this proposal to reserve the surplus for Social Security, to pay down the debt, as a fiscally responsible way to shore up Social Security. And if you go around town, there's a lot of people who, for 10, 15, 20 years have been the actual conscience of Social Security -- people like Mr. Reischauer and Henry Aaron and those -- and they all have come out and said that they believe that this is the right approach.
Now, we're going to work out the details with Congress. That's the appropriate way to do this. But I think it's important that the President has taken this step, in the State of the Union and subsequent events, and we're moving this process forward.
Q Joe, does the President believe it's time for the administration to impose an autonomy agreement vis-a-vis Kosovo, and what reason do you have to think that Milosevic might agree to an imposition of an autonomy agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we think that it's very important that we move towards an interim settlement that will end the fighting and move towards self-rule in Kosovo. And we'll continue to, on the diplomatic track, put pressure on Milosevic and the Kosovar Albanians to reach an agreement. But we will also continue, on the NATO track, to use the credible threat of force to make him comply with the agreements he made in October.
Q Do you anticipate an activation order vis-a-vis NATO?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there's an activation order in place now for air strikes and an air campaign. And we expect, if he is unwilling to comply, that those threats may become very real.
Q Do you envision a new deadline for that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there's a lot of talk going on now in Europe. I think the NATO ambassadors, the permanent representatives, are meeting today. The Contact Group meets tomorrow. Secretary Albright will be in Europe later today or tomorrow. There's intense political and military, through NATO, pressure being put on the parties. We want to make it clear that President Milosevic has to come into compliance, and has to open up and allow international bodies to examine the massacre site.
Q There's evidence now that that massacre was directly ordered by Belgrade. Is there no penalty for that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I can't comment on the intelligence matters, or the intelligence that underpins some of those reports. But I will, again, call on President Milosevic to allow the international bodies to come in and do an independent investigation and find the truth.
Q How can you investigate it now? I mean, it's probably been whitewashed. Why would there be anything left to find at this stage?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the independent bodies believe there's some value in continuing to try to gain access to the site.
Q Does the imposition of an autonomy order, Joe, imply the use of U.S. forces on the ground, as it did in Bosnia?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, Scott, I don't know what you mean by an "imposition of an autonomy order," so --
Q I'm curious, on Brazil, did President Clinton get a briefing from Secretary Rubin yesterday and, if so, what were the results of the briefing? The second thing -- steel imports are down in December 32 percent. Steel import from Japan are down 48 percent. The President has threatened trade actions if these imports weren't cut. Is that sufficient to avoid unilateral trade --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me do Brazil first. The President was briefed on the situation in Brazil yesterday by Secretary Rubin and some of his senior White House advisors. This was just the latest in a series of meetings to keep the President up to date on the latest developments in Brazil. We believe -- and the President was pleased -- that Brazil has made some progress on the fiscal package that President Cardoso put forward, but in order to move forward, they have to show us a sustained commitment to implement these reforms over time.
On steel, I understand that there are some steel numbers out, but by law I'm not allowed to comment on them until 11:00 a.m. It is not 11:00 a.m., so I will say -- this is what they told me I could say: The Department of Commerce is releasing new data on Japan's steel exports in December to the United States at 10:00 a.m., but we cannot comment on those numbers until 11:00 a.m. In general, though, data from any month, good or bad, does not make a trend. The President has made clear that if steel imports from Japan do not return to pre-crisis levels, we are prepared to act.
That is all I can say.
Q Joe, for clarity, if I may go back to this -- the United States is not considering whether to impose an autonomy agreement on Belgrade?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know what that means, so I can't tell you whether we're considering or not.
Q We're talking about Dayton, we're talking about Bosnia, we're talking about going that route, imposing on Belgrade the autonomy of Kosovo.
MR. LOCKHART: I can't comment because I don't know what you mean.
Q Can you say whether the threat of force means only air strikes?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the ACTORD now is only air strikes, yes.
Q Getting back to Brazil for just a second -- you said that they need to have a sustained commitment to reform, but are there any specific plans in the works to accelerate IMF disbursements, or anything like that? Because they have a crisis at the moment.
MR. LOCKHART: On specific plans I'd have to refer you to the Treasury Department.
Q Joe, on Iraq any readout on today's incident in the no-fly zone?
MR. LOCKHART: Do we have anything new?
COLONEL CROWLEY: We had one aircraft painted this morning. We also had some aircraft respond to some AAA fire.
Q Mr. Holbrooke -- is it correct that the Justice Department is about to wind up its investigation or make some arrangement with him to clear --
MR. LOCKHART: We look forward to the Justice Department winding up the review that they're doing. The President believes Ambassador Holbrooke is a diplomat of enormous talent and skill. We look forward to sending his name up to the Senate so that he can join the foreign policy team in a very important time in our country.
Q When will that be?
Q Did I understand P.J. to say that the American aircraft were fired on, not just painted by the radar?
MR. LOCKHART: There was AAA fire and one radar painting.
Q Joe, back to Latin America. Yesterday you were going to find out the response to the President's plan to expand the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Any readout on that today?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. The President made clear in the State of the Union that a high priority for him this year is passing -- is the Caribbean Basin Initiative. There is some discussions, ongoing, whether the best place for that is in the budget or in the supplemental. Those discussions are ongoing; I'll let you know around budget time how that comes out.
Q Is he going to Athens in November?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I'll find out. I'll find out.
Q Joe, why is it okay when the Democrats vote as a bloc to keep the President from being convicted, but if Republicans vote as a bloc, they're engaged in political gamesmanship?
MR. LOCKHART: I didn't accuse them of political gamesmanship on that. On the issue of the finding of fact, I think that is about politics. I didn't suggest --
Q Why couldn't it be a genuine feeling that they think the President is guilty, but, in your view, they don't think it rises to the level of removing him from office?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that -- let me take them separately because I have raised the question here about, upon learning that well over a third of the Senate thought this should be dismissed, rather than moving to find a way to end this thing, they decided to move forward by calling witnesses. So that is a position that they need to defend. They need to articulate the reasons for, and try to help the American people understand why this trial will continue to go on, despite the fact that the die is cast by yesterday's vote.
As far as the second issue, I think -- at various times in this process, people have sought to, as I put it before, dumb down what we're doing; that somehow impeachment in some part of this during the House proceedings really was just a -- it was really just sort of throwing things over to the Senate for their consideration. It really wasn't that important. And then we found out when they passed impeachment that within moments Republican leaders went out and thought the President should resign, that it was so important.
I think there is some concern that games will continue to be played along those lines. And this is a pretty serious matter. I don't know that there is a senator in that body who will deal with something more serious, and it should be taken seriously.
Q Will he resign?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Joe, one of your first objections at the beginning of this process was you should know the rules going into it, that there should be some understanding of how witnesses would work. And then that kind of went by the wayside, and the second major objection seemed to be if even one witness was called all bets were off, there would be a no-holds-barred effort by the White House to clear the President's name. Now that seems to have gone by the boards and the new thing seems to be, if there is a split vote, with the facts on one hand and then the removal on the other, then all bets are off. How can it be credible for the White House to make different threats time after time?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think the issue here is credibility. We understand the arithmetic of the Senate. The Senate majority has decided to proceed along these ways. They have taken steps that we don't think are necessarily fair to the White House, but we understand they control the process and we'll move forward.
Q There is some issue of credibility because what you're saying to us publicly here is not what we're being told the that Democrats in the Senate are being told about what the White House wants.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, let me be clear what I'm telling you. What we would like in an ideal world is very different than the world of the Senate. And we understand that in order to fully prepare to go for these depositions, a period of discovery would be the most useful for the President. We understand we're not going to get that. So we're living in the real world, not in some fantasy world. And this isn't about threats or credibility. It's about trying to work within a system the best way you can in order to protect the President's rights. That's what we're doing.
Q Is it fair to characterize, Joe, that because you understand you're not going to get it, you're not going to ask for it? Is that --
MR. LOCKHART: It's fair to characterize we don't believe we're going to get it. I'm just not going to get into the discussions that our lawyers are having about this process. These are going on up on the Hill, behind closed doors. I don't think that the participants should be discussing it. I don't think I should be discussing it.
Q Surely, later today, if there is an agreement, you'll let us know how the President feels about it?
MR. LOCKHART: Surely. Don't call me Shirley. (Laughter.)
Q Joe, did the White House send a reply to Trent Lott's letter asking the President to answer questions?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q No reply at all?
MR. LOCKHART: No, it didn't seek a reply.
Q Joe, is there a time period that the White House has asked for, aside from some sort of open-ended discovery? Did you ask for like a week or two weeks? Is there something that you asked for --
MR. LOCKHART: We have made our views on this well-known to the leadership of the Senate. I'm not going to get into what, in particular, those views are.
Q Did you ask for a discovery period at all before the witnesses were deposed?
MR. LOCKHART: Pardon?
Q You did ask for discovery before the witnesses were deposed?
MR. LOCKHART: Again, I'm not going to get into the details of that. We don't run around making request generally for things we know we're not going to get. We're dealing in the real world here. We're hoping that at the end of this day that we'll have a process that will protect the rights of the President.
Q Are your lawyers up on the Hill now?
MR. LOCKHART: No, they're right down here, probably watching me and cringing right now.
Q Is one of the dangers about the finding of fact that it would be used in the case against the President after he leaves office?
MR. LOCKHART: That is a possibility. But I, not being a lawyer, can't really speculate on how that could be used.
Q Thank you.
END 10:42 A.M. EST