THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Brighton, Massachusetts) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release February 2, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART Jackson Mann Elementary School Brighton, Massachusetts
4:20 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon. Let me do a couple quick announcements, travel announcements, before we get to your questions. On Friday, the President will travel to Atlanta to attend a dinner honoring Hank Aaron's 65th birthday and the 25th anniversary of his breaking the home run record. The President will depart the White House at 5:15 and will return to the White House around 1:00 a.m.
On Tuesday, February 9th, which is next Tuesday, the President will travel to Wintergreen, Virginia to address the House Democratic Issues Conference. In keeping with past practice the conference is closed. The pool will accompany the President for protective purposes. We expect that the President will depart in the late morning and will return to the White House by mid-afternoon. That's all I have as far as travel announcements. Questions.
Q Joe, Senator Lieberman says that he might be able to support some kind of finding of fact proposal that would be a kind of censure of the President's actions. Do you think any less of this idea since the modifications we've been hearing about over the past couple of days?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I would say that the modifications are hard to keep track of because we don't know from day to day what the wording is. But overall we believe that the finding of fact within the context of impeachment violates directly the Constitution, and if the Senate wants to take up a censure resolution they're free to do that. But it should be done outside the context and after they dispense with the impeachment articles.
Q Is it just the wording of this that you have a problem with?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the Constitution is clear. The Senate has one job to do here in the context of impeachment and that's to vote to convict and remove, or to acquit -- or as some Democrats have suggested, they can vote in a motion to dismiss based on the fact that they don't believe the case has been made or the allegations don't reach to the constitutional standard, which the Constitution lays out. Anything else is really, and should be viewed, as an attempt to go around the Constitution. I think the framers were very clear, and made the test very high, for Senators in this most important matter. And I think it sets a dangerous precedent to, in this part of the process, to now be fooling around with different ideas of how to remove yourself from this situation.
I think the Senate has the ability -- as the House wanted to, but the House Republican leadership would not let them -- to deal with a censure proposal, and they should do that if they see fit, after they have dealt with the impeachment articles.
Q Senator Byrd, apparently, on CNN today, said there's no question about his -- meaning Mr. Clinton -- giving false testimony under oath. He did that more than once, and to me that's an extremely serious matter. The chief law enforcer of the nation to give false testimony under oath willingly and knowingly and intentionally and repeatedly certainly, to me, gets awful close to abusing or violating public trust. Will you challenge Senator Byrd?
MR. LOCKHART: Did you get all that?
Q Well, I didn't read it all --
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, well I just wanted to make sure. You know, our lawyers have stated our case very clearly, both in written briefs and on the floor of the Senate and in the House Judiciary Committee. And we beg to differ on that interpretation, but he has every right to hold that view.
Q Do you think he will lead others? I mean, you were last week praising his initiative in moving to dismiss.
MR. LOCKHART: I think that he still stands by his motion to dismiss this, and he's free to continue to make his views known.
Q Joe, from what you know of Monica Lewinsky's testimony, does the White House still have objections to the videotape of that testimony being played on the floor of the Senate this week?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, obviously, because of the rules imposed by the Senate, I can't discuss the content of the testimony. But the White House view has not changed and we don't believe that there is any need for witnesses on the Senate floor. We don't believe that the videotape needs to be dumped out into the public. Senators have the right and the ability to view this and make a decision on how this impacts their view of this case. And we believe that what the Senate should do is move quickly to bring and end to this.
Q Do you think Minority Leader Gephardt has made a good decision on deciding to focus his energies on re-taking the House?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't -- I'm not aware that he's made an official announcement or decision on what he's planning to do. That's news to me. I may be behind the times, though.
Q Joe, are you aware of the reports that perhaps Tom Delay was less than truthful in his testimony in the lawsuit involving his former --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm aware of an article in -- I believe it was in The New Republic, which raises some questions about the truthfulness. I think those are issues that he'll need to handle and deal with and discuss with others who might be interested.
Q There's a story that there was some punishment in store for Peter King, for his vote on the impeachment articles.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me just say this, as a person who stood at the podium and talked about the enormous pressure that the Republicans were being put under by their leadership and had it denied at every step of the way by the House leadership, I guess I was right and they were wrong.
Q Joe, when the President goes out to fundraisers as he's doing today and he speaks to people paying upwards of $10,000 per person to show their support, why is it he doesn't feel the need to address in some way the impeachment situation he finds himself in, in speaking to these most ardent supporters?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the President had made a decision sometime ago that the best thing he can do is focus on doing the best job he can as President, to talk about his agenda, to try to build support for that agenda, and to try to implement that agenda. And that's a decision that stands whether he's talking to people who are ardent supporters of the party -- or contributors -- or whether he's in a school talking to school kids. He believes that what the country wants him to focus on, and what the country cares about, are the issues and challenges before us, not necessarily what everyone in Washington is obsessed with.
Q Did the President and Senator Kerry have any conversation when they were on the plane this morning, coming here, about Senator Kerry's consideration of making a Presidential race?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President spent probably, oh, 15 or 20 minutes in the back cabin with Senator Kerry, Senator Kennedy and the other officials who were on the plane. But it was all in a group setting, and I wasn't there for the whole thing, but there certainly wasn't a private conversation.
Q But what did they talk about? What did they discuss?
MR. LOCKHART: They talked about the issues of the day.
Q Such as?
MR. LOCKHART: Such as, I'd have to go back and find out.
Q Is the DNC paying for the travel today, do you know?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q The entire thing?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. I mean, the DNC -- I mean, it's the same formula we've used, and every other President uses; but today is, I believe that because of the way the day is structured, it's a DNC day. I can go back and check, if there's any sort of mix because this is an official event.
Q I'm sorry, you're saying the DNC paid all the expenses?
MR. LOCKHART: There's a formula we follow, which we've talked about at length, about how we divide up the expenses for a day like today.
END 4:26 P.M. EST