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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 4, 1999
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                             JOE LOCKHART 
                           The Briefing Room   

1:20 P.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: One quick announcement before we get going. On Wednesday, February 10, the President will go to the University of Maryland, in College Park, to launch AmeriCorps' Call To Service Campaign. As the President noted in the State of the Union, AmeriCorps' Call To Service Campaign will be an unprecedented effort to ask young Americans to serve their community and country. They hope that by the year's end this effort will succeed in recruiting 50,000 more men and women in the AmeriCorps program.

The University of Maryland has a long history of service and has been an active participant of AmeriCorps, which is why the President chose that campus to go out and do this event.


Q Is it a morning event? Is it morning, daytime?

MR. LOCKHART: Daytime, yes.

Q Have you now got the President's views of whether that People's article, they objected to it because there is something in it, is there a specific something in the article they find offensive?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think -- I talked to the President about this after he returned, and I think the statement speaks directly to their objection and their sadness that People has decided to print a story about their daughter. I think as you all know, for six years there's been an arrangement that has worked very well, that has respected this First Family's daughter's privacy. The President and the First Lady want to thank everyone in this room for respecting that privacy, and it's their hope -- my hope -- that as we move forward her privacy will be -- continue to receive the same respect.

Q Most people find the story very complimentary to Chelsea Clinton and to her relationship with her parents. Why would they object to a story that is that complimentary?

MR. LOCKHART: I think that the statement that the President and the First Lady released speaks directly to that and it speaks for itself.

Q Joe, does the White House have a reaction to the specific language in the finding of fact motion as promulgated by Senator Domenici today?

MR. LOCKHART: We have the reaction that we stated to you over the course of the last several days, of finding of fact we believe goes around the Constitution, is unconstitutional, and our view is that we would oppose any finding of fact within the context of the impeachment trial.

Q Do you object to the specific language in --

MR. LOCKHART: We object to the concept. We're not even going to look at the language, because the concept is unconstitutional.

Q Joe, the health of King Hussein of Jordan seems to have taken a very bad turn. Any comment from the President?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think you heard from the President directly this morning. He said that the King is fighting for his life. The President, I think praised the King and said that all Americans are keeping him in their prayers, both the King and his family.

Q Will he go to Jordan if anything happens?

MR. LOCKHART: That's an "if."

Q Can you confirm that he has gone, actually, that he has already left?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any flight, but I know his spokesperson confirmed that the King is planning to travel back to Jordan, but I don't have any further update than that.

Q When the President made his remarks, had he gotten the briefing on the King's condition? Did he know that the transplant apparently failed?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President's been kept up to date on his condition, yes.

Q The question about the language in important because there is a move afoot to take the language, adjourn the trial, put the language before the Senate as a legislative body as opposed to a trial body. So would you object to that?

MR. LOCKHART: You can do this and use all sorts of gymnastics. We think what the Senate should do is follow the Democrats' lead today, vote yes on the motion to go directly to the articles, and have a vote on this, and get this over with once and for all.

Q What about the idea of adjournment? What about Hatch's idea of adjourning and then going on to vote for something that, at that point, I guess, would be considered a censure?

MR. LOCKHART: I think that there's some merit in the views that have been put forward by Senator Daschle, that we've gone through this process, let's get to the articles, let's take a vote and let's get back to the people's business.

Q Let me be clear, Joe, the President wants a vote on the articles, up or down? That is a marker for the President?

MR. LOCKHART: I think we certainly spoke in support of the motion to dismiss. That hasn't changed. But we don't see any reason to go through any further testimony, any further depositions. The time has come -- the Senate can move quickly on this. They have not, in their majority wisdom, decided to dismiss this case. The time has come to take a vote, and let's get on with it.

Q So adjournment -- just to be precise, if I may -- so adjournment without a verdict is acceptable to the White House?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think I said that. I said, I think the time has come to go, now, to take a vote -- the Democrats, I believe, will offer a motion today to go right to the articles, and they should take a vote. I have no reason to expect we'll do that; it sounds like we have a lot more steps to do through before we do that.

Q Can you explain why are you for dismissing the case and not adjourning?

MR. LOCKHART: I have not expressed a view on adjournment. I don't think anyone's expressed -- has tabled a motion and --

Q So you're not ruling for or against that?

MR. LOCKHART: No one's put anything down. What we have here is, we've got motions today. One of the motions will be to go directly to the articles. There has been a motion offered to dismiss; the Republican Party as the majority party defeated that on party lines.

Q The Israeli press is reporting today that Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked President Clinton to defer a decision on Pollard until after the impeachment trial. Is that why we haven't heard what the decision is, which had been expected last month?

MR. LOCKHART: First off, there are several things wrong with the question. There was never expected to be a decision last month. Go back and look at the facts of this case. I'm not aware of any request that comes in to defer it. So the process is ongoing and we'll give you the news of that process when it's appropriate.

Q Has Yugoslavia assured NATO that it would allow foreign troops on its soil if a peace agreement is in place?

MR. LOCKHART: Who, please?

Q Has Yugoslavia assured NATO that it would, in fact, allow NATO forces on its territory?

MR. LOCKHART: I think what we've seen today is a -- they will go this weekend to Rambouillet, the Serbs and the Kosovar Albanians, and they will work towards reaching a political settlement of this case. But I'm not going to preview or try to foreshadow what's going to take place once they get there.

Q What's the response of Congress?

Q The timetable that Senator Lott put out calling for additional presentations on Saturday, final arguments on Monday, and then the senators go into their own deliberations before a final vote Thursday or Friday, that seems to be pretty quick. What's wrong with that?

MR. LOCKHART: I think we need to find a way to get to the end of this process as quickly as possible. I think what we've seen today is we've now got a new creation of let's take another day and have a new process, presenting evidence. I think that's what the last part of this process was about. I think we want to get this done. We want to get it done fairly. We want to get it done quickly.

I think if you look at the proposal they have laid out, it looks like they want to develop a proposal where they get a couple last shots to take a shot at the President. It's a process that they'll have to articulate, they'll have to defend. I think the Democrats will vote the way that they think is correct, and I think what they believe in the Senate is that we ought to go to the articles and let's have a vote.

Q There's a motion on the floor at the moment, as we're speaking, to call Monica Lewinsky as a live witness, and failing that, to allow the videotaped depositions to be presented of all three of the people that were deposed. Is that a way out?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think our position is well-known on all of those issues.

Q Well, what is it?

MR. LOCKHART: We don't believe there is any need for live witnesses; we don't believe there is any need to bring any of these videotapes to the floor. The senators have all had a chance to look at them, to, as the managers have said, look in the eye, judge the credibility of these depositions for whatever that's worth, and there's no need to extend or prolong this process.

Q Joe, some Democrats are talking about, in a sense, taking a last shot at the President through censure, and some are saying that the censure motion should say the President lied under oath or gave false testimony before a judicial proceeding. Could the White House live with that kind of language?

MR. LOCKHART: Again, I'm not going to get into the position of telling you or trying to negotiate here. Our view on these issues is clear -- we have now, through this process repeated it over and over and in endless fashion. It is up for the Senate to decide what they want to do.

I will reiterate our point that we don't believe that any type of censure or finding of fact is appropriate or constitutional within the context of the impeachment trial. That is a view that broadly was held by the House Republican leaders, who refused to allow a censure vote to come to the floor, as you all remember, in December, over the objections of many within their own party. I think that our view will continue on the constitutional issue, and on the other issues, it's up to the Senate.

Q Joe, do you wish to amend or revise the "gloat-free zone" comment you made yesterday?


Q I don't know. (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: Wolf, I'll tell you something. I said a lot of serious things before that and after that, and I would call your attention that I know how enticing it is to take a glib statement and make it mean something and take it out of context. But I'm certain that you understood the context and the serious and somber thoughts that both proceeded and followed.

Q What's out of context? I mean, it seemed to be very straightforward. You said you weren't going to gloat.

MR. LOCKHART: I think my statement that I just made to Wolf was very clear. He's nodding like he understands what I mean.

Q I understand.

Q Senator Collins said today that the White House is putting "tremendous pressure on Democratic senators with regard to impeachment." What sort of pressure is the White House putting on?

MR. LOCKHART: I'd love to see what Senator Collins is talking about. I think you should ask her.

Q How is the White House trying to manifest its desires in the Senate? How is it trying to persuade Democrats to work with it?

MR. LOCKHART: I have nothing new to report on what we're doing. The Senate is doing their business, we're doing ours, and I would again say that if Senator Collins has anything that she thinks is improper or involves pressure, she ought to stand up and talk about it in public.

Q So there's no pressure from the White House -- is that the way you'd characterize it?

MR. LOCKHART: That's the way I'd characterize it.

Q Last week you said that if the Senate insisted on voting for witnesses, then all bets were off, that you might have to call your own witnesses, you might have to do cross-examination, you might have to do significant discovery, and it might extend the trial sometime. And we said, well, is that a bluff, and you said, look, I am not bluffing. Now, since then you have not questioned any of the three witnesses at all. You've said we're not going to have the President be deposed because we want to bring this to a close. My question is, were you bluffing last week?


Q Say yes.


Q Well, can you explain that, can you reconcile that?

MR. LOCKHART: I certainly can. Look at what I said, which is, if new information is brought into the record, that we feel that because we haven't had access to the entire voluminous material that is not included in the record, we reserved our right to say we need to take time to look at that. I think you can, without getting into the details of what's gone on over the last three days, I think it would be a fair assumption to make that so far there's nothing that we've seen that particularly raises large discovery issues. But this process isn't over yet.

Q What are you still waiting to find out?

MR. LOCKHART: We have votes today. You may know what the results of those votes are; I don't.

Q If the President decides that there is an effective agreement and he is going to send troops to Kosovo, does Congress have a say in this and will he have to get permission?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me avoid answering the hypothetical with --

Q That's not hypothetical, that's real.

Q He raised it.

MR. LOCKHART: Let me answering the hypothetical and just point out what we do know, which is the President's foreign policy team, as I reported to you, is consulting extensively --

Q I know consulting -- do they have to get permission?

MR. LOCKHART: -- consulting extensively with Congress over what the best approach is to go forward; consulting with them on what our interests are in the region, what's at stake here. And they'll continue to do that.

Q Does he want a vote? Does he want a vote from Congress?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President wants -- if we move, no matter what direction we move forward in, he will work hard to make sure that we have congressional support.

Q Joe, the President's lawyers have decided that they won't call defense witnesses --

Q Joe, a readout on the meeting with Arafat?

MR. LOCKHART: Hold on. Let me come back to that.

Q Could you discuss the meeting with Arafat following the prayer breakfast? And also his talks with some other foreign leaders.

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I'll give you a quick -- the President and Chairman Arafat met for about 20 minutes and discussed a range of issues, including the importance of the implementation of the Wye Agreement by both sides, the bilateral issue, and security issues of mutual concern.

The President also had a brief discussion with Leah Rabin, the widow of the late Prime Minister of Israel, and with Steven Flatow, whose daughter was killed in a terrorist attack in 1995 in Gaza.

Other meetings -- the President had good discussions with the Macedonian Prime Minister Georgievski and the Albanian Prime Minister outside the prayer breakfast. The President welcomed their support of our policy in Kosovo and thanked the Macedonian Prime Minister for hosting the NATO Extraction Force.

Q During the meeting with Arafat, did the issue of unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence come up?


Q And what was the outcome of that?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have the precise words of the conversation, but our view on that issue is well-known.

Q Did Arafat repeat his intention to go ahead and do it on May 4th?

MR. LOCKHART: Again, I'll leave that for Chairman Arafat to talk about. I don't have the precise wording.

Q But did the President express his opposition to that?

MR. LOCKHART: I wasn't there. I don't know the exact wording of the meetings, but it's very clear what our view on that issue is.

Q Can we get a readout on that, Joe?

Q Did they talk about Jordan -- in those two meetings with Leah Rabin and Arafat, did they talk about the possibility of turbulence in Jordan, and did he ask for Arafat to help with the situation with Jordan?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, they certainly both shared their concern and their thoughts and prayers for King Hussein, and their families'.

Q What about the aftermath in Jordan?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't -- I'm not aware that that came up.

Q Joe, two things, if I may. Can we get a more clear readout on the meeting between the President and the Chairman?

MR. LOCKHART: I will look into it. The second thing?

Q The second thing is, Chuck Ruff's letter today seems to suggest that the White House is not going to call its own witnesses or ask for any additional discovery. Is that indeed what you're saying today?

MR. LOCKHART: I think Chuck Ruff's letter -- you may read lots of things into it; it was meant to say that the President had no intention of testifying.

Q If I may follow up, though, what the letter says is that the Senate has a record before it that is more than sufficient to permit it to a fair and expeditious conclusion on the schedule already agreed to. That suggests the White House is not about to ask for its own witnesses or additional discovery.

MR. LOCKHART: Scott, let me remind you one more time that right now on the floor of the Senate there are motions before it which may impact the schedule. So let's look and see and wait and see what they do.

Q So you're holding that open, then?


Q Did the President or Mrs. Clinton, either one of them, personally call or talk to the management of People's magazine in any way, asking them not to publish?

MR. LOCKHART: To the extent that there were any conversations between anyone here in the White House and the management people, those were private and will remain private unless those organizations want to talk about it.

Q The statement itself --

MR. LOCKHART: You're right, the statement itself indicates there were conversations, but I'm not going into any detail.

Q Well, it suggested strongly. Can you not confirm that the statement is accurate?

MR. LOCKHART: The statement is accurate. You can read into it what you like.

Q But, no, just so that we're reading it accurately, it is that either the President or the First Lady personally called People Magazine, right?

MR. LOCKHART: The statement speaks for itself --

Q No, it doesn't. That's why we're asking.

MR. LOCKHART: It speaks for itself, and I'm not going to get into the details of any private conversations.

Q The magazine argues, much like the tabloids before it argued, that Chelsea, when she walks out to the helicopter with her parents the day after his confession, when she works the ropeline, when she travels with the First Couple to countries overseas, that she is a public figure and has been made one by her parents. What's the White House response to that?

MR. LOCKHART: I think that you phrased that even better than I could have -- that the magazine, like the tabloids before it, argued that. And if that is the standard and it's the standard that everyone wants to use --

Q But media watchdogs have said the same thing.

MR. LOCKHART: So be it.

Q What's the White House argument -- she is not a public figure?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't get to decide that.

Q The difference -- when reporters and photographers follow after Amy Carter, when she's the President's daughter, or the Fords, or Lyndon Johnson's children, what is the difference with Chelsea?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me reiterate without getting -- I'm not going to reopen this whole issue. Let me reiterate something that the President said in both this statement and what he said to me, which is, he and the First Lady very much appreciate everyone in this room who has respected their family's privacy on this issue, and it is their hope as we move into the future you will continue to do so.

Q But they're not private -- I mean, the President of the United States is not in a private situation, unfortunately perhaps --

MR. LOCKHART: Sam, I think the statement and what I have said couldn't be clearer. And I don't see any reason to elaborate.

Q No, we're asking you, if I may just follow up --

MR. LOCKHART: And I'm choosing not to answer.

Q Well, may I just ask you then to --

MR. LOCKHART: Keep going.

Q I will. Tell us the difference between other children of other Presidents and this particular situation -- why should there be a difference?

MR. LOCKHART: You can ask yourself that question, because I think you have, for whatever reason, as a news organization, made a decision -- I think a proper one -- to treat this question with some sensitivity and privacy. And I can't give you an answer.

Q Joe, let me ask you this. In 1992, the First Family, while they were still campaigning, did a photo spread with People Magazine with Chelsea. So is the issue that when they decide to publicize her with People it's okay, but when People decides to, it's not?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the issues here are fairly clear, and I don't see any more reason to elaborate on it.

Q The President again said today that this is my only opportunity to speak to the press --

MR. LOCKHART: He's not listening to what I tell him.

Q -- and therefore, I really would like to tell you something -- what is this baloney? (Laughter.)

Q You said it better than he could say it. It's baloney.

MR. LOCKHART: Sometimes it's hard to spin baloney into anything else.

Q I mean, he shouldn't tell the American people that he has no opportunity to meet --

Q What he just said is good.

Q What did he say?

Q He said it's hard to spin baloney into anything else. Thank you. (Laughter.)

Q Joe, moving on to another subject, the African growth and opportunity act didn't reach the Senate floor, but it passed in the House last year. And the President was really pushing that last year with his trip to Africa, and just talking to a lot of people in the African American community, trying to get support for it. Now it seems like there is no push from the White House in reference to this, and it's been pulled apart from fast track. So why not push this initiative?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, April, it's hard for me to understand how you could get the impression that we're not pushing it. The President specifically mentioned the Africa trade initiative in the State of the Union. In fact, I believe it's the only specific piece of legislation before Congress that he mentioned in the State of the Union. We have had people up on the Hill from the Cabinet, testifying in hearings -- including House Ways and Means, the subcommittee hearing that was yesterday -- Secretary Daley and various other members. So this is a high priority for the President, and he continues to push it.

Q Okay, well, if that's the case, is he going to be talking to some people like Jesse Jackson, Jr., who's come up with his own initiative, his new African growth and opportunity, I believe it's Hope For Africa 1999, and the NAACP who is supporting this bill, but has concerns for it --

MR. LOCKHART: I know that he's talked to Representative Jackson within the last week. I'm not certain exactly what came up in the conversations, but he has a vigorous and open dialogue with members who share his interest in this issue and who share his interest in getting this issue passed the House into the Senate and passed into law.

Q In the aftermath of Hurricanes Mitch and Georges, Senator Bob Gramm yesterday introduced a motion to the Senate on enhancement of CBI, and I want to know if the White House -- enhancement of CBI benefits for Central America --

MR. LOCKHART: Right. Did that end up going in the budget or in the supplemental? Okay, I'll have to check on that. I know that there were some issues about whether that money would be put in a supplemental or in the budget, and I don't know the answer to that.

Q Joe, some Democrats in New York State are concerned that they might not be able to put on a decent campaign for senator in the year 2000 unless Mrs. Clinton makes up her mind whether she wants to run. Will the President try to nudge a decision out of her in the interest of the party?

MR. LOCKHART: You've got to be kidding me. (Laughter.) No.

Q Can you say whether she does intend to run?

MR. LOCKHART: I would suggest if you have a question on that to ask her able spokesperson.

Thank you.

END 1:44 P.M. EST