THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 26, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART Edgartown School Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard
12:00 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. Welcome to the daily White House briefing here in Martha's Vineyard. Let me give you a few minutes on what the President's doing today before we get to your questions. As you know from the pool report, he started the morning by going out with his daughter, Chelsea, for a horseback riding session. They finished that a little bit ago and now he's gone out to the golf course. I expect him to play two rounds of golf today.
This morning, as we speak, he's playing with a gentleman by the name of Tom Flexner and Warren Spector. Those are two people he knows from up here; he's played golf with them in the past -- they both work for Bear Stearns in New York -- and with Ken Iscol, who is the friend that he went to the party I think on Sunday night, so you know about him.
This afternoon, he's going to play with some friends of his from college -- Maure Flanigan. She will be joined by her son, Sean, and by Clare O'Callahan. So they will play a round this afternoon. Then this evening, the President will attend the annual clambake that's thrown by Bill Rollnick and his wife, Nancy Ellison.
As far as reporting on what they've been doing since I was last here, I know the President, the First Lady and Chelsea went to the beach yesterday afternoon and spent several hours. While at the beach, there was a party that one of the other people who was staying on the compound was throwing for some of the families with kids. So the President came with the First Lady and Chelsea and spent some time with -- there was probably 30 or 40 people there, a dozen or so kids having a party. They spent a couple of hours there, and then they just went back and had a quiet evening at home.
That's what I've got.
Q Is the President aware of the FBI and the Waco situation?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he's certainly aware of the reports that we've seen, and he stands with the Attorney General in her determination to get all the facts in this case and to make them available to Congress and the public as soon as possible.
Q Joe, why was the Army's Delta Force present on the scene the day that Waco burned?
MR. LOCKHART: I would refer you to the Justice Department. I don't have information on the Delta Force one way or the other.
Q The reason I asked is because since the law prohibits the military being used against civilians, I wondered whether the White House either, A, requested it or, B, President Clinton signed a waiver for it.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any information on that. Again, I'd refer you to Justice. I don't have any independent information on their role, if any.
Q Joe, was there a concern that the final withdrawal of troops from Haiti will encourage people in Haiti who are trying to destabilize the government?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me try to put some perspective. There was also a report on that. The U.S. military is not withdrawing from Haiti. As you all well know, the President's been committed to promoting democracy and reform in that country for sometime now, and he's spent quite a bit of time and effort on that.
He's also, as we've said over the last three years, been committed to reducing and eventually withdrawing the permanent force, or the force that's there under the current configuration. We've been looking at this and moving toward changing the configuration. We don't have all of the details worked out yet of how and when this will be done, but we will, in the future, move from a permanent force that's there under this configuration and replace it with rotational assistance teams under the auspices of the Southern Command's Operation New Horizons.
I think Operation New Horizons got some attention last year as the lead U.S. military force that responded to Hurricane Mitch. These are rotational groups that go in to deal with specific projects, specific issues that the U.S. military believes we both can get some training assets from and can help the people of Haiti.
But I think the important thing to note here is the U.S. remains committed to the policy of helping to promote democracy there. The forces -- our presence there will not be withdrawn, but as we've said for some time now, we want to move away from the current configuration of a permanent deployment and more to a rotational and more project-specific configuration.
Q Would the administration reconsider its opposition to the segregation or cantonment of Kosovars and Serbs in Kosovo? The United Nations is apparently opposing such moves, and yet it appears more an more evident the two sides are unable to live together.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think there are certainly -- recent history suggests that it's difficult for the people to put aside what's happened. But we think it's important, and what underlines our policy there is that both the Kosovar Albanians and the Serb minority are allowed to live peacefully in a democratic and autonomous Kosovo.
Q It doesn't seem to be possible at the moment.
MR. LOCKHART: I stood for some 80 days answering questions about how it didn't seem possible that air power alone would back Milosevic down. So I'm just --
Q Yes, but what would give you any reason for hope?
MR. LOCKHART: The mission of KFOR is to help foster an environment that is autonomous and democratic for Kosovar Albanians, but also protects the rights of the Serb minority. These are people who are working very hard in difficult circumstances and will continue to stay in there and do this until they're satisfied that both of those things can be done.
Q But, Joe, there's no evidence that without their presence the two sides will live in peace.
MR. LOCKHART: Bill, I think these are difficult issues that sometimes you need to give time. Again, I'll come back to my previous answer because I think it's relevant here, which is I did stand at a podium some distance from here in Washington for 80 days with people asking the same question about what evidence do you have that this will work. And I told you that the President was determined that that would work and was convinced that that would work, and he shares that determination that KFOR and the U.N. can do the job here.
Q Could you characterize a little more fully the President's reaction to the news that the FBI was lying for six years?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't accept the premise, first off, of the question there. But I haven't talked to him in detail about this. I know that he's seen the reports in the paper today. But I am going to stand with what the Attorney General has said today, that she's determined to get to the bottom of this and to make any information she has available to the public, and the President believes that's right.
Q But, Joe, he's the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, and surely, he must have some reaction to being told for six years that these devices were not fired into that compound and now being told maybe they were.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me repeat again what the President believes, which is that the Attorney General was proper to say that she wants to get to the facts, understand all of the information that she can and then make that available. And the President believes the Attorney General was proper in doing that.
Q Would it be a matter of some concern to the White House if the FBI did not disclose this information, but had gone to some lengths to make sure --
MR. LOCKHART: That's a hypothetical; I'll wait until the facts are known.
Q Joe, you can say, however, that the President never signed a waiver for the use of any military forces in connection with the Branch Davidian --
MR. LOCKHART: That question is something that was raised with me a little bit and I'm checking on, and when I have an answer, I'll let you know.
Q Joe, last week in New York City, the mother of the slain Jewish teenager met with the U.S. Attorney and the FBI Office. Mrs. Clinton's spokesman, exploratory committee spokesman, said that Mrs. Clinton spoke with White House Counsel Chuck Ruff about the case and asked him to take appropriate action. What did Mr. Ruff do? Did he speak with --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me give you the facts of this case. As often happens with the President and with the First Lady and people from the administration, we come in contact with people who have particular concerns about dealing with some level of the government.
My understanding in this case is that the First Lady came in contact at some point with someone who has been involved and active. In this case, she took that concern to one of her staff people and asked it to be relayed to the Counsel's Office to see if there was something, if it was appropriate for some kind of meeting to take place. That was through a staff person. She never talked to the White House Counsel, Mr. Ruff, directly. But the request, as many often do from when we travel around the country about these cases, was put forward. Mr. Ruff passed it on to the Justice Department and said, if you think some kind of meeting is appropriate, go ahead and do it; or if it's not appropriate, don't do it.
So that's the extent of it. The Justice Department, it is my understanding, felt it was useful to go forward, to sit and listen to the concerns of the family, and that's happened.
Q Does the White House accept the Russian government's denial that it had any knowledge of or participated in the laundering of IMF and World Bank funds from the Bank of New York?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, this is obviously something that is currently under investigation at the Justice Department, so I'm going to refer questions on this issue to them.
Q Was the President aware of any charges that might have been made that indicated that Boris Yeltsin's daughter might be under investigation?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't discussed this with them. I saw some of those reports in the paper today. I don't know what kind of briefing, if any, he's gotten from the Justice Department on this.
Q Did the White House have any involvement in this investigation at all?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of. This is something that is being handled out of Justice and through some -- I think there's some stuff going on in New York proper.
Q To your knowledge, does the presence of the Delta Force on the ground, not engaging, just the presence, require a presidential waiver?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have an answer to that. I'm not -- I don't know.
Q Will the President be giving his regards to the Kennedys while he's down here on Cape before he leaves?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know if -- who is up here and who is around, but let me check. There may be some members of the family attending the function this evening, so he'll have a chance to visit, but let me check to make sure before I say that he's actually had a chance to visit with them.
Q Joe, the decision out of Cleveland, Ohio, from the federal judge that pretty much, many people believe puts the school voucher program in limbo -- does the White House have any reaction to that?
MR. LOCKHART: Not in particular to this particular decision, as the court has just ruled. I can just repeat the administration's position that we believe that public funds should be concentrated on helping to fix the problems in public schools, rather through voucher programs to private schools.
Q Back to Russia for a minute. In light of the reports that are coming out lately about the New York bank, is there any thinking in the administration to reconsider the IMF loans and pushing for that?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think if you look at the way the IMF loans are structured, they are structured in a way where there needs to be demonstrable actions taken toward reform and transparency. So I think that the latest loans have been set up and structured in a way that will provide the kind of certainty that we need that the funds are not being misused.
Q Are you aware of whether or not Vice President Gore, through his commission with Chernomyrdin at all, whether or not he in that setting has pressed Russia to abide by those?
MR. LOCKHART: His office would be much better to give you precise details, but I know the commission that -- the Vice President has worked with now several Russian Prime Ministers -- has worked very hard and made a lot of progress on the issue of market reforms, transparency, dealing with corruption. So it has been an issue that they have worked on and made some progress.
Q Joe, the meeting between Yeltsin and Jiang, which they said was to forge a closer alliance as a counterbalance the U.S. influence around the globe, which Mr. Jiang said is the result of some nations trying to build a world that is convenient only for them -- is that an accurate read of American foreign policy and would the President speak to Mr. Jiang about that when he meets with him in the bilateral?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm certain that they will have a discussion on a wide range of issues, and if the Chinese government's philosophy of the U.S. role in the world is something they want to bring up, the President will be glad to discuss it with them. I think the President has articulated many times his view of the U.S. role in the world as far as promoting democracy, providing for economic opportunity both at home and abroad, and as far as fighting the new threat of terrorism, whether it be biological, chemical or cyber. So as an administration we would not agree with the view articulated there.
Q What does tomorrow look like?
MR. LOCKHART: Tomorrow I think is going to look a lot like today, both weatherwise and presidential activity-wise.
Q Earlier on in the week, the President said something about preserving our nation's parks for the next generation. While he's been down here, has he expressed any interest in the cleanup of the MMR, or particularly the national seashore?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we took -- I think that was similar to something we took yesterday and we're looking for -- I understand there's a group here who has a bunch of information that they would like the President to look at, and we haven't received that yet, but I'm certain that the President's environmental team would be very interested in looking at that.
Q Joe, did you decide on the subject of the radio address on Saturday?
MR. LOCKHART: The subject of the radio address, as it stands now, will be education. I'll give you more details as we get closer.
Q Joe, our meeting with the North Korean officials over the missiles on September 7th, during that meeting or at some other time, would the administration approach Japan to free up sales of rice to North Korea, which were recently suspended?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any information on that.
Q The conservation group you were just speaking about -- do you know who --
MR. LOCKHART: I assumed that that was the one that you raised yesterday. And again, I don't know, because I haven't been contacted.
All done? Great. Thanks.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:20 P.M. EDT