|The American Presidency Project|
|• William J. Clinton|
|Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart|
|November 9, 1998|
The Briefing Room
1:26 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: One quick announcement. The President, tomorrow, will speak to -- I think the group meets annually, the Export Council -- his Export Council is in town tomorrow; he'll make remarks to them at a time and place that we'll let you know this afternoon. The speech will be about the importance of opening markets for U.S. products around the world and he'll talk a little bit about what he hopes his APEC trip to be all about. And that's tomorrow.
Q: Is there any concern that during the middle of the APEC trip the Ken Starr testimony will occur before the House Judiciary Committee, that that could affect what's happening over in Malaysia?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so. The President has taken the view throughout the past year that he needs to focus on doing the people's business. I think as part of that is the important work he does overseas, both diplomatically, economically. So I don't see there's any issue created by his travel.
Q: Joe, why did you cancel Guam on the front end of the trip?
MR. LOCKHART: We rescheduled Guam, as I said this morning, because of the tightness in the governor's race there. Under Guam law, if a candidate does not receive 50 percent of the vote there needs to be a runoff. There are issues now that I think Governor Gutierrez has got something like 49.7, something very close to 50, but just short of it. So we expect that there will probably be a runoff; it would take place just after our visit. We thought it would be better to go after the election is decided so as not to inject ourselves into the race.
Q: The President has been injecting himself in races all across the country for the last several weeks. You think he wouldn't want to miss an opportunity to help the Democrat win office.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we've had this discussion before about the President's philosophy and whether he should go and whether he shouldn't. I think this trip to Guam is very important to the people. Presidents don't get to the territory that often. This is not like New York City or Chicago. I think it's important to the people, we'd rather go once the political situation is resolved, the election results are known, and that it can be done in a way that isn't seen as political.
Q: Will he do a fundraiser while he's there?
MR. LOCKHART: Interesting idea. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Does he have any more details on the itinerary?
MR. LOCKHART: No, we're working that out now. I expect the departure to be sometime late Saturday and what we're working on is the back end, when we'll get back.
Q: What's your assessment of the impeachment hearings so far today?
MR. LOCKHART: To tell you truth, I haven't seen very much of it. I think it's been sort of a walk down history's lane as far as what the history of impeachment is from various academics and constitutional scholars. From what I've seen on the reporting, there's been various views offered about the history of impeachment. I think it does not necessarily do what we were seeking to do and what some of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were seeking, which was a look at the standards judged against the allegations that have been raised. But I think it has -- all in all, it's probably an interesting session on impeachments and the various views of constitutional scholars.
Q: Was the President disappointed in the Supreme Court decision on testimony, and will he now instruct Bruce Lindsey to answer the independent counsel's questions?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think you'll have to go to the independent counsel to see if he has questions to ask.
Q: Well, he's already asked them. Will the President direct Lindsey to now go ahead and answer them?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, I don't know that he has asked. If he has questions he wants to ask him, he should get in touch.
Q: What's his view of the court decision?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think as his counsel, Mr. Ruff, expressed, there's some disappointment over that. We think that the President and, ultimately, the public, benefits from the ability to have frank, full and candid exchanges between the President and the White House Counsel and the lawyers here at the White House. That is something that we are somewhat disappointed about because I think this will inhibit those frank and full exchanges.
Q: Can I follow up? If Kenneth Starr calls and says, we would now like to re-ask the questions that Mr. Lindsey declined to answer before, does President Clinton want Bruce Lindsey to answer those questions?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I assume if Mr. Starr has questions to ask of Mr. Lindsey, he will be in touch. But I'm not going to speculate on something that I don't know to be the case.
Q: What they're talking about is only in the case where there's criminal conduct and his private behavior is at issue. It shouldn't have any effect on whether or not the President would have the right to confer with his attorneys on policy matters.
MR. LOCKHART: At least in this case it's in the prosecutor's eye of what is criminal behavior. So I think that there are some inhibiting impacts of this and we're disappointed that the court did not judge the case worthy to review.
Q: This thing has gone through a number of court hearings and motions to get the court to intervene, the Supreme Court and so forth. You've lost every single one of them. Does that suggest to you that this is a losing battle, that this is not, in either case, a privilege that is likely to be granted by the court now or in the future?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the court has spoken. I think the dissenting view by two of the justices argued that this was a legitimate case for the court to look at and to review and not frivolous in nature, as some have suggested. But the court has spoken and the court has ruled. That doesn't mean we're not disappointed by it, but they have made their decision.
Q: What about on the Secret Service protective function, the rejection of the administration's position on that?
MR. LOCKHART: Again, the court has spoken on that. As you well know, this is something that the Secret Service, as the experts, have chosen to assert and push for, and through the auspices of Treasury and the Justice Department. So I don't really have anything to say one way or the other on that.
Q: Doesn't that turn them into spies?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the Secret Service is in a better position to discuss that. We've made it clear from the beginning that this was not something that we were involved in. I think the President has spoken to you on what may be the effect of the decision. But it's just not something we chose to be involved in the litigation. And, in fact, as you well know, there were those who argued on the other side who made the point that it would have been a stronger case if we had been involved.
Q: Has he pushed away Secret Service agents?
MR. LOCKHART: I personally don't have the ability to answer that question.
Q: But the argument was over that very thing, that the President would try to keep his distance from them and, therefore, endanger his safety. Do you have any evidence at all the President has?
MR. LOCKHART: I personally have no evidence of that, but I have no ability to really, in a comprehensive way, answer that question.
Q: You say that's why the President chose not to take a side on that. Then why did his attorney, Mr. Bennett, file in January of this year a motion saying President Clinton emphatically expresses his support of the Secret Service on that argument.
MR. LOCKHART: On which argument? I'm not familiar in what case Mr. Bennett filed.
Q: This was January 26, 1998, in the Jones case, specifically his express support, saying, "we concur with the Secret Service, these materials are unconditionally privileged."
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we're talking about a litigation that took place post-January 26, and you know that we took no position on that. I haven't said that the President doesn't have views or his private attorney doesn't, but we took no position in the litigation that the Secret Service, with the Treasury Department and the Justice Department, moved forward with.
Q: Joe, Tipper Gore is going down to Central America tomorrow with Brian Atwood and a lot of congressmen and senators, at least a number. Can you give us who is going in the delegation if you have it?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have the CODEL. We can get that for you, but I'll tell you that Mrs. Gore is traveling to Honduras tomorrow, November 10, to begin her Hurricane Mitch relief mission. She will make a statement when she arrives there and then proceed to survey the damage. She will spend most of her trip doing relief work, helping clean out schools and helping to develop shelter areas that families can take advantage of. She'll stay overnight in Honduras in the tents provided by the U.S. military. She'll then travel on to Nicaragua on Wednesday morning, November 11.
So we can get you the CODEL. I know that she's taking some people with her.
Q: What do you say to complaints that the aid has been too slow in coming?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think this was a devastating disaster that hit Central American countries and I would point you to efforts from the U.S. government and the U.S. military that started almost before Hurricane Mitch had left the area -- I think October 19th we had pre-positioned assets and we were working very hard with the local governments and countries -- now, for almost three weeks on this crisis.
Q: Joe, has a decision been made to answer any or all of the 81 questions from the Judiciary Committee?
MR. LOCKHART: As we've said, I think we will reply to the Chairman's letter and answer questions, but I can't give you a precise timeline.
Q: Did you just say, yes, questions will be answered?
MR. LOCKHART: I just said, yes, questions will be answered.
Q: All of the questions?
MR. LOCKHART: I said questions will be answered. I don't know anything beyond that.
Q: Joe, what effect do you think this shake-up in the Republican leadership will have on impeachment process?
MR. LOCKHART: Impossible for me to determine. We heard comments across the board over the weekend, on Sunday shows and in the paper. It's just literally impossible to determine whether this will embolden Republicans to seek a quick resolution or embolden some Republicans to try to drive forward, stretch this out and try to pursue this for more partisan advantage.
Q: What was the analysis of what Livingston had to say?
MR. LOCKHART: Again, I think his comments sought to leave all of his options open and I think he did that.
Q: Joe, has the President seen the list of questions?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.
Q: If you don't know that, let me ask -- let me pass to someone else. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Okay.
Q: Joe, is it accurate that the President gave an interview to Hank Greenspun of the Los Vegas Sun a few days before --
MR. LOCKHART: Brian.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q: Because of the contributions that the Greenspun family has given, is there a danger that the President will be seen to be selling interviews or --
MR. LOCKHART: No. That's ridiculous. I think the President and the editor of the paper saw each other at the state dinner, had a discussion of an important issue that's important locally, the Yucca Mountain. The editor of the paper requested an interview and we complied the next day, before leaving for the trip we were on.
Q: Well, did he get the interview as the result of being a news person or as a Democratic donor?
MR. LOCKHART: He got the interview as a result of being a news person who was interested in an issue that was important in the Senate race in Nevada.
Q: How many other requests did you have for papers in the region?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any.
Q: This was the only request --
MR. LOCKHART: It's the only one I'm aware of.
Q: So all you have to do is ask?
MR. LOCKHART: Sometimes the only thing you have to do is ask.
Q: The President was responsive because --
MR. LOCKHART: If anyone is asking, the answer is no. (Laughter.)
Q: Was it because of the nature of the subject?
MR. LOCKHART: That's my understanding, yes, that one of the important issues in that race in Nevada was the temporary waste disposal on Yucca Mountain. I think the President commented on a column that the newspaper editor had written, expressed his views. The editor requested an interview and it was granted.
Q: Joe, on the 81 questions, does the President agree with Greg Craig that they're silly?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't talked to the President about it, but I think that might be an accurate description of some of the questions, particularly ones that can be boiled down to something like, does the President know he's the President? I think he does.
Q: Joe, Saturday the President issued a statement easing sanctions against India and Pakistan. But it seems like this is benefiting only Pakistan, to make Mr. Sharif happy -- he's coming on December 2nd here -- because he's in trouble, or his job is in trouble economically back home. He might lose if he doesn't get something like this.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't think I'd agree with your political analysis. But let me tell you what we believe was behind the decision. As you know, under the omnibus budget bill that was passed, there was a Brownback amendment that provided the President's some flexibility and authority to waive some of the Glenn sanctions on India and Pakistan. The President will exercise that authority to restore Export-Import Bank -- OPIC, which is Overseas Private Investment Corporation -- Trade and Development Agency, and also international, military, education, and training funds for both countries.
Because of the financial crisis in Pakistan, the President has also decided that the U.S. will work closely with its G-7 partners to permit lending by the multilateral development banks -- the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank -- to support an IMF program for Pakistan.
Q: To follow up, Joe, according to the State Department and IMF and World Bank, the Indian economy is doing very well, but it is the Pakistan economy which is in trouble. Why India should pay for the mismanagement of Pakistan economy --
MR. LOCKHART: Again, I don't necessarily agree with your political analysis. And I think given the state of the economy and the issues that Pakistan faces, domestically and economically, this step is prudent and appropriate.
Q: Before we leave that subject, why is the President doing that, and does it not dilute, badly dilute the nonproliferation message he was trying to send?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think so. I think that there's obviously been some steps toward -- from both India and Pakistan on that issue. If you remember the U.N. General Assembly, there were positive statements made towards non-proliferation. So we think, as the President has often said, allowing him the flexibility in using these sanctions can often be more productive than the rigid implementation of these.
Q: Is this a reward for actions they've already taken, or is it -- are we anticipating that --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we certainly think that both countries have taken positive steps and made positive comments. We do anticipate further steps, though.
Q: Also, Joe, just a follow-up. The President also said that if more progress is made by both countries, his visit may take place to India and Pakistan. So what kind of more progress are you looking for?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we're looking for more CTBT -- a signature on CTBT, moratorium on fissile material production, and adoption of restraints on nuclear-capable missiles and aircraft.
Q: Joe, does the White House want to call witnesses before the committee?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't heard any discussion of that.
Q: The White House has talked about wanting to expedite this, wanting to move on. And, yet, you're telling us that you haven't heard any discussion about whether you even want to call witnesses, you don't know when the questions might get answered. What is the White House doing to expedite this process?
MR. LOCKHART: We, as I've said -- I mean, you can spin this around any way you want, Scott, but as I've said, we are working to respond to the Chairman's letter, answer the questions in a timely way. There were a lot of questions there. They weren't all just, do you think you're the President or not. And we will work as expeditiously as we can to work with the committee so that we can put this behind us.
Q: Does the United States believe that the use of military force against Iraq would lead to an end to the weapons inspections there?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't speculate on a potential policy decision that's yet to be made.
Q: But is that part of our calculation in terms of whether we act?
MR. LOCKHART: There are certainly a lot of calculations that go into the presenting policy options and making policy decisions. But I'm not going to speculate or lay out what those are here.
Q: How much time does the Iraqi government have before the President exercises military options?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, first off, as we told you yesterday, the President met with his team, but has asked for further information and has not made any decisions on any diplomatic or military options. I'm not going to get into timelines here. But our objective is the same, which is to have Saddam Hussein reverse course in allowing UNSCOM inspectors to do their work. He knows what he needs to do. And while I won't get into a timeline, I think both --the Secretary of State has said that the current standoff and flagrant violation, as Kofi Annan calls it, cannot go on indefinitely.
Q: In previous crises with the Iraqi government, when we've asked about the timeline, Secretary of State Albright, for example, has said she's not talking about months, she's talking about weeks, as opposed to days. Are you talking about days, weeks, months? How long is this standoff, ballpark, going to last?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to ballpark a timeline or get specific on a timeline.
Q: Joe, is there no desire to end this cycle?
MR. LOCKHART: End what cycle?
Q: The Saddam Hussein cycle. We moved the military out there; it cost $1.5 billion. Once we do that, he backs down, and then he does it again.
MR. LOCKHART: There's certainly a desire right now to get Saddam Hussein to reverse his decision to not allow -- or not cooperate with UNSCOM inspectors.
Q: But how do you get him to do it once and for all, Joe? How do you break the cycle? How do you get Saddam to do it once and for all?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, those are certainly things that the President and the foreign policy team are looking at, but I can't tell you that any decisions have been made.
Q: Joe, to follow on that, short of knocking Saddam Hussein out of power, how do you expect bombing to get him to reverse the cycle?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, let me refer you to my previous non-answer.
Q: Joe, on Iraq still, does the administration feel the need for a final ultimatum to Iraq? Would that be part of the use of force?
MR. LOCKHART: As we've said, the President had options put down in front of him yesterday. He's asked for more information on both diplomatic and military options, and I'm not going to detail what they might be.
Q: Okay. I guess I'm just asking, though, before we've said, you have until "x" time to do this; otherwise, all options are on the table. Are we going to give Iraq an ultimatum?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into what options we might choose to exercise, what diplomatic efforts we might choose to exercise. But I think it is clear that Saddam Hussein knows what he needs to do.
Q: When would you expect the President to hear back from his National Security Advisor?
MR. LOCKHART: Sometime in the next couple of days.
Q: Joe, President Clinton meets with the Russian Prime Minister in Malaysia. Will he ask for KGB documents on American prisoners of war to be released?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know about that. I'll look into that -- not expected to, I'm told.
Q: Joe, the Pinochet case remains in limbo. We haven't heard the President say anything about it. What is the position of the U.S. government?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, as I've said several times from here, the position of the United States government is this is an issue that's being litigated between the government of Spain and I think today in the U.K. House of Lords. There was a lower court ruling in London that quashed the extradition order, but that's being appealed in the House of Lords today.
Q: Joe, you spoke this morning of relations with Bob Livingston in the past have been kind of a mixed bag. What did you mean by that and can you work with him?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that what would be appropriate for me is to allow the Republicans to work through their leadership issues. There are three or four positions that are being filled. Some are contested, some, as of right now, are not contested. But I think rather than try to handicap or talk about who we can work with and who we can't, we'll allow them to work through their process -- except to say, which should be the quite obvious, whoever the Republicans elect as Speaker we'll work with.
Q: What are you going to do without Newt?
MR. LOCKHART: Soldier on.
Q: Are you going to miss Gingrich? I mean, in terms of the political calculation, on background, a lot of people around the White House for many months now have said, thank God for Newt Gingrich, the President is lucky in his enemies.
MR. LOCKHART: It's hard to divine what it will be like in the House without Newt Gingrich, or post-Newt Gingrich. And as I think I said this morning, to the extent that the environment is more positive and less partisan, that could be very good for the American public as far as pursuing the President's agenda and what's best for the country. To the extent that some take the message that Mr. Gingrich had to go because he was too moderate or too conciliatory to the Democrats and the President, that could lead to a much worse environment.
Q: Joe, we asked you repeatedly over the summer whether the President had sent any signal to the Secret Service about whether they should or shouldn't assert a privilege against testifying. We were assured he sent no such signal. Now we find out in January he filed a document saying he emphatically endorsed such a privilege, he thought it should be absolute and inviolate. How can you reconcile these two statements?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, first off, because this was something that was filed by the President's private attorney and you know full well that I don't follow the Paula Jones case that closely, so what you're telling me is news to me. And, secondly, this is an issue that came up post -- so if you're somehow trying to argue that he sent a message in the Paula Jones case to somehow link up at a future date to litigation with the Secret Service, I think that would be pretty good lawyering.
Q: Joe, can you confirm if First Lady has written a letter to the Indian opposition leader, Sonia Gandhi, and, if so, why she has written a letter to --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any information on that. I suggest you call her office.
Q: I asked you last week if you have any response to the letter that was delivered to the President.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, the letter -- we have received the letter and it is under review within the NSC, and at the appropriate time that they come to some --
Q: What letter?
MR. LOCKHART: There's a letter that came from some foreign policy leaders and from some members of Congress seeking --
Q: No, it's the letter from the Cuban American National --
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I'm sorry. It's the second letter. That is an issue that's being handled at the Justice Department and you should go there for comment.
Q: What is the other letter you were speaking of?
MR. LOCKHART: There was a letter from some members of Congress and some members of the foreign policy community seeking to establish a commission on looking at our relationship with Cuba. And that's the answer I gave.
Q: Do you have a view on that?
MR. LOCKHART: As I just said, we're looking at that, the NSC is looking at the letter and I have nothing for you now. When I do, I'll let you know.
Q: Does the White House have a view on the New Yorker article, which charges that Ken Starr might have been intimidating women witnesses?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not familiar with the article, so I can't articulate a view one way or the other.
Q: Does the President reserve the right not to answer some of the 81 questions? You say he is going to respond.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm giving you the best answer I can based on what I've been told. I don't know precisely the form of the response, but I have been told the President -- or the Counsel's Office and the President will respond to the letters, will answer questions and you'll see the answers when you see them.
Q: Are some of the questions considered trick?
MR. LOCKHART: Question number one is awfully difficult. (Laughter.)
Q: What is that, are you President --
MR. LOCKHART: Basically, yes. "Did you know when you took the Oath of Office you were taking an Oath of Office?"
Q: Joe, what's the reaction to -- comments, suggestions that the First Lady should stay home more often and that the President should use a motel room?
MR. LOCKHART: I didn't see that comment, the last one. I think the governor-elect has wide latitude to talk on subjects, any subject he chooses without me having to comment on it.
Q: Joe, under the Judiciary Committee rules, the White House can cross-examine witnesses. Are White House attorneys preparing to cross-examine Ken Starr; do they intend to do so?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not familiar with what our plans are. That hearing date is expected to be sometime next week. I can try to find out.
Q: Did I just hear you give a commitment to release to us the President's answers to those 81 questions when they're --
MR. LOCKHART: No, don't think so.
Q: You said we'll see the answers.
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I think you'll eventually see them.
Q: But not the --
MR. LOCKHART: Let's do this in order. Let's get the letter ready and then we can discuss what, if anything, will be released. Although, I do trust that given the track record of the committee and their belief that all information should be allowed to flower in the public, that we will all see whatever is made available.
Q: Joe, now that the elections are over, the President is meeting tomorrow with the exporters -- will he bring up fast track again, will he revive it?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't expect that to be part of the remarks. I think it will be more focused on the global opening markets and what we expect in the context of some of the things we'll be talking about at APEC, where they will be talking about a broad global trade liberalization package.
Q: But you still believe in fast track?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q: Will he bring that up in the next Congress -- fast track?
MR. LOCKHART: I expect -- the President's views haven't changed. He believes that fast track authority is an important tool for the President as far as opening markets and encouraging domestic economic expansion. And we'll bring it up at the appropriate time.
Q: Over the weekend, Livingston indicated that one of the first pieces of legislation he'd like to introduce would change the way that Social Security is accounted for in the budget, and that would likely mean a temporary federal deficit. What's the White House view of that, particularly given that Social Security first is one of the President's priorities?
MR. LOCKHART: I have to tell you, I didn't see that comment. I didn't see it any of the clips I saw. So let me look into that and see.
Q: Does the administration have a position on off-budget versus on-budget treatment of Social Security?
MR. LOCKHART: If they do, it's a mystery to me.
Q: In the speech tomorrow, will the President be specific about what certain countries need to do? Will he say things like Japan needs to eliminate tariffs on forestry and fishery products?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think our positions are well-known, and I'm not familiar yet with how specific the speech will get because I haven't seen the draft of it yet. So I should be in a better position to help tomorrow morning.
Q: Kenneth Starr said after the Supreme Court ruling today that the administration's continued assertion of privilege for staff and Secret Service substantially delayed and impeded the grand jury's investigation. Did the President delay their investigation?
MR. LOCKHART: I believe the President and the White House made an important case about the value of having full and frank conversations between the President and White House attorneys. That was an important argument to make. And unfortunately, the Supreme Court chose not to review the lower court's ruling.
Q: But Joe, no court -- no court -- agreed with the White House position on this. You lost in the lower court, the appeals, the emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, and then before the entire Supreme Court. There are arguments out there that this was frivolous and was designed to do nothing more than delay the Starr investigation.
MR. LOCKHART: And those arguments are wrong.
Q: Joe, what does the White House make of Henry Hyde's suggestion that if the President doesn't answer the questionnaire, he might file another charge -- impeachment charge against him?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think he has much to worry about.
Q: Joe, will the President meet with the Dalai Lama this week?
MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is the Dalai Lama is in town for a few days. I believe he may meet with the Vice President tomorrow in the afternoon. I expect if that meeting is confirmed, the President may drop by, as he has done on previous occasions.
Q: Why not have a regular meeting with the Dalai Lama as opposed to this drop-by which you always do? What's the diplomatic protocol -- the excuse for that?
MR. LOCKHART: Because drop-bys work. We're getting way too late in the briefing to make me do that, Wolf.
Q: Joe, I don't want to test everyone's patience with this question, but I'm trying to go back for a bit of specificity here --
MR. LOCKHART: Do I get to ask everybody if their patience is being tested like mine? (Laughter.)
Q: Maybe after the question.
Q: We'll respond in good faith. (Laughter.)
Q: In the Jones case, protective function privilege was first raised, and the President and his lawyers argued that the Secret Service agents should not have to testify. Now, those documents were under seal and that argument was not known publicly. Are you saying today that neither the President, nor any of his attorneys encouraged the Secret Service to pursue protective function privilege in the grand jury investigation later?
MR. LOCKHART: As we've said before, I'm not aware of any involvement in any way, shape, or form in what the Treasury Department and the Justice Department argued on behalf of the Secret Service. We've been very clear that the President has said that this is an issue for the Secret Service, as they are the experts on this issue and they have made this case.
And in fact, as you are also aware, there have been some who claimed in decisions on this that the argument would have been stronger if the President had asserted the privilege. But he did not because he didn't think that was appropriate.
Q: But if he had done it in January, why didn't he repeat it --
Q: Joe, why was it appropriate in the case of the Jones case and not appropriate in the case of the grand jury investigation. Why didn't he assert it?
MR. LOCKHART: Again, you're telling me something that was under seal that I am not aware of. I'm just telling you what I know about the grand jury case and our position of non-involvement.
Q: Joe, President Clinton spoke over the weekend with the President of Honduras, President Flores. Did he get through to any of the other Central American Presidents, that you know of?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, he did speak -- and if there are other calls to report on, we'll let you know -- he did speak of conveying our concern about the devastating losses and daunting task of reconstruction that both countries face and pledging U.S. commitment to work with the countries in both of those efforts.
Q: Is there any discussion at the White House about establishing a protective function privilege by statute by Congress?
MR. LOCKHART: To tell you the truth, the only discussion I've heard of that has been from members. I've heard a series of members on both sides of the aisle who have come forward and said that that's something they want to look at, but I haven't heard any discussion here or any involvement here. I don't want to rule out that they haven't sought the views of the Counsel's Office; I'm just not aware if they have.
Q: Joe, there seems to be a hole in the stomach, or at least dwindling stomach, even on the Judiciary Committee, for an impeachment vote within the committee. Are there any discussions going on about avoiding that and perhaps coming to terms with some deal, some agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: If there are any discussions, I'm not aware of them. I think most of the discussions right now are going on within the committee. I think if you watched the various members who were out on television this weekend, there were various ideas talked about, but I'm not aware that that's something that's going on except amongst themselves.
Q: Does the President think he's out of the woods in impeachment?
MR. LOCKHART: The President has said he thinks this is out of his hands, and what he needs to do is concentrate on the job that the public elected him to do.
Q: Joe, a question of standards for impeachment, touching on that. John Conyers said this morning that an issue of perjury can't arise out of questions the government has no legal authority to ask. Does the White House share that view?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry, say again. I'm not sure I understood that.
Q: A charge of perjury, or the issue of perjury, can't arise out of questions that the government, meaning Ken Starr, has no legal authority to ask. In essence, the issue of perjury is inextricably tied to the question of Ken Starr's mandate.
MR. LOCKHART: I know that Congressman Conyers has been very adamant about getting some information going to the mandate. It's the first time I have heard that argument made, so I just don't know whether it's something -- whether it's a concern we share or not.
Q: Joe, another member of that committee, Congressman Nadler, appeared today and said that the proper mechanism for handling alleged violations of law by a President is through the criminal process, to simply charge him and indict him like any other citizen could be indicted. Is that also the White House's view?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the Congressman was expressing his view. I haven't heard any speculation one way or the other on that. And that's obviously something that raises constitutional issues, and I think Mr. Starr has got several constitutional experts on his payroll, so I imagine they have thought about it.
Q: Has the President spoken to Newt Gingrich yet?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: Back to Iraq, can you tell us if you're discussing anything on tightening the sanctions regime, which is notoriously leaky?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there is a series of diplomatic channels and communications both private and public, but I don't think it's useful at this point to detail either anything that may happen diplomatically or militarily.
END 2:03 P.M. EST
|Citation: William J. Clinton: "Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart", November 9, 1998. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=48158.|
© 1999-2011 - Gerhard Peters - The American Presidency Project