Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official
The Roosevelt Room
3:31 P.M. EST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I thought I would start by just walking you through the process thus far, so you see where we are right now.
Sometime, I think it was about 5:00 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, we received notice that there were going to be some subpoenas served. At that point I notified the Chief of Staff, and he asked me to head up the response for any subpoena that was served on the White House. We were told that there would be one subpoena served on the White House of what's called the "custodian of records" -- a records subpoena, document subpoena -- and that there would be, as well, a subpoena served on individuals.
At approximately 7:00 p.m., as I recall, the subpoena was served on Patsy Thomasson, who is the -- she is the custodian of records as the head of administration over there; and she then turned the subpoena over to me.
The first actions we took were essentially to cancel, as you've all reported, the tossing out of trash and burn bags or anything. So we locked in place everything as it stood on Friday night. And we got a memo out to all employees throughout the complex with respect to that.
Having locked things in place, we have spent the weekend now preparing -- I have, in addition to myself five other lawyers who were working with me in terms of this compliance project. And we have spent the weekend preparing a series of memoranda with respect to staff so that they know how to conduct their compliance effort.
People have to search their files, people have to go back through if they have trash and look through trash to see if they have responsive documents; and we're going through that process as we speak today at the White House. That process is ongoing. We're obviously getting questions from people, and we are advising people if they have any question about a document, we'd like to have the document and we can pursue the question with them. We are establishing a process that requires individuals to certify their production, and we're talking about hundreds of individuals here -- out of an abundance of thoroughness -- that are going to certify their productions with respect to this matter. Then we have an individual custodian of the record, who will be responsible for the change in custody issues, and will be responsible to produce those to the grand jury.
Q: Who's that? Patsy Thomasson?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, that will be Marvin Krislov, the gentleman behind --
Q: And are all five of these lawyers White House lawyers, or are they outside counsel?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They are all currently White House lawyers. We have one detailee and that is from the Office of Administration. We have a detailee because there are a variety of administrative issues that we're dealing with -- access to computers here to make sure the documents that are on computer are properly accessed. But these are all either existing White House attorneys or this one detailee.
Q: you found out whether there have been any other meetings or contacts by members of the White House staff with anyone in the Treasury Department or any other point of the government on this similar topic?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That inquiry is part of the production of documents, and I am not prepared to comment further on it at this point.
Q: You're not prepared because you don't know, or because --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because the levels -- the documents are being searched and this is an ongoing process and I am not prepared at this time to make any further comments.
Q: Will you tell us when you have completed this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is -- let me say one thing so we understand this. This process is currently before the grand jury. And it is important in terms of the individuals involved as well as the integrity of the grand jury process that we work fully, completely with the grand jury to get the information to the special counsel's office. And that is a process we are going to use. I don't anticipate at this time that we are going to have dayto -day disclosures of information. I don't think -- and if I can go off the record for a second, let me say -- I don't --
Q: You're on background already.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Here's the point -- I don't want to in any way have any impression that we are putting out information about who said what to whom or anything like that. It's very important, and we're working very hard on this. I have instructed staff about this. There will be no coordinated defenses in terms of people's sort of comparing stories. I don't want any of that. And one of the problems when you put information out there is that it is seen as information potentially that -- well, this person said this, and this person said that. The process we are going to follow, and I think we're going to follow it absolutely in good faith and to the letter, is to comply fully, expeditiously --
Q: Back on background then, can you explain the President's answer to Terry Hunt's question?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All that was off the record --
Q: Is off the record that you don't want people to compare stories and --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If you want to put that on -- obviously, we don't want anybody to compare stories. I'm perfectly happy to have that on background.
Go ahead, we're on background.
Q: If you could explain the President's answer to Terry Hunt's question, which had to do with what briefings he had had and when he came to know about certain things. The answer was a bit confusing. I'm not clear on what he was saying regarding whether he knew about the criminal referral before or after it had been made.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have no idea in either case. That is, I didn't hear what the President said, and you'd have to clarify --
Q: Do you know the facts as to whether he had the fruits of those meetings, he or the First Lady --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I do not know the answer to that.
Q: Can somebody --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let my colleague clarify that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He learned of it -- he had no formal briefing, but he learned of it sometime in October. He doesn't remember exactly when. It was presented to him as a done deal.
Q: And he doesn't remember who?
Q: By whom?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He doesn't remember by whom.
Q: Did Bernie Nussbaum write a memo off that memo?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He believes it was in the context as press inquiries started to build about it --
Q: It was some staff, it wasn't from a newspaper reporter.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, but it was in the context of we started to take questions about it.
Q: Did Bernie -- or do you guys know whether Bernie wrote a memo off that meeting -- everybody seems to write memos off meetings around here.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not that I know of, but --
Q: Do you know?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't answer that, because --
Q: Since the President has answered that subject, if you could find an answer to that.
Q: That might help solve the --
Q: Because this could be a whole news cycle based on the President's answer to it.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's no formal briefing and the President didn't talk about any memo --
Q: This is going to be a question. Now, you all can answer it the best you can or you cannot, but what you've done -- she's right. I mean, we hear what you say, what he said we heard, too. But what we're trying to get across to everybody is if we could get cooperation here on this, we'd appreciate it.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- the question was, was there a memo.
Q: No, the outstanding question is this: October 31st, the first published report of the criminal referrals occurred.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Correct.
Q: On September 29th, Hanson told Nussbaum about it.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right.
Q: The President said he learned of them on October.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right.
Q: From mid-October until the end of October, press inquiries started occurring before there were actual printed stories.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Correct.
Q: So one is left with the conclusion that he could have been told by Nussbaum, based on -- or whoever, based on the Hanson-to-Nussbaum briefing, or you could have been told by Bruce, because there were press inquiries. And the question is, did the fruit of the Nussbaum-Hanson inquiry produce the President's knowledge? You know, that's not that hard to find out, is it? Does he remember --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, the answer is he doesn't.
Q: He doesn't know what produced his knowledge?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, he --
Q: He doesn't remember any --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was not a formal briefing, he was not formally briefed about it as a result of the meeting. That's what he said.
Q: Well, I'm not asking -- I didn't say anything about formal. The question was --
Q: or did he learn from Mrs. Clinton? Nussbaum to Hillary to the President.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't see what more we can say about it. That's his answer -- I mean, he was told sometime in October by staff. He doesn't remember --
Q: I would think I'd remember if somebody was telling me that I was in that kind of trouble. I probably would remember.
Q: That memo that you circulated this morning -- does that also affect the President and the First Lady? Do they have to go through all their burn bags and wastebaskets? Are they doing the
same thing that everybody else on the White House staff is today doing to comply with the subpoena?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That subpoena applies --
Q: It applies?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The memo that we circulated today goes to everybody, and it would include everybody.
Q: The President and the First Lady?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Everybody.
Q: Would it affect a presidential diary?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe -- I mean, again, the answer is, the subpoena speaks for itself. If there are relevant documents in response to the subpoena, they are covered, yes.
Q: Is the First Lady covered even if she's not a White House official?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe it covers all White House people and I think that would be carte blanche. It says staff, not officials.
Q: Is the First Lady covered? Is the First Lady required to supply all the documents?
Q: Is she going through her garbage pails right now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll get back to you on that.
Q: On the question of the First Lady. But the President is covered?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll post something --
Q: When you said staff --
Q: Is it possible that the First Lady's office is not covered by the memo?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, the First Lady --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no. And the only -- let me get back to you on a definitive answer so we get it right.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll post it.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the President --
Q: The President and the First Lady.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- and the First Lady. Let me get back to you on that.
Q: Do you have a sense now of what's going to happen Thursday? I understand they've retained -- individuals have retained counsel. But do you expect them to give grand jury testimony on Thursday?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know that because that's a discussion between the individual's counsel and the
special counsel. What I know is what we are doing is we will produce our documents. That's what our effort is. And beyond that --
Q: What about executive privilege and lawyer-client privilege?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: At this point, we haven't seen the documents to know even whether such a privilege would apply, would be available. We've been spending all weekend figuring out a system to get the documents. We will make those determinations in due course.
Q: When you say that individuals will be required to certify -- hundreds of individuals -- what exactly does that mean? You all as the lawyers will be reviewing these documents before they're handed over to Mr. Fiske?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. The individuals who will produce the documents to Mr. Krislov. Our lawyers will review them, and then he will -- if there are issues that come about privilege, about coverage, those determinations will be made. If there are any questions about those, we'd obviously get counsel from the special counsel. Then we will produce the documents.
Q: I take it by your answer that it -- you cannot rule out the possibility that Mr. Nussbaum, with regard to his own testimony and with regard to documents that he was asked to produce, may make an assertion of executive privilege and-or lawyer-client privilege?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think -- let me just say here, the way I think about this. I think the privilege that as far as any White House documents, the privilege belongs to the White House, to the executive. They're not individual privileges. Therefore, it is my view that if there is a privilege to be asserted, it's a White House privilege.
Q: By whom?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Presumably that would be done either by -- I would go to the Chief of Staff; he would make the proper determination. The Chief of Staff is the person I am reporting to on this.
Q: What would be privileged? What kind of communications would be privileged?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to speculate about that.
Q: Well, just categories, general --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I mean, there are -- what Brit has mentioned are the traditional privileges. There is attorney-client privilege; there is an executive privilege. Those are the privileges.
Q: And it at least potentially could be asserted here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They at least -- let's not mislead anybody, because I don't want the story, the White House says these privileges could be asserted. Nobody has made any determination that there are any privileges to assert --
Q: But you're not ruling it out.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- much less -- nobody -- I haven't even thought about the question. I am trying to get all
these documents. I've got, really, people calling, "what documents," how --
Q: I was trying to ask -- if you could hypothetically just say what kind of -- I understand lawyer-client privilege -- but in terms of executive privilege since all of these documents relate to the Executive Branch, what --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's a very --
Q: Is it narrow or very broad?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- it's a narrow legal privilege.
Q: Well, has the President made any decisions about whether he wants a former White House Counsel -- or actually, he's still the White House Counsel -- to testify fully -- is that the advise he's been given here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My understanding is the President has certainly -- each individual in terms of his counsel will make certain determinations. The President has urged every individual to cooperate fully with the grand jury --
QQ: You're the President's lawyer. Mr. Nussbaum will have to go down there and face that question ethically and otherwise when he goes in that grand jury room. What is his guidance from the people whom he serves here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the guidance I've just given you.
Q: I know, but to cooperate fully?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To cooperate fully.
Q: You cooperate fully - that doesn't mean you will waive legal privileges or that they've been waived --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The privileges -- let me explain something. The privileges are not Mr. Nussbaum's --belong to the President. The President --
Q: But they are asserted by counsel in situations --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They are typically asserted by counsel, but they are asserted by counsel on behalf of the client.
Q: So the lawyer can waive them; the President can waive these --
Q: And did he not say whether he would so?
Q: Lawyers frequently say that they are not going to waive attorney-client privilege. They don't feel that they can even if their --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, look, this bridge will be crossed, but I don't think -- let's just be realistic. I think that's not a realistic scenario.
Q: What about the executive privilege? You were saying just a few moments ago -- you started to say that it's now only drawn such as --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It would be the kind of thing, typically, in terms of advice that one gives the President of the United States. I mean, issues regarding high policy issues, things like that.
Q: Could you say at this point there are no plans for the White House to assert privilege?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To say there would be no plans at this point would say that there would be -- there are no plans either way. I don't even know if any privileges apply.
Q: Are you reviewing the documents to see whether there's a need to assert the privileges? Is that why you want to review all the documents after you collect them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I want to review the documents to see whether there are any privileges that are even applicable. The privilege is not mine; the privilege belongs to the Executive Branch.
Q: So you would review them and then they go to Mack or the President?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What Brit said is important in this sense -- I have to advise my clients. Understand here, I am not the person whose privilege it is. I will advise people properly and fully, and clients will make the appropriate determination.
Q: What about classified data? Do you have to worry about that also? Do you have to worry about top secret, about secret --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If they were classified data, that would be an issue we'd have to address as well.
Q: You talk about altered documents. Have you come across any? And you also about recreating some of these documents or material or anything that's been lost or destroyed. Can you just explain how that process will work?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is in their subpoena, okay? Now let's just say, hypothetically, to take it out of this context, if I get a subpoena tomorrow and it says just what that says -- any altered document or -- suppose I had literally ripped something up and put it in a burn bag. Under that subpoena, I am required to go get it, take it out of the burn bag and produce it; or if I put it someplace and I knew that, that's what the terms mean.
Q: But if it's already been destroyed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If it's already been destroyed and you have knowledge of that, in the course of your testimony you could be asked about that. But if you can't recreate it, obviously you can't recreate it. If we know about any such matters, we will --
Q: Have you come across any?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have not.
Q: Has Mack been subpoenaed yet? Do you know anything about a plan to subpoena Mack McLarty?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I do not.
Q: Has he given you an indication that he is about to be or may be subpoenaed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I have no such notification.
Q: delay in producing these documents?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q: Do you think you can produce them all by Thursday?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It is our current intention to do so based on what we have now, and we will continue to work toward that timetable. If, as in any document production, if it turns out that there are further questions than need to be answered, we may make a partial or 90 or 95 or 100 percent -- that process is going forward and we are shooting for a Thursday production.
Q: Treasury were the people -- information. Do you know if they're going through the same documents?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have no -- we are not talk -- I have not talked to them. (Laughter.) You're looking at the firewall. I don't plan to have a meltdown. (Laughter.)
Q: Do you and Hanson have a meeting in the hallway -- (laughter.)
Q: The point is, the President did make the case that everything's going to be turned over and all these documents are being sealed, but the people with the facts -- that is, the situation at the RTC and how it affected the Clintons -- are the people who are there, not here.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And, obviously, I think you should obviously direct your questions over there.
Q: Can you give us some sense about how disruptive this has been to operations?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let me just say, I think, as I said, it sounds like it's been disruptive, but certainly in the narrow sense -- right now, what -- you're looking at me -- if I look like somebody has been disrupted -- but it's been very clear from the Chief of Staff, it's been very clear as messages come down, this White House has a lot of business to do. Virtually all of the people in the White House who are involved in issues, economics and so forth, they're doing their business. We don't want people talking about this for the very reason I said before. This is not something where we want to be seen saying X said this to Y, Y said this to Z. Each individual is dealing with his or her lawyer -- the White House is dealing through a very orderly process, and the rest of the White House is conducting its business. Obviously, whatever time it takes to pull together subpoenaed documents, we will take.
Q: Let me just take this one step further --
Q: Can you put down on the record -- that part, the answer to that question? Do you mind? On the record?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to be on the record in the sense that -- I'm trying to explain the process, which I think you're all entitled to know. But I have --
Q: Is there a grand jury that is actually --
Q: Let me just follow up, because I want to be absolutely clear on how big or how small this thing is. Is this really a White House-wide thing that's going on here, touching every single --
Q: You said hundreds. Why?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Why, because the subpoena runs to the White House, and we want to be fully compliant. We didn't want to go back in and try to say only X, only Y --
Q: Except the President and the First Lady.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I said I would get back to you on that.
Q: So is this everybody in the Executive Office of the President, everybody in the White House Office? What's the definition?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Everybody in the White House Office, and we are also asking -- they were going to make individual certifications. We're also asking for people in the Executive Office of the President to make -- those people to check. Outside the White House Office, we're not doing an individual --we've asked those people to determine whether anybody on their staffs have any such documents and to let us know.
Q: Like OMB or STI or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right.
Q: So we're talking about 400 more people here.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, we're talking about many more than that. The total White House employees, White House Office --
Q: Here we go.
Q: We've been waiting for this number. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I was going to say it's more than that.
Q: What is your guess on the volume?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have absolutely no idea.
Q: you have no rough guess?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We haven't gotten any. All we did this weekend, Jim, was freeze them. We have no idea.
Q: Does this subpoena mean that two of the subpoenaed people cannot sit down and discuss how do we respond to Newt Gingrich's latest tirade, let's say? Can people who have been subpoenaed meet and discuss Whitewater and tactics and how to help the President on Whitewater, or are they now instructed by you that they can't even have a meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They are dealing with their counsel.
Q: No, I mean, what is the White House guidance for whether, unrelated to the document production and to their testimony about these meetings, whether they can now continue to function and help work on Whitewater issues -- Lindsey, for instance, Gearan --can they have a meeting on Whitewater?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As long as it doesn't have to -- I don't know if any such meeting is planned. I just don't know --
Q: But there have been meetings every day --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If there are meetings dealing with press inquires, meetings dealing with legislative matters, those meetings will go forward. If there are meetings dealing with specific testimony, presumably, then nobody should be talking to other people about their testimony. That is --
Q: Are they legally barred from that, or are they just --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know the answer, but at least our view is people should not be talking to each other --
Q: Now, are these guys going to have to pay for their own lawyers? Is there any way they can get reimbursed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There may be a process.
Q: Special counsel said they can be reimbursed if they're not indicted.
Q: There's no special counsel statute --
Q: They reinstated it.
Q: What's the answer to the question?
Q: Hold on a second, please. The White House Counsel's Office is involved in no way with these individuals who were subpoenaed. They have gone to their individual attorneys and you are not advising them in any way, shape or form?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, sir.
Q: But then, how can you divorce yourself from your collection of the documents then, and their appearance before the Grand Jury? Isn't there some overlap there that you just naturally have to become involved?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, you -- let me say, they work through their counsel. To the extent that there are documents that there are documents that are White House documents, their documents, we will produce those documents. That is our intention. But we're not going to prepare those witnesses, meet with those people. We're not going to be involved in their grand jury preparation or any of that.
Q: But what if there are questions related to White House documents which the White House is required to produce, but to which they have knowledge? You mean you're going to remain totally separate from them in regard to their grand jury appearance, even if it involves some of the White House documents that you're required to produce? Can you remain totally separate?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not with -- it depends what you're asking. If you're asking, can we remain totally separate
with respect to the production of their documents, the answer is no. If that's what you're asking, the answer is no. As far as their testimony -- that we are not involved in.
Q: But if there is testimony related to documents which you are required to produce, aren't you then required to work with these --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, sir. That is their lawyer's responsibility.
Q: Is it your understand that there's a special grand jury that's being convened here just for the purpose of this; or are they going to -- is this all going to go to just a regular sit -- or the sitting grand jury in Washington already?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just don't have any understanding on that.
Q: exactly who'll they'll be talking to on Thursday?
Q: Who did they tell you to return the subpoena to? I mean, where is the return due?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The return is due in Federal District Court here. I mean, that's -- whether it is a -- it is due here in Federal District Court. So these documents will not go to Little Rock, if that's the question.
Q: But it doesn't say that they're due to the special grand jury or anything like that, the way sometimes it does?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think it does.
Q: And have you talked to Fiske?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Have I talked to Fiske? I would just assume at this point not get into any of my discussions with the -- I think that is part of the process that I really do think we have to deal with. And I just am not going to start a practice of answering any of those questions.
Q: Do you know if all 10 of these individuals have hired their own attorney?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know if all -- first of all, I don't know anything outside the people in the White House.
Q: How about the six?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I do think most of the people in the White House either have or in the process of--
Q: And who's going to pay for those attorneys?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The answer that I was going to give you is, I think at this point there are people who are looking at the options. There may be different ways in terms of applying -- these individuals might pay for them; they may be able to apply for special funds or so forth. And I think that's being looked into. I don't have the answer to it. But I'm just saying that that's --
Q: What do you mean by special funds?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There may be a -- there is a fund that the Justice Department has, I think, for government employees. And under what -- I don't know that -- let me make clear again, I don't know that anybody has applied for such. I don't know if the fund is applicable here.
Q: When is it generally applicable?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know. It's just -- it's just not something I fully --
Q: And the President -- the President's legal fees to Williams and Connolly for David Kendall's services --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I know nothing about.
Q: That comes out of his own pocket?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's not a matter I have --
Q: It's not government taxpayer money --
Q: What would the reaction of the White House be if some of the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have no knowledge. I mean, it's just --
Q: if the individuals' attorneys want access to all the documents or some of the documents? Will those be made available to the individual --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know the answer to that.
Q: And for whatever reason some of the individuals' attorneys don't want them to produce the documents?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If they don't want them to -- I'd cross that point when we come to it.
Q: Were you just asked whether one person can -- if I were testifying, my lawyer would want to see what somebody else is producing, correct? Do they have access to that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just don't -- I have no determination --
Q: Would you rule out making those available?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just said no determination --
Q: What do you anticipate -- I think Mick asked you a minute ago -- what do you anticipate in terms of volume of documents from all of this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have no idea. I mean, a lot of -- the volume will not be -- let me tell you one reason why just the volume may or may not be significant. If you have a press clipping about a testimony, that could be -- people have a lot of press clippings around here, so the volume -- the size of the package may not be very relevant.
Q: What about the computer system here? Is that in any way affected in the efficiency -- do you have to pull -- I don't know the details of your system -- but do you have to dismantle the
system at all? Because there was an earlier time on a previous investigation when the computers had to -- the hard drives were removed because of a federal court order.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I know nothing about it. I'm not -- if somebody else knows the answer, give it to her.
Q: Do you have any reason to believe that there will be other White House officials subpoenaed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have no knowledge.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just say, Bernie Nussbaum did not tell the President about the referral pursuant to his conversation with --
Q: Did not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Did not write a memo. Bruce Lindsey did not tell the President pursuant to his being informed about it. The President doesn't remember exactly when he was told, or by whom, but it is -- all indications are, people's recollections are that it was after questions started to coming from the press after the referral was in fact --
Q: Can I make a suggestion that this is way too important to put on background?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's as good as I can do.
Q: Did you ask Nussbaum or Bruce how --
Q: So you're suggesting that based on that, the President was told by somebody; he can't remember who, but we can rule out both Bernie and Bruce?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You can rule out both Bernie and Bruce pursuant to conversations with Hanson.
Q: After the conversations --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. The information did not -- when the President was told, it was not as a result of Bernie's conversation with Hanson.
Q: But do either of them remember now having told him?
Q: You said that they didn't write a memo. Is there a chance that they just talked to him about it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They did not tell him. They did not have a conversation with him, did not have a phone call with him, they did not write him a memo after that conversation.
Q: Did either of them -- did he determine that either of them were the ones who told the President based on news inquiries?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's possible that someone did after --
Q: Someone what?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President doesn't remember who told him, so I can't tell you who told him.
Q: And does the First Lady remember if Maggie told her after --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I haven't talked to the First Lady about it.
Q: Do you know if Bernie --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Did Bernie tell Hillary? No.
Q: Did Bruce tell her?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He did not do anything with the information, other than tell Bruce Lindsey.
Q: Bernie didn't?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Bernie did not.
Q: Did Bruce tell Hillary?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know. Not pursuant to his conversation with Bernie or whoever, about -- not pursuant to the Hanson conversation.
Q: But they could have told either the President or the First Lady after the Hanson -- not pursuant to the Hanson?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The statement is that the President was told about this and we believe -- and, again, it's difficult because the President doesn't remember. After press inquiries started to come in about it, which were before or after the 8th, because that's when we started getting press calls about it.
Q: But it was after the criminal referral but before the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: After means nothing to anybody here, other than -- the day of the referral -- go into this process, we started to get press calls about it. And then because of those press calls -- we got from the press some specifics on this, that there were four checks in question, for example. It's information like that which came to us through press calls, not from any other source. We didn't know -- it appeared that the Clintons were mentioned somehow in the referrals, not even the Clintons, the campaign was mentioned somehow in the referrals. It wasn't until the press calls started coming in that it was narrowed down to, specifically, four checks. It was in that context that it began to be discussed around here, not before.
Q: told him, and Bruce and Bernie can't be sure they didn't tell him at some point after the beginning of October, how can you be sure that he didn't get the knowledge from Bruce or Bernie because of the Hanson conversation? I don't see how you can figure it out.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, this is somewhat the President's recollection of the conversations about what information was passed on to him. And I don't mean to be obscure; I just can't be any more precise than the President's memory.
Q: eventual result of that briefing, could it not? Rather than an immediate result.
Q: Some sort of way of --
Q: I mean, there's no way to know that, is there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's no -- except for the information that we got from the press was more specific than the information that was obtained through the Hanson conversation. And that was then what the President remembers hearing.
Q: The press did it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we're just trying to establish a time line; we're not blaming anybody --
Q: neither of them said, hey, I just had this conversation and --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Nobody -- that did not happen. That did not happen.
Q: Does the President have a diary or anything that he would use to --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not that I know of.
Q: Was he told before the Hanson meeting or after?
Q: He said October, so it's after that.
Q: The Hanson meeting was in September.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- told at all pursuant to the Hanson meeting.
Q: Is there some way we can get information about what the First Lady was learning since both her Press Secretary and Chief of Staff, obviously, aren't able to answer inquiries on this?
Q: We have a real problem with that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The first part of this is that Bernie did not tell her, and Bruce did tell her -- the First Lady as well. I'm just not -- I just don't know how she learned about it.
Q: The President wasn't able, though, to give a direct answer to the question of whether she knew about the other meetings. And I'm wondering if there's a way we can learn that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll see what we can say about that.
Q: Do you have any response to Gingrich's demand for Hubbell's suspension?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: When did he do that?
Q: Can we go on the record since --
Q: Yes, on the record -- just an on the record White House response to Gingrich.
MS. MYERS: I think Webb Hubbell -- I think he has served his capacity as associate -- the President has full confidence in him.
Q: You said that about Bernie on Friday. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll stand by my confidence.
Q: Dee Dee, the first meeting between Nussbaum and Hanson -- who originated that meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It happened at the end of another meeting to discuss the Waco report. It wasn't a previously scheduled meeting, it was at the -- of another meeting.
Q: But did Hanson say, I've got some information to tell you, or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Apparently. He passed it on to Bernie.
Q: May we clear up a question that he started -- I don't think he ever finished it. I think he left it that he did not know or did not think that -- burn bag and other things would be subject to --
Q: He said he would get back.
END 4:07 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269484