Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
3:22 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: Good afternoon. I have a brief statement from the President.
While I regret the continued filibuster of national service, I'm hopeful that additional Republicans will see passed politics to support this landmark legislation. National service will lift up our country and do us all honor.
I want to thank Senators Durenberger, Jeffords, and Chafee, along with 26 House Republicans, for putting service ahead of politics. I urge other Senate Republicans to follow their example and end this filibuster. The bill pending in the Senate reflects the concerns of both Democrats and Republicans. It has a limited authorization. It cuts bureaucracy and will energize our youth and reknit our communities. This legislation isn't Democrat or Republican, it's just American. And I hope that additional Republicans will soon agree.
Q: Dee Dee, does the government have a response to the Israeli Supreme Court's decision on Demjanjuk?
MS. MYERS: No. I believe it's being reviewed at the State Department, and I'd have to refer you to them.
Q: Well, the Justice Department apparently said something about still not wanting him back in the United States. Can you clarify that or expand on it?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to take the question. I know that the Justice Department also had something on it today, but I'm not sure what it is.
Q: Can you clarify who is in charge or who is the point now on the Vince Foster investigation? Last night the Justice Department was saying no questions will be answered, all questions will be answered at the White House. This related to the note.
MS. MYERS: The Justice Department is still the point of contact for any investigating agencies. The Park Service, obviously, is still the agency conducting the investigation.
Q: So nothing has changed?
MS. MYERS: Nothing has changed. Questions about the investigation would have to be referred to the Justice Department, I think. With reference to the note specifically and its discovery last night, we decided to go ahead and confirm it once it leaked, and I think they are referring calls about that particular incident to us.
Q: Well, about that then, is more going to be released on that? Is the contents of the note going to be released?
MS. MYERS: No. The Justice Department has said that in order -- because the investigation is ongoing, the contents ought not be released.
Q: Can you characterize in any more specifics the items in this note? Did they relate to specific things at the White House? Is it nonbusiness? Is there any way --
MS. MYERS: No, it's work related, and I think it does sort of shed some light on his state of mind, assuming that this is authenticated. Beyond that, we can't really comment given that it is part of an ongoing investigation.
Q: You mean the investigation -- they still are seeking the answer to whether he killed himself or not?
MS. MYERS: I think that they're in the process of an investigation that certainly looks at that question.
Q: What is the investigation? What are they looking for?
MS. MYERS: Well, you have to ask them exactly where they are in the investigation and what they may be trying to find. They're doing an investigation, as they would, because Vince's body was found in a national park.
Q: The President said yesterday when asked about this and about what he knew, he said, "I decided to watch a movie and Webb Hubbell was still hanging around here and I hadn't seen Vince in a while and I called him. I didn't -- unlike some other people who did know that he had been quite distressed, I was not really aware of that. But I knew I hadn't seen him in a while and I just kind of got lonesome." Now, according to the President, here he was with Webb Hubbell who had just spent the weekend with the guy, trying to lift his spirits because he was worried about him. Does the President mean to say that he spent this time with Webb Hubbell and he and Webb Hubbell are inviting this guy over for a movie and Hubbell had not advised the President that he was in distress?
MS. MYERS: Well, I certainly can't characterize Webb's weekend with Vince. I don't know enough about it. He -- and I think the President's comments in that regard speak for themselves. If other people knew about --
Q: Does he mean to say that when he called him he didn't even then know that he'd been "quite distressed"?
MS. MYERS: That's what he said -- he didn't know --
Q: Or he just learned that?
MS. MYERS: No, he didn't know.
Q: He didn't know?
MS. MYERS: He did not know.
Q: Webb Hubbell is there with him. Webb Hubbell spent the weekend with him --
MS. MYERS: You have to ask -- I can't comment on what Webb Hubbell's impressions might have been based on their weekend together.
Q: Is it you won't -- is it you dispute the idea that Webb Hubbell went to the shore with him for the purpose of lifting his spirits?
MS. MYERS: No -- I don't know what the reason is. I just can't characterize what was in Webb's head. I'm not --
Q: We're talking here about intimates of the President of the United States.
MS. MYERS: I understand that. But I don't know exactly what Webb thought or what he told --
Q: Well, can you find out and tell us please?
MS. MYERS: I know what the President's impression was; that, I can tell you. He did not have any reason at that point to believe that Vince was distraught.
Q: On what basis are you telling us that this note was work-related? Have you read it, seen a transcript of it? Has it been characterized to you? Can you explain?
MS. MYERS: I know what the contents are. I've seen not the note itself, which was turned over to the Park Service police, but I am familiar with the contents.
Q: Are you telling us there was nothing in it that related to anything other than work? There was no personal side to this -- to his writing?
MS. MYERS: The only thing I'll say that I can say about it is, I think it did show him to be in a distressed state of mind, a troubled state of mind per work. And beyond that, I really can't comment.
Q: And not per anything else?
MS. MYERS: No, it was really work-related.
Q: And what can you tell us about the antidepressant medication?
MS. MYERS: Nothing.
Q: Had he taken any of it?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: Do you know what it was?
MS. MYERS: No. I don't even know -- the only thing I know about that is what I read in The New York Times. I don't have it confirmed through another source.
Q: Can you take the question of whether he was taking Prozac?
MS. MYERS: I really can't, because --
Q: Why not?
MS. MYERS: Because it's something -- it's with -- the family has chosen not to comment on that.
Q: Did you ask the family?
MS. MYERS: I spoke to a representative of the family, and at this point they're just --
Q: Is that Mack McLarty or somebody else?
MS. MYERS: No, somebody else.
Q: An attorney?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: Dee Dee, when are the toxicology reports going to come out?
Q: You're saying that it's the White House position you're not going to explain what kind of medication, whether you know that he had been taking any medication?
MS. MYERS: Right. I think what we said before is that we just weren't aware of it if he was, and again, the only information I have about that is what I read in The New York times this morning. I don't have any independent confirmation.
Q: Well, was any medication found in his office?
MS. MYERS: No, nothing -- what we said before is nothing bearing on his death was found in his office.
Q: But we were told that also, but the note --
MS. MYERS: That's true. But given --
Q: Well, and the psychiatrist note.
MS. MYERS: But that wasn't found in his office.
Q: Where was it found?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: How do you know it wasn't?
Q: That wasn't found in his office?
MS. MYERS: Because I know that it wasn't, but I don't know where it was found.
Q: What wasn't found?
MS. MYERS: The scrap of paper or note, whatever it was, that had the names of three psychiatrists on it was not found in his office.
Q: Was it found in the car?
Q: Do you have any comment from Japanese --
Q: Can we finish up?
MS. MYERS: No. The answer is no.
Q: Dee Dee, did you see the letter yourself? And if so, could you tell us -- did he seem to be shouldering more responsibility than he should have?
MS. MYERS: I am familiar with the contents of the note, but I cannot say any more than I've already said about what was in it.
Q: Why can't you?
Q: Did Vince, at any time, talk to Mack or to the President about leaving the administration?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Did he give any indication that he was not happy in his job?
MS. MYERS: I think everybody has their ups and downs. I think everybody has their good days and their bad days. I don't know that he talked to anybody about quitting. I don't know that he did.
Q: Do you know that he didn't?
MS. MYERS: I can't say that there isn't anybody in the building that he ever talked to about leaving. I haven't -- I don't think we've done an inquiry that would in any way make that certain. But I do not know of any plans if he had talked to anybody in any serious way about quitting.
Q: If I could just follow up on Brit's question for just a moment. Does the President -- it now appears that a lot of people who knew Vince Foster knew that he was distressed, and the President apparently did not, or says he did not. Does the President feel that people, perhaps out of a desire to shelter him or out of fairly common thing that happens at the White House is to keep bad news away from the boss, that people did not inform him of what was going on with Vince Foster adequately? And does he have any feeling that he should have been informed and that he wasn't?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that. I think that the White House -- people who worked with Vince didn't have any reason to believe that he was distraught.
Q: But they thought he was quite distressed.
MS. MYERS: I think people who work -- some people who work, particularly people who work closely --
Q: Isn't that a little bit of a hair you're splitting there between quite distressed and distraught?
MS. MYERS: No, because -- well, I mean, everything looks different from this vantage point.
Q: Sure, everything looks different in hindsight.
MS. MYERS: And I think what's happened in subsequent days and subsequent week or nine days since his death is that people have compared notes and tried to understand more completely for their own personal reasons the circumstances surrounding his death. But at the time, and even now I don't think anybody, looking back, can say, oh, we should have recognized that as a sign of something much greater. In hindsight, you can perhaps say that. But at the time, people go through their ups and downs here. What he was going through didn't seem to be anything outside of the normal sometimes difficult ups and downs of working here. Had anybody had any inkling of the trouble that he was in, we all would like to think that we would have done something about it.
Q: Are people saying that? Are people regretting that they didn't recognize or notice things now that they now, in hindsight, think?
MS. MYERS: Hindsight always provides a much clearer perspective. I think there isn't a person in here who doesn't wish that they had known so they could have done something.
Q: How many hours did the White House have the note before they turned it over to the Park Police?
MS. MYERS: The note was discovered Monday afternoon and turned over Tuesday evening, so a little over 24 --
Q: So somewhere between 24 and 30 hours before you gave that evidence to the Park Police?
MS. MYERS: Yes. It was our judgment that the best thing to do was to make sure that the family had a chance to see it. Lisa Foster was coming to Washington on Tuesday for business unrelated to this letter and was given -- was informed about it when she got here. And the President, who was out of town on Monday, was also informed on Tuesday.
Q: So your position on --
Q: Did the President see the note?
MS. MYERS: He didn't see the note, but he was briefed as to the contents.
Q: So your position on this was rather than turn over the evidence in an investigation that it was uncovered that you would wait however many hours or days it took to show the family first?
MS. MYERS: And then we promptly called the Justice Department.
Q: Who uncovered the note?
MS. MYERS: Associate Counsel Steve Neuwirth.
Q: And who made the decision that it should not immediately be turned over to the investigating authorities?
MS. MYERS: I think the decision was made to inform the family, and I'm not sure who actually made the final decision.
Q: Will you take that question please?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q: So our impression, or the impression that the decision to inform the family first and to withhold it from the police until that was done, we're told was made by Mr. McLarty. Is that at odds with --
MS. MYERS: I just don't know who made the decision. I know how and when the note was discovered and some of the events thereafter, but I just don't -- I'll take the question.
Q: Anything else --
Q: And there were questions of phone logs that the police raised that hadn't been turned over yet. Do you know whether or not the Counsel's Office has made available to the Park Police the phone calls of his -- that he made the day that he died?
MS. MYERS: No, and I'll take that question. I don't know whether we have an answer to that, since it's part of the ongoing investigation. But I'll --
Q: Do you know if the White House has given the Park Police permission to talk to Mrs. Foster yet? As I understand it, they were informed that she was too distraught to be interviewed until after the funeral.
MS. MYERS: I don't know that to be true, but I'll take that as well. I don't know that the White House would have any control over that.
Q: When the investigation is complete, who will be releasing the results of that investigation report? And, also, will the family have some type of veto power over what is released?
MS. MYERS: I think that since the Park Service police is conducting the investigation, they'll release the results consistent with the normal -- whatever they normally do. You have to contact them as to that.
Q: We couldn't get it through Justice?
MS. MYERS: No, not necessarily. You'd have to check with the Park Service. The Park Service is conducting the investigation. We've only asked the Justice Department to serve as a point of contact in that investigation.
Q: For who?
MS. MYERS: For the Park Service.
Q: Wait a minute. So the Park Service goes to the Justice Department and the Justice Department then comes to the White House to request evidence? And the White House then consults the family?
MS. MYERS: To provide -- I'm not sure exactly how -- I believe that's true, that the lawyer for the family is in touch with the Justice Department and the Park Service is in touch with the Justice Department to answer questions like, "Is it appropriate to release the contents of the note?" And the answer we got back from the Justice Department, after consulting with the Park Service police, was "No." So that's an example of how the process works.
Q: So the Justice Department made the call on releasing of the evidence?
MS. MYERS: The Justice Department in consultation with the Park Service Police, advised us, in fact, directed us not to release the contents of the note.
Q: Who at Justice did that?
MS. MYERS: Well, Phil Heymann is the point person. But I believe --
Q: The reason was --
MS. MYERS: The reason was that it was part of an ongoing investigation and their judgment was that it --
Q: I'm talking about releasing it to the Park Service.
MS. MYERS: No, no, no. Well, we contacted the Justice Department originally, who advised us --
MS. MYERS: Tuesday. Tuesday after --
Q: So you contacted Justice the day after you found it?
MS. MYERS: Correct. That's the point we just discussed.
Q: I understand that, but what I didn't know was whether you contacted anybody or whether you had a consultation with the Justice Department before that.
MS. MYERS: We contacted the Justice Department on Tuesday who said to contact the Park Service police. The Justice Department came to the White House.
Q: When you say they're a point of contact what that means is they're a point of contact for investigators, but they're not the first point of contact for the White House when it's deciding what to do with evidence it uncovers.
MS. MYERS: No, they were. We contacted them.
Q: The day after.
MS. MYERS: The day after.
Q: Why did you wait to contact the Justice Department?
MS. MYERS: Because we wanted to make sure that the family had been informed and the President had been informed.
Q: That's the point, isn't it? The Justice Department is a secondary point of contact after you consult with the family and whoever else you deem you want to talk to.
MS. MYERS: No, I think the Justice Department is still the primary point of contact. That's the person we went to to seek advice about what to do with the document. And they said it ought to be turned over to the Park Service police, and so we did that.
Q: When you say an ongoing investigation, which investigation are you referring to?
MS. MYERS: The Park Service police.
Q: Can you take the question of whether Vince Foster was in New York City on February 10th?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q: What was the question?
MS. MYERS: Was Vince Foster in New York City on February 10th?
Q: Where was this note found?
MS. MYERS: The note was found in the bottom of Vince's briefcase in his office as one of the Associate Counsel's was packing up some of his personal belongings to be turned over to the family.
Q: And was the briefcase in that office when Park Police originally went through the office in search of any possible evidence that could shed some light on the death?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it was. And I don't think I should say a whole lot more about the circumstances since this is ongoing, but it was. It was torn into fairly small pieces of paper and at the bottom of the briefcase and I think was not immediately apparent.
Q: Who put it together?
MS. MYERS: The Counsel's Office.
Q: Can you just run through the chronology on the other note, the one with the list of the three psychiatrists? When was that found?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: You still don't know?
MS. MYERS: No, it was -- I don't know what the Park Service is saying, if anything, about it. But it was not something that was discovered in his office and it's something that I don't know the specific details about --
Q: that you waited a while before you told police - -
MS. MYERS: We didn't have it. We never -- it was never here.
Q: Has anything else turned up?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of.
Q: Let me just ask one other question on that. When was the first time that officials here knew of the existence of that?
MS. MYERS: What day was it? Today's Thursday. Tuesday night, late.
Q: Dee Dee, coming back to Ann's question, if you had the note for more than 24 hours before turning it over to the authorities, is that not obstructing justice when there was an investigation going on?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe so. We took the note and informed the family and then turned it over to the proper authorities.
Q: That's more than 24 hours. In an investigation 24 hours can be critical.
MS. MYERS: I don't think there's -- there's no criminal implications here.
Q: Isn't that what the investigation is determining?
Q: That's why there's an investigation.
MS. MYERS: I think what we did was we informed the family about it, which we thought was appropriate, and then turned it over to the proper officials.
Q: Tuesday night, your first knowledge of which note?
MS. MYERS: That was the time we were first informed about a note with, or a piece of paper with the names of three psychiatrists.
Q: Tuesday night late?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: It was on the air Tuesday.
Q: Who discovered that note?
MS. MYERS: But we didn't have any independent confirmation of that. All we had was NBC's report.
Q: To what extent is the White House deciding for itself what evidence is appropriate to submit to the investigating authority? If Vince Foster had worked for any other organization except the White House, his office might have been sealed and all the contents gone over by the investigating authorities. And now, when things are found, it's being discussed whether or not and under what circumstances to be submitted.
MS. MYERS: No, whether or not was never an issue. It was something that we thought had a bearing on the situation and we turned it over. There was never a discussion about whether or not to turn it over.
Q: Dee Dee, would you object to a release of that note at the appropriate time, or would you tell the authorities that that shouldn't be released?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't think we would object. I think in the context of the investigation we were told not to release it, but I think that if the investigating agencies thought that it was appropriate that --
Q: Is there any reason it couldn't be released now? That would end a lot of the questions you're going to get.
MS. MYERS: Yes, I understand that, but, yes, the Justice Department advised us not to in the course of this investigation. Now, at some point they may say that it's okay, but at this point they're saying not to. And we think it's important.
Q: Can you clear up the differences between what you told us on I think it was your Tuesday briefing that the President was among the people that knew that Foster was, quote, "having a rough time," and what the President said yesterday?
MS. MYERS: I tried, and I guess, failed to put that comment in the context of the work, that the President knew the Counsel's Office had had its ups and downs, like a lot of departments around here, that that was not unusual. But he had no reason to think that Vince was personally despondent or distressed or deeply troubled. He was shocked when it happened, and shocked to find out subsequently that people thought that he was, in fact, distressed, which was what he said yesterday. At the time, he didn't have any reason to believe that it was anything other than sort of routine ups and downs.
Q: Dee Dee, will you take the question as to whether Webb Hubbell told him that Mr. Foster was in distress?
MS. MYERS: I know that he did not.
Q: You know that he didn't?
MS. MYERS: I know that he did not. The President did not know when he called Vince --
Q: With Hubbell at his side, correct?
MS. MYERS: Correct. I don't know if Hubbell was in the room, but he had talked to --
Q: Hubbell did not -- can you clarify then whether it was Hubbell who urged him to invite Foster over?
MS. MYERS: He didn't. Nobody urged him to. I mean, it was -- Webb was there and they were going to watch a movie.
Q: These three men are old and close friends. The President -- and Hubbell is an intimate of Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Foster. He was there with the President of the United States. He had just spent a weekend with him, he doesn't tell the President this.
MS. MYERS: The "this" is what is, I think, perhaps in question. I don't know what Webb thought coming out of that weekend with Vince. I haven't had a chance to speak to him about it, and I don't think that anybody here -- I don't think Webb has said exactly what he thought.
Q: Are you disputing that Webb Hubbell -- that part of the purpose of that weekend at the shore was to lift Foster's spirits?
MS. MYERS: I'm simply saying I don't know and I can't comment on it. I don't know why they went. I think --
Q: Might you see fit, in light of the fact that all of this revolves around intimates of the President of the United States to ask?
MS. MYERS: I mean, I can tell you that the President did not know --
Q: You can understand why anyone with the knowledge of the facts as they've been reported here and mostly there would wonder.
MS. MYERS: I think it is appropriate to talk about the context of what happened at the White House, and we've tried to do that. I don't think that I'm in a position to know what Vince's friends and intimates outside of this environment thought or what was in their mind.
Q: Dee Dee, you just said they're officials of this administration.
MS. MYERS: I understand that, but I just think that I can tell you what the President thought when he called Vince and I talked to him about that, and what the President -- why he called him and sort of what his understanding of the situation was. Hindsight puts this in a completely different light.
Q: We're not asking about hindsight, we're asking about what happened and when and who said what to whom beforehand.
MS. MYERS: Right, and what I can tell you about that is that Webb and the President were together, the President called Vince to invite him to the movies --
Q: Just sort of out of the blue?
MS. MYERS: Yes, well, Webb and Vince and the President were friends, and it would not be unusual for two of them to contact the third, particularly because Hillary was out of town, I think, and he was having some people over for the movies, and as he said, he got lonesome for Vince and he called him up. But the President did not have any reason to believe that Vince was deeply troubled or depressed.
Q: In light of that, and the difficulty you seem to be having in answering Brit's question, are there questions of liability here? Has Attorney Nussbaum, McLarty suggested at all, if there might be any questions of liability? We're trying to --
MS. MYERS: I don't think so.
Q: It doesn't seem that there would be. MS. MYERS: No one has suggested it in any way. It's -- Q: At the same time, it stretches credibility to think
that Webb and the President together would not discuss the weekend.
MS. MYERS: I think that the President and Vince discussed the weekend in some detail in their phone conversation. Hi, had a great time at the shore, how are you, it was fun, the sun was out. You know, they talked about the weekend. The President clearly knew that they had spent the weekend together. Once again, I don't know how to reconstruct events in a way that makes sense from the perspective of knowing what happened. But all I can tell you is what the President's recollections were at the time.
Q: Dee Dee, what's striking about this is that it seems utterly credible to anyone that the President and everyone around him, even though they cared deeply about this man, would not have recognized that he was suicidal. That makes great sense. It's very hard to know these things. What seems less -- what's harder to believe is the idea that, under these circumstances, with Mr. Hubbell having just done what we believe him to have done, that the fact that the man was, as the President put it, in serious distress, would not have come to the President's attention. That's tough.
MS. MYERS: I think what the President -- again, all I can tell you is what the President knew at the time, that Counsel's Office was having its turn, as it were, and suffering some of the daily ups and downs of life in the White House. And I think the President was aware of that, but he wasn't aware that it went beyond that. And it's difficult to reconstruct from this vantage point. I wish there was more that I could say.
Q: This White House works seven days a week. Can you clarify whether or not you've checked with any of his staff to know if, in fact, the stories that he was not coming in on Saturdays and Sundays and so forth -- does that match with what was --
MS. MYERS: Does not match with what was reported today. I think a number of people here had meetings with him or were at a Fourth of July barbecue with him, for example, on weekends throughout the month.
Q: Was he working routinely on weekends, just like everybody else?
MS. MYERS: He had meetings in the White House, or was seen in the White House, I think every weekend day, was either at a party or in the White House with one exception. And I don't know what day it was, but --
Q: Well, that would have been the weekend before, wouldn't it?
MS. MYERS: No, because we can account for his whereabouts every day, except one. This is for the month of July. So, in other words, he was in on both Saturday and Sunday for a meeting or in the middle of the day at some point was seen with somebody during that period.
Q: Was that routine pattern prior to July?
MS. MYERS: He worked a lot of weekends. I didn't check back beyond that.
Q: When this is all resolved, who will make the announcement? Will it be the Park Service, or will it be the White House, clearing through the Justice Department or with the family? I mean --
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: You don't know how it will be finally --
MS. MYERS: Yes. I don't know how it will be finally sort of reconciled, whether or not they'll turn something over to us with the caveat that we can do what we want with it, or whether they'll release something. I think we'll have to wait and see.
Q: You've said a number of times that the President had no inkling when he called him on Monday night. What was said or done in that conversation that caused him to set up the meeting that was to be held on Wednesday that was never held? What made him -- he certainly wasn't still lonesome for him.
MS. MYERS: Right. No, they talked about a number of work-related issues, and I think Vince had some questions that he wanted to run by the President, some issues he wanted to discuss with him.
Q: Related to the kinds of things that were on this list that were --
MS. MYERS: I don't want to speculate about that, but just issues generally regarding his work in the Counsel's Office, and the President said, why don't you come on in and see me on Wednesday, so they set up a meeting.
Q: And Vince raised those issues with the President in that conversation?
MS. MYERS: Yes, they talked about a number of workrelated things, as well as Vince's weekend.
Q: Okay. Did the weekend contribute to the reason for the meeting on Wednesday as well --
MS. MYERS: No, no.
Q: Let me just take that a little further. Now, Lisa Foster and Donna McLarty had lunch on Tuesday, approximately the same time that Vince was leaving here to go off wherever he went that afternoon. And Hubbell and Vince met over the weekend. There were a couple of other prior discussions -- people -- there were any number of people talking around here. This is, I guess, revisiting the old horse, but there's an awful lot going on here for the President to have been totally oblivious to it all at the time. If Donna knew, certainly Mack knew. But that was too late for a phone call, but wouldn't she tell him? That's funny? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make a joke.
MS. MYERS: No, I meant since you set the timing up at the beginning of the question -- first of all, I don't know what Donna and Lisa talked about on Tuesday, but it was Tuesday and I don't think she saw Mack again in time to tell him anything.
Q: Until he got the call Tuesday night?
MS. MYERS: Yeah.
Q: But remember there was a great deal of questions about --
MS. MYERS: Mack was here in the White House until -- soon when we found out because of Larry King --
Q: But there was a great deal of questioning about whether -- Nussbaum kept saying where he was, but nobody thought his absence was meaningful. And if the discussion that Lisa Foster had with Donna McLarty at lunch on Tuesday meant anything and if it got to anybody, certainly that would have --
MS. MYERS: I just don't think she had -- I mean, I don't know what went through her head. I certainly can't surmise, but again, it was Tuesday. And by the following day it was too late.
Q: Any other notes discovered or pieces of paper that could similarly reflect on the state of his mind?
MS. MYERS: Not yet that I'm aware of.
Q: Have you asked if there are any other notes? I mean, -- through the last five days, we've had a series of, "Not to my knowledge," and, "Not that I'm aware of," until you've become aware of. Have you asked if there's any other notes or --
MS. MYERS: I don't think that's quite true.
Q: Well, okay, well, you were asked if he was on any medication. Gearan was asked, McLarty was asked. "Not to our knowledge." "Not that we're aware of."
MS. MYERS: But that's -- that, I mean -- you have to understand, why would we know? I don't -- I mean, the White House --
Q: Because you may have asked these questions are logical questions because he was a public official.
MS. MYERS: Question was asked on Friday, and I think as the week and the weeks from here forth proceed, a lot of things are going to come to light that people weren't previously aware of.
When I say -- when I'm asked if he's taking any medication, and I say, "not that I'm aware of," that was our impression here at the White House at that point. We wouldn't necessarily be in a position to know. It's just not -- I mean, people who work with him are not necessarily in a position to know what his personal circumstances are, whether or not he talks to his physician.
Q: I think the point is that the answers are sort of a pattern of the handling of a private death of a private individual; that is you're not aware of anything you don't ask about -- and my question is, has the privacy of Vince Foster and his family made you and others who speak for this administration unwilling to ask questions such as, was he seeing a psychiatrist -- of the family and of people who would know -- was he seeing a psychiatrist, was he taking medicine, did he leave a note, was he depressed?
MS. MYERS: The answer that I gave to that was I did ask a representative of the family and the family's choice was not to confirm or deny it. Now, that may change over the course of the next few days, but at this point that's all I can tell you.
Q: You asked the family what, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: Whether he had been taking any medication. And I didn't confirm it. And they made some point and I, you know --
Q: Do you feel obliged to go beyond that, to try to find out from anyone else, to find out from anyone else here in the White House to try to construct --
MS. MYERS: Well, there's an investigation ongoing to try to put back together some of these details. I don't -- and certainly we want to try to provide as much information as we can about this, particularly things that are relevant to his work. It's difficult because this isn't necessarily within our purview. We're not conducting an independent investigation. I think it is useful to know this. And to the degree that I can provide accurate information -- and others I know feel the same way -- to the degree that we can provide accurate information, we're trying to do that. It's obviously a very difficult time for people both personally and as we try to cooperate with the scope of this investigation without having the authority or the mechanism to go beyond what is discovered in this process. It's a difficult situation.
Q: You just said that you asked at least a representative of the family about the drug question and that they told you -- they had declined to confirm or deny it --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: to answer the question. But don't you think that when you answered that question by saying not to the best of my knowledge --
MS. MYERS: That was last Friday.
Q: Okay, but you've been using those kind of answers all along. When you get those kind of answers, don't you think it creates an impression that the answer is no probably, or at least probably no and not -- is it misleading?
MS. MYERS: I think that it's a difficult situation. These are questions that I'm not in a position necessarily to take. And so I give you the best of my knowledge with the -- that's why I've been very -- tried to be very careful to characterize what it is we would be likely to know and what it is we might not know.
Q: the point that some of us are trying to make is that we understand some of the concerns you're talking about that these sort of answers instead of addressing those concerns actually drag this story out and make it longer and actually hurt you all.
MS. MYERS: I'm painfully aware of that.
Q: Do you think Bernie would be willing to brief us on what they know and what they are likely to know and what they will never know?
MS. MYERS: I think that's unlikely at this point.
Q: Just to put this -- for all of our sakes.
MS. MYERS: But, see, the thing is Bernie -- I don't know that Bernie's in a position to know whether he was taking -- I know Bernie doesn't know whether or not he was taking drugs.
Q: But you did say that nothing was -- no medication was found in his office --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: or in his personal effects.
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't --
Q: You can only speak for the office?
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: So it could be that things were found in the car or the briefcase that he had with him?
MS. MYERS: I don't think he had a briefcase with him. Just his wallet and his White House I.D.
Q: Is the President going to make a broadcast this weekend?
Q: Did he have two briefcases in the office?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I only know of the one.
Q: Is the President going to make a television broadcast?
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't rule it out. We've always said that's something we'd consider in the context of reconciliation.
Q: Would that mean after you have --
MS. MYERS: The question was, is the President going to give an Oval Office address. And the answer was that I wouldn't rule it out. It's something that we've talked about in the context of this reconciliation process.
Q: Has it been discussed with greater intensity in recent days and more likely? The question is Sunday --
MS. MYERS: We haven't made a final decision about it yet. It has been --
Q: Would you characterize it as likely?
MS. MYERS: I would characterize it as fairly likely sometime, but not necessarily Sunday.
Q: Could it be Saturday?
MS. MYERS: As soon as we know we'll let you guys know. We really will.
Q: If it would be this weekend and it's not Sunday --
MS. MYERS: Well, no, I didn't say it was this weekend. I didn't say it was this weekend.
Q: Oh, you didn't? I'm sorry.
Q: Can you give us your best guidance at this point about the President's vacation and how it fits into the visit with the Pope and Tulsa and maybe California?
MS. MYERS: For planning purposes only, it is not completely clear. (Laughter.) He will leave here -- now, with that caveat I'll tell you what I can. The time in question, ballpark, August 12th to August 29th, that two-week period is still what we're considering.
Q: And some of that is not down time.
MS. MYERS: Some of it is not down time. It's actually -- isn't that a little more than two weeks? He's going to see the Pope on the 12th of August. He will go to Oklahoma City -- or Tulsa for the Governor's Conference. He will probably spend some time in Colorado. It is unclear whether or not he'll go to California, and he may spend some time in Arkansas. And as soon as we have better details than that --
Q: on the 12th, is it to Arkansas?
MS. MYERS: The 12th would be to Denver. That's the Pope.
Q: And from Denver -- can you just give us any kind of order?
MS. MYERS: It's not reliable yet.
Q: Is it definite yet which day he's going to speak to the Governor's Conference? Because it was originally going to be Monday, but there was some talk about having it on the weekend instead. Is that fixed?
It's not fixed. It's not definite.
Q: Did the President meet with the French Defense Minister this afternoon? Or did Anthony Lake?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'll take that question.
Q: What about tomorrow?
Q: Wait a second. Is he meeting with him?
MS. MYERS: What's on the plan?
Q: Tony Lake?
MS. MYERS: Tony is -- tomorrow? Today.
Q: It has happened, hasn't it? It's over, right, or is the guy still in there?
MS. MYERS: An announcement. Tony Lake met with the French Foreign Defense Minister, as opposed to Mr. Jupe.
Q: Everybody would like to know why.
MS. MYERS: Do you want to come up here and just give a little readout on that? Are you prepared to do that?
MR. STEINBERG: I'm not prepared to do that yet.
MS. MYERS: Okay. We'll post a readout.
MR. STEINBERG: The meeting may, in fact, still be taking place.
MS. MYERS: We'll post a readout on Mr. Lake's meeting with Mr. Leotard.
Q: Any subject other than Bosnia on the agenda?
MR. STEINBERG: It was just a general discussion that was scheduled for a long time.
Q: No. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Tomorrow. Do you guys have the schedule for tomorrow? We have a seniors' event, right, somewhere in Maryland? I'll have to get back to you. I don't have the details.
Q: In the morning?
MS. MYERS: No -- we don't have -- we have a schedule, I just don't have it in front me.
Q: Dee Dee, on the budget, is Senator Feinstein trying to barter a vote on the budget with the White House for some big bucks favors for some powerful interests in California?
Q: A simple yes will be fine. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: No, I think Senator Feinstein is interested in getting a good economic growth package that will benefit Californians.
Q: Are you denying that there's been any horse-trading with her?
MS. MYERS: As you know or may not know, she met with the President on Sunday. They discussed a number of elements in the economic plan. I think that's part of the process.
Q: But you're saying you're not aware of any extraneous things, concessions, that she was demanding and may have gotten?
MS. MYERS: I certainly wouldn't discuss that from this podium.
Q: What are the weekend plans?
MS. MYERS: There was no -- last I checked they were both -- Saturday and Sunday were down days. Now, we may put something on Saturday and we'll let you know tomorrow.
Q: Is there anything new on Bosnia?
Q: referring this morning to some back-up plans if, for instance, the enforcement mechanisms are considered extraneous and they have -- the Byrd rule. The deficit trust fund is another one of these issues. Empowerment zones is another issue. Would he treat those through an executive order, for instance, if the Byrd rule is invoked on those issues?
MS. MYERS: I don't think we have final decisions on that yet.
Q: Is it possible?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to get back to you on it. I don't want to characterize it.
Q: No change in Bosnia?
END 4:01 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269247