Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
2:40 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: It's a quiet day.
Q: The print pool is getting ready to organize itself, too.
Q: They already did.
MS. MYERS: We may take this up again. As of right now, the radio interview -- the audio will be piped back here. We'll release a White House photo. I think we'll have one more conversation on it, but as of right now, there will be no pool camera and no pool in there, although, again, the audio will be piped back here. And I do expect the President to have some fairly newsworthy things to say.
Let me begin by reading a statement.
The President remains greatly concerned by the persistent refusal of the Haitian military authorities to fulfill their commitments under the Governors Island agreement and at the repression which they continue to carry out against the Haitian people.
The President stated on October 15 that there are important American interests at stake in Haiti. We must protect American lives. We must avoid a massive exodus of Haitians fleeing political persecution at great risk to themselves and at great potential cost and disruption to the United States and other nations. We want to help restore democracy in Haiti, and thereby, promote democracy throughout the hemisphere.
Therefore, the United States is taking several measures which will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time tonight -- or Eastern Daylight Time -- tonight, to ensure strict implementation of U.N. oil and arms embargo against Haiti. These measures will also sanction those individuals who are defying U.N. measures, acting to disrupt the Governors Island Accord, and preventing restoration of democracy and the return of President Aristide.
The President is today signing an executive order that will freeze the assets under U.N. jurisdiction of individuals who have obstructed the Governors Island agreement or the activities of the U.N. mission in Haiti, and who are perpetrating or contributing to the violence. It will also cover individuals who are financing or providing material support to those taking such actions. These groups include senior military and police officers and the civilian attaches and their financial patrons.
Furthermore, we will deny visas and prohibit entry into the United States of such individuals. The United States has deployed six Navy vessels to help enforce the U.N. embargo. Argentina, Canada and France will also contribute ships, and other countries are actively considering participation.
The military and police authorities must understand that they have no future in continuing their brutal resistance to the return of democracy and President Aristide. The United States is determined to work with the U.N., the OAS and others to oppose this repression of the democratic will of the Haitian people.
Q: What's the estimate of the assets that are being frozen?
MS. MYERS: We have Rick Newcomb here who can answer some of the technical questions as soon as this is over on the specific sanctions.
Q: The President and the U.N. Ambassador ruled out -- refused to rule in or out anything, including an invasion. What is the President's position on whether he would use military force? Is this blockade and are these actions a precursor to a U.S. invasion?
MS. MYERS: Well, first of all, what we're doing is enforcing the sanctions that were approved by the U.N., and now additional sanctions by the U.S. and the OAS. The President has not ruled in or out any activities. What we've done -- I think let's talk about what we've done here. The U.N. has approved a variety of sanctions. The U.S. has taken an additional step and approved additional sanctions, and that's where we are at this point.
Q: Why is he not ruling out military action, such as an invasion?
MS. MYERS: Because I think at this point we'll keep -- the President just is focusing on the activities that were taken, the actions that he's taking, and we'll see where things go. I think the fundamental point here is the President is committed to the restoration of democracy. The United States is committed to that purpose, and we'll continue to press those in Haiti to comply with the Governors Island Accord, take additional action to restore democracy.
Q: Has there been any reaction at all from the Cedras military or the police officials, any movement at all on their part that would indicate some sort of a compromise or conciliation? Has anything been done over the weekend that would --
MS. MYERS: No, they have not taken appropriate action. They have not abided by the terms of the Governors Island Accord. They've not created a permissive environment for the --
Q: How about the bid for mediation?
MS. MYERS: There has not been adequate progress at this point to prohibit the implementation of the U.N. sanctions, which we expect will go into effect tonight.
Q: Is it Aristide or nothing?
MS. MYERS: As you know, President Aristide is the dulyelected leader of Haiti. He was elected by almost two-thirds of Haitians. We remain committed to his restoration and the restoration of democracy.
Q: So you would not negotiate with Cedras or Francois or any of their representatives?
MS. MYERS: At this point, President Aristide is the duly-elected leader of that country, and we want to see him implemented.
Q: Any word on the Americans whose safety the President was concerned about the other day? Any indication of further or perhaps lesser danger to them?
MS. MYERS: No. The State Department travel advisory remains in effect.
Q: Is it still the policy of the administration, as was stated here last week, that Aristide could not govern effectively if he came back into power on the backs of U.S. Marines?
MS. MYERS: I think we've maintained all along that it has to be a process that has created and worked with by the Haitians. That is why we created the Governors Island, or worked with the Haitians and the OAS and the U.N. to implement the Governors Island Accord, which was something that the leaders of Haiti, President Aristide and the authorities there now agreed to.
Q: That pretty well rules out any kind of an invasion to do this, doesn't it?
MS. MYERS: I think it emphasizes that we're committed to restoring democracy to Haiti. We feel that that's the best method to do it. That's why we've worked through this process, and the President has been working very diligently at it for the last eight months.
Q: Is there any further contact with Dole on the part of the President?
MS. MYERS: The President did speak to Senator Dole this afternoon.
Q: Are you sure you don't want the cameras on?
MS. MYERS: The President will have more to say about this later, but let me just say --
Q: That's not on television.
MS. MYERS: But you're not going to need it. You won't need me.
The President spoke to Senator Dole this afternoon. He is in the process of drafting a letter to Senator Mitchell which will discuss some of the proposed amendments to the defense appropriations bill. And I think the President will have a little bit more to say about that at 3:15 p.m.
Q: These are in connection with the Dole amendment? The letter deals with the Dole amendment?
MS. MYERS: It deals with a number -- there are actually three amendments that it deals with, all of which the President has trouble with.
Q: What are the three in addition to Nickles and Dole? What's the third --
MS. MYERS: Two Dole.
Q: The Bosnia Dole and the Nickles?
MS. MYERS: Correct. So command and control, Bosnia and Haiti.
Q: If the first thing the President mentioned in terms of U.S. interest in Haiti is the presence of Americans there, given the situation, why is he not ordering their departure or evacuation?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, the State Department has issued a travel advisory at this point.
MS. MYERS: But people who live there are not being asked to leave.
MS. MYERS: No, but the State Department has issued a travel advisory; we think that's consistent with what we think the situation requires.
Q: When the President lists those American interests in Haiti and he puts the presence of U.S. citizens first, is that in order of importance or is that just sort of alphabetical?
MS. MYERS: No, I think they're all important. Clearly, the safety of American citizens and dual citizens in Haiti is very important to the President. It's something that we'll be watching very carefully and if the situation changes we'll take that into account.
Q: Just to follow up on what Andrea asked before, when there was discussion about use of American military power in Bosnia, one thing that the President categorically ruled out was the use of U.S. ground troops there. What is the difference between that situation, where he was willing to rule it, out and this one, where apparently you're not?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think one example would be the safety of American citizens in Haiti should that become an issue. But again, I think what the President is focused on is the actions that we're taking now, which are enforcing the U.N. sanctions, adding additional sanctions which he's signing today, and taking what he thinks are the appropriate actions at this point to put pressure on the authorities in Haiti to resume the process of democratic restoration.
Q: Can we have copies of the letter to Mitchell?
MS. MYERS: Yes, as soon as it's ready we'll release it. It's still being finalized.
Q: When Dole said yesterday that it wasn't worth a single American life to restore Aristide to power, what is the White House view on that?
MS. MYERS: We remain committed to the restoration of democracy in Haiti. And beyond that, I'm not in a position to comment.
Q: Does the President feel he has enough Marines inside the U.S. Embassy compound with the small detachment he sent?
MS. MYERS: I think for the time being, that was gauged to be an appropriate level of additional security. If circumstances change we'll take that into account.
Q: Are there plans underway to beef up the Marine contingent at Guantanamo in case an evacuation is necessary?
MS. MYERS: I'd have to take that question. I don't know -- or check with DOD. I don't know about the specific plans there.
Q: There are concerns expressed about whether everything that's blocked out by sea will manage to come in by land from the Dominican Republic. Have there been discussions with Dominican authorities? What's our feeling about how solid the --
MS. MYERS: I think that we felt last time that Dominican participation was very good, that they worked to help comply with and enforce the sanctions. And we expect the same --
Q: Has there been any communication with them, though? That seems like a reasonable question.
MS. MYERS: I'll have to take it. I would imagine on some level they've been communicated with. But I can find out specifically.
Q: And can you also, in the course of answering that question, determine if you can what level of cooperation has been promised?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q: Have dependents of U.S. Embassy personnel at Port au Prince been withdrawn?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that. You'll have to check with the State Department. I can take it and find out from them.
Q: Nonessential personnel?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I don't know.
Q: Wouldn't that be prudent if they haven't been withdrawn, given the situation, to start evacuating those nonessential people?
MS. MYERS: I'm happy to take the question. I just don't know what their status is. It could be, I just don't know whether they're there or not.
Frank. The new father of that newborn baby. Congratulations.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Who's helping the President to draft this letter?
Q: The President spoke about breast cancer this morning, and an increased awareness. But he didn't address the concerns of many of the people who are in the coalition and elsewhere that that emphasis could be shown better by including mammograms before age 50 in the health care plan, or in making more frequent examinations after age 50. Could you just tell us why that wasn't --
MS. MYERS: I think we're reviewing some aspects of the health care plan, and when the legislation is completed, which we expect to be soon, we will address that specifically. I think you can expect to see some changes in that.
Q: You mean that they may lower it to under 50?
MS. MYERS: There may be some changes in that aspect, yes. I'm not sure where it's going to end up.
Q: Dee Dee, changes in addition to the addition of people at high risk, below age 50?
MS. MYERS: I think there are still some discussions about it. Again, I don't know how much I'll be able to say about it later. If I can add anything to it, if there's anything that's final, we'll post it.
Q: Do you expect that the ultimate plan will basically comply with the recommended Cancer Society guidelines --
MS. MYERS: I'll have to see, depending on how the final decisions come out on these issues.
Q: Is the administration now considering any change in its policy in Bosnia, and is there any chance that you might go around to the allies again and see if there's any more interest in doing bombing there than there was in the past?
MS. MYERS: No, there's been no change in the current U.S.-NATO policy, which is that were Sarajevo to be strangled or the delivery of humanitarian aid be disrupted, that could result in air strikes. That policy still stands.
Q: There seemed to be some comments from the State Department earlier today that the U.S. might believe that a strangulation was in progress right now.
MS. MYERS: That is something that we're obviously going to be looking at, and we'll see how the Bosnian Serbs behave over the next several days. We've always said that we will look at their actions on the ground. That will be the determinant factor. We're certainly looking at it, but there's been no change in U.S. policy in that regard.
Q: And have there been any current consultations with allies saying --
MS. MYERS: Well, NAC, the NATO policy arm, political arm, meets regularly. They're meeting today in Brussels. I'm sure it will come up. But there's been no final decision, no new decisions on that.
Q: Did the President meet with his advisors today? I mean, is everything coordinated with the Navy, and is this letter being drafted with the help of Christopher? Is it a major policy decision in terms of foreign policy?
MS. MYERS: It is certainly a policy decision. The President has had a number of conversations with his advisors on this today, on the various amendments and some of the other aspects of Haiti, and I expect some of those conversations to be ongoing. Again, he did speak to Senator Dole, and he'll have a little more to say about that at 3:15 p.m.
Q: Can Mr. Newcomb share with us the specifics on the sanctions?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Are there any more questions? And let's just let Rick come up and --
Q: Is the administration going to go to the Supreme Court in the Meinhold case?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to take that one. I'm not sure where we are on it.
Q: On health care reform, are you now not expecting to send legislation until next week?
MS. MYERS: I think that's a safe assumption.
Q: And, also, on the story over the weekend about the Congressional Budget Office considering scoring the premiums in your plan as the tax, what is your response to that?
MS. MYERS: We don't believe that they are attacks, but we're still working on that issue.
Q: Did the President ask Senator Dole to hold off on any action until he got this letter up there until tomorrow, because Senator Dole is now seen not to be doing anything today.
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the conversation was in terms of timing, it's the content that the President's concerned about, and I think he addresses that fairly specifically. I don't know whether Senator Dole has released the specific language of his amendment, whether that's been finalized. But, certainly, the direction it was going in is very troubling to the President, and something he will again address both in the letter and in his comments.
Q: Are there negotiations between the White House and Dole's staff?
MS. MYERS: The President basically is opposed to all three amendments, and is going to come out and say so in no uncertain terms.
Q: You're not willing to negotiate changes, loopholes?
MS. MYERS: I suppose if Senator Dole were willing to make -- we've certainly had a number of conversations with him about this and other issues, and certainly we've had a number of issues where we've worked very closely with him. At this point, the President is concerned about the infringement on his ability to operate as Commander In Chief, and that is his primary concern, both on a constitutional level and on a policy level. And again, he'll have a little more to say about those things.
Let me bring Rick up now before we run out of time.
Q: Anything on travel?
MS. MYERS: Anything on travel? No. No travel for the rest of the week.
Q: Including the weekend?
MS. MYERS: Yes, including the weekend. He's here on Saturday, has a few events on Saturday, but will be off on Sunday but in Washington at this point. I don't expect that to change.
Q: Was there a reason why the travel pool this morning wasn't permitted to get out of the van and shoot? Can you take that question?
MS. MYERS: Sure. Let me just quickly run down the rest of the week. Tomorrow, he has a NAFTA meeting with Congress and then there will be a climate change event in the Rose Garden.
Q: Weather permitting?
MS. MYERS: Weather permitting, there will be a climate change event. Wednesday is the NAFTA products event where people who produce products that have -- and sell them to Mexico who have done very well, as tariffs have been reduced, will bring their wares to the South Lawn of the White House. Bring your credit cards because you might be able to buy some great stuff.
Thursday is a small business health care event at the Grand Hyatt, which is open; and then DNC fundraiser at the National Museum of Women in the evening.
MS. MYERS: It will be open, either pool or totally open. I must say we've had some requests for pool only.
Q: How much does it cost to come?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. Call Kiki.
And then Friday is a NAFTA meeting with Congress -- another NAFTA meeting -- and a Cabinet meeting. Saturday he'll give the radio address. He will attend the reinstallation of the Statue of Freedom at the Capital, the B'nai B'rith anniversary celebration at the Jefferson Memorial, and then the National Italian American Foundation Dinner at the Washington Hilton.
Q: Touching all bases.
MS. MYERS: Leaving nobody out.
Q: No leadership meeting tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: Not as of right now. That could change.
Q: A domestic question. The misdemeanor verdicts in the Reginald Denny trial today -- has the President, given the very light, the misdemeanor verdicts, given any thought to federal civil rights charges against these men?
MS. MYERS: I think they're still polling the jury and doing other things in that, and I think we're watching to see where that goes today. I don't have anything on it yet.
Q: Is it conceivable that the administration would consider if these men get off with misdemeanors --
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to speculate.
MR. NEWCOMB: My name is Rick Newcomb, Director of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Treasury.
You had a question.
Q: The question was, do you have any estimate of how much is covered by this freeze?
MR. NEWCOMB: No, not yet. And the reason is we're still compiling the names. When we have the names compiled --
Q: Where are they coming from, these names?
MR. NEWCOMB: We're working with the State Department and other sources that are available to identify individuals that qualify under the new executive order.
Q: Do you have any estimate about the number of people you're looking at? I mean are we talking about a dozen people or a hundred or whatever? And also -- I understand you're still working on it -- also some sense of the magnitude of assets potentially at issue?
MR. NEWCOMB: I can't -- it wouldn't be fair for me to give you an estimate of the magnitude. We're reviewing these names on an ongoing basis. We put the names out through the financial system to the Federal Reserve system to the banks. The banks then check their accounts to ensure that if there are accounts there, they're blocked and to assure that if there are any dollar clearing activities that they be stopped en route. This is an ongoing process. We will continue to work with all sources to continue to compile the names of individuals that meet this definition.
Q: And understanding that that's in flux, you're sending some number of names through the system this evening?
MR. NEWCOMB: Yes.
Q: How many?
MR. NEWCOMB: I would say it's in the magnitude of 40 to 50.
Q: Forty to 50?
MR. NEWCOMB: Yes. Now, let me say before we move forward and actually name those names or designate those names, we have to be assured in our own right that these names qualify so that we're just not naming names. We have to have some basis in fact to do so.
Q: How long have you been working on this?
MR. NEWCOMB: Since the President announced the fact that we were moving forward, on October 13th, I believe. Since U.N. Resolution 873.
Q: Between the time of that and now, would that have allowed these people to pull their assets out of various institutions or not?
MR. NEWCOMB: Well, let me say, the fact that we might block individual assets is something that has been discussed throughout this program. And when we finally did move to block assets in June of this year, individual assets, there were considerable numbers that were blocked, in the millions. So, yes, there are considerable financial contacts with the United States. This is meaningful and we anticipate blocking significant amounts.
Q: Do you have promises from any other countries that they will also freeze their assets -- Switzerland, Hong Kong --
MR. NEWCOMB: Consultations in this regard continue, but I really can't comment on that.
Q: because those people having assets in Europe and elsewhere, too. Which other countries are joining you --
MR. NEWCOMB: The U.N. resolution of last June required the freezing of assets of the de facto regime. This goes one step further in the United Nations resolution by defining a broader standard. And it's in that broader standard that we're able to capture these individuals that have obstructed the U.N. resolutions, contributed to violence, and so forth.
Q: Are the Europeans with you in your vote?
MR. NEWCOMB: The Europeans are consulting with the State Department on this constantly. We consult with other financial regulators and foreign countries routinely. This is among the issues that we consult on.
Q: A follow-up on Brit's question. Why would anybody -- sort of intelligent person who might be subject to this kind of order have allowed their assets to remain in this country given what the President said a few days ago?
MR. NEWCOMB: Well, in all instances -- well, first, let me say these have been announced in the past and they have been blocked. This can include foreign branches of U.S. banks, as in the foreign branches in Haiti. It can include tangible assets. It's all property and interests of property. It can be illiquid and they can't be in a position to transfer them easily.
Q: Can you tell us whether last June when assets were blocked, whether General Cedras or Mr. Francois had assets that were blocked at that time, since clearly they meet the standard that's been enunciated?
MR. NEWCOMB: I don't know that question. I can certainly get it for you. I'll be available after this to tell you that. I don't know the names of everybody.
Q: I want to make sure I understand. We have the same sanctions that were on in June that were lifted August 27th, is that right?
MR. NEWCOMB: That's correct.
Q: They were lifted August 27th, so the property was all unblocked until this time, correct?
MR. NEWCOMB: That's right.
Q: So they had a period from August 27th until now to come back and do whatever they want with their property?
MR. NEWCOMB: That's correct. Let me mention two things. First, we have restored the status quo ante by reinstituting the embargo that was in place and then lifted. So, in essence, we've returned things to where they were in August. In addition to that, the new executive order takes the standards for freezing of assets two steps further by including the obstruction of the implementation of the U.N. resolutions, the Governors Island Accord and the activities of the U.N. mission and has the standard of perpetuating or contributing to the violence.
So what this does that's different is that it substantially expands that basket of individuals that can be covered. So in answer to your question, yes, they were lifted entirely. They are now reimposed. The names may change, because as the Malval government has come back, some of the names that were working for the de facto regime are now within the ambit of the recognized government.
Q: Do you know of anyone in the top hierarchy who has pulled their assets out in this interval, between the end of the sanctions and the --
MR. NEWCOMB: That isn't something that I would have the capability of knowing immediately. I think this order is not in place yet. As the weeks come and we're able to analyze who had assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and if they've pulled them out, we'll have an answer to that question.
Let me reiterate -- it also applies to foreign branches of U.S. banks. So the two banks, U.S. banks in Haiti, would also be covered here.
Q: Do you know when this process will be completed, and you will have a total figure?
MR. NEWCOMB: Numbers will start coming in within the week, perhaps in the next week or so. It's a very dynamic ongoing process. We don't know even now the total number of names that will be covered. My people are working with others to define the universe of individuals that fit into these categories. When we have that, then we'll be able to fill out the picture more fully.
Q: What are the two banks?
MR. NEWCOMB: Bank of Boston and Citibank.
Q: How many were affected in June by the freeze?
MR. NEWCOMB: Again, if you'd check with me later for an exact number. I would say it's close to about a dozen.
Q: How quickly do you think the oil embargo is going to have an effect on what's left of the Haitian economy?
MR. NEWCOMB: The oil embargo is a very significant activity. In 1991 it was very significant. It was having its effect until that shipment went into Haiti on Thanksgiving Day of '91. I anticipate it's very likely that there may have been stockpiling. However, the fact that this is in place should have immediate psychological effects, so they're drawing down on stockpiles now.
END 3:15 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/269260