Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
1:55 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: There are no announcements, so if anybody has any questions --
Q: Do you have any reaction to the Bosnia -- on lifting the arms embargo on the Bosnian Muslims?
MS. MYERS: The amendment failed and the one -- we believe it's a confirmation of the President's Bosnia policy. The President is grateful to members who supported him, and will continue to work with members of Congress as we try to end the conflict in Bosnia.
Q: What's the status now, the U.S. position, on the arms embargo? Dole today says, of course, the U.S. doesn't believe in it anymore, doesn't want it, but --
MS. MYERS: That's not true. The President's position on the arms embargo has not changed. He has supported the arms embargo. That was his additional policy. He continues to believe that that would have been helpful. But at this stage, he doesn't believe a, that it should be done unilaterally. And at this moment, he believes it would interfere with the peace process.
As you know, Secretary Christopher heads to Geneva on Tuesday where he'll have a meeting there, a ministerial meeting, to discuss the peace plan. There's been progress made in the Contact Group. There's still a long way to go, but there is some forward movement.
Q: Has the President been briefed yet by General Shalikashvilli or by Secretary Perry on the friendly fire incident last April and the findings that there were multiple human errors?
MS. MYERS: No, he's certainly aware of the report. As you know, that was a preliminary prepared by EUCOM. That's something that Secretary Perry now needs to review. It's something that the service chiefs are going to review, and of course, something that he'll be making recommendations on eventually, after he's had a chance to look at it. That, I think, is a little bit of a ways away.
Q: Is he satisfied that in the interim, before all of this happens, that the procedures on the ground and in the air have been changed adequately?
MS. MYERS: Well, as you know, Secretary Perry moved right away to change some of the procedures in the immediate aftermath of that unfortunate tragedy. And since then, I think, certainly the Department of Defense has been monitoring that closely.
The report has gone forward. There's been information gathering. A preliminary briefing was held yesterday at the Pentagon. And as soon as the Secretary of Defense has had a chance to review the findings there and to make some determinations about
what actions need to be taken, then he'll be in a position to brief the President.
Q: Does the President think that the families of the victims should be notified prior to reports going from the European command and into the newspapers?
MS. MYERS: The families have been contacted periodically, and I think regularly, by the Department of Defense about this. They were notified last night that there would be a newspaper account of the story this morning. They've been notified today about -- or I think they're in the process of being notified today -- about the steps that need to be taken in order to complete this investigation thoroughly. This is a terrible tragedy, and I think Secretary Perry and everyone at the Pentagon, and certainly the President believes that they should be treated with the utmost respect and care as this goes forward.
But I think they understand, and certainly the President understands, that the facts need to be examined and very, very careful determinations about what action to take need to be made. And certainly, the families will be kept posted as this process moves forward.
Q: You talked about Cabinet officials traveling over the next week. Is there any kind of specific administration effort to gin up support out in the hinterlands for health care or other bills while the President and Congress are away? And in this answer, if you want to take a free shot at Ross Perot and the Republicans, go right ahead. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Certainly it has been, I think, an objective of this administration from the President to the Vice President to the First Lady on to the Cabinet to talk about health care and to continue to make the case that what we need is comprehensive health care reform that will provide guaranteed benefits for everybody.
The President met this morning with his Cabinet to discuss a number of things as the President prepares to leave for his G-7 trip and Congress heads into recess. Certainly members of the Cabinet will be traveling not just during the course of the next week, but throughout the next several weeks, and many of them will have an opportunity to talk about health care. It's certainly something that the President has urged them to do throughout, and they'll continue to do. I don't have the specific schedules in front of me, so I don't know who's doing exactly what.
Q: But is there a coordinated plan being run out of the health care war room or anything like that for delivering specific messages to specific areas of the country, or targeting specific --
MS. MYERS: We always work with the various Cabinet agencies to encourage them to travel to sort of help put our administration officials in specific events around the country where we think it would be helpful. I wouldn't look for a major blitz, but certainly there will be continued activity. And members of the Cabinet will travel, again, not just this week, but over the course of the next several weeks.
Q: Nothing tied to this recess, given that you come back to --
MS. MYERS: No, there will be some travel, certainly, and there has been an effort to get as many people out on health care when there are opportunities to do that. But I don't want to overstate that.
Q: Any decisions at the principals meeting this morning?
MS. MYERS: It wasn't really a principals meeting, per se, although I think most of the principals were present. Haiti was discussed. It was part of the President's regularly scheduled sort of foreign policy meetings. This week, Haiti was the only subject that came up, and they looked at it. It was sort of an overall review of the situation there, including the refugee policy -- what more needs to be done -- what more needs to be done; progress on the processing facility in Turks and Caicos. I think they discussed Guantanamo, and the prospects for possibly opening refugee processing centers at additional locations.
They reviewed the political situation in Haiti. They talked about the impact of sanctions; a little bit about what can be done for additional border enforcement along the Dominican border. And they also discussed a little bit the resolution that passed in the U.N. last night, which extended the U.N. mission in Haiti and asked the Secretary General to report back in a couple of weeks about how that mission could facilitate a democratic government in Haiti once the military leaders have resigned.
Q: That means they're going to -- he is expecting, the President is expecting a big, big influx if they're going to have additional processing.
MS. MYERS: Well, it's always been contemplated. I think we certainly need to be prepared for it. The human rights conditions in Haiti are continuing to deteriorate. There has been at least a spike in the numbers of refugees. That's something that we're watching, and we plan to be prepared to deal with it.
I think Ambassador Gray has talked several times about the fact that he's had conversations with other countries in the region about possibly opening land-based processing centers to either replace or facilitate the ship-based processing that we have now.
Q: But no one is heeding his urging -- appeal to stay in the country and be processed there?
MS. MYERS: Well, certainly, many people have been processed in the country. In fact, since the in-country processing centers opened, I think it's 18,000 people have actually been processed through that. I can give you the specific numbers if I can find them. But it's about 18,000 and I think over the course of the last two years. And the number that actually have qualified over the course of that total two-year period is about 25 percent, which has gone up over the course of the last several months.
Q: Do they have to be political --
MS. MYERS: I don't have it broken down month by month, I just have, at at this point, the total overall figure.
Q: the other day it went up sharply.
MS. MYERS: Yes, it did. And all I have right now, unfortunately, is the total number. It's from February '92, when the in-country processing centers opened, through June 24th, so that's a week ago. They're a little behind the last few days -- 16,965 Haitians have been interviewed. A nd of that number, 3,875 have been approved; 12,907 were determined not to be refugees and denied admission; and 183 of those cases, as of the 24th, were still pending. Now, I haven't had a chance to do the additional math from the 24th on.
Q: February of what year?
MS. MYERS: '92.
Q: Have you determined how these people are then transported and where they're taken to, what happens to them? You were going to find that out for us.
MS. MYERS: We, the United States government, and the U.N. work with nongovernmental organizations to provide transportation for them periodically out. There's a group, I think, that are ready to be transported out now. I don't know exactly what the number is. There's a fairly large group of people qualified for refugee status and are being waited to be transported to Miami.
We are in the process of getting -- both arranging for those details and getting a waiver from the sanctions that prohibit nonscheduled airline flights in order to get them out. But that is the process that we expect will happen.
Q: You don't know how large that large group is?
MS. MYERS: It's a couple hundred, I think, about 200. They don't have the exact number.
Q: Have they all been going to Miami?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that.
Q: Dee Dee, is the U.S. still in the process of determining whether this is a spike or wage because the figures yesterday were 1,081 roughly a day. And that looks like --
MS. MYERS: I think it continues to be high. We'll have to wait and see.
Q: How long are you going to let this go on before it's determined.
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't think -- I don't know how determining it will make a difference. Our policy continues to be the same which is that we will process people who want to be considered for refugee status, both in-country and at-sea or at the third country facilities once the Turks and Caicos opens, which will hopefully be next week. We will continue to deal with the numbers as they come.
There's been no change in our policy. At the same time, we'll continue to encourage people to use the in-country processing facilities. It's much safer. And given that the numbers are roughly the same, in fact, I think over the last week or so, it's been actually somewhat higher at the in-country facilities. That is the safest, best way to go.
Q: The centers could be overwhelmed. I mean, if you are getting a thousand --
MS. MYERS: We are working hard to guard against that. That's why opened Guantanamo. We're moving quickly to open the processing center on Turks and Caicos. We're talking to other countries in the region about the possibility of additional land base facilities. And we have the Comfort, plus the other Ukrainian ship now in Kingston Harbor.
Q: Dee Dee, by your own estimate, and by the estimate out of Guantanamo and all these other places, with the exception of the other countries, let's say -- if you keep at 800 to 1,000 a day, everything you have will be filled, including Guantanamo by the middle of July. And so the question is, has the administration, in asking whether it's a wave or a spike, if you've determined this is a process that's unlikely to continue, then you're not prepared for it, because you'll be coming back from Europe and you'll be four beds away from disaster.
Q: Full occupancy.
MS. MYERS: So much kinder and gentler at ABC News. (Laughter.) I think that's one of the things that's being discussed now is how the process proceeding, and what our options are, and what we can do to be prepared for whatever eventually may arise.
Q: Well, there's no retreat on this policy.
MS. MYERS: There's been no change in policy.
Q: If there's no slowing down of this process, doesn't it increase the pressure for military intervention?
MS. MYERS: I think what we're committed to do is to deal with the refugees as they come. Again, that's why we've opened Guantanamo, that's why we're discussing additional land-based facilities, that's why the President was discussing that this morning, to make sure that we can handle the influx of refugees.
Q: Dee Dee, if I could follow Ann's question and ask precisely what she asked you -- Bill Gray said refugees aren't the issue, Cedras and crew are the issue. He stood here and very firmly attempted to turn the attention away from the refugees and onto the military regime.
MS. MYERS: Well, quite clearly, that's where the attention should be. That's been the focus and objective of our policy has been to get the military leaders to resign.
Q: And at the current rate of refugees, is there more consideration being given now to the military option?
MS. MYERS: The policy has not changed. The President certainly has not been willing to take any options off the table. No decisions have been made. It's certainly something the President is not willing to take off the table, but at this time, we are pursuing a policy of sanctions and processing refugees. That continues to be our policy.
Q: Dee Dee, any planning, any consideration, anything going on whatsoever?
MS. MYERS: I think we will continue to discuss the full range of options. But beyond that, I'm not prepared to comment.
Q: Was the military option discussed this morning at the principals meeting?
MS. MYERS: I think many options were discussed. No decisions have been made.
Q: Is the military encouraging --
Q: Is there another meeting this afternoon?
MS. MYERS: I think it's possible that they will get back together this afternoon. The President broke for some interviews.
Q: Are they encouraging the dissidents to leave the military rulers? Is there any intervention to try to prevent the --
MS. MYERS: I think that there was one news account which we've not yet been able to confirm through our embassy there that a boat was fired on. I think that may be what you're referring to. Beyond that -- and I think that, certainly, if true, is certainly disturbing and, I think, further evidence of the brutality of the military regime.
Q: There was a wire story yesterday, I think it was AP, that said that they were only taking 60 applications a day in Port-au-Prince, and if that's the case, then how could you possibly handle all these people if they were staying in-country to be processed?
MS. MYERS: I'd have to take that. I don't know what the numbers are. That sounds a little low to me. But I can certainly take it and see if we have a capacity number. That may be -- I mean, I think certainly the capacity is greater than that.
Q: Dee Dee, you said of these couple hundred people who were approved in Haiti to come to Miami, is that to be their final destination, or will they also be attempting to find placement for them in these third countries that they're saying might take -- Perry was saying might take refugees?
MS. MYERS: I believe the ones that go to Miami will -- they then become the custodians of the INS, and I think the INS will determine -- I think that they will be relocated in the United States.
Q: Do you have an update on when these various centers will be ready? Like will the Turks and Caicos be --
MS. MYERS: The target for Turks and Caicos is next week -- sometime next week. Guantanamo is open now, as you know, and there is construction going on there to increase the capacity.
Q: What is the desired capacity?
MS. MYERS: The capacity before was, I think, 12,000 or 12,500. It's about 4,000 now -- was 4,000 when it was opened, but they've actually, I think, made some progress over the last few days.
Q: When you say the capacity was 12,500, are they trying to make it -- aren't they doing improvements to try to --
MS. MYERS: I think they'll bring it back to roughly that capacity. I think that's the expectation.
Q: How many do you expect to be able to hold at Turks and Caicos?
MS. MYERS: Two thousand is what's agreed to in the MOU.
Q: When is this other third possibility going to --
MS. MYERS: Unclear.
Q: Do you have anything today on Yassir Arafat's return to Gaza?
MS. MYERS: Well, it's something that we thought was --I think it confirms the success of negotiations and of diplomacy. It's important that Mr. Arafat go and help as the Palestinians move toward self-rule for the first time in their history. He can be useful in that process. The President continues to support the peace process. Secretary Christopher is heading back to the region, as you know, July 17th. And, certainly, the President will do all he can to reach a comprehensive peace in the Middle East to continue this process.
Q: Has the President had any conversations with Arafat recently?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Do you know anything about the alleged incident that took place?
Q: Does the President have anything to say about the O.J. Simpson case?
MS. MYERS: Just news accounts. I don't know of anything beyond what's in wires.
Q: officials continue to rule out dealing with the fall of the dollar the G-7, given that that would seem to be a good forum for trying to deal with the problem?
MS. MYERS: I think it's something that will be discussed but I think that that's not the objective of this particular session. They'll be discussing a number of things. I expect that it will come out that both macro- and microeconomic policy will be discussed. But as Tony Lake said, this is not a forum for dealing with the dollar.
Q: Why not?
MS. MYERS: Because I think the focus is on other things.
Q: Why would you not want to raise that?
MS. MYERS: I think it will come up, but I think -- I mean, I will just let Tony's words stand on this, and I'm not going to go beyond what he said. He doesn't think this is a forum where it will be dealt with. He addressed that yesterday.
Q: Has Murayama called the President today?
MS. MYERS: The President called him last night about 10:15 p.m. They spoke for about 20 minutes. The President congratulated him and wished him success; said he looked forward to meeting with him at the G-7. Murayama confirmed that he was interested in having a close working relationship with the United States, that they would work together including on issues of trade in the framework. He basically said that Japanese foreign policy would continue -- a statement that I think he said publicly today.
Q: Did they discuss Korea?
MS. MYERS: They did not specifically discuss Korea.
Q: Did the President make any news today in the German television interview?
MS. MYERS: I did not sit in on that. I do not know the answer to that. We will make a transcript of that available, though, as soon as it's ready. That's the only one that will be available today. The rest will be embargoed for Monday.
Q: Did he make news in the ones that are embargoed?
MS. MYERS: He hasn't done most of those yet.
Q: Dee Dee, I'd like to ask you about the Fiske report yesterday. He said that there were over 20 contacts between White House and Treasury, and my question is did you know that there were that many or approximately that many and just didn't tell us or did this also come as news to you?
MS. MYERS: Well, as I think Mr. Cutler pointed out yesterday, the major contacts were certainly public several months ago. And we were prohibited from talking to one another about any kind of contacts. And so, I think we didn't know and now know what's in the Fiske report. And I think that clears the way for both Treasury and the OGE as well as Mr. Cutler to continue their own inquiries.
Q: How would the President feel about changing the House and Senate crime bills to use more money for building prisons than is in there now and less for so-called crime prevention?
MS. MYERS: Well, the President believed that there should funds for prevention as well as for putting additional police officers on the street, as well as building prisons. And he thought the balance -- that there was a good balance in the original bill. I think he wants to see adequate prevention money in the bill.
Q: He rejects the calls by Hatch and other Republicans yesterday to change the balance?
MS. MYERS: He hasn't commented specifically on that, but I think he believes there ought to be adequate prevention money in there as well as prison construction money, money for additional police officers.
Q: Are you refusing to comment on their proposal that the balance be changed?
MS. MYERS: I am not committing the President to specific numbers other than to say that he believes that there ought to be sufficient prevention monies in the bill.
Q: Dee Dee, has the President decided what he's going to do, if anything, to resolve the dispute over the racial justice provision?
MS. MYERS: That's something that the members of Congress are working out.
Q: Is he not going to become involved in this issue, is that his decision?
MS. MYERS: That is something that they've asked him for additional time to work out, and they're still working on it.
Q: Do you see him taking a stand on it one way or the other?
MS. MYERS: I think at this point, as you know, he has taken no position. It's something that the members of Congress have to work out. We'll see what happens from here.
Q: Dee Dee, what's the distinction between the G-7 Summit not being a forum for dealing with the dollar and the G-7 discussing currency? I'm not sure I understand the distinction.
MS. MYERS: I'm not -- these things affect markets and I'm going to be very careful here about not leaving -- I don't want to say any more than what's already been said. I think, again, macro and microeconomic policy are going to be discussed. Certainly, there are a number of issues building on what happened last year where macroeconomic policy was discussed. I think for the first time this year you'll see more discussion of microeconomic policy building on Detroit, but it is not specifically devoted to the dollar.
Q: A little about the trip. Is the President all set now to -- and are the speeches ready to go? What is the Brandenburg speech on and the speech on Tuesday?
MS. MYERS: The Tuesday speech is going to be at 2:00 p.m. at the Mellon Auditorium.
Q: At 2:00 p.m.?
MS. MYERS: At 2:00 p.m.
Q: Will you have advanced text?
MS. MYERS: We will have possibly an advanced text, more likely, some kind of a statement of themes and possibly some quotes so that you have a good idea of what's in the speech. Given the President's history with advanced texts or texts generally, we all know the problems with an advanced text. But we will try to provide you with a very good idea of what exactly it is, an outline or something that will tell you exactly what it is he's trying to say and what the themes and major points are.
Q: Will it be ready for their departure on Tuesday morning?
MS. MYERS: Yes, whatever it is, either the text if we are confident that it's something that the President's really spent a lot of time with and is comfortable with or some kind of an outline with maybe some quotes or at least themes that are outlines in a way that I think will be useful.
What else did you ask, Brandenburg?
Q: Yes, and is he prepared now? Has he had all his briefings?
MS. MYERS: Yes, he has spent, as you know, a good deal of time this week with his advisors talking about the substance not only of the G-7, but of the bilateral meetings, and about what it is he's trying to accomplish generally throughout the trip. I think he is quite ready. He spent a good deal of time working on his speeches. There are a number of opportunities which you all have seen through the course of the schedule. I think he feels good about where the trip is and about what's likely to be accomplished.
The Brandenburg event is the inactivation of the Berlin Brigade, and should be an important moment that I think recognizes the accomplishments of the past -- of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and of the movement from the Cold War to the post-Cold War world. But it will also look forward to the responsibility of all people to continue on the path toward integration, toward market economics and to avoid temptations at sort of divisiveness that sometimes have cropped up in the wake of the end of the bipolar world.
Q: Dee Dee, would you clarify the release of these other texts? You said they were embargoed for Monday. You mean they'll be released on Monday?
MS. MYERS: No, only -- I'm sorry, the interview text.
Q: Will they be released on Monday or are they embargoed for use on Monday?
MS. MYERS: They're embargoed for use on Monday.
Q: Can we have them Sunday?
MS. MYERS: Our goal is to release them before, either Saturday or Sunday?
Q: Maybe today?
MS. MYERS: Not today. We won't have them ready today. Either tomorrow or Sunday; probably tomorrow.
Q: Dee Dee, back to racial justice for a second. Did Congressmen Gephardt and Foley discuss the possibility of just changing the language a little bit, not calling it racial justice clause but basically the same impact? Some Republicans think that's what's going on.
MS. MYERS: What, this morning's meeting? This morning they talked about a number of things including health care, the crime bill, campaign finance reform in preparation for the recess. I'm not going to talk specifically about what discussions they might have had other than to -- they certainly discussed the status of the crime bill and some of the hurdles to it including racial justice. They gave him their prognosis for what the holdups were and what they thought was happening in terms of its resolution.
Q: They didn't talk about possibly changing the language?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to tell you specifically what they might have predicted is going to happen.
Q: You think he's going to stay at Camp David, on the property, all weekend and --
MS. MYERS: I think it's entirely possible he'll leave to play golf. Other than that I expect him to stay there.
Q: Holly Hills?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what tee times he might have arranged.
Q: Holly Hills motorcade, Holly Hills chopper?
Q: Will that be a pool?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: And what time do you think he'll be back on Monday?
MS. MYERS: Monday evening is the expectation and they haven't set a specific time.
Q: Before the fireworks?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I think they'll work very hard not to interfere with the festivities here on the Fourth. So we'll just have to wait and see.
Q: He will or will not be coming to the fireworks?
MS. MYERS: Will he be here for the fireworks? I don't think they've decided. They'll come back when they're ready and I think they'll do it in a way that is as little disruptive as possible.
Q: The pool will be taken from here Saturday or Sunday -- either day?
MS. MYERS: That's what we've tried to do in the past, yes.
Q: There are reports that Christine Gebbie is about to lose her job as the AIDS Policy Coordinator. Anything on that?
MS. MYERS: No, nothing for you on that. She continues to be the AIDS Coordinator. The President has confidence in her. He thinks it's important to have an administration AIDS Coordinator. We've made good progress on AIDS over the course of the last year.
Q: Joycelyn Elders?
MS. MYERS: The President stands by Dr. Elders as well.
Q: Dave Leavy?
MS. MYERS: No comment on Dave Leavy.
Q: Has Dave Leavy met the President yet? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: He has a bilateral scheduled for Tuesday.
Q: On Tuesday's speech at Commerce will there be at least a complete transcript by the time we pull into the --
MS. MYERS: Yes, there will be a transcript of the President's remarks available on arrival in Warsaw for those of you who are traveling.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:30 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/269599