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Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers

July 14, 1994

The Briefing Room

1:50 P.M. EDT

MS. MYERS: No announcements, so I think Andrea has a question.

Q: Do you have any comment on the Dole amendment, first; and Cedras' endorsement of it? And, second, do you have any comment on Sam Nunn's criticism of the sanctions policy, saying that the sanctions should be lifted -- some of the sanctions should be lifted, because they're not targeted properly?

MS. MYERS: On the Dole amendment, I think there's clear evidence of human rights violations in Haiti. The President's been pursuing a policy to deal with the situation there. We don't believe we need a commission to look at that. I think we've been pursuing a policy that we think is aimed at getting the de facto government, the military leaders there to step aside and allow for the restoration of democracy and the restoration of President Aristide.

I think clearly the Dole proposed commission has been supported by Cedras, which I think speaks somewhat to it as a delay tactic, which we certainly do not support. And the President intends to move forward with the current policy.

As to sanctions, the broader sanctions, the trade embargo is something that's been adopted by the international community. The U.N. and the OAS have both supported those sanctions.

As for the unilateral sanctions that the U.S. has imposed over the last several weeks, those are specifically targeted at the elites, and they are, in fact, having their intended effect. They do things such as take away visas, restrict financial transactions. We're urging other countries to follow suit. We think that'll be effective in putting additional pressure on the elites in Haiti; in particular those in the de facto government and their supporters. There are signs that those are having an effect and we intend to pursue that sanctions policy.

Q: The fact is that with both Dole and Nunn, you now have bipartisan criticism of your policy.

MS. MYERS: We also have support for the policy. As you know, senior foreign policy officials in the administration, including Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Secretary of Defense William Perry, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Shalikashvili, National Security Advisor Tony Lake and our Ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright all went up to the Hill yesterday and met with House and Senate leaders to talk about a number of things, including North Korea, Bosnia, the President's recent trip to Europe and Haiti. I think it was a good discussion, a very productive discussion. I think members of Congress understand that we are working with them on this; we'll continue to do that.

I think, again, it was a very good session.

Q: And you have the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee speaking up against your -- certain facets of your policy, however. It's obvious that the people who went to the Hill yesterday weren't entirely convincing.

MS. MYERS: I think that the people who went to the Hill yesterday had a very good session. I think that there is support for the President's policy and support for a continued pursuit of sanctions in Congress. We'll continue to work with members of Congress as this policy moves forward in addressing the problems in Haiti.

Now, yesterday's meeting was one in a series -- I think the second in the Senate and the third such meeting in the House. We'll continue to discuss all the facets of the President's Haiti policy with Congress on an ongoing basis. Certainly, I think individual members will raise questions about certain aspects of the policy; I think that's to be expected.

Q: The Black Caucus has given up on racial justice with a blast at the White House for breaking faith on the issue. First of all, is that the -- giving up on that, is that what you were referring to earlier today as something happening on that? And, second, what is your reaction?

MS. MYERS: Well, I think discussions are ongoing. The White House and the President have consulted broadly with reference to the crime bill and specifically racial justice. The President has said all along he didn't want any one issue to hold up the crime bill, which includes $30 billion -- to put 100,000 new police officers on the street, to create prevention and punishment programs that crack down on crime, which has become increasingly a focus of President Clinton, something he feels very strongly about. He wants to see this bill completed soon. We've been working with Congress on this -- the Conference Committee asked the President for more time to pursue a resolution to the racial justice measure and the bill overall. We think that that's going to happen soon. It has not happened yet.

Q: Do you think you broke faith with them on the issues of --

MS. MYERS: Absolutely not.

Q: seemed originally to support the idea.

MS. MYERS: We've never taken a position on it. We've been working with members of Congress on this. I don't think there's any consensus in Congress on that particular measure. We've been, again, have been working with them on this and expect that it will be resolved soon. As of right now there is no resolution.

Q: Why did it take so long to come to this issue? Why did you sit this one out for so long?

MS. MYERS: I think this is something that we were letting members of Congress work out. And I think it's been a contentious issue among members of Congress, and there has been no consensus in Congress about how to proceed on it. I think it's becoming increasingly clear that this is very difficult, very difficult issue. Discussions at this point are ongoing and I just have nothing concrete for you.

Q: But didn't you say this morning that there would be movement today?

MS. MYERS: I think we thought that there would be some movement today. At this point I'm not exactly sure where it's going to go.

Q: There are reports from some Democratic members of Congress that the President agreed to lobby members of the Senate over the last several days before they came back to get them to go along with the racial justice provision in the Senate, where, as you know, that's where your major problem is. Did the President, in fact, lobby anyone on behalf of accepting this provision?

MS. MYERS: Well, the President has been out of the country, as you know, and we have been -- the White House has been broadly working with members of Congress on this. Again, I think we will continue to consult broadly. I think that we're getting close to the end game on this. We expect this to be resolved soon, but I don't know whether or not it will happen today.

Q: As you frequently say, there's great communication -- is from Air Force One and other locations when the President's out of the country.

MS. MYERS: I think the President was focused largely on the trip while he was overseas.

Q: So he didn't talk to anybody about this?

MS. MYERS: Not to my knowledge. And I'll double-check that, but I don't believe so.

Q: Some in the Black Caucus are saying, though, that the President actually pulled the plug on negotiations and -- it won't work, it's too late, forget it. What do you say to that?

MS. MYERS: Well, the negotiations were happening among members of Congress. I think that if -- I would refer you to their statements on this, and to things that are coming off the Hill as to how much support there is for racial justice among members of both the Democratic Caucus and the Congress, generally.

Q: Did the President pull the plug?

MS. MYERS: I think this is something that Congress has been working on; it is not something that the President is in a position to pull the plug on. But, again, we're continuing to consult on this and we expect it to be resolved soon.

Q: Is he happy that it's gone away?

MS. MYERS: We didn't take a position for or against it. I think he made it clear that he didn't want any single issue to hold up passage of the crime bill. He's continually urged Congress and the Conference Committee on this to put a bill on his desk soon, something that he would sign. He said he would sign it either way.

Q: Why hasn't he taken a position on it?

MS. MYERS: He took a position on -- he laid out in the beginning of the debate what he wanted to see in the crime bill. And I could go through it again, but I'll spare you. He fought very hard for those provisions. As for the racial justice provision, I think he made it clear that he doesn't believe that race factor should influence the death penalty in any way whatsoever. He's firmly against anything like that. However, he did not take a position on this; said it was something that members ought to work out and send him a crime bill.

Q: If the House provision could pass in the Senate, is that something he would support -- he would agree with the purpose of that legislation?

MS. MYERS: He said he would sign it either way. If the House provision could pass the Senate, he said he'd sign the bill with that provision included.

Q: Dee Dee, you said a couple of times that discussions are ongoing. What exactly are they going on about? I mean, Mfume and the rest of the Caucus say that it is dead, what are you still talking about?

MS. MYERS: I think just generally about how to resolve this and how to move forward from here. And I'm just not sure that we'll have anything more specific to say about it today.

Q: Is there still consideration being given to this idea of establishing a commission that would look into the whole question of race and the death penalty, or is that a non-starter?

MS. MYERS: I think that -- again, conversations are ongoing, and I don't think that all of the issues have been resolved.

Q: But is that one of the subjects in the conversation?

MS. MYERS: There has been some discussion of that notion.

Q: Dee Dee, can I ask you something? This is a UPI report that came out today. The Clinton administration has concluded that the President-elect of Colombia, Ernesto Samper accepted more than $3 million in campaign contributions from the cocaine cartel, the Cali cartel, and also that the police chief of Colombia, General Vargas, is also involved with narco traffickers, but that Washington has concluded that the allegations are accurate, but decided not to take a punitive action in Colombia because nothing could be done to prevent Samper from taking office, and Washington's Haiti policy could result in a fallout from support from Bogota if --

MS. MYERS: I don't have anything for you on Colombia. I'm sorry. I can take that question and get an answer to you this afternoon.

Q: Dee Dee, also in Haiti, there are some reports that Cedras actually is looking for perhaps a way out. And there are some reports about the Dominican Republic acting as an intermediary in that behalf. Do you have anything on that?

MS. MYERS: I don't. I think it's unclear. Cedras has also said recently and publicly that he expects to stay until the end of his term, which I think is January of 1995. I think we've made clear to him what our expectations are. We expect him and his cronies to resign, to step aside, either to leave the country or to step aside, and we'll continue to put pressure on them until they do that.

Q: Do you have a deadline? Because that report also said October.

MS. MYERS: No, we haven't set any deadlines.

Q: Dee Dee, do you think the presence of the amphibious task force off of Haiti in any way deters attacks on Americans that you might otherwise expect?

MS. MYERS: Well, the human rights situation is clearly deteriorating. There have been no explosive threats against Americans that we know of, and no attacks.

Clearly, the amphibious ready group is there to come in and evacuate Americans should that become necessary, and that is, in fact, what the training exercise off the Bahamas was about. It was a practice evacuation, as opposed to anything else.

Certainly, we're monitoring that situation very closely. Our embassy has several teams -- seven teams of three, which are monitoring the situation with reference to returning Haitians as well as Americans and others there. But I think we're ready, should it become necessary to protect American lives in Haiti.

Q: Nunn was also saying that we should not invade, that we have to be prepared for an emergency rescue operation, but that American interests are not involved in Haiti and we should not invade short of an attempt to protect Americans.

MS. MYERS: Well, the President has made clear that he has not taken the use of force off the table as an option. At this point, the option we're pursuing is the sanctions options. We believe that that's the best way to put pressure on the de facto government and the military to get them to do what they committed to do at Governor's Island, which is to step aside and allow for the restoration of President Aristide, allow for training of a civilian police force and a professionalization of the military; all things that they agreed to. We're committed to that course of action, but, again, the President has not taken the military option off the table. And, I think it's repeatedly laid out what our interests are in Haiti.

Q: Where do we stand on getting other countries involved in a multilateral force for the long-run once they leave nation-building --

MS. MYERS: We've made good progress on that through the U.N. I think there are between eight and 12 countries who have committed to participate in a multilateral force to go to Haiti after the de facto government has resigned and stepped aside. That is something that we continue to work on.

Q: Do you have any firm commitments?

MS. MYERS: We're still in the process of building them, but, yes, we've had good -- a good reaction from other countries and I think, again, there's between eight and 12.

Q: But are they firm?

Q: Are you speaking of just an interest or a firm commitment?

MS. MYERS: No, we're working on commitments and we're making good progress.

Q: But do you have 12? Do you have those eight to 12 as commitments?

MS. MYERS: I think they're pretty firm commitments. I'll have to double-check exactly. I don't know in what form.

Q: Do you have a list of these countries?

MS. MYERS: Pardon me?

Q: Do you have a list of these countries?

MS. MYERS: No, we're not providing a list.

Q: What will they be doing after Aristide is restored to the --

MS. MYERS: They would be there to help with the training of the military and of the police force, to protect -- to watch the situation on the ground and just to be on hand to make sure that there isn't some upsurge of violence.

Q: Would the United States be part of such a force or would it be handled entirely by these other countries and all U.S. troops pulled out?

MS. MYERS: I think that we'd be willing to participate in that.

Q: What would be the strength of these forces in terms of numbers? How many men do you envisage?

MS. MYERS: I think the number -- I'll have to doublecheck this -- is 20,000 -- in multilateral force -- Ann's looking shocked.

Q: Well, the official statements out of the State Department has 9,000 to 12,000 for the past few weeks.

MS. MYERS: I'd better double-check that.

Q: There is a report in The New York Times that it was 15,000 to 20,000.

Q: Yes, but the State Department knocked that down and said it was a smaller number. But you think it might be?

MS. MYERS: Let me take that question.

Q: The administration officials are up on the Hill briefing, I believe, Ways and Means Committee members and others about the GATT proposals and the funding. When will the administration release publicly what your proposals are for GATT funding? When will that package come out?

MS. MYERS: When it's ready. I don't have a time line on it.

Q: You're telling people on the Hill what's in it --

Q: Congress, but it's not ready enough that --

MS. MYERS: When it's ready. I don't have a time --just don't have a time line on it.

Q: Are you telling people on the Hill in incomplete elements of the -- is there more that has to be decided?

MS. MYERS: They're discussing it with members of Congress today, and when we're ready we'll release the details. I just don't have a time line on that for you.

Q: Nunn is also saying that let's say that Aristide is restored, that the U.S. should get some definite commitments to him in terms of free elections and no recriminations against his enemies, things like that. What stage is it at this point, the talks between Aristide or the understanding between Aristide and the United States in terms of the really specific commitment -- not just I support democracy.

MS. MYERS: Well, if you go back to Governors Island and look at what the commitments were in Governors Island, it was --first of all, Aristide lived up to all of the commitments that he had made prior to the October date when Cedras and others were supposed to step aside, and they failed to do that. But he made a series of commitments which I think, along the lines of what Senator Nunn has requested, including amnesty for those who participated in the coup and other things that I think suggest that he's certainly in line with that.

Q: Well, then, why is Nunn asking for this again if it's already a fait accompli?

MS. MYERS: I don't know that every single one that he has asked for has been -- that Aristide has specifically agreed to. But he's certainly agreed to many of the questions that Senator Nunn has raised. And you'd have to ask Nunn why he's asking for it; I certainly don't have an answer to that.

But, again, I would point out that President Aristide has lived up to all of the commitments he made as part of Governors Island.

Q: The White House hasn't gone beyond that. The White House hasn't asked Aristide for any specific commitments with regard to civil peace and respect of human rights when he comes back, to avoid any lynchings or revenge by his followers.

MS. MYERS: I don't know of any specific commitments along those lines.

Q: Have you gotten an agreement from Aristide yet to do these radio broadcasts or the contents of these broadcasts -- agreement -- people have been saying for more than a month was days away.

MS. MYERS: Yes, I think that we will announce that in the next -- either today or tomorrow -- probably out of the State Department. And, yes, it's -- I think all of the details have now been worked out.

Q: Is it also true that he -- not only did we have negotiations with him about what he would say in these radio broadcasts, but he has asked the United States to commit in writing to not use Radio Democracy -- whatever it's called -- its own broadcasting to tell Haitians not to flee? Did you sign any commitment to him?

MS. MYERS: I don't know of a written commitment. We've said previously that that is not the objective of Radio Democracy, that it was not to ask Haitians to -- not to leave the country; we were doing that through other means, and I think I pointed out last week or two weeks ago that we had taped some messages that were being distributed to radio stations through our embassy in Haiti.

Q: Did you agree, even in those messages, not to ask Haitians not to flee?

MS. MYERS: I don't know if there's any signed agreement, but it is not our intention to use Radio Democracy to urge Haitians not to leave the country.

Q: Why should he have a veto over our policies?

MS. MYERS: We are working with him on the content of those messages. The objective of Radio Democracy is toward reconciliation, to continue to provide another channel of giving Haitians information, of talking to them about the importance of restoring democracy, of seeking national reconciliation. Those are the objectives of the broadcasts, and we're not using that --

Q: that you're going to announce?

MS. MYERS: It's a radio program that will be broadcast from airplanes. It will give Father Aristide an opportunity to talk with the people that he was elected to lead.

Q: When will it start?

MS. MYERS: I don't know if we have a specific start date yet. Sometime in the next week or so.

Q: Is Turks and Caicos open yet?

MS. MYERS: It's not open. The construction is completed. I think U.N. personnel, U.N.H.C.R. personnel and U.S. personnel are arriving there. There are some details that have to be worked out. I think TCI has to pass some kind of legislation that would give immunity to U.S. government officials and others. We expect that to happen soon.

Q: Like this week, days?

MS. MYERS: I think if all goes well sometime within the next week or so, but we don't have a specific date on it yet.

Q: So, you don't have the enabling legislation, essentially?

MS. MYERS: It's a technical step that they want to take in regard to providing covering the U.S. government officials. Turks and Caicos Islands.

Q: What does the White House think of the McConnell amendment which would block further aid to Russia if it doesn't pull out of Baltics?

MS. MYERS: I haven't seen that yet. I mean, our position is that we're working with Russia to see to it that they do pull out of the Baltics. They'll be out of Lithuania, they'll be out of Latvia by the 31st of August, and we're working through the final details on Estonia. And we expect them to withdraw their troops from Estonia soon.

Q: Dee Dee, does the White House believe that efforts to move welfare reform faster, get it done this session, as Gibbons and Moynihan have been talking about, would complicate health care reform?

MS. MYERS: That's something that is, I think, up to Congress. If they believe they can get it done this year then the President would support going forward with it. But that's something that they will work out with members of Congress. If Chairman Moynihan believes that they can do both, and if other members of Congress believe that they can do both, then the President would certainly support going forward with it this year.

Q: Dee Dee, the Catholic bishops have brought abortion back to the forefront, not that it's necessarily gone away in the health reform legislation debate. What exactly is the President's position on this now? Is abortion coverage something to be mandated in all -- for all coverage that would come in a reform plan? Is he saying that it is optional, neither mandated nor excluded? Or, is he prepared to sign a universal health care reform bill that would eliminate any reference to abortion coverage?

MS. MYERS: Currently most health plans provide coverage for pregnancy-related services. The President's plan included pregnancy related services as part of the standard package of benefits, but also included a conscience clause that would allow doctors and providers, health institutions to opt out, to not provide those kinds of services to which they were morally opposed.

Q: Would people have the option of getting coverage that does not include it as they do now? I mean there are insurance plans that don't include abortion coverage now. Would that remain in place under the President's reform plan?

MS. MYERS: Claims would include it, providers could opt out. For example, Catholic hospitals would not be expected to provide --

Q: But health insurers could opt out also?

MS. MYERS: I don't think that any entire -- if a hospital, for example, or some facilities in a plan didn't cover pregnancy-related services, they would have to refer or have some other means within the system of providing those services. That's the way the President proposed it so that everybody would have access to pregnancy related services through their health plans. Clearly, that will be a contentious debate in Congress.

Q: What about the one compromise circulating that would leave it up to the employee to choose a plan that does or does not offer abortion?

MS. MYERS: Well, we would have to see, of course, how that works out and what passes Congress. I mean, the President has made very clear that his bottom line is universal coverage. That is what he's been pushing members of Congress on. That is what he expects the leadership to develop a plan on.

Q: But if a final proposal reaches his desk that leaves it up to the employee rather than -- and/or the provider.

MS. MYERS: Well, we'll have to wait and see what's in the final package. Again, the President proposed a plan that included pregnancy-related services. That is his preferred option. However, he's made his bottom line very clear.

Q: Dee Dee, if you're going to have a law that requires that everyone have insurance, why should a family that morally opposes abortion be required to buy a health insurance plan that covers abortion?

MS. MYERS: Providers can opt out.

Q: But why should a family be required to spend their money for coverage that they believe is morally inappropriate?

MS. MYERS: The President believes that pregnancyrelated services ought to be included, that everybody ought to have access to that. People can choose whether or not to take advantage of those services. That is what he sees as the best way of providing basic benefits to everybody.

Q: Why does he believe that people should be required to pay for coverage for something they think is inappropriate?

MS. MYERS: It is not something that people need to take advantage of.

Q: But they still have to pay for it.

MS. MYERS: It's -- again, it's not something that people have to take advantage of, it's something that will be --there are many things within plans that people don't take advantage of.

Q: Senator Wofford, I was talking to this morning, says that there are many plans now in existence, even Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans, that in Pennsylvania, anyway, specifically exclude abortion. People have a choice; they can apply to one plan or another plan. He says that the plan Congress has are the options available to members of Congress --

MS. MYERS: I understand that.

Q: include plans that cover abortion, plans that don't.

MS. MYERS: I'm well aware of that.

Q: Then why doesn't the President's proposal have that same leeway?

MS. MYERS: The President put forward a plan. Congress is debating it. We will see what Congress produces on this.

Q: Dee Dee, we've been led to believe that Leon's first day as Chief of Staff was today.

MS. MYERS: It's actually -- technically, it's Monday.

Q: You mean, the coming Monday.

Q: He's led the senior staff meetings, has he not?

MS. MYERS: He and Mack have shared that responsibility.

Q: You mean --

MS. MYERS: Mack has been there --

Q: So it's the Monday coming up?

MS. MYERS: Correct.

Q: What's defining Monday?

Q: He and Mack are sharing leading the staff meetings?

MS. MYERS: This has been a period of transition.

Q: What happens Monday that's different than what's happening today?

Q: Leon has been announcing what is going to happen and who is in charge of what, and it's been Leon in charge.

MS. MYERS: I think clearly during that transition, Leon has been assuming responsibilities of Chief of Staff as he finishes up his commitments as Budget Director.

Q: Who is in charge through Monday, then?

MS. MYERS: The transition status remains in effect.

Q: And do you expect some announcements today from him?

MS. MYERS: Not that I know of, but -- (laughter) --

Q: One more on the abortion. Did you actually react specifically to what the bishops did? How devastating a blow do you think that will be?

MS. MYERS: I certainly don't think it came as any surprise. On the one hand, I think it's encouraging that they have been outspoken advocates of the need for universal coverage. I think their position on abortion is clear, and I don't think that came as a surprise to anybody here. But, no, we didn't take any specific action in reaction to that.

Q: Does this business about Leon taking over on Monday idea to give him more time to finish up elements of the GATT? Is there a specific thing that he's trying to finish?

MS. MYERS: I think he had a number of commitments as budget director, including the midsession review, and I think the timetable is something that is his own, I think, as he feels that he's been able to fulfill his obligations and move into the Chief of Staff job; he's done that as quickly as he can. And I think he feels that Monday is the day when he will be able to complete that transition.

Q: He's trying to finish up the GATT package before he comes over?

MS. MYERS: He had many responsibilities as Budget Director. And he's obviously trying to fulfill those.

Q: Is there something actually legal about changing jobs here?


Q: He's got the same -- does he get a new commission? Does someone swear him in?

MS. MYERS: I think he gets -- sure, he gets a new commission certificate. Of course. A new car? He does become eligible for portal-to-portal. I do not know whether he'll take advantage of that or not.

Q: Salary change?

MS. MYERS: No, I think he was at the top salary as Budget Director.

Q: Does he take a pay cut?

MS. MYERS: I don't believe he takes a pay cut or is eligible for a pay raise. I think he'll keep his current salary. Obviously he'll change offices at some point.

Q: Speaking of which, has the great office space dilemma been settled yet?

MS. MYERS: I can say with certainty that Leon will be moving into the Chief of Staff's office.

Q: Is he traveling on Monday?

MS. MYERS: Beyond that, I can't help you.

Q: Is he going on the trip?

MS. MYERS: I don't believe so.

Q: Are you traveling tomorrow?


Q: Will you do week ahead, then?

MS. MYERS: Sure. Do you have the schedule for tomorrow? The President's here in the morning. You have it? No. He has meetings here in the White House. No public appearances. He leaves here at 11:05 a.m., flies to Pennsylvania. He will do a health care event at 12:45 p.m. with Senator Wofford. The general themes of the health care events tomorrow will be universal coverage and benefits for the middle class; that without universal, you don't cover everybody, without covering everybody you leave the middle class vulnerable.

Then he will -- he does an editorial board with the Philadelphia Inquirer. He'll tape the radio address in Philadelphia, and then he has --

Q: Will that be on health care also?

MS. MYERS: No, the radio address will probably not be on health care. We're still in the process -- it'll probably be on crime. On -- then he attends a fundraiser for -- it's the Pennsylvania Presidential Dinner. He comes back here. He's scheduled to arrive back at the White House at 9:45 p.m.

Then on Saturday he has no schedule. Sunday he will -- he has a fundraiser, a tribute, actually -- I don't know if it's a fundraiser -- for Senator Byrd here at the Grand Hyatt. That's from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Then he comes back to the White House. He'll leave for Miami, take Marine One from here, overnight in Miami. On Monday, he has an editorial board with the Miami Herald. He has a meeting on the Summit for the Americas. It's a host committee meeting. It's a meeting with a pool spray at the top -- just getting ready for that event, which is next December.

Then he will address the National Council of La Raza at lunch. That's scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

Q: Excuse me -- on the Sunday tribute to Senator Byrd -- is that different than a fundraiser, since he's up this year?

MS. MYERS: I expect that it's a fundraiser, but the only information I have is a tribute. It's at the Hyatt here, yes.

Then he will leave and go to Portland, Maine

Q: How about the La Raza speech?

MS. MYERS: It'll be general and it will certainly include some information about health care.

He'll fly to Portland, Maine and attend a reception for gubernatorial and Senate candidates in Maine. Then he will spend the night in -- there's actually a couple of fundraisers -- then he spends the night at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts.

On Tuesday, he addresses the National Governors Association at the Hynes Convention Center at 11:00 a.m.; probably do another couple of events -- he's got a couple other fundraisers for the governors that are there, and then returns to the White House. The rest of the details of that are not worked out.

Q: Does he have an event before the governors?

MS. MYERS: Nothing is scheduled yet. The first event is not until 11:00 a.m., so it's possible.

Q: Last year he spent -- he did a couple different things with the governors. Is he just speaking, or is he going to hang around?

MS. MYERS: He'll speak and then hit some of these fundraisers.

Q: Do you know when he gets back to the White House?

Q: Is one of them for Kennedy?

MS. MYERS: Not clear yet.

Q: Is Kennedy involved in it, since he's also up this year?

MS. MYERS: These appear to be for governors -- Governor Romer, gubernatorial candidate Lee Fisher from Ohio.

Q: Is he doing anything tomorrow before he departs?

MS. MYERS: Meetings here, nothing public.

Q: Nothing public.

Q: Wednesday?

MS. MYERS: I don't have the rest of the week, just through Tuesday.

Q: Why is he taping the radio address if he's going to be here?

MS. MYERS: Since he's working on Sunday, and he has a couple of events on Sunday, wanted to, I think, take a day since he just got back from Europe and didn't really get any down time.

Q: Is the trip -- not this weekend, but next weekend -- is that going to be pool only? Do you know?

MS. MYERS: Yes, we will only take the pool. This is the trip to -- I know this is going to break a lot of people's hearts. There will be no press plane for the weekend trip to Hot Springs.

Q: Is it determined yet if he's leaving Friday or Saturday?

Q: Yeah, who's the pool rotation?

MS. MYERS: It's not determined yet. He hasn't decided.

Q: Where is he going on his vacation?

MS. MYERS: This is a big deal.

I don't have any details on the vacation, other than that there will be one in August.

Q: In August?

MS. MYERS: In August, we've narrowed it down. It will be after Congress recesses, but before Labor Day.

Q: Since the majority leader is already talking about postponing the August recess --

MS. MYERS: It's out of our hands. What's that?

Q: It might not happen at all -- the vacation.

MS. MYERS: Oh, I think it will happen. (Laughter.)

Q: Where did you say he's going?

Q: August means no Labor Day weekend at all?

MS. MYERS: No, I think through Labor Day.

Q: The last two weeks -- the 22nd through Labor Day.

MS. MYERS: Probably, yes, probably. And it will just depend on when Congress -- I think a lot will obviously depend on what Congress does and when they actually finish up. It's scheduled for the 12th. I think everybody expects, at a minimum, they'll be in through the weekend. But that depends on them.

Q: Dee Dee, when do we get a chance to look at the financial disclosure statements from the political consultants? I think they're due in by the end of this week.

MS. MYERS: Good question. I'll have to take that. I don't know the answer to that.

Q: They said in an op-ed that they were filing disclosure statements that were similar to what Congress files. Why aren't they filing what White House staff files?

MS. MYERS: They have done a lot of what White House staff does. Well, they did the -- I don't have the numbers -- but they did the long -- they underwent FBI background investigations. And they filled out the long form, which I can't remember what it's called.

This just in -- they will be available early next week. Thank you.

Q: Can I ask you something else, on the record, Dee Dee? Are you -- (Laughter.)

MS. MYERS: I'm on the record.

Q: I mean, would you make an on-the-record statement that when we move out of here that we move back in.

MS. MYERS: Yes, absolutely.

Q: There is no intention to close down this press office?

MS. MYERS: As much as you guys think that is what we want to do. No, I think everybody here knows that we have to close down this part of the press office for asbestos removal, which we are concerned about all of your health is the only reason that we're doing it. (Laughter.) We want to protect you. What's that?

Q: sprinklers.

MS. MYERS: Sprinklers. And putting sprinklers and put in, I think, access for disabled.

Q: And a staircase in the back.

MS. MYERS: Right, and an additional fire exit for those of you who work downstairs. But, yes, it is our full intention to make those upgrades and move you all back in here as quickly as possible.

Q: Do you have a switch at the podium that turns the sprinklers off? (Laughter.)

MS. MYERS: That's an excellent suggestion.

Q: Is this a two-year construction project? (Laughter.)

MS. MYERS: Yes, it's a six-year construction project. It will last through the end of the second term.

Q: Is the President moving into Blair House?

MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that.

Q: Does the asbestos problem extend beyond the press area, and will there be some repairs necessary elsewhere in the White House?

MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that.

MS. TERZANO: The asbestos is here.

Q: Not in the West Wing at all?

MS. MYERS: Remember that President Nixon built this, and I think it may have been intentional. (Laughter.) But I don't want to ascribe motives to him since I wasn't here.

Q: It was fully renovated, steel beam put in the roof in 1982 or '81.

MS. MYERS: I just think that the previous administrations weren't as concerned about your health as we are. (Laughter.)

Q: You're not taking out the asbestos because it needs to be taken out, you're taking it out because it will be disturbed when you put in the sprinkler system. Left undisturbed, it could stay there.

MS. MYERS: No, we had to make some fire code changes. We had to.

Q: Aha, that's the real reason.

MS. MYERS: It was required, including the second exit from the basement.

Q: Those of us who live up here don't care about the second exit from the basement. (Laughter.)

Q: we will not have the same access to seeing people come in and out of the West Wing.

MS. MYERS: Isn't that great? No, we will -- I mean this is really something that we had to do. It was required in order to bring up to fire code. I think we'll do everything we can to make that as smooth as possible. Fortunately, we'll be gone -- the President will be gone for most of the time that this is underway.

Q: Whose fire codes?

MS. MYERS: District of Columbia, I guess.

Q: Is this building subject to the District of Columbia fire codes?

MS. MYERS: Well, its federal marshalls or whoever makes these rules.

MS. TERZANO: I know. We're trying to update the sprinklers.

Q: I'm just curious.

MS. MYERS: No kidding.

Q: individual congressmen this afternoon?

MS. MYERS: He will have some congressional visitors today.

Q: On what?

MS. MYERS: Health care.

Q: All on health care?

Q: House or Senate?

MS. MYERS: Senate.

Q: Alabama --

MS. MYERS: We have to. I don't think there's any way around moving out of here for this upgrade. I think, should there ever be a fire, you all will thank us for having done this.

Q: Can you tell us who is coming and when?

Q: Can you tell the --

MS. MYERS: No, I think that --

Q: Okay, so, what is the time frame for the Senate meetings?

MS. MYERS: I think some of them may have already happened. I don't know.

Q: In terms of access, would you please tell the police that we will have to come here at times -- because they may bar us totally from the grounds?

MS. MYERS: No, no, no. We will work with you all to facilitate those.

Q: Are they moving our positions on the lawn as well?

MS. MYERS: We are in the process of -- it is rather an eyesore, and I think the Head Usher and others are concerned about it. We're not going to move them but we would like them to be cleaned up. I think all previous administrations required you to break them down everyday, we haven't done that. The grass has been, I think, damaged underneath. I think what we're going to do is try to work with you guys to clean it up so that it looks better for guests and visitors and people who are looking in at the White House.

Q: You're not moving us out of that location?

MS. MYERS: We're not going to kick you off the lawn. That's not our intention. But I think we need to figure out a way, and we haven't really addressed this yet, but to make it look better. It looks kind of cheesy.

Q: Do we have remove that car that we have up on cinderblocks out there?

MS. MYERS: Your lounge chair is safe out there for sunbathing.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:28 P.M. EDT

William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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