Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
9:26 A.M. EST
MS. MYERS: Today's schedule -- Prime Minister Major arrives at 3:00 p.m. He will meet with the President. There will be a photo op at the top of that meeting. At 4:00 p.m. they'll head out, walk through the Rose Garden, which will be a photo op into the White House, and then there will be an availability in the East Room. Prime Minister Major will leave following that news conference. He will return to the White House at 7:00 p.m. for a private dinner with the President. There will be photos only on entrance and on exit. He's supposed to leave around 9:00 p.m. There will be no photos inside the house.
Q: A working dinner?
MS. MYERS: It is a working dinner.
Q: Are they going to take questions at the --
MS. MYERS: They'll take questions at the 4:00 p.m. event in the East Room.
Q: Not after the dinner, not at 9:00 p.m.
MS. MYERS: No, no.
Q: No toasts or statement at the dinner?
Q: When is the President going to announce the airdrop?
MS. MYERS: Soon.
MS. MYERS: It could -- soon. There's no firm announcement scheduled at this point, but --
Q: But it's possible --
MS. MYERS: I wouldn't rule anything out. I wouldn't rule out today.
Q: presumably after he's had a chance to consult with Mr. Major?
MS. MYERS: I think that's --
Q: So it could come at the 4:00 p.m. event.
MS. MYERS: Correct. It could come later, as tomorrow or later in the week. But I don't want to steer you completely away from today.
Q: The question was when is he going to announce the airdrop, right?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: Is there any chance it will be before the meeting with Major, or can we safely assume it would be after --
MS. MYERS: I think you can safely assume it will not happen before the meeting with Major at 3:00 p.m.
Q: Any concern, Dee Dee, that some of the food will be airdropped to the Serb villages in eastern Bosnia in addition to the Muslim villages? And what direction -- behind it?
MS. MYERS: I think that's being considered, along with a number of other things. We'll have details of the policy later, but that is being considered.
Q: It's a yes --
MS. MYERS: Drops to Serb and Croat villages as well as Bosnian Muslim villages is being considered. But again, for the details of the policy, I will wait until later.
Q: It was made clear yesterday that it would be, we thought.
Q: Are you backing off?
MS. MYERS: It's being considered. As of yesterday there have been no final decisions about the policy altogether. So all I'm doing is deferring announcement of the specifics until we have an announcement.
Q: Are you backing off anything we were told yesterday?
MS. MYERS: No, absolutely not. He said they were being considered.
Q: Dee Dee, if you're -- opinion that the Bosnian -- the Muslims, I mean, are in need -- are the people in need of food, and that the Serbs are the aggressors. What is the rationale behind airdropping food to the Serbs? I mean, how do you justify it?
MS. MYERS: This is a humanitarian project. It is not a partisan project. And the administration is considering helping all peoples in need in that region. But again, we'll have the final details on the policy later.
Q: Do you have anything on the apparent mob attack on the U.S. Embassy in Somalia?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Has the President been briefed on it?
MS. MYERS: I'm sure he'll get information in his
briefing this morning, but I don't have any details beyond that. I'm sure he's looking at it.
Q: Dee Dee, do you have anymore on any contacts between the Black Caucus and the President or any of his staff?
MS. MYERS: The President did not have any conversations with any members of Congress about the Justice Department issue, period.
Q: What about staff or McLarty or anybody else? Anything you know about that? MS. MYERS: I don't believe McLarty was involved at all. Q: Or anybody else? MS. MYERS: No. Q: Dee Dee, and can you say, does the President agree
with the position the Justice Department took Monday or the one they took yesterday?
MS. MYERS: Again, that was Gerson's decision. He decided to proceed asking for the jury selection to be overturned. He said yesterday that the District Court had acted within its means and that they weren't going to pursue it. So I would refer you to the Justice Department on that.
Q: Does the White House agree with --
MS. MYERS: It's Gerson's decision and he's been empowered to make those decisions.
Q: Dee Dee, Representative Mfume says that he sent President Clinton a letter asking for some kind of intervention on the basis of fairness -- not speaking to the legality of the charges, but on the basis of fairness -- that there be some Justice Department intervention in this. Did the President see that letter? How did he respond? Did he pass it along to anybody with any instructions? He may not have had any discussions, but there was an attempt to communicate this to the President. What happened there?
MS. MYERS: I'll have to check the specific details of that letter. But again, Attorney General -- Acting Attorney General Gerson made the decision on his own, carried forward the policy on his own. I will check to see if that letter was received. But the President did not have any conversations with any members about the issue.
Q: What consultations were made between Gerson and either White House officials or liaisons to the White House such as Hubbel?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe any.
Q: There was no --
MS. MYERS: There was no consultation on this. I'll get back to you on it. I'll double-check it. But as far as I know no consultations took place. Gerson made the decision on his own.
Q: In other words, what you seem to be saying yesterday and today is that the President ignored an appeal from member -- Congressman Mfume, who wrote him a letter. Others who may have tried to contact him from the Black Caucus --
MS. MYERS: I don't know if I'd use the word ignored. But he didn't take action on it.
Q: You're putting as much distance as you can between the White House and the action that was taken by the Acting Attorney General, saying it was all on his own -- he made the decision?
MS. MYERS: That's correct. It is within the Attorney General's purview to make that kind of decision. He did.
Q: Yes, but it's within the White House's purview to look over his shoulder.
Q: You have a person over there whose job it is to look over his shoulder.
MS. MYERS: When the White House deems it appropriate or necessary.
Q: The White House didn't deem it necessary or appropriate?
MS. MYERS: It was -- Attorney General Gerson was -- did make the decision, and the White House is comfortable with that.
Q: And the White House -- it was comfortable.
MS. MYERS: With is ability to make the decision.
Q: The reason I asked about McLarty was there was a report one time that Congressman Ford had talked to Reverend Jackson about also helping on his behalf. And Reverend Jackson met a week ago Monday with McLarty and the First Lady on separate issues --health care. And I'd like you to check and see if he brought that issue up to them in those meetings.
MS. MYERS: I'll take that question.
Q: Dee Dee, could you also clarify -- did Gerson notify the White House before he did anything? I mean, was the White House aware of what he was going to do before he did it?
MS. MYERS: There were a number of news accounts about the pending decision. I think that people here were generally aware of it. I will check on the specific nature of any contact. I don't believe that the Justice Department asked the White House for permission, nor did the White House feel it necessary to grant it.
Q: I'm simply asking did he tell the White House what he was doing, which would imply the White House would have had the chance to say, don't do this, if it objected.
Q: Could you double-check, did Webb Hubbel, liaison to the White House not -- did he or did he not talk to Gerson about this case?
MS. MYERS: Did Webb Hubbel talk to Gerson about this case? I would refer you to Justice on that. But, as you know, Hubbel is the liaison to the White House from the Justice Department, and he talks to people about a number of issues. But I will get back to you -- I mean, I would refer you to Justice on any conversations that Hubbel and Gerson may have had.
Q: Well, I'm asking you is -- he's the White House liaison --
MS. MYERS: You asked me if Hubbel had talked to Gerson.
Q: On behalf of the White House.
Q: Can you not answer that question for me?
MS. MYERS: I will have to get back to you.
Q: When will you get back to us to let us know whether or not the letter from Congressman Mfume was received as --
MS. MYERS: Yes, I said I'd get back to you on that.
Q: How? How will you do that? How will you let us know?
MS. MYERS: At George's briefing at noon; or you can call me later, but we can take this up again then.
Q: Can we switch to Bosnia for a second?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
Q: In the meeting with Major is he going to try to get England aboard on this, or what is he going to try to do?
MS. MYERS: I'm sure that it will come up. As you know, we've been talking to a number of governments and inviting their participation. And again, I'm sure that it will be discussed and they'll be able to answer questions about the specific nature of those conversations after the meeting.
Q: What -- other issues -- coming up, Dee Dee, at the meeting outside of Bosnia? What specifically is on the agenda?
MS. MYERS: I think a number of foreign policy as well as economic issues. And this is the first opportunity that the President and the Prime Minister will have to sit down together. I think they're going to work to establish a good working relationship.
Q: What kind of economic issue, for instance, on GATT or on trade issues?
MS. MYERS: I think a wide variety of issues.
Q: Can you be specific?
MS. MYERS: No, not at this point. After the meeting we can talk specifically about what was talked about at the meeting.
Q: Dee Dee, during the campaign the President suggested both orally and I believe in a letter to Congressman Morrison that he would favor a special envoy to Northern Ireland. Does he still favor such a special envoy and has there been any --
MS. MYERS: We're reviewing it at this point.
Q: Do you have anything out of Ottawa about these reports Mulroney's quitting today?
MS. MYERS: No, only what we've seen in the papers so far. We may have more about it later.
Q: When did the President last speak to Mulroney? Was that when he was here? Have they spoken by phone since?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe they've spoken since.
Q: Will they be phoning each other today?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: What is the President doing this morning?
MS. MYERS: He went running this morning and he's at the Residence, I think, catching up on some paperwork.
Q: There's nothing on schedule. We're just curious.
MS. MYERS: There's nothing on the schedule this morning until a little bit later. Taking a little downtime this morning.
Q: Is he working out of the Residence?
MS. MYERS: Generally, he does. I don't know exactly what he's doing. Generally, he goes through paperwork and reads background materials.
Q: He doesn't like the Oval Office?
MS. MYERS: He loves the Oval Office. He's very fond of the Oval Office.
Q: When he gathered you all up after the speech, Time says that you had carrot cake, and Newsweek said that you had cherry pie.
MS. MYERS: We actually had both. (Laughter.) In all seriousness, both cherry pie and carrot cake were served in the Solarium.
Q: So one leaker had carrot cake and the other leaker had carrot cake and the other leaker had cherry pie. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: That's right. But the people who weren't leaking knew that both were being served.
Q: Was there anything else served?
MS. MYERS: The President had dinner, but I don't remember what specifically he ate.
Q: Did he share his dinner?
MS. MYERS: He offered to other members of the staff, but most people had eaten. It was quite late.
Q: Is the dessert the way to pinpoint the leaks?
Q: He had dinner at midnight?
MS. MYERS: It was about 11:00 p.m. He didn't have a chance to eat, he was working on his speech.
Q: Better than pizza at 2:00 a.m.
MS. MYERS: It was a very nutritious dinner. I remember it was a balanced meal.
Q: Dominoes or Pizza Hut? (Laughter.)
Q: Is there any -- to the rumor that he couldn't eat
the Dominoes pizza because the Secret Service agent hadn't cleared it?
MS. MYERS: I don't know whether or not that's true.
Q: Why don't you give us some of these little touches that we seem to miss everyday.
MS. MYERS: Holy cow.
Q: Dee Dee, what did you have for dinner last night?
Q: I'd like to go back to the special envoy to Northern Ireland. You said, we're reviewing it. Does that mean that the President might decide that he doesn't want to send a special envoy after all?
MS. MYERS: It means the President is reviewing it. We'll have more to say about it later.
Q: Dee Dee, have there been any more contributions to the jogging track?
MS. MYERS: There have been contributions to the jogging track.
MS. MYERS: In addition to the donated materials, construction will resume, probably, on Monday weather permitting.
Q: You have enough money?
Q: Photo op?
MS. MYERS: We will. We will -- some of the construction will be done by federal employees, some will be done by private contractor. DiGeronimo and Associates is the company.
Q: What is it?
MS. MYERS: DiGeronimo and Associates.
Q: Is that a Washington company?
MS. MYERS: It is a Washington-based company. They've done --
MS. MYERS: I hope so. They've done work -- they helped resurface the tennis courts when they were damaged by water in the past.
Q: What did they have for dinner last night? (Laughter.)
Q: Did they contribute the materials?
MS. MYERS: Yes, they did.
Q: They were the ones that contributed the materials?
MS. MYERS: They did.
Q: And how much money do you have in the kitty now?
MS. MYERS: I don't know, but we're collecting money --
Q: Do you have enough to go -- to start the operation?
MS. MYERS: Construction will resume, weather permitting. And we will have enough money to pay the contractor for the work.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END9:37 A.M. EST
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/272120