Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
1:44 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: Even as we speak, National Security Advisor Tony Lake is chairing a meeting on Rwanda. Brian Atwood is at that meeting. Following the meeting, sometime a little bit later this afternoon Mr. Atwood will brief the President on his recent trip and then he will come into this briefing room, and from this very podium he will brief you as well on --
Q: The President?
MS. MYERS: Atwood will.
Q: I thought it was supposed to be tomorrow.
MS. MYERS: It was going to be tomorrow, but Atwood is back today and he's --
Q: Can we get a picture of Atwood from the podium?
MS. MYERS: I'll look into that. It's possible.
Q: Will the President come in here, too?
MS. MYERS: No, this will just be Atwood.
Q: Will this be on camera?
MS. MYERS: I would expect so. We haven't really discussed it yet, to tell you the truth.
Q: Madeleine Albright has said, according to the wires, according to Reuters, that she's asking the United Nations for support for a U.S.-led mission to use all means necessary to restore democracy in Haiti. Can you help us on that?
MS. MYERS: As you know, Ambassador Albright has been discussing with the Friends of Haiti and others at the U.N. a twophased or a two-tiered resolution. That's something that's been discussed for the last couple of days. Today she's actually in the process of meeting with each of the 14 other Security Council members, ambassadors, permanent representatives to the Security Council. And she's discussing with them both aspects of that resolution, including a first phase which would allow an international force of some sort to go into Haiti to create a permissive environment, and following the language that has been used in the past -- for example, it was used in the Iraq-Kuwait resolution -- it would authorize, and Madeleine is asking that it would authorize all means necessary.
Q: Let me just follow up on that. A permissive environment for what?
MS. MYERS: For an expanded U.N. mission in Haiti.
Q: But what this says is that she's asking the United Nations for help -- for support, rather -- for a U.S.-led force to restore democracy.
MS. MYERS: Correct. But the two -- maybe I started a little bit ahead, but what's being discussed is a two-phased resolution. The first phase would go into a hostile environment, the objective being to create a permissive environment. And the language that Ambassador Albright is asking for is by all means necessary. And again, that's the same language used in the Iraq-Kuwait resolution.
Q: So we're talking about a U.S.-led invasion.
MS. MYERS: It is a U.N. resolution that would authorize a force of some kind to go in there and create a permissive environment, by all means -- using all means necessary, or any means necessary.
Q: Didn't Boutros Boutros-Ghali say last week that he was against the U.N. doing this? Is this simply asking for U.N. sanctioning?
MS. MYERS: Again, it would be authorized by the U.N. It would be -- what Madeleine is doing is essentially working on language of a resolution that would allow, one, if necessary --again, this is if necessary -- a force to go in in a hostile environment and create a permissive environment.
Once a permissive environment has been created, it would allow for the second phase, which would be the expanded U.N. mission in Haiti, something that we've talked about, that would go into basically follow-up on the terms of the Governors Island Accord, retrain the police and the military and maintain some a sort of order.
Q: Does the U.S. want to be the sole force going in?
Q: Why don't you tell the American people that you want to invade Haiti and you want --
MS. MYERS: That's not what we're saying, Helen. That's not what we're saying at all.
Q: Well, what are you saying? You want to line up a lot of support to go in and a multinational --
MS. MYERS: What we're doing is pursuing the diplomatic means necessary to make sure that the President can exercise any and all options should he choose to do that. Passage of the resolution absolutely does not require any action on our part. It simply creates a U.N. resolution that would allow both a force to go in in a hostile environment, and a force to go in once the military leaders have left, regardless of why or how they leave.
Q: Would you like the initial force to be all American?
MS. MYERS: I think that's something that we would discuss.
Q: This morning you said multinational for the initial force.
MS. MYERS: I think that that's envisioned that it would be -- that others could participate in it.
Q: Dee Dee, on that subject, more than 100 members of Congress have signed a new letter to the President in which they're saying that before any military force is used in Haiti, that the President should seek prior congressional authorization. Is the White House willing to commit to that?
MS. MYERS: We're continuing to consult with Congress, as we have throughout on Haiti. We will do that throughout this process.
Q: You're not willing to commit to prior congressional authorization?
MS. MYERS: All I'm willing to say is that we'll continue to work with Congress on Haiti as we do on all foreign policy issues.
Q: On Rwanda, can you characterize the President's depth of commitment and concern about the United States helping to deal with this issue and explain what actions he's already taken or plans to take to correlate with that concern?
MS. MYERS: Sure. Obviously, the President's deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda. And I'm not going to get too deeply in this because I will let Director Atwood, but let me go through what we have done up to this point.
As you know, we since April have delivered over $120 million in aid in one form or another. That includes $19 million authorized by the President on July 17th from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund -- that was last Friday -- funding, $15.6 million contributed by the State Department to support relief efforts of the UNHCR, the World Food Program, the International Federation of the Red Cross and the International Rescue Committee.
DOD announced additional airlift missions. I think they're making some announcements about going to larger planes which will reduce the number of flights. I think there will actually 50 flights. They're going to contract planes, C-5s, as opposed to smaller planes so that they can get more supplies in there more quickly.
We've already done about 100 airlifts of some 2,800 tons of relief supplies since the crisis began in April. That's valued at about $7 million. A U.S. government interagency team arrived in Goma yesterday -- that's a four-person team -- to begin to evaluate ways that we can help with the logisitics there. The Goma Airport is not big enough to accomodate all the flights that are necessary, so we're looking at how we can be of help there. There will be another assessment team going in over the weekend of probably 15 to 20 people to facilitate that.
Q: Where are they from?
MS. MYERS: That's a good question. I'm not sure exactly where they're from. I think they're from Europe, U.S. personnel from Europe.
Q: Before the lights go can we do crime bill?
MS. MYERS: Let's just leave the lights on until we get to crime.
Q: Are you going to announce new aid today?
MS. MYERS: I don't believe Mr. Atwood has any specific announcements.
Q: What about us helping to prepare the airstrips to fix the runways?
MS. MYERS: Those are the kind of thing that the assessment team is looking at. Certainly expanding runways, finding additional airfields that they could use to deliver supplies. I think two C-5s went in there today with a lot of Red Cross equipment including intervenous solutions to deal with the colera problem.
Q: Is there an announcement coming tomorrow of a new program? Is there one being prepared?
MS. MYERS: We are looking at additional ways that we can be of assistance in addition to the teams that are there on the ground looking at the logistical support. I think we'll probably have additional announcements sometime in the near future.
Q: Do you envision this becoming similar to the original notion of the Somalia rescue mission?
MS. MYERS: I think all those things are under discussion, and I think Mr. Atwood can discuss that in a little more detail after having met with Mr. Lake's group and with the President.
Let me just make a couple of other --
Q: What time are those meetings?
MS. MYERS: Tony's meeting began at 1:15 p.m.. Mr. Atwood will meet with the President when that meeting concludes which is scheduled for roughly 2:30 p.m, 2:45 p.m.
Q: What time will Atwood be in here?
MS. MYERS: Probably some time after 3:00 p.m.
Q: Can we get a photo of the President and Atwood?
MS. MYERS: We can release a White House photo, but we won't do a pool.
Q: Dee Dee, one thing that some critics who have emerged already on this are saying that the President himself really has to come out and take the initiative, speak on this, because it can't just be, as one person has said to me, a bunch of bureaucrats. It has to be the President who leads this. Is the President going to come out, make a statement, and take a leadership role?
Q: He has never spoken on the Rwandan crisis, not once. He issued a written statement.
MS. MYERS: He has issued several statements on this. Both the White House, State Department and the Department of Defense continue to work very hard to provide as much relief as we can. The President is obviously very concerned about the situation there and will continue to work to address it. No announcements are scheduled. I certainly wouldn't rule that out in the future.
Q: Can I ask you about Panamanian terrorists? Can we also keep the lights on for that, too, because I've been trying --
Q: Can I ask you please if the President --
MS. MYERS: I don't think this is a very good precedent that we're setting here.
Q: Very good precedent.
MS. MYERS: I don't like it one bit.
I'll take your question and then I want to do something on Korea.
Q: Do you have an announcement?
Q: And the Panamanian terrorists --
MS. MYERS: Panamanian terrorists? I don't think so.
Q: Is the President prepared to say publicly that he no longer supports the racial justice provision of the crime bill in order to get this moving into the conference committee?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think, as you know, the President agreed to have both the Attorney General and the Chief of Staff Leon Panetta contact members of the Senate who had voted against the racial justice provision when it came to the Senate to see if they would vote for cloture for a bill containing some modified racial justice provision. I think after consultations with the Senate it's clear that there is not support for racial justice, even in it's modified form.
What the President has said is that he certainly is sympathetic and believes that we have to do everything we can to make sure that the death penalty is not applied discriminatorily. At the same time, he does not believe any single issue should hold up this crime bill. It contains 100,000 more police officers, additional funding for prevention programs, as well as expanded punishment -- three strikes and you're out -- and other measures. What he would like to do is see the conference begin on this and get a bill to his desk as quickly as possible.
Q: So he's prepared to drop the racial justice?
MS. MYERS: He's prepared to sign a bill that does not include the racial justice measure.
Q: Will he make an executive order to any federal U.S. attorneys on how to proceed with the death penalty from here on in?
MS. MYERS: I think there are a number of means that are under discussion. As many of you know, Chief of Staff Panetta will meet with members of Congress this afternoon to discuss additionally the crime bill. And we may have more to say about it sometime either later in the next couple of days. As soon as we do, we'll let you know.
Q: A number of members of the Black Caucus believe this is yet another way in which the administration has not listened to their concerns, including some of their concerns on Haiti, Lani Guinier. And they consider it a pattern.
MS. MYERS: Absolutely not. We listened to their concerns. That's why there's $8 billion in prevention money in this plan. That's why there's all kinds of additional penalties in this plan to deal with crime and to stop crime. The victims of crime, many of which live in their districts. We have worked very closely with the Caucus on this bill and there are many members of the Black Caucus as well as members of Congress who support this bill and want to see it passed.
This is an important measure, it's taken six years to get it to this point. It has bipartisan support. The President is absolutely committed to getting it done as soon as possible before the recess. He's asked all members, both sides of the aisle, to please get on with this and get it to his desk.
Q: What do you think of Senator Exon's proposal for a health care summit involving Democratic and Republican leaders?
MS. MYERS: Hang on. Let me just do something really quickly on Korea. And then we're going to hit the lights.
As you may or may not know, contact was established today between U.S. and DPRK representatives through the working channel in New York. It was agreed in principle that -- a date was agreed upon in principle to resume the third round of talks. Both sides are now consulting with their principals. We won't announce that date yet, but again, there was an agreement in principle.
Q: pretty soon?
MS. MYERS: It's in the near future, yes.
Q: Anything on the North-South talks?
MS. MYERS: No, nothing to announce there.
Q: to resume the talks in Geneva with Gallucci?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: On a date certain which you're not yet announcing?
Q: Under the same conditions that were agreed to before?
MS. MYERS: Correct. All the same conditions still apply, absolutely. But what was agreed today, again through the working level in New York, was an agreement in principle to resume on a date certain. Both sides are now going back to their principals to confirm that date. As soon as it's been confirmed we'll announce it.
Q: Did the U.N. side detect any change in the positions of the North Korean side since Kim Jung Il is now believed --
MS. MYERS: No. In order to resume the third round they have to maintain the commitments to freeze their nuclear program while talks proceed, and everything is proceeding on track. The talks went very well.
Q: Do you have a response to the Serbs rejecting the Bosnian plan? Remember the strong words of the G-8 about the Bosnian peace plan?
MS. MYERS: Yes. There's -- I mean, we're disappointed that the Bosnian Serbs have generally rejected the plan. I think --
Q: I remember words used, a phrase, "a wider war" if they should reject the plan.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the -- as you know, the Contact Group met again today in Geneva and will continue to meet to discuss the terms of the ministerial, to work out the details of the incentives and disincentives that might be applied. At the same time, the Russians have said that they will work to try to improve
the Bosnian Serbs' response. We urge all parties to the Contact Group and others to work to improve the Bosnian Serb response. Our position has not changed. There will be consequences for any party that rejects the agreement.
Q: Dee Dee, they not only rejected it, but they've fired on American planes, they've fired on U.N. --
MS. MYERS: I don't think we have confirmation as to who fired on who today. I mean, certainly the planes were fired upon. But I don't have any confirmation as to who did the firing. One U.S. plane was hit today. Two other planes were fired upon. A. U.S. plane was hit yesterday. Obviously, that's of concern to us. One American civilian was wounded. Certainly we're very concerned about this.
We are proceeding with the Contact Group with the talks in preparation of the ministerial on July 30th. Again, we're disappointed that the Bosnian Serbs have as of yet generally rejected the plan. And we're hoping that they'll improve on that answer.
Q: Can we go back to Wolf's question about the reaction to Exon's suggestion on the summit?
MS. MYERS: Certainly.
Q: And he also suggested that the employer mandate go down to 50-50 split from 80-20.
MS. MYERS: Right. As you know, that is a proposal that already exists in the Senate. The President has said he would be flexible on ways to get to universal health care; continues to believe that employer mandate is the best way to do it. I think he'd have to look at any overall proposal before he made a specific judgment. But again, he is flexible.
As for the summit, we're continuing to work through the legislative process. I don't have anything else for you on that.
Q: Is that a no?
MS. MYERS: It's a "I don't have anything else for you on that." A couple of other quick things -- let me give, at the request of certain members of the media, a briefing on the briefing room improvements.
The lower press office and the briefing room will be closed from August 15th through Labor Day. The work to be done --
Q: I'm sorry -- August?
MS. MYERS: August 15th through Labor Day weekend. And work to be done includes construction of a second staircase to the lower level to bring that facility up to fire code, installation of a sprinkler system so that we can douse you guys on demand --(laughter) -- remodeling of restrooms to make them handicapped-accessible.
During that period the White House Conference Center on Jackson Place, which is across the street, will serve as a temporary briefing room. It will be set up like the press office facilities on the road. Work space for print reporters will double as a briefing room as we do on the road. A sign-up for telephone lines in the Conference Center is available above the bins. Next Thursday, July 28th, is the deadline. So if you need a phone, sign up. TV and radio are handling their logistical needs directly with GSA, so you all need to do that.
The Conference Center will be available beginning Thursday, August 11th, to move equipment. It will be fully operational on Monday the 15th.
Q: Is this irrespective of whether Congress and the President leave town as health care --
MS. MYERS: Yes, we have to get on with the construction. We'll have to see what Congress is doing.
Q: Will there still be access here to the North Lawn and --
MS. MYERS: Yes, the stakeout position and access through the gates and up to this area will still be -- will proceed as normal, will not change.
Q: What about access to the upper press office?
Q: What will happen to the upper press office?
MS. MYERS: We're looking for a way to keep you out, but we're not hopeful. I don't know what doors will be open. Have we thought that through?
MS. TERZANO: It's our understanding, the West Lobby, and if you want to come over here, you can call Dave or Scoop. But Dee Dee and Mark might not even be here and the President may not be here.
MS. MYERS: But I think it's very likely there will be a few days' overlap.
Q: Well, we could climb in through your office window.
MS. MYERS: I could open my office window and that could become an access way. (Laughter.) I'm willing to consider it.
Q: Will you make a commitment that we will still have the soda machine when this is all over? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: What's it worth to you?
Q: It's a serious issue. A lot.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think if you guys --
Q: For those of us in here at odd hours.
Q: And that the price won't go up?
MS. MYERS: I think you guys need to start lobbying the press office staff on these issues.
Q: Someone said those machines are not coming back.
MS. MYERS: Is that right?
Q: We believe in lobby reform.
Q: That's our only access to --
MS. MYERS: We're doing this to protect all of your health. We're a little concerned about it.
Q: Where will the lower press office staff be working?
MS. MYERS: The lower press office will be working out of Jackson Place.
Q: So how will we have access to the upper press office?
MS. MYERS: That's a good question.
Q: How will we get transcripts, how will we --
MS. MYERS: That will all function normally, the same way it does on the road.
MS. TERZANO: Our press office will be over there.
MS. MYERS: The same way it does on the road. Transcripts are moved. There are people around to answer questions, briefings will take place. I think the one question we do need to resolve is how can we guarantee access to the upper press.
Q: There is a door behind the desk in the hall.
MS. MYERS: You kind of have to go into the bushes, don't you?
Q: No, there's a walkway.
MS. MYERS: It's kind of behind the guard. That door?
Q: There's a clear walkway to it.
Q: What about coverage of the President, East Room, you know --
MS. MYERS: Well, the escorts would just start either -- I mean, we'll announce those depending on the escort, but it would either start at Jackson Place or it would start over here someplace. So it will continue -- obviously, if the President's doing an event in the East Room, we'll make sure that you --
Q: Through the Palm Room?
MS. MYERS: In like that?
Q: Are the phone lines just lines and we put in our own phones as here? Or do you have phones, too?
MS. MYERS: I believe it's -- I don't know. Do you put in your own phones --
Q: Who will be in charge of the press office?
Q: installed like we do on the road?
MS. MYERS: Jeremy's going to handle the logistics of the transition. Ginny and Arthur will work out of Jackson Place as they do out of the lower press office now.
Q: I don't know if it's different between the upper and the lower work space back there, but do things like file cabinets, do things have to be taken off the shelves -- what has to be moved physically?
MS. TERZANA: A memo from John Dawson of GSA, who is out of town this week, will be issued next week to let you know about your specific logistical moves and how you need to protect your material.
Q: Dee Dee, before you go, could I ask about Senator Breaux's proposal for a super-IRA? Do you have any reaction to that?
MS. MYERS: This may come as a big surprise, but I'm not familiar with the details of that proposal. (Laughter.) I'm happy to take that and get back to you.
I have some new details -- there's been a couple of changes. I don't have my notes on this, so I'm going to do it off the top of my head, but there have been some changes in the schedule for Monday and Tuesday. There will be an arrival ceremony in the Rose Garden on Monday morning.
Q: What time?
MS. MYERS: We're still working out the specific times, sometime Monday morning -- followed by bilaterals with each Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein in the Oval Office. Then the three of them will meet briefly in the Oval Office, followed by lunch. And there'll be a signing ceremony on the South Lawn, probably under a tent.
Q: Lunch and then --
MS. MYERS: I believe so, yes.
Q: What will they sign?
MS. MYERS: They will sign -- I think this has all changed, Ginny. They will sign some agreements that are being worked out and that work was begun on yesterday in Amman, Jordan.
Q: But not a peace treaty?
MS. MYERS: I don't expect that. I think King Hussein was fairly clear on that yesterday.
And then on Tuesday, as you know, both -- I'm sorry, Monday night after the signing ceremony in the afternoon there will be a dinner for the delegations and members of Congress here at the White House.
On Tuesday, King Hussein and Prime Minister Rabin will speak to a joint session of Congress. I don't have the time; it was tentatively scheduled for 11:00 a.m., but I don't know if that's been confirmed.
Q: And it's Tuesday now, instead of Monday?
MS. MYERS: It was always going to be Tuesday.
Q: So we still have a 1:00 p.m. joint news conference?
MS. MYERS: No. I'm getting to that. The joint news conference will now be in the East Room late Tuesday afternoon, probably 4:00 p.m.-ish. And then there's a reception at the State Department hosted jointly by the President and the Secretary of State. That will be Tuesday evening.
So you essentially have arrival ceremony, bilaterals, lunch, signing ceremony, dinner on Monday; joint session of Congress, joint press conference and State Department reception on Tuesday.
Q: Can you give us a ballpark time on the signing ceremony -- 11:00 a.m.-ish?
MS. MYERS: No, no, I think it will be in the afternoon.
Q: 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m.?
MS. MYERS: Early afternoon, 2:00 p.m.-ish, something like that.
MS. MYERS: I expect that will be open.
Q: And the dinner?
MS. MYERS: The dinner will not be open to everybody, but I think there will be toasts that will be pooled, something like that. We're working now with the delegations on the specific pool arrangements.
Q: What will be the nature of the dinner? Will they have guests other than the delegations?
MS. MYERS: It will mostly be delegations and members of Congress.
Q: Will this be a State Dinner?
MS. MYERS: It is not a State Dinner.
Q: How many people overall?
MS. MYERS: We're still working on numbers, don't have specific numbers yet.
Q: Why isn't it a State Dinner anymore? Didn't the President call it a State Dinner?
MS. MYERS: No. I think other people may have said State Dinner, but it was never envisioned -- whatever the rules are for State Dinners, this doesn't meet the criteria.
Q: QDee Dee, is there any concern here that the hearings on Whitewater up on the Hill -- the Republicans are going to try to turn it into a bashing of the Clinton presidency?
Q: Just say no. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I would be shocked. (Laughter.) No, I think that -- obviously, we're going to do what we can to comply with Congress's requests, as we have throughout this process. We hope that it will be a straightforward attempt to get to the facts, which have been thoroughly examined by Special Counsel Fiske already. Nonetheless, we hope the Republicans don't try to turn this into a political spectacle. But I don't think we're at all optimistic that they won't.
I think that they tried to do this throughout the process. And I think that's unfortunate when there are serious issues like crime, health care, welfare reform that need to be addressed that we're spending time to do this. Nonetheless, we are complying.
Q: So it's just wishful thinking on Mr. Cutler's part when he says that he believes that it will be a fair hearing?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we hold that hope. But I don't think -- if the past is prologue, I'm not sure that that's going to happen.
QQ: What else is left to do in terms of complying or getting records up there for the start of the hearings?
MS. MYERS: As you know, Congress has requested documents, and they've also requested to talk to individuals in advance of the hearings. We're in the process of complying with all those requests.
Q: Did they give you a list of people they want to talk to?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. No, I don't think so.
Q: Dee Dee, yesterday the Panamanian President-elect talked about that terrorism incident against the airplane. Is the White House now involved at all, or did they have any reaction to these anti-Semitic incidents now in Panama and Chile, or course, -- Argentina, rather?
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously we are appalled by them. We condemn them unconditionally. As you know, we offered to do what we could to help in Buenos Aires and I don't know if there's been any specific plans to do anything in particular about the Panamanian incident. Certainly, the President offered his condolences to the President-elect who was here yesterday.
Q: Did he ask for American help at all?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of -- I don't know. I'll take that.
Q: What is the participation of the Clintons in the Whitewater hearings? Have they been asked to testify or is there any involvement in the public part?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. You would have to check with Mr. Cutler though about details like lists of people. Last I checked they hadn't sent up any particular list. But I would urge you to talk to him about any of the details of the hearings and the preparation process.
Q: Any decisions on vacation yet?
MS. MYERS: No. I think, obviously, a lot of it will depend on what happens with Congress on health care. The Senate has said that they expect to be on the floor by late July or early August; the House by early August. We'll have to see how that proceeds. In the meantime, I think, that they are close to making a decision about vacation, but I think it is contingent on what the Congress does.
Q: What's on tap for tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: No public appearances for tomorrow. No public events.
Q: What exactly are the plans for Arkansas?
Q: Congress types coming in?
MS. MYERS: Probably. They have throughout the last -- throughout this week. I would expect there would be more tomorrow.
This weekend he plans to leave Saturday morning. I don't think we have a -- let me see if we have a time. We might actually. He goes to Hot Springs. There are no public events. At 9:20 a.m. he leaves the White House for Andrews, goes to Hot Springs. He will be staying with Mr. Kelly. He will attend his 30th high school reunion at Hot Springs High School, class of '64. That's at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night. And then at some point on Sunday evening he'll return --
Q: Sunday evening?
MS. MYERS: Yes, sometime Sunday. He hasn't decided. And that's it for the weekend. And then, obviously, Monday he'll be back here for the Hussein Rabin.
Q: There was talk of him maybe going somewhere in Arkansas and appearing. Has that been scuttled?
MS. MYERS: Mercifully, that has been scuttled. So we're only taking the pool.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:10 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/269602