Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
1:46 P.M. EST
Q: Could we have your name for the record, please? (Laughter.)
Q: Spell it, please.
MS. MYERS: You might remember me. My name is Dee Dee -- two words -- Myers. I've missed you all desperately.
Q: Wait a minute, hold on. Don't start off on that note, we can't believe anything you say.
MS. MYERS: In keeping with everything else I'm about to say. Okay, one quick announcement. Tomorrow evening at 7:30 p.m., President Clinton will hold a news conference in the East Room. It's an opportunity for him, I think, to talk about some significant developments in Washington and around the world, and to answer a few questions that you all might have before Congress goes out and the President takes a few days off.
He will be leaving for Texas on Friday afternoon at about 4:00 p.m. And the rest of the vacation plans -- or next week's plans are still being formalized.
Q: Come on.
MS. MYERS: So as soon as we have details, we'll forward them to you.
Q: How long is he expected to talk tomorrow night?
MS. MYERS: I think he'll make an opening statement, somewhere between five minutes, maybe a little bit longer, and then take questions.
Q: For how long? I mean, is this going to be a longer than usual --
MS. MYERS: Oh, I think a normal press conference.
Q: On Whitewater?
MS. MYERS: I would expect there will be questions on Whitewater as well as other topics. I think he'll open with a formal statement, as he often does, and talk about a number of things, and then open the floor to questions. It will go 30-ish minutes.
Q: Are White House officials checking to see whether the problem -- the hang-up on background checks and passes had to do with Mr. Kennedy's office and whether he was slow in turning papers over and processing some of those --
MS. MYERS: No, I think we're familiar with the process. Essentially what happens is, all employees here, the White House staff, are expected to submit detailed forms, questionnaires, if you will. Those forms then go to the FBI. The FBI does a background investigation which then comes back to the Counsel's Office, where it's adjudicated. The FBI doesn't make a judgment about the information, they simply pass it on to the Counsel's Office.
Q: Can it stall in the Counsel's Office, as was reported by The Washington Times today?
MS. MYERS: I think that there have -- initially, the process was somewhat slow on a number of levels. I think it takes a while to get the paperwork done. It then takes at a minimum -- I think the FBI says about 45 days. It often takes 45 to 60 to 90 days to complete the background investigation; and it comes back to the Counsel's Office where it's adjudicated.
At that point, there are still -- then it goes to the Secret Service. They're given a chance to review it and decide whether they want to recommend a person not be given a security clearance or a permanent pass. It then goes back to the Counsel's Office and then employees are expected to take a few other administrative steps. For example, they're expected to either attend a briefing or see a video on how to handle classified documents.
Q: At what stage, if at all, did it get slowed down -- the issue raised in this report today.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that initially it was slowed at a number of points -- people getting their paperwork in, the FBI, as you know, had a huge backlog of cases. And then I think it did take a while not just in the Counsel's Office, but it's also in the White House Security Office here.
Q: Are there any changes in Mr. Kennedy's duties?
MS. MYERS: I think Mack McLarty, the Chief of Staff, is reviewing the situation based on recent news accounts. There's been nothing to report yet.
Q: Did you talk to Mr. Kennedy this morning? He said he had not talked to you.
MS. MYERS: I did have a chance to speak with him, yes.
Q: And did he tell you whether or not he deliberately concealed his failure to pay back taxes and revealed it only because he was afraid that it was going to come out in the divorce --
MS. MYERS: He didn't deliberately conceal it. In fact, I think there was a difference in The Washington Post early version and then the final addition actually had that accurate. I'm sure the reporter had it precisely right from the beginning, but it was an editing error.
Q: Not guilty --
MS. MYERS: Yes. But anyway, he did not do it to deliberately mislead anybody. He actually paid the taxes before he was even -- for 1992, before he was even solicited or asked to come work at the White House. In the wake of the, I think, revelations in the Zoe Beard and other cases, that this was something that everybody should do.
Q: What about the 1991 taxes?
MS. MYERS: He didn't have records then and should have gone back and estimated based on his 1992 payment. But he didn't do it and it was a mistake.
Q: Why did he not?
MS. MYERS: It was a mistake; he should have.
Q: When he paid the 1992 payment he expected to come to work in the White House.
MS. MYERS: No, I think he paid them before he came to work in the White House.
Q: No -- well, yes, but not before he expected to come.
Q: Mr. Kennedy, yesterday, said that he had had a conversation with Vince Foster about the possibility of working at the White House; at that point he mentioned he had a tax problem; then he took care of it -- is the scenario that he outlined. Do you think that's -- I misunderstood that?
MS. MYERS: Well, my understanding is -- and I will be happy to double-check this -- is that he -- in January of last year, as you know, this became an issue. People became aware that they should be paying taxes on any payments over $50 a quarter. He paid it and he let Vince Foster know that he had been out of compliance, but that he had discovered it and then gotten in compliance. So he had been out of compliance, as had other people, previous to January of 1993.
Q: If he could have estimated three weeks ago how much to pay --
MS. MYERS: He should have.
Q: why didn't he estimate it --
MS. MYERS: It was a mistake. He didn't have records.
Q: Well, then why do you say he was ever in compliance?
MS. MYERS: He was in compliance -- I'm only saying that with reference to 1992. In January of 1993, he paid back taxes for 1992. He did not pay back taxes for 1991. He believes that he should have done that. He didn't do it at the time because he didn't have records. He says that that's no excuse -- he should have paid the taxes. He has since gone back and --
Q: Well, why the belated change of heart? Why the belated change of heart that he should do it now?
MS. MYERS: It was a mistake.
Q: Was it the fear of this coming out in the divorce proceeding?
Q: What kind of mistake?
MS. MYERS: An honest mistake.
Q: I know, but was it an error in judgment, an error of what? His pen broke, or what?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I think that he -- he had records for 1992. He did not have records for 1991. He should have estimated or done what others did in order to come in compliance with previous years. He didn't do that. He should have.
Q: Does the Chief of Staff have confidence that Kennedy after these "mistakes" is the right person to be doing background checks and to be handling such a sensitive job in the White House?
MS. MYERS: I think Mr. Kennedy has done a good job with a number of responsibilities during his tenure here. Mack McLarty is reviewing the situation in light of this new information. And I have nothing else for you on that.
Q: I'm a little confused because I've sort of been following this -- is there some of sort of objective standard that you guys have applying to men and women when it comes to the nanny --
MS. MYERS: Only to say that -- two things. One is that is it not disqualifying. If people have situations where they have not paid all the taxes on household help or had not -- certainly as of early last year had not paid taxes on household help and were out of compliance for some period of time, that's not disqualifying. It depends on the circumstances.
However, before people come to work here, we do expect that they get in compliance. And that's been the standard for both men and women. There's no difference.
Q: It sounds to me -- I may not understand this --that Kennedy clearly did not meet that standard.
MS. MYERS: He had not -- this is correct -- he had not paid his 1991 taxes, which he has since done. It's around $800.
Q: under the name of his ex-wife, right?
MS. MYERS: His wife paid it under her previously married name, which is a name that she occasionally uses. She had a business before she married Mr. Kennedy.
Q: But is this -- is this the kind of behavior that you guys think is appropriate for someone who's in the Counsel's Office?
MS. MYERS: Again, I think Mr. Kennedy has admitted that he made a mistake, that he should have paid the taxes. He has served the President ably and well in a number of capacities. Mack McLarty, the Chief of Staff, is reviewing it. And I just don't have anything else for you on that.
Q: Is there any timetable on his review of the matter?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: One other thing about Mr. Kennedy. There were sources quoted in The Washington Times to the effect that hundreds of White House aides or White House applicants for passes had been held up by the FBI because of what might be disqualifying information about them turned up by the FBI. What's the truth of that?
MS. MYERS: That's not true. It's absolutely not true. Occasionally --
Q: Were there a number?
MS. MYERS: I don't think anybody -- I'll double-check this -- I don't think anybody has been disqualified based on information turned up by the FBI.
Q: Well, has anybody's application for a permanent pass been held up and a temporary pass used instead because of that?
MS. MYERS: What happens a lot of times, in many cases, that the FBI comes back and they want additional information. For example, somebody didn't put -- three residences back, didn't list an address properly. They come back -- many of the applications come back -- and I don't have a specific number -- but come back with some kind of request for additional information. It is usually fairly straight forward kind of request. But I do not believe there are any cases, and again, I will double-check this and post it, of people who have been disqualified.
Q: Or about whom disqualifying information has been turned up, and they've been kept on temporary passes instead -- has that happened?
MS. MYERS: Not that -- I don't think so. So let me double-check.
Q: That same article specifically mentioned possible drug use and tax problems for those people. It didn't talk about just not giving addresses filled in.
MS. MYERS: Right. I'm not suggesting that -- what I'm saying is that there are definitely not -- there are a large number -- not a large number, but there are a significant number that come back with a request for additional information. And I think there may be some confusion based on that. Just because the FBI comes back and says, this is incomplete and that we need additional information, has nothing to do with whether they eventually complete the process.
Now, on the question of whether there are people that are specifically on permanent passes -- I mean, on temporary passes, because the FBI turned up something, I will -- actually, I will take that question. I do not know of anybody.
Q: Who on the senior staff still does not have a permanent White House pass, other than you?
MS. MYERS: There are about 10 percent of people who do not have permanent passes, which is different than having a security clearance. Everyone understand that?
Q: But you don't have a permanent White House pass?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't, because I have not completed my background investigation, although I have completed my paperwork, as was widely reported.
So what happens is, you submit your background information. The FBI returns the report; it is adjudicated by the Counsel's Office and then you have a security clearance. Then you have a few other administrative steps before you actually get your permanent pass. About 10 percent of the 1,044 -- we're slightly under that level now -- but about 10 percent of the over 1,000 White House employees do not have security clearances, and slightly -- actually more than that do not have permanent passes.
Q: Dee Dee, how does that translate if you're in the midst of a sensitive conversation? Do you have to leave the room if it's national security?
MS. MYERS: Generally, that would be the idea.
Q: Have there been cases, have there been instances of that happening?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: Dee Dee, can I ask a question on this? Why did the wife of Mr. Kennedy pay the back taxes with a check in her former name if she was going by his name at that point? What's the reasoning for that?
MS. MYERS: She handled household help for the couple. They actually paid it through their accounting firm who handles all their taxes -- and she has -- Mr. Kennedy said that she's made a couple of other transactions in her previously married name, although he couldn't specifically remember any. But she went by that name professionally. She had a business under her previously married name, and so has used that name from time to time. I think it was before he -- again, I'm going to double-check this, too, but he paid those before he came here and before he even had talked to Vince about coming here.
Q: Dee Dee, the lead of The Washington Times story --I still am confused. I don't think we have an answer yet --
MS. MYERS: Why don't you read it to me?
Q: which is that "White House Associate Counsel William H. Kennedy III's decision to hold back hundreds of completed FBI background reports was the chief reason many White House employees did not have permanent access passes before assuming their jobs."
MS. MYERS: It just doesn't work that way.
Q: So you're saying that that's not the procedure.
MS. MYERS: Right. Background investigations come back from the FBI and they come to the Counsel's Office. And there has been, in the past, a backlog of background investigations that are waiting to be adjudicated. Because the FBI doesn't make a judgment about whether or not people should get background checks, it comes to the Counsel's Office and the Counsel's Office then -- it's actually a process under the auspices of the Counsel's Office -- then reviews the investigations. I think that there have been periods where there have been a lot of BIs -- background investigations -- waiting to be adjudicated to give people security clearances and to finish that process. He did not deliberately hold them back, and he certainly did not deliberately hold them back because there was information in there that was damaging to people.
Q: And just to clarify what you had just said -- you said about 10 percent of the senior staff don't have security clearances?
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: And slightly more than that don't have permanent --
MS. MYERS: Actually, I think it's about -- I need to double-check -- I think it's about a third don't have permanent passes. A third of the White House staff. And I don't have how that --
Q: A third of 1,004 or a third of --
MS. MYERS: Correct. A third of the White House staff, which we've defined as 1,044.
Q: Don't have what?
MS. MYERS: Do not have permanent passes.
Q: And 10 percent don't have security clearance?
MS. MYERS: Correct, 10 percent don't have security clearances, have not had --
Q: Could you please explain how these numbers keep changing?
MS. MYERS: These are the ones I gave --
Q: No, no, no --
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: No, we were at -- we started at 15 people, to be precise. And then we went up to 10 percent --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: Of senior staff, not the whole --
Q: No, of the 1,044. Now we're up to 33 percent?
MS. MYERS: Ten percent don't have security clearances, okay?
Q: Oh, okay.
MS. MYERS: Ten percent of 1,044. Let me just go through this just so that everybody is clear.
Q: We're mixing apples and oranges.
MS. MYERS: Yes, we're mixing apples and oranges. Let me go through -- I'll just walk through it one more time.
Everybody who works here fills out paperwork which is then forwarded to the FBI for a background investigation. The FBI then resubmits that to the Counsel's Office. The Counsel's Office then reviews it. They adjudicate it. It goes to the Secret Service. The Secret Service reviews it. If they have a problem with it they could veto somebody getting a pass. It then comes back to the Counsel's Office. Once it's adjudicated, people are eligible for a security clearance up to top secret. Not everybody who is eligible for a security clearance necessarily has one, but they're eligible based on their -- they cleared their background check.
Q: Is everyone eligible for it?
MS. MYERS: Everybody who's cleared the process, but that doesn't mean that they have one. Security clearances are actually issued on a need to know basis. So if your an assistant on the Domestic Policy Council, maybe you don't ever see sensitive documents.
Q: But to compare apples to apples, how many of those 1,044 are on a need to know basis? I mean, to make that 10 percent relevant, how many should have them that don't?
MS. MYERS: I don't have a specific number on that. Of all the White House staff, of the 1,044, about 10 percent are still waiting to get their adjudicated background checks which means that they're eligible then for security clearance. I think there are very few on the senior staff and I think I have the number somewhere; I'll have to get them and I can post those, too. As of the senior staff being defined as, say, assistants, special assistants and deputy assistants, which is around 125 people, I think there's maybe a handful.
Q: Would you post names, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: No, I will not post names, but I will post numbers.
Q: Why not names?
Q: Aren't you mistaken about this -- you have to have a security clearance to be around the President, right? Everybody has to have it, right?
MS. MYERS: No, but you have to -- you do go through another --
Q: You're confusing security clearance with classified documents. That's something totally different. But it's my understanding that everybody has to have security clearance --
MS. MYERS: Yes. (Laughter.) Okay, so then what happens is you have an adjudicated background check. You're eligible for a security clearance. Then there's a few other administrative steps that we are expected to take in order to get our permanent pass. They say you can't get your permanent -- it's a way -- it's a leverage point. You have to have done a number of other things on ethics and how to handle classified documents. Then your permanent pass is issued.
We -- about two-thirds of the 1,044 have permanent passes. The other third are in process. So that's where the numbers stand.
Q: Is it not against the law for them to be working here without having had security clearance?
MS. MYERS: Everybody gets cleared through the national --
Q: Is it not against the law for them to work here --
MS. MYERS: Everybody gets cleared in through the NCIC computer system who comes on to this compound. So people who are around the President have been cleared in through the Secret Service. So in terms of his physical security, that's something that's very carefully dealt with.
Q: Cardinal Hickey sent the President a letter which is very critical of Joycelyn Elders' remarks on homosexuality. I wonder if there's any response to his criticism and whether the President associates himself with Ms. Elders' remarks?
MS. MYERS: I believe the letter arrived here last night, and the President has not had a chance to review it.
Q: What about the second part of that question? This issue has arisen before and she's apologized in the past. Has the President reviewed what --
MS. MYERS: He just hasn't had a chance to review it yet and has nothing on it.
Q: You said this morning that Kennedy was not going to be leaving. And then you said something about it being reviewed. Is Kennedy's status being reviewed?
MS. MYERS: He is not -- you asked if he was intending to resign, and he is not.
Q: Where does Patsy Thomasson --
Q: No, wait, wait a minute.
Q: Is he intending to be fired? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: No, no. I don't want to lead it --
Q: What's being reviewed?
MS. MYERS: Just the whole -- the circumstances, the situation. But Mr. Kennedy is not intending to resign.
Q: The tax situation?
MS. MYERS: The tax situation and the implications.
Q: Dee Dee, can I go back to -- early in the administration, we'd gone the Kimba Wood and all of that sort of stuff. You said from this podium, or at least you're quoted in a wire story as saying that everyone in the administration has been told to be in compliance. It's not disqualifying, everybody --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: So that's one case where he didn't follow that situation. He says that Vince Foster told him to pay up -- that is, both years pay up. That's another situation. He said that Bernie told him to pay up. That's a third situation. Do you know of any other situation -- I mean, that amounts to three sort of direct orders by somebody that you should get in compliance. Now, is there any rule in this administration about how many times? Is this a three strikes and you're out? (Laughter). Why should anyone think that you have to comply with somebody's orders if you can continue for 14 months and not.
MS. MYERS: I think we ought to put this in perspective a bit here. First of all, there is no hard and fast rule; and I think most people here have complied -- everybody else that, to my knowledge, has complied with --
Q: There is no rule that you have to pay Social Security taxes?
MS. MYERS: No, there's no rule about what to do if -- this is a --
Q: You didn't.
MS. MYERS: Yes, if you didn't. But I think --
Q: exchange of letters with Joe Biden in April. Isn't that --
MS. MYERS: Yes, that everybody -- no, the issue is what -- there's no specific set of rules to do -- what happens if you find out somebody's not in compliance. There is no specific rule on that. He owed about $800 in back taxes. He should have paid them. He has now paid them. It is being reviewed. I just can't say anything more than that. But it is an $800 mistake, and something that he wishes, I think, that he had dealt with but didn't.
Q: Has anybody asked the White House as a whole whether there's anybody else now who hasn't complied with this?
MS. MYERS: Not to my knowledge. I don't think there's been any general request.
Q: Dee Dee, where does Patsy Thomasson fit into all this? I'm a little confused what her job is on the whole passes and clearances. How does she fit into that format?
MS. MYERS: She -- boy, I'm not sure exactly how she fits in it, although she obviously is one of the people in the Office of Administration, has some responsibilities with regard to this. I'll have to take that to find out exactly what her responsibilities are with respect to passes.
Q: Can you tell us the President's view on this Kennedy matter? Has he talked to McLarty about it today?
MS. MYERS: He's not talked to Mr. Kennedy. I do not know if he's talked to Mr. McLarty about this specifically. I think he's seen news accounts of it. And I have not talked specifically with him about it.
Q: Will those four political consultants who have passes or come here on a regular basis now be required to have FBI background checks as regular White House employees?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: When was that decision made?
MS. MYERS: Last week, I believe.
Q: They're due tomorrow, right, or Friday?
MS. MYERS: The background -- yes, I'm not sure. I'll have to take that because I missed that episode.
Q: And as far as you know, have all four agreed to that?
MS. MYERS: Yes, I don't think there's any problems. Let me take it. I don't know of anybody that's disagreed. My assumption is that they're all proceeding.
Q: Does Mr. Cutler have the authority to get rid of Mr. Kennedy if he thinks this is not in line with the kind of ethical standards he's talked about keeping upheld here?
MS. MYERS: I think that all of the department heads have some latitude in terms of who their staff are.
Q: So has he reviewed this situation, or is he reviewing the situation?
MS. MYERS: He has discussed it with Mr. Kennedy.
Q: What is his conclusion?
MS. MYERS: I have not talked to him about it. And I think under any circumstances, the substance of that conversation would be kept confidential.
Q: When you say that Mack is reviewing it, though, is it something that he and Cutler will be reviewing together?
MS. MYERS: I think that Mack will talk to Mr. Cutler as well as with anybody else he feels is appropriate.
Q: I mean, clearly, the impression is that he's not going to be around long.
MS. MYERS: Well, I wouldn't -- don't jump to conclusions. I mean --
Q: Is he reviewing it with an eye for taking action, or is he just reviewing it just to file a report that says --
MS. MYERS: He's reviewing it, and I think that based on that review, he'll make a decision about how to handle it. But don't assume that it means that Bill will be leaving.
Q: We're not assuming; we're just trying to figure out exactly what a review means.
MS. MYERS: I can't give you an answer to what the action will be because there hasn't been a decision. But it is being reviewed. And I think if you use your imagination, you'll probably come up with a couple other options besides him leaving.
Q: But you told us there's no hard and fast rule about what to do in a case like this.
MS. MYERS: Correct.
Q: What are we to believe will happen --
MS. MYERS: That it's under review and that as soon as we have more to say about it, we will.
Q: Can you say anything about the fact that the first vote has been taken on the Clinton health care plan and not a single Democrat on Ways and Means was willing to vote for it?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think, clearly, that was a politically motivated vote.
Q: Oh, I'm shocked.
Q: On both sides, or -- politically motivated Democrats have now voted against the President -- is that what you're saying?
MS. MYERS: I think the Democrats, I believe -- didn't they all abstain?
Q: They did, yes.
Q: My question was why --
Q: Well, that's a resounding vote of approval, isn't it?
Q: a single Democrat was -- to vote for it.
MS. MYERS: I think that the health care plan is working its way through Congress. I think the Democrats and many of the Republicans are making a very hard and fast effort to come up with a compromise that will both meet the President's objectives, which is guaranteed private insurance for every American --
Q: Spare us.
MS. MYERS: Okay, I'll spare you the litany. But I think they're working very hard on it and it's working its way through the process, and I think that an up or down vote on the President's plan doesn't have any meaning in this process.
Q: Well, some of the committee Democrats claim that the reason they didn't vote for it, that they voted present, was because they have improved on the plan and couldn't present their version. They think the President's plan needs to be improved upon, tweaked, modified, helped out here and there.
MS. MYERS: We're open to that. That's what we said throughout this process -- that if members of Congress have a better idea about how to reach the President's bottom line, great, let's see them. And I think many of the members of Congress are making a very good faith attempt to find a better way, to find a way that meets the President's objectives and can get through Congress. So we'll see how it goes.
Q: Can you give us an update on Pollard?
MS. MYERS: The White House received the recommendation last night or yesterday afternoon. It has been forwarded to the President. I don't believe the President has had a chance to -- he hasn't had a chance to see it yet, and we'll have a decision, I think, soon, but I don't have a specific timetable.
Q: But walk us through the process that was used in getting the recommendation to the President.
MS. MYERS: The Justice Department gathers opinions from the other departments -- the State Department and others -- and puts them together, and then forwards them to the President.
Q: With its own --
MS. MYERS: The Attorney General has the option of actually commenting on it, which, in this case, Attorney General Janet Reno did.
Q: Did you get two separate recommendations from Justice, one from Heymann's office -- or Heymann's former office as well as from Reno?
MS. MYERS: I think it's the one recommendation with comments from the Attorney General -- is how the process works.
Q: Was there indication that the Deputy Attorney General disagreed with the Attorney General's position?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to comment on the substance of whose position is what.
Q: Phil Heymann says that he talked to Nussbaum on three or four occasions prior to submitting his recommendation in January before he left Justice. Can you comment on the propriety of the Justice Department consulting with the White House on preparing the recommendation whether to pardon or grant clemency?
MS. MYERS: I don't have any --
Q: Why wouldn't he?
Q: Why can't they?
Q: What was the issue?
MS. MYERS: The question was, is it proper for the White House and the Justice Department to consult.
Q: Over a policy matter?
MS. MYERS: Yes, over a policy matter.
Q: Oh, it sets a dangerous precedent. (Laughter.)
Q: Can't have that.
MS. MYERS: It does get a little confusing about who can talk to who around here, however.
Q: That's a good question. Would you care to address whether -- Altman is reporting that he's notifying if he's recusing himself.
MS. MYERS: Well, I can't comment on that, as you know, because --
Q: They're reporting that the Justice Department is reviewing the recommendations and modifying them -- Hearst reported that the Justice Department modified its recommendations after Nussbaum suggested --
MS. MYERS: I think there's a big difference between an independent regulatory agency and a Cabinet level department. And I think we talk regularly to people in Cabinet level departments. Now, I think it's fair to say that -- and we have a policy regarding how we should deal with regulatory agencies. But I see nothing improper about the White House talking to the Justice Department on a number of issues.
Q: Heymann says he submitted his draft recommendation to Nussbaum before Christmas. I've talked to other former attorneys general, and they say that's extremely unusual. They've never seen a case where a draft recommendation on a pardon or clemency was ever cleared through the White House in advance of formally presenting it to the President. Can you comment on that?
MS. MYERS: I don't know enough about it. I don't know what previous administrations have done specifically in regard to clemency. I can certainly take it and find out from Counsel if there's any reason why we should be uncomfortable with this. I know of no reason at this point.
Q: On that point, could I follow that question, please? Because this story is one that Hearst supplied to us as well, and we're concerned about it. They reported that Nussbaum recommended modifications in the way the recommendation was presented prior to the time that Janet Reno ever saw it. So that, in effect, Heymann was negotiating with Nussbaum on what would be recommended before the Cabinet member that you say should consult with the White House --
MS. MYERS: No, I didn't say the Cabinet member, I said Cabinet-level agencies. But the way the process normally works is that the Deputy Attorney General is responsible for collecting the information. The Attorney General has the option of commenting on it, which, in this case, Janet Reno exercised.
Q: After the White House modifies it to their liking, though.
MS. MYERS: Those are internal discussions, and I'm not going to get into the substance of them. But I don't see -- I'm happy to take this and find out if there's anything that legally I'm missing here. But I think it's normal procedure.
Q: Can you answer or characterize the letter that Clinton sent to Prime Minister Chretien on the Canada trade disputes? And do you know if the White House is ready to sign off on use of Article 28 of GATT?
MS. MYERS: I don't have anything on that -- on the letter.
Q: Can you verify whether Rubin and others have come out in opposition in use of Article 28?
MS. MYERS: I don't. I have to take that. I don't have anything for you on it.
Q: Do you know if there's any timetable on David Kendall's review of the Clinton's back taxes? Have you heard when that might be?
MS. MYERS: It's ongoing.
Q: Do you know any more than that?
MS. MYERS: We don't have any more specific timetable on that at this point.
Q: It's not likely to be released before the press conference?
MS. MYERS: No, I wouldn't make that -- jump to that conclusion.
Q: Whoa, that it won't be or that it will be?
MS. MYERS: Don't jump to the conclusion that it will be.
Q: That it will be.
Q: But is it possible?
MS. MYERS: I don't think they've made a decision on it yet. I don't want to rule anything --
Q: Is it near enough to being done to where they could be considering it?
MS. MYERS: I think that they're looking at their -- at the entire situation. But I don't want to lead you one direction or another on this. They just simply haven't made a decision about whether or not they would make those public.
Q: Do they have them -- the last some of us checked was yesterday and they said they were still being worked on.
MS. MYERS: I think they're still being reviewed.
Q: What about the '78-'79 returns?
MS. MYERS: That's what we're talking about here, right?
Q: I thought the whole tax review -- we were talking about the consequences of the whole tax review.
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry. I thought the question was -- when you said releasing returns, I assumed that it was the late '70s tax returns. I'm sorry, maybe I misunderstood your question. Let's start over.
Q: Okay, let's start over. Kendall, according to the White House, has been preparing an examination of the whole Whitewater situation and possibly its effect on their returns. Are you -- when The New York Times reported that all kinds of new, redone returns are being done, the White House over the weekend said that was not the case.
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: What exactly is it that you are -- maybe might release?
MS. MYERS: Well, I mean --
Q: Or might not.
MS. MYERS: Might not. I don't want to get too specific about what might or might not be released. I think I misunderstood the question. What was said over the weekend was that the Clintons tax returns were prepared by certified public accountants and that they didn't think there was anything wrong with them. And I think David Kendall's looking --
Q: Other than they may have been incorrect. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: We're running out of time here.
Q: Although what could be wrong with them besides that? Would they be done on the wrong paper or would they be --
MS. MYERS: No, I think -- we made a statement on the status of that review. They were prepared by certified public accountants, and we have no reason to believe that there's anything wrong with them. Kendall's looking at a whole variety of things. There has been an ongoing question about whether the Clintons would release tax returns prior to 1980. That was for some reason what I heard the question to be.
Q: Oh, that's what they might release.
MS. MYERS: No, I didn't -- I said that's under review and I'm not going to say, I'm not going to give it any kind of a time line or any kind of -- I don't want to lead you one or another on it, other than to say that's a question that has been raised and something that, I think, has been discussed.
Q: Is Mrs. Clinton taking part in this press conference tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: I saw Warren Christopher outside. Did he meet with the President and do you have anything on these allegations of toxic weapons in North Korea or Russia?
MS. MYERS: I don't. If the Secretary -- I don't believe the Secretary of State met with the President this morning.
Q: Can you answer the question about whether the Clintons are still standing behind the Lyons report?
MS. MYERS: I think that that's one of the things that is being looked at in the context of the counsel's -- I mean, the special counsel's procedure. And I don't think I have anything --
Q: Is that saying that Kendall is reviewing it as well?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if Kendall's reviewing it. I'll have to check. It's being looked at by the special counsel. And I don't know whether Kendall is specifically looking at that or not.
Q: Well, I know, but the question still arises -- I mean, this is something that Mr. Clinton put out as a result of an inquiry that he basically commissioned --
MS. MYERS: But I think the answer is that --
Q: and that either he still believes that it is correct or he may have misgivings about it.
MS. MYERS: The special counsel is looking at it and we'll make an independent judgment on it. Until then --
Q: I know that. What about Mr. Clinton? I'm interested in Mr. Clinton's judgment.
MS. MYERS: Well, he's -- we've turned it over to the counsel and will let him look at the facts, look at the documents and make a judgment about that.
Q: I thought Kendall was --
MS. MYERS: I'm going to take that question, because I'm just not sure what the status of that is, in terms of Kendall.
Q: Dee Dee, is the President fasting today?
MS. MYERS: He is.
Q: Except for Diet Coke.
MS. MYERS: He was drinking -- he and the Vice President -- today was their regularly scheduled weekly lunch. They were in the Oval Office drinking water. The President met today with Congressman Hall.
Q: Why is he fasting?
Q: At the California -- what did he have in his hand then? Coke?
MS. MYERS: He met with Congressman Tony Hall today, who, as you know, has begun another fast. And I think the President said to him sort of in deference to the fact that there are many hungry people, he would join him for this day in the fast.
Q: What kind of fast does the President do, a juice fast, a water fast -- 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.? All day?
Q: Ramadan? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: He said he would not eat any meals today. I think that's --
Q: Is that until sunset?
Q: Is that a 24-hour fast?
MS. MYERS: I don't think that he has a fast policy. (Laughter.) I think what he told Congressman Hall is that he wouldn't eat today. And I think you'd just point out that Congressman Hall is the one who mentioned this. It was not something that the President intended to make public. It's something that he's --
Q: Does that include tonight?
MS. MYERS: Yes, it does.
Q: Can we get an early lid then if he's not eating? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: You guys, is there one quiet gesture that this man can make?
MS. MYERS: I didn't think so.
Q: Did he not eat at the breakfast meeting at Old Ebbitt Grill?
MS. MYERS: He did not. He's not going to eat today.
Q: Better stay out of the finger foods, hey?
Q: He's drinking, though. He's drinking fluids.
MS. MYERS: He was drinking water when I saw him. The rest of you saw him drinking a Diet Coke.
Q: Is this being monitored by his physician?
MS. MYERS: No, this was not something that was signed off on by his physician?
Q: I mean, is this healthy?
Q: Aren't you glad you came back?
MS. MYERS: Oh, man. I've missed you all.
Q: Did the President get a basically negative read-out from the Cabinet on the welfare reform?
MS. MYERS: No, it was basically a positive meeting. As you know, the financing options have not been decided yet. There was a discussion about that, but I think a lot of the other options were -- a plan was laid out and there was a good discussion on it. They had a good discussion --
Q: What's the view of it again --
MS. MYERS: They haven't had one yet, it's under review.
Q: On Sunday, The New York Times -- they quoted Chancellor Kohl as saying that he would like to participate in the DDay ceremonies, but hasn't been invited and was going to talk to the White House. Do you know if the President and the Chancellor have talked about it or do you know if the President would like him to be a part of it?
MS. MYERS: I don't think they've had a chance to talk about it yet.
Q: Can he bring troops? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I don't think they've had a chance to talk about it yet, and we're still planning for D-Day.
Q: Do you know if there's any objection by the White House to have him there?
MS. MYERS: I think we're open to discussions on this. Again, we haven't finalized details. We're quite a ways from that.
Q: There's a report that he's going to take a vote --
MS. MYERS: It's too soon to get into the details of that trip. We're several months away. We're still working on this weekend.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:22 P.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/269574