Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
1:45 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: Sorry to keep you all waiting. Just a couple of quick things, no hard news. The first thing is, last night between about 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. -- don't have the exact time -- the President called President Carter, General Powell and Senator Nunn to give them their final instructions.
This morning, as you know, he gave his radio address and then he --
Q: Were those separate phone calls?
MS. MYERS: Yes, two separate phone calls.
Q: In the instructions, did he tell them how far they could go, or what they should say?
MS. MYERS: Well, broadly, of course, he told them what we've said all along, which is that this is limited to discussing the details of their departure. And I'm not going to get into any more details about what their discussion included.
Q: Do they have to leave right away, or can they leave in a few weeks or months? Do they just have to agree to leave, and then they can --
MS. MYERS: No, they have to leave. I think we've made that very clear.
Q: All three of them leave the country, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: What we've said consistently is that they have to leave power. We haven't given them a deadline, other than to say, time is running out. The time for them to go is now, and that was what the President said on Thursday.
Q: Why not a timetable?
MS. MYERS: We have not put out a timetable. That's consistent with what we've said.
Q: Will Carter give the three a 24-hour deadline?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to get into details of what they're discussing, because we're not the ones doing the discussions here. But I think there has been no change in our position, which is the time for them to leave is now. We're in the final phases of this; they know that. And that's why I think, quite frankly, that they've agreed to do this meeting.
Q: You sort of skipped over the question which was, do all of them have to leave? The U.N. resolution only calls for Cedras to leave the country, but you --
MS. MYERS: We've said that the three of them have to leave power. And that has consistently been our position. And we were advising them to leave the country, because we said that if the multinational force arrived in Haiti, that they would be subject to arrest and then they would be handed over to the legitimate Haitian government. And as Madelaine said yesterday, she assumed that they would be detained and then --
Q: But that was if they didn't step down. If they step down and say, okay, we're going to step down but remain in the country, that's different than if they hadn't stepped aside at all.
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry?
Q: It would be different if they just said, we're not moving. In that case, you would expect that they would be captured. But what if they just said, okay, we're going to step down from power and stayed in the country?
MS. MYERS: It's always been our position that they have to leave power. We want them to leave the country.
Q: But is it required?
Q: You're saying that if Cedras leaves the country but Francoise and Biamby and remain there, that's alright with you.
MS. MYERS: No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm not going to get into those kinds of details.
QQ: What if there's a split between the three, then? What if two leave and one doesn't want to leave?
MS. MYERS: Then I think any -- that's something that I guess we'll have to deal with when the time comes. And I'm not, again, prepared to get into the details of those kinds of discussions. Our position is that the three of them have to leave power. We've advised them that they have to leave the country.
I think if the multinational force comes at any time and any of them are there, that they would be subject to -- if they refuse to leave power, they'll be subject to detention by the multinational force.
Q: But how about if they left power but not left the country?
MS. MYERS: Now, I'm not going into any hypotheticals about what if Biamby left and Cedras stayed, or Cedras left -- I'm not going to get into any of that. Our position has not changed.
Q: But just to be really precise, if they all agreed to step down and they're all now in the country, would the multinational force still pick them up and turn them over?
MS. MYERS: Again, I'm not getting into -- it is our position that they have to leave power; they should leave the country. And beyond that, which is what we've said all along, and I'm not going to get into the discussions that they're having on the ground. I'm not going to get into the discussion process that's going on. And I don't think -- President Carter said today, he made a statement, they're not going to take any more questions from the press as these discussions go forward. They'll communicate with us on a regular basis. As you know, a couple of staff members, including Larry Rossin from NSC, are there communicating regularly with NSC folks here.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the chains of communication?
MS. MYERS: They have secure communications equipment with them. Basically you have, again, Larry Rossin from NSC, who's talking regularly with Tony Lake and others here; as well as, Tom Ross is also with them.
Q: Tom Ross is with them?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
MS. MYERS: Why? Because there's 200 of you all running around in Port au Prince.
Q: Dee Dee, what kind of security do the three of them have over there?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what the security details are. They do have some security provisions, but I don't know all the details. -- by Ambassador Swing and some of the other members of the embassy there. They took some additional staff with them, and there was some security arrangements made.
Q: Will they come right back to Washington and report to the President at the White House?
MS. MYERS: President Carter said they were going to report to the President, and I just don't think we worked out their travel detail.
Q: But they will report physically, not over the phone or something?
MS. MYERS: Again, I don't know that those details have been worked out, but I would expect that they would.
MS. MYERS: Again, I'm not going to get into the planning of it.
Q: There's some sense they may leave as early as tonight and fly back tonight.
MS. MYERS: I think we're not going to get into timing. I think that we've made it very clear that this is urgent, that this has to happen quickly. But beyond that, I'm not going to get into details.
Q: Will they spend the night in Port au Prince, or will they come back tonight?
MS. MYERS: Well, I suppose if they wrapped it up today, it's conceivable that they could come back. But that's a total hypothetical.
Q: Dee Dee, you're not foreclosing the possibility that Carter could pick up a secure telephone and get the President and say, Mr. President, this is what --
MS. MYERS: No, I suppose certainly if he -- the President is here. He's spending the rest of the afternoon at the White House; he's in the Oval now. I think he'll go back to the residence shortly; that's his plan, anyway. But he said he'd be available to deal with whatever needed to be dealt with throughout the course of the day.
Q: No golf today?
MS. MYERS: No golf today.
Q: Dee Dee, is it correct that when he was over a the Pentagon, he held a teleconference of some type?
MS. MYERS: Yes and I can give you a little bit of detail about that.
It was a teleconference that included the commanders involved in the -- It was actually a video-link and there were some of the USA COM commanders, both shipboard on the Mount Whitney -- Admiral Johnson -- as well as Fort Bragg. They had all the joint chiefs with the President -- and then they had some of the commanders who were at Guantanamo.
And it included Admiral Miller, as you know, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Command; Lieutenant General Hugh Shelton, who's the Commander of the 18th Airborne; Major General Mike Steele, who's the Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division; Rear Admiral Jay Johnson, who's the Naval Component Commander who is on the Mount Whitney, whose daughter is Miss Virginia and is competing tonight in the Miss America.
Q: So he won't be there.
Q: link him into that Atlantic City --
MS. MYERS: The President wished her well. Brigadier General Pete Shoemacher, who's the Commander of Special Ops; and then Colonel Tom Jones, a Welsh pop singer -- (laughter) -- Commander of the 8th Marines.
Q: These were all on the telephone?
MS. MYERS: No, a teleconference -- a video teleconference.
Q: Where were the Brigadier General and the --
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: Is there a video of this available? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Yeah, pretty much.
Q: What was it, a Q: and A sort of a thing?
Q: Was the President speaking to them, or was it --did they ask him questions?
Q: Why don't you run it down for us?
MS. MYERS: Yeah, Shali was there; he sort of opened it up. And then the President made some remarks to them. And then they each reported to him -- they reported back to the President on the status of preparations. One of the commanders described preparations as being at "full throttle."
The President said he was struck by how good the interservice cooperation was, and not just between different branches of the military, but also between the nonmilitary components of this. He also said he was struck by the flexibility of their planning, particularly depending on the outcome of the delegation that's down there now.
They explained to him that they'd learned lessons and applied those lessons, particularly from Desert Storm. The commanders reported that the morale was very high and that all their rehearsals had been completed.
The President said he was impressed by "the smoothness, intelligence and interagency integration of the planning."
Q: That's a great soundbite.
Q: Did anybody tell the President, we're ready to go, we're ready to invade at your order? Did anybody say anything like that?
MS. MYERS: That we're ready -- I think he assumes that they're ready to do whatever he tells them to do. The preparations are -- the preparations and planning -- all the rehearsals have been completed and they're at a full state of preparation.
They had a little bit of a discussion about the rules of engagement. And at the end, and then after each of the commanders had reported back on the status of their preparations, the President talked again about what our objectives were, what the mission was all about.
Q: Can you review some of that with us?
MS. MYERS: It's the same thing what he talked about Thursday. I mean, basically what he talked about Thursday and what he repeated again today.
And then he did talk with Admiral Johnson about the Miss America pageant.
Q: He did?
MS. MYERS: Oh, yeah.
Q: Are you serious?
MS. MYERS: Oh, yeah, I'm dead serious.
Q: Did he give him his best picks?
MS. MYERS: No, he didn't, but he -- it was in the paper today. I think some of the other admirals and stuff were kind of giving the guy some ribbing.
The President wished his daughter well.
Q: Did he ask whether she really glued her swimsuit to her butt? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I think that detail probably was overwhelmed by planning and modalities --
Q: Is she full-throttle ready? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Woo.
Q: Why do they tell us these things?
MS. MYERS: Why? Because it's the truth.
Q: Because it will get out some other way and she wants it to come from her.
MS. MYERS: You bet. That's it.
Q: Is that to show how macho the President is, so that they will really believe him in Haiti that this is for real? Who knows?
MS. MYERS: It's just a fact. -- leak out of the Pentagon.
Q: Can you tell us anymore about the instructions that he gave last night to Carter, Powell and Nunn?
MS. MYERS: No, we're not going to get into the details of that. I think -- consistent with U.S. policy and the U.N. Security Council resolution that they are there to talk specifically about the departure.
Q: How much latitude to they have in grand claims?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think -- well, Tony sort of answered that yesterday. I mean, I think they're authorized to work through the details. But it is, again, a narrow conversation limited to the details of their departure.
Q: And they work out those details in consultation with the President?
MS. MYERS: Sure. There's going to be a lot of communication back and forth between the White House and national security staff in particular and the delegation.
Q: William Gray has said several times that the administration would not give anything but possibly transportation. Can you tell us that there is no way to -- or is there a way that the administration might give them any kind of subsistence, or pay for anything?
MS. MYERS: Tony was asked that yesterday, and he said he didn't think that was the big issue; that they had their own money. So I would jut refer you back to his. I'm not going to get into what we will or will not discuss at these talks. I think we'll leave that for the delegation.
Q: What's the President's mood? Is he optimistic?
MS. MYERS: I think he's very impressed with the status of planning. And I think one of the things he did -- another thing that he said is that he wished all Americans could have been there to hear this presentation and see how well-prepared the military was, how well the different branches were working together, how wellthought -out these plans were.
Q: But as far as hopes for avoiding an invasion and what's best for the delegation?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he's very committed to two things. I think while on the one hand he's really committed to exhausting all of the opportunities for a peaceful resolution to this -- because he believes that that's the best outcome -- he is committed to going forward and he will not be delayed and he will not be deterred. And he actually said that to me this morning, to us, "I will not be delayed, I will not be deterred."
Q: What did he say?
MS. MYERS: I will not be delayed, I will not be deterred.
Q: Who did he say that to?
MS. MYERS: To me.
Q: When you were asking him if he was going to make the motorcade on time? (Laughter.)
Q: I will not be delayed, I will not be deterred --
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: the President said, referring to the war.
MS. MYERS: Right.
Q: Who suggested Powell and Nunn?
MS. MYERS: Well, this is important, so I want to go back over this.
The President has talked periodically with President Carter, with Senator Nunn and with General Powell about Haiti over the course of the last 20 months. And even since General Powell retired, the President has talked to him from time to time about Haiti.
In recent days, he's talked to each of them at least three times, he said, including he talked to them again last night. And I think there were a lot of conversations going on -- everybody was talking to everybody: the President was talking to Carter and Powell and Nunn, and Nunn and Powell and Carter were talking to each other, and people were talking to their contacts in Haiti, of which, as you know, President Carter has a lot of contacts in Haiti. He's been there -- he said this morning this was his eighth visit. He monitored the 1990 elections. General Powell obviously has quite a bit of experience there.
But after the President's -- and President Clinton had talked to Carter about the possibility of some kind of a mission.
When President Clinton gave his speech on Thursday, I think, and when General Cedras had an opportunity to -- I don't know exactly what his motives were, but on Friday, General Cedras indicated that he would be willing to meet with people. He had been rejecting those kinds of offers for weeks and weeks, including the emissary that Secretary General Boutros-Ghali had sent down.
But on Friday, he indicated to President Carter he'd be willing to meet with a delegation. President Carter passed that on to President Clinton. President Clinton then, had conversations about it and called President Carter back --
Q: Wait, at that point --
MS. MYERS: This is all happening on Friday.
Q: At that point, when Carter called up Clinton, did Carter say, I would like to go?
MS. MYERS: The President already knew that President Carter would be willing to participate in some kind of a mission, okay? This is something they had discussed generally, not specifically.
President Clinton then called President Carter back and asked him --
Q: But it would be fair to say that he was anxious?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I'm not going to characterize his --
Q: He was pressing this issue.
MS. MYERS: I don't know, I don't know that. It's not what the President said to me.
Q: Not like you are. (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Yeah, you're pressing, I'm discussing. (Laughter.)
President Clinton then called General Powell and Senator Nunn and asked them if they would participate; they agreed. We then announced it and then the President called them back and gave them their final instructions.
Q: Did the President have in mind, by Thursday night, that if there were a delegation it would be Carter, Powell and Nunn?
MS. MYERS: I think there wasn't an opportunity for it at that point, but I think that he had been talking to all three of those. And I don't want to get too far along in describing what his thinking was. But he had been talking to all three of them about it, and I think particularly President Carter about a mission, but the others -- I think he talked about it as well. It's something that was sort of kicking around.
Q: Yesterday Tony indicated that Carter had kind of run those names by Cedras, knowing Cedras would be willing to talk to those --
MS. MYERS: Well, he'd been talking to the President and talking to them.
Q: So Carter knew that by the time the President called them and invited them, the President was aware that Carter had it in the clear that Cedras would see all three of those people?
MS. MYERS: Yeah, I'm just not that familiar with what Carter's conversations with Cedras were, but --
Q: What did Cedras indicate? I mean, did he indicate that he was ready to throw in the towel, or he just wanted to discuss what was going on?
MS. MYERS: That he would be willing to discuss the modalities of departure.
Q: He did say that?
MS. MYERS: Well, sure. I mean, he knew that that's --
Q? In French.
MS. MYERS: -- the "modalatie de departure." Now, I think what's been clear is he didn't make a commitment that he would --
Q: But he that he wanted to discuss the --
MS. MYERS: That he would be willing to discuss -- he understood that that was the limit of this mission, and he would be willing to discuss that. And that is exactly what this delegation is going down there to talk about.
Q: Who else are they meeting with, besides the military junta leaders?
MS. MYERS: They are going to meet with -- they've got a number of different meetings scheduled, including one with, I think, some sort of religious, civic and political leaders; and I believe another one more broadly with military.
Q: Is he meeting right now with Cedras? Would you know?
MS. MYERS: The meeting was scheduled for 1:45 p.m. central time.
Q: Our time?
MS. MYERS: Haiti time.
Q: Dee Dee, I want to come back to this. You're saying that Cedras told Carter yesterday that he was willing to discuss the modalities of departure? Because that's not what Tony said yesterday; Tony said he simply said he wanted to meet with them.
MS. MYERS: No, he said that he would be -- he didn't say that he would leave.
Q: But you're saying he said he'd be willing to discuss --
MS. MYERS: That's what they're going down to discuss.
Q: Yeah, but Dee Dee, that's further than what Tony did say yesterday.
MS. MYERS: That's my understanding.
Q: Because in all the language that Carter has used and the President and Tony have used, is that they were going down there to talk about implementing U.S. policy and the U.N. Security Council resolutions. But they don't spell out that that was -- because that's what Cedras says he has agreed to -- to talk about U.S. policy and the U.N. resolutions. But he doesn't say he's agreed to only talk about his leaving.
MS. MYERS: I don't know that he's agreed to only talk about his leaving.
Q: But he has agreed to talk about what you said, that he would "be willing to discuss the modalities of departure."
MS. MYERS: Yeah, and I don't know that he -- I don't want to suggest that he's made a commitment to limit it to that. But he understands that that's what this delegation is going down to talk about, and he's agreed to see them
Q: And they're on central time down there? And 12:45 p.m. was the meeting?
MS. MYERS: Correct. 1:45 p.m. central.
Q: No, they're not on central.
MS. MYERS: Yes they are.
Q: Central time?
Q: Yeah, they're closer than you think.
Q: Voodoo time.
Q: Dee Dee, you said -- I know you didn't want to discuss timing, but we're talking about time right now, sort of, and time is of the essence. Did the President give the three any kind of parameters like, look, if they're still negotiating, talking by Sunday night, this is over?
MS. MYERS: I can't discuss timing, but the President made it very clear that this is urgent, that time is short.
Q: Will they stay in the embassy if they stay over tonight?
MS. MYERS: I don't know what arrangements have been made.
Q: Is there a 24-hour ultimatum?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to get into talking about time.
Q: In terms of the President's schedule this afternoon, does he have any meetings? Is there anything planned in terms of set times for communicating with Haiti, or is it just a constant?
MS. MYERS: No, yeah, it's just kind of regular, every hour.
Q: Would you expect a face-to-face meeting with Carter and Powell to come back here?
MS. MYERS: There are no plans, but I certainly wouldn't rule that out.
Q: Is it accurate to say the President signed off on the plans that were outlined for him at the Pentagon?
MS. MYERS: Yes, absolutely. He was very impressed with the plans, and very comfortable that these had been very well thought through.
Q: Dee Dee, Tony said yesterday there were other channels discussed throughout the week before the decision was made for Carter, Powell and Nunn; that other channels came up this week. Can you tell us anything else about who else offered to go, who else might have gone and --
MS. MYERS: No, I'm not going to get into that.
Q: Dee Dee, I missed what you said -- in addition to Cedras, they're meeting with military leaders and then a religiouspolitical --
MS. MYERS: Yeah, civic leaders, which is sort of a broader group.
Q: Aristide supporters?
MS. MYERS: I don't know.
Q: What about President Jonassaint? Are they meeting with President Jonassaint?
MS. MYERS: No, I think the delegation might. But just make it clear that that will not include administration officials. So, in other words, Larry Rossin --
Q: So you're still not recognizing --
MS. MYERS: Correct, we don't recognize the Jonassaint government.
Q: But Carter will be meeting with Jonassaint.
MS. MYERS: I believe Carter and I think Powell and Nunn also.
Q: And is that, in effect, though, recognizing the de facto --
MS. MYERS: No, because they're not the U.S. government.
Q: But they've been authorized by the President.
MS. MYERS: It doesn't matter. The U.S. government officials will not be participating.
Q: But this does represent a diplomatic change, that no U.S. official has been willing to meet with the de facto --
MS. MYERS: That's still true.
Q: Dee Dee, was it a slip of the tongue when Carter got off the plane in Haiti and he said he's meeting with Haitian officials?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to split rhetorical hairs.
Q: Well, we need a reaction -- he said officials.
MS. MYERS: He's meeting with a broad variety of people, which I just outlined. I don't think that that term was applied particularly to one person or another, but I would send you to President Carter for clarification. But I just told you a list of Haitians that he's meeting with. -- the Haitians.
Q: How concerned is the President that he, by accepting this Carter initiative to go down to Haiti, that he's being seen as handing over his foreign policy to Jimmy Carter?
MS. MYERS: Not at all. I think the President has been very much the architect of this policy. I think, particularly in the last few days, the American people have seen him make a very clear speech to the American people, where he laid out the objectives of this mission. I think he made it clear at that time, and as he has throughout, that he was committed, or very interested in finding a peaceful resolution to this. And this is one more effort by him to try to resolve this peacefully.
But the Haitian de facto government and the American people should make no mistake that he is committed to going forward. This will not alter the timetable by one minute or one second, as Tony said yesterday. And I think that the delegation will make that clear to the people that they meet with.
Q: Dee Dee, so that we don't have to hound you, can you establish a procedure for us to be updated if Carter were to call here? And how would you get word to us if there's some development, and if you're putting on a lid?
MS. MYERS: Are we putting on a lid?
Q: We've got a lid until 8:00 p.m. -- a photo lid.
Q: No, no, no, no, it's just a travel pool lid who would have been off of the White House.
Q: Oh, I see.
MS. MYERS: I don't know that there's a good answer to that.
Q: You're going to be around and all that?
MS. MYERS: I think that people will be here most of the time. I mean, again, people may leave for a meeting or something, but people will be here probably through at least the early evening tonight. And then if something happens that we need to announce, we'll probably page out.
Q: Will the President, in his speech tonight, be talking about Haiti? And can you give us a --
MS. MYERS: He will, the speech is actually more about domestic policy. But he'll, I think, talk about Haiti in very much the same terms he did this morning in the radio address. There will be a short section on Haiti and then he'll talk about children's issues and urban policy and other domestic issues that this group wanted specifically to hear from him on.
Q: If there's some news, do you think he'll use that as the occasion to break it, or will he do it from here?
MS. MYERS: Well, I don't know. I mean, it's a hypothetical.
Q: There may be an indication by tonight that something positive or negative has happened.
MS. MYERS: No way to know that.
Q: Once they -- if they do reach an agreement, is he prepared to make some sort of public address and once again speak to the American people?
MS. MYERS: It's all hypothetical, it would totally depend on what the announcement was.
Q: Is that operation up and running and hot over the weekend, in case he decides to do that?
MS. MYERS: Sure. I mean, we're all here. My weekend is going to be about as fun as your all's.
Q: In terms of that staffing, let's say, tomorrow -- are you planning on 24-hour staffing beginning tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't think we're planning 24-hour staffing, no.
Q: Not yet.
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Just call Dee Dee at home.
MS. MYERS: Yeah, sure.
Q: Who did you say would or wouldn't meet with Jonassaint? Larry Rossin would or wouldn't?
MS. MYERS: U.S. government officials will not.
Q: Right, so that includes Rossin.
MS. MYERS: That includes anyone who works for the U.S. government, and that includes Larry.
Q: But Carter and --
MS. MYERS: Carter doesn't work for --
Q: He could, but there's no schedule for it.
MS. MYERS: No, I think they're trying to set it up. And I don't know if it's been scheduled, but I think that they're planning to.
Q: What would be the purpose of the meeting with Jonassaint?
MS. MYERS: I don't know exactly what they're -- I'm not going to get --
Q: Nunn --
MS. MYERS: No, he's not the executive branch, no. He's a representative of the Clinton administration.
Q: Wasn't that one of the conditions, Dee Dee, for them accepting this delegation? Wasn't that one of Cedras' conditions?
MS. MYERS: What?
Q: That he would accept this delegation if they agreed to meet with Jonassaint?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that.
Q: And the delegation will be in contact with Lake if they need a point clarified or --
MS. MYERS: Sure, sure, absolutely.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:09 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/269644