Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
2:52 P.M. EST
MS. MYERS: I apologize. I wish I had more for you, given the delay. I was actually -- we were trying to produce a little more on the situation in North Korea.
Let me just begin by saying the President spoke a while ago to President Yeltsin. They discussed a number of issues, including North Korea, the Partnership for Peace, the upcoming Naples Summit, and President Yeltsin's trip to the United States later this year. Generally, they had a good conversation. They discussed their general approach to sanctions against North Korea and a number of other things. So the conversation lasted about 25 minutes; the President was in the Oval Office.
That's it for announcements.
Q: his call this morning?
Q: Who called who?
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry. President Clinton placed the call. It was agreed upon earlier.
Q: Did anything come out of it other than just the list of topics that you can tell us?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, they discussed at some length -- they discussed a number of topics. They certainly discussed North Korea at some length. They agreed on a general approach to sanctions to the U.N. Security Council action to moving forward on that front, and I think that's part of the ongoing consultation on developing a sanctions proposal. The President has not yet made a final decision; we do expect that there will be more discussion this week, leading to some kind of a decision and an ongoing discussion at the Security Council.
Q: Dee Dee, can you give us something on Xiang?
MS. MYERS: The phone call didn't take place. As you know, the President's had contacts with a number of heads of state, both telephone and in person and written. The President's going to send a letter to President Xiang in China sometime probably later today.
Q: Why didn't the phone call take place?
MS. MYERS: It was a scheduling problem. They weren't able to work it out today and decided to go ahead and do it in written form as opposed to a telephone call.
Q: Dee Dee, to the best of your knowledge, has North Korea withdrawn from the IAEA?
MS. MYERS: To the best of our knowledge, we've seen the statement from North Korea on that. We don't have any confirmation of it. We're still trying to determine what has happened in that regard. So we don't have any confirmation that they have actually withdrawn from the IAEA.
Q: Dee Dee, do you think that Fiske will call the President and First Lady back to provide any additional testimony? Or was yesterday the end of it?
MS. MYERS: That's up to Mr. Fiske. Certainly the President and First Lady have indicated their willingness to cooperate. If he needs to speak to them again for additional information, they'll cooperate at that time.
Q: How will the withdrawal, if indeed it has taken place, from IAEA affect the sanctions situation? Does it make it easier to get other people on board? And what's your analysis of what this means in terms of whether it increases the danger of confrontation? Or how are you reading it?
MS. MYERS: Well, again, if it's true, it's a very, very serious situation. It's a very negative development. But at this point, we have no confirmation, so I can't speculate about what may happen if it's in fact true. We have seen the statements from North Korea; we take them very seriously. Again, this would be a negative development. But beyond that, I can't comment at this point.
Q: Dee Dee, can you tell us how long the meeting was yesterday with Mr. Fiske and the Clintons?
MS. MYERS: Both the President and First Lady met with Mr. Fiske yesterday. The President went first; he began about 2:30 p.m. That meeting went about 90 minutes. The First Lady met with Mr. Fiske for about an hour. Both took place in the residence.
Q: Separately? I mean, they weren't there together?
MS. MYERS: Separately. Correct. They were not together; it was separate.
Q: Who else was in with them?
MS. MYERS: Mr. Cutler; the Clinton's personal attorney, David Kendall; another attorney from Mr. Fiske's staff; and a stenographer.
Q: What were the topics discussed?
MS. MYERS: They discussed Mr. Foster's suicide and the contacts between the White House and Treasury regarding Madison Guaranty and the RTC.
Q: Were executive privileges invoked or any questions not answered?
MS. MYERS: No privileges were invoked to my knowledge . And I don't know about questions answered. I'm not familiar with the --
Q: He might not have answered questions that he didn't know, but was there any refusal to answer questions upon any basis?
MS. MYERS: Not that I know of. As we said earlier, they have not chosen to claim any privileges.
Q: Cutler's statement indicates that Fiske was working toward ending the Washington phase of his investigation. Do you have any indication when he will finish and, if you do, when he will make any kind of results known?
MS. MYERS: Nothing beyond what he said publicly, which was that he hope to wrap that phase of his investigation up by the end of the month.
Q: Did he indicate to the Clintons when he might be finished?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: What are the precedence for a president being questioned under oath in a criminal investigation? Have you looked that up, researched that?
MS. MYERS: I think there's precedent for it. I'll leave some of that to you, but I think each of the last three presidents has answered questions under oath at some point.
Q: How did it come to be under oath? Was that what Fiske requested? Do you know if that's what he has done with other witnesses, or did the President and First Lady request it?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that. I believe that it was the way Fiske requested it and has been working. But I can take that and see.
Q: He's brought other people to the grand jury.
MS. MYERS: He's taken information from people both at the grand jury and in interview form. I think that's largely been determined by Mr. Fiske how they choose to proceed on various phases.
Q: Could you see if you can check on your understanding of whether he's treating them the same as other witnesses in terms of --
MS. MYERS: Sure. On this phase of the investigation he has talked to people -- he's interviewed a lot of people under oath, but not in front of the grand jury. But I can see if there's any more information I can provide on that front.
Q: The list that Cutler put out doesn't mention any commodities deals or anything like that -- the Whitewater transactions themselves. It seems like it was just limited to these contacts.
MS. MYERS: It was.
Q: Doesn't that leave other areas to be explored?
MS. MYERS: That's up to Mr. Fiske. And, again, the Clintons have said that if he has additional questions, they will cooperate. At this point, they've answered all of the questions that he put before them, and we'll go from there. Again, it's up to Mr. Fiske. He'll make the decision whether he needs additional information from them or not.
Q: On that point, did he leave it with Mr. and Mrs. Clinton that he may have to get back to them, that he may have to interview them again?
MS. MYERS: I don't know whether they discussed it or not. I think it's certainly our position that this inquiry is ongoing. And if there are additional questions, if he needs additional information, they'll cooperate.
Q: Under what circumstances will the text of this be released --
MS. MYERS: I don't -- that's something you'd have to check with Fiske. I don't think it's anything that they plan to release.
Q: you said that there's no question not answered or no privileges taken to your knowledge? What exactly does that mean?
MS. MYERS: Well, that when this process began, or several months ago, anyway, the President and the First Lady said that they -- the President said he was not going to invoke any privileges. That's been his position. I think Brit pointed out that I don't know whether he didn't answer questions because he didn't know or couldn't recall, but to the best of my knowledge, they haven't invoked any privilege.
Q: Do we know that for sure?
MS. MYERS: That's been the President's position. After talking to Ruth, I'll double-check, but his position has been that he was invoking no privileges. But I did not ask Mr. Cutler that question today.
Q: Dee Dee, are you aware of any arrangement that was made between either the White House or the President's attorneys and Mr. Fiske that avoided an appearance before a grand jury for either the President or the First Lady?
MS. MYERS: No, I'm not aware of any. Again, you might check with Mr. Cutler on that front. But I think that it's important to point out that Fiske has been interviewing people under oath, but not before the grand jury, particularly on this aspect of his investigation. So I think it's consistent with how he's been treating other people.
Q: What appeared to be the interest in Foster's death if it was a suicide -- it was all plain and simple --
MS. MYERS: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you .
Q? I said, what was the interest in Foster's death - -
MS. MYERS: I can't discuss the content of any of the interviews. As Mr. Fiske has said, it's a component of an ongoing investigation, and I can't answer any questions specifically about what they may have talked about.
Q: How much notice was there?
MS. MYERS: The Special Counsel's Office asked to speak to the President right before he left for Europe. So it was scheduled as quickly as possible when he returned.
Q: You started to say that you thought something about Foster. What was it?
MS. MYERS: No. Just that it's part of Fiske's ongoing inquiry. It's something that he's been looking into, and I can't comment on any specifics that might have been discussed yesterday.
Q: Who administers the oath? Did Fiske do that himself?
MS. MYERS: I don't know. I can take that. We can post the answer to that with the privilege question.
Q: Dee Dee, what is your understanding of what happens to this interview, this testimony? Is the grand jury presented it or is just used by Fiske in his investigation?
MS. MYERS: I don't know the answer to that either. I'll take that as well. Or you can check with Cutler. But I'll take these questions and post the answers this afternoon.
Q: Back on North Korea. What is the procedure for withdrawing from the IAEA, do you know?
MS. MYERS: I don't know that there's any formal procedure.
Q: Well, I'm just wondering -- you say you can't confirm at this point --
MS. MYERS: Oh, usually there's written notification or some kind of an official contact between North Korea and the IAEA at some level. And to the best of our knowledge, we don't know that that has happened yet, I should say.
Q: Do you know if those two IAEA inspectors are still in North Korea?
MS. MYERS: Last we heard they were. No evidence to suggest that they're gone, but, obviously, that could change quickly.
Q? On health care, does the President believe that the proposed triggers would meet his universal coverage requirement?
MS. MYERS: Well, his bottom line is that -- is universal coverage, guaranteed private insurance for every American. Certainly the Congress is looking at a number of ways to reach that objective. The President has not ruled anything out. If the Congress can come up with a plan that meets his bottom line he's going to look at it.
The plan that he presented to Congress included a phasein approach; didn't guarantee universal coverage until January 1, 1998. He, of course, doesn't want an unreasonable long period of time, he wants universal coverage by a date certain, but is willing to look at a number of congressional proposals that meet his bottom line. So he certainly wouldn't rule it out.
Q: Would five years be an unreasonable time?
MS. MYERS: Well, the plan that he introduced didn't include --
Q: No, but --
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to get into being specific, but I will point out the President's own plan didn't include universal coverage until January 1, 1998.
Q: If there's a five-year time period being talked about --
MS. MYERS: Again, if Congress produces a plan that guarantees private insurance for every American by a date certain, within a reasonable amount of time, I think the President would be inclined to sign that.
Q: But what is the reason for waiting until 1998?
MS. MYERS: Well, obviously, it's a difficult and complicated situation and the President believes that that's a reasonable amount of time to allow for the private sector and the health industries to adapt to a new system.
Q: In light of Senator Dole's concern that the President should maybe roll up his shirtsleeves and get going, what is he going to do tomorrow in the meeting with Senate Finance members?
MS. MYERS: He's only meeting with two senators tomorrow. He's meeting with Senator Packwood and Senator Moynihan. He's going to discuss health care. I don't expect any announcements to come out of that meeting. He'll do that before he leaves for Kansas City. The meeting is scheduled for 9:15 a.m.
Q: What is he going to do?
MS. MYERS: It's part of a series of ongoing meetings to discuss the status of health care reform. As you know, he's met regularly with members of Congress, with committee chairs, with bipartisan leaders to discuss health care, and this is part of that ongoing process.
Q: Given that these are the two senators who are handling now what might be the vehicle for an eventual compromise, is this the equivalent of him getting more involved?
MS. MYERS: I think he's been involved on a regular basis. Certainly, the White House has been involved on a regular basis with a number of congressional committees, a number of members of Congress. This is part of his ongoing effort to do what he can to facilitate Congress reaching an agreement.
Q: To follow up on what Maura said, the White House posture for the last several months has been that your plan is on the table, that it's in Congress's hands, that you want to provide substantive help and advise but you're not going to get involved in the nitty-gritty of negotiations because it's up to Congress. Is it time, do you think, for that posture to change and for the President to become more involved in helping to craft something that could pass the Congress?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think the President's view has been that he's been there to help facilitate at various points and do what he can. I think the general sense, certainly the President's sense, is that there is momentum now toward health care reform, toward getting it done this year, and that he's willing to do what he can to help move that process along. It's still up to members of Congress and the various committees to hammer out the specific details, but I think he is going to have this conversation; he'll have a number of other meetings, he has another meeting later this week with bipartisan leaders. And I can go through the schedule in a couple of minutes -- but he certainly is going to stay involved and do what he can to facilitate the process moving forward.
Q: To follow up on Ruth's question -- at some point he has to say, yes, this trigger is acceptable; yes, a different version than 80-20 -- I mean, at some point he has to weigh in on specifics. What is the point? When does that point happen, after the July 4th recess, is it now?
MS. MYERS: I think at some point -- the committees are moving toward resolution, or toward final bills. I think if they're not done by July 4th, they'll be done shortly after. Obviously, the President would like to see that action completed so that the larger floor action can get underway. I'm not going to lock him into any date certain or any particular course of action. He's going to do what he can to move this process along.
Q: But do you see any way the point as being a different point than the point that the White House was at previously?
MS. MYERS: I think the process has accelerated. There is a sense of momentum. I think there is a general commitment to get health care reform done this year. Certainly, the President wants to do everything he can to facilitate that. Tomorrow he'll meet with Packwood and Moynihan; that's an important step. Later in the week he'll meet with --
Q: What time is that?
MS. MYERS: At 9:15 a.m. -- 9:15 to 10:00 a.m.
Q: And his later-in-the-week meeting, when is that and who is he meeting with?
MS. MYERS: I think it's Thursday. I'll go through the schedule in a sec. How about the schedule?
Q: Real quickly about the Yeltsin thing. I'm sorry if I missed this, but did the President call Yeltsin in order to talk about North Korea or several things on the agenda? Was this something that was regularly scheduled?
MS. MYERS: It was -- I think North Korea was the first topic of conversation, but certainly there were other things that they wanted to discuss. They've been talking fairly regularly about the upcoming G-7 meeting and other things. But I think North Korea was clearly the top item on the agenda.
Q: You said that Yeltsin is coming to the United States this year?
MS. MYERS: He's coming in the fall.
Q: Do you have a date?
MS. MYERS: No, I don't think that's been determined yet.
Q: The month?
MS. MYERS: I think it's like November-ish. (Laughter.)
Q: But don't hold you to that, right?
MS. MYERS: That's right. (Laughter.)
Q: What do you make of Senator Dole's suggestion that health care be put as a referendum in the 1994 congressional elections?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think we believe that health care was a referendum in the 1992 election, that President Clinton ran on a platform of health care reform, welfare reform and a number of other things. He campaigned very hard for it. And he won the election.
So tomorrow at 9:15 a.m., the President will meet with Senators Moynihan and Packwood in the Oval Office. Then he'll leave at 10:10 a.m. en route to Kansas City. He arrives at the Commerce Bank at around 12:15 p.m. He'll meet with some of the program participants. At 12:30 p.m. he'll announce his welfare reform package at Commerce Bank. That'll be an audience of about 250 people who participate in welfare, either as recipients or former recipients and community leaders, providers, state and local officials.
Then he will go back to the airport where he'll attend a reception with local supporters, something we do regularly, and get back to the White House about 7:00 p.m.
Bruce Reed will come into the briefing room in Kansas City. The filing center is at the Commerce Bank, the same place as the event. He will be with David Elwood and Mary Jo Bane. I think they'll walk through the program in a little more detail and take any questions you might have. That briefing will be piped back here for those of you who won't be traveling.
Q: Are there comments at that airport reception or is that a closed event?
MS. MYERS: Pardon me?
Q: Is the President speaking at that airport reception?
MS. MYERS: Yes, but those are generally closed. It's usually -- he doesn't usually give formal remarks. He usually just sort of shakes hands with people. Yes, that's closed. There will be nothing else except for the travel pool once we get to Kansas City.
Q: What time is the briefing?
MS. MYERS: The Bruce Reed and company will come into the briefing room as soon as -- I think right after -- shortly after the speech, after the President finishes his speech. After.
Q: Will the Moynihan-Packwood meeting be open to stills?
MS. MYERS: No, it's closed.
Then on Wednesday -- I take it back, the bipartisan leadership meeting is Wednesday. At 10:00 a.m. they will discuss health care, welfare, crime, campaign finance, GATT, among other things. There will probably be a pool spray with that. At 1:30 p.m. he'll have lunch with the Vice President. At 2:30 p.m. the NCAA champion basketball team, Arkansas Razorbacks, will be here. That evening he'll attend a fundraiser for Bonnie Campbell, who's a Democratic nominee for governor of Iowa at the Sheraton Carlton. I don't have a time on that, but I think it's around 7:00 p.m.-ish.
Q: When is that?
MS. MYERS: Thursday -- I'm sorry, Wednesday, Wednesday evening. Thursday he'll have a meeting with members of Congress regarding oil and gas issues. This is something that a large group of congressional members asked for to discuss things important to their district and their states with reference to oil and gas.
Q: Who will be at that?
MS. MYERS: Don't have a list yet. They're still putting it together.
Q: What time will that be?
MS. MYERS: That is at 10:15 a.m.
Q: What's new about oil and gas? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: That's what the President's going to hear about at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday.
Q: Does it by any chance concern an EPA ruling that's about to happen?
MS. MYERS: I think it's a broad agenda. I think they want to discuss the issues generally. I don't think it's specific to any particular --
Q: concern mixing gasoline with something that -- agriculture?
MS. MYERS: I think they'll discuss, again, a number of issues, Sarah. I think it's a fairly broad agenda. At 3:15 p.m. the President will attend a reception for the premium imperial arts award. That will be in the East Room. You won't want to miss that.
Then at 4:00 p.m. the President and the First Lady will leave for Chicago. AT 7:00 p.m. they will attend a reception for Don Clark Natch, who is the Democrat nominee for Governor of Illinois. There will be a reception followed by a dinner. Remarks at both those events will be open to the pool. He'll spend the night in Chicago.
On Friday morning he will attend an event at the Robert Taylor Homes, which you remember was the birthplace of the sweeps policy. Then he will go to the World Cup events. There's opening ceremonies, which start at 1:20 p.m. The first game between Germany and Bolivia will begin at 2:00 p.m. The President will leave roughly 4:00 p.m. and return to Washington, where he'll spend the weekend.
So that's a slight modification from --
Q: A major modification.
MS. MYERS: And I think a welcome one. And then I think Saturday will probably be a radio address, and at this point there's nothing else scheduled. But who knows?
Q: Is there a ceremony at the World Cup, or is that just attending the game? Does he speak or kick out the first ball, or something? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I don't know if he speaks. That's a good question. There is an opening ceremony, and I'll have to get back to you on what his role is. I don't know.
Q: What time do you see him leaving Chicago?
MS. MYERS: Well, the game starts at 2:00 p.m. He's scheduled to leave there at roughly 4:00 p.m. So that's 5:00 p.m., eastern, it's what, an hour and a half flight?
Q: Are these --
MS. MYERS: No, no these are central times, in Chicago.
Q: What about Friday night when he comes back?
MS. MYERS: Nothing.
Q: He's got to work the stadium before we can get out of there.
MS. MYERS: Yes, and there's only 70,000 people, so it probably wouldn't take more than eight or 10 hours.
Q: Where's he staying in Chicago, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: At the Palmer House.
Q: Are we there, too?
MS. MYERS: That question is out of my league, beyond my ability to know.
Q: Dee Dee, up to this point, whenever asked about Foster or Whitewater, you've always said that you're confident that nothing wrong was done. Now that you've gotten a glimpse at what questions Mr. Fiske is asking, are you still as confident that nobody in the White House had any improper contacts or did anything wrong in at least these two segments?
MS. MYERS: I certainly am not going to comment on anything that may have transpired between Mr. Fiske and the President or the First Lady. But I don't think our view, generally, of contacts between the White House and the Treasury Department has in any way changed. And certainly with reference to Mr. Foster's death, nothing has changed.
Q: Dee Dee, we were under the impression that there might be an add-on to the Chicago trip. Was it nixed for logistical reasons, or just the press of events?
MS. MYERS: I think it was just the press of events. After evaluating the schedule and the President's time, he decided to come back from Chicago Friday; Friday, late afternoon-early evening.
Q: Is this welfare reform address tomorrow open press, or is it pool?
MS. MYERS: I think it's open. Let me double-check. No, I think what I said about the pool is that after he makes the address, only the travel pool will be needed.
Q: Can I ask you about Haiti? Anything on the action taken by the de facto president, Jonassaint, declaring a state of emergency?
MS. MYERS: No, I think that the situation has not changed much. I think certainly we're pursuing sanctions there. I think the military leaders and others are feeling the bite of increased sanctions. As you know, commercial airlines traffic will be cut off shortly. We've already cut off the commercial transactions. We're moving forward on the Jamaica and Turks and Caicos proposals. In fact, the Jamaica processing center should be implemented probably sometime this week. And I think, generally, we don't take the illegitimate government of Mr. Jonassaint or his cronies very seriously.
Q: What about his statement that an invasion is imminent?
MS. MYERS: I think our position on that has not changed. The President certainly has not ruled it out. Our chosen course of action at this point is sanctions.
Is there what?
Q: Have we beefed up our forces around Miami?
MS. MYERS: No.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 3:15 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/269704