Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
1:47 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: A couple of things here today. First of all, at 2:30 p.m. over at the State Department, the United States and the People's Republic of China will put forward a joint statement about their agreement to work together to promote the nonproliferation of missiles and to promote a ban on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other means of explosive devises. That is something that has come out of the talks in the last couple of days, including discussions yesterday with the President and with the Vice President and with other members of the administration -- at 2:30 p.m. today.
Q: Did they agree to stop selling to Iran and Pakistan?
MS. MYERS: I'll let them go ahead and make the announcement. It is with respect to the Missile Control Technology Regime and sanctions we imposed last summer.
This is just a quick note. A young woman by the name of Niya Powell wrote the President a couple of weeks ago and asked that she be invited to meet President Mandela during his visit here. She said that she had met Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the experience had changed her life. So the President invited her, and she attended the ceremony today. She's 11 years old and she's from Fort Washington, Maryland. She gave President Mandela a doll with a note attached that said, "To the children of South Africa. Keep believing."
So that was a nice touch. She was accompanied by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Powell.
On Haiti, I think if you had a chance to see General Shalikashvili's press conference, he just went through the state of play. Just as a reinforcement of some of the points he made, I think all of you know by now, Police Chief Michel Francois left the country today; he's in the Dominican Republic. The national leader of FRAPH, Tutu Constant, has a press conference today at 2:00 p.m., which you might want to check out. President Aristide is speaking at the U.N. at 2:00 p.m. as well. He will continue his call for peace and reconciliation.
General Shalikashvili also announced that 1,300 marines have left Cap-Haitien, bringing the total troop force below 20,000, and he expects that it will be at about 15,000 by the end of the month. At the same time, the second phase of Uphold Democracy began; 262 CARICOM troops have arrived and are now deploying. At the same time, the international police monitors continue to arrive. There are over 200 in-country now, and as you know, Ray Kelly arrived over the weekend and is working with those police monitors who are now accompanying Haitian police officers on their routine patrols.
Q: They don't do routine patrols, do they?
MS. MYERS: Well, their patrols. I don't know if they are routine, but during their patrols -- to enforce international human rights standards, among other things. So the mission there is going according to plan and I think there is quite a bit of order throughout the countryside, including in Port-au-Prince. And as General Shali also said, they've now collected over 4,000 weapons, including more than 1,100 hand grenades.
Q: On Francois, is the U.S. satisfied with the fact that he just went to the Dominican Republic? He can come back any time, presumably.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he made a decision to leave. He made is own arrangements to leave. We said that we expected as a practical reality that the military would leave, and we still expect that that is true. So this is clearly one step. I assume he's not altogether pleased with the progress of events on the ground in Haiti -- although we are.
Q: Dee, Dee, could you just give of a brief readout on the meeting that the President had with Mandela?
MS. MYERS: It was just a brief meeting today. The actual bilateral is tomorrow. They just had a chance to sit down briefly and just sort of talk generally about a number of issues. They have a longer bilateral scheduled for tomorrow as well as an expanded meeting where they'll talk about a number of issues. And then we expect to sign a number of agreements about housing, Peace Corps and investment issues at the press conference, which I believe is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
Q: There are many reports that Henry Cisneros has offered to resign in one forum or another. Has he formally or informally told anyone here at the White House that he is willing to quit, should he be an embarrassment to the administration, and does anyone in the administration consider him thus?
MS. MYERS: I think --
MS. MYERS: The question was, has Henry Cisneros offered to resign formally or informally if he becomes an embarrassment to the White House, and does anyone in the White House consider him such.
The answer is that I am sure that Secretary Cisneros would step aside if he believed he were an embarrassment to the White House, or that the White House wished him to do so. The fact is there's been no change in his status. He has not offered his resignation, nor has he been asked to resign. And certainly he's had discussions with people here about the status of his situation, but as you know, that is something that is being looked at at the Justice Department. And I would again emphasize there's been absolutely no change in his status. He continues to serve, the President has full confidence in him, thinks he's done an outstanding job as Secretary of HUD.
Q: What makes you so sure, Dee Dee, that he'd step down? Has he, in fact, conveyed --
MS. MYERS: I don't think it's appropriate for me to disclose personal conversations that he may have had with people here. But I think that he's an honorable man and would not want to serve if he thought it were a detriment to the White House.
Q: Are you confirming the stories then?
MS. MYERS: He's not resigning. He's not been asked to resign. There's been no change in his status. I cannot make that more clear. I would just urge you to ask him about the content of conversations he may have had. It's inappropriate for me to, I think, discuss any more about them.
Q: Has he spoken with the President or with the Chief of Staff about any possibility of resigning?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: How about Mike Espy? Any replacements in mind?
MS. MYERS: No. We'll begin a process to find a replacement. As you know, Secretary Espy will stay until the end of the year. And I think, in the meantime, we'll continue -- or begin the search for a replacement, but at this time, we have no announcements.
Q: on what activities he can supervise?
MS. MYERS: He has recused himself from issues dealing with meat and poultry inspection. I think the President believes that that's appropriate. But he'll go forward with his other responsibilities, which is the vast majority of his responsibilities.
Q: Dee Dee, on the Francois departure, could you outline what role, if any, U.S. officials there or here played in convincing him to leave, and whether he's been assured that now that's he left, sanctions would be lifted against any accounts that he would have access to?
MS. MYERS: No decision has been made about how sanctions against the personal assets of the military leaders and their friends and relatives will be treated. That is something that there's been no change in the status of those sanctions at this point. The decision to leave was Francois's. He made the arrangements himself, and there's been no guarantees provided by us.
Q: Did we give him any assurances through third parties that this money would be available to him were he to leave?
MS. MYERS: Again, no decisions have been made about what will happen with the sanctions on their personal assets.
Q: I realize no decisions here have been made, but has any message been conveyed to him about what may be available to him if he does leave?
MS. MYERS: We can't make guarantees about decisions that haven't been made.
Q: How is it going with the other leaders? Are you getting any indication that they are thinking about doing the same or are officials talking to them on a regular basis?
MS. MYERS: Certainly, officials are talking to them on a regular basis. For example, General Shelton talks with General Cedras on a regular basis about what's happening on the ground. I think they've made public statements, or at least General Cedras has -- I haven't seen anything recently from Biamby -- but General Cedras has made public statements about his intentions. I think under any circumstances we don't think there's been a change. We do expect, as a practical matter, they will leave the country. They, of course, have agreed to step down no later than October 15th.
Q: Dee Dee, was there anything in the President's discussion with Mandela today about the question of what sounded like a request for more direct aid?
MS. MYERS: They had a brief conversation today. I don't want to get into the details of it. I think, clearly, investment and economic assistance will be on the agenda throughout this week, or this next couple of days -- not just with President Clinton, but also with the business community and others that President Mandela will meet with. He's made it very clear that creating an environment for additional investment is a very important objective of this trip.
Q: He's met with many of them and that's emerged, but the question of direct government assistance, financial assistance, dollars --
MS. MYERS: Again, I think that's something that will be discussed, and we'll have more to say about exactly where we are on that tomorrow.
Q: Do we want him to meet with Aristide?
MS. MYERS: There has been some discussion about that. It's not resolved --
Q: We want what?
MS. MYERS: The question was, do we want President Mandela to meet with President Aristide, and the answer is there's been some discussion about that. It's been suggested not by us, but by others. We would certainly do whatever we could to facilitate that if the parties wanted to do it, and there's just no conclusion to it.
Q: Dee Dee, what commitment did President Clinton give to Prime Minister Major about meeting with Gerry Adams or U.S. contacts with Gerry Adams?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that -- certainly, we've been in touch with the British throughout this process. We consult with them very closely on a number of issues, including this one. I think it was explained to them the modalities of our meetings, which includes a 2:15 p.m. meeting today at the State Department between Gerry Adams and representatives of the White House and the State Department. But I think, clearly, we're aware of their concerns in this regard, but we made decisions about it with reference to our policy and certainly kept them abreast of those.
Q: Did the President promise Prime Minister Major that he would not meet with Gerry Adams until --
MS. MYERS: They have not spoken about this.
Q: Dee Dee, one House Democratic leader said today that it's looking a little bit more iffy about whether the House will actually take up GATT this week, and meeting increasing pressure from some members, including Democrats, that they not bring it up before the adjournment. Does the White House now have any change of view about how that's going to play out? Are you aware that you have you been advised by the House leadership that it may not come up for a vote this week?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think that process is ongoing in the House right now. There have been a number of discussions about it on the Hill today. I think that process is ongoing. I believe that a vote on the rule and on the legislation could come as early as tomorrow, but that is something that will have to be worked out in the House. And I don't think that they've resolved the issue, and they certainly haven't informed us about anything conclusively.
Q: The President, of course, has pushed for implementation as quickly as possible. Has he been talking to people on the Hill? Has he been making calls, or has he stepped up in any way his attempt to get this done this week in the House?
MS. MYERS: I think he would certainly be willing to make calls on this. As you know, there is strong bipartisan support for GATT. The President has made it very clear that he wants it done this year, and the President remains confident that it will get done this year. The Senate has now scheduled a vote for December 1. The House was scheduled to vote before adjournment this week. We'll just have to wait and see what happens in that regard. One way or another, I think the President is confident that GATT will pass this year with bipartisan support.
Q: Dee Dee, you said that Clinton had not spoken with Major about Adams, but were there assurances provided by this government to the British government --
MS. MYERS: Well, I think it was communicated to the British government what the arrangements were, and that was that Vice President Gore called Gerry Adams yesterday, and that officials from the White House and State Department would meet with him today.
Q: But in advance, did you assure the British government that the White House --
MS. MYERS: Well, we told him what our plan was. And I think that that speaks for itself. The plan was for the Vice President to call him yesterday and for White House and State Department officials to meet with him after that which ended up being scheduled for today. And, of course, the British --
Q: Are you saying that's always been the plan, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: No, no. That's the plan that's been worked out after Gerry Adams made it clear he was coming. We approved the visa, but it's -- look, we told the British government what our plans were. And that did not include a meeting with the President and did include a phone call from the Vice President.
Q: Excuse me. At that point, though, officials in this government were telling the press and presumably -- they said they were telling the British government that he would meet only with low-level or mid-level State Department --
MS. MYERS: No, we said that they'd meet at the working level. And that's what we -- I mean, these are, I think, people who are very involved in the policy process both in the White House, which is Nancy Soderberg, and Leon Fuerth, whom you all know; and at the State Department it's the principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe. Those are people who are, again, involved in the policymaking process. But it is a working level meeting.
Q: Are you saying that's not a change from the person he was going to meet with originally, the lower-level person?
MS. MYERS: No, it was never resolved who he was going to meet with before. It was something that was under discussion. And I think the level of the meetings was established last week, and I think that that was fulfilled this week.
Q: Dee Dee, a follow-up: Was the British government angry? Did they express concern to you?
MS. MYERS: You'll have to contact the British government. I think we informed them, and you can certainly address those questions to them. But I think they're aware of what our views are on this.
Q: Apparently, the latest problem with GATT on the House side is the Republicans are threatening to pull their support possibly in an effort to embarrass the President. Would his threat to hold the Senate in equally apply to the House? Would he be willing to make that threat?
MS. MYERS: I think the President wants to see GATT done this year. He's made that very clear. He believes it's important. He's made a commitment to get it done by the end of the year. He believes he can do that, and I think he'll take whatever steps are necessary to make that happen.
Q: I take that as a yes.
MS. MYERS: He'll take whatever steps are necessary.
Q: Dee Dee, Secretary Cisneros -- and please forgive me if this specific question was addressed before I got here -- the impression that could be created by this sort of emerging again today in the story that the AP had this morning is that someone is sending a signal to Secretary Cisneros. Could you address yourself; is someone sending a signal or is this --
MS. MYERS: I think we talked about this before, but I'm happy to say again that there's been no change in his status. He has not offered -- has not resigned. He's not been asked to resign. The Justice Department is looking into this. And I would just emphasize again, there has been no change in his status. He continues to serve and serve with the confidence of the President.
Q: You say he has not offered to resign?
MS. MYERS: He has not offered a resignation. He has not resigned. He's not submitted a resignation in any way.
Q: But he has said that --
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to get into what he may or may not have said to his friends or associates or --
Q: In the White House?
Q: It is fair that whatever he has said or did not say, the White House is under the clear impression that if he were called upon to leave or felt he was an embarrassment, he'd go.
MS. MYERS: I think that the White House believes that the Secretary's view on this is that he serves at the pleasure of the President. But, again, there's been no -- absolutely no call for him to resign.
Q: Obviously, girlfriends and boyfriends don't -- aren't required to file ethics statements. Has the episode of the scholarship going to result in any broader warnings or missives to political appointees to be careful of their associations --
MS. MYERS: No, I think, as was discussed yesterday, there are specifics in the guidelines that do cover close friends and family members of people who are regulated. And if you want, I can get you more information about specifically what those chapter and verses are. But those are covered. I think what I said earlier today is that I think -- as the President directed, the Council's Office will finish it's review of Secretary Espy and make public it's findings in some regard. And I think one of the things you can expect to see in that is just a reemphasis of how important it is that all members of the Executive Branch understand the guidelines and adhere to them faithfully.
Q: Are you still expecting a GATT vote tomorrow?
MS. MYERS: We'll have to see. That's up to the House. The President, again, is hopeful and actually expects that it will get done this year. And the timing, again, is up to the Congress.
Q: Can you release Niya Powell's letter, please?
MS. MYERS: Sure.
MS. MYERS: Niya Powell, the young woman that was here today.
Q: When do you expect that report to be made public?
MS. MYERS: Judge Mikva said he expected it would be done by the end of the week -- or hoped it would be done by the end of the week. So, as soon as it's ready, which could come as soon as Friday.
Q: Is there any travel this week?
MS. MYERS: We could end up a day trip on Friday.
MS. MYERS: Down and back. Somewhere on the Atlantic Coast.
Q: Why would we do that? Why would we want to do that?
MS. MYERS: We definitely want to do it, because it's going to be a lot of fun.
Q: It depends on who "we" are, right?
Q: The coast could be North Carolina, right?
MS. MYERS: No, it's a little farther north of that.
Q: Not much.
MS. MYERS: Not much. Right.
Q: Is it a place where the high school cheer begins, " We don't drink, we don't smoke"? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: I don't think so, but it's close.
Q: Dee Dee, would it be a political trip?
MS. MYERS: No, it would not be a political trip; this would be an official trip. I'll just give you a hint. It might have something to do with Haiti troops,
MS. MYERS: Boats -- (laughter) -- could be sailors.
Q: Just north of North Carolina.
MS. MYERS: Just north of North Carolina. It's not done, but I expect we are looking toward something along those lines, and we'll probably have --
Q: The largest Navy base in the world.
MS. MYERS: Could be. Could be something along those lines. We'll have more on that probably by tomorrow.
Q: Well, what's your guess at this point, if that happens, whether you would do a charter or whether you would expect us to get down on our own --
MS. MYERS: We were looking at the possibility of a charter, and I think that we were leaning in that direction, expecting that there would be enough interest to make that feasible. But, again -- so, in other words, if there is enough interest among you all, I think it will be possible. But it will obviously depend on whether it could be made affordable.
Q: Any reaction to the election of Mr. Cardoso, the new president of Brazil?
MS. MYERS: We'll probably have a statement on that later, as soon as it's confirmed.
MS. MYERS: Has it been officially confirmed yet? Not yet. So as soon as it is, and I'm not sure what the timing is on it.
Q: What's this -- I'm sorry.
MS. MYERS: The elections in Brazil.
Q: No, no. I didn't mean to interrupt you. Go ahead.
MS. MYERS: That was it. As soon as it's official, the President will clearly have a statement.
Q: What's on the agenda for the meeting with the mayors?
MS. MYERS: For the meeting with the mayors? That's sort of an update. It's just sort of a general briefing on what's happening in the White House, what we're working on in the end of the legislative session.
Q: What is happening in the White House?
MS. MYERS: There are a number of mayors here. Let me just catch everybody up on what it is -- there's a group of, I think, about eight mayors here from around the country for the Mandela visit. We took advantage of this time to bring them in and to brief them on what's happening at the White House; in other words, what kind of progress we're making on legislation --
Q: Why should they know? What about us? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: If you'd like to know what's going on here, you can talk with Mayor Rice, or any of the other mayors that were here. But it's just a general sort of across the board briefing.
Q: Yes, but if you're going to send them off to stakeout, I mean, could we get some idea of what you're pushing? To be blunt.
MS. MYERS: I think we're talking there will be a number of people who will brief them. And normally what's on -- and I haven't seen the exact list of speakers, but in talking to -- this is put together by Marcia Hale, who is the head of Intergovernmental Affairs, who does this normally. And the kinds of things that they've talked about is what's on the agenda for the end of the legislative session, where we are, what we expect, perhaps coming along next year.
One of the things that they've been interested in, which we'll put a statement out on is unfunded mandates, for example. They're also interested in everything from issues affecting crime, what we're doing on crime over the course of the next few weeks to implement the crime bill, generally what's happening politically, what we expect to happen in the upcoming elections. I mean, it's generally a broad range of things; includes a lot of Q&A and a lot of times turns on what they are interested in.
They are not scheduled to see the President.
Q: Who's briefing them?
MS. MYERS: Wait a sec, let me make sure. He may do a drop-by. Yes, I guess he's supposed to do -- let me see if I have today's scheduled.
Q: Who are they?
MS. MYERS: Who are they? There are -- I don't have the -- they are African-American mayors from around the country.
Q: They're the same ones who met with him in New Orleans a few weeks ago.
MS. MYERS: The mayor of New Orleans is one of them. Most of them are members of the Conference. I don't have the list in front of me; someone will get it. I gave it this morning, and we can certainly post it this afternoon; I think there were eight or nine.
And the President was going to do a drop-by at 4:25 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room.
Q: Photo op?
MS. MYERS: White House photo.
Q: We don't have photo ops anymore.
MS. MYERS: They're an anachronism, a dinosaur. (Laughter.)
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/269725