Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos
The Briefing Room
1:10 P.M. EST
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Good afternoon. The President will be in his office doing a variety of things, and we expect that he's going to be taking most of the weekend off after the radio address tomorrow.
Q: What time is the radio address?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure yet. I think 10:06 a.m. I'm not positive.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The economy, national service.
Q: He's not going to Camp David?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think so.
Q: What are these variety of things?
Q: Can you tell us, when the President made his remarks at Boeing about the European agreement for Airbus, was he suggesting that that is a bad agreement, number one, or that that agreement has been violated? Is that his example of unfair competition?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think the Airbus agreement is something, as Ambassador Kantor announced yesterday, that we're going to be looking into. He's going to have consultations on a variety of issues including exchange of information on direct and indirect supports for the civil aircraft industries, review of the information provided last July on government support commitments predating the agreement, and an update on any changes in those commitments, the prospects for future government supports for the development of new aircraft programs and an exchange of information on indirect supports in government equity and fusions. (Laughter.)
Q: He said spontaneously. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: In addition, the United States will press for progress including the multilateral disciplines in aircraft subsidies through renegotiation of the GATT code. And that was contemplated in the previous agreements.
Q: Does the President believe that the previous agreements were unfair to America or that America should create the same kind of structures?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President believes you have to take a hard look at the agreements, make sure that they're working as they should and that we can -- and he also believes that it's possible to improve them and to get more discipline in the agreements. And that's what Ambassador Kantor is going to be trying to do.
Q: But does he think that the existing agreement has given the Europeans an unfair advantage?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He thinks we need to look at the existing agreement, work with them, continue to monitor it and try to improve the discipline through renegotiation.
Q: Do you have a comment on the Bush recovery, and specifically, since economists did not predict such a strong fourth quarter GDP, whether or not that's causing you to reexamine any of your assumptions upon which the economic stimulus package is based, on the possibility that the economy is actually performing better than you think it is?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The economists didn't predict it because they didn't predict that Bill Clinton would win the presidency in November. And I think that, as you look at all the data, while it's not conclusive, it's clear that the confidence engendered by his election and the belief that he would take action to fix the economy did have an effect on the growth numbers in the fourth quarter. We're very pleased by that.
But that said, while we are very encouraged by the fourth-quarter growth numbers, we think that much more needs to be done. Job growth is still lagging behind the normal recoveries. We estimate that we'll have less than one percent job growth this year at the current pace. I think all of you are aware of Chairman Greenspan's comments this week, which said that the growth will probably not approach the levels of the fourth quarter this year. And we need to make sure that we follow through on the actions that the President committed to in his campaign, and we intend to do that. But there is a direction connection between his election, consumer confidence, lowering of interest rates, and the overall economic recovery.
Q: So you're taking credit for the fourth quarter?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We think that there is clearly an effect.
Q: What effect does this have on --
Q: How much credit does the Bush administration get, would you say? How much credit would you give the Bush administration?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, I'm not going to get into numbers.
Q: Seventy-five percent? Ten?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: What effect, if any, does this have on the stimulus package?
Q: doesn't care who gets the credit?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm sure he doesn't. (Laughter.)
Q: You do, right?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I do. (Laughter.)
Q: Does this cause any reassessment of the stimulus package?
Q: Can you tell me why Turkey's offer to participate in the airdrop in Eastern Bosnia was rejected?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're continuing consultations with our allies and others. The consultations will continue. We've rejected no offers.
Q: You say you've rejected not offers because the airdrops, of course, haven't begun yet and --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Airdrops haven't begun, the consultations are continuing, we're still working out the details.
Q: Do you expect other countries to participate?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. As I said, the consultations are continuing. We're still in lots of discussions, and we'll just have to wait and see.
Q: George, this thing's going to be over in a matter of days.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Really?
Q: Is it not?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going forward now. I don't think that we've made any definite decisions on timetable. We hope that it's a relatively short operation and an effective operation, but I don't think we've given out any information on the timetable.
Q: Has anyone offered?
Q: George, do you have any comment on --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We still believe there's a need for job-creating investments in the short and the long run, and we intend to continue to press forward on the investments the President's called for in summer Head Start, in summer jobs, in immunization, in the kinds of investments in repairing roads and bridges that will lead to real jobs.
Q: Is this an economic concern that in the fall this recovery may peter out, or is this just simply to address social needs that you feel were not addressed in the past?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We believe there is direct jobcreating benefits in this package. We also believe there are important social benefits like the Head Start and the immunization programs. At the same time, we must make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that this recovery stays on track and becomes a job-creating recovery instead of a jobless recovery.
Q: George, do you have any comment on Dr. Healey's resignation at NIH?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Dr. Healey has served her country well as the Director of the NIH. I know that Secretary Shalala has had a statement and I would refer you to that, but we will be moving immediately -- Secretary Shalala will be moving immediately to work with the scientific community and pick the best replacement for Dr. Healey.
Q: Was she asked to resign?
Q: George, Carla Hills, President Bush's trade negotiator, was very complimentary of the President's speech and basically she characterized it as continuing basically the same U.S. trade policies. Would you agree with that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if I would agree with the exact characterization, but the President is very pleased that Ambassador Hills saw much to be encouraged by in his speech. He is committed to an open trading system, to renegotiation of the -- to finishing the negotiations of the Uruguay Round and GATT, to getting a good NAFTA agreement, a good North American free trade agreement and we're committed to opening up foreign markets and expanding global trade.
Q: How would you say, though, you would differ from the Bush policy on trade?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know that the differences are important, we just know that we're going to follow through and get the best possible agreements we can in GATT and in NAFTA.
Q: Are you going to have a Diet Coke this weekend, George? (Laughter.) Are you going to take it easy and --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think I'll have a Diet Pepsi, maybe; I don't know about Diet Coke. (Laughter.)
Q: How many countries offered to help in the Bosnia --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have the exact numbers, but I know that we've had good consultations with a lot of countries and there have been some offers. But we continue those consultations.
Q: The question is on the table. Why are they being rejected?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, the President hasn't made any final decisions on any of these. The consultations continue.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Because we're still in discussions with a lot of countries.
Q: There's a story that Turkey, Germany and Pakistan were specific -- offers of help from them were specifically rejected because of their ties to the Serbs. Are you saying that that story is completely wrong?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm saying that the President hasn't made any final decisions. The consultations are continuing.
Q: Well, it's either wrong or it's right.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not necessarily, no.
Q: Would there be any reason why --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: If the discussions are continuing, the discussions are continuing.
Q: Well, then you're saying that they have not been rejected --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm saying they have not yet been made part of the operation.
Q: Why would the President reject an offer from any country?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We are trying to come forward with the best possible plan. And right now we're working on that. We're consulting with our allies to do that. And I don't think I should comment on the internal deliberations.
Q: Well, I think the American people ought to know whether they have decided to go it alone or not.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We have decided to continue our consultations and get the operation going as quickly as we can.
Q: But have you rejected these offers?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We are continuing to consult with all the nations who are interested in participating and who are interested in being part of this operation.
Q: George, is it out of the same concern, George --
Q: Can I ask two questions about administration statements on space station and supercollider? One, AP last night quoted an administration official as saying that you weren't going to pull the plug on these projects, but you basically didn't care if the Hill did. Is that the administration's position?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The administration's position is set forth in the documents that we sent to the Congress -- that we presented to the Congress after the President's speech last week. And what the President has said, and as he said quite clearly yesterday, that he supports the superconducting supercollider.
Q: And this morning on the Today Show, Vice President Gore said that while that is your position, you thought it was legitimate debate to hash back over these two projects. Do you think it is legitimate debate?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I expect there will be a debate in the Congress, and any debate in the Congress is legitimate.
Q: George, on the same subject, if you --
Q: any regrets there. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Legitimate. I didn't say we agree. (Laughter.)
Q: If Congress were to kill either the space station or the supercollider, would the President try to block those efforts?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to have -- that's a hypothetical question that I can't get into right now, but we're going to -- the President has presented his program to the Congress. He hopes the program is accepted.
Q: If you don't say we would veto it, it seems to invite the idea that you might not, which is --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's program speaks for itself right now. He has sent up a program to the Congress. He supports that program. He has traveled all across the country trying to build up support for that program and get it passed through the Congress as quickly as possible, and he intends to continue to do that.
Q: Ron Dellums sent a letter to the President on February 11th on Bosnia saying that he thought the War Powers Act required consultation between the President and Congress on anything he's contemplating involving the military. He said he's gotten no response to that. Do you agree with him that you were required to do this kind of consultation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We've been consulting quite closely with many members of Congress across-the-board, both Republicans and Democrats. We believe that we have the authority we need right now for this operation, but I don't know if he's received a letter in response and I'll check on it.
Q: George, why did you mislead us on McLarty's involvement in the Harold Ford case? Apparently he did meet with Jackson on the case.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that he met with Jackson. I said I didn't know whether or not it was discussed and I would get back to you.
Q: What was the matter for the discussion? And was McLarty the one who called Hubbell about it, because Hubbell doesn't seem to be able to remember?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't believe he was, but I know that -- I believe that Senator Jackson did bring up the matter. And he didn't -- I don't know if there was extensive discussion of it, but I believe he did bring it up.
Q: And what did McLarty do about that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not sure. I don't know that he did anything, beyond what I've said about what the White House involvement was -- to pass on the sense of all the inquiries we received to the Justice Department and tell them to handle it in the appropriate manner.
Q: Is it permissible under the guidelines, ethical guidelines of this administration for political operatives in the White House or a political liaison at the Justice Department, since Mr. Hubbell may be the legislative affairs director over there -- to be setting up meetings with the criminal division people over there about cases involving members of Congress -- the same people that are trying to lobby to get the President's package passed? Is that permissible --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It is appropriate for the White House Chief of Staff to pass on the nature of his conversations to the appropriate officials in the administration, and that's what we intend to continue to do.
Q: Has the increasing violence in Somalia forced the administration to reconsider troop withdrawal?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, at this point we expect to continue on our current timetable. We've always said that the ultimate withdrawal would depend on the situations on the ground. But we know that the situation has quieted down today to a certain degree, and we expect the transition to go as planned.
Q: Going back to the War Powers question for a minute, leaving aside the specifics of this particular operation, what is the administration's position with regard to the constitutionality of the War Powers Act?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President supports the War Powers Act.
Q: And does the President believe that he is bound in all cases, or does he believe that there are some situations that would justify acceptance --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'd prefer to get back to you on that. I don't want to get into a long philosophical discussion beyond saying that he does support the War Powers Act. He believes it's an appropriate act, and he intends to abide by it.
Q: was targeted as the possible site of the Yeltsin-Clinton summit? Any comment on that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm sorry, I missed the question.
Q: Canada has been reportedly listed as a possible site for the summit between Yeltsin and the President.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We have no decision yet.
Q: When would a decision be made?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Soon.
Q: George, when is the President going to stop saying that his critics aren't coming up with any additional spending cut ideas? The Federal Page in The Post today does a nice job of outlining a lot of what the critics are suggesting. And there have been -- Gramm and others have made proposals on the Hill. And yet he keeps saying, where are you spending cut ideas; send me your ideas, I'll listen to them. When is he going to stop saying that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We have looked at Senator Gramm's proposal, and I think, as the Democratic study group has pointed out, this would lead to a 33-percent across-the-board cut in every single government program, including agriculture and veterans and children's programs and health programs without regard to need. It provides for no investments in our future. It includes a phony cap which does not have specific cuts, does not outline the specific cuts, and it still comes up $55 billion short.
Q: Others are coming up with smaller -- much smaller kinds of spending cuts, and yet, it sounds like you reject them out of hand without taking the suggestions --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all. We're looking at every spending cut. And I'm certain the President will take a good look at the Federal Page today and we'll review every cut that comes in. And we intend to continue to do that, and if there are cuts that we feel can be done without hurting, without taking away any of our ability to fulfill the needs the government has to pursue, we will certainly accept them.
Q: Are there any suggestions from anyone over the past few days that he's taken on board?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll continue to look at them. I don't know that we've seen anything yet that we can take.
Q: George, does the President have any plans to travel to Arkansas next week?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't believe so, no.
Q: Is that a for sure?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, there are no plans for him to go to Arkansas right now. I can't rule it out forever. If he wants to go, he will go, but right now we have no plans. I don't believe so.
Q: What about that March of Dimes, or whatever -- the event Thursday night that he was thinking about going to?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, at this point, I don't believes he's planning to go.
Q: Has the President been in touch by phone with Nelson Mandela, let's say, during this week or the previous week?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of. If he is I'll get back to you, but I don't believe so.
Q: He spoke very warmly in his speech today of U.S.- China trade. As the situation now stands, is it his intention to go for -- MFN with China?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the President's position has been clear. He believes that we can go forward with renewal subject to conditions -- on improvements in human rights and respect for democracy in China.
Q: Essentially the same conditions that were in the House bill last year?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. Well, in the Senate. I don't want to get into the specifics, but basically, the approach set forward -- as he set forth in the campaign.
Q: Dole yesterday after blasting you on the floor --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It wasn't a blast.
Q: He said privately that he was disappointed that the President hasn't been willing to work with Republicans more. Is there anything in the future --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the President has had unprecedented -- shown an unprecedented willingness to work with the Republicans. He met with the Republican leadership twice before presenting his package, something that has not been done, to my knowledge, over the last decade.
Q: on the day of the actual delivery of the speech.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's more than his predecessors have done. And also once three weeks before that. At the same time he is going to the Hill next week to meet with Republicans in both the House and the Senate. And he wants to work with Republicans. As the President said, he wants to -- he really doesn't care who gets the blame and who gets the credit. He wants to get this done. And he intends to work with any Republican who is willing to come forward with a credible plan. He is looking forward to working with any Republicans or independents who have good ideas for how to improve the plan. And he will continue to seek that advice.
Q: What day is the luncheon?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Tuesday.
Q: What do you mean by more than his predecessors have done?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Neither -- as far as I know, neither Reagan or Bush met with Democratic leaders before the budgets.
Q: No, you're wrong.
Q: Is anyone in the administration advocating that we stay longer in Somalia and isn't it a question of good conscience whether we stay or leave at this point, with trucks being hijacked again?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, we believe --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is anybody in the administration arguing for us to stay longer in Somalia. We continue to believe that we can stay with the current timetable. As I said to Kathleen, we expect that the situation on the ground can have some effect, but the situation on the ground has been improving at least today. We will continue to monitor it.
Q: George, does the President believe that the War Powers Act applies in Somalia?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I don't know that it's been -- that there's been any petition from the Congress. I don't know that that was an issue that came up when President Bush sent the troops along. But we've had continual close consultations with the Congress.
Q: George, two quick ones. Just to make sure that I understood you at the top of the briefing, the subject of his radio address tomorrow is --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It will continue to be the economy and it will move into national service, I believe.
Q: Do you expect credit crunch action this coming week?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I hope so. We don't have a set date yet.
Q: Can you give us any details on the national service speech? Is he going to be repeating his campaign expressions for the need for national service, or is there a particular pilot project he's going to be talking about?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he will continue to express the philosophy of national service, the program that he envisions, but also probably have some more specifics on the summer program that he hopes to create with the stimulus package.
Q: Is this Rutgers project seen as a model?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Rutgers project is a very good project, yes.
Q: When the President said he'd like to see his economic plan substantially enacted by the Tokyo Summit, what does he honestly have in mind, as far as being in place by July? You're not talking about having a whole reconciliation --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we can clearly have the budget resolution passed and have several of the appropriations bills passed and be making good progress on the reconciliation bill, maybe even passage in one of the Houses. But I think the words do speak for themselves. We want to move on as quick a timetable as we can.
Q: George, I'm still not clear on the White House involvement in the Ford trial? What was the -- what were you trying to do there and what's the justification for?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The White House was receiving inquiries in Communications from several interested parties; we simply passed those along to the appropriate officials in the Justice Department to handle them.
Q: Who did? Who made the call to Hubbell? You have not said that all week. Who made the call?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe it came to from the Counsel's office, I do not know who the individual was.
Q: Was that Nussbaum or --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He is the Chief Counsel.
Q: And what again were they told?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They were told to handle this in the appropriate manner -- in the way that you would normally handle this and just passed along the information.
Q: This is going to be ongoing practice when members of Congress call up and are concerned about prosecutions in different instances, that it'll just go ahead and be passed on to Justice.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Through the normal channels.
Q: To who at Justice? The legislative affairs person? Hubbell?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, if the legislative affairs person is charged with dealing the Congress that would make sense.
Q: Was it appropriate to meet with Ford's attorney --
Q: Whoa, whoa, --
Q: not a legislative affairs -- I mean, this is a criminal prosecution.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He said the legislative affairs person. You just pass on the information and allow them to deal with it -- no direction.
Q: But the normal channels in a criminal prosecution case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The lower channels for a letter from a member of Congress is to go the legislative affairs person.
Q: Including cases involving where he is under indictment. You don't think it's a problem that that person then sits in on the meetings?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe --
Q: not bringing pressure on the criminal people?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As the Attorney General has said he handled this in the appropriate manner without any influence in that stance. At the same time, we did receive inquiries, we passed them along through proper channels.
Q: Was it appropriate to meet with the defense lawyer in this case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe that's common practice.
Q: Some people in the criminal division were rather upset about it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It's my understanding that that is a fairly common practice.
Q: George, I'm fascinated by your theory of the strong growth in the fourth quarter and relationship of the President's election to it. Since that time consumer confidence has taken a downturn. To what do attribute that? His inauguration or -- (laughter) -- what?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe there was a blip in consumer confidence. We hope it will go back in the positive direction. We've had consistent strong economic indicators since the President's election, whether you look at interest rates, factory orders. And we expect -- we're very encouraged by the growth.
Q: The third quarter wasn't so bad either. What do you attribute that to? High polls in showing he might get elected?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. And the third quarter growth was encouraging. At the same time, it was without appropriate job growth, which is still the President's major concern.
Q: George, will the health care reform package be rolled into the reconciliation bill? Is that the White House desire?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think there's been any final determination on that yet.
Q: Would you like that to happen?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I can't comment on the intention, I can just say this is one of the issues we're looking at.
Q: George, is there any concern within the White House, the Counsel's office, the Chief of Staff's office, the Oval Office, that there is at least the appearance of improper intervention --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not in the least. I mean, we were very, very careful about this. We were punctilious about all the communications. We passed it along through proper channels and made sure that it was handled in an appropriate manner. Not at all.
Q: So you don't think there's a need to insulate the Justice Department from contacts by the White House -- involves a political case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We believe it's important to insulate from any improper influence, and that's exactly what we tried to do.
Q: On that, just to make that clear, since this is apparently the first case, would you reveal the exact chain of contact in the Ford case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I will try to determine -- as I said, it came from the Counsel's office to the Justice Department, which is the appropriate channel. But I do not know the specific phone call or the specific communication.
Q: Why did it come here in the first place?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Because people called.
Q: But why would they call the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You'll have to ask them.
Q: How is this different from Senator Gore -- then Senator Gore's criticism of a call from Boyden Gray's office to the prosecutor in the B&L case in Atlanta -- which was widely criticized during the campaign by Democrats as an example of White House interference?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know the specifics of that case except to say that I think that there was some suggestion at that time that Boyden Gray's office was trying to influence the decision, and we were doing everything we could do avoid that. In fact, went out of our way to say, just handle this through the proper channels.
Q: At the time, Boyden Gray's office said that they had just inquired about the process. And leading Democrats, I believe including the now-Vice President, said that just a phone call from the White House was inappropriate in the middle of a prosecution, because that in and of itself signaled political influence.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, we went out of our way to make sure that this was handled through proper channels and we believe it was.
Q: So it's proper to come to the White House with a complaint about a federal criminal --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, I didn't say that. I said that you have to ask them about why they did --
Q: But -- said it's a proper channel, George. And if it's channeled through the White House--
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm saying that we passed it through the proper channels after people contacted us.
Q: But that's where I think the problem lies, is that you say we passed it through the proper channels. Wouldn't the proper channel be to go directly to the Justice Department and not through the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That is a question for the people who did it. Once we were faced with the situation of people making the contact, we simply passed it on to the appropriate people in the Justice Department.
Q: George, one of the problems is, is, one, we don't know the person yet -- know the person who did it at the White House. Secondly, the person who really was the key contact at the Justice Department, Mr. Hubbell, is not talking about this case at all. You've got a situation in the city where because of the events of the last week, the Mayor had to have a press conference yesterday to issue a call for calm to the citizens of both races. Now, I think it would be helpful if the White House made clear exactly what happened in this case, what was the motivation, and told the parties to come forward and make the information available.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And the motivation was to make sure it was handled properly, and we did everything we could to ensure that. And I will try and see if we have any other information.
Q: George, could you clarify why there was any need to pass on the information at all?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Because this was information relevant to the case. It was a contact we had, and we felt it was -- that it should just be passed on.
Q: Well, the pressure that you had to do something to support the defense --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It was the information -- it was information we received from people who came to the White House, and we simply passed it on.
Q: Why didn't you just say we don't deal with that; we don't deal with litigation? I mean, that's what a lot of people in the Congress say when they get pressured by the --; say we don't have any -- we're not going to get involved in litigation or an ongoing suit -- we don't do --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We simply passed it on and said to handle it through the proper channels, and that is appropriate.
Q: You don't think there's an appearance that the White House just happened to pass on something that it could have told the people who were approaching it, that isn't the way to go; go directly to Justice? Was that -- would that have been improper?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We made no commitments to the people who came to us and we simply passed on the information.
Q: in the passing on, you don't think there's an appearance of an interest or a --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, it's passing on with the explicit admonition to handle it through the proper channels.
Q: And who expressed that explicitly?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll try and discover that.
Q: George, if the White House acts as a conduit to pass on inquiries or opinions on the case, isn't there a danger that somebody at Justice could take that as an expression of White House interest or position on a case --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There clearly is a danger, which is why we were very clear in saying that we had no interest beyond handling it properly.
Q: Then why would you do it at all if there's a danger?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Because it was information that had to be passed on.
Q: Why did it have to be passed on?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Because it was information that people brought forward -- into the case. And we simply passed on the inquiries for appropriate answers.
Q: But, George, don't we think this information had already been brought to the Justice Department?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know.
Q: Who brought forward? Who all contacted the White House on this case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I am not -- I don't know all of the contacts.
Q: Do you know some?
Q: What was the information passed on --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe it's been reported that Reverend Jackson did. And I know that he met and had a brief conversation with Chief of Staff McLarty.
Q: What was the information that he wanted that was passed on?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know, just simply the -- whatever the communication was. I don't know the specific details.
Q: your previous guidance that he did not pass that information to Hillary Clinton still stand?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: George, Nussbaum issued a memo on February 22nd, I think it was, that described the proper chain of passing on communications to a variety of departments, including Justice. Can you describe what that memo says is the proper --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't have it in front of me, but I'll try and find out.
Q: Are you familiar with it? You would have received a copy of it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't remember it. I may have seen it. I don't remember it.
Q: Do you know whether the travel for political consultants is being paid by the DNC or the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm still trying to find that out.
Q: Is there going to be any other travel next week besides Rutgers?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of.
Q: What's the progress on getting us a list of White House staffers and their salaries?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Nothing yet.
Q: Do you have any estimated time that we might --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, it is -- when we're ready.
Q: Is there a plan for the President of Bosnia to be received at the White House this weekend?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe an invitation has been sent by Vice President Gore, but I don't know if there's any kind of resolution yet.
Q: Is it going to be Saturday or Sunday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know.
END 1:38 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269200