Press Briefing by George Stephanopoulos
The Briefing Room
12:36 P.M. EDT
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, the President is going to come out at 1:15 p.m. With your indulgence, I think what we'd like to do is have the President award the National Teacher's Award first and then have the teacher leave, or whatever, and then he'll make a statement on Waco and take a couple questions. So if we can just hold off going live and all that until that's done, it probably will work out a lot better.
Q: If you'll give us the time. That's the problem.
Q: We've got a two-minute warning problem.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, it is a problem. It's about 1:15 p.m.
Q: The teacher would walk off and then --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's -- I'm just trying to work this out here. I think that's the best way to handle it.
Q: Can I ask you a series of questions about the way the President handled the notifications yesterday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Sure.
Q: Did you, for instance, talk to the Justice Department about who would come out and discuss what had happened in Waco and whether it should be the Attorney General or the President?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Why don't we just take a step even farther back from that and look at the whole sequence of events on the contact between the Justice Department and the White House. As you know and as we've said, the President spoke with the Attorney General on Sunday, Sunday afternoon. They had a good discussion, about 15 minutes. The Attorney General informed the President of what she wanted to do. He raised no objections. Obviously, she had the implicit authority from the President to go forward. He raised no objections. She went forward. They had a discussion of a general nature about the incident.
Again, yesterday morning around 11:00 a.m., the President spoke with the Attorney General again. They had a brief discussion over what was happening in Waco. As you know, this was before the fire broke out at the compound. And I think that was why there was some -- just some confusion. I think that she was confusing in her minds before and after the fire, not the actual day when they spoke.
Then there was a number of contacts at a number of different levels in the White House yesterday afternoon between the Justice Department and the White House. They were informing us of
their decisions, what they would like to do. There was an FBI briefing in Waco. The Attorney General had her press conference. The President then issued a statement after that.
Frankly, yesterday afternoon, you know, there was a fair amount of confusion over exactly what was happening on the ground in Waco, and I think that we wanted to be very careful not to have the President say anything until we had a much better sense of what was actually happening on the ground. Once we were fairly clear on what was happening on the ground in Waco, the President issued a statement. He spoke with the Attorney General again yesterday evening.
Q: At what hour was that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It was quite late. I believe it was after he returned from the Holocaust Museum. He took a tour of the Holocaust Museum last night.
Q: And he went out to dinner.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe briefly. Yes, he went to dinner and then he spoke with the Attorney General last night. I don't know the exact time; I think it was relatively late. And he just said, I think as Dee Dee has reported, that he just wanted to tell her that he thought she handled a difficult situation very well, that she did a good job in a tough situation, and that she should try and get some sleep. He then, again, spoke with her this morning about the follow-up in Waco, and about what they're going to do this afternoon. As you know, the President will have an announcement to make at 1:15.
Q: Did he ever talk with Webb Hubbell yesterday, last night, or this morning?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to my knowledge, no.
Q: Was Webb Hubbell the point man for the White House?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Webb Hubbell is the general White House Liaison and several people talked to Webb. The Attorney General was running the operation.
Q: Did he tell her that she should sleep well, that she had done a good job? Or he just tell her that she should get some sleep?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think sleep well -- done a good job -- I don't know the exact words. I think that sounds right.
Q: I mean, sleep well has implications as to conscience and whether she should feel badly about it or not.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I mean, I think everybody feels badly when you have a situation when --
Q: I understand that, but whether the issue of blame is brought up in that phraseology.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's the spirit -- no, it has nothing to do with that. The spirit with which it was offered was that the entire administration and certainly the Attorney General had to face a very difficult decision, a very difficult situation yesterday. And that he thought that she had handled it well, as best as she could and --
Q: Well, does he think it was mishandled?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- it was just speaking of warm words to a friend.
Q: Does he think the situation was mishandled?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President --
Q: In retrospect?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President stands by the decisions of the law enforcement agencies, the decisions of the Attorney General. He accepts full responsibility. At the same time, I think that we all want to look to the future and figure out what exactly happened, do a full review, and make sure we do what we can to make sure this doesn't happen -- this kind of thing doesn't happen again, or at least we know how to handle it.
Q: How much did he know about what she was going to go ahead with? I know that she made the case to him -- explained -- outlined the case for action. Did she say to him on Sunday precisely what action?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think it was specific operational detail as to what was going to happen. I think that they had a general discussion about the action, about the advisability of action. I think, as she noted, he asked a few general questions just trying to get a sense of how things were considered. But it wasn't minute-by-minute detail of how the operation --
Q: Well, was it, "we are going in." Is it, "we're going to use tear gas"? I mean, what?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe it was that we want to go in and take some action that would increase the pressure on those in the compound, and hopefully spur them towards some sort of movement out.
Q: George, was there ever a conscious political decision made, or even a discussion about distancing the President from --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all. I mean, we were in close contact with the Justice Department. The President accepts responsibility for this. At the same time -- I mean, we just wanted to be very, very clear about how this happened and be as factual as we could be on how the decisions were made. It is the responsibility of those on the ground to make recommendations. The Attorney General has operational control over this. The President obviously accepts responsibility for all of this, and he stands by the Attorney General.
Q: George, there was a report on the television today -- and I don't know more than that -- one of the members of the cult had said going into a courthouse that the FBI had started the fire and not themselves. There was also a picture yesterday on the TV of a smashing into the building where the fire broke out. And my question is, is the White House absolutely certain that this fire was --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: All the evidence we have is that this fire was started by David Koresh and those inside the compound -- every bit of evidence we have.
Q: Did the President ask the Attorney General why do this now, why this particular date, and did he ask about possible consequences of either death or injury?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know the specific questions. He had general questions about how the decision was going about being made.
Q: Those are general questions and did he ask generally, why now?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he asked, have you considered all of the consequences; have you considered the recommendations? I don't know if he asked the question, "why now? " I don't know if he asked that specific question.
Q: Did she tell him why now in terms of the stuff that's come out since then about the information provided by the listening device about Koresh getting increasingly more violent?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I'm not certain how much specific detail they got into. I know that she generally said that this is the recommendation she's prepared to make, I mean, the decision she's prepared to make. It's based on the recommendations she was receiving from the field and after intensive questioning of those involved. Again, I do not know how precisely detailed it was beyond that.
Q: What is the President's understanding why yesterday? One of the people who went into the compound a couple weeks ago came out over the weekend with some speculation that he may have told law enforcement people something that precipitated this action. Why yesterday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: This is the first I've heard. I think what we can go to is what the FBI and the Attorney General has said. There were indications that those inside the compound were at some danger. It was clear that the negotiations had broken down and it was the judgment of the experts involved in the negotiations that the situation was not going to get any better at all.
There was also some concern over the vulnerability of the agents themselves who had been working long beyond the time that these teams normally have to work. And as the Attorney General has said, there was some concern over the fact that they did not have replacements in place who could stand in for them, and there was a concern over the safety.
All of these factors came into play. They also considered the advice of a number of psychologists and other experts on David Koresh and those in the compound. I would just go back to what the Attorney General has said. You have to make the best judgment you can, given the information you have at the time. They did. Obviously, we all regret the loss of life. It's a terribly unfortunate situation. We all wish it could have turned out differently, but that doesn't take away from the judgments that were made at the time.
Q: George, when did the President know that they were going to use tear gas? Was it before the assault on the compound?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just don't know. I don't believe he was given a lot of detail on exactly how the operation would go. I just don't know.
Q: Along that point, George, can you say whether the plan was presented to the President by the Attorney General as a way to end the standoff one way or the other yesterday?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it was presented as a way to increase the pressure on those in the compound and, we all hoped, as a way to move some of those out and bring it in -- it wasn't presented as tomorrow is D-Day, this is it.
Q: Is the President satisfied that, A, he had all this relevant information necessary to make a decision, and B, that Janet Reno had all the relevant information necessary to make a decision?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, I think he's satisfied that they were acting on the best advice and the best information they had, and he's not second-guessing it in any way whatsoever.
Q: George, was there a 12-hour gap between conversations between the President and the Attorney General? In other words, they spoke at 11:00 a.m. and they didn't speak again until Clinton got back from dinner at --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that's likely, yes.
Q: Did he call her? What time did she call? Was there a gap between when she called him? I mean, was he at dinner when she called and --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no, no. I think he called her last night. I couldn't swear to it, but I believe he called her last night. He just wanted to talk to her.
Q: what was going on?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not that I know of, no.
Q: What do you know about the situation now? Everyone has perished who -- except eight or nine? And do you know any of the other details?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know any more details than the FBI reported in Waco.
Q: watching CNN or how was he keeping track of what is going on? If he wasn't talking to his Attorney General, how was he keeping track of what was going on here? I mean, with all due respect to CNN, is that how he was doing it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. There was also -- as I said, several people in the White House were in constant contact with their counterparts at Justice to have the full and complete information.
Q: Who were those contacts? I mean, was it Mack McLarty, Webb Hubbell? How was the President being kept informed? That's not a --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I believe Mack was in contact with Webb. I spoke with several people at the Justice Department. I believe Bruce Lindsey spoke with people at the Justice Department. Either Bernie or Vince was also in contact at different times during the day with people at the Justice Department. We were fully briefed and fully informed.
Q: We were told this morning that the President may have spoken -- a chance that he may have spoken with Webb. Do you know if that's true or not?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think there's a chance he may have. I don't believe he did, but I think there's certainly a chance that he may have at some point. I don't believe he did. I think that the last contact he had during the day yesterday directly with
the Justice Department was the 11:00 a.m. phone call with the Attorney General. But the White House was fully informed on a minute-to-minute basis of what was happening in Waco and what was happening at the Justice Department.
Q: George, who decided that the briefing would be done by the Attorney General?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Attorney General.
Q: Did you or did the White House communications staff -- were you ever involved with that decision?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. We were told about it.
Q: Did you ask her to go on Nightline and MacNeilLehrer and all that stuff? Was that part of --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: there was no advice from the White House at all about her -- she was on all night, all day. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, and she did a very good job.
Q: Why did you decide to have the President's reaction to the situation be only a written statement, which is traditionally the White House's way of distancing the President from the issue, not having him appear as personally saying anything?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that wasn't the intent at all. As I said, we had to -- we wanted to wait until we had all of the information at hand. The President is also making a statement today. The President made a statement yesterday morning. The President has been fully involved --
Q: After this turned into less than a successful operation, the only statement from the President was what was on paper after the Attorney General had already given what amounted to the major facts in this.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it was the first statement from the President, not the only statement from the President, number one.
Q: After the --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Number two -- well, the first. Number two, the Attorney General --
Q: He gave a statement early in the morning when the thing was starting to move --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. And he gave one yesterday and he's giving one today. Now, the second point --
Q: It just happens this was a written statement with no sort of communications policy or thought process involved? It was the President wants to put out a written statement?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Knowing what we knew at the time, we thought it was appropriate for the President and he thought it was appropriate to put out a written statement expressing his regret and expressing his support for the Attorney General's --
Q: Why was it not appropriate for him to personally do something?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he did personally do so. That is his statement. It's a statement under his name.
Q: George, yesterday during the briefing you didn't say the President took full responsibility for what happened --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I certainly did.
Q: No, what you said was --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's just not right, Susan.
Q: Well, I think you can go back to the transcript, I mean, unless I miss something --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'd love to.
Q: Janet Reno said that she took full responsibility and you said that she made the decision, that the FBI --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And the President takes responsibility. Absolutely.
Q: Took responsibility -- all right.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Check the transcript.
Q: Considering how little was known about what was going on inside the compound and, even now, how little is known, why is Washington calling this a mass suicide?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think that knowing what we know now and given all of the actions of David Koresh before and during, it is painfully clear that those there were under his control.
Q: It's stretching it a little bit where the kids are concerned, though, isn't it, George?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that that is an entirely different matter. I mean, I think that David Koresh must bear responsibility for the deaths of those children, absolutely. But he clearly was intent on creating some kind of an apocalyptic incident, and that's what he did.
Q: You're still operating completely on assumption, right? I mean, you have no evidence, or you know of no evidence that this was mass suicide.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We have evidence that those inside the compound set fire to the compound, which led to the deaths of those inside.
Q: I didn't quite hear it. This might be Ann's question, I didn't quite hear it. But at what time did Clinton himself put out a statement on this? I know Dee Dee said some stuff on this at 6:00 p.m., but the President put out --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: At 6:35 p.m., 6:40 p.m.
Q: Right after the evening news went on the air?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, right when we had all the information. We were working on it.
Q: Dee Dee confirmed this morning that the investigation the President is going to announce is going to be an administration-run investigation. Why not have someone from the outside to make sure that it's not colored by those who would have a political stake, particularly those at the ATF whose actions have already been --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think that clearly the ATF and the Justice Department will bear responsibility for the investigation. That's not to rule out, as is often in investigations like this, having some sort of independent involvement as well. But it will be run by the Treasury and Justice.
Q: Are you confident that you will not have any problem getting --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely.
Q: George, did the President reach out to anybody else to get advice after the meeting with Janet Reno? And who else in the White House sat in on that meeting? Anyone else from Justice?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't believe anybody else was there at the time. It was a phone call on Monday, it wasn't a meeting.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Sunday. It was a phone call, it wasn't a meeting. I believe he might have been there with Bruce, but beyond that, I think he just talked to the Attorney General.
Q: George, you said that in that phone call, she said that we want to go in and take action, as you said, that will force him out. What did he think she was talking about? If he didn't know about tear gas, what exactly was his idea of what he was approving?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he was approving an action to increase the pressure on --
qQ: It didn't matter how she did that?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No, no. I mean --
Q: What information did he have in terms of how this would proceed? Presumably he would have wanted to know, not minuteby -minute, but in a general sense --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he knew that this was the recommendation of those on the ground and the recommendation of the law enforcement agencies. I just don't know --
Q: What is "this" -- when you say that "this" was the recommendation --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The action to increase pressure. I don't know exactly what he was told -- whether he was going to be told that the tank was going to go up to the left wall and punch a hole in the window, or whether he was just told generally that they were moving forward in a way that would increase the pressure. I just don't know.
Q: It's hard to imagine him not asking, though.
Q: that Janet Reno presented him with as her best advice about what they should go forward with, he would have agreed?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He was -- he did ask some general questions about the advice and recommendation he gave. At the same time -- and I would repeat -- that this was based on the unanimous recommendation of the law enforcement agencies involved.
Q: George, it would seem that this question about just exactly in what detail the President was informed about the nature of the operation is going to come up again here and elsewhere. Can you take that question and --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely. Yes.
Q: get the answer and come back to us with all of it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: Can you tell us that there was never a meeting -- a strategy session -- where you and others decided, we will put out a written statement from the President and we will have Janet Reno be on all of these television broadcasts?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Never. Never.
Q: And you never called the Justice Department and said to anyone or Janet Reno, "you're the one who needs to be out front explaining this"?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not once.
Q: It just happened that way that she was the spokesman, that no one ever saw Bill Sessions until --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: She made a decision as Attorney General that it was important for her as the operational officer in charge, as the person who made the decision, to go out and take the questions on this tragic incident.
Q: She had no guidance from the White House at all?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We certainly didn't object.
Q: But did you -- (laughter) -- no, I'm sure you didn't object, but did you suggest it? Was this a plan --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. Absolutely not.
Q: a strategy?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: Did she clear it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No.
Q: Did she notify you?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We certainly knew about it.
Q: What happened to this great detailed process you have for clearing and talking to every public information officer and every -- under every rock and every place in government that something as major as this could have occurred without a discussion between you and the public information people at least at the Justice Department?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Attorney General made the decision and the Attorney General wanted to go forward. It seemed like a good decision. It was a good decision. She did a good job.
Q: Let me ask it this way, George, if in hindsight how you would handle it?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it was handled very well.
Q: You wouldn't change a thing if --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Change what?
Q: The way the White House handled any part of it -- from start to finish.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think that's an awful broad question and we're certainly going to have a review. One of the reasons for the investigation is to look for ways in the future that something like this -- see what we can learn from an incident like this and see what we can learn about how to handle them. If you're talking specifically about the issue of the press conferences, no, there -- wouldn't make any change at all.
Q: Two questions: First of all, on her going on TV, no White House people or outside media consultants came up with this idea? It's just very reminiscent of what you guys did during the campaign.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How so?
Q: I'm thinking of like watching Clinton on Nightline after the draft story; watching Clinton on --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: There's absolutely no comparison. Yesterday there was a law enforcement incident. The incident ended in tragic deaths of many, many people. The Attorney General was involved in that decision. The Attorney General made the decision to do that. She felt it was her responsibility in the interest of public information to go out and take the questions of the press in order to make sure that all of the questions were answered, and she did a fantastic job.
Q: The second question is, did -- as someone who knows Clinton as well as you do, can you understand why it's sort of hard to believe that he might not have asked some detailed questions about what she intended to do? In other words, she came and she said, I'm going to put pressure on them. It's hard not to see Clinton, who's fairly intelligent and inquisitive, asking how.
Q: What kind?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Both the Attorney General said that he did ask questions, he did ask general questions. I don't have a minute-by-minute account of the conversation.
Q: How long a conversation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think it was about 15 minutes.
Q: Telephone conversation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: George, was the federal cost of this standoff ever a consideration in terms of stepping up the pressure --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't believe so, no.
Q: George, you keep saying that the President takes full responsibility, but then you refer to it as her decision. Does the President not accept the fact that as Commander-In-Chief, it is ultimately his decision?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know what this has to do with Commander-In-Chief. This was a law enforcement action, not a military action. And he clearly takes responsibility for the decisions of the law enforcement agencies involved taken in his government. I mean, I think there's just no ambiguity about that.
Q: But is he accepting it as his decision as well as hers, or is he saying it's her decision? There's a difference.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: As a matter of fact, it was her decision. He did not object to that decision. He clearly takes full responsibility.
Q: George, this briefing has gone on just a little over 15 minutes, and as you can see a lot of things can be exchanged. What exactly did they spend 15 minutes talking about if it was just very general? That's a long period of time in a phone conversation.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: It is an awful long phone conversation. It was a very important phone conversation. I think Brit has asked that we take the question, and I've said that I would.
Q: One of the things Reno said last night is that the buck stops here. I think that was her direct quotation. Does the President agree with that in this case?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The President says he accepts full responsibility. I think what the Attorney General was saying is that she made a decision, that she's going to accept all the responsibility that comes to her. And she's not shrinking from that at all, but neither is the President.
Q: At any point in the conversation last night between the President and the Attorney General or this morning, did she ever offer her a resignation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not to my knowledge.
Q: Even before the fire was out yesterday, there were some Republicans on Capitol Hill calling for an investigation. Is the White House at all concerned about the timing of those requests trying to make political hay out of this situation?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. And I don't want to cast any questions about the motives of those who are requesting investigation. We want an investigation, and we'll have a full and complete investigation.
Q: In what forum will you answer Brit's question? Will you put out a written statement? Will you -- the wires? How will you answer the question that you've taken?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm just not sure.
Q: George, can you remind us what the President was doing all yesterday afternoon, where he was, and what meetings he was involved in?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll have to try and remember. He had a series of meetings with different members of the staff during
the afternoon. He was certainly monitoring the situation in Waco and getting periodic reports on that as well. He did see some on CNN as well. I believe he saw a fair amount of the FBI press briefing as well.
Q: And those reports would have come to him from Mack McLarty, would they -- do you think?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Mack talked to him, Bruce talked to him, I talked to him.
Q: George, to follow Helen's question, in their conversation this morning did they discuss at all her statement last night in response to the question about whether she would resign? Did he say, I don't know why you felt the need to say that? I'm here to reassure you that you don't have to do this? Did that come up at all?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if it even came up that specifically. I know that the bulk of the conversation was discussing where do we go from here and what form the investigation --
Q: The didn't talk at all about her kind of remarkable comment last night about --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I believe she was asked a question.
Q: And her response was, if the President wants me to, I will.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Which would be, I think, the standard response that most Cabinet members would give. I mean, it's a conditional statement.
Q: have a need to talk about whether -- personally about whether the President wanted her --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know if they talked about it. I mean, what I learned about the conversation was that it was largely about the investigation itself. And this just didn't come up. I did not ask the question if they talked about --
Q: Will you take that with the Brit package?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Certainly. (Laughter.)
Q: George, for the record, does the President want her to resign? I know Dee Dee answered this morning --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely not. He supports Janet Reno. She's a good Attorney General. She's done a good job. She handled a difficult situation extremely well.
Q: George, does the President feel that he and Janet Reno were let down by the unanimous professional advice from the law enforcement experts on the ground?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: No. And the President is not second-guessing that decision and those recommendations in any way. That is not to say that he doesn't regret the loss of life. Everybody regrets the loss of life in this situation. But the best judgments were made in a difficult situation based on the best information we had.
Q: George, the 15-minute conversation was the one on Sunday, is that correct?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.
Q: How long was the one at 11:00 a.m. yesterday morning?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't know. I'll take that question, too.
Q: Were these outside experts that they were consulting with, or experts within the ATF and the FBI?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You'd have to ask them. I'm just not sure. I know that there were several experts.
Q: And also, why weren't there replacements for these people? Is the unit that small?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, I think it is a very small highly-specialized unit. But I think it's one of the kinds of things that the investigation will examine.
Q: George, isn't there a factor here involving the FBI Director? Normally, a president, when he wants to get information, doesn't only asks the Attorney General. I know the chain of command. But presidents talk to their FBI directors. In this case, throughout this entire siege, he has not felt that he could pick up the phone and talk to Bill Sessions, who is from Waco, and get expertise from him on what to do and what not to do?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he talked to the FBI Director well in the beginning of the situation when it first broke out in Waco. At the same time, the Attorney General bears the ultimate responsibility and he was getting fully briefed from the Attorney General.
Q: Don't you think the ambiguous situation that Director Sessions is in has some impact on the way the President is briefed and on the way that all of this evolved?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Not at all. I mean, it's perfectly appropriate that he be briefed by the Attorney General and that the Attorney General has supervisory authority over the FBI Director, and that's following the chain of command.
THE PRESS: Thank you .
END 1:03 P.M. EDT
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/269308