Press Briefing by Mike McCurry
The Briefing Room
1:15 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom spoke by phone today for 22 minutes and had a wonderfully comfortable chat.
Q: What about? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Good, you took my bait. No, the Prime Minister has just returned to London from a successful trip to Moscow and meetings with President Yeltsin and the Prime Minister wanted to take the opportunity to brief the President on his trip. And they exchanged views on relations of the West with the Russian Federation and they then had an opportunity to discuss the status of the Northern Ireland peace process.
The President, in turn, told the Prime Minister about his very successful meeting with David Trimble form the Ulster Unionist Party earlier this week. I think both of them agreed that it is very important that there be no return to violence by any party. And they discussed in general the good feeling that exists with the resumption of the talks in Stormont. They reviewed some other regional issues and wished each other well.
Q: Argentina wants the President to intercede with Britain on the Falklands issue. Did that come up today in the conversation?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that that issue arose in this conversation. We'll see if we can find out any more on that. Maybe NSC can do some more on that.
Q: What's your reaction to Attorney General Reno's statements about being very disappointed about the tapes?
MR. MCCURRY: It's easy to understand and easy to agree with.
Q: Well, wait a minute.
Q: What did the President think about it?
Q: Has the President spoken with the Attorney General about the issue?
MR. MCCURRY: He did not, no. She has talked -- she has, as she indicated, spoken to Mr. Ruff.
Q: The two of them have not spoken at all about this?
MR. MCCURRY: They did not speak about that matter when she was here earlier today.
Q: They would have had opportunities, surely, but they were seated not next to one another --
MR. MCCURRY: They were there together, but my understanding is they did not discuss the investigation.
Q: Has he said anything about how he feels about her anger?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he did yesterday. He conveyed his own views yesterday.
Q: Can you tell us about the conversation between Ruff and Reno? Has Ruff offered an apology to Reno in the same way he did to Senator Thompson?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that I would leave it to Mr. Ruff to address it. I believe he said that he did when he was speaking with reporters up on the Hill when he was there the other day. I'm not absolutely certain of that, but I can check with him.
Q: Mike, are there any plans that Clinton and Reno will talk later on today, will discuss --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any, no.
Q: Mike, she didn't seem to be upset with Ruff, per se; she said there were procedures in place, how to be contacted, how the stuff was to be turned over. Is she angry, or do you get the sense that it's a problem with how Breuer handled this whole event?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe if I'm not mistaken she's addressed herself to those issues. I wouldn't want to try to interpret what she's already said to reporters over at Justice.
Q: Does the White House think that Breuer mishandled this notification of the tapes --
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President made clear what the White House thinks yesterday.
Q: Has the President talked with the Attorney General over the past several days?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that they have discussed this matter.
Q: Have they talked?
MR. MCCURRY: They talked today; she was here. They had a visit, they had a good announcement at the Top Cops grants, they're working together to protect kids from gun violence.
Q: How often do they talk in general about --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know how often they talk. I know the Attorney General is here at least once a week, meets with Mr. Ruff and I'm sure does talk to the President from time to time.
Q: Reno had described the relationship with the White House as somewhat strained. How would you characterize that?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't see that. I 'm not aware that she said that.
Q: Well, how can the White House work with the Justice Department if the Attorney General says she's mad at the White House and that the relationship, as you heard, is strained?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I get -- you get mad at me and I get mad at you from time to time, and we work together reasonably well.
Q: We don't run the Justice Department.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't' think that's hard to imagine. Yes.
Q: When is the next batch of videotapes going to be released?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that -- I mean, I think more importantly, when will they be produced to those who have subpoenaed them. The Counsel's Office is working hard to produce them, and I don't anticipate that happening any time real soon just because they've got to go through quite a volume of material to see what is responsive to the request.
Q: Does that mean, Mike, that they have the material in hand, and they're screening it or they're still looking for material?
MR. MCCURRY: I think they're still looking, if my understanding is correct.
Q: Are those the originals?
MR. MCCURRY: You should refer those questions to Mr. Davis. They can tell you more about the status.
Q: Do you if anyone besides Lanny Breuer is going before the Grand Jury?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't tell you who all has gone before the Grand Jury. I have no way of knowing that. You'd have to pose that question to the Justice Department.
Q: Do you know if WHCA, in any way, has been called?
MR. MCCURRY: You should, again -- it's a question that I can't answer for you. You really should pose that to the Justice Department.
Q: Also, another issue she addressed were the calls by some of her critics on the Hill to quit, and she said she's listening to those calls. What do you have to say about that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- again, I'm not -- I didn't see -- I saw the statement that she issued. I'm not aware that she said what you say that she said.
Q: -- ask her what she said --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I haven't had an opportunity to review that statement, so I don't want to comment on it.
Q: Well, what about the general calls that she quit?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that they come from people who are partisan inclined, and I think the Attorney General had a very eloquent response to those partisan charges today.
Q: Do you want her to stay on?
MR. MCCURRY: Sure, I do. (Laughter.)
Q: How about the President. Does he want her to stay on?
Q: Mike, outside, about 100 Afghanistan demonstrators are demonstrating against the U.S. -- Pakistan -- what they are saying is that --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, our assessment of human rights in Afghanistan is very consistent with what was reported in the most recent review of human rights situations around the world by the State Department. We share the assessment that they've made, there is great concern we have vis a vis the Taliban. We think there have been cases of abuse that were documented quite well in the State Department's survey, but I would refer you for further comment over to the State Department.
Q: So what they are saying in the U.S. and Pakistan they're interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, and they should not --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of anything that would make that an accurate judgment.
Q: On global warming and the treaty, the notion seems to be afloat out there that the administration would support a treaty that lets China out of it. Is that the case and is that formulating?
MR. MCCURRY: That is not the case. We have stressed and the President has said in his U.N. speech and we've said repeatedly that the developing world needs to be part of an international regime. It's quite easy to imagine that those robust economies that are developing well -- India being one, China being another -- could easily overtake some industrialized nations halfway through the next century should there not be any way in which we could agree together as an international community on how to control greenhouse gas emissions. So that's why we have stressed the importance of including in the developing world.
You all are aware of the Senate's recent resolution on that subject, which we acknowledge was an important statement of thinking here in the United States, and we are certainly going to pursue our own objectives in the negotiations consistent with the view that this needs to be a truly international regime.
Q: A follow-up. Are you concerned or do you have a way to address the fact that that notion seems to be out there primarily as the result of an advertising campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I mean, this advertising campaign already has a U.N. treaty about to be signed that is, of course, not true. It has already got predictions about what the impact will be on consumers. We have not resolved how we will approach even some of the fundamental questions of how we would address aspects of greenhouse gas emission. So I think it's accurate to say it's a very misleading campaign because it leaves a listener or a viewer with the impression that there has already been an international convention reached.
We would do our best to negotiate the kind of agreement the President has talked about, one that achieves certain results with binding targets, but with enough flexibility and implementation so we can assure that the American consumer doesn't pay an inordinate price.
Q: Is the President still committed to a cap or a limit on greenhouse gas emission, a flat cap that emerges from this treaty?
MR. MCCURRY: We've suggested that there should be binding targets that are reachable, that can be achievable, and that the implementation in reaching those targets should be flexible enough that countries can do things like we do here when it comes to controlling emissions of acid rain-causing pollutants.
Q: So you don't support an escape clause if it looks closer to the date that the targets --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, we're a long ways away from getting that substantive in how we address these questions because we will first address them with those that we have to reach an agreement with.
Q: That was going to be my next question. Do you know what's the timetable for developing a White House position on it?
MR. MCCURRY: Just as it was indicated to you by Mr. Berger here the other day, I believe, that we expect to work this issue in advance of the meetings in Bonn October 20th and make some -- whatever statement we make, if any, will be closer to the time of that meeting.
Q: Do you have a hard date to announce on the China summit?
MR. MCCURRY: Can I say that it's October 29th? Okay, it's October 29th.
MR. MCCURRY: You're welcome. There are other aspects of the visit of President Jiang Zemin here to the United States. We, of course, will refer to the Chinese Embassy or to the People's Republic because it's more proper for them to officially announce the President's schedule. But it has been widely reported that the state visit will be here on October 29th and the President very much looks forward to greeting President Jiang Zemin on that day -- said more diplomatically.
Q: Is it just a day of meetings?
MR. MCCURRY: Day of meetings and a night of a state dinner -- Ann, does he have --
MS. LUZZATTO: There is something with the Vice President, a statement --
MR. MCCURRY: The following day. There will be -- he will have additional meetings. The meetings here are on October 29th. He, of course, will have additional meetings while he's here in Washington with State Department and presumably others, too.
Q: Mike, what is the White House going to -- nomination of Mr. Kennard and Bill Lann Lee as well?
MR. MCCURRY: They're two separate cases. In the case of Mr. Kennard, we welcome the support he's gotten from the committee. We believe that he is very effectively addressing any concerns that individual senators may have, and we hope and expect that he will be confirmed very shortly by the Senate.
In the case of Mr. Lee, we are not aware of any opposition to the nomination in the Senate. He has a hearing scheduled on October 22nd, and the administration similarly looks forward to his speedy confirmation.
Q: -- on Kennard, Helms was causing a little bit of problem, according to reports. Has the White House talked to Helms?
MR. MCCURRY: I think it would be more appropriate for me to leave it to Senator Helms to address his own attitude on the nomination. My understanding is that Mr. Kennard has worked hard to address the concerns individual senators have, and I expect that he has worked hard to address any concerns that Senator Helms might have.
Q: What was the administration prepared to do if the gun manufacturers had not agreed today to the -- had not agreed to this voluntary lock?
MR. MCCURRY: As you know, the President, in the State of the Union speech said he would favor legislation that would mandate such an approach. We had already taken the step of, through executive action, making that a requirement for the purchase of federal firearms, and the President of course favored it and would have worked for legislation that would have mandated such devices.
Q: Does that mean that he no longer thinks that legislation is necessary or there was some --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it isn't now. I mean, we have 80 percent of the guns and perhaps even more -- I think once this becomes a market standard, I think it will be difficult for this not to become the rule.
Q: Just to follow up, there wasn't a -- also being pushed to not only mandate to have some kind of standards -- the quality or how these safety devices should work?
MR. MCCURRY: I think as we've seen in other cases, that when industries step forward and voluntarily do these things, the ease of implementation is greater, the likelihood of litigation over rule-making or regulation is less, and you get the job done. I think we had a decision by the private sector to step forward today and say they're going to get the job done, and I think the President welcomes that.
Q: This legislation is still sitting in committee. Is the White House going to pull it or --
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have the capacity to pull legislation sitting in committee.
Q: Well, in effect, are you going to tell them, don't bother?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's our view that the industry's step forward today made a commitment to do this. I think that -- we, of course, will expect full implementation of that and don't have any reason to think that won't happen.
Q: There's a gun control group out there that says that this is like the original cigarette deal in that it appears to benefit society, but instead it more benefits -- the manufacturers than what might otherwise appear because now there will never be legislation which mandates it for all.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, did they say that?
Q: They did.
MR. MCCURRY: That sounds like sour grapes. (Laughter.)
Q: Is that all you want to say about that?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, we think a good thing happened here today. Don't try to turn it into something bad. It was something good.
Q: Mike, is the federal government going to get involved in gun safety efforts, education efforts? For example, --
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's very important -- you're correct -- it's very important for people who possess and purchase firearms to be well-equipped to know how to use them. There are a number of ways in which you can get good qualified training in marksmanship, in gun safety, and of course, we applaud the efforts of those individual citizens who do that. That's a responsible thing to do.
Q: Is the federal government going to contribute to that effort, however?
MR. MCCURRY: We may very well. Maybe someone can check around.
Q: What forces do you think were brought to bear on the companies to agree to this? And was one of them, do you think that they thought that there was an inevitability that there would be a mandate?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that they may have thought the President of the United States had been using the bully pulpit effectively to make the case that this was something that needed to happen. Two, I think the fact that the President implemented an executive order that required this for federal firearms probably affected the marketing of weapons and may have made it more desirable for manufacturers to include child safety devices. And I think the likelihood of legislation or some mandate was probably apparent. So, a combination of things, no doubt.
Q: Were local police departments also bringing the same sort of pressure to bear?
MR. MCCURRY: I would have to check --
Q: As far as what they were buying.
MR. MCCURRY: I would ask you ask Mr. Emanuel that question. Rahm did a good job working with the industry and reaching this announcement today. And it may well have been that's the case, but I don't know that for a fact.
Q: Was he pretty much the point man in all --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q: I mean, he was the one putting the pressure on them?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he talked to them and they found that they had more ground in common than they might have imagined otherwise.
Q: Let me ask you one other question on this. Have you done any studies of the requirement that the President made that federal officers be provided with these to show how much they're being used, considering that the gun locks cannot be used on loaded weapons?
MR. MCCURRY: Have we done any studies? Well, I can tell you that by next week sometime, October 15, the President's order was to be implemented and it was going to be successfully implemented, so we will be in a position to announce by October 15 that this is now -- this requirement is now in place for the purchase of federal firearms. And, anecdotally, I think we have got some stories about how this has been an effective thing to have happen. But there are some stories that point out, obviously, the number of injuries that occur to children. I think it's something like -- one study said 1,500 a year where kids are injured because of gun violence, usually through accidental firing.
Q: Mike, back on the Attorney General for a minute. What are the concerns here about the effect of the delay in notification to the Justice Department of the existence of these videotapes and their delivery on her credibility with Congress and with the public? I think that goes to the heart of what she's angry about.
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I'm not going to try to read her mind. She's spoken her mind very clearly, and I'm not going to try to make guesses about what the impacts of things are that you will, no doubt, report to your own interpretation, anyhow.
Q: Well, I'm asking for you interpretation. Is there a concern here at the White House about --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't' have one. I don't have one to share. I just -- I don't have an assessment to share with you on that.
Q: Mike, can you -- on the timing of the release of more videotapes, can you help me understand this -- you guys find out about the original batch on a Wednesday and are able to turn them over on a Saturday with a holiday in between, so two or three days. Now, you say -- like Lanny has said, we know there are more videotapes of private dinners and that sort of thing, so --
MR. MCCURRY: We've got to go through -- let's look at it -- I'll help you understand this. You all, when the pool attends the fundraising dinners that the President attends, you all are there. You all know what it takes to kind of go back and clock through whatever archival videotape you have eon that. The White House Television crews have generally gone in with your crews to those kinds of events, and those all are presumably responsive to the subpoena requests. So they've got to go through, just as you would, going back and looking at you file tape, go through all that file tape, figure out which events are responsive, which ones aren't. And that process takes time. And they've got a bunch of good, hard-working young lawyers who are doing the work, and as soon as they get it together and are satisfied they've got it -- imagine what happens if we say, here's what we got, we got it, we'll get it to you as fast as we can, and then you guys will turn around and hammer us if it's not complete. So we've got to get it complete. We've got to get it fast. We've got to get it to the people who ask for it, and then we've got to make a decisions about whether we give it to you. I don't know when that's going to happen.
Q: So just to follow up --
MR. MCCURRY: I can't help you any more than that. That's about all I can tell you.
Q: Just to follow up --I mean, a decision, though, has been made, we're not going to release these any more than the 44 on a piecemeal basis. We're going to try to compile all of them --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have to compile all of them. They are under subpoena. We are going to produce them. The President has ordered that they be produced. So they've got to get that work done. I don't -- what else can I tell you?
Q: Back to Reno, Mike. Would the President like the Attorney General to stay on?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has got enormous confidence and faith in her and she's doing a great job.
Q: And has he talked with her specifically about the videotapes since --
MR. MCCURRY: He, for what reasons you can well imagine, has not to my knowledge discussed the status of her investigation with her.
Q: Is there any sense that in the original request for everyone to search their records that WHCA screwed up in not coming up with these --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, you guys are going through ground that you know I'm not going to brief you on. You have all been briefed in abundant detail already by Mr. Breuer, by Mr. Davis on this. I'm a dry hole for you on the subject.
Q: Is WHCA still filming fundraisers and events that take place in the --
MR. MCCURRY: Sure, they do what they do. They were there today, they were there at five events yesterday. They will not be there -- they're actually -- they're doing the feed. You know, they help us get the feed for the event that's going to happen tonight.
Q: But we were only at four yesterday.
Q: He didn't speak at one of them. He just went in and said hello.
MR. MCCURRY: One of them was just a drop-by and there was no speaking portion.
Q: But WHCA was in and we weren't.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they do -- there's lots of events they are at and do archival -- they've done the archival thing of the meeting we had with the fast track people today. That's what they do.
Q: Can you talk about the meeting and --
MR. MCCURRY: It's still going on now, so I can't. And, obviously, the President wanted to make a case for fast track negotiating authority, and we'll leave it to individual members to describe how persuasive he was, and I'm not going to list who was there. We'll let them decide if they want to list themselves.
Q: The last question on handguns. You said they found more common ground than they were expected to find. What about the anomaly of that picture that we saw today? Is that the extent of common ground that can be found between these parties in these issues?
MR. MCCURRY: It's an important one. I don't know the full range of issues that that particular association might have an interest in. It's hard for me to know what other issues that they might have an interest in pending before the federal government. On this one, there was a way to work together, the outcome was a positive one for the children of America, and I think the President appropriately applauded the work that was done.
Q: On handguns, is it the hope of the White House that people that purchase guns for, say, security purposes, that they use these locks?
MR. MCCURRY: Is it our hope that they use them?
Q: Well, if you buy it to protect yourself. Because the gun manufacturers outside said that they would consider a gun that you buy for your own security if you want to protect yourself from a prowler would be considered in use and suggest you keep it loaded in your home without these locks.
MR. MCCURRY: It is a free country and individual consumers can do with the devices what they wish. Some may not have children and may not be worried about someone using it. Everyone will use it as they see fit, but we would hope in protecting children that the devices be used when they're in situations in which children, especially small children, are in the same house.
Q: Mike, are we going to get an announcement on IRS review boards tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: If that's tomorrow's news, we will make that tomorrow. (Laughter.) I think the Treasury Department's already been inviting people to briefings, so that would give you some sense that something is imminent.
Q: There is an announcement later today by Speaker Gingrich and others endorsing a proposal to end the marriage tax penalty, and I just wondered if that's something the administration might embrace and find it --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe we'll be making announcements on the marriage tax penalty anytime soon.
Q: What's your position on --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think -- I think we've looked at a number of ideas for making the Tax Code more effective. I think that's an idea that has got some support on Capitol Hill. It's been examined by Treasury. I don't believe it's ever been included in any tax proposal we've made to Congress. I 'm not aware that it's currently part of the thinking of anyone who's preparing a tax bill, but ask Treasury.
Q: Have the Republicans and their proposal on the review board's management oversight put you on the spot on this subject?
MR. MCCURRY: In part, sure. But, also, it builds on work that we've already done. We've had -- the President had asked the Vice President a month ago to look at the question of how we can make the IRS more effective. We've been working on this, as you've heard from the Treasury Secretary and the folks at the IRS for some time, and I think that there are some ways that the President feels we can build on that work, make the IRS more accountable, make it more efficient in doing the important work it has to do.
Q: Is it just that you can't afford the $18 billion cost of eliminating the marriage penalty?
MR. MCCURRY: On the marriage penalty I think I already answered that question.
Q: No, you said you were put on the spot.
MR. MCCURRY: I was talking about IRS. No, no, no. We were talking about IRS reform. That's a different question.
Q: -- if the marriage penalty proposal puts you on the spot?
MR. MCCURRY: No that I am aware of.
Q: You tell officials complaining on Monday the President essentially line-item-vetoed the Olympic Village for the 2002 Olympics by not realizing that -- that moving some army reserve facilities was tied to that?
MR. MCCURRY: If I'm not mistaken, I think we realize what the impact was. This was not the place in that bill to accomplish whatever value is associated with that project. We've acknowledged that many of these projects were worthy, but the President had pretty carefully drawn criteria that had to be applied. There are other ways to deal with that issue. We've already been in contact with Utah officials and are working out ways in which we might be able to proceed with the project that will preserve facilities that are necessary for the Olympics.
Q: Didn't you realize that it was tied to the Olympics?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe so, but you should ask Mr. Haas at the OMB that question.
Q: There are a couple of GOP lawmakers going on the road to scrap the I.R. code.
MR. MCCURRY: They can't decide, even amongst themselves, what they want to do with it, so good luck.
Q: Do you think it's an exercise in futility to be going out --
MR. MCCURRY: I think it's an exercise in futility to have a good debate of which you can't agree on what the solution is. And so they got kind of either-or, and it shows one of the complexities of dealing with massive rewrites of the tax code. I think most Americans, when they hear the whole tax code is going to be rewriting and it's going to come out better for them, are somewhat dubious -- properly so, no doubt.
Q: Mike, when the deadline on line item veto comes up next week for defense and I think a couple of other bills, how will -- do you anticipate there will be some announcements to make, and how will you --
MR. MCCURRY: We are examining it. I don't think it's fair to anticipate one way or another what the President will do with respect to that.
Q: But he can do the line item veto even if he's in South America?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he can. But I know that they're working hard on that. They're working hard on that issue.
Q: He may try to do it before he leaves, you're saying?
MR. MCCURRY: He's working hard on it, and we'll see.
Q: Can you just explain exactly what Jesse Jackson is going to do in Africa, and is he going to be paid for this position?
MR. MCCURRY: He has an uncompensated post as a special government employee, an SGE, which allows him to work for a certain quantity of days per annum -- I think it's 60 days per annum. His role as special envoy to both the Secretary of State and the President will allow him to pursue our interests in democratic reform, human rights, and the strengthening of democratic institutions on the African continent. He will work in tandem with the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in figuring out how best to use his time and resources. And the President thinks he can make a wonderful, valuable contribution to the extraordinary change occurring in Africa.
Q: What does the President think Mr. Jackson, Mike, brings to this job that diplomats and people who have been assigned to it for years --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he brings enormous enthusiasm. He brings a great deal of experience, because he has traveled frequently and was just there not long ago on behalf of -- in part, on behalf of work that our government was doing. He, as our statement said -- Ann's handing me -- yesterday -- he's traveled widely both throughout Africa. He was a co-leader of the presidential mission to the African-American Summit in Zimbabwe -- that's what I was thinking of. And he also led a team of observers to the 1994 elections in South Africa.
He has a long interest in a range of matters in Africa. He has been both a spiritual and moral force for the kind of progress that is so exciting in Africa. And, of course, as you know, we're anticipating a presidential trip to Africa in 1998. And, no doubt, he'll be in a position to contribute a lot of good thinking, ideas, wisdom to the President as the President prepares for that journey.
Q: How long has this position been under discussion?
MR. MCCURRY: Gee, I heard about it a couple months ago. The President and Reverend Jackson have talked from time to time about it, and it was important, I think, to make sure that Secretary of State Albright, Sandy Berger, followed up with it so that they actually structured something that would be sensible and that everyone would agree would be useful and purposeful.
Q: Mike, yesterday the Secretary of State issued 30 names of international terrorist organizations carrying out international terrorist activities. Do you have any comment on that report? And also, are there more groups internationally carrying out terrorist activities?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think over at the State Department yesterday they gave a good assessment of why those under the statute were the 30 groups that were listed. The President himself had a statement yesterday, as you know, that applauded the work the State Department had done in compliance with the statute and noted the importance of specific targeting of those organizations that are involved in terrorist activities -- important for the American people to know who they are so that their support in whatever fashion for organizations like that ceases and desists.
Q: -- the White House's position on partial-birth abortion has been sent out of the House?
MR. MCCURRY: Our position is amply well-known to every member of the Congress. The President will veto legislation that doesn't include that very narrow exception for the rare cases in which a woman's health must be protected, as the President indicated in the letter he sent to Congressman Hoyer yesterday. It is unfortunate that the Congress does not take the President up on the offer to write a bipartisan support, bipartisan measure that will include the very narrowly-tailored exception the President wants so that he can sign a bill that he is willing to sign, and it leads one to believe that someone, somewhere, is more interested in partisan political gain than in addressing what is fundamentally a question of moral conscience.
Q: Mike, the top Sudanese official reported there was a military base in Eritrea that was set up by the CIA, manned by Israeli defense forces, and it was a point of operation for military operations in --
MR. MCCURRY: Have you been on the Internet again or something, crawling around on it?
Q: The Washington Post.
MR. MCCURRY: That's got so many improbable ideas on it, I don't think I can comment on that in any event.
Q: Could you clarify --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I won't clarify anything.
Q: Not on this particular issue, but could you clarify --
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not going to comment.
Q: -- administration position on the situation in Sudan -- there was a peace process --
MR. MCCURRY: It's an awful situation in Sudan and we're refer you to the NSC. They can tell you about some of the diplomatic efforts we have under way.
Q: Since Secretary Daley was not able to sign the deal with the Chinese to buy the Boeing jets, will that come up at the bilateral?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we have a very strong interest in putting the merits and the capabilities of the U.S. aerospace industry forward. We think Boeing, among other companies, has got a lot to offer around the world. We hope the People's Republic, as it considers future purchases, will think kindly on some of the aspects that Boeing has presented, and we'll see what happens. Wouldn't rule that out.
Q: I came to say "thank you." (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Not soon enough. (Laughter.) Do you want to try again?
Q: Can you say anything about Sandy Berger's meeting with Liu Huaqiu?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he had a very good meeting with his counterpart, Liu Huaqiu. They are meeting both -- I think they met yesterday and today -- today and tomorrow -- as they did recently in Beijing when Mr. Berger went there to assess the full range of aspects of our bilateral relationship, to exchange views on the coming state visit of the two Presidents, to talk in deeper detail about both the agenda and the logistics for the meetings the two Presidents will have.
Q: What's the President doing this afternoon, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know, what -- goofing around? What's he doing?
MR. LOCKHART: Outdoor exercise.
MR. MCCURRY: Out, out. Oh. But I should tell you, he just called retiring University of North Carolina Tarheels basketball coach Dean Smith, and told him, "There is nobody like you -- not just because you won all those games, but the way you did it. We respect you and admire you so much." And, yes, Mr. Erskine Bowles was present for the occasion, too, as you might well expect.
Q: Other than the possible IRS thing, is there anything else tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: What else is going on? Yes, I say, nothing else is going on, and then the Counsel's Office says, oh, we've got all these tapes we want to pass out today. (Laughter.) No, no, no. No, I don't believe that's going to happen tomorrow.
Q: Nothing tomorrow except for maybe IRS?
MR. MCCURRY: That's all I know of.
Q: Line item veto tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of that moving that quickly, no.
Q: Aren't they going to be working on domestic affairs while he's on his trip? Will he be able to?
MR. MCCURRY: He will be doing this -- he will do considerable work on this trip to communicate to the American people the importance of having negotiating authority that will open up markets, open up economic opportunities for the American people in many of those countries that he is visiting, or at least to expand the universe of trade that contributes to the economic strength of the United States and is reflected in the strengthen of the market in countries like those that he will visit.
So part of this trip will serve the purpose of reminding the American people of how important free trade is in the global economy and how important it is to the people of the United States. I think it's a perfect example of an observation the President often makes that the distinction in the global, interdependent world between domestic policy and foreign policy begins to disappear. That's the truth of the times in which we live, that that distinction that domestic policies over here, foreign policies over there is less relevant in a global, interdependent economy.
How do you like that? Don't ruin it and ask another question. (Laughter.)
Q: Can I try again on the terrorist organizations? How much role do you think the White House played preparing the report, because many groups, including the IRA and -- are not on the list and they are carrying out terrorist activities?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you mention the IRA in particular, Mr. Rubin at the State Department addressed that yesterday. We took an assessment of the fact that a cease-fire is in place. It has been acknowledged and the British government has assessed it to be permanent and expects it to be permanent and we do, too.
But as to the assessment of other groups that were either included on the list or not included on the list, I refer you to the briefing that they did at State yesterday.
Q: Mike, the Thompson Committee is now saying they want the tapes by 6:00 p.m. tomorrow.
MR. MCCURRY: Ask them to send us 50 or 60 lawyers to come down here and work with our people to get it maybe -- I don't know. Go ask the Counsel's Office whether they can comply. I've been told it's going to be, as a practical matter, very difficult to do. I think if there was a way to do it, they would want to do it. But they'll have to do it in due course, do it in a timely way and do it in a way I told you earlier that doesn't open us to the charge that we get yelled at all the time for dribbing and drabbing information out -- and we're not going to do something piecemeal. We've got to do it in a responsive way. We've got to do it in a timely way. But it's hard work. It's not like it's all sitting in a closet somewhere and you just go open up and there it is.
Q: Why isn't it --
MR. MCCURRY: Because there are hours and hours of tape. These guys run --
Q: Are they screening them?
MR. MCCURRY: They have to find out what's responsive to the request. And there are hours and hours of these tapes and I presume that they've got to look at it all.
Q: Where does this stuff go, to the Presidential Library when it's all done, or does it get --
MR. MCCURRY: It goes to the National Archives for what is called courtesy archiving. From time to time we make some of those tapes available, if a group wants to get a copy of a speech that the President has given or something. And then they are turned over, ultimately, to the Presidential Library. You can see some of the Reagan tapes, the Bush tapes -- or you can go to the Reagan Presidential Library and they've got some of those on file.
Q: Why not just give them everything? I mean, why not let them sort through it and say, here's the archives, here it is, you find what you want -- and then you know you've given them everything?
MR. MCCURRY: Because there have been things archived there that the President has a perfect right, if they're not responsive to the subpoena, the President has a perfect right to protect, under law, under the Presidential Records Act has a right to protect.
Q: All this stuff WHCA shoots, who owns that? Is that the President's or is that the property of the United States of America?
MR. MCCURRY: I don' know whether it's -- it's covered by the Presidential Records Act, and they are considered, for purposes of the act, the presidential record. They are deposited, as I indicated, to the archive. They're ultimately transferred to whatever repository exists for presidential records beyond the term of the President. Usually, I think that within five years after the end of a President's term, those records are made available, unless the ex-President requests -- they are FOIA-able -- and if the ex-President requests that they be kept confidential, they can be kept confidential for an additional seven years. So 12 years later, they then become releasable.
MR. TOIV: There are certain exceptions to the FOIA.
MR. MCCURRY: There's a whole -- we've got some background on the act, if you want to look at it.
Q: Yes, I 'd like to. Do you know where the storage facility is where these lawyers are going through logs and tapes?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know, no. Do not know.
Q: Could you take the question?
MR. MCCURRY: I think I will refer you to Mr. -- I mean, look, all the questions you're asking me most of your news organizations have already asked of Mr. Breuer and Mr. Davis, so you need to check in with your colleagues, who have actually been covering the stuff on the Hill.
END 1:55 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Mike McCurry Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/270590