Press Briefing by Mike McCurry
The Briefing Room
1:14 P.M. EDT
Q: So tell us about this modeling job.
MR. MCCURRY: You want to know about that?
Q: Yes, we do.
Q: Centerfold. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the guy who took the pictures apparently is now the guy who is the big Calvin Klein -- those of you watching on C-SPAN, this is not the real briefing, this is what we call the pre-briefing. Yes, it was a guy who now is the Calvin Klein -- they came down to the Princeton campus one day in the summer of 1976 when I thought I was going to be a reporter. And I was sitting in the university's press office waiting to actually talk to the guy who ran communications. And this photographer who's famous, whose name I should know, came in and said, well, we envision a whole series of photos, back-to-school fashions involving real-life situations with students, maybe -- even someone like him. (Laughter.)
So I spent a day with this guy seeing how you do -- they paid me $200. I had $200 worth of beer money in the spring semester of my senior year, which made me one popular hombre, let me tell you. (Laughter.) It was great fun. It was actually great fun. And it came out in September, and that was the end of that.
Q: Has that shaped your political convictions, that there is a free lunch -- that there is a Santa Claus?
MR. MCCURRY: I decided -- there is a Santa Clause. But as everyone would quickly say, given what has happened to me since, given to my appearance, it's good that I found a good daytime job to earn gainful employment.
So that's that story.
Q: You call this gainful employment?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. It was fun. You get paid to have fun.
All right, let's go. This is the official briefing of the White House. My name is Mike McCurry. I stand here regularly, five days a week to be pummeled to death. (Laughter.) And we shall proceed with questions -- the first coming from Mr. Wolf Blitzer of the Cable News Network.
Good afternoon, Mr. Blitzer.
Q: Good afternoon. Thank you so much. This letter that Abner Mikva has written to employees saying whatever he said, are you going to release a copy of this letter?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I am told the following by the Legal Counsel, that this constitutes legal advice that has been rendered by the Legal Counsel to departments and agencies. So, for that reason, the Press Office will not disseminate this as an official document. However, should any of you find yourselves unable to acquire a copy of this, please do let one of our helpful assistants here know and maybe they can be helpful. I don't know. Maybe they can, maybe they can't.
Now, a couple of things on this letter. Some of you are interested in this letter. It is a routine practice for White House legal counsels to provide a legal opinion on the effects of the Hatch Act to relevant federal agencies and departments, as did one Fred Fielding, Counsel to the President, on February 14, 1984; as did --
Q: Which said?
MR. MCCURRY: -- C. Boyden Gray, November 15, 1991, for both President Reagan and President Bush. Now, what the purpose of very similar letters in all three instances was to advise departments and agencies of the implications of the Hatch Act -- what employees can do and what they cannot do under interpretations of the act.
Now, Judge Mikva's letter does reflect the changes that were made in the statute in 1993. And in both the cases of President Reagan and President Bush's legal counsels, they noted with great disdain the fact that the law at that time raised grave constitutional concerns. As Mr. Gray wrote, he's wrote "I regret that this advice may inhibit federal employees from the full exercise of their First Amendment rights, so there was a great deal of concern about that. But as you know, Congress did change the law in 1993, and the memo that Judge Mikva sent properly to federal departments and agencies reflects those changes in the law.
Q: Because of the change in the law, is there any concern here that there's, therefore, a new atmosphere in which the proverbial appearance problem, finders will find an appearance problem with the suggestion that because this comes from the White House at this time under the change circumstances, it would appear to carry with it a suggestion, however intended, or however unintended, that now is the time to contribute, folks?
MR. MCCURRY: Given the wording of the memo, I strongly doubt that that interpretation would arise, because, among other things -- and Judge Mikva's memo to the Cabinet agencies notes that in most circumstances, federal employees may not knowingly solicit, accept or receive a political contribution. So it's very clear from the wording of the memo itself that there are certain restrictions on the ability to solicit contributions.
Q: But those questions have have already arisen.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they've arisen from those who are critical of the changes made in the act in 1993. The Legal Counsel is not in any position other than to provide authoritative legal advice to department agencies and to Cabinet officers about interpretation of law.
Q: What was the dissemination of the document once it was dispatched from here? I assume you had a relatively limited --to fairly senior employees and was not -- you didn't pay for the government with it.
MR. MCCURRY: It is actually addressed to heads of all agencies and departments, and it comes in response, I am told, from some requests from legal counsels at agencies saying we need some official interpretation.
Q: How long a mailing list?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I believe that's the narrow group of individuals -- agencies and departments. And it is cc'd by the way, to the general counsels of agencies and departments, so it clearly is intended to give legal advice directly to counsels at each of the agencies.
Q: Can we have the letter?
Q: Why was this done by the White House Counsel's Office? We've been told many times from that podium that the White House Counsel supplies legal advice to the Office of the President. And why was this not done by the Office of Government Ethics, for example?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as I say, in this case, the precedent is that the Office of White House Legal Counsel provides to the department heads and agencies the rendering of this advice. This does reflect advice that is given about what is proper under the law related to political activity, and I think it is appropriate, therefore, that it come from the White House Legal Counsel.
Q: Consider that the Fielding, Boyden Gray letters said you cannot contribute to a presidential campaign, and the Mikva letter --
MR. MCCURRY: Begrudgingly said that --
Q: said that you cannot contribute to a presidential campaign, and the Mikva letter said you can contribute to a presidential campaign. Doesn't the White House consider that intimidating and/or --
MR. MCCURRY: No --
Q: -- did you have any discussions as to whether or not it would be construed as by someone receiving that from "the boss," the White House, that they maybe should contribute as to --
MR. MCCURRY: I doubt that any head of an agency or head of a department, or a general counsel for any of those entities would find a legal memo from the White House Legal Counsel threatening and intimidating. I think they would find it helpful as they attempt to help their own employees understand what they are allowed and not allowed to do under the law, which was precisely the intent of the memo.
Now, again, you correctly point out there is a difference in the memos, but I want to make it very clear, that reflects the changes in the law made in 1993. Congress addressed --
Q: I know, but doesn't that create new circumstances under which new appearances can be created? That's the whole premise here, isn't it?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it made some changes; it, frankly, left some things standing -- the prohibitions on political activities in federal buildings, the reminder that federal employees may not conduct certain types of activity while they are at work. All of these are very carefully noted in Judge Mikva's memo.
Q: What's the President's involvement now in the NATO strikes? Has he been getting reports?
MR. MCCURRY: He's been getting regular updates from the National Security Advisor on the status of the operation that's been conducted by the NATO, and as you know, the President welcomed the air strikes and statement that he issued earlier today, and said he hopes that this will encourage the parties to honor the obligations that they have had imposed on them by the United Nations, and move quickly to some type of reconciliation and move to a peace process that can bring an end to the conflict.
Q: Did he have advance warning?
MR. MCCURRY: We all had advance warning, because General Smith, the UNPROFOR Commander in Bosnia made it very clear what type of ultimatum existed on both parties, and that was very publicly issued, and no one had any doubt that that was a serious ultimatum.
Q: That was the only advance warning the President had?
MR. MCCURRY: That was the public indicator given, and obviously NATO was involved with the planning for exercises, and the President was aware of those plans.
Q: Was this a one-shot deal, or is it a policy now? I mean, is it just going to be one time?
MR. MCCURRY: Admiral Leighton Smith, who is NATO's Southern Commander, has indicated that he hopes this will serve as a signal that both the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian government, especially the Bosnian Serbs, need to comply with the restrictions that exist within the exclusion zone around Sarajevo. He made it very clear, though, that we'll be watching to see what type of compliance there is with the edicts of the U.N. as we go forward in the hours ahead.
Q: Mike, I just didn't get a clear answer to my question. Was there some separate information the President got right before the raid went forward?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, there was a great deal of planning that went into this, as with most military exercises, and as a participant in the strike today and as the leader within NATO, we are well-apprised of the plans that they had underway, and the President --
Q: What caused the change of heart? The President's remarks?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President --
Q: because they've been resisting this -- less than a week ago, didn't they?
MR. MCCURRY: The United Nations Commander on the ground made the judgment that there was a change in the circumstances on the ground, and you're all aware of the heavy shelling that's occurred of civilians in Sarajevo in recent days. Now, that, I would imagine, had some impact on his decision-making, but this has been a subject that has been discussed often in recent days at the U.N. within the Security Council, as Ambassador Albright reported over the last several days.
Q: But has there been a change in U.N. policy, or the U.N.'s attitude toward the use of air strikes? Because, if not, why should the Serbs believe you? Because the pattern from the United Nations has been to ignore Serb violations as much as possible and retaliate very seldomly, and only when pushed way beyond the limit.
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that today's action speaks for itself, and the requirements of the Bosnian Serbs to take measures immediately to comply with the exclusion zone ordered around Sarajevo ought to be now very clear, and the statements of Admiral Smith are clear, the statements that have been made by the UNPROFOR Commander are very clear, too.
Q: Do you have any enhanced capability, however, to carry out any actions on your own or with the agreement of the NATO allies without Mr. Akashi's permission?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, NATO is well-equipped under the arrangements that exist through the dual -- well-equipped to respond to requests coming from the United Nations via UNPROFOR.
Q: Mr. Akashi has turned down almost every request.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there's a long history here that you're well aware of.
Q: Beyond the President's public statements in recent days on this issue, was the U.S. working or pressuring U.N. officials to accede to air strikes?
MR. MCCURRY: As I indicated, it's a matter that's been under discussion at the United Nations as Ambassador Albright has said publicly.
Q: What happens if the Bosnian Serbs don't return the four artillery pieces to the storage facilities in the weapons exclusion zone?
MR. MCCURRY: They have been ordered to comply with the exclusion zone that exists around Sarajevo. I'm not going to speculate about any additional action, but I believe that the United Nations and NATO have demonstrated their determination today to see that those exclusion orders are complied with.
Q: Do you know if they have received any advance warning on the target itself, like last time, like last year?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. You'd have to relay that question to UNPROFOR commanders in Sarajevo or Zagreb.
Q: The Serb leader has called the U.N. forces the enemy as a result of this bombing.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm aware that there have been some initial reactions from Pale, but I'm not in a position to respond to those. I think the actions speak louder than words in this case.
Q: Different subject? The Senate appears headed toward passing a budget resolution this afternoon. Where does the White House stand on a counter-budget proposal today?
MR. MCCURRY: A counter-budget proposal is one that the President will develop in discussions with members of the Congress and the Republican majority in the weeks ahead. The Senate is not finishing work on this measure today. The Senate, likely, as you well know, will pass a budget resolution that is significantly in conflict with what has passed in the House. The first thing that must happen now is for House Republicans and Senate Republicans to decide whether or not they're going to give massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, because, at the moment, we have a strong dispute. We've got Republicans in the House, Republicans in the Senate going in diametrically opposite directions, and so we are prepared to engage with Republicans in the Congress to develop counter budget proposals, and those will occur once we have some clarity from the Congress about what the budget resolution will look like. We don't know at this point what's going to be in the budget resolution.
Q: Can you say, though, whether the White House has decided that it will, in fact, come up with a counter budget proposal?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has decided that he will be offering alternative suggestions to the Congress as we develop a budget, and those suggestions might take a variety of forms as we go through that negotiation.
Q: So you're not anticipating one large counter budget proposal?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule that out.
Q: Mike, Senator Conrad and a bunch of other Democratic senators have now put forward a plan that balances the budget by 2004, just one year short of the President's goal of 10 years, and it includes $228 billion of cuts in corporate subsidies and some other things, and it meets his criteria on almost all counts in terms of Medicare cuts and education programs. What does he think of that?
MR. MCCURRY: We're aware of the alternative, looking carefully at it, and we will be offering suggestions of our own as we go ahead.
Q: To Senator Conrad you're going to be offering the suggestions?
MR. MCCURRY: No, suggestions to those what we will negotiate with in the Congress, and Senator Conrad and other Democratic Senators, I'm sure will be a part of this discussion.
Q: As this process goes forward, the legislation that would pass as it would achieve this budget that the majority is mapping out up there would be mostly in the form of appropriations or authorization bills.
MR. MCCURRY: Or a reconciliation bill.
Q: Right. What is the President's leverage in trying to protect federal departments that he may believe in from being closed down? I mean, it wouldn't seem that a veto would work very well, because if you veto a bill, you get no money. So, doesn't his situation with regard to the veto change from the one that's now present with regard to the rescissions bill, for example?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, just a general observation -- I don't know if I can answer the question specifically -- but unlike the debate over budget resolutions where the President does not have a veto, as we move into the appropriations process and the reconciliation process, the President does have a veto. I think it markedly changes the leverage the White House will have as we move into these negotiations. I think the Congress is well aware of that. And as to the abolition of specific departments, the veto power of the President might be an inducement to the Congress to rethink some of the plans that the President considers very much ill-considered.
Q: May I take it that he considers the proposal to abolish any and all of those three departments that the House and/or Senate have identified as bad ideas?
MR. MCCURRY: The administration has indicated they are bad ideas in the testimony that we've given and the administration policies that we've enunciated on the Hill.
Q: I know, but they might become pork any day now --
Q: You may not know the answer to this, but if I can throw it out and get an answer later -- what would be the practical effect if the President's veto stands and the Republicans do not come back and pass the emergency appropriations for Oklahoma City, California, et cetera? Are there federal accounts that will be depleted, or will people in those locations actually not get money?
MR. MCCURRY: No. My understanding in the case of FEMA and the disaster assistance, they will be able to handled the immediate needs that they've got. The problem will be if they suddenly face additional disasters. The flooding in the Midwest, as you know, has been of great concern to many of us here, and should there be additional disaster needs, we might run into a problem.
I think they'll be fine in the near-term, but in the long-term we will need to have some type of relief, and ultimately, even the disaster assistance for California, which is ongoing, will need to be backed by sufficient appropriations. The President certainly hopes and expects that the Congress, once it returns, following his veto will want to sit down very quickly and address some of the problems that have existed in the legislation and finally passed by Congress, and move on to a measure that the President can sign.
Q: But the comments up on Capitol Hill about the President telling the people of Oklahoma City why they won't get their money are not valid?
MR. MCCURRY: They are not. They are overextended rhetoric on the part of some on Capitol Hill.
Q: Mike, isn't it true that most of the money relating to Oklahoma relates to rebuilding the federal building and not immediate disaster stuff in Oklahoma?
MR. MCCURRY: It is correct in the case of Oklahoma City. I was thinking more specifically of California and FEMA's work in California.
Q: He was asking about statements made, i.e., the people of Oklahoma, and you said they're overdrawn. Why are they overdrawn if the money is --
MR. MCCURRY: I was saying their disaster assistance provided by FEMA -- I believe some of it for Oklahoma City, but the bulk of it, we're talking about, is for California. And those accounts are sufficient in the short term, but in the long term, especially, if they face additional need there may be accounts that are overdrawn.
Q: Mike, are you saying that the White House is not having conversations at this point with Democrats on the Hill that are beginning to offer these counter budgets, that you're going to wait as long as you're going to wait, talking with the Republicans and their --
MR. MCCURRY: We've been in regular contact with Democrats on the Hill, we've had a number of them here to meet with the President just last week, and have a very good understanding of their strategy, and I think they have a better understanding of our strategy as a result of those conversations.
Q: Are you welcoming, then, their efforts, or do you think there have been premature? Because you pointed out that the President has a certain calendar, a certain timing strategy. Are you happy with their timing --
MR. MCCURRY: We certainly understand and respect those individual Democrats in the Senate that would want to effect this debate by offering amendments on the current resolution, offering alternative plans. We understand precisely why they are entering into that debate, just as the President will enter into the debate as well.
Q: These are plans that met the President's criteria that he's laid out. Is it the timing that you object to?
MR. MCCURRY: You are making a judgment on the Conrad alternative that we have not made.
Q: A separate point. Senator Hatfield said this morning after the passing of the rescissions package that he was afraid that if it is vetoed, that they'll need Democratic votes to pass any revised version. Has the President coordinated his approach on this measure sufficiently with Democratic leaders on the Hill that he will be able to deliver some votes? That's normally the way it works when you do a deal like this. Has he got anybody with him on this, or is he a lone gunman with a veto pen?
MR. MCCURRY: No, if there's a willingness on the part of Republicans in the Congress to come forward and develop the type of deficit reduction measure that the President has called for, we're confident that we'll be able to generate support on the Democratic side that will be sufficient to see that type of measure passed.
Q: Well, understood, but there's obviously a likelihood -- what Hatfield said was the revised bill is likely going to lose some Republican votes. The question arises --
MR. MCCURRY: So they need to pick up Democrats.
Q: so they need to pick up Democrats. Is the President prepared for this? Has he talked through this? Is there anything going on here, or is it just making it up as you go along here?
MR. MCCURRY: I won't point to any specific counts or judgments, but I think the expectation is that we could work with the Republican chairs of the appropriations committees and the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate to develop a package, and if some Republicans peeled off that bill I think we'd have sufficient assistance on the Democratic side to get final passage, provided, of course, that they move in the direction that the President has indicated they must move to protect some of these efforts that are important to people, and to trim some of the spending that we could do without.
Q: How concerned are you that the debt relief for Jordan which if it's vetoed now will not be included in a new package after the veto?
MR. MCCURRY: Given its importance to the Middle East peace process, which got a nudge forward yesterday in the announcement you all know Secretary Christopher made, we would expect that support for that very necessary element of the peace process would continue to be a high priority by the Congress.
Q: Mike, does the President favor repeal of the War Powers Act, and would that make the foreign policy bill more palatable to him?
MR. MCCURRY: You're asking a -- that question arises, I imagine, with respect to the Hyde amendment that he's going to offer on this?
Q: I believe the Speaker has also tried to tempt you.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. Well, like previous administrations, we've objected to provisions of the War Powers resolution on both policy grounds and legal grounds. We believe it's not provided an effective vehicle for the type of cooperation that must exist between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch concerning both the deployment of U.S. forces and the protection of our vital national strategic interests. And as we indicated last May, we are willing to consider making changes to the War Powers resolution. We've had an active dialogue with Congress on exactly that point.
Q: Does that mean you're interested in seeing it repealed?
MR. MCCURRY: I said what I just said.
Q: I understand, Mike, but that's not clear. When you talk about repeal -- are you saying that you only want it to be revised?
MR. MCCURRY: I said that we are willing to consider making changes to the War Powers resolution. And we set forward in testimony that we'd be happy to try to track down for you of a variety of views on it.
Q: I understand that, but all I'm asking you is can you -- and if you can't, just say I can't -- clarify the position as to whether that means that you do not favor its repeal, but merely its revision?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, its repeal is consistent with objectives that the Executive has had for some time. We're making it clear that we're willing to consider changes so that we can enter into the type of productive dialogue with Congress that might get a War Powers Act that is sufficient to the interests of the Executive. (Laughter.)
Q: Do you understand that, Brit? (Laughter.)
Q: When will the veto occur --
Q: You can take the boy out of the State Department -- (laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I think I got away with that. Okay. We'll talk.
Q: When will the veto occur? When do you expect the President will veto the rescissions bill?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we imagine that the congressional leadership is confident enough to send us that final passed conference report rather quickly, so that we can send it right back to them with the very strong views of the President.
Q: Meaning a date -- tomorrow, next week?
MR. MCCURRY: As to the competency of the new congressional leadership, you'll have to ask them as to their timing.
Q: Have you done any planning on how the President wants to send this message -- a major ceremony with lots of talk?
Q: A cruise missile.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to speculate on that, but obviously, he will make a statement, a veto statement accordingly. In what form that takes will depend in part about when we get the conference report.
Q: New subject. Why was there no interaction between the President and Gerry Adams?
MR. MCCURRY: Why was there -- was there any interaction?
Ms. GLYNN: I didn't even see him.
MR. MCCURRY: My beautiful deputy who was there didn't see him there.
Q: He didn't go all the way down to where Adams was.
MR. MCCURRY: There were a lot of people. There were a number of political leaders there, and obviously the President did not have time to greet them all.
Q: Mike, what are your expectations on the Senate Committee vote on Dr. Foster tomorrow? What is the White House handicap on this?
MR. MCCURRY: We're at a point now where I don't think it is useful for me to handicap. The Committee will act accordingly. I'd just say that we very much appreciate the work that Chairman Kassebaum did to give Dr. Foster a fair hearing within the Committee, and exactly was we predicted happened. Dr. Foster, through a very graceful and very eloquent presentation, turned a lot of opinions around, and because of that, we are very hopeful. We're hopeful not only that he will be approved by the Committee for full Senate consideration, but that he will ultimately win confirmation in the Senate.
Q: Do you think it will be reported out with approval, or just --
MR. MCCURRY: Just no point in predicting now because it will happen soon enough.
Q: Do you expect Kassebaum to vote for it?
MR. MCCURRY: You can ask her just as easily as I can.
Q: Is the President working the phones on this today?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has been -- we've been working very closely with a variety of people in Congress. I'm not certain whether or not the President has called anyone individually.
Q: Is the President going to Ireland? There's a story in The Globe today that he's going to Ireland.
MR. MCCURRY: The White House is actively discussing with the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland possible dates for a trip by the President. The President very much looks forward to accepting an invitation that would allow him to go to both the United Kingdom and to the Republic of Ireland, perhaps even as early as sometime later this year.
Q: Would he be skipping London on this trip as well? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I doubt it.
Q: Is the President disappointed with Sinn Fein's slow pace at decommissioning arms?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we continue to believe that an active dialogue on decommissioning is important and we recognize that now that there's been at least an informal exchange, at a ministerial level, that a dialogue is now engaged. We hope that dialogue will lead rapidly to decommissioning of weapons.
Q: Are you trying to signify some impatience this week in how you deal with Adams?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if I'm correct or not -- correct me if I'm not right, but I believe the President addressed that in his remarks, specifically, and called for a more active dialogue that could lead to decommissioning of weapons as a necessary ingredient of the evolution of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Q: He talked about all paramilitaries, and he has more of an investment in the Sinn Fein side. And I was just wondering if he was feeling disappointed that they're dragging their feet.
MR. MCCURRY: Disappointment is not a word, but hopeful is the word I would use, that they will continue both their dialogue and move to concrete steps that will begin to change the nature of the peace there.
Q: Is it true that the administration asked the British for suggestions for attendees at this conference -- got suggestions, did not invite any of the people on the list and then found the British angry and to some extent, in need of being talked into coming themselves?
MR. MCCURRY: Have not heard anything that would suggest that's true. But maybe someone can follow up here.
Q: It's sort of a three-part deal. The last part doesn't have to be true for the rest of it to work.
MR. MCCURRY: To the contrary, most of what I had heard indicated that the discussion that occurred with the Embassy here had been very helpful and that there was a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the British government about the conference. I would be surprised if it's otherwise.
Q: Does the President's trip depend on true peace in Northern Ireland?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it's largely a question of scheduling.
Q: Like what time? Fall?
MR. MCCURRY: Coordinating the schedules that would exist, probably late fall, perhaps early winter.
Q: Would he go to Belfast or --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, I'm not going to speculate on itinerary until we announce a trip.
Q: I'd like to ask another question on the Mikva letter. You were clear in saying that the letter went to agency heads and general counsels. The bottom line of the letter says your cooperation in disseminating this advice is greatly appreciated. Was there, or is there, any recommendation to those department heads not to intimidate, or not to make it sound as if you were seeking money or whatever they might be --
MR. MCCURRY: Look, this is -- it ought to be obvious that by sending a memo to heads of agencies and departments and to general counsels, we are rendering advice that they can then pass along to their employees as they see fit. And as I indicated earlier, in part this memo is sent because of inquiries that come from the agencies about how were are interpreting the statute as it was amended in 1993.
Now, as a sometime political operative, I'll tell you the following: If you want to raise money, this ain't the way to do it. There are ways in which you would have direct mail solicitations, other types of raising money, and it's very clear that this is a proper effort by the legal counsel to provide legal advice to departmental executives who are in charge with passing on that type of legal opinion to employees if they ask.
Q: Well, do you know if they disseminated the actual copies of the letter to lower-echelon employees?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no idea. Call some of the heads of the agencies, departments and general counsels who got it and see how they did it.
Q: Mike, since you opened the door, is the campaign doing any of the other things it would do? Is it doing personal solicitations of heavy hitters among the sub-cabinet?
MR. MCCURRY: The work that they are doing now to raise money -- my understanding is it is focused on direct mail efforts and some of the large ticket events that they've been planning on behalf of the Clinton-Gore committee, which will occur later this year. I'm not aware of any effort to reach out specifically to political appointees or people like that.
Q: Are there any categories of political appointees that you would foreswear soliciting for --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not the right person -- I can take that question and see if anyone who's running the fund raising operation over there has got any particular plan in that area.
Q: For the last two re-election years, the counsel has established procedures in the White House governing how White House employees would engage in the campaign, which included, for example, separate phone lines, fax lines, space, et cetera, et cetera, for people working in the White House who were regularly in contact with the campaign.
MR. MCCURRY: Right.
Q: Have you done something similar?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I fully expect we'll have similar types of arrangements that will allow us -- in the previous administrations this was done especially so proper accounting could be made of any expenditures here at the White House that were deemed political in nature. There have been a lot of discussions, many of us at the assistant to the President level have been briefed on the requirements that we will have legally to make sure that we comply fully with the law. And we've advised our employees accordingly that they'll need to take steps as we go into the re-election cycle to properly segment expenditures.
So I expect there will be number of those types of changes. They are already doing things connected with the President's travel to comply fully with federal statutes. And the Office of White House Legal Counsel has been very persistent in reminding White House staff of their requirements under the law.
Q: Can you tell us any more of what those are? Boyden Gray, for example, made public an 18-page memo outlining some of the things they did there.
MR. MCCURRY: I'll put that on my plate and deal with that at greater length tomorrow. I don't think it's -- it's not a time-sensitive question, but it is something I can look into and get more answers on.
Q: In terms of war powers, since this legislation -- the law came as a result of the Vietnam War, do you think the President should report and request troops -- permission to use troops from Congress, or should they just be free-wheeling to go in anywhere they want to go?
MR. MCCURRY: This President, while sharing many of the concerns executives have had historically about the War Powers Act has also gone to greater lengths than the previous commanders-inchief to consult closely with Congress on troop deployments and on the use of U.S. force overseas. I would expect that to continue, and I would expect no change in the determination of the Clinton administration to consult very closely with Congress, especially when matters of national security are involved.
Q: Mike, do you intend to make -- does the President intend to make the China-MFN announcement himself next week?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't looked at that question and don't know the answer. I'll, again, see if we can take that up next week. There is a deadline coming up June 3rd.
Q: A couple of days ago you said you would try to pull together a detailing of the so-called pork in the rescissions package, which was also expenditures in the President's budget. Can we expect that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I've talked to Larry Haas about this, and you might want to give him a call to the press guy over at OMB. We've identified a number of categories of expenditures for infrastructure and buildings and highway demonstration projects and other things that we would propose to cut as part of our FY '96 submission. He said that that's a good place to go. It is, by no means, a comprehensive list, because we don't propose -- our budget proposals are not line-item when it gets down to individual projects and individual member districts. But we have proposed cutting funding as part of our own budget submissions to Congress.
Q: I understand that, but are there not items that are --
MR. MCCURRY: There are some items in there that we might say, particularly when we're in the area of difficult choices qualify as, quote, unquote, "pork," I suspect there are. And I suspect that as we go through future fiscal year budget proposals, we are going to have to look carefully at many of those types of projects.
Q: Can you identify them, please?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't identify them right here and now as I'm standing here --
Q: No, but I mean can that be done?
MR. MCCURRY: I think if you call over to OMB they can help walk you through some of the budget documents in the '96 proposal that would be good. It would be great fun. That's right.
Thank you all. See you tomorrow.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:48 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/270013