Transcript Of White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry's Briefing
Jan. 21, 1998
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY MIKE MCCURRY: Well, ladies and gentlemen. Wealking about. So whatever you want
to talk about.
QUESTION: What about...
QUESTION: Bennett, did Bennett see the president?
MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. I think the president spent
some time with Mr. Kendall. Mr. Bennett was here and he talked
to Mr. Ruff, and Mr. Ruff also talked to Mr. Kendall.
QUESTION: Bob Barnett was here. Is he also on this subject?
MCCURRY: I didn't know he was here. I'd have to check on
QUESTION: What is Chuck Ruff's role in all of this?
MCCURRY: Well, the Office of the White House Legal Counsel
has throughout all the many inquiries that have occurred,
including the Whitewater inquiry by Mr. Starr, works -- as it
has worked in every presidency -- to protect the institution of
the presidency itself.
And there are times -- there are all kinds of issues that
arise in which there are overlapping concerns about
representation, and those have been adjudicated in courts. I
think you're all familiar with that.
QUESTION: Mike, you said this morning that the president did
not have an improper relationship with this former intern. What
do you mean by an improper relationship?
MCCURRY: I'm not going to parse the statement. You all got
the statement I made earlier, and it speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Are you saying no relationship?
QUESTION: Would an improper relationship be...
MCCURRY: I'm not going to parse the statement. You've got
the statement I made earlier. And it speaks for itself.
QUESTION: It doesn't speak for itself. (OFF-MIKE) the
definition of what an improper relationship means.
MCCURRY: I'm not going to...
QUESTION: Are you standing by that statement?
MCCURRY: That statement is where we are and that's what I'm
saying -- that's what I said.
QUESTION: Does that mean that (OFF-MIKE) relationship?
MCCURRY: Claire, I'm just not going to parse the statement
for you. It speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Mike, has the president...
MCCURRY: Wolf Blitzer.
QUESTION: Has the president been informed that Kenneth Starr
has now expanded his probe to look into these allegations?
MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. And I checked with White
House legal counsel, and as far as they know, there's been no
direct contact with the OIC on this matter that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: To what extent will the president cooperate? This
is a patsy question, I know. But to what extent will...
MCCURRY: A patsy question from Sam Donaldson.
QUESTION: ... with Starr?
MCCURRY: He has cooperated fully with Mr. Starr and would
cooperate fully if, in fact, any matter such as this was within
the purview of the independent counsel.
QUESTION: He will make -- he will make available -- you will
make available the White House logs that show the visitors?
MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on what the OIC might
QUESTION: Mike, could you describe the president's demeanor
when he discussed this story with you and how his demeanor has
been for the morning?
MCCURRY: A matter of fact. He approved the statement I gave
you earlier today, and he's had to work on some other matters.
Today he spent time on the State of the Union address and on
Iraq, particularly on Iraq, and spent a fairly significant chunk
of time with Mr. Berger and Mr. Steinberg and others on that
QUESTION: Mike, you said he was outraged this morning, and
now you say it's a matter of fact.
MCCURRY: I'll come back. Scott.
QUESTION: What kind of relationship did he have with her --
MCCURRY: I'm not characterizing it beyond what the statement
that I've already issued says.
MCCURRY: I'm not going to parse the statement. I'm not
going to go beyond what I said already.
QUESTION: You said he was outraged this morning. Now, you
say his reaction is a matter of fact. Which is it?
MCCURRY: I've given you the statement that he's outraged
about the allegations. I'm telling you about the business that
the president has attended to on behalf of the American people.
QUESTION: How distracted is the president as a result of
MCCURRY: He's looked -- it's been five years, and there have
been distractions of various types from time to time, and the
president keeps on working on what he was elected to work on,
and that's what he's going to continue to do.
QUESTION: Mike, can you give us a sense of what the White
House is like today? Have there been meetings on this? How
many of them (OFF-MIKE) involved?
MCCURRY: There's more of you around.
QUESTION: Other than that?
MCCURRY: There's been, you know -- we had our first meeting
to kind of talk about how we are going to prepare the roll out
of the State of the Union next week. I think, you know, we have
to continue to do the work that we are doing on behalf of the
American people and fulfillment of the prerogatives and
priorities of this president. That's what we get paid to do, and
that's what we do on behalf of the American people.
QUESTION: Mike, is the president seeking to amend any part
of his deposition from Saturday?
MCCURRY: I -- not that I'm aware of, but that should be a
question you would direct to Mr. Bennett.
QUESTION: Mike, would it be improper for the president of
the United States to have had a sexual relationship with this
MCCURRY: I -- look. The president has made a statement that
has expressed his outrage at allegations. I've made it very
clear I'm not going to go beyond that statement, and you can
stand here and ask a lot of questions over and over again, to
which you will elicit the exact same answer.
QUESTION: So Mike, you're leaving -- you're willing to
MCCURRY: I'm not leaving any impression, David, and don't
twist my words.
MCCURRY: I (ph) know (ph) it's making it very clear what the
president has said in the statement. He said he has had no
improper relationship with this woman. That clearly means that
there would be things that would be improper, and I think you
all know what they are, and I don't need to, you know, parse it
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) saying he did not commit perjury.
MCCURRY: Look. The president has made it clear, and I've
made it clear in the statement I've issued on behalf what he's
said. He tells people to tell the truth.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the president (OFF-MIKE) has frequently
said that with matters like this, they believe that political
enemies originate these kinds of stories. Is it his belief that
this particular allegation is also part and parcel of a partisan
political attack on him?
MCCURRY: I think that when we have suggested that in the
past, it's been on information that you know to be true, that
has been reported, that is factual.
And in this case, we have no information available to suggest
what motive may have arisen for these outrageous allegations. I
think those who have made the allegations, those who pursue
them, have to address the question of motive.
QUESTION: Mike, does the White House consider this a
legitimate avenue of inquiry by Starr? And by this, I mean
further investigation into (OFF-MIKE)...
MCCURRY: That's a question that the OIC has to address, and
they've made an application to the Justice Department, and the
Justice Department can properly address that.
QUESTION: Who is Linda Tripp?
MCCURRY: I do not know. I mean, I don't know enough
QUESTION: And (OFF-MIKE).
MCCURRY: I don't have employment records on either her or
the other one.
QUESTION: Why would she wire -- wire the tape button (ph)?
MCCURRY: I'm the last person on the face of the earth that
could answer that question for you. But you should properly
direct that question to the office of the independent counsel, I
QUESTION: Mike, just for the record, the president is also
saying he never encouraged anyone to commit perjury.
MCCURRY: The president's statement speaks for itself. I'm
not going to go beyond the statement that we've already issued.
QUESTION: Has the president so far or does he plan to speak
with his own staff?
QUESTION: I talked to several people here at the White House
today who've had their own confidence shaken just because of the
nature of these allegations and the less-than-sort-of-blanket
denial of them.
MCCURRY: He's been working with his staff. And I think, as
you all know, he's got an opportunity to conduct some interviews
later today. And my guess is that information will be...
QUESTION: Would you be upset if...
MCCURRY: ... that question will probably come up.
QUESTION: ... you were absolutely confident these are not
true? How would you (OFF-MIKE) that?
MCCURRY: My personal views don't count. I'm here to
represent the thinking, the actions, the decisions of the
president. That's what I get paid to do.
QUESTION: Mike, part of what you get paid to do also is to
make sure that the American people are informed correctly of
what it is the White House is trying to say. So if the
MCCURRY: I'm doing my best at that.
QUESTION: ... and that's why I'm asking you. Are you trying
to leave us with the impression that a president could have a
proper sexual relationship with this woman?
MCCURRY: Of course not, David, and it's -- the question
flies in the face of the statement you've gotten from the
president that I think addresses that pretty clearly.
QUESTION: Mike, I think what's puzzling us is that the
president, we are told, on Saturday denied any sexual
relationship with this woman. You have...
QUESTION: Let me just finish the question.
MCCURRY: I can't...
QUESTION: Mike, let me finish the question.
MCCURRY: I can't speak to the deposition that the president
gave because of the gag order that the court has in place on
that deposition, Deborah. So you know I can't even get into the
QUESTION: Let me finish the question. What is puzzling to
many of us is that we've invited you probably two dozen times
today to say there was no sexual relationship with this woman
and you have not done so.
MCCURRY: But the president has said he's never had any
improper relationship with this woman. I think that speaks for
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) no sexual relationship?
QUESTION: You've (ph) got (ph) to put the word sexual in.
That's the problem.
MCCURRY: I didn't write the statement.
QUESTION: Who wrote the statement? Where did it come from?
MCCURRY: It was prepared by the counsel's office, and I
reviewed it with the president to make sure that it reflected
what he wanted me to say.
QUESTION: Why wouldn't the counsel put in the word
MCCURRY: I -- because I don't know. I'm not a lawyer.
QUESTION: What did the president say?
QUESTION: The president didn't write the statement. It was
ritten by his lawyers. But you showed it to the president.
What did the president say about it?
MCCURRY: It was developed in consultations between the
lawyers and the president, clearly.
QUESTION: And when you showed it to the president?
MCCURRY: I'll come back, Scott.
QUESTION: Monica Lewinsky's lawyer says she's distraught.
QUESTION: She has been very upset about all of this.
Does the president have anything to say to Monica Lewinsky
that she's been dragged into what is obviously a very unpleasant
MCCURRY: I did not discuss that with him. But, you know,
the president always, when any member of this staff is
distraught over any circumstances, is very compassionate. He is
a very compassionate person.
QUESTION: Did you ask the president whether he knows Monica?
MCCURRY: I have not questioned him directly on this matter
and don't intend to.
QUESTION: Mike, do you know if anybody from the White House
has done anything to get in contact with Monica Lewinsky?
MCCURRY: I don't have any information on that.
QUESTION: Mike, how in the world could the president be
matter of fact about anything he is doing today when this is
blowing up around him?
MCCURRY: He is matter of fact about, you know, getting the
business done of addressing this question given the
outrageousness he feels about the allegation.
QUESTION: Would the White House be willing to make public
the logs of the comings and goings of Monica Lewinsky?
MCCURRY: (OFF-MIKE) -- anything else? Yes?
QUESTION: When you showed the statement to the president,
what did he say about it?
MCCURRY: He said fine.
QUESTION: That is a direct quote? The president just said
fine. That's all he had to say about that issue?
MCCURRY: He said fine. He looked at it and said fine.
QUESTION: This morning, I kind of had the impression that
the president really shaped that statement to you for us.
MCCURRY: Oh, he did. I mean, it was prepared...
QUESTION: It is not like somebody else gave it to him?
MCCURRY: No, no. It was prepared in consultation between
the lawyers and the president. The counsel's office gave it to
me. I wanted to, of course, verify that that is exactly what
the president wanted me to say on his behalf.
QUESTION: Could you describe what Monica Lewinsky's duties
were at the White House?
MCCURRY: I can't. I don't have her position description.
MCCURRY: The intern program, there are, you know, about 250
at any time of the year who are here as interns. They tend to
be college-aged students between 18 and 23, equally balanced
male and female.
They work full-time during the summer and up to 25 hours a
week during the school year.
MCCURRY: There were two sessions of interns during the
summer and one each in the fall and spring. They go through the
same kind of background checks and EOP checks that are required
for other staffers.
QUESTION: Does it pay (OFF-MIKE)
No, that's a -- volunteer.
QUESTION: In your statement, when you say it's outrageous,
does that mean it's the allegation about the sexual allegation,
or about the charge...
MCCURRY: Terry, again, I'm not going to...
QUESTION: ... or about the charge on obstruction of justice
MCCURRY: I'm not parsing the statement for you. Mr. King
QUESTION: Mike, do you know the last time the president
spoke to Vernon Jordan, if he's had any discussions with Vernon
Jordan about this subject?
MCCURRY: I -- I know the answer to neither question.
QUESTION: Mike, will you say why you're not going to ask the
president about this subject?
MCCURRY: I think it's proper for the counsel to deal with
the president on that, and I will, as I often do, get the
information that I need to pass on from counsel.
QUESTION: Does the president appreciate that this is an
order of magnitude difference in the allegations on the subject?
MCCURRY: Oh, I think the president is smart and will
understand that, of course.
QUESTION: Mike, what's your next move, or counsel's next
move, or the president's next move?
MCCURRY: My next move is to get off the podium as quick as
QUESTION: What's the next step from the White House?
MCCURRY: Well, the president is then -- he's got -- you
know, the president is, I imagine, going to want to address
this. We have, you know, an interview with PBS, an interview
with NPR lined up, a fortuitous bit of scheduling that's
probably a lot better than the $25 pledge I sent in during
QUESTION: Beyond the interview, what do you do?
MCCURRY: So what do I do? What do you mean? We do -- we go
about doing the business of the United States of America. And
there's a lot of it right now that we haven't talked about
QUESTION: Of this situation?
MCCURRY: This situation, if it is in fact going to be
explored by independent counsel, will go into the same place
that most matters go. They become the province of lawyers and
people who look into these things. And the amount that I talk
about it here will be quite measured, thankfully.
QUESTION: The paper said that the president has always told
everyone to tell the truth, or words to that effect.
MCCURRY: The rules were that he's made clear from the
beginning that he wants people to tell the truth in all matters.
QUESTION: Is he now then directly saying to Ms. Lewinsky
that he wants her to tell the truth?
QUESTION: I think it is only fair. I think we are asking
the same question. And it's not the...
MCCURRY: Helen, it's a good point.
QUESTION: I know these were prearranged interviews...
QUESTION: ... and not exclusive. But...
MCCURRY: That is a good point. These interviews were
scheduled as part of our build-up to the State of the Union, and
they just happened to fall at this particular moment. But we
will contact the news organizations involved and see if they
want to be helpful.
QUESTION: Is the president prepared to, if it comes to that,
to cooperate with an impeachment investigation on Capitol Hill?
MCCURRY: There is no reason that I know of to think that we
will be dealing with something like that.
QUESTION: Has the president given any thought of
accompanying Mr. Arafat to the Holocaust Museum?
MCCURRY: Not that I have heard. I think the president
thinks it is very appropriate for him to be given a VIP tour of
the museum. The president thinks that the museum makes a
significant emotional impact on people who see it, and it will
no doubt have that effect on the chairman as well.
The chairman has indicated in route to Washington that he is
anxious to see the museum if that is to be arranged.
QUESTION: Mike, when the president saw the statement, did he
complain that it was not as broad a blanket denial as he would
MCCURRY: He said -- I reviewed it with him. I said this
what I propose to say, and he said, that's fine.
QUESTION: Do you think he wishes to have an addendum to that
MCCURRY: I think he suspects he will be addressing this
himself at some point.
QUESTION: Mike, do you know when -- if -- when the president
planned a formal a press conference (OFF-MIKE) on this
MCCURRY: We, you know, want to do one reasonably soon.
QUESTION: Mike, how is this matter...
MCCURRY: Oh, Carl, by the way, he will have, of course, have
a press conference with Prime Minister Blair at the conclusion
of the working visit that Prime Minister Blair will have at the
end of the first week of February -- February 5 official visit.
QUESTION: How have these reports (OFF-MIKE) the bevy of
lawyers disrupted his day? What was planned and what did he end
up doing instead?
MCCURRY: It's his -- we have had -- we were going to do
these interviews that I am talking about a little bit earlier in
MCCURRY: So, we've had to push them back. But other than
that, you know, he's had to pursue the other matters that he
would pursue on any given day.
QUESTION: Mike, you were saying -- with regard to the
question was that it seemed like a serious issue. But George
Stephanopoulos seems to think that might be an issue. Does that
not concern you?
MCCURRY: I think he's -- he says things all the time.
About assassinations, impeachments, you know.
QUESTION: We pay him well.
MCCURRY: That's what -- Mr. Donaldson makes the point he
gets paid well to say those things. God love him for it.
QUESTION: Mike, do you know, by chance, what Monica
Lewinsky's precise time was here at the White House? And
MCCURRY: I don't have an employment record on her.
QUESTION: Can you get that for us?
MCCURRY: I will see if that is something we can make
QUESTION: Taking into account that the White House is
maintaining that these allegations are untrue, is the White
House preparing any response to these people making these false
allegations against the president?
MCCURRY: Well, I think that's pretty much what I've been
doing here. Right?
QUESTION: No, but in addition to just denying. In addition
to just denying the allegations?
MCCURRY: Well, you know, there is a likelihood that if the
news reports are correct, that Mr. Starr will be looking into
it, they will probably have to provide extensive information on
it. So, it goes.
QUESTION: One more stab at this. So, is your interpretation
of that statement that he meant to categorically deny that he
had sexual relations with her?
MCCURRY: I'm not parsing that statement. The statement
speaks for itself. I don't have anything to add to what I told
QUESTION: It speaks for itself?
MCCURRY: I'm not going to interpret statements for you. I'm
just going to give you the statements that I've been authorized
QUESTION: Who has told you that you can't say?
MCCURRY: I'm not -- my own good judgment tells me not to try
to parse this statement. So, no one has told me to do that,
that's the way I'm electing to deal with your questions right
QUESTION: So, Ruff's office, the other lawyers haven't told
you, say this and say nothing else?
MCCURRY: They trust my judgment, amazingly enough.
QUESTION: It seems that your lawyers are very careful people
and they seem to have picked a very...
MCCURRY: So am I.
QUESTION: ... a very imprecise word.
MCCURRY: Well, look, I'm not going to characterize the
statement for you.
QUESTION: Is this the low point in the Clinton presidency?
QUESTION: Not yet.
MCCURRY: Look, it -- You give and you, you know, there have
been for five years from time to time we go through episodic
reports like this, and yet through all that period, this
president has kept his focus on the work he's been elected twice
by the American people to do. And the American people have
indicated that they are more than satisfied the work he's doingtly that on this
We've got a State of the Union address coming up, and we've
got the chairman of the UN Commission in Baghdad who's just had
some difficult meetings that are going to have a lot of
consequences, and we're going to have to deal with those
consequences after Chairman Butler gives his report to the
Security Council on Friday.
And you know we're dealing simultaneously with issues related
to a deployed force in Bosnia, which is going to occupy some of
the president's time. And we've got a lot of pretty interesting
initiatives that we're laying before Congress and beginning to
do the work of trying to find a bipartisan coalition that will
pass some of the president's ideas.
That's a lot of hard work ahead. And this president has
always, when facing allegations, been able to sort of say,
that's over there, and I've got to keep focused on what I need
to do on behalf of the American people. And I think the
American people expect him to do that.
QUESTION: The difference with these charges, though, is they
stem -- of this personal interest -- they stem from actions that
occurred here. I mean, is that going to affect his legislative
agenda or his foreign policy (OFF-MIKE)?
MCCURRY: If he dealt with all manner of, you know, stories
that have dealt with actions that occurred here, I mean that's
not -- that's happened from time to time.
QUESTION: Mike, has the counsel's office been officially
notified that Starr's probe has expanded? And...
MCCURRY: As I said earlier, Karen, not that I'm aware of.
MCCURRY: And I checked with the counsel's office, and they
didn't give me any indication that they had received that
communication from OIC. I have -- you know, my assumption is
that that will be a matter that Mr. Kendall will pursue.
QUESTION: Has the...
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) can be appropriate and what (OFF-MIKE)?
MCCURRY: It's not -- I already answered that question. I
said it's in the province of the attorney general upon
application of the OIC to make that determination.
David, did you have...
QUESTION: Why are these allegations outrageous?
MCCURRY: Look, you've tried now, I think, a dozen different
ways to get me to amplify on this statement. I'm clearly not
going to do it. And I'm sorry if you're disappointed I'm not
doing it. I don't want to render my own personal opinion about
the nature of these charges, and so we are where we are.
There's nothing more to say.
QUESTION: Mike, has the White House received any subpoenas
from the FBI related to this case?
MCCURRY: Not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Mike, are they outrageous because they're not
true? Or are they outrageous because it would be morally
reprehensible if they were true?
MCCURRY: There are probably many different reasons why they
are outrageous in the mind of the president. But having not
explored the degree of outrageousness that the president
attaches to the allegations, I'm not going to amplify on the
statement that he's made.
QUESTION: Let me bring up the subject from last week, which
now is particular germane -- the president's ability to pay for
his legal expenses.
QUESTION: Has there been now some movement on a new effort
to get the money in, because this clock this morning was running
with all these lawyers?
They don't work cheap.
MCCURRY: They get paid when they talk to you, too. Did you
know that? That's got -- makes it -- adds to the expense.
I did check. You asked me to check on that, and they are --
our understanding is that some of that president's supporters on
the outside have begun some efforts to establish some kind of
fund. They are not in a position yet that I am aware of to make
any formal declarations on that.
In any event, they would have to be in contact at some point
with the president's legal counsel on that so that the
president's legal counsel could render an opinion to the
president on whether the establishment of any such fund would be
ethical and proper under law.
QUESTION: But Mike, don't these...
QUESTION: When did the president and his legal advisers know
that this was -- that this story was coming? Did they have
advance knowledge, or after the meeting last night with
MCCURRY: I personally don't know that anyone that I deal
with here knew much about it before late yesterday.
QUESTION: You were talking about the president's need to
deal with major foreign policies in Iraq and Bosnia. Elsewhere
he's meeting with Middle East leaders. But don't these kinds of
accusations impair, hurt his ability to deal effectively with
these kinds of critical national security issues?
MCCURRY: He has faced allegations somewhat like this in the
past, and they have not impacted on his ability to do the job
that he constitutionally must do as president on behalf of the
QUESTION: But allegations like perjury and obstruction of
QUESTION: Are you -- am I correct, then, that until the
legal counsel has made a ruling, until that is done formally,
there are no contributions actually being made or certainly no
money is being expended? Or are they being made now?
MCCURRY: Yes, my understanding and belief would be that
until such a fund was constituted, there would be no ability for
it to receive any contribution. The previous fund, which was
not allowed to solicit contributions, has now ended its
operations, so there wouldn't be any entity to which one would
make a contribution.
QUESTION: What's going to be different, though? I mean, the
previous fund was thought not to be proper. What could be
different that would now make a new fund proper?
MCCURRY: No, it was thought to be very proper. It was just
hobbled by the law -- by the rules that applied to it on
interpretation of the office of government ethics that made it
impossible to solicit any contributions. If people are not
aware of it, therefore, you know, revenues did not match the
MCCURRY: Expectations, cost, whatever.
QUESTION: Mike, you said that you don't see an impairment on
his constitutional duties.
QUESTION: But how concerned are you as to how he might be
perceived by these other world leaders in spite of these
MCCURRY: I don't speak for other world leaders. I speak for
Bill Clinton, the world leader.
QUESTION: When I asked if the White House logs will be made
public of Monica Lewinsky's coming and going, you said asked and
answered. If there is a contingent of this area that this would
(OFF- MIKE) the answer was, was it that it will be made
available to Kenneth Starr or to the president or both?
MCCURRY: I said we want to cooperate with the inquiry by the
independent counsel. And if in fact this is a matter the
independent counsel is pursuing and if in fact he pursues
evidentiary material like that, I know that the president would
expect the White House to cooperate it and provide it. And I
think until that question is resolved it is going to be hard to
satisfy a lot of the news organizations who have been asking for
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you can't give it to us?
MCCURRY: I think until the question is resolved of whether
or not this is something that the office of independent counsel
is seeking, it would be difficult for us to satisfy requests.
QUESTION: But why does (OFF-MIKE)
MCCURRY: Because we clearly want to cooperate with the OIC.
QUESTION: Mike, has the president asked his lawyers either
here or his private lawyers to appeal to Starr not to pursue
this issue because both parties deny it?
MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that question. Yes.
QUESTION: Mr. Netanyahu said that he would look favorably or
respond positively to any suggestion of a meeting between him
and Chairman Arafat. Does that change the White House's stand
on if a meeting should be arranged between the two?
MCCURRY: Well, I think he has indicated that he would want
such a meeting to substantive. So would we. I am not aware of
any plans for such a meeting at this point.
You know, clearly at some point, we will have to get these
parties talking to each other directly. But we want to do that
at a time that the parties are likely to make progress.
QUESTION: You mean to tell me that if reporters talk to
sources who perhaps should not talk because of the gag order --
and I am not saying they do -- but should the talk to us anyway
that in fact if they are -- and I am not saying they are,
members of the president team -- they charge the president for
talking to us in violation of the gag order?
MCCURRY: That's a complicated question of legal billing that
I would have to direct to the attorneys involved.
QUESTION: I would say it's a...
MCCURRY: And I would be interested in the answer.
QUESTION: If any (OFF-MIKE) of that exists, they would be
shameful to charge the president.
MCCURRY: To be running the meter.
QUESTION: Gag order.
QUESTION: Mike, has anyone asked this before...
QUESTION: I guess I won't get invited to the Christmas party
QUESTION: Does the president know of the stories (OFF-MIKE)?
Last month, I believe he spoke at the fund-raiser. When did he
MCCURRY: I'm not sure when he first heard about the
particular story, The Washington Post story we're dealing with.
There was a fair amount swirling around in the ether yesterday,
but at what point he focused in on it, I can't tell you.
QUESTION: Did he huddle in a meeting when he got back? Did
he have any time to talk to (OFF-MIKE) or anybody when he got
MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that.
QUESTION: Mike, Mr. Bennett says he smells a rat in the
MCCURRY: (OFF-MIKE) smell a rat? What does a rat smell
QUESTION: How would I know?
QUESTION: Do you smell anything?
MCCURRY: I smell the lights in here cooking virtually
everyone who's standing here.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) it's not a rat.
MCCURRY: Anything else?
QUESTION: Mike, tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of Roe v.
Wade. Does the president have anything to say on this occasion
beyond his desire to keep abortion (OFF-MIKE)
MCCURRY: The president's views on the issue are very
well-known. He continues to believe that abortion needs to be
safe and legal in the United States of America, but it ought to
be rare. And that is the position he has frequently
articulated, and we have done things in furtherance of exactly
that policy by the president.
QUESTION: Mike, any message to the opponents, thousands who
are going to be here tomorrow?
MCCURRY: The president respects the views of those, as a
matter of conscience, take a different point of view on such
fundamentally important issues.
MCCURRY: But I think the president believes that it is a
matter that should be decided as a matter of conscience, based
on the private reasoning of the people who have to struggle with
complicated questions of life and death. And the president will
always respect the right of a woman to make that choice free and
of her own volition. And the president does not believe, in any
event, that it's something that the government should dictate
QUESTION: What's on tap for tomorrow with Chairman Arafat?
And what can you tell us about the package that President
Clinton will be discussing with him and howsoever provisional
that may be?
MCCURRY: I've got a lot of great, you know, foreign policy
diplospeak about what we're going to do, but I won't satisfy
your desire for details on what ideas the president presented.
I think we've provided you a pretty good series of briefings and
briefers during the course of the day yesterday, and they made
it clear what they're willing to say about the substance of the
dialogue, which is enough that you get some general idea of the
subjects being covered but not enough that you have any explicit
review of the diplomacy we're pursuing.
We obviously will need to take the discussions that we've had
with Prime Minister Netanyahu, ask Chairman Arafat to reflect on
them and to gain his thinking and perspectives on the issues
that have been addressed now in the meetings with the government
of Israel and then if there's a way to bridge some of the
differences that clearly exist. That may or may not be possible,
and at this point it's impossible to predict whether or not
these discussions can lead to the kind of progress that the
United States so fervently desires.
QUESTION: Mike, do you have anything on another report that
Ambassador Richardson offered Ms. Lewinsky a job?
MCCURRY: I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Mike, back to Roe v. Wade, do you have any
comments on a group of anti-abortion protesters who took the
public tour this morning?
QUESTION: They said they complimented the Secret Service on
their treatment and they said it was rather uneventful. Did you
know about this ahead of time?
MCCURRY: We had heard that there was some interest on the
part of people to freely express themselves during the course of
the tour, and I think the service and the uniform division
always handle such matters with sensitivity, but also consistent
with what their law enforcement responsibilities are. John?
QUESTION: Could you mention the final judgments about the
perhaps conflicting goals of the president's defense in this?
As a legal matter, lawyers always want to be absolutely as
circumspect as possible. As a public and political matter,
obviously the president would like to give his side of the story
on this as quickly and explicitly as possible. How do you
balance those two and who makes the final judgment?
MCCURRY: Well, the balance is always a delicate one, because
there are sometime conflicting aims. But the president as
president and his client is the one that ultimately has to
reconcile differing point of views.
And we, you know, in each and every case weigh the different
exigencies that arise. Yes?
QUESTION: Mike, what can you tell us about Linda Tripp's
work here at the White House, and what led to her moving over to
MCCURRY: I don't have -- I don't have her employment record
here, nor her position description. I've already said, that I
would look into this, look into seeing if I can.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) do you thing the public tour of the
White House is an appropriate venue for making political
MCCURRY: I think that in and around the White House, people
find this a platform for expressing views. And that's as it
should be. I think it should be done with respect for a house
that all the American people own and enjoy seeing.
QUESTION: Was anyone arrested?
MCCURRY: You'd have to ask. I gather from Jeff, not. Yes?
QUESTION: Mike, you said earlier that Chuck Ruff was
involved in the discussions today because he represents the
institution of the presidency. In what way is this issue and
these allegations, how are they impinging on the institution of
the presidency, and the official business of the White House?
MCCURRY: We spent a lot of time -- you know, you spent a lot
of time asking your questions today that demonstrate it very
vividly. I've been asked for employment records. I've been
asked for appointment records here at the White House -- all of
which are the custody of the White House and the presidency
itself, and it's exactly the protection of that institution that
the White House legal counsel is charged with.
So, I mean, there are a number of examples even arising here
in the briefing that indicate what the interests would be in the
White House lawyers in these types of discussions.
QUESTION: Was the president asked about it? Did he have any
comment about whether Tripp's allegation that she saw Kathleen
Willey leaving the president's office and making an allegation
that she had been kissed or fondled?
MCCURRY: I think we've dealt with that matter a long time
ago, if I recall correctly.
QUESTION: Has the president sent any message to the pope or
do we have any independent observers there?
MCCURRY: The president did not send a direct personal
message. But on behalf of the administration, on behalf of the
president, our diplomats have had good and detailed
conversations with the Holy See in advance of the pope's visit
in which we have certainly wished the Holy Father well for the
trip that he is making. And we have expressed our views that we
hope that the outcome of his visit will be better respect for
the rights of people to worship freely according to their own
conscience in Cuba, a right that has been too long denied to the
people of Cuba.
QUESTION: Is our ambassador there?
MCCURRY: Say again?
QUESTION: Is our ambassador there?
MCCURRY: We do not have an ambassador to Cuba, but we have
an interest section there and -- we have an interest section
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) our ambassador to the Vatican.
MCCURRY: Oh, to the Vatican.
She's -- she's on part of the trip?
(UNKNOWN): No, she's in Rome.
MCCURRY: She's in Rome.
QUESTION: Her daughter is in Cuba.
MCCURRY: Her daughter spends a lot of time with Sam.
QUESTION: Ways and Means Chairman Archer yesterday suggested
using any budget surplus to lower taxes and reduce the debt as
well as create a cushion in case projections of revenue are off.
QUESTION: And I wondered if the administration thinks this
is a proven approach?
MCCURRY: Well, the administration and the president believe
it would be prudent to see what kind of surplus we're talking
about before we spend it and give it away. It might -- there
might be some interest in some quarters for spending money that
we may or may not have. But I think the president is more
interested in seeing if we can secure the surplus, making
absolutely sure we keep strongly committed to the path to a
balanced budget and to keeping fiscal discipline sort of at the
top of our minds as we make budget policy.
And then as to any future surpluses, I think the president
will be interested in seeing if they address the long-term needs
of this country. And I think the president will want to say
more about that during the State of the Union.
QUESTION: Mike, is there any directive written or verbal or
otherwise circulating in the White House instructing people not
to talk about the Monica Lewinsky allegations or not to talk
about her or not to talk about anybody else involved in this?
MCCURRY: I'm not aware of anything. I think that, you know,
you rely on common sense to prevail. People shouldn't be
talking about this if it's in the province of the president's
attorneys, and you know, future -- likely future inquiry by an
QUESTION: Has the Iraqi situation worsened now?
MCCURRY: I think that the situation in Iraq certainly has
not got to the point where the president or the United Nations
wants it to be, which is full compliance by the government of
Iraq with the requirements of the UN Security Council. What
we've had today is a lot of excuses but no compliance.
And I think it's time for the government of Iraq to recognize
that when Chairman Butler says, here's what I need in order to
fulfill the mandate of the Security Council, they better listen
and stop trying to dictate to him the terms that would govern
MCCURRY: We expect Chairman Butler to make a full report to
the Security Council Friday, and then we will pursue our
diplomacy and perhaps other options beyond.
QUESTION: Has the White House been briefed...
QUESTION: Did anyone...
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Has the White House been briefed by
Butler at all on his conversations?
MCCURRY: My understanding from our U.S.-UN mission is that
he has had a brief conversation with the president of the
Security Council, the French permanent representative, and that
has been passed on to other permanent members of the Security
Council. But a full : Did anyone in the U.S. government send a message
through the pope to Fidel Castro?
MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any channel for such a
communication. We have a diplomatic channel, and that is the one
which any exchanges with the government of Cuba would occur.
QUESTION: Do you know of any more information on the tourist
MCCURRY: Oh, oh, oh. No, I don't. I'd have to refer you.
I understand that the U.S. attorney's office is the one pursuing
QUESTION: Thank you.
MCCURRY: Thank you, Helen.