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Special Event

White House Releases Overnight Guest List

Aired September 22, 2000 - 2:26 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to take you now live to the White House. Joe Lockhart is briefing reporters about the White House list, released today, of overnight guests at the White House. The White House released it to diffuse political charges that Hillary Rodham Clinton rewarded big campaign donors by letting them stay at the executive mansion.

Here is Joe Lockhart.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: Joe, why were there no dates listed as to when these various people visited the White House and Camp David?

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: For two reasons: One, to provide accurate dates and cross-check all the different places we had to go to get this list together would probably taken another week or so, and I wanted to get this out. Secondly, I think that we have fallen into too easy of a habit in this town of just asserting charges without checking them out. And I think by putting something like that out without giving some incentive to go check and talk to the people, there would be a number of people around this town who would just say, "Well, if they gave a contribution within six months that they stayed here, there must be something wrong with that."

This way I think you can go and you can talk to the people and so some reporting.

Let me say for the record that -- and I just want to, for the record, to note, you know, my displeasure with how this has all come about. This list was released after a non-journalist, gossip-monger on the Internet started this a week ago, without any facts. And I stand here today having the same type of people breaking the agreement that we all made this morning on how we would release this and having others in this room put it out before the agreed-upon hour. It says something about the way we do business.

There's not much we can do about it. And we'll just continue to try to release as much information as we can to show that the campaign of innuendo here is without any basis.

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: The question about the date, Joe, was because there's some question of whether or not maybe the Clintons weren't there. Were they there when all these...

LOCKHART: Well, let me address that. Which is the Clintons, the president and the first lady, have a policy that house guests, except for some family members, do not stay in the residence while they're not there, one or the two of them there. Now, there is a possibility that there may be a couple of names on this list where people were coming down and the president's schedule changes quickly; certainly around the time of Camp David, there were many nights he was supposed to be here, and he went out.

I have not cross-matched the list. But they have a policy that they do not invite guests to come and stay with them when they know they're not going to be here.

It is another one of those things that was just asserted over the last week without facts, repeated on the air and in certain publications without any basis in fact.

QUESTION: But, Joe, going back through the FEC records back there, and granted you can't necessarily guarantee the name on this list is the same as the name on the FEC list, but there are a lot of people on this list who have given money to the Gore campaign, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and a number of other Democratic campaigns.

Should the American public be a little cynical that, perhaps, there is some sort of perk being given to the...

(CROSSTALK)

LOCKHART: I think the American public should understand something that makes common sense, which is often -- eludes the people who sit in this room: Who do you expect -- would you go to if you were running for office other than your friends? Do you think that you would go and try -- the people who don't support you, people who don't like you? It's a basic common-sense issue that your friends and people who you would have come stay at hour home would also, in some instances, support your effort financially.

But any suggestion that there's anything more to that or there's any connection between that is absolutely false, and cannot be supported by any facts. It can only be repeated through innuendo.

And I've already seen the political figures who've stood up and made their statements; probably has a lot to say about trying to hide from real issues when Republicans stand up and make these statements, but they have a right to do it.

Yes?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

LOCKHART: When and if the president makes a decision on that, we'll let you know. QUESTION: On the Reno visit.

LOCKHART: Yes?

QUESTION: She said this morning that she thought that when the president heard all the facts that he would understand and maybe have a different view. I was wondering if there was any change in his view towards the case?

LOCKHART: Well, I think as the president made clear, he had questions on a narrow part of this, as far as the pre-detention. I think that's part of -- one of the things the Office of Professional Responsibility will look to.

I think the president looks forward to, there's people on the Hill that will look forward to, and the American public should look forward to, you know, an accounting there, and I think that will be done.

QUESTION: So he still has -- I mean, we can still say he has...

(CROSSTALK)

LOCKHART: I think the purpose of the meeting was to talk about how they would go about looking at some of these questions, not trying to fully answer the questions.

Yes?

QUESTION: Was the review precipitated solely by the judge's comments? Or was there a formal complaint issued by the Lee family or representative...

(CROSSTALK)

LOCKHART: I'm not aware of a formal complaint. It's my understanding that the Justice Department, upon receiving the kind of comments the judge issued in his ruling, would take a look like this through the Office of Professional Responsibility. But it's also clear that there have been a number of questions raised here.

QUESTION: Has the president already met with his economic team about the SPR? Or is he doing that this afternoon?

LOCKHART: There are a series of conversations going on. There are probably -- the president had some time later on this afternoon. I don't know exactly what the schedule will be, but what I can tell you is, when and if there is a decision on this, it'll be announced in a public way.

QUESTION: Joe, the designation of friends and supporters, what does that encompass? Does that encompass the first lady's campaign, the president's library, the vice president? What's under that umbrella?

LOCKHART: I'm not sure I understand the question, but let me take a broader stab at talking what the categories mean.

"Arkansas friends" are self-evident, people who they know who come from Arkansas, who they've known from there. "Long-time friends" are -- and again, these are the general categories we used when we did this in 1997 -- are people they have known and been friends with that pre-date the president becoming president, the first lady, first lady, and their moving to Washington.

The "friends and supporters" is a combination, some of which who they met during that campaign or that they have met during their time as president and first lady. "Officials and dignitaries" I think is self-evident based on their positions. And obviously, the last -- "arts and letters and sports," which is kind of a catch-all, there's various people who are either prominent journalists, prominent actors, and others in the arts, a couple sports figures. And then some family and friends that are family members which we are not releasing or friends of Chelsea.

QUESTION: Who made this decision? Like a Spielberg, he would certainly be under supporter, he'd be certainly under arts. Did the first lady decide or...

LOCKHART: No, I think many of these people we just put in the same category as we did last time, because they were on the last list. They are friends, long-time friends, who have come and when in Washington stayed with the president and the first lady.

QUESTION: Joe, have any of these people visited more than once? Stayed over night more than once?

LOCKHART: I'm certain some of them have.

QUESTION: Supporters does not include Vice President Gore's, strictly supporters of the Clintons?

LOCKHART: Yes, this is a process that overall does not include the vice president. The decisions on who the president or the first lady invite to the White House as their guests are exclusively the president's and the first lady's.

QUESTION: Joe, to clarify, did you say that among the president supporters, that some of them, they haven't met?

LOCKHART: Pardon? No, I didn't say that. I said that the friends and supporters are people who they've met since they came to Washington, some of them probably in the campaign, you know, in '92, in the campaign as they traveled around the country, but they're not people they have known over the entire span of their Arkansas days as governor or...

QUESTION: Can you clarify the sequence of events? I thought you said that this whole thing started with the report on the Internet web site. My understanding was the New York Times had asked you folks for this information prior to that...

(CROSSTALK) LOCKHART: No. The New York Times called and asked one question. What prompted what we've gone through in the last week was a number of journalists who believed that it was right to follow the direction and lead of Matt Drudge.

QUESTION: But they -- the Times did not request it or release it overnight...

(CROSSTALK)

LOCKHART: They had not formally made a request to me to release the list. They had asked a question of whether there was any connection between people coming to stay at the White House and the fund-raising operation. The answer was negative, but that didn't stop what we've gone through over the last week.

QUESTION: Joe?

LOCKHART: Yes?

QUESTION: The transcript that you asked me to look at had no reference to the anti-Boy Scout bill...

LOCKHART: Must have been Thursday.

QUESTION: That's right, it was. You're right.

LOCKHART: There you go.

QUESTION: And you said, "I think the president believes that no one should discriminate. But as a legal matter, the Supreme Court ruled that they have a right to." Remember that? LOCKHART: If it was in my transcript, I must have said it.

And this means that the president, who, as I understand it, is still the national honorary chairman of the Boy Scouts, believes that it's wrongfully discriminatory for the Scouts to refuse admission to girls, doesn't it?

LOCKHART: I'm sorry?

(LAUGHTER)

Even I couldn't follow that. And I'm well...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Girls file suit to get into the Boy Scouts...

LOCKHART: I am well-practiced at following nonsensical questions, but I couldn't follow that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... girls have a suit.

And I have one other question. Does the president believe the Scouts should appoint Scoutmasters regardless of sexual orientation?

LOCKHART: I've never had a discussion with the president about Scoutmaster policy.

ALLEN: All right. We will leave Joe Lockhart to figure out the scouting question there at the White House. Most of the questions, however, surrounding the White House sleepovers. And the White House releasing its list just this hour of 404 overnight guests.

It did this in hopes of diffusing political charges that Hillary Rodham Clinton awarded big campaign donors by letting them stay at the executive mansion or at Camp David.

The list includes a string of celebrities whose names do not appear as campaign donors. And it also includes guests that are long- time Democratic donors.

Joe Lockhart is unapologetic. He says, "The Clintons will continue to invites guests to visit with them at the White House and at Camp David during the president's remaining months in office."

The list was broken down into several categories: Arkansas friends, 51 people had a sleepover; Long-time friends, 102; friend/supporters, 86; officials and dignitaries, 77; arts and letters and sports, 45; and friends of Chelsea Clinton. 43. All guests over a 13-month period.

Finally, Mrs. Clinton has acknowledged that some contributors have been invited to sleepovers, but she has denied that the invitations were made in return for money.

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