Investigating the President

 Bowles Testifies Before Grand Jury (04-02-98)

 White House Supports News Media's Request (04-01-98)

 Starr Investigation Costs Just Shy of $30 Million (04-01-98)

 Landow Not A Clinton Confidant (03-27-98)

 More Stories...


 Ken Starr Discusses His Investigation (04-02-98)

 More Transcripts...


 Lewinsky Father: Executive Privilege Will Prolong Daughter's Suffering (03-23-98)

 More Polls...


 Legal Documents Released In The Jones v. Clinton Case

 The Willey-Clinton Letters

 The Julie Steele Affidavit

Video On Demand

 CNN Special: What Do We Know? (03-13-98)


Voter's Voice

 Starr vb. Clinton (03-24-98)



 A Chronology: Key Moments In The Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal

 Cast of Characters In The Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal


 Community: Debate the scandal on the AllPolitics messageboard.



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 that.

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 ask for.


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 subject.

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 -- any?

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 these allegations?

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 woman?

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 leave...

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 any further.


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 about...


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 would think.


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 president...

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.

Yes, Deborah.

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.

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 itself.

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 "sexual"?

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 affair?

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.

Yes, sir.

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 and perjury?

MCCURRY: I'm not parsing the statement for you. Mr. King (ph)?

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 possible.


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 pledge week.



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 today.

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 have liked?

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 thing?


MCCURRY: I think he suspects he will be addressing this himself at some point.

Yes, Carl.

QUESTION: Mike, do you know when -- if -- when the president planned a formal a press conference (OFF-MIKE) on this (OFF-MIKE)?

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. 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 the day.

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.

Yes, Deborah.

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 exactly what...

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 available.


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 you earlier.

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 to give.


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 now.

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...


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 particular day.

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.

Yes. Skip.

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 Netanyahu? When?

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 American people.

QUESTION: But allegations like perjury and obstruction of justice might.

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 cost.

QUESTION: Expectations?

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 domestic issues?

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 that.


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. Yes.

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 next year.

QUESTION: Does the president know of the stories (OFF-MIKE)? Last month, I believe he spoke at the fund-raiser. When did he first (OFF-MIKE)?

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 back?

MCCURRY: I don't know the answer to that.


QUESTION: Mike, Mr. Bennett says he smells a rat in the situation.

MCCURRY: (OFF-MIKE) smell a rat? What does a rat smell like?

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 answers to.


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 the Pentagon?

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 statements?

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 there.

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 independent counsel.

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 inspections.

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 incident?

QUESTION: Guatemala.

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 that now.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MCCURRY: Thank you, Helen.

In Other News

Wednesday Jan. 21, 1998

Clinton Denies Affair With Intern, Cover-up
Clinton's Legal Woes Converge Into Thunderstorm
Alexander's Plane Successfully Belly-Lands

Public Believes Alleged Affair is True

Clinton Interview With Jim Lehrer
Clinton Interview On NPR's "All Things Considered"
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry's Briefing

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