Mike McCurry Reacts To Judge's Ruling
April 1, 1998
QUESTION: Wipe that smile off your face.
MCCURRY: Mr. Berger wanted to come back and tell you some
more about our Africa trip and what a successful time the
president's had here and how much he's enjoyed here. And as we
have done a lot on this trip, if you have questions about this
matter, you should call Mr. Kennedy at the White House legal
QUESTION: Are you telling me you're not going to tell us the
president's reaction to the news from the court?
MCCURRY: The president's -- I can tell you the president got
a message to call Mr. Bennett, his lawyer, which he did. He
called him a little bit after 9 o'clock.
The president got the news from Mr. Bennett. He asked if it
was, in fact, an April Fool's joke that Mr. Bennett was playing
on him, and assured that it was not, the president thanked Mr.
Bennett for his fine work, said he appreciated everything that
the attorneys had done in this case. And obviously, the
president was pleased that the judge agreed with the very
detailed arguments that the president's attorneys have put
forward in this case.
And I think he believes that the court's ruling speaks more
eloquently than he could on the matter.
QUESTION: But he must be relieved by this, don't you think?
Isn't he relieved?
MCCURRY: The president was pleased to hear the news.
QUESTION: How is his (OFF-MIKE) that so many other people
were brought into this investigation...
(UNKNOWN): The president was pleased to hear...
MCCURRY: There will be lot said by many people on this.
I've just told you what the president has to say.
QUESTION: Mike, how is Mrs. Clinton handling this right now?
MCCURRY: The president shared the news with the first lady
after he got it from Mr. Bennett. And I think both of them are
pleased to get the news and, at the moment, they're doing some
QUESTION: What do you think this does to Ken Starr's
MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on that.
I have no basis of information to speculate on
QUESTION: Is the president bitter about what happened?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) political calculus that the president
will be able to get things done (OFF-MIKE)?
MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on politics or anything
else. We've done a lot of very hard work on Africa and the
importance of building a new partnership with Africa on this
trip. The president has been focused on that, and focused on
that to the exclusion of other issues. And I think he's going
to remain interested in building the kind of partnership with
the countries that we've been here, continuing to build a
relationship that's going to matter a lot more to the American
people in the long run as we think ahead to the 21st century of
what kind of country we want to live in and what kind of country
we want to share our own work with, and that's the purpose of
QUESTION: Mike, (OFF-MIKE) bitter about, is he bitter about
being dragged through the -- for three years now?
MCCURRY: I think the president is pleased to receive the
vindication he's been waiting a long time for.
QUESTION: How surprised was the president by this decision?
MCCURRY: I don't know if I would characterize him as being
surprised. I mean, there's been speculation that the judge
would have some ruling on that motion. I don't think it was
entirely expected, but it was welcome, nonetheless.
QUESTION: Mike, did the First Family call Chelsea in
MCCURRY: Not at this point, and I don't know whether they
plan to or not. I think they plan to get some dinner.
QUESTION: What was the president doing when he got this
MCCURRY: He was on the telephone with Mr. Bennett.
QUESTION: Well, right before that.
MCCURRY: Right before that he was walking down the hallway
to get on the phone with Mr. Bennett.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) legal bills in this case? What
MCCURRY: We've reported what we have on that at a previous
occasion. Anything else? Let's go to dinner.
QUESTION: Mike, will the president address this himself at
MCCURRY: I don't anticipate him doing that. He's got a lot
of work to do tomorrow to wrap up this trip, and we'll stay
focused on the work of this trip.
QUESTION: Mike, (OFF-MIKE) of this magnitude, which has been
MCCURRY: A decision of this magnitude has been what's long
awaited for and is -- the president's glad to get. I mean I
don't know how it's going to affect the work we do. The
president would have done the work that he's going to do
regardless of what this decision was.
MCCURRY: We have, you know, no way of knowing that. We've
heard some of what the attorneys on the other side have said,
but we have no way of predicting it.
QUESTION: Back on this. Does the president feel vindicated?
I mean, he has always denied this (OFF-MIKE).
MCCURRY: (OFF-MIKE) about three times already, and I've said
he's felt vindicated.
QUESTION: Yes, I know, but, I mean, you really haven't
MCCURRY: (OFF-MIKE) pleased to receive the vindication that
he's long awaited for.
QUESTION: Does this change his mind about the news
MCCURRY: No. Not unless you all have a lot of questions on
Africa and the partnership we're building with Africa as we
think ahead of this very important relationship the president
has worked hard on in the last couple of days.
Does the president believe that this may have
damaged him, notwithstanding the vindication from the judge
simply by having this for three years in the public sphere (ph)?
MCCURRY: This has been a fact of life, and no doubt other
matters will remain a fact of life for him. And he has done a
very good job of staying very focused on the work that he
believes the American people expect him to do. That's what he's
doing on this trip. That's what he's doing when he will get
home. And I think the president has shown extraordinary
discipline in not letting these other issues distract him from
the work that he was elected twice by the American people to do.
QUESTION: Mike, the judge's ruling says that if the
allegations are true, they do not amount to sexual harassment.
Could you state again for the record whether the president says
that these -- that Mrs. Jones' have merit or not?
MCCURRY: That question relates directly to the arguments
that Mr. Bennett filed in numerous briefs before the court. And
you can find the answer in the very eloquent pleadings that he
filed. Yes sir?
QUESTION: Yes Mike, what are the high points (OFF-MIKE)?
MCCURRY: I think the major high points on this trip for
Africa have been the sense of a new spirit of partnership in
which the American people will engage with the people of Africa
as we build a common destiny.
And I think most Americans will not lose sight of
the fact that irrespective of what the news is back home, this
president has worked hard to advance the economic interests of
the American people and doing so in a way that will help the
people of Africa realize their potential.
It's an extraordinary place. The president has been very
struck by the energy and enthusiasm of the people and leaders of
Africa, and I think he wants to build on that now as we build a
new partnership with Africa.
QUESTION: Has the president, Mike, said anything about
tactics that the Paula Jones lawyers used in the last few weeks?
MCCURRY: The president has said what I've reported to you,
and that's about the last question I'm going to take.
Mr. Pilly (ph).
QUESTION: Mike, for the record, does the president deny Ms.
MCCURRY: That's been asked and answered so numerous times
and addressed so eloquently in pleadings before the court, you
don't need me to say that here.
Anything else? And we're done for the evening.
QUESTION: Mike, you talked about what the president did, but
can you tell us a little bit -- did he have a meeting with his
aides? Did Bruce come in, Sosnik, you? What happened
immediately after he got this news?
MCCURRY: He got on the phone to Bennett. He relayed the
news to others here. I think that, I think it's fair to say
that some people were surprised by that news, and the president
shared it with the first lady and he's going on with his program
for the balance of the evening.
QUESTION: Do you expect some kind of...
MCCURRY: I expect the president to do some good shopping of
the very fine crafts that they have displayed for him up there
and then have some dinner and then go to bed so that he can get
up and do the work that he intends to do here in Africa
QUESTION: Were the president's aides surprised? Were you
MCCURRY: I'm not going to characterize reaction. I've given
you the president's reaction. I think that's the significant
thing, and I don't think there's anything to add beyond that.
QUESTION: Is the president...
MCCURRY: Let's finish this up.
QUESTION: Could we just ask...
QUESTION: Is the president asserting executive privilege in
behalf of some of his aides...
MCCURRY: Asked and answered.
QUESTION: ... conversations with Mrs. Clinton?
MCCURRY: Asked and answered.
QUESTION: When was it answered?
MCCURRY: Asked and answered. It's been...
MCCURRY: ... addressed back home numerous times.
QUESTION: But what about you? You're his spokesperson.
MCCURRY: You've asked me and I've already answered that
QUESTION: By saying nothing.
MCCURRY: Anything else?
MCCURRY: OK, yes, Peter.
QUESTION: What exactly did the president say as he related
this news to you and the other people on the staff?
MCCURRY: He said, as I indicated, that he thought at first
it was an April Fool's joke.
QUESTION: Can you further characterize his demeanor as he
spoke to you?
MCCURRY: He just wanted to know more about it, and wanted to
talk to Mr. Bennett about it, and then wanted to share the news
with the first lady.
OK? That's about all I want to do on this subject. And
we'll get back to Africa tomorrow. I know you all want to get
back to the stories you are doing for tomorrow on our trip here
in Africa, which we are -- here in Africa, not back in
QUESTION: Interview for sale.
MCCURRY: And there's not -- I don't believe there's anything
further that Mr. Kennedy -- if there's anything further to say
about any legal aspect of this, Jim Kennedy from the White House
Legal Counsel's Office would the place to go.
I don't intend to do anything more on that here.
QUESTION: Mike, is the president staying (OFF-MIKE)?
MCCURRY: Yes, he will stay here. That is my understanding.
QUESTION: Is there some sort of frustration from the
president about the coverage of..?
MCCURRY: No, absolutely not. It's been spectacular. It's
been great. He has several times told me that he's been
somewhat surprised at how much you all have been able to report
on this and get good placement and good air time for the story.
And he feels that's important, because one of his goals on this
trip was to introduce America to the potential and possibility
that is Africa today, and will be Africa in the 21st century.
And the coverage has been great. And he's loved the pictures
of him and elephants. And he thanks all of you. And I think
you all deserve a night out on the town. And why don't we all
go to dinner, which is what we should be doing anyhow. All
right, anybody got anything else before we end this?
Thank you and good evening.