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Investigating The President

Transcript: Daschle comments following meeting with Clinton

September 10, 1998

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: We just had a very good meeting with the president and the vice president. He shared his feelings and apologized to us personally.

We have expressed the hope that the president will continue to demonstrate his contrition to his family, to his friends, and to the American people. And he's indicated a desire to do that.

We've also urged him to cooperate, to cooperate with the ongoing procedure now under way in the Congress. And in that regard, we expressed our strong desire to be as certain as we can be that the process will be a fair one.

The president's story needs to be heard, and we need to get the facts.

And so in addition to cooperation on the president's part we need fairness on the part of Congress.

We also expressed the need to bring this to a closure, to allow this country to heal, to allow us to continue to work on the nation's business.

This country needs the president to devote his energies and his leadership to international and domestic problems that need our attention now and in the months ahead.

And so I believe that it was a good meeting, a very constructive meeting, a candid meeting. And I hope that this process will continue with an expectation that we can bring it to closure sometime in the not-too-distant future.

QUESTION: Did you speak at all about impeachment or resignation, Senator?

DASCHLE: We didn't talk about any of the options or any of the scenarios. We talked about the issues at hand, the circumstances at hand, and what should we do about it.

QUESTION: Senator, how can the president, on the one hand, continue to speak out publicly day in and day out about the need for apologies and contrition, and on the other hand, concentrate on the nation's business? Can you do both of those things?

DASCHLE: They are not mutually exclusive. I think the American people appreciate the fact that the president has shown his contrition very sincerely, in a very direct way in recent days. And I think they also appreciate the fact that we have an array of challenges and problems that need his and our attention. And they expect him and we to work on it.

QUESTION: Senator, is there anything that the president has admitted to that could constitute an impeachable offense?

DASCHLE: That's something that the records and the facts and the documentation and all the information provided to us will answer. We can't answer that today.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) lied to you, Senator? And do you feel -- how do you feel about that? Can you accept his apology now? Is that enough? Or do you still not trust his word any longer?

DASCHLE: I think it's fair to say we all accept his apology, and we need to go on from here.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) being lied to? Do you feel you were lied to?

DASCHLE: That's -- the matter now is one of how do we proceed, how do we go from where we are now to a point where our country can heal and where we can deal with all of the issues that are before us. And I think that that's the real question.

I accept the president's apology, and I think my colleagues do as well.

QUESTION: Do you trust him?

DASCHLE: Of course.

QUESTION: Senator Daschle, you spoke of the need for fairness -- you spoke of the need for fairness in Congress. Does that mean the president deserves 24 or 48 hours to see this report before it's made public?

DASCHLE: I believe he does deserve that, frankly. The speaker had that when -- under similar circumstances a couple of years ago. I think that it would be fair to allow the president to be able to respond to the allegations prior to the time they are made public.

QUESTION: Senator, if that doesn't happen -- if that doesn't happen, does that prove to you that this is not being handled in a bipartisan or nonpartisan fashion?

DASCHLE: Well, I think it would demonstrate that there is an element of unfairness that we are going to have to be very concerned about. Obviously, we have to take this one step at a time. The fairness question will be applied to all decisions, including this one, as we go through a complex maze of questions for the next several weeks or months.

So clearly, this is not getting off on the right start, in my view, if the person who is most directly affected and can provide us with his own account of these circumstances is denied the right to do so.

QUESTION: Did you ask if there are any surprises in the report? Is there anything that hasn't been out there?

DASCHLE: He was asked that, and his answer was that no, there were no surprises.

QUESTION: Have the president's actions harmed the prospects for your agenda on the Hill?

DASCHLE: Well, obviously, this has complicated our agenda. I would think it's only fair to concede that at the beginning.

It certainly hasn't diminished it; it hasn't diminished our determination to continue to work at it. Many of us have suggested that we work into the night, and through the night, if necessary, to address the array of challenges our country is facing.

So while it has complicated it, it certainly is important that we continue to focus on it.

QUESTION: Is it difficult, though, Senator, with a wounded president to complete your agenda?

DASCHLE: Well, of course, it is difficult for us to complete the agenda for a lot of different reasons. The Republicans have thwarted us at every turn. They are unwilling to take up such basic issues as the Patients' Bill of Rights, the minimum wage, the farm issues that we are facing and farm crisis right now, the array of problems we are facing in campaign finance reform.

The agenda is being thwarted not by this president, but by a Republican Congress refusing to act.

QUESTION: Senator, is the president going to survive?

DASCHLE: I believe he will.

Thank you all.

END



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Thursday September 10, 1998

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