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Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

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Trip to Africa

Office of the Press Secretary
(Dakar, Senegal)

For Immediate ReleaseApril 1, 1998


The Meridien Hotel
Dakar, Senegal

9:50 P.M. (L)

MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Berger wanted to come back and tell you some moreabout our Africa trip and what a successful time the President has had hereand how much he's enjoyed it here. And as we have done a lot on thistrip, if you have questions about this matter, you should call Mr. Kennedyat the White House Legal Counsel's Office.

Q: Are you telling me you're not going to tell us the President'sreaction to the news from the court?

MR. MCCURRY: 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 9:00p.m. The President got the news from Mr. Bennett. He asked if it was, infact, an April Fools joke that Mr. Bennett was playing on him, and, assuredthat it was not, the President thanked Mr. Bennett for his fine work, saidhe appreciated everything the attorneys had done in this case.

And, obviously, the President was pleased that the judge agreed withthe very detailed arguments that the President's attorneys had put forth inthis case, and I think he believes that the court's ruling speaks moreeloquently than he could on the matter.

Q: But he must be relieved by this, don't you think? Isn't herelieved?

MR. MCCURRY: The President was pleased to hear the news.

Q: How is Mrs. Clinton?

Q: Does the President regret at all that so many other people werebrought into this investigation, that other names were made public?

MR. MCCURRY: There will be a lot said by many people on this. I'vejust told you what the President has to say.

Q: Mike, how is Mrs. Clinton handling this right now?

MR. MCCURRY: The President shared the news with the First Lady afterhe got it from Mr. Bennett, and I think both of them were pleased to getthe news. And at the moment they're doing some shopping.

Q: What do you think this does to Ken Starr's investigation?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on that. I have no basis ofinformation to speculate on that.

Q: Is the President bitter about what happened?

Q: --political calculus in terms of the President being able to getthings done, his agenda, which has been--

MR. 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 buildinga new partnership with Africa on this trip. The President has been focusedon that, and focused on that to the exclusion of other issues. And I thinkhe's going to remain interested in building the kind of partnership withthe countries that we've been here, continuing to build a relationshipthat's going to matter a lot more to the American people in the long run aswe think ahead to the 21st century-- what kind of country we want to livein and what kind of country we want to share our own work with. And that'sthe purpose of this trip.

Q: Is he bitter about being dragged into this for three years now?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the President is pleased to receive thevindication he's been waiting a long time for this.

Q: Mike, how surprised was the President by this decision?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know if I would characterize him as being"surprised." I mean, there's been speculation that the judge would havesome ruling on that motion. I don't think it was entirely expected, but itwas welcome nonetheless.

Q: Mike, did the First Family call Chelsea in California?

MR. MCCURRY: Not at this point, and I don't know whether they plan toor not. I think they plan to get dinner.

Q: What was the President doing when he got the news? MR. MCCURRY: He was on the telephone with Mr. Bennett. (Laughter)

Q: Well, Mike, before that?

MR. MCCURRY: Right before that he was walking down the hallway to geton the phone with Mr. Bennett. (Laughter)

Q: How much has legal bills in this case--

MR. MCCURRY: We've reported what we have on that at previous occasion.

Anything else? Let's go to dinner.

Q: Mike, will the President address this himself at any point?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't anticipate him doing that. He's got a lot ofwork to do tomorrow to wrap up this trip, and he will stay focused on thework of this trip.

Q: --to tell us how you think a decision of this magnitude, which hasbeen affecting all of your work-- how's it going to affect --I mean, thiswhole scandal has been affecting all of your work-- how it's going toaffect--

MR. MCCURRY: A decision of this magnitude, which has been long awaitedfor and is--the President is glad to get. I mean, I don't know how it'sgoing to affect the work we do. The President would have done the workthat he is going to do regardless of what this decision was.

Q: Does that President expect it to be appealed? Does Bob Bennettexpect it to be appealed?

MR. MCCURRY: We had no way of knowing that. We've heard some of whatthe attorneys on the other side have said, but we have no way ofpredicting.

Q: Back on this. Does the President feel vindicated? I mean, he hasalways denied this.

MR. MCCURRY: I think that's about three times already I've said he'sfelt vindicated.

Q: Yes, I know, but I mean you really haven't addressed it.

MR. MCCURRY: Pleased to receive the vindication that he has longwaited for.

Q: Does this change his mind about a news conference, Mike?

MR. MCCURRY: No. Not unless, you all have a lot of questions onAfrica and the partnership we're building with Africa as we think ahead inthis very important relationship the President has worked hard on in thelast couple of days. Q: Does the President believe this may have damaged him,notwithstanding the vindication from the judge, simply by having this forthree years in the public print?

MR. MCCURRY: This has been a fact of life and no doubt other matterswill remain a fact of life for him. And he has done a very good job ofstaying very focused on the work that he believes that the American peopleexpect him to do. That's what he's doing on this trip. That's what he'sdoing when he will get home. And I think the President has shownextraordinary discipline in not letting these other issues distract himfrom the work that he was elected twice by the American people to do.

Q: Mike, the judge's ruling says that if the allegations are true ,they do not amount to sexual harassment. Could you state again for therecord whether the President says that Ms. Jones? allegations have merit ornot?

MR. MCCURRY: That question relates directly to the arguments that Mr.Bennett filed in numerous briefs before the court, and you can find theanswer in the very eloquent pleadings that he filed.

Yes, sir.

Q: Mike, what are the high points of this trip to Africa?

MR. MCCURRY: I think the major high points of this trip for Africahave been the sense of a new spirit of partnership in which the Americanpeople 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 hardto advance the economic interests of the American people and doing so in away that will help the people of Africa realize their potential. It's anextraordinary place. The President has been very struck by the energy andenthusiasm of the people and leaders of Africa, and I think he wants tobuild on that now as we build a new partnership with Africa.

Q: Has the president, Mike, said anything about tactics that the PaulaJones lawyers used in the last few weeks?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has said what I've reported to you, andthat's about the last question I'm going to take.

Q: Mike, for the record, does the President deny Ms. Jones?allegations?

MR. MCCURRY: That's been asked and answered so numerous times andaddressed so eloquently and pleaded before the court, you don't need me tosay that here.

Anything else, and we're done for the evening.

Q: Mike, you talked about what the President did, but can you tell us,did he have a meeting with his aides? Did Bruce come in, Sosnick, you?What happened immediately after he got this news?

MR. MCCURRY: He got on the phone to Bennett. He relayed the news toothers here. I think it's fair to say that some people were surprised bythat news, and the President shared it with the First Lady and he's goingon with his program for the balance of the evening.

Q: Do you expect some celebration, Mike?

MR. MCCURRY: I expect the President to do some good shopping of thevery fine crafts that they have displayed for him up there, and then havesome dinner and then go to bed so that he can get and do the work that heintends to do here in Africa tomorrow.

Q: Were the President's aides surprised? Were you surprised?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to characterize the reaction. I've givenyou the President's reaction. I think that's the significant thing, and Idon't think there's anything to add beyond that.

Let's finish this up.

Q: Is the President asserting executive privilege on behalf of some ofhis aides in their conversations with Mrs. Clinton?

MR. MCCURRY: Asked and answered.

Q: When was it answered?

MR. MCCURRY: Asked and answered. It's been addressed back homenumerous times.

Q: Well, what about you? You're his spokesperson?

MR. MCCURRY: You've asked me and I've already answered that question.

Q: By saying nothing.

MR. MCCURRY: Anything else?

Q: Mike, what exactly did the President say as he relayed his news toyou and the other people on his staff?

MR. MCCURRY: He said, as I indicated, that he thought at first it wasan April Fools joke.

Q: Can you kind of characterize his demeanor when he spoke to you?

MR. MCCURRY: He just wanted to know more about it and wanted to talkto Mr. Bennett about it and then wanted to share the news with the FirstLady.

Okay, that's all I want to do on this subject, and we'll get back toAfrica tomorrow. I know you all want to get back to your stories you'redoing for tomorrow on our trip here in Africa--which we are here in Africa,not back in Washington. And there's not--I don't believe there's anythingfurther that Mr. Kennedy--if there's anything further to say about anylegal aspect of this, Jim Kennedy from the White House Legal Counsel'sOffice will be the place to go. I don't intend to do anything more on ithere.

Q: Mike, is the President staying in tonight?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he will stay here, it is my understanding.

Q: Is there some sort of frustration for the President about thecoverage of this African trip?

MR. MCCURRY: No, absolutely not. It has been spectacular. It's beengreat. He has several times told me that he's been somewhat surprised athow much you all have been able to report on this and get good placementand good air time for the story. And he feels that's important because oneof his goals in this trip was to introduce America to the potential andpossibility 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 theelephants. And he thanks all of you. And think you all deserve a nightout on the town. And why don't we all go do dinner, which is what weshould be doing anyhow.

All right, anybody got anything else before we end this? Thank youand good evening.

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