THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
||June 16, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY
United Nations Building
12:11 P.M. (L)
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. Gene Sperling will be here in
a moment and he can give you some further thoughts on the President's
speech today on child labor and answer any questions you may have. Let
me just do one quick thing, though, while we're waiting for Gene.
As you know, the President had a meeting earlier today with President
Ruth Dreifuss. It was a positive meeting, discussed the situation in
Europe, particularly Kosovo. The Swiss applauded the American leadership
role in helping Europe stand together and also deal with the refugees, as
well as the humanitarian efforts that are ongoing in the region. They
discussed the need to begin the hard work of getting the refugees back
home and the hard work of rebuilding Kosovo.
They had an extended conversation on democratization in the region. In
particular, the Swiss reflected on their situation with both large
numbers of Albanians, having settled in Switzerland, and Serbs living
peacefully together. And they talked a bit about the joint economic
commission that the Vice President talked about earlier.
That was that meeting. Any questions on anything other than today's
speech, which I'll leave to Gene?
Q Did the matter of the retained funds for Holocaust victims and others
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so, no. That was not reported out to me.
Q Do you have anything on Cohen's meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: Don't have anything yet. I think that, if it has not
started, it will start shortly. I think as we've said, we very much look
forward to getting the details of Russian participation in KFOR. We
believe they should participate, and as in Bosnia we believe we can work
out an arrangement where they participate and we retain a unified
Q You'll be able to reach an agreement with the Russians at the Sunday
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I don't want to put a timetable on it. I think
Secretary Cohen and Defense Minister Sergeyev are meeting today. Later
in the week, Secretary of State Albright will meet with her counterpart.
There are important issues to discuss. I expect we'll reach an
agreement. I'm not willing to venture a guess on what the timetable will
Q Joe, what is the phrase "unified command" mean? Does that mean NATO
MR. LOCKHART: It means there's a single force with one command
structure making decisions, which would be NATO.
Q Joe, can you confirm that NATO has given the Serbs 24 extra hours to
get out of southern Kosovo?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, there's one particular zone. I think overall, we've
found that the withdrawal has worked well. The deployment of KFOR has
worked well. There's a lot of activity I think in one particular zone
due to congestion on roads. They've had trouble moving some of the Serb
forces out, so NATO has given them 24 additional hours to get out of that
zone. I think it reflects the logistics of actually moving a large
number of people and heavy equipment, rather than any reluctance on the
part of the Serbs at this point to live up to the agreements they've
Q What's the status of Russian efforts to reinforce and resupply the
troops at the Pristina airport?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there were some nine trucks that were brought in,
escorted by the British forces there to resupply the troops, and that has
Q Do you know what the policy is? Is there a policy from here on out
MR. LOCKHART: The policies will continue -- specific discussions like
that with the Russians, as well as broader discussions about developing
the overall role. And I think once the broader discussions are
concluded, and concluded positively, specific discussions like this will
become a matter of routine KFOR logistics.
Q Do you know what specific anti-gun measures the President was lobbying
for on his two phone calls on the plane?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, he was looking for the House to take up the
provisions that the Senate passed closing the gun show loophole and the
other elements that the Senate passed forward.
I think he has recognized the very pervasive influence over the last few
weeks of the National Rifle Association. They have bragged openly that
they have written the House version, which waters down the Senate version
and opens new loopholes. I think the President made the case, and will
continue to make the case through the next couple of days through phone
calls to members, that the public is expecting them to do the people's
business, not the NRA's business.
And if you look at the last few days, we find that we're very much at
odds among the parties -- or between the parties -- because while you
have an effort to water down this sensible gun control legislation, the
Republicans have also tried to zero out the COPS program, which is
something that causes concern for the President.
So you have a situation where the Republican leadership is making the
case for less cops and more guns, and the Democratic leadership is making
the case for more cops and less guns. And I think that's a powerful
message that needs to be articulated as we move towards the vote.
Q Can you confirm that the solution of the -- of the Russian presence
in KFOR might involve a senior Finnish official?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't confirm that. The details of what they'll work
out are happening in Helsinki, and I'll let Secretary Cohen do his work
and his able spokesperson articulate what agreement they've come to.
Q Joe, forgive me if you went over this in the last day or so, but what
does the President think of the House dividing the gun bill from the
other juvenile crime issues? And is he happy with the juvenile crime
bill as it stands, as it went through in the Senate or --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think what we're concerned about is that there is
an effort to do this to try to kill the bill. And I don't know that he
spends that much time worrying about the legislative tactics or focusing
on that. He wants to make sure that what the Senate passed, at a minimum
gets passed in the House.
Q So if I can just follow up, there are some provisions in the juvenile
crime bill, like mandatory minimums for 13-year-olds and trying young
teenagers as adults. Do you know if the President has any objections or
if he was fine to sign on to the Senate version of that bill?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we certainly talked about the Senate bill as passed
as something we could support.
Q What was the response to the two Congressman after he called them?
And was one of the reasons he called Lampson because his predecessors --
one of his predecessors -- Jack Brooks lost in part because of his vote
on assault weapons?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into the response of any particular
member; they can do that for themselves. But the President fully
recognizes the political nature of this kind of vote. He believes that
these are sensible measures that the public demands. But he also
remembers quite clearly that there were members of Congress that suffered
because of the influence of the NRA and other groups like that.
But I think the President believes that the country has shifted on these
issues, and it's important that people stand up and take sensible steps
and, in addition to being the right thing to do along policy, that you
can make a very effective case to your constituents on why this is the
Q Do you have any information on what the President's thoughts are as Al
Gore declares for president today?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, very obviously and clearly, the President values
the relationship and the incredible work that the Vice President has done
over the last seven years as his partner. He has been at the forefront
of the economic recovery, of the reinventing government, our commitment
to education, our foreign policy and our commitment to the environment.
These are all areas that the Vice President has played an enormous role
in, and I think will stand to his credit as he stands up today.
I think, also, the President believes that it's time for the President
to get out and make the case, let the country know who he is, where he
wants to take the country. And he takes an important first step on that
Q Does that mean even if Gore wants to separate himself from the
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President's agenda on things like the
economy, education, the environment will prove to be a very successful
platform for the Vice President to run from.
Q Joe, there are reports that the Russians are pressuring the Eastern
European governments to reverse course and let them transit through their
country, to send troops into Kosovo. Can we confirm those reports,
number one? And, number two, if those reports are true, does it disturb
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of the reports.
Q Bob Woodward writes in his new book that the First Lady once said to
Mike McCurry a series of rhetorical questions, have I been embarrassed,
have I been humiliated, et cetera. Have you talked to McCurry about
that, or anyone at the White House?
MR. LOCKHART: I have not talked to Mr. McCurry about that. I don't
think I've talked to anyone at the White House about that particular
Q You can't tell us whether it's, from your standpoint, correct that
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I think there were only two people
involved in that conversation.
Q Have you had any indication -- to try to find out whether Mr. Bennett
breached the lawyer-client confidential --
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't spent any more time on that subject since the
last time we spoke about it.
Q Well, I mean, isn't that important?
MR. LOCKHART: There are a lot of things that I think are much more
important and take precedence.
Q Joe, the White House fought so hard during the last year to preserve
its legal privileges. It seems strange that the President would now just
roll over and say, well, it doesn't matter if all this privileged
MR. LOCKHART: And I don't think anyone's indicated the President has
rolled over and said any of those things. I'd suggest if you want to
report this story, you start by talking to Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bennett
and establish the facts.
Q Well, Mr. Woodward clearly is not going to reveal his sources.
MR. LOCKHART: Why don't you start with Mr. Bennett who, if you've all
read your Washington Post this morning, will see that he says he did not
violate attorney-client privilege.
Q Mine wasn't delivered.
MR. LOCKHART: Some of us have our sources.
Q Well, if Bennett didn't violate attorney-client privilege, who would
have said that? Because as you pointed out an earlier question, there
might have been only two people in the room.
MR. LOCKHART: Sam, maybe you should have Mr. Woodward on your program
on Sunday and ask him that question directly.
Q The book says that Bennett said, you know, to the President, certain
things. Was the President his source?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm telling you -- that, I can help you with; the
President did not talk to Mr. Woodward.
Q Well, it had to be Bennett, then, or else Woodward made it up.
MR. LOCKHART: I'd suggest you ask Mr. Bennett the circumstances of how
Mr. Woodward may have acquired that information, and then maybe to Mr.
Woodward on how he acquired that information.
Q Do they still talk, the President and Bob Bennett, for any reason?
Are they still friendly?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Joe, do the Russians stand on the peacekeeping operation, you said
earlier today that you expect this matter to be resolved. On the basis
of what, why do you expect it to be resolved?
MR. LOCKHART: Because NATO and KFOR believe that the Russians have a
role to play in this peacekeeping operation. We want them to be
involved; they want to be involved. That's the basis of saying I expect
this to be worked out.
Any sight of Gene yet? Oh, I'm sorry. Gene.
Q Maybe Sperling was the source. (Laughter.)
END 12:25 P.M. (L)