PRESS BRIEFING BY
The Akasaka Prince Hotel
MR. LOCKHART: Good morning, barely. Any other questions? I thinkjustfor your planning purposes, we will at the end of the day, in the timebetweenwhen the President leaves and when the press plane leaves, we'll haveDeputyTreasury Secretary Larry Summers and Jack Pritchard from the NSC, theDirectorfor Asian Affairs, here and available to you to give you a readout on theevents of this afternoon.
Q What time is that, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: I expect it will be around 6:00 p.m., depending on howclosely we stick to the schedule.
Q On camera, off camera?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll do it on camera. For those of you who have hadtostruggle through the lobby, I understand that most of Mr. Sperling'ssupporters will be leaving once he has left the building. (Laughter.)
Have a good lunch, Gene.
Any other questions?
Q Joe, this is the first briefing you've given in about 36 hours.It's going on 10:00 p.m. in Washington. It's getting up close to deadlinesfor newspapers. And you've also missed a lot of the evening TV shows. Wasthis calculated so as to avoid talking about impeachment on a day whenthat'sdominating?
MR. LOCKHART: Given the group that I stand out here andlook at, I don't think there is ever a day I can avoid talkingabout it. I think you're thinking too hard about this.
Great. See you soon.
Q Joe, could we just ask you what the President said thismorning about the impeachment hearings?
MR. LOCKHART: As I talked about earlier today, thePresident didn't watch any of the live coverage that wasavailable over here of the hearings. He did see short clip on anews headline program that he had on. The traveling chief ofstaff gave him a very short briefing of what was going on back inWashington. He indicated that he was more interested infinishing up the work on his speech.
We obviously did the speech this morning. We went through anumber of issues that will likely be raised in the bilateralmeeting with Prime Minister Obuchi. And in that meeting thatlasted about 20, 25 minutes, the subjects of other events inWashington did not come up.
Q David Kendall is the President's private attorney. Didhe consult with him about the line of questioning he planned totake with Ken Starr?
MR. LOCKHART: I know he has talked to him in the last weekor so. I don't know how specific they got as far as what Mr.Kendall might raise. They primarily were spending time on tryingto complete the questionnaire that was sent from the JudiciaryCommittee.
Q Did they complete that questionnaire?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q Apparently, he brought the 81 questions with him. Hashe done any work on them?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't expect he has. I think that the workthat's being done right now is primarily being done by theattorneys. And if they're at a point where they want to sendover some of that work product, they will just do it through anormal faxing process.
Q Why is it taking so long, Joe? Chairman Hyde said it'sbeen a couple of weeks already. He made it sound as though hefelt the response should have been sent over.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that there are a number ofquestions that the Republicans decided they wanted to ask -- 81specific questions takes some time to work through. It's aserious process. As you all know, there have been a few thingsgoing on in the world that have occupied the President's time.
They'll be finished when they're finished.
Q Joe, do you have any indication what's on the agendafor this bilateral lunch that was called suddenly?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that it was called suddenly. Ithink we just didn't tell you about it. No, I think the lunch isa chance for the President and the Prime Minister to meet in aless formal session. I don't know that there's a formal agendafor the lunch. You'll remember when we were in New York thePresident and the Prime Minister had intended to spend some timeup at the Rockefeller estate and due to weather we were not ableto travel up there. So the President is very much lookingforward to both a formal bilateral meeting, but also a moreinformal lunch.
Q Would you back away at this point from any of yourcriticisms of the fairness of the impeachment process, given inparticular that Mr. Kendall was allowed at least an hour -- Idon't know, the monitor has been shut off here now -- but atleast an hour to question --
MR. LOCKHART: I can turn it back on.
Q That's okay. To question Ken Starr --
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't watched and, to tell you the truth,I haven't seen much of it all. So it's hard for me to make anassessment. Clearly, one of the issues that we raised yesterday-- or on our departure, I think it was yesterday -- was theamount of time. And to the extent that there's more timeavailable to Mr. Kendall, that addresses one of our concerns. Asfar as an overall assessment of the hearing, the process, I'mjust not in a position from here to draw any conclusions.
Q Joe, I just wanted to ask what the President has beentold about North Korea. There was an NSC staffer who came inhere from the visit to North Korea, briefed Berger. Can you tellus some of what you learned about -- and what you've learned nowabout North Korean ability to launch --
MR. LOCKHART: I think Mr. Pritchard will be here later inthe day, so I'm going to defer to him, because he obviously hassuperior knowledge on that issue and he'll be available to answerthose questions.
Q Did the President get a briefing from -- MR. LOCKHART: No. He is not here. He did not get aspecific briefing to date on this. But Mr. Berger has beenbriefed and is keeping the President informed.
Q Ken Starr testified for two hours yesterday and he saida lot of things against the President. I know that you haven'tseen the whole testimony, but can you tell me today, did KenStarr say anything that was untrue at all about the President?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't possibly answer that question sittingfrom where we are. There are people in Washington who are in amuch better position to answer that question.
Q -- what is the latest status on the U.S. steel importissue -- brought up in talks between the two leaders or --
MR. LOCKHART: I think Mr. Sperling probably addressed that,but the President has now talked about that twice publicly, andmy assumption is that the issues of trade and tradeliberalization and market access will be brought up in thebilateral meetings with the Prime Minster.
Q I know you don't have an overall assessment, but onething I know you've already spoken a bit about and Kendall did alot of questioning on, which is the, I guess, preliminary report,if you will, being that the independent counsel sees nothing inWhitewater and the Travel Office firings and the files. Are youguys really upset that he apparently sat on this as long as hehas?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, as I said this morning, I think it'squite astonishing that the independent counsel has had thisinformation that exonerates the President and others and has donenothing about it. I was trying to think of what's happened sincethe independent counsel came to these conclusions and when hedecided to tell us, and I think some people will obviously lookat the elections, but if you look at the other news in the day,at baseball, Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs between the time Mr.Starr came to some of these conclusions and when he decided totell us about it. And I think that's an astonishing piece ofinformation.
Q Mark McGwire --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, all 70.
Q He says he's still looking at some of these issues. Isit really fair to say this is an exoneration?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you look at what he said, hedoesn't find any information that he believes is appropriate tomove forward with, and I think most objective people would readhis statement as an exoneration.
Q Isn't it a little difficult to swallow, you're talkingabout Ken Starr waiting to announce the results of these two armsof his investigations, and yet the President has acknowledgedthat he delayed this whole investigation by not cooperating, bynot being forthcoming with information that Ken Starr sought.
MR. LOCKHART: Those are two separate issues. We've dealtwith the second one, and I don't have anything else to add on toit here. I think, as I said, it is truly remarkable that theindependent counsel had information, had made conclusions basedon a long, expensive investigation, and decided that it wasn'tappropriate to tell anyone until today. And I think he is in thebest position to articulate what the reasons for that are.
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore