Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart (9/14/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary

Immediate Release                        September 14, 2000

                              PRESS BRIEFING
                               JOE LOCKHART

                     The James S. Brady Briefing Room

1:35 P.M. EDT

     Q    Joe, tell me about -- the President, was just talking about,
about Wen Ho Lee.  Has he registered these feelings to the Attorney General
or just to Department lawyers?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think you can assume by what he said there that is he
is troubled by part of this, so I would expect that he will be looking for
a more full explanation from them, have them look at this particular
question that he raised and to report back.

     Q    But, Joe, he said he'd always been troubled by this, suggesting
from the very outset.  And, yet, he didn't express reservations to Justice
-- thought it would have been improper
or --

     MR. LOCKHART:  No.  I think he said -- and I'm not going to try to
decipher his words here, I thought he was very clear and I think no one
could dispute that -- that there had been some questions, there was a
rationale for holding someone without bail that seemed to disappear in a
few day period.  And I think his expression of trouble was in any case
where people are held without bail.  It's a basic tenet of our justice
system and I think, as he said out there, he was troubled by the fact that
this seemed to evaporate quickly.

     Q    Joe, just to follow up, if he was troubled by this from the
outset and he felt an injustice was being done to this man, why didn't he
step in sooner?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I would look at what he said --

     Q    He said, I always had trouble with this.

     MR. LOCKHART:  Josh, what he said when he was out there talking to you
just a few moments ago was, there were a number of assurances that were
made about the reasons for.  And what he's troubled about here is that
those seemed to evaporate between a hearing just a few days ago and the
plea agreement that was announced yesterday.

     Q    Joe, he used the term "they," as in that he is not somehow part
of federal law enforcement.  Why would he do that?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Obviously, this case was prosecuted by the U.S.
Attorney and those who are charged with that.  The President is not charged
with that.

     Q    Is anybody to be held accountable for conduct that the President
says is very troubling?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think as I said at the beginning here that he'll be
looking for some answers to how this came about.

     Q    Well, I understand looking for answers, but my question is will
anybody be held accountable?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I think we tend to -- which is probably quite the
opposite of what you tend to do -- is look for answers before we make
judgments.  You may want to make a judgment before you have the answers.

     Q    Was this criticism directed against the entire Justice
Department, including Janet Reno, or just the prosecutors?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think we'll look to have more information on
this, but I wouldn't see it as a blanket criticism of anyone.

     Q    Joe, could you talk about Vietnam?  Why did the President make
this decision now?  It's been talked about for several months, if not
several years.

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, you have to look at this in the context of an
ongoing discussion that began, really, in 1995.  There has been a
bipartisan consensus, I believe, in Washington since that time to try to
work toward normalizing our relations with Vietnam.  We've taken a lot of
steps, there has been a lot of work done on the fullest accounting for
missing U.S. servicemen.  We just signed a bilateral trade agreement some
weeks ago.  This has been an ongoing effort that, again, has been
bipartisan in nature.

     The President had a chance to meet with and discuss important
bilateral issues with the Vietnamese Prime Minister and discuss a possible
trip.  And he also, as you know, has expressed an interest over the last
few years in making this trip.  So I think given all those things, now is
the right time to go because we will be in the region for the APEC meeting,
and now was the right time to announce it.

     Q    Has he considered who he might like to go along with, who he'd
like to --

     MR. LOCKHART:  Oh, I expect that there will be a good representation
from Congress, who have always expressed interest in this issue.
Obviously, Senator McCain is someone who has been very involved in this.  I
don't know that we're at the point of putting out information to see who
can come with us, but I'm sure there will be a bipartisan group from
Congress.  And we may even put together a business group on this, given the
nature of the relationship.

     Q    Has he consulted with Senator McCain or any of the Vietnam
veterans in Congress who have --

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, there was some consultation -- I think Mr. Berger
talked to a series of congressional leaders yesterday.  The President, for
his part, though, has taken the opportunity over the last six years to have
these conversations with leaders in the Senate, particularly those who have
experiences from Vietnam.

     Q    Two reflective questions about Vietnam.  What does the President
think about being the first U.S. leader to go there since the war ended?
And, also, does he view this as his relationship, or the issue of Vietnam,
for himself coming full circle, being a college student and opposing the
war, and now making the trip --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think, on the first question, the President believes
that there has been a consensus that's developed in this country over the
last few years that the time was right to move forward with this
relationship, both in terms of normalizing our relations, signing the
bilateral trade agreement -- but there's very much a symbolic value in the
President visiting and going actually to visit the country.

     As far as his personal views, I don't really think he sees this in an
egocentric way, of how it impacts him, and where he was in the 1960s, or
where other people were.  I think he views this as a positive evolution in
a relationship that he and many others have worked very hard on over the
last four or five years.

     Q    Joe, if you have answered the question --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I've answered the next -- sorry.  (Laughter.)

     Q    It has to do with the debate last night.  Has the President
talked to you about how he saw it?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes, he actually talked to the First Lady probably five
to 10 minutes after it was over, got her on the phone, told her that he
thought she had done great, and that he was very proud of her, and thought
that she very much made a compelling and positive case for why her ideas
and the ideas that the Democrats have advocated were in the best interest
of New York.  So he thought she did a very good job.

     Q    Joe, can you talk in detail about tomorrow's Prime Minister of
India's visit to the White House?  What is on the agenda really?  The two
leaders are going to talk in private, and also --

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, as far as the meetings, I think, as you all know,
the Prime Minister has a very full schedule outside of the White House.  I
think he was up at Congress today.  He's got some other meetings.  But for
tomorrow, he will come over here, he'll have a small meeting of -- a small
group meeting with the President, then a larger, bringing in some of the
other ministers and advisors from our side.  Then the President and the
Prime Minister will have a chance to spend some time with you all, and
then, over the weekend, we will have the dinner.

     Q    Joe, do you know anything about a delay in trade sanctions
against the European Union and links to other festering trade disputes?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, you know, I think, you have to look at a lot of
our trade issues in their entirety, and the President's role in trying to
promote what's in the best interest of our trade agenda.  We have been
ensnarled in a dispute now for almost a decade with the Europeans on things
like bananas and beef; we've had difficulty getting implemented a WTO
ruling.  And the President is taking steps to make sure that we do
everything we can to ensure that our trade interests are protected.

     Now, there is always a balance between the leverage of using your
ability to sanction or put punitive duties on something, and your action of
actually doing it.  We are working very hard, we have no final decision on
this, but we will continue to work hard to make sure that our agenda and
our interests are advanced on not only bananas and beef, but also on
ongoing area of discussion, the so-called FSC tax issue that has been at
issue between the U.S. and the Americans over the last few years.

     Q    Well, Joe, is he going to impose these sanctions or not?

     MR. LOCKHART:  We are going to make a decision.  We have in the past
imposed some sanctions.  We're in the process now of deciding how we will
continue to deal with what we believe is intransigence on the side of the
Europeans.  But a final decision on what items will be sanctioned hasn't
been made.

     Q    Well, is the story true this morning that it's on indefinite hold
at this point?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No.  The story would be accurate if it said that this
is an ongoing process.

     Q    Is it likely that it'll be delayed until at least after the

     MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know when the decision will be made, but the
decision will be made based on the best interests of our trade agenda and
our ability to freely and fairly export products.

     Q    And just, lastly, it's an ongoing process, but it's been ongoing
for many months now.  Why is this taking so long?

     MR. LOCKHART:  This process, for those of you who are uninitiated, has
been going on for 10 years and is very --

     Q    But the most recent decision on the --

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, listen, you can focus at any single point in the
process and draw some conclusions that would not be accurate if you looked
at the whole process.  We have been working very hard to sort through these
trade disputes in a way that both advances our interest and avoids a
disruptive trade war, we'll continue to do that.

     Q    Joe, you said that you thought that the President's remarks about
Wen Ho Lee shouldn't be seen as a blanket criticism of anyone.  Does the
President still think that Janet Reno and Bill Richardson are doing a good
job and that they retain his confidence?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes.  Susan?

     Q    Did the President talk to the Vice President before making the
decision to visit Vietnam?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I know that this has been an ongoing discussion, so it
would be, I think, beyond comprehension if this hasn't come up in some of
their conversations.  Has he talked to him in the last week, in the final
steps to making a decision about this?  I'm not sure.  I just don't know.

     Q    Joe, the President has occasion from time to time, at official
political events, to run into Asian American groups an Asian American
activists.  Have they raised the Wen Ho Lee case with him?  And has he made
any statements to them, similar to what you just made to us --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not aware of any exchanges on that subject.

     Q    There are reports out that the White House and/or the
Transportation Department is talking about restricting U.S. exports of
heating oil in order to keep the prices down.  Is there any -- are there
any meetings on that or is that in the works?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I not only have not seen those reports, I've not heard
of any discussions that would --

     Q    There were reports on the market, that people are talking about

     MR. LOCKHART:  Again, I haven't seen them, but I haven't heard or been
privy to any discussion on that front -- and I've been privy to most of our
discussions on this subject.

     Q    So are there any meetings going on today, even about SPR, about
this whole issue?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know of any specific meeting on that, but
within the context of the NEC and the inter-agency process, I don't know
that many days go by where this subject isn't discussed.

     Q    Joe, over the last day, world oil prices have been falling.  Does
that take away some of the urgency of deciding SPR?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I think as we said on the first day after OPEC's
decision, when prices spiked a little bit, that you can't read too much
into one day.  And as prices fall, we shouldn't read too much into that.
The President has said that both producers and consumers will all be better
off if we get down to closer to the historical average.  And I think that's
what OPEC has publicly stated is their intention; that is the right

     As we look at this problem, though, we do have to deal with where the
market sets the price, what the supplies are.  And we'll continue to look
at it and keep our options open.

     Q    Joe, the Justice Department says it is looking into a matter from
1995.  The DNC officials asked Vice President Gore to make a telephone
solicitation to a Texas trial lawyer around the time that tort reform was
passed and the President was going to consider it and vetoed it the next
year.  First, your reaction to that matter?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Oh, you know, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure
out that documents that were provided three years ago and have been there
for three years that now get circulated this close to election may have
something to do with politics.

     It also doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out where the President
is on tort reform.  The President has been very clear that he had no
interest in signing tort reform legislation that didn't protect the rights
of those who have, for whatever reason, been forced to seek litigation to
resolve disputes.

     The President equally has worked very hard to get tort reform
legislation that he can sign.  We went very far down this road with Senator
Rockefeller, Senator Gorton -- I think it was in 1997 or 1998.  His views
on this issue are very clear.  And I don't think there was doubt in
anybody's mind where he was in 1995 on the tort reform legislation that was
passed by the Congress.

     Q    If I can just follow up.  The Center for Responsive Politics has
basically sort of looked at donations and these five firms, five trial
lawyers and their --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I've seen what they've done.

     Q    Okay.  Can you comment if those numbers before the President's
veto and then the five time increase in donations following that veto, if
there --

     MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, I think those questions are best put to those
who make donations.  It should have come as no surprise to anyone, given
the President's views on tort reform, where he came out in 1995, all the
work in 1997 and what his position is now.

     Q    Joe, just one other thing on the EU trade issue.  Is it your
feeling that the British Prime Minister has moved to a more accommodating
position on some of these other trade disputes over the course of this

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think, as I would expect the same courtesy from my
counterpart, it's best for the British Prime Minister and other world
leaders to speak for themselves.

     Q    Joe, just to go back to Wen Ho Lee.  If I understand you
correctly, you're saying we should read the President's comments as to
refer to what's happened in the last few weeks as this case has unwound, if
you will.  Would it be fair to assume that in the year or so before that,
that Mr. Lee was in custody, the President didn't express any reservations
to Justice?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Let me take another crack at this.  The President
expressed an unease with the concept of holding someone without bail.  But
what was troubling here was, after a series of assurances that this must be
done because of the risk, that he thought that the timing of making that
argument in a bail hearing and then just a few days later making a plea
agreement that allowed him to go free raised some troubling questions.  It
seems to me that that's pretty straightforward.

     Q    And when you say the President expressed an unease, you mean he
did that here in the Rose Garden or he's done that on previous occasions
and, if so, where or when?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No.  I think what he expressed here is that he has --
as a student of the law, that all Americans should have -- we should have a
high threshold for the concept of holding someone without bail.  But in
this case, there were explicit assurances and reasons given, in this case.

     And what's troubling is how quickly those seem to evaporate.  And
that's the point he was making.  And it was limited to a very narrow piece
to this, and I think it doesn't eliminate the crime that the gentleman
pleaded guilty to and the important work that has been done on this.  But
there is a troubling aspect to this and he articulated what it was.

     Q    Has he, to your knowledge, expressed this unease prior to today?
And, if so, when or where?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Not to me.

     Q    Does the President think he was deceived or misled or perhaps
just not fully informed --

     MR. LOCKHART:  No.  I think he said that the sequence of events raised
some troubling questions.  I think he certainly hopes that some answers are
provided to ease that concern.

     Q    Does the President think Lee is deserved an apology?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I didn't ask him that question and I don't know the
answer to it.

     Q    Joe, can you talk in a little more detail about what the
President would like to do when he goes to Vietnam?  What's on the agenda?
Is it going to be trade?  Is it going to be accounting for POWs?

     MR. LOCKHART:  We have a number of areas that we're working.  Trade is
one of them; accounting for U.S. servicemen; we have a joint cooperative
effort on looking at the impact of Agent Orange.  There are a series of
things that governments can do on a government-to-government basis, you
know, after they've gotten over and developed more normal relations.  This
has been an ongoing process.

     I think there will be real work that will get done while we're in
Vietnam, but I don't think you can get away from the idea that there will
also be symbolic value to the fact that, after so much time has passed, a
U.S. President is traveling to the country in an effort to help promote
relations between the two countries.

     Q    How many days is he going to be there?

     MR. LOCKHART:  We haven't worked out the schedule yet.  We're in that
process now.

     Q    Joe, if I could just follow up on that.  The American Legion --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I should have Jake take these questions.  (Laughter.)

     Q    The American Legion, though, did express some criticism.  They
said tomorrow is POW/MIA Recognition Day and they think this day is more
focused on trade and not enough on accounting for those missing in action.

     MR. LOCKHART:  I guess I would just say to anyone who has some
concerns, work with us, watch what we do and then make the judgment

     Q    Joe, given the high price of oil, is there any new consideration
being given to opening up domestic areas to exploration of drilling that
have been protected for environmental reasons?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think we have a number of ways that we have promoted
to decrease our dependence on foreign oil; unfortunately, most of those
have been stymied by the Republican Congress.  We continue to work --
you'll see in some areas where they've blocked us, we've taken
administrative action.  We will continue to work through those ways.

     But the President, at his core, does not believe the right approach
here is to start drilling in Alaska or in the protected areas.

     Q    At his core?  So that's not under consideration within the

     MR. LOCKHART:  There is no consideration of that.

     Q    Joe, Juan Garza, the Texas inmate who's execution the President
delayed has asked the President to grant -- commute his sentence to life in
prison without the possibility of parole.  Is the President inclined to do

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think there is an ongoing process that I remember
some discussion a few months ago and here on the guidelines that we were
setting up.  Those guidelines have been set up, they'll be worked through
that.  And I don't want to prejudge what the result of that process will

     Q    Well, isn't that about executions?  Are you talking about
commutation or --

     MR. LOCKHART:  You can commute an execution and leave someone in
prison, but it's all part of the process which is now underway.

     Q    Joe, going back on the Prime Minister's visit.  On Capitol Hill
he called for this administration, that U.S. and India should have a
stronger security relations now.  India has really too hostile neighbors,
one side military, Pakistan, and other side communist China.  So anything
coming of doing there talks at the White House about China, U.S. --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I certainly expect that security will be an important
part of the discussion.  I certainly expect the Prime Minister to be given
a full chance to air all of the issues of concern to him in all of the
areas where we work so successfully together.

     Q    Joe, you said the carousel process was an ongoing process and not
an indefinite delay?  What's the difference?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, the suggestion in your question was the delay had
something to do with election day, and I was pushing back on that idea.

     Q    On the patients' bill of rights, does the President plan to
contact any senators to try to garner that nine to ten votes need to break
the filibuster?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, we're hoping we don't have to do that.  And there
are ongoing discussions between Congressman Norwood, Senator Kennedy, other
supporters of this legislation.  And we're going to continue to push.  I
don't know how likely it will be to get another 10 votes out of the
Republican caucus in the Senate on this between now and when the Senate
adjourns.  But if need be, that's the route we'll take if we have to take
it, if trying to defeat a filibuster.

     Again, it's hard to believe that in this case the narrow special
interest will thwart the clear will of the Senate and the House.  But if
that is the case, the ultimate arbiter will be the ballot box on election
day and that's when those who have blocked this will have to face the
results of thwarting this effort.

     Q    Joe, what is the White House's or the President's position on the
legislation the House considered yesterday on stripping the Boy Scouts of
their federal charter because of anti-gay discrimination?

     MR. LOCKHART:  You know, I don't know that we took a position one way
or the other on that.  I think yesterday, you know, you had a real vote on
hate crimes that came out quite successfully.  And I think that -- where we
have put our focus, as far as this legislation, I think at this point it's
more of a statement, rather than a real legislative movement.

     I think people certainly have a right to make a statement, and they
are exercising that right.

     Q    Does the President believe the Scouts should stop discriminating
against gays?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President believes that no one should
discriminate.  But as a legal matter, the Supreme Court has ruled on this
and they have the right to, as a private group, go about their business.

     Q    Joe, the President has a little over four months left in office.
He has a lot of travel with the election process and foreign travel.  Are
there any more state visits pending, or working visits with other world

     MR. LOCKHART:  Do we have one where we rescheduled?  Yes, we have
Italy and there is one that's still being worked --

     Q    That's a state visit, right?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes.

     Q    How about working visit?

     MR. LOCKHART:  What's the hand-sign for working visit?  (Laughter.)

     Q    Joe, Sunday night will be the last state dinner of President
Clinton's presidency to honor the Prime Minister of India -- (laughter) --
and one of the largest gatherings, 500 people are invited to the White
House --

     MR. LOCKHART:  And it may be the -- (laughter.)  One thing is that it
may be or may not be the last official dinner.  Of course it's special.
It's a very important and special relationship.  I think we have taken
great strides, particularly in the aftermath of our five-day visit to
India.  And this is a chance to build on that and I think it'll be a
wonderful evening for all 500 who get to attend and the many who get to
watch it through the remarkable auspices of C-Span.

     Q    What's the menu?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think it's food.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Joe, does the President believe that Asian Americans will express
concern over the prosecution of Dr. Lee -- is there some questions about
the role of race in this case --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I actually have never discussed that particular case.
But I think the President has spoken clearly, in the aftermath of 1997 and
some of the campaign finance investigations, that there are questions and
that times in this country Asian Americans have been singled out unfairly.
But in this particular case, he's never expressed that to me.

     Q    Does the President or the National Security Advisor have any
meetings with Israelis or Palestinians in the foreseeable future?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Sandy Berger has a meeting tomorrow with one of the
Palestinian negotiators.  There has been a series of ongoing meetings since
-- well, leading up to and since the Millennium Summit in New York.  Dennis
Ross has been meeting with both sides.  Secretary of State Albright met
yesterday with the two sides.  It's an ongoing effort to keep these
discussions moving in the right direction, and that will continue with
tomorrow's meeting.

     Q    Does the President have anything, that you know of?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No.

     Q    Joe, have you decided to release the list of contributors to the
First Lady's campaign who spent the night at the White House?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Those questions were raised yesterday.  I expressed my
disgust for how they were raised, but since they are now out there, we are
in the process of putting a list together for guests who have stayed
overnight here at the White House and at Camp David.  As soon as that list
is ready and I have a chance to review it, I'll make it available to you

     Q    Like today?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I wouldn't expect it today.  This is a process that,
was indicated to me, is going to take a couple of days.  And I'm not sure
that we have the auspices to do it over the weekend, so it may be the
beginning of next week.  But if it can be done sooner, it will be, so that
this story can go away.

     Q    Can you bring Lanny back to help?  (Laughter.)

     MR. LOCKHART:  That's the problem, he's got the weekend off.  He's
with Joe Lieberman this weekend.

     Q    What kind of conditions would merit your releasing some of those
strategic petroleum reserves?  Your Deputy Energy Secretary has said that
they're actively considering
releasing --

     MR. LOCKHART:  There are a lot of things that we're actively
considering.  I'm not going to get into a detailed discussion here what
we're going to do, what we believe is in our national interest as far as
our overall energy policy.  We've taken a number of steps.  There are a
number of steps that are available to us.  When the process is concluded,
we'll be glad to detail our reasons.

     Q    Thank you.

                              END               2:00 P.M. EDT

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