THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Guatemala City, Guatemala)
For Immediate Release March 10,1999 5:40 P.M. (L)
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER,
ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR
WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS PETER ROMERO,
COMMISSIONER OF IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE,
AND PRESS SECRETARY JOE LOCKHART
MR. LEAVY: Good evening. The briefing will begin. We have theNational Security Advisor, Samuel Berger, to give a readout of thePresident'sbilats today. Acting Assistant Secretary Peter Romero will give a sense of thecommission and some Guatemala specific facts. And then they'll take yourquestions. Joining them will be Commissioner Doris Meissner, ofImmigration andNaturalization Service. Actually, and Joe will follow with any cleanup ifyouguys have any, if there's some questions.
MR. BERGER: Let me briefly review the President's meeting thismorningwith President Calderon Sol and then his brief meeting with President-electFlores, after the speech.
Obviously, President Calderon Sol was very grateful to thePresident forhaving made this trip. He launched into a series of issues that were verymuchon his mind, starting with immigration. Commissioner Meissner is here toanswerquestions you may have in that area. But basically he said that ourpolicy, theUnited States policy was inconsistent, treated different countriesdifferently,and that rather than bringing the hemisphere together it was creatingunnecessary divisions.
He said that there was a certain irony in the nature of our law.Ittreated governments that -- it treated Nicaraguans in one fashion, butcountriesthat have been the victim of repression from the right a different way. He saidthis was rather ironic for him, he's a right-of-center leader and did notfeelthat that distinction which has been drawn in our law was justifiable.
He raised the question of the deportation of those who had beenconvicted of crime in the United States from Central America, as well as atreaty that he sought to enact here -- well not here -- there, in ElSalvador,which would enable the sentence to be of someone who was convicted to beservedin El Salvador.
The second topic he brought up was trade. It has been, I think,interesting to me to hear the strength with which the leaders in each ofthesecountries have talked about the Caribbean Basin Initiative, even more thanthefunding issue, because what they face now is a gigantic economic problemcausedby the hurricane, with thousands of jobs decimated and the need for newcapitaland new investment. And he repeated what President Flores had said to usyesterday, that this is their most important concern.
There was some discussion of the sugar quota and of making creditavailable for agricultural sector. He talked about wanting to be a strongpartner with the United States on fighting drugs. It's clear to me in thelastyear or two years that the nature of the drug discussion between us andLatinAmerica has changed. As these countries have seen the ravages of drugusage,the nature of their concerns have changed -- they're not simply transitcountries, they're now victim countries -- and as they've seennarco-traffickerstry to corrupt their officials. And he was very forthcoming and veryforward-leading in terms of wanting to work together on the drug problem.
He talked about regional cooperation, a subject that he has spokenaboutwith us before, and that he feels very strongly about the need for agreaterdegree of regionalism within Central America. And one of the reasons thattheywant CBI, one of the reasons they want the FTAA to go forward is tofacilitatethat integration.
That was essentially it. The President in response said, as he hasbefore, that he felt our laws were inequitable, that he has tried to makethechanges that are feasible administratively, and that he will continue toworkwith Congress to try to make some other changes that would make thetreatment ofcountries more similar.
Similarly, on CBI, he said that he had proposed what he thought was thebest possible bill that had a reasonable chance of passage, that weintended towork for that bill very hard, and that he was hopeful, the President, thatwewould be able to enact it this year.
The only other thing I'd mention is, after the speech,President-electFlores came by to see the President. I think he's 39 -- these guys getyoungerand younger. He said that the President's speech had been extraordinarilyimportant -- as he looked across the hall and he saw people who had shot at eachother and who had been atwar with each other not so long ago. What the President did was tovalidate the process of peace and to -- his phrase -- and to make them feel asif they were on the right course, and to give them some further impetus tomoveforward, and he was quite passionate about that.
I will come back for questions, but let me turn to Peter, who cantalk alittle bit about this event, and also tomorrow. And I promised that Iwould notsay that this is Peter's 50th birthday.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY ROMERO: Thank you, Sandy, and it's always nice toshare the trauma of going through 50 years with this very wide audience.Let mejust say that tomorrow's summit will deal with a number of issues that areCentral America-regional-specific, particularly as it relates to ourpolicies.So it's an opportunity brought about by Hurricane Mitch, brought about bythePresident's travel and preceded by the First Lady and the Vice President'swife,Tipper Gore, to look at a lot of problems not so much in a specificreaction tothe hurricane, but much more systemically.
They will discuss a number of issues related to Central America toinclude reconstruction and transformation, essentially enhancing democracy,promoting sustained growth, strengthening the rule of law, nationalreconciliation, human rights, strengthening judicial systems, fosteringaccountability and transparency, and the kind of international assistancenecessary to bring that about.They will discuss debt relief and financial cooperation.
We have proposed a package that will include a debt reduction forHonduras and Nicaragua: for Nicaragua, we're talking about 90-percent debtforgiveness. For Honduras, we're talking about 67 percent, a two-yearmoratorium on debt payments and some other things to include theestablishmentof a fund to enable these countries to pay back their loans to theinternationalfinancial institutions.
We will talk about migration. Sandy covered that issue, I think,prettywell in terms of the disparity of treatment and the President's commitmentto dowhat he can within the existing law and to move perhaps to get anamplificationof the so-called NICARA Act so that it applies to all countries of theisthmusuniformly.
Finally, democracy, human rights and the rule of law will bediscussed,essentially enhancing the sustainability and progress already made on suchthings as workers' rights, law enforcement issues, transnational crime,drug-trafficking and mutual legal assistance measures.
Trade and investment will be discussed, including, as I mentioned,theenhanced CBI, free markets, bilateral investment treaties, free trade intheAmericas, and finally sustainable development, emphasizing the rebuildingofdomestic and foreigninvestments in Central America and emphasizing disaster mitigation, andendorsing efforts under the Framework Convention on Climate Change,includingclean development mechanisms for climate-friendly projects, et cetera.Thankyou.
Q Was the President's acknowledgement a short time ago at theroundtable discussion that the U.S. was wrong to support the militaryforceshere in Guatemala and the United States must not repeat that mistake, wasthatmeant as an apology or merely an acknowledgement?
MR. BERGER: I think the words speak for themselves. I think thePresident was saying that some of America's activities during this periodwerewrong and we should learn from that experience and we should not repeat it. Youcan characterize it any way you like. I think the words are pretty clear.
Q The Revolutionary Armed Forces in Colombia said today thatoneof its rebel officers, acting on his own, killed the three Americans inColombiaand may face the death penalty. Are you satisfied with this? Are yougoing toinsist on extraditing this rebel officer to the U.S., to stand trial here?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY ROMERO: I don't think that there was anyquestioneven preliminarily that the guerrillas of the FARC in Colombia wereresponsiblefor these absolutely brutal and senseless murders of innocent Americancitizens.I think we are cautious in our optimism that the guerrillas have admittedthatone of their members so ordered these executions. We will be following uptoensure that justice is done, either in Colombia or in the United States.
Q Sandy, do you have a response to the calls by some of theRepublican presidential contenders for your resignation?
MR. BERGER: I have no intention of resigning. The actions that we tookas a government, starting in the mid '60s when we learned of this allegedespionage -- which took place, by the way in the '80s, under previousgovernments -- I believe were appropriate and I believe they were in thenational interest and I believe we acted swiftly. Let me just take asecond toexplain that.
First, the FBI undertook a thorough investigation -- thatinvestigationcontinues -- to try to determine whether they could establishresponsibility.Number two, we asked the CIA to look at this information. They made apreliminary analysis of it, somewhat at variance from the DOE analysis,althoughstill expressing concerns. We are now conducting an interagency review ofwhatmay have been the consequences of this.
Number three, when I learned of this in July of 1997 -- I had hadsomebriefing on an individual spy case in '96, but essentially was briefed onthescope of this in '97 -- I acted immediately to initiate the mostsubstantialreview and reform of security at our labs that I believe has ever beenundertaken. And we had recommendations within a month. We had actionsteed upover the next two or three months. The President signed a directiveordering aseries of steps be taken to deal with what was clearly a serious problem -- andthat was security in our labs.
Four, we continue to enforce the tightest possible restrictions ontechnology transfers to China, with no illusions about China and othercountriesthat seek to gain unauthorized access to our sensitive information. Chinais inthe tier three category of the countries on which we have the strictestcontrols. We sell nothing to their military. We sell no dual-useequipment totheir military. We sell no dual-use equipment to the civilian sector inChinathat may be usable by their military. And there are a series of othercontrols.
Now, finally, we continue to deal with China; that's true. Wecontinueto deal with China because we believed it was in our national interest todo so-- and I believe today is in our national interest to do so. That is not afavor we do for China. It is something we do because we seek to advanceour ownnational security interest.
So as a result of the last two years -- just take nonproliferation, forexample. As a result of our engagement with China, China has signed theChemical Weapons Convention; China signed the Comprehensive Test Bantreaty;agreed not to sell anti-ship cruise missiles to Iran; agreed to cut offnuclearcooperation with Iran; agreed to cut off cooperation to unsafeguardednuclearfacilities in Pakistan. None of those things would have taken place had we notbeen dealing with China over this period.
The same is true of Korea, in terms of trying to get someresolution ofa difficult and dangerous situation in Korea. The same is true for SouthAsia,where China has joined us in calling upon the two parties there to notescalatetheir arms race.
So we engage with China because we believe it is in our interest,including on things where we disagree, such as human rights -- as a way inwhichwe can assert our values and assert our interests.
Q Was the individual spy case that you were briefed on in '96
related to this or --
MR. BERGER: In '96, as I recall, I received a limited briefingwhichinvolved an espionage case involving a Chinese American, involving thelabs,involving nuclear issues. I get briefings such as that perhaps once amonth.There is a wide range of these investigations that are going on. It didnotdeal with the full scope that DOE continued to develop over the nextperiod.And when I was briefed on that, which was July '97, we acted immediatelyandstrongly.
Q Can I follow up on that? Obviously, the significance of1996 isnot only a presidential campaign, but the initial reports of Chineseinvolved inAsian campaign contributions. Was there any tie between the political side andwhether this information Washington brought to you at the White House?
MR. BERGER: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Every decision wehavemade on national security with respect to China, and I would submit everydecision we have made with respect to national security -- whether oneagreeswith it or disagrees with the other merits -- have been made based on ourbestjudgment what is in the interest of the United States.
So we had nothing to do with campaign contributions; we had nothing todo with any of that activity. These decisions were made based upon ourbestjudgment of how we dealt with the problem of this investigation, the issueofthe investigation, and how we best advanced our interests with a countrythatboth presents great opportunities for the United States, but also greatdangersfor the United States. And our judgment is that we are better off dealingwiththem not under any illusion, but because we believe that's the best way toadvance our interests.
Q Some on the Cox Commission say you're trying to run out the
clock on the declassification procedures so that they'll be out of business bythe time any of this would --
MR. BERGER: That's simply not true. We received the Cox Report,wewere able to respond in terms of the recommendations in record time. We've hadpeople working literally night and day to declassify the rest of thereport,which was sent up to the committee a few weeks ago.
The decisions with respect to what is redacted, what is not -- what isblocked out, are decisions that are made not by us, but by the CIA and bytheFBI and other agencies that are the source of the information. We, infact,have tried to facilitate the work of the committee by bringing together the
committee staff and members of these relevant agencies. When the committee hassaid that they would like further material declassified, we have tried tofacilitate that. But in the last analysis, the CIA has got to decide whatis inthe national security interest to declassify. The FBI has got to decidewhat isin the law enforcement interest. That is not something that we cansecond-guess.
Q Sandy, after the President signed the PDD in February of
what was your understanding about how long it took to implement thoseprocedures? Did you follow up and see what the Department of Energy haddone tocomply with what the President had ordered?
MR. BERGER: My understanding was that the Department of Energywhich,of course, had participated in the process, as had the labs, accepted alltheserecommendations and would implement them as quickly as possible. I thinksomeof them are implemented immediately, some of them have been implementedmorerecently, but I believe -- my impression is that there's been significantimplementation of the recommendations.
Q Did you follow up at the time to make sure that they weredoingwhat the President had asked?
MR. BERGER: Well, we have from time to time and certainly intendtoagain.
Q When was the President first briefed on this subject? Wasitwhen you were briefed in 1997?
MR. BERGER: Yes.
Q Sandy, one of the first, or the first story that came outonthis subject alleged that at one point, the administration withheld someinformation from Congress and that there was a discussion about it. Andthereason was it was felt by revealing this, at least to whomever it was going tobe discussed with, would undermine the administration's China policy.
MR. BERGER: Let me say two things. Number one, relevantcommittees ofCongress, the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate IntelligenceCommittee, have been repeatedly briefed on this case and this matter goingbackto '96; certainly multiple times in '97 and in '98. And so those are thecommittees who ordinarily are briefed on intelligence matters.
Now, there were some quotes in the Times article attributed to aDepartment of Energy official. I'm totally unaware of those, and itcertainlywould not have been our policy to try to interfere with Congress gettinginformation unless what was involved here was a question of classifiedinformation. But I have no personal knowledge of that exchange.
Q Are you going to look into, or is the administration in any waygoing to look into the possibility that someone at some point may havewithheldsomething from Congress for political purposes?
MR. BERGER: We will continue to review all of this continually,and Iwould assume that Secretary Richardson, from Energy, would want to have afullpicture of what took place in his Department.
Q In retrospect, although you were briefed, it sounds asthoughyou're saying in a cursory way in '96, even looking back now, you don'tthinkthat there was a gap in the administration's action on this --
MR. BERGER: No, I don't think so. I think that, again, I'mbriefedabout intelligence cases frequently -- there is an alleged spy in NBC, just forexample -- it wouldn't be NBC -- in a federal agency, and there's aninvestigation going on and it involves nuclear matters, potentiallyserious.But this was very preliminary, don't forget, back in '96. I mean, the FBIhadjust begun this investigation, as I understand it, in '96.
In '97, I received a full briefing from the Department of Energy,Julyof '97. And that briefing was troubling and raised serious questions and,Ithink, warranted a significant response.
Q Don't you think it was odd that it took a full year oncethe --I mean, it sounded as though the information --
MR. BERGER: No. Don't forget, these -- let me go back andcontinuallyremind you that these events happened in the early '80s, okay? And whatthe FBIand other agencies were seeking to do was to try to resurrect or recreatewhatmight have been espionage in the early '80s. We're now in the mid-'90s.Thatis not an easy thing to do. I think that by '97, at least the DepartmentofEnergy had a theory of the case which they presented to me.
Q In the arrival here today, what was the President told andwhatdid you hear when you were inside arrival ceremony, of the voices of thedemonstrators outside?
MR. BERGER: We could hear some demonstrators on the outside of thecourtyard. What I was told -- and I say this with warning that it'shearsay andI can't verify it -- was this related to a domestic issue involving thedemonstrators and the government. But I don't know whether that's true ornot.
Q Will the President's policy, immigration policy regardingCentral Americans also be extended to Haitians? And if not, why not?
MR. BERGER: Let me get the Commissioner up here.
MS. MEISSNER: The President asked for legislation regardingHaitiansabout a year ago, and the Congress did act on that proposal. So there isnowlegislation under which Haitians can adjust their status and thatadjustment istaking place.
Q What is the status of the deportations of Salvadorans andHondurans?
MS. MEISSNER: The Salvadorans and -- there are two separate setsofthings here. Are you talking about the hurricane, the post-hurricane?Okay.Where the post-hurricane issues are concerned, we have the TPS, which istheTemporary Protected Status for those countries that were deeply hurt by thehurricane, Nicaragua and Honduras. Those people have 18 months to be abletostay in the United States, to be able to apply for a work permit. And thatapplies to everybody from Honduras and Nicaragua that were in the UnitedStatesas of December 30, 1998, which is when we announced the TPS.
Right after the hurricane -- the hurricane happened at the end ofOctober -- we announced a stay of deportation for all of the countries hitbythe hurricane. That stay of deportation, the first one, went until the 7th ofJanuary. We then renewed that stay of deportation until March for Salvador andGuatemala. That stay of deportation for Salvador and Guatemala has nowexpiredand we have not extended it. The reason for that is because Salvador andGuatemala were not hit nearly as badly as Honduras and Nicaragua. Thereliefefforts were swift and successful. Basically, those countries are stablewherehurricane damage is concerned. So we are now resuming normal immigrationprocedures in the case of Salvador and Guatemala, post-hurricane.
Q The President said yesterday that he had gone to the limitonthis issue. Is that accurate? Is there nothing that he could have done to haveextended their stay?
MS. MEISSNER: What we have going here is two separate issues andtwoseparate sets of actions. The one is the hurricane and the TPS, as I justexplained. The other is NICARA, which is the Nicaraguan Adjustment andCentralAmerican Relief Act. That is legislation that the President asked for twoyearsago after the Central American Summit that took place in 1997.
That NICARA legislation was an effort to try to mitigate theeffects ofthe 1996 immigration law which were very, very harsh where people who weresubject to deportation were concerned, and because of technical things intheway the law was written, would have treated Central Americans in a very,veryharsh fashion.
So what the administration asked was that the rules applying toCentralAmericans that existed prior to the '96 law be reinstated. What Congresspassedwas slightly different from what the administration asked for. WhatCongresspassed was a law that treated Salvadorans and Guatemalans in the way thattheadministration proposed, but then treated Nicaraguans and some others fromcountries that had formerly been communist countries, treated them moregenerously by giving them a full adjustment of status, basically in ablanketfashion.
So what we're dealing with in the NICARA situation is an effort totryto treat Salvadorans and Guatemalans as fairly as possible to try todiminishthe differences in the treatment among the groups, and that's part ofwritingthe regulations and we're writing those regulations at the present time.
Q The President said that he wanted to use all the discretion thathe had and all the flexibility he had under current law to help resolvethesedisparities.
MS. MEISSNER: That's right.
Q Does he have any flexibility or discretion under currentlaw?
MS. MEISSNER: Yes, that's what we're working with in writing theregulations for the NICARA law. The regulations require a showing ofwhat'scalled "extreme hardship" by people in order to have what's called asuspensionof deportation or to have their situation regularized in the United States. Andwe're looking at that issue of extreme hardship in order to try todetermine howwe can write a rule that interprets extreme hardship as compassionately aspossible. So that's the flexibility that we are trying -- that's where theflexibility applies.
But the difficulty, of course, is that the statute itself treatsgroupsdifferently, so we can go to our maximum flexibility, and we're trying todothat, in writing the regulations, but it has to be consistent with thestatutewhich does treat the groups differently.
Q There's no possibility of parity other than rewriting thestatute?
MS. MEISSNER: You would have to rewrite the statute to get totalparity. The issue is in interpreting extreme hardship where SalvadoransandGuatemalans are concerned, how broadly can you interpret extreme hardship,andthat's what will be ultimately described in the final regulation.
Q So is there, right now, a pending effort by theadministrationto have that statute rewritten, or do you give --
MS. MEISSNER: Right now, we are working with the rule. We'll have thefinal rule ready soon, and once we see how far that goes and how closewe'vebeen able to come, then the next question obviously will be whether thereis aneed for legislation.
Q Can you say how close to parity you think you can get under theexisting law?
MS. MEISSNER: I think we need to wait until we actually have thefinalrule and are able to describe that to you.
Q Could you clear up just one more time the numbers ofGuatemalansand Salvadorans who are now eligible or at risk for deportation now thatthestay has expired? We've heard 15,000, we've heard 3,000 --
MS. MEISSNER: Let me try to deal with numbers here. Last year,FiscalYear 1998, we returned about 15,000 people to all four of the CentralAmericancountries. That is basically between 4,000 and 5,000 to El Salvador,between4,000 and 5,000 to Guatemala and similarly to Honduras. It's a muchsmallernumber for Nicaragua. But about 15,000 to all four countries last year.
That is, just to put it in perspective, the legal immigration fromthosefour countries last year was about 40,000, all told; the number of peoplewhoare in the United States in an illegal status of one kind or another fromthosefour countries is over 600,000. So we are talking about a modest number incontext.
This year, Fiscal Year '99, we have, prior to when the stay ofdeportation went into effect, we had returned about 1,500 people to allfourcountries. Since then, for the last four to five months, we have not beenreturning people by and large, and the remainder of this year, therefore,meansthat there will be less than the 15,000 coming back to the region. Thebestnumber that I can give you right now is that there are about 1,000 peoplein theUnited States from these countries, from all four countries together, whodohave final orders of removal -- in other words, who are eligible to beremoved.And we will begin to return those people to the region. We will do it in asafeand in an orderly fashion, and that is what we mean by resuming normalimmigration procedures.
The most important thing, I think, for me to say about the wholesubjectis that we have not engaged in mass deportations, we do not intend toengage inmass returns of any kind. We work with the countries and with theconsulates aswe return people. We do it, as I say, in a safe and orderly fashion, andoverall, the numbers are likely to be less this year than they were lastyearbecause of the stays.
Q Another 600,000 in legal immigrants from all fourcountries?You can't break down how many are from Guatemala and El Salvador?
MS. MEISSNER: Yes, I can. Now, all of these are estimates.Obviously,we're talking about populations that are estimated populations. But fromElSalvador it's about 335,000; from Guatemala it's about 165,000; fromHondurasit's about 90,000; from Nicaragua it's about 70,000.
Now, there are various groups within those numbers. The mostfamiliargroup to you will be what's called the ABC class. that is a class ofSalvadorans and Guatemalans that are protected under a lawsuit from the1980s.Those are the people that are candidates for the NICARA relief.
So there are groups of people in that more than 600,000 who wewould notreturn even if we came across them because they're eligible for a form ofreliefat some point or another. But nonetheless, in strict legal terms, they donothave a -- they're in various forms of irregular status. Does that help?
Q Maybe this is my own confusion, but the White House and theNational Security Council told many of us that 15,000 Salvadorans andGuatemalans, as of Monday, were eligible for deportation. And I can'tfigureout why --
MS. MEISSNER: But there was a confusion about that and I --
Q Is that number wrong?
MS. MEISSNER: 15,000 is the number that was returned last year.
Q They were wrong?
MS. MEISSNER: Well, not having heard the statement I don't know.Butthere were about 15,000 returned to the region last year, and right nowthereabout 1,000 from these countries who have final orders of removal, which,undernormal procedures, we would now begin to return.
Q When do you expect the deportations to resume?
MS. MEISSNER: They will begin to resume next week, but as I say,theywill be done in a staged -- in a regular and a safe fashion.
Q Can you comment on the Miami Herald report that the leaders ofGuatemala and El Salvador are refusing to sign the communique because ofitslanguage about immigration?
MS. MEISSNER: I heard of that report, and as far as we can tell --we've traced back as much as we could, and as far as we can tell it's nottrue.
Q The Foreign Minister from Guatemala has said that theywanted tobe rewritten, that they want the statement to be rewritten.
Q Is it being rewritten?
Q That -- is it true?
MS. MEISSNER: I still can't hear.
Q Is it true?
Q The Foreign Minister from Guatemala apparently said theywantedthe language rewritten. Is it being rewritten? Have there been changesmadesince, apparently, the ambassadors worked this out in Washington. Weretherechanges made when it was brought back to the leaders here in CentralAmerica?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY ROMERO: I know that some of you are shockedthat weworked on a communique before the summit actually took place. But now thatwe've gotten beyond the shock and denial --
We've gone through about 37 drafts of this thing, over about amonthperiod. They're normally not that protracted, but since this particularvisitwas delayed by about a month, it went over a longer period of time thannormal.And as of last Friday night, we had agreement on 99 percent of it. Andthenwhile we were in the air down to Nicaragua, we got agreement on the rest.
Now, what's circulating out there about not signing, and some notsigning and perhaps not being in agreement, we haven't heard, and we'vebeen inconstant touch with all of these leaders over the last several days.
Q Does the immigration document affect efforts you're makingtopresent a new American relationship with Central America?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY ROMERO: I won't pretend to speak aboutimmigrationbecause that's not my portfolio. That's this woman's portfolio next to me, andI think she does a superlative job. But as it relates to foreign policy, Ithink that every country in the world has laws regulating immigration, bothlegal and illegal. And I would challenge all of you here to find a country thathas as liberal immigration policies, particularly to this area of theworld, asthe United States does.
Q So you think that Central America is seeing the UnitedStatesthrough other eyes, like the President said today? Starting to see --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY ROMERO: I would hope so. The President hasmade anhistorical visit here -- the first President in 33 years to visit ElSalvador,the first President to spend the night -- let alone two nights there -- and tovisit the Assembly. There's been a lot of history made throughout all ofthis,including the summit tomorrow afternoon in Antigua. I don't think there'sanyquestion that the Presidents of Central America have experienced aclosenesswith the United States and a certain empathy towards their plight probablyinhistoric proportions over the last several weeks.
MR. LOCKHART: Any other questions for me?
Q Has the President authorized and directed any of hisadvisors orcolleagues to try and start a legal defense fund for members of his staffthatmight have had incurred serious legal bills during any investigation?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that he's done anything formally. Ithinkhe has said consistently that after he leaves office and when he's in apositionto help, that he looks forward to helping those who have racked up legalbills,through no fault of their own, who have been -- you know, the stories arelegionof people who answered the wrong phone call or attended the wrong meetingorwrote the wrong note on a document and have run up legal bills.
Q But in terms of, say, asking Terry McAuliffe specificallytostart work for a fund that might have fundraisers even this year, notbefore thePresident leaves office?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that he's done that. I haven't heardanything like that. I've heard more general discussion about later work,whenthe President is in a better position to help. Is that all?
Q Joe, one thing for you. There is a report that the reasontheFirst Lady is not on the trip is because there was a nasty confrontationbetweenthem in Park City and that the First Lady just didn't want to travel withthePresident.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think as the First Lady's press Secretary,MarshaBerry, said, the First Lady is back in Washington because of a recurringproblemwith her back. And I would suggest that those who deal in this sort ofrumorand gossip and innuendo should go back to journalism school and do a little morework.
Q There are so many banana-producing countries in thisregion.Will the current trade dispute between America and the EU be discussedtomorrow,and in the administration's opinion, how important would it be for thesecountries in Central America to have access to, or wider access to Europeanmarkets?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's very important. I think one ofthethings you need to remember, some of the talk that's been coming out lately hasbeen slightly disingenuous . The U.S. imports three times the amountofbananas from this region as Europe does. But I think the way to look atthis isit's not about a particular product, this is about the integrity of theworldtrading rules and the World Trading Organization.
We have a situation where the United States brought a case to theWTOand has now won that case four separate times. This is the first time theEuropean Union has lost a case in this process and it's important for themtodeal with the consequences like all countries do, and accept the ruling.Itwould be very troubling, I think, for countries in this region, fordevelopingcountries around the world, for them to see that when a large economydoesn'tlike a ruling they don't feel like they have to follow it. I think this is muchmore about the integrity of international trading rules and free tradearoundthe world than it is about a particular product.
Q How many regional leaders so far have indicated they wouldliketo see the U.S. stand firm?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I haven't heard any conversation to date, butimagine that trade will be an issue tomorrow during the summit. So we'llhaveto give you a read out of that once the meeting is done.
Okay, thank you.
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