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Office of the Press Secretary

January 16, 2001

Special White House Briefing
with John Podesta, White House Chief of Staff,
and Jack Lew, Director, Office of Management and Budget

on Release of the Third and Final Report on E-Commerce


Q Can you tell me what's going to happen to the president's personal papers and official communications? And maybe this -- it isn't related exactly to what you said, but is there a some sort of rule of thumb here that you operate under in terms of what will be preserved and what -- (off mike)?

MR. PODESTA: Let me take the paper side, and then the electronic side. And I'll -- and somebody will correct me if I get this wrong.

The official papers of the president and, essentially, the White House staff operate under the Presidential Records Act, which I think was passed in 1979.

And we are right now in the process of archiving all that material. It will be sent to -- under the custody of the National Archives, where it will be stored at the Clinton Library. And that is true for electronic records as well as paper records.

We were kidding around as we came in. There's a -- one of the computers in the lower press here has the "death notice" on the computer, which says that the files of the computer have been officially archived, and it is no longer in use.

So the materials that are on the hard drives, the material that -- we were the first administration to try to, as you well know and have well documented, to try to enter the thorny field of archiving our electronic mail records. We've, I think, done that. We've obviously experienced a couple of problems in doing that. But I think that no organization, probably, private sector or public sector, has tried harder to produce a system that would really archive the history and the decision-making, both paper and electronic, of this administration.

And that work is ongoing. By the time noon rolls around on January 20th, everything will be boxed up. The hard drives will be downloaded. The electronic mail will be stored. It'll all again be under -- at that point under the custody of the National Archives. And it will be available pursuant to the Presidential Records Act, which staggers the release of that information, depending on what kind of information's in there.

Q You mean you stamp it "classified" or "to be opened in 15 years" --

MR. PODESTA: Well, if it is -- for example, if it is classified, then you've got to go through the process of declassifying the information before it's publicly available. It could be accessed, for example, by Congress or other sources who have access to classified information. There's some personal information that, pursuant to the Presidential Records -- as I said, there's a schedule in the act itself which makes that available through the Freedom of Information Act, once it's freely available to the National Archives.

Q (Off mike) -- hard drives go to the Archives?

MR. PODESTA: I believe that the actual hard -- I'm not certain about that, but I believe the hard drives actually do go to the Archives. I'll check that and --

Q John, what happens actually on Saturday at noon to the White House website? Does that change and all of a sudden it becomes the Bush White House? And what happens to -- like, there is on your website a virtual library that goes back eight years, of all the --

MR. PODESTA: We're working with the Archives to essentially transfer the information from our website to an Archives website, which would be available, in essence, immediately.

I don't know whether we'll be able to turn the switch, but that's our goal, so that at 12:01, you can look at the Clinton administration's library on a National Archives website.

With regard to the incoming administration, I don't know exactly what their plan is, but at that moment they would have control of the White House website, and I assume that they will try to stand up their website virtually instantly with coming into office. I don't know if that will be the first order of business and whether it will be up and available on Saturday, but I would think by Monday they'll probably have that up and running.

Q Whitehouse.gov, as of, you know, Saturday or Monday, won't have the Clinton records on it anymore?

MR. PODESTA: We'd probably be happy to have a link to the Archives website if people wanted to come here to find the link to the Archives website. But we'll have a new URL and people will be able to find Clinton information, Clinton administration information, through that Archives website. And that should be up and running and part, essentially, of the process that is envisioned in the way the library will be conducted, I think.

One of the things the president very much wanted to do was to make sure that both in working with the Archives, which, again, has custody; it will be their information; as well as building the library, displaying the information, et cetera, that these new tools are available so that people around the country can really have greater access than any previous administration has done. It's an important -- as I say, it's an important tool and it's an important opportunity, I think, for the American people to be able to go online and retrieve information, retrieve documents, et cetera.

The full range of documents, obviously, as I mentioned, paper documents, which ultimately will -- many of which have already been scanned and could be available electronically, others will be scanned and be available electronically, but that takes place over -- again, over some period of time and pursuant to the Presidential Records Act.


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