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Bush sets up transition team as Gore prepares to address nation

Dick Cheney
Dick Cheney says the Bush campaign cannot afford to wait any longer to advance transition efforts  
  WEB EXCLUSIVE
Tuchman Gary Tuchman discusses butterfly ballots and manual recounts


Clark Tony Clark says the Bush camp is gearing up in Austin


Black Chris Black reports on the Gore camp in Washington


tuchman Gary Tuchman on the mood in Tallahassee

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saying they would find their own way around the nation's capital, officials tapped by Texas Gov. George W. Bush moved forward in Washington and Austin, Texas on Monday with plans to begin establishing a new presidential administration, even if they don't get any help from the federal government.

Bush's vice presidential running mate and the chairman of his transition team, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, told reporters Monday in Washington that the Republicans would not wait for the government to give them access to the federal funds and Washington offices offered to a president-elect. They would, he said, solicit private individual donations and pay "fair market value" for any corporate assistance they receive.

"We feel it is our obligation to move forward," Cheney said. "We will proceed, drawing on other sources."

Cheney's declaration of intent followed a brief, off-the-cuff statement by the man Bush would like to be his White House chief of staff earlier in the day.

Former transportation secretary Andrew Card, asked Monday morning how the Bush team would proceed in light of the General Services Administration's refusal to turn over the keys to the Washington transition offices until the 2000 presidential election is finally resolved, quipped that Bush's people wouldn't let that stop them.

"We may just open our own transition office," Card said Monday in Austin.

Bush, in a nationally televised address Sunday night that followed certification of the Florida presidential vote, declared he will take on the responsibilities of a president-elect and named Cheney as the head of his transition team.

Gore to make his case on television

His Democratic rival, Vice President Al Gore, prepared Monday to once again make his case for keeping the legal challenges rolling in Florida.

In a planned Monday night speech, Gore is expected to hit upon several themes: the importance and sanctity of the vote in U.S. democracy and the need to count every vote; his obligation to the 50 million people who voted for him and his agenda; and the importance of respecting the judiciary and court rulings -- an implicit shot at the Republicans who have criticized the Supreme Court of Florida ruling in support of hand recounts in that state.

Rep. Gephardt and Sen. Daschle
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, left, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle hold a conference call with Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman in support of the challenge to Florida election certification  

The vice president's legal team filed suit in state court challenging election results in three Florida counties: Miami-Dade, Nassau and Palm Beach.

Gore hit upon those themes in an unorthodox conference call with the leaders of the congressional Democratic minority on Monday, but added -- as an appeal to his party brethren -- that he wouldn't be so intent on moving ahead with his court challenges unless he was confident a thorough recount in contested counties would grant him a victory.

"There are easily more than enough (votes) to change the outcome and decide the election in our favor," he said, adding a slight chuckle. "It's about the principle, but there are enough votes to change the outcome."

The Democrats are setting their sights on Miami-Dade County, which dropped its recount efforts last week when canvassing board members they didn't have enough time to complete their task before Sunday's 5 p.m. deadline, set in place by the Florida Supreme Court.

With more than 10,700 ballots not counted mechanically in Miami-Dade, many lawmakers argued, the Republicans are moving forward with their transition plans too hastily.

Surrogates for Gore fell in line behind his ongoing efforts Monday to continue the electoral court battle in Florida, as high-ranking Democrats from the House and Senate descended upon the Sunshine State to express support for his efforts.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, sat down in the Florida state capital early in the afternoon for their telephone conference call with Gore and his vice presidential running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. The call was presented as a preview of Gore's evening address.

Republicans say time is running out

The Texas governor initiated a series of transition meetings at the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas, early Monday morning with Card.

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U.S. President Bill Clinton promises transition assistance (November 27)

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Dick Cheney speaks on the Bush camp's transition plans (November 27)

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Midday Monday, Gore and Lieberman held a public conference call with the highest ranking Democrats in Congress (November 27)

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Card said his appointment as chief of staff was a "great privilege and a great honor."

"The governor is doing a terrific job of leading, not only as the governor of Texas ... but he's also doing a great job of leading during this transition period," Card said. "He's getting ready to be a great president."

With the Democrats launching yet another state court challenge Monday to the Florida results, federal government officials insisted they would not allow operatives for either campaign to occupy government office space that has been held aside for a presidential transition team.

The General Services Administration, the agency that supplies material resources to federal employees, said Sunday it would not yet provide money or office space to either Gore or Bush for a transition into the presidency. "Until the results are clear, and as long as both sides are going to court, the results are not clear yet," GSA spokeswoman Beth Newberger told CNN.

President Clinton, in turn, issued an order Monday afternoon creating a "transition coordinating council" that would provide assistance to the Bush and Gore organizations, but only to a point. A full cooperative effort, the president said at an afternoon Cabinet meeting, would only begin when the election battles have ended.

"In the final weeks of this administration, we are committed to maintaining a steady course," Clinton said. "That means providing a smooth transition to the next president, whether it is Vice President Gore or Governor Bush.

"As you know, an appropriate legal process is now under way," Clinton continued. That process will take a few more days to play itself out... That is why I'm signing today an executive order creating a transition coordinating council. The council will provide the president-elect's team with coordinated services, especially regarding personnel matters."

Cheney was clearly not satisfied with the pace of events in Washington. Appearing well-rested after his minor heart attack of last week, he told reporters Monday afternoon that the Bush team was "disappointed" with the GSA's stance, and could not afford to wait for all court eventualities to be exhausted.

"There is a tendency by many people to believe that there is plenty of time," he said. "That may be true if one looks at the timetable for the Electoral College.

"These days of transition are of great importance," Cheney said. "The transition has a direct bearing on the quality of people who are going to serve, it affects the quality of planning, and the building of relationships between the president and the Congress. It affects the capacity of the new administration to develop and execute a legislative program."

Citing a 1963 presidential transition statute, Cheney said the Bush camp would accept only individual contributions of up to $5,000 toward its transition efforts, though it would be well within its rights to accept corporate and political action committee funds.

Office locations and telephone numbers would be disclosed when Bush's team is on the ground in Washington, he said. The vanguard of the that group, Cheney said, would include Bush confidant Clay Johnson as executive director of the transition, and campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer, who would take on similar duties for the transition team.

"We believe it is absolutely essential," Cheney said. "It would be irresponsible for us not to move forward."

Daschle speculated that had all the ballots been counted "fairly" in a handful of Florida counties, Gore might now be ahead of Bush by some nine votes. Florida's certification gave Bush a 537-vote edge over the vice president.

"If we completed the count, there is little doubt you'd be ahead," Daschle said to Gore and Lieberman by speaker phone. "In order to win, you have to get the votes. We think you've got the votes."

Democrats in the House and Senate stood squarely behind Gore's legal efforts, and were willing to remain patient, Daschle and Gephardt pledged.

"The House Democrats have been entirely supportive and continue to be highly supportive of this contest," Gephardt said. "Our members feel very strongly we need to have a fair and accurate count."

We have been wanting to come here and add our voice and to let you know we feel very strongly that this needs to be done," Gephardt said of his post-Thanksgiving jaunt to Florida.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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Monday, November 27, 2000

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