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Janet Reno Comments on Elian Gonzalez CaseAired March 23, 2000 - 9:31 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the Justice Department. Janet Reno now meeting with reports. We will listen in for more information on the case of Elian Gonzalez.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are involved in trying to work with everybody concerned to work out an orderly, prompt and fair process. Otherwise, I don't think we should speculate on what's going to happen.
QUESTION: But you can't say whether Elian's father is -- there is something more for Elian's father to visit his son in Miami, even if it doesn't mean he's going back with him to Havana?
RENO: I don't think I should comment further other than to say we're trying to work through all these issues in a way that's fair to all.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, had the decision been made to go ahead and work on a way to send him back independent of an appeal?
RENO: I think nobody should jump to any conclusions except that we are trying to work it out in a fair, prompt and very orderly way.
QUESTION: Would you seek an order from the judge to allow you to move him?
RENO: Under the order of the judge, I have the authority to move him. I am trying to work it out so that this is done in a fair, orderly and prompt manner.
QUESTION: But would you add to that fair -- well, orderly and prompt. I guess prompt -- that was the one I was going to ask if it was in there. But it already is in there, isn't it?
QUESTION: What does prompt mean?
RENO: You're the wordsmith.
QUESTION: Well, within a few weeks, within a month, by next Christmas, in a matter of days? RENO: I don't think we can speculate. I think this is obviously a matter of great concern. As the judge pointed out, this family is very well-intentioned. They care a great deal. Elian's father cares a very great deal. This is a wonderful little boy from all that I have heard and it is just important that everybody work it out the right way.
QUESTION: I guess what we're trying to get though...
RENO: You're just trying to pin me down, and that's not a good thing to do as you're trying to work something out.
QUESTION: In the normal course of things, a legal dispute takes many months, sometimes years, before all the avenues are exhausted and before the Supreme Court denies a petition. Is the Justice Department willing to wait that long for the resolution of this little boy's life?
RENO: The Justice Department wants to follow the court's admonition that we not delay the opportunity for this little boy to be with his father. But I think it is important that the media, that the community, that everybody remember that we have a family here, different parts of the family, a wonderful little boy, who has been through a horrible experience.
RENO: Let us, instead of saying are you going to do this or are you going to do that, let us work together. And the media can oftentimes do wonderful things, in terms of the way you phrase things and the way you express things. Let's do right by this situation.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, the Miami relatives seem to believe that they -- that you will not live to return Elian to Cuba while the entire appeals process is proceeding. Are they right to believe that?
RENO: I have not heard from them, so I'm not sure what their position is.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, how important is it for Juan Miguel Gonzalez to come to this country to pick up his son? Is that important to move this process along?
RENO: We're going to consider all possible avenues as to how we work this out the right away.
QUESTION: What is the plan for getting in touch with the Miami relatives, since you said this morning how important a part of this they all are?
RENO: They are represented by counsel, and we will continue our discussion with counsel.
QUESTION: What sense did you get from Greg Craig yesterday about exactly when the father wants to come, whether he will come? And also, is he still seeking assurances from the department as far as his security here and...
RENO: He should comment on any matters that were discussed.
QUESTION: Ms. Reno, you have probably considered seeking an expedited hearing before the Court of Appeals?
RENO: We're going to consider all possible avenues of working it out.
QUESTION: Are you confident that if the time comes, that this little boy will go back, that the relatives will cooperate in that process?
RENO: I want to work it out so that everybody is on board and trying to decide a very difficult situation.
QUESTION: So, Elian is not yet legally cleared to go back to Cuba, is that correct?
RENO: Yes, he is legally cleared to go back to Cuba.
QUESTION: He is?
QUESTION: I make an annual visit. The last time I was here, I asked you your position and the Justice Department's position on the D.C. voting rights. As you full well know, residents of the District of Columbia...
HEMMER: Janet Reno from the Justice Department there in Washington saying: Let's do right by this situation, reiterating comments she made last night by saying, we are trying to work out the Elian Gonzalez case in, quote, "a fair and prompt way." She went on to say that this family, meaning the family of Elian Gonzalez living in Florida, is, quote, "well intentioned, they care a great deal, but it's important everybody work it out the right way." Toward the end there, you also heard her say: Yes, at this time, the 6-year-old Cuban boy is legally cleared to return to his home country of Cuba.
However, very difficult tightrope to walk right now. The Justice Department saying earlier this week it is very concerned about keeping and not provoking the Cuban-American community southern Florida on this matter, but also not to traumatize the young boy with a return to Cuba before he is fully prepared.
Again, the family, the lawsuit they brought to court was thrown out earlier this week. However, they have appealed that ruling. They say they will fight it all the way to the Supreme Court in order to keep Elian in Miami, Florida.
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