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Bush Campaign Spokeswoman Karen Hughes Holds News Briefing on Florida Recount

Aired November 10, 2000 - 9:01 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: The unofficial tally is in, and the tally from Florida recount, and it that shows George W. Bush holding a razor-thin lead over Al Gore.

We will have extensive coverage of the Florida recount this morning. My partner Bill Hemmer is in Tallahassee, where the numbers are being processed. And our Washington bureau chief, Frank Sesno, will join us with the latest developments from there. We will get to the two gentleman in just a moment.

First, though, the latest numbers from Florida. In fact, we have a statement now from Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes speaking to us from Austin.

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: We've had an election. We've had a recount. It's all been conducted under the law and by the rules. And in America, we simply don't keep voting until somebody likes the outcome.

QUESTION: The vote happened. Why not count every vote? I mean, how could it hurt?

HUGHES: We have counted every vote now twice. We counted the votes on Tuesday night. Florida has now recounted the votes. And so there have been -- there's been not only a count, but now a recount. When both have confirmed that Governor Bush confirmed the state of Florida.

QUESTION: Are will going to hear from Governor Bush today?

HUGHES: I'm going to going and talk to him right now and find out. All right? Thank you all very much. Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: You don't expect this process to be complete until the absentee ballots in Florida are counted. Is that correct?

HUGHES: I just think that the only remaining -- there's been a count of the votes on Tuesday night. There's been a recount of the votes that were cast on Tuesday on election day. The only remaining question -- those votes now been counted not only once, but twice,and they confirm that Governor Bush - won the state of Florida -- the only remaining question are these overseas absentee ballots, which historically Republicans win. QUESTION: Is the governor moving ahead with the process of putting together a team?

HUGHES: Again, we're going to have a meeting right now to talk about that.

QUESTION: One other question: What about the argument about the ballot? Not that it was confusing, but that legally, the holes should have been -- the holes should have been the right to every name.

HUGHES: There's a legal procedure -- that the ballot, first of all, was designed by a Democrat, election official. It was used in the 1996 presidential race in that county. There is a legal procedure to challenge the ballot. And it requires that the parties challenge the ballot prior to the election.

That didn't happen. The ballot was published in the newspapers, sample ballots mailed, and it was shown to both the Republican and Democrat parties for their approval and for any protest. And no protest was filed.

QUESTION: Do you think this is going to drag on? I mean, I know you'd like it to be over, but do you think that this could go on for quite some time...?

HUGHES: I just don't know at this point, and, again, I would hope that all parties involved would think about the best interest of the country. We have had an election that showed Governor Bush won the state of Florida. We've now had a recount that shows Governor Bush won the state of Florida. And I hope all parties involved will think about the good of the country.

Thank you, all, very much.

KAGAN: Some brief comments there from Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes, talking about the count and the recount in Florida. She says there has been that count and that recount, and she points out that in both of those, Governor George W. Bush did win the state of Florida by the popular vote. And she says the only question now is the matter of those outstanding absentee ballots, which the state of Florida has until November 17th to count and tabulator.

She was going in now to talk to Governor Bush. Things that they will talk about: whether the governor making a statement later today. Of course, if he does you will see those live here on CNN.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also in Austin, Texas, this morning, is our Jeanne Meserve, as she has been for the last few days, working hard for us.

Jeanne, good morning.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn. Interesting that the Bush campaign is reacting somewhat more cautiously to the recount results than one might have expected, given what they've been saying over the last couple of days. You just heard Karen Hughes repeat what she said in a written statement this morning, which is we won Tuesday night, but the recount has confirmed that result.

In the written statement that she issued this morning, she also said, "We hope Vice President Gore and his campaign will reconsider their threats of lawsuits or still more recounts, which could undermine the Constitutional process of selecting a president and has no foreseeable end." Now, you may recall that, on Wednesday, the governor himself spoke outside the governor's mansion, and he said, If we win this recount, we have won the race. Nobody in the campaign has said that yet this morning. Neither have they called for a concession from Vice President Al Gore.

In part, at least, one official tells me, from the Bush campaign, because these are still unofficial results -- not the official results, just an AP tally at this point -- there also is the question of those overseas absentee ballots. In the statement this morning, the Bush campaign reiterated what they've said before: We think we will have the majority of those absentee overseas votes.

But, there's no official position yet that we're able to discern, from the Bush campaign, on whether an official tally should wait until after all those overseas absentee ballots have been tabulated. That would be on the 17th of this month.

We're in unchartered waters here. Apparently, the campaign still trying to figure out, to some degree, how to navigate them. That's why the meetings are going on at the governor's mansion this morning.

Senator Bob Dole did speak this morning on his thoughts on where things show go from here.


BOB DOLE, BUSH SUPPORTER: I think it's pretty much over. I mean, this is an unofficial tally. I think the official tally would give President-elect Bush more votes, and then I think the overseas votes will go -- break in Bush's favor. So I think it's time for Al Gore to look people in the eye and say, Well, we gave it our best shot, we had the recount, we may want to wait until we have the final count next Tuesday, and then we're prepared to concede.


I talked with Bush campaign officials this morning about some of the other states were there are questions, specifically Iowa and Wisconsin, where the vote is so tight that recounts could be required or requested. Nothing to report on that front from the Bush campaign this morning -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Jeanne Meserve in Austin. So we've heard from the Bush camp, what about the Gore camp, which has moved from Nashville to Washington, D.C.? That means that our Jonathan Karl has also made that move, and he this morning is with our Frank Sesno, both of them in our Washington, D.C. bureau. Gentlemen, good morning.

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Good morning to you. And let's turn right to John Karl.

Jon, you and I have been tracking this. There is a fresh response from the -- from the Gore campaign to what, basically, the Bush folks are saying.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Gore campaign is absolutely astounded, they say, that the George W. Bush campaign would say, Hey, let's end this now, based on unofficial tally from the "Associated Press" that has the margin of 327 votes. They say, how could you even think about calling this thing before we see those overseas ballots.

And in fact, there's a statement from the campaign chairman, Bill Daley, directly on this point -- came out less than an hour ago -- Chairman Daley said, and I quote here, "Contrary to claims being made this morning by the Bush campaign, this election is not over. Again, we want the true and accurate will of the people to prevail, and that means the letting the legal system run its course." At the end of process, Daley says, if George W. Bush is declared he winner, they will respect that.

SESNO: So their response to what we heard Karen Hughes just now say, which was that one: George W. Bush won the vote, and then he won the recount, is not so fast.

KARL: Yeah, not so fast. The recount, in fact, in their view is not done yet. Daley makes four points on this. One is, obviously, the overseas ballots. We've got to see what those show.

Secondly, four counties have been requested to count by hand, and two of those counties are still doing a recount by hand. Two, that request is pending.

The third thing is they say they quote the Florida secretary of state, Katharine Harris, saying that, in Daley's formulation here, "this election would not be completed for some time.

The fourth point comes down to Palm Beach, which, of course, gets beyond the recount.

SESNO: And hanging out there and not completely rejected by the Gore campaign is this notion of going to the courts, for remedy or for some kind of determination. And there's growing pressure, Jon -- and we should tell our viewers about this -- in a variety of quarters, to tread with great care before going to the courts, including an editorial in the "Washington Post" today -- which, by the way, endorsed Al Gore for president -- and they said that legal action should with approached with enormous caution and restraint, that a lawsuit, or a key vote for that matter, could raise as many questions as answers -- even more, perhaps.

How is the Gore campaign digesting and reacting to this kind of pressure?

KARL: Well, first of all, they're saying that they are not yet calling for legal action. They're clearing preparing for it. There's an army of lawyers down there for the Gore campaign looking into a possible legal challenge, especially focused on Palm Beach.

But there is pressure, not just from places like the "Washington Post": Two Democratic senators, Torricelli and Breaux, also came out and said, Hey, let's be careful, let's drop the threats of lawsuits, let's see what happens with this recount.

So there is enormous pressure. What's interesting is we have heard also nothing from the vice president himself, except for that initial statement on Wednesday, when he said he wants this process to be expeditious and thorough. It's quite possible that this pressure will build, and the vice president may want to drop this discussion of lawsuits, and that's why they are, in fact, being cautious about directly threatening it. They're preparing for it, but, certainly, not saying that's what they're going to do.

SESNO: OK, Jon Karl, thanks very much.


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