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Gore and Lieberman Hold Conference Call with Democratic Leaders Daschle and Gephardt

Aired November 27, 2000 - 12:48 p.m. ET


FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, I'm Frank Sesno in Washington. We are awaiting a phone call from the vice president and his running mate, Joseph Lieberman, from the Naval Observatory, that is the vice president's residence here Washington, to Florida.

In Florida, and if we bring you this picture now, you will see Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway hovering over a telephone, now walking away from it, so maybe we won't bring you the picture after all.

This is a phone that will be presumably wired up via speaker to have on its end among others perhaps Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, Democratic leaders of the House and Senate respectively.

Joining me here to talk up to this event John King and Bill Schneider,

Bill Schneider, first to you. This is a very conscious display.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, they are trying to rally the troops, not just Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, who are of course the leaders of the Democrats in Congress that they want to keep on board; but also, they want us to show it, it is a message to Democrats nationwide, don't give up. The fact that Bush has been certified in Florida is meaningless because all the votes have not been counted.

SESNO: John King, do we know what he is going to say?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We will hear from him directly tonight for about five minutes. What they wanted to do was they wanted that address from the vice president to go unfiltered to the American people, but they all realize, up until prime time tonight, this will be debated on news shows like this and around the country. So, the vice president, this a chance for him to thank Democrats for standing by him, to say informally in the setting, that all he is looking for is a full count of the votes in Florida, and that he believes this can be done in a week or two, without any stress on the system, if you will.

SESNO: Bill Schneider, while we wait for the Democrats, let's talk about the Republicans, let's talk about George W. Bush, and in particular, what George W. Bush has tried to convey to his supporters, both out in the land and his political supporters in Washington and beyond.

SCHNEIDER: What he has tried to convey is that he really has won because there has been, by his count -- I'm not sure if I can count all of these -- four times that he has won the vote. He certainly won the initial declaration on November the 14th, the week after the election in Florida, that was later amended with overseas ballots, and then again last night he was declared and certified the winner in Florida, but each case by a very small margin.

And what Gore is arguing is, not all the votes have been counted. Now that's an arguable proposition in itself because Gore is saying that there are 10,000 votes in Miami-Dade and some in other counties that were never really counted. Well, they were counted by machine, but the machine rejected those ballots. Gore is saying they should be counted by hand.

SESNO: And last night, John King -- Here is Tom Daschle, as we see, before we launch into our next round. They are going to get miked up I am told. There is a microphone there, as you see, poised over the phone. Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle in Florida, by the Gore campaign's invitation, to rally the troops, to make the case that there are literally thousands of votes not yet counted. The small picture of your screen there, that is the Naval Observatory, the vice president's residence.

Let's see if we hear anything.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Hey, Mr. Vice President. We're just fine.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, Leaders. I'm here, too. Thank you.

DASCHLE: Hello, Joe.


DASCHLE: We're down here...


GORE: ... you all going down to Florida to be a part of this whole effort.

DASCHLE: Well, we wanted to tell you that we've had the opportunity now to talk to so many of our colleagues over the last several days, and there is overwhelming support for your effort to ensure that we have a fair and full count.

There's a recognition, of course, that we've got a lot of work to do to obtain that count. We're encouraged by the numbers that we've seen in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach and some of the other numbers around. And we were just given a new tally this morning that if we counted all of the votes that have already been counted in some of the recount, we'd actually be ahead by maybe nine votes. So we're encouraged by that.

I think there's overwhelming support for your effort and a realization that if we completed the count, there is little doubt that you'd be ahead. So we wanted to come down and be as emphatic as we can that we support you in your effort, and we support this full and fair recount.

In order to win, you've got to have the votes. We think you've got the votes.

GORE: Well, thank you, Tom.

And, Dick?

GEPHARDT: Al and Joe, let me just add that Joe knows that we've been on many conference calls with the House Democrats.


GEPHARDT: And they have been entirely supportive and continue to be entirely supportive of going ahead with this contest for the purpose of finding out how everybody voted in this election.

And our members, as you know, feel very strongly that we need to have a fair and accurate count.

It's important for the country, and it's important for whoever is found to be, in the end, in the lead and to be the next president of the United States. And so we've been wanting to come here and to add our voice and to let you know that our members feel very strongly that this needs to be done.

DASCHLE: I will also say that our colleagues were impressed with your offer to count all of the counties, and to live with the results of that effort, and to have that concept endorsed by the Supreme Court also, I think, impressed a lot of our colleagues.

As I have talked to a number of people, the fact that you've repeated it now a couple of times, is also, I think, an encouraging sign, that you're willing to live with the results, and so we are.

We'd like to get on with it. We know we're working against the clock. It's important to get it done and we just want to applaud your efforts and thank you for caring on as you have so far.

GORE: Well, thank you both for your friendship and for your participation in this.

Joe and I believe very strongly that every vote has to be counted. We hear statements on the other side quite frequently to the effect that we've had a count and a recount and another recount, but that's really beside the point. What we're talking about involves many thousands of votes that have never been counted at all. And if we ignore the votes that have been cast, then where does that lead? The integrity of our democracy depends upon the consent of the governed, freely expressed in an election where every vote is counted.

I thought Joe was very eloquent when he asked the question, "How can we tell our children that every vote counts if we don't count every vote?" And that's really the principle involved here.

And I want to make it very clear that this really is about much more than which candidate wins and which candidate loses. It is about the integrity of our system of government. And that integrity can only be assured if every vote that is legally cast is actually counted according to the law, the laws of America, including the laws of Florida.

And that's really the principal that we're standing upon.

And under Florida law, the law says, when votes haven't been counted, you go to court and say, look, here's the situation, take a look at it and do the right thing. And that's essentially what we're doing.

I just appreciate all the hard work that you guys are doing.

Joe is right here with me.

LIEBERMAN: Just very briefly to both of you, our leaders, thank you very much for your support throughout this extraordinary and unusual time. You've been steadfast and correct in just the most encouraging way. And appreciate very much your taking the time to go to Florida and be right there on the scene and to report to us from the scene directly, as you have.

As you know, Al and I feel that what we're doing here is right, and what we're asking for is fair, and that is just to count the votes that were cast.

But I must say, as right as we feel it is, both not just for ourselves and the 50 million people who voted for us, but for the country and the system and the precedent we set here, it is very encouraging and important to us to have the kind of steadfast support you and the members of the two caucuses in the House and Senate have given us. I honestly can't thank you enough.

And I guess I would just stress what Al has said, which is that what we're asking for today, not withstanding the certification by the secretary of state that occurred last night, which as I said last night was based on an inaccurate and incomplete vote, what we're asking for today, as our lawyers go to court, is exactly what we've been asking for from Election Night, which is, in this closet election in American history, that every vote be counted. And we are doing so in the courts of Florida today exactly according to Florida law and, more particularly, on a time schedule that was set by the justices of the Florida Supreme Court in their wisdom in the decision that they issued last week.

So, thank you very, very much for your friendship. And we look forward to going forward together in answers to the country.

GORE: Before we go, let me just add one other point. This really is about the larger principle that I outlined. But I want you to know that, on a personal basis, I'm also very encouraged by what you said at the outset, that from your perspective there on the ground in Florida, if every vote is counted, there are easily more than enough to change the outcome and decide the election in our favor.

It's about the principle, but there are more than enough votes to change the outcome, and that's an important factor as well.

GEPHARDT: One of the things we found here that I didn't know was that, if these votes are counted, under the Freedom of Information Act somebody can come here, a professor or some other academic, and count these votes in the days ahead.

So if we don't find out who won and who had the most votes, we're going to find out later.

Wouldn't it be a terrible thing for the country to find out a month or two months from now that you got the most votes, you already had the national popular vote by 300,000 votes in the country? How terrible would it be to find out that you also had the most votes in Florida and should have won this election.

DASCHLE: That is true especially given the fact that we've got 9,000 approximately that haven't been counted at all. We hear the Republicans talk a lot about how many times these ballots have been counted. Well, there has never been a real count of 9,000 votes in Miami-Dade, maybe 4,000 votes that were erroneously counted in Palm Beach. So you're down to about 100 votes plus or minus right now. With those 13,000 votes, what Dick has said is absolutely right, how tragic it would be to know that in January or February that you actually won by several hundred votes and we just didn't have an accurate count until then.

LIEBERMAN: That is so correct because what we're about here is obviously to protect the right to vote and to have the votes be counted. But also to make sure that, again, this closest of all elections in American history, that whoever takes office on January 20 as our next president does so without clouds of doubt or anger hanging over his head.


LIEBERMAN: And the way to do that is to make sure that all the votes are counted. Let's speak the fact, which is that Governor Bush is picking up votes in these hand counts, as well.

DASCHLE: You both are.

LIEBERMAN: Right, absolutely, we both are. GORE: Well, listen, to both of you, thank you for giving us a report from on the ground in Florida. And I'll be speaking this evening on the larger principles involved here, after the events in the Florida courts today and elsewhere. We look forward to seeing you both very soon. So thank you all very much.

GEPHARDT: Thank you.

DASCHLE: You're welcome, thank you.

GORE: Bye-bye.


SESNO: Conference call there from the Naval Observatory, Gore residence, as it is labeled, with the vice president, Al Gore, and his running mate, Joe Lieberman, with Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle there, the leaders from the House and the Senate on the Democratic side, they sort of rally the troops, a little bit of news at the top, according to them anyway, that if all those votes were counted, Al Gore would be nine votes ahead in Florida. It takes a little bit of special math there, but we will get you there.

First to Bill Schneider here with me. Bill, this shows we're in a 24-hour news cycle. This was not an intimate little conversation. It could have happened anywhere, it happened on camera.

SCHNEIDER: It was a public event, clearly, and they intended this to be covered. It was a message to Democrats out there that the line of the Democrats' argument is that there are thousands and thousands of votes that have never been counted. To be precise, the machine looked at those votes and deemed them to be non-votes. So what the Gore campaign is arguing is, people voted, the machine couldn't read those ballots so people, individual human beings, should read those ballots because otherwise those voters are disenfranchised.

SESNO: John King, do the math for us.

KING: Well, it is difficult math. If you take away -- if you count the Palm Beach hand recount, which the secretary of state did not count because it was not finished in time; if you count some of the votes that Miami-Dade County had picked up, a net gain for Vice President Bush 157 votes or so before they called off their hand counts, so those votes were never counted; and then if you accept the Gore argument on contesting changes made in Nassau County to the results, contesting some absentee ballots that they believe were not properly done in Seminole County; if you go around a little bit more math, they can present a scenario that says, see, if we win this challenge, we're now ahead by nines votes; and then we count 10,000 in Miami-Dade, and a couple thousand more in Palm Beach that they do not believe have been counted properly.

As Bill said, the machines have counted those votes in Miami- Dade, no vote registered for president. The Gore people say, if you look at those ballots, you will clearly on most of them some marking. They want now the courts in Florida to do that. This was about convincing the country this is not a waste of time, that there are votes out there that could change the results, and that this is not a waste of time because now that Governor Bush has been certified as the winner in Florida, they are worried that even Gore supporters will say: Enough already.

SESNO: This is to counter what one Democratic pollster called and told me earlier today was we he calls this building presumption for Gore. They want to counter that -- I am sorry, building presumption for Bush.

Let's go now and hear the Bush perspective. Eileen O'Connor is in Austin.

A challenge to both the process and the public.

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was. But you know the Bush campaign, Frank, is saying that this kind of conference call, this kind of argument from the Gore campaign, that these votes were never counted, they're say that's just disinformation. They were counted by the machines twice. And that, in many cases, they were counted by hand.

And they're calling those manual recounts, not counting votes, but casting votes. They say that in those manual recounts, which they point out were done -- the majority of them -- in Democratic counties, with Democratic canvassing boards, that in that situation, the counters were divining the voter's intent. And that it wasn't necessarily the intent to vote for Al Gore. This is what the Bush campaign is saying.

They are also saying their statement last night, the governor's statement last night, about moving on with the transition, about preparing to lead, and having won the electoral votes of Florida, and thus the presidency, was not presumptive.

They are saying: How can that be presumptive after winning several times? Is what Mindy Tucker, one of the Bush campaign spokesman, just told me.

You know, basically, it is also, they believe, not presumptive, but also preemptive. They trying, they believe, to coincide with what the public is saying. And they are e-mailing people -- public opinion polls that have been put out by various news organizations showing 6 out of 10 people polled saying that this should be the finality, that it should be over, and that Al Gore should concede.

They also have been e-mailing out op-ed pieces. This is something that both campaigns have been doing throughout, by the way, is e-mailing poll results that bolster their argument.

But the Bush campaign really believes that they do have the public on their side. And you know, it is interesting that you have two members of Congress, Democratic members of Congress, coming out there showing their support for the vice president. This is also something the Bush campaign has been watching very carefully. SESNO: Let me jump in here, I am very sorry, I need to get you to Tom Daschle, who we understand is speaking right now at the microphones. Let's go down and listen.

My apologies to our viewers and of course to Eileen, we had some audio problems there with Tom Daschle. We will try to work that out and bring that back to you. Obviously saw him just on the phone a few moments ago with Al Gore. He was giving his take on it there. We will try to get back to him when we can. We will take a break. On behalf of Eileen O'Connor, John King and Bill Schneider, thanks to you. I am Frank Sesno in Washington.



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