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Al Gore Calls for a New Count of Disputed Ballots; Bush Campaign Insists All Florida Votes Have Been Counted

Aired November 28, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight: Al Gore calls for a new count and a new timetable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe this is the time to count every vote and not to run out the clock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The Bush team argues the time for counting has come and gone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Now, regrettably, it appears that the vice president wants to go back and change the rules after the counting is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Legal briefs arrive at the nation's highest court. And hearings continue in Florida's capital. As the Bush team adds more legal firepower, what advice is being whispered in Al Gore's ear? All ahead on this special edition of THE WORLD TODAY: "The Florida Vote."

Reporting now from Washington, here's Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.

Al Gore's presidential hopes now rest with America's legal system. But time is not on the vice president's side. With that and signs the public's patience is waning, Gore today offered plans for a one-week timetable to recount ballots he says were never counted, ballots which he insists will make him president.

George W. Bush, meantime, introduced new additions to his legal team. And the new attorneys quickly set out to refute Gore's arguments point by point. Among the day's key legal developments: The Bush and Gore teams delivered formal legal briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court here in Washington. The high court will hear arguments on the case Friday. In Florida: a hearing on the Gore request for contested ballots in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties to be recounted by a court-appointed special master.

Also, Gore and Bush lawyers filed briefs in Florida's Supreme Court regarding a revote in Palm Beach County because of the controversial butterfly ballot. The court has not yet decided whether to hear arguments in that case.

Covering those proceedings in Tallahassee for us are Gary Tuchman and Kate Snow. First, let's go to Kate Snow.

Kate, what did the briefs argue on that butterfly ballot? And where does that stand right now?

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf.

I should note that the Gore team is not part of this case. So they didn't file any briefs on this today. The Bush team did, as well as lawyers for the plaintiffs. Now, Florida's Supreme Court now has two cases before it that have to do with the butterfly ballot. One just came in today. The first one came in yesterday. And they filed those briefs on the first case today.

They have not decided whether to take one or the other: either of these two cases or both of them. We may know something by tomorrow night as to whether they will even hear the case. As for the briefs filed today, on the first case in question, it is involving five voters from Palm Beach County. And two law firms represent these five people. They filed their briefs today. In one, they say the court shouldn't be swayed by public opinion.

They argue that not only do they think there should be revote in Palm Beach County, but that it can be done. They cite an accounting firm that says that it could come down and do a December 1 vote and have the results in hand by December 2. Now, the Bush team filed their brief in response to that, saying federal law mandates for an election to happen on one day and one day only.

They feel that the lower court did the right thing when it said that it shouldn't even be involved in this, because this is a matter of the U.S. Constitution -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Kate -- all right, Kate Snow in Tallahassee, thank you.

Gary Tuchman, what's the status of Al Gore's demand that those Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties resume their own hand recounts, that that go to a court-appointed so-called special master?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, during a two-hour hearing that just, Judge N. Sanders Sauls said he didn't know whether he would recount the votes. But he did say this Thursday he will hold a hearing in his courtroom on how to count the votes and what standards should be used if he does decide to count the votes.

He also ordered that all the votes the Gore team want sent up to Tallahassee come to Tallahassee. That means 10,500 votes from Miami- Dade County that weren't counted by hand, 3,300 votes in Palm Beach County that were counted but weren't counted as Gore votes -- were just counted as undervotes -- are all going to come up here by police escort by Friday at 12:00 noon, so if they need to be counted, they can be counted.

Also, the Gore team wanted to speed up the schedule dramatically. The Bush team objected to that. The Gore team said they want this civil trial on this contest to start this Monday. The judge did it one better for the Gore team. He said the civil trial will start this Saturday.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Saturday will be another big day in Tallahassee. Gary Tuchman, thanks for joining us.

Whether the manual recounts will be included in Florida's official tally of course remains to be seen. On this Friday, though, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider an appeal from the Bush campaign to throw out the recount. Attorneys for both campaigns filed legal briefs with the court today. And joining us with details from the Supreme Court: CNN senior Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer.

Tell us what happened today, Charles.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the justices asked all the parties to this case to asses the impact if the court here vacates that ruling by the Florida state Supreme Court. The Bush attorneys' filing says that the impact would be to certify the results of the election based on returns received by the statutory deadline of November 14.

The Bush brief notes Miami-Dade's recount didn't begin until after the 14th. Therefore, as a practical result, some of the recently filed election challenges by Gore to the election results would be mooted, they say. On the other hand -- well, for example, that would include perhaps Miami-Dade.

Here's Bush campaign attorney Ben Ginsberg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN GINSBERG, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Among the bedrock principles of American election law is that you can't come up with new and different rules after Election Day for the purpose of counting ballots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BIERBAUER: Now, the Gore briefing, in contrast, asks the justices to affirm the Florida ruling. Gore's lawyers see a broader consequence in overturning the Florida court and they say the consequence "would do violence both to principles of federalism and to the independence of the judiciary throughout the United States."

Here's Gore lawyer Laurence Tribe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAURENCE TRIBE, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We are asking the high court to step aside. We do not think there has been any violation of federal law or the federal Constitution to remedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BIERBAUER: And in fact, the Gore attorneys think that the contest of those votes could continue despite the ruling that will come from the Supreme Court. It will make interesting arguments Friday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll all be watching on Friday. Thank you very much, Charles Bierbauer.

The Bush camp today unveiled a new team of lawyers to handle all this growing litigation, countering claims from Gore's side that thousands of undervotes in Miami-Dade County would narrow the margin between the two candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IRVIN TERRELL, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Not every person who comes to an election and comes to the ballot box, particularly in a hotly contested election, chooses to vote, so that when they say that these votes are votes, they're wrong, and when they say that these votes -- and I tell you they're nonvotes -- have never been counted, we know they've been counted twice by machines at least and in each instance they've been found to not be votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And later, there was this counterargument from Gore attorney Laurence Tribe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRIBE: ... case about counting ballots. It's a case about fairness. It's case about the franchise. It's a case about treating human beings with some respect and decency instead of saying we have to rely always on machines. And it's about allowing the states to make decisions without the heavy hand of the federal government always dictating a single result.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Covering the Bush campaign for us, of course, is our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Candy, you've been reporting now for several days that there was this additional legal team working for Governor Bush. But today, they made a big display of that team. What was all that about?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a couple things. First of all, it's sort of a power display of, OK, we have these you know A lawyers in here. But it was also sort of a nod to reality. The Bush campaign, and particularly those close to the legal end of it, have felt very thinly spread. They've had, you know, this going on in Palm Beach County and this going on in Miami- Dade, and other things going on in other counties, and they really felt that they did not really have enough legal help. Believe it or not, for all we've talked about with all these lawyers, they really felt they didn't have enough legal help. So it was both a display of power, as well as a nod to the reality that they needed more help.

BLITZER: And amid all of this, there is, of course, a great sign of transition, the Bush team trying to show that they're really well into this transition process and the more, of course, we talk about it, the more it seems like it's all fait accompli, a done deal. The transition, though, is moving forward I take it?

CROWLEY: It is. And you're right. Certainly, the Bush team is not complaining when we talk about transition and who might be in the cabinet, because what that does is sort of add to the picture of certainty, which is what the Bush campaign has wanted all along, that he be looking presidential. But there is also a practical side to it, which is they already say that a third of the time, normally a lot of the transition is already has been used up and they really need to get moving on a lot of these things. So it's both political and practical.

BLITZER: And finally, Candy, tomorrow, we begin the fourth week of this post-election situation, the strategy of both sides seems to be rather consistent. Am I wrong?

CROWLEY: No, it absolutely has been. I mean, despite the fact that we feel like we've been sort of whiplashed through the court system of Florida into the appeals court, now the Supreme Court, what we heard from the very beginning, the Wednesday after, the Thursday after, from the Bush team was, we have a winner here and we'll get it certified, and we have a winner. So there was always this certainty on the Bush camp's side. On the other side, the Gore camp, it was always, we need a little more time, it's not official yet. So none of that has changed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Candy Crowley, once again joining us from Austin, Texas, thank you very much.

Up next, Al Gore's appearance today and a glimpse behind the scenes at how he's handling the situation and the advice he's getting. This is a special edition of "THE WORLD TODAY."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted for Gore, but I think he should stop already. I think that it's dragging on for a while. There's always a margin of error in the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Vice President Al Gore once again took to the TV cameras today, this time to outline his plan for a quick count of all disputed Florida ballots. In the face of formal objections from the Bush campaign, Gore's proposal calls for a count in seven days and a wrapup of court proceedings shortly thereafter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a time for delay, obstruction and procedural roadblocks. As I've said, I believe it's essential to our country that there be no question, no cloud over the head of the next president, whether it be me or Governor Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Later, Bush communications director Karen Hughes countered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: ... having come up short in all those counts and all those times, Vice President Gore is proposing to make up yet another set of rules. He proposes yet another count and yet another deadline.

Common sense does not allow it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now is CNN's senior White House correspondent John King.

As much, John, as the vice president says he's not paying attention to public opinion polls, these numbers that are coming out have to be very disturbing for him.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he says he won't be guided by them, Wolf, but that doesn't mean he's not paying attention to them, which is one of the reasons we saw him out in public again today so soon after his nationally televised address. The Gore camp -- excuse me -- knows very well a majority of Americans now believes he should concede the election. So we will see him quite frequently now, part of the Gore campaign's effort -- just to show him out there, they believe, sends the signal to the American people that he's not prepared to call it quits.

Now, behind the scenes, there's another effort under way. More conference calls. Today, the key targets, Democratic governors. Some of them will speak out on the vice president's behalf tomorrow. Also, a more urgent call with the so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats. They are the moderate Democrats. The Gore campaign views them as most likely to break publicly and say it's time for the vice president to pack it in.

Some tough questions, we're told, from Blue Dog Democrats today. But at the end of this conference call, sources in the campaign telling us there was a consensus to give the vice president a little bit more time, a week or so. And in that vein, one key setback in those court proceedings Gary Tuchman was talking about earlier, the Gore campaign very much wanted the judge to agree to bring those ballots in from Palm Beach County and from Miami-Dade County. To have them in the courtroom as early as tomorrow was the Gore campaign's request. They believe it is critical as the legal proceedings go on for another week or two that the public see evidence on a daily basis that the vice president has a chance. So they wanted the judge counting those ballots.

The judge said today no counting of those ballots until Saturday at the earliest. That a setback for the Gore campaign in the public relations war that goes on with the ongoing legal battle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John, very quickly, what are they more concerned about, the Gore team? The U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Friday or the legal arguments that are unfolding in Tallahassee?

KING: Tallahassee much more urgent to them. They need that judge to say, yes, you have a point, yes, you need to look at those votes.

BLITZER: John King, here in Washington. Thanks again for joining us.

How does Al Gore proceed in his legal fight with time and public opinion apparently shifting against him. Joining us now with some insight, from Tallahassee, CNN Political Analyst Ron Brownstein, also political correspondent for "The Los Angeles Times." Here in Washington, Marla Romash, Al Gore's former communications director and, CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno.

Let me begin with you, Ron in Tallahassee. You're close to the action that John King says is critical to the future of Al Gore's quest for the White House. What are the Gore legal people telling you down there in Tallahassee? How much of an uphill struggle is this?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, I agree very much with John that what happens here in Tallahassee may be more critical than what happens at the Supreme Court. You know, Wolf, the case here has moved to a new phase. We're in the contest phase, as you know, and as a result, I think the Gore people feel that even if the Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court rules against them, overturns the Florida Supreme Court that they could simply go back and amend their contest and try to get back the Broward County hand votes which is the only thing they've gained in this period that Florida courts have given them.

So, I think they feel very much that the battle is at the Florida level more than at the Supreme Court level. The danger, though, is that if the Supreme Court rules against them at the federal level, that it could reinforce the sense that he's fighting on beyond a reasonable point and they see it as more of a political and psychological blow than a legal blow.

BLITZER: Frank Sesno, I know you've been talking to some of those so-called Blue Dog Democrats that John King was referring to, the more conservative Democrats especially from the South. How seriously is Al Gore's political problem right now in these immediate critical days ahead?

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, he's got the Blue Dogs for now. They're in line along with the rest of the Democratic heavyweights and party. They're working hard.

Let me tell you about that call. It was very interesting. Having spoken -- we spoke to a number of participants.

The first thing is they are getting these Democrats, they're getting beat up in their own districts. They are from largely conservative districts. A lot of them from districts that went for George W. Bush in the presidential race, and they are getting beaten up in phone calls and faxes and e-mails. Some of it, they believe, an orchestrated campaign. People saying, look, you're a Democrat, use you influence, get Gore to pull the plug on this. They're not doing that.

In that call, they stood their ground, but they said, as John King emphasized, there's a time limit to this and they specifically asked the representatives from the Gore campaign -- it included Lieberman -- how long is this going to go? When is there an end in sight? And they laid out -- Lieberman and company laid out this what they hoped would be a truncated challenge.

BLITZER: Marla Romash, you worked for Al Gore -- used to work for Al Gore for many, many years. You know this man quite well. At what point does he say enough is enough. I fought a good fight. It's time to move on.

MARLA ROMASH, FORMER GORE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think what hasn't been reported enough in this last two weeks is just how deep Al Gore's commitment is to democracy. I mean, when I worked for him, he used to do town meetings in every county in Tennessee. And that wasn't the big town meetings you see know. It was sometimes just a dozen people.

But he'd open every one of them buy saying that those town meeting were his way of making democracy work better. They were his ways of helping people's voices be heard a little better, and I think that's what this is about. He's standing up for what he believes in, and I've always seen him do that and he's doing that now, and I think he's going to stand up for he believes in and fight for it. And in the end, I think he's going to win.

BLITZER: Well, how can you say you think he's going to win when there are so many legal hurdles that he has to overcome, let alone this calendar? The clock is ticking against his favor right now.

ROMASH: Part of me is just plain optimistic, Wolf. I base that on just faith and hope. But the other part is based on the numbers, because when you look at the votes -- and I don't care what the Bush people say and I don't care what their rent-a-mobs do to try to intimidate people -- but when you look at the numbers, you see the votes are there. I mean, Al Gore comes into Florida with more votes than George Bush -- by 300,000, thank you. He comes into this election with the support of the American people, and I don't think there's any mob that any Bush person can rent that's going to change that. If the process proceeds, if the votes are counted, then I think the vice president wins.

BLITZER: Ron Brownstein, that optimism coming from a Gore ally. I know that you speak to lot of Gore people here in Washington, elsewhere around the country. Is that the public optimism? Privately, they can't be that optimistic.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, no, I don't think they totally think the deck is stacked against them, but they realize that with each day the hurdles get a little higher, to really mangle the metaphor there. Look, they have to have a number of things go their way.

One of the problems they have is that even in this contest procedure, they need the judge to agree on more than one of the things they contest. if they just throw out the Nassau County ballots, that's not enough. If they hand count the Miami-Dade ballots, that may not be enough. They probably need a reassessment on the standard on Palm Beach as well.

And Wolf, while all this is going on, the state legislature here is steaming toward an historic effort to directly name the electors. In the brief they filed with the Supreme Court yesterday, they asserted broad authority to do that. They're meeting tomorrow to talk about calling a special session.

And if they do, even if the court process produces a victory for Gore, further recounts that give him the lead, you could have two competing slates of electors going up to Washington that Congress would have to adjudicate. If Congress ties, you know who gets the decision: the governor of the state that sent them. And that is Governor Jeb Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right. Marla, hold on one second. I just want to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. But stick with us. We'll continue this discussion right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Gore should continue. I think if the Supreme Court makes a decision, everybody will feel better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're trying to understand what makes Al Gore tick in this legal and political struggle. Marla Romash, a former communication director for Al Gore, is still with us, along with Ron Brownstein and Frank Sesno. Marla, you were about to react about to what Ron Brownstein was saying about this firewall the Republicans have: a Republican majority in the Florida legislature, as well as majorities here in Congress and Washington. If the legal challenges fail for them, they have this political opportunity to make sure that George W. Bush is the president.

ROMASH: Well, that's a great way to put it. And I've known Ron for a long time and respect his reporting skills. And he's exactly right in laying out what might happen. And what's so frustrating to those of us who support Al Gore is that he's standing for one of the deepest, most important principles of our nation: the right of every person to vote and the right of every person's voice to be heard.

On the other hand, you have got the Republicans renting a mob outside the counting rooms and using every kind of cheap political trick and gimmick to bully their way to a victory. Well, that's not the way it's done in this country.

BLITZER: Frank Sesno, as you take a look at the political and legal landscape right now -- and I know you speak to a lot of people here in Washington -- the deck does seem to be not favorable -- favorably inclined for Al Gore.

SESNO: It's an uphill battle. And I don't there's anybody who will speak honestly to you who won't acknowledge that it is. And I would take a little bit of exception with Marla, not to how she feels and how she feels that Al Gore feels, but not all Democrats are quite as enthusiastic and ready to take the barricades.

You know, that Blue Dog conversation I was telling you about, speaking to one of the people who was on that call, I said: "Well, did you find the math lesson?" They're sharing this math lesson that, if all the votes were counted, Al Gore would really only be behind by 100 votes. That's without the 10,000-plus recounted yet again.

And I asked this one participant: "Did you find it persuasive?" He said: "No, I didn't find it persuasive. But we're a nation of laws. It's in the courts. It needs to run its course." He says: "We've been dealt a lemonade -- a lemon -- we are trying to figure out how to make lemonade out of it."

BLITZER: All right, Frank Sesno, Ron Brownstein, Marla Romash, thanks to all three of you for joining us on our special edition of THE WORLD TODAY. Thank you very much.

And amid all of this, some more complications: Election officials in New Mexico have conditionally certified Al Gore as the winner of the state's five electoral votes. The official certification will come after a judge's review of disputed ballots in one county. Officials say Gore won by a 483-vote margin over Bush.

Politics elsewhere and Greta Van Susteren on the battle in the court of public opinion -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've made a good effort to contest the votes. But there comes a time when we need to move forward and get on with the business of the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Politics elsewhere in the world today: In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Barak called for early elections, cutting short debate in the Knesset on dissolving Parliament. Elections are not expected before spring. Popularity polls show, if the elections were held right now, Barak would be defeated.

And, in Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chretien gambled with an early election call and it has paid off. He's celebrating today his party's resounding victory. The Liberals added 12 seats to their majority in Parliament. It's the first Canadian party to win three straight majorities since the 1940s.

And that's all the time we have for this special edition of THE WORLD TODAY. Stay with CNN through the rest of this evening for complete coverage of the Florida vote. Dick Cheney and Warren Christopher are on "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at the top of the hour.

For now, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Greta Van Susteren picks up our coverage with a special report that begins right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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