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Vice Presidential Candidate Dick Cheney Holds News Briefing on Transition

Aired November 29, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore's lawyers are now racing the clock, facing a deadline of December 12th, that is the last day Florida can select its presidential electors, giving Gore less than two weeks to wrap up complex legal challenges, and perhaps recounts, in his fight to reverse the Florida election.

Let's start with CNN's Patty Davis. She is outside the vice president's home -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, the Gore campaign knows that it has a limited amount of time to press its case. Here's the time line as it stands right now facing the Gore campaign: Between now and Friday, ballots will be moved from the county level to Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee for safe keeping. Saturday the circuit court judge will hear arguments on counting those ballot. Gore wants them counted, Bush does not want them counted because they've already been counted, in fact.

The Gore campaign, by the way, has decided to appeal the judge's decision not to count those votes immediately, as they requested earlier in the week.

Sunday is the day for appeals on that judge's decision. The target date, of course, completion of the process and all that appeals process December 12. That is the date that electors must be chosen by in Florida, if those election officials -- if the electors are to cast ballot for president.

Now Gore left his official residence here in Washington a little while ago. He headed to the White House, a working lunch with members of his transition team. We're talking Roy Neel, the head of his transition effort; Joe Lieberman, his running mate. The talk, transition. They are moving forward. They feel they have a responsibility to do so.

ALLEN: Excuse me, Patty, we have to interrupt. Dick Cheney is about to begin a news conference. He is the head of the Bush-Cheney transition. Here he is.


DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We wanted to have one more transition briefing down here to keep people up with the developments in the course of our activities.

We've now acquired office space in McLean, Virginia, and it will be open this afternoon. The location is 1616 Anderson Road in McLean. That will become the site for the transition operation that we announced two days ago.

And from this point forward, we'll have the capacity to manage relationships with the press at this location. There'll be room there for regular briefings. So we'll be able to accommodate you there, and we won't have to come hunt for locations every day when we want to have an announcement.

Secondly, the transition foundation now is up and running, it has been incorporated under the laws of the state of Texas. Contributions are welcome. And we can send contributions to the Bush-Cheney Presidential Transition Foundation, c/o Jack Oliver, at Post Office Box 1902, Austin, Texas, 78767. I'd remind people that there is a $5,000 limit, and we accept contributions only from individuals, not from corporations or from political action committees.

There is a fund-raising letter that will go out to our supporters over Don Evans' signature today or tomorrow.

And we expect, as well, to have a web site up and operating by the end of this week.

As I had mentioned previously, Clay Johnson will serve as the executive director of the transition. Clay, who has been the governor's appointment secretary and chief of staff in the gubernatorial office, he will be relocating to Washington to take up space out here in McLean this weekend.

In addition, we want to announce today Michael Toner, T-O-N-E-R, who has been part of our legal team with respect to the campaign in Austin, he'll be coming up as well as to transition as the transition legal counsel.

I also want to announce today that David Gribben, whom many of you know, will become the director of congressional relations at the transition. Mr. Gribben worked with me for many years, 10 years in the House of Representatives. For four years, he was the assistant secretary of defense in charge of congressional relations. He spent six years in the Senate as Dan Coates' chief of staff, and, most recently, worked with me at Halliburton. And he will be joining us as the director of congressional relations for the transition.

As announced previously, Ari Fleischer will become the press spokesman for the transition. He will be joining us this weekend as well too. And he will be assisted in the future by Juleanna Glover, who many of you have known. She's here today. She's worked with me on my campaign, and she'll become Ari's assistant in dealing with the press and public affairs for the transition.

Andy Card announced earlier this week that he has been in touch with Mr. Podesta at the White House on a number of matters. I look forward next week to beginning the receipt on a regular basis of national security briefings that have been offered by the administration. We'll be happy to accept those.

Finally, tomorrow, I'll be traveling to Crawford, Texas, with General Colin Powell and our wives to spend the day with Governor Bush and Laura Bush. And this will give us an opportunity for an extended discussion of the transition between General Powell, myself and Governor Bush. And I look forward to those discussions as well.

And I'd be happy to take your questions.


QUESTION: As part of the transition, has the governor been briefed on the economic situation by the White House or by your own people? And there's some talk that the economy's slowing a bit.

CHENEY: We've had one session that I participated in, that Larry Lindsey basically presented to us his views with respect to the current situation in the economy.

I would not want to characterize our perception at this point. We clearly are following events with interest. I see the same commentary a lot of other people do, that suggests that there may be a slow down in economic activity in the economy at-large. I am personally not an economist, but it is a subject clearly that is of interest to us.

There's nothing for us to do vis-a-vis those circumstances at this point. But we're certainly aware of the possibility that that may be a development in the very near future.

QUESTION: You are taking a very public role, as are other former members of President Bush's administration. How do you avoid the appearance that Governor Bush is relying too heavily on his father's friends? And how do you avoid the appearance that he's retreating to his Texas ranch while you take charge?

CHENEY: Well, first of all, I think it's perfectly appropriate for him to spend time on his ranch and to continue to spend time in Texas.

On the one hand, we've been criticized for being too forward- leaning. Now, you suggest maybe we're too laid back. I would suggest you can't have it both ways.

He's still the governor of Texas. He has very important responsibilities to carry out there. That's why he spent a lot of time in Austin and time out on the ranch.

We have the opportunity out on the ranch, because it's quiet and, frankly, because there's not quite as large a presence of cameras and journalists. It's a little easier to get things done, although we try to keep you informed of developments as well, too.

This notion that somehow we're too reliant on the past, you know, I served in the Nixon administration, I served in the Ford administration, I served for eight years in Congress as part of the congressional leadership during the Reagan administration. The other people who have already been announced, like Andy Card, served not only in the Bush administration, as I did, but also served in the Reagan administration. So the suggestions that somehow we are, quote, "over-reliant," I just don't think holds water.

The fact of the matter is, when you put together an administration, one of the things you look for are people with experience. And we've had a number of Republican administrations over the 30-some years that I've been involved in national politics, and many of us have had prior experience in the Bush administration, but a great many other administrations as well. So the notion that somehow that makes us over-reliant, you might as well say we're over-reliant on the Ford administration.

The fact is, we're looking for experienced people, people who can bring a lot to the team that Governor Bush wants to assemble, and we welcome folks regardless of what prior administration they might have been affiliated with.


QUESTION: Yes. I'm wondering how did you follow-up exam go today and how you're feeling.

CHENEY: It went very well. I went back to Georgetown today and met with Doctors Malakoff, my internist, and Dr. Reiner, the cardiologist, and they have subsequently issued a statement at GW basically saying that everything's going very well.

I don't want to speak for them medically. They're perfectly qualified to do that. But everything was given a clean bill of health clearance.


QUESTION: Has General Powell been offered a position in the administration or do you expect he will be soon? And, if not, what will he be doing at the ranch this weekend?

CHENEY: General Powell has been invited to come down and spend the day with the governor and myself. We both have great confidence in his judgment and his ability.

I've known him for a long time, worked with him for a long time. He's been a major adviser during the course of this campaign.

And it's not surprising, I think, that we would ask him to come down and spend some time with us talking about the transition, talking about how you might put together your national security team for the perspective Bush administration. Those are all subjects that I expect will be on the agenda.

We do not plan to make any Cabinet announcements this week, and I would not anticipate an announcement tomorrow in that regard either.

Yes, sir? QUESTION: Have you or anyone else on behalf of the transition or the campaign made any contact with congressional Democrats? Do you think this is the time now to start doing this?

CHENEY: We will start doing that very soon.

I've been in the posture, since I arrived here, I guess we did the briefing Monday afternoon. We were certified on Sunday, with respect to the vote in Florida, and did the briefing Monday afternoon, that we were going to set up a privately funded transition. This is Wednesday. I've been working out of the kitchen in my house out here in McLean for the last couple of days. Thank goodness for cell phones. We only have two phone lines into the house, and cell phones have been a vital part of that. So we're just in the business of getting up and running.

But we now have an office with a lot of space. We've got people signing up, volunteers coming on, telephones being put in and computers. So we'll be fully operational within the next day or two. And then I can began a more sort of orderly consultation process, if you will.

I have been trying to return a lot of phone calls. One of the unfortunate aspects of having been around town a long time is, I know a lot of people. I've suddenly got more friends than I realized I had when I left eight years ago. And I'm hearing from all of them with advice and counsel and good thoughts for us in the campaign. I'm trying to be as responsive as I can on a short-term basis.

But one of the reasons for announcing, for example, someone like Dave Gribben today as our director of Congressional Relations is we're getting equipped to be able to go out and do a more sort of thorough, comprehensive process of consulting with all of those folks the governor wants us to talk to as we put an administration together.

QUESTION: Have you talked, yourself, to any congressional Democratic leaders in any kind of conversation? Or have you heard from congressional Democrats that perhaps you know from your experience in town, who are offering to act as a sort of liaison, assuming that you become the clear winners at some point?

CHENEY: I have not talked with any congressional Democratic leaders recently.

QUESTION: What about just congressional Democrats?

CHENEY: I have not talked with any congressional Democrats recently.

QUESTION: On the issue of relying on the barons from past GOP administrations, on the campaign trail Governor Bush stressed that he was an outside of Washington force and he was going to bring an outside of Washington perspective. How does that square with bringing in all these insiders?

CHENEY: Well, I think it is a very important consideration for us as we put the administration together. He's made it clear to me that he wants a broad cross-section of people involved in the administration.

I would expect that there will be a number of individuals who will in fact come from outside Washington, as the governor himself has.

But I don't see anything inconsistent with asking people who have got experience at the federal level, as well as other levels. The state governments are a very strong element of our governmental system in this country. We've got some fantastic governors and other state officials. Yesterday, I talked with two governors myself, with respect to seeking their advice and assistance.

So I would expect that we will certainly have a strong component, if you will, of people with expertise and experience that they've garnered outside the nation's capital, as well as a number of people who have served previously in administrations, as I have.

QUESTION: Secretary, do you still feel that you're not getting enough cooperation from the White House in terms of the transition?

CHENEY: I tried to be positive in my comments about the contacts between Andy Card and John Podesta. I know Andy feels that the conversation went very well yesterday. But my problem is, I've got a job to do and I've got to get on with that.

I don't have time to worry a lot about how cooperative somebody is or is not being at this point. I made myself clear yesterday. We believe that the election clearly has been certified, that Governor Bush and I carried Florida, and that it's time to get on with the business now of the transition.

The GSA is not yet to the point where they believe they can release the funds and provide access to the office space that's available. That's fine. They're the ones who have to make that judgment and that decision.

As I said when we met Monday, my job is to get an organization stood up, and I've got a job to do, and I'll let others worry about the degree of cooperation we have or haven't received.

One more question. Yes?

QUESTION: Of the myriad phone calls you get, are any of them from President Bush? And if so, what are the nature of those phone calls?

CHENEY: I have talked with one former president. It was not President Bush.


QUESTION: How would you respond to criticism that with your profile in the post-campaign, that you are overshadowing the governor? And secondly, will you be going to the White House for any of the security briefings?

CHENEY: I expect I'll receive the security briefings probably at transition headquarters. And no, I don't worry at all about the first part of your questions.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. As you know, Vice President Gore, partly in response to your putting together a transition organization, is now moving forward with a transition organization of his own. Given the fact that you just said that you believe the election is over and certified, do you think that the vice president should stand down in that...

CHENEY: I don't spend a lot of time giving Al Gore advice. He wouldn't listen to me anyway. So I'll pass on the opportunity to do it in this case.

QUESTION: Do you think it's appropriate for him to do so?

CHENEY: I've spoken to the issue, Tom. The fact is that the election in Florida's been counted, it's been recounted, it's been certified, and we've got to get on with the business of putting together a government.

And what Vice President Gore chooses to do or not do, clearly those are matters within his purview, and I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.

Thank you all very much. The next briefing we have will be out at the transition headquarters in McLean, and we'll make those details available to you as soon as possible. Thank you.

ALLEN: Dick Cheney, head of the Bush-Cheney transformation team, doing some business about the transition, announcing they have a private office set up in McLean, Virginia, because the official transition offices have not been made available to the Bush-Cheney team. Announcing they are taking donations, private donations, to help them out. That he and Colin Powell will be going to the George W. Bush ranch in Texas in a couple of days to talk about the transition and who might be on that team. He said they won't make any announcements about that.

And he said that, when asked about the fact that many of the people that they're talking about that might be around the Bush administration are people who have been seen before, and questioned about having fresh faces in the administration, he just said, Mr. Cheney said, that we're looking for people with a lot of experience.

So we will continue to follow all that track. As you know, the legal challenges go on in Florida. So it is everyone's guess how this will all end up.

But right now let's talk with CNN's Patty Davis, who has been camped outside the Al Gore home for a few days.

And Patty, how -- how is Al Gore and his team, how are they handling this situation, where you have got Dick Cheney very publicly talking about them moving on in their transition, while Al Gore fights to have this changed down in Florida?

DAVIS: I think that's a good point. We're talking it is image at this point. The Gore campaign certainly doesn't want to see only Dick Cheney and George W. Bush out there, making transition plans. In fact, as the Bush team has gone public in the last few days, talking about choices, talking about plans for offices, things like that, you have seen the Gore campaign ratchet up its own very public transition plans as well.

Yesterday, you saw Vice President Al Gore meet with Larry Lindsey, the treasury secretary currently, also thought to be the next treasury secretary, if Gore wins this election.

Today, Vice President Al Gore meeting with Joe Lieberman, as well as Roy Neel, his transition head, talking about his own transition plans. So there's an image thing here. There is also a responsibility that the Gore camp feels, if he does win -- and this is still up in the air, as far as they are concerned, he may still pull this off -- he needs to have a transition plan in place. So they are working hard at that too -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, thank you, Patty Davis from the Al Gore side.

Let's get some reaction now from Tony Clark, who is with us from Austin -- Tony.

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the Bush campaign is playing to its strength. You notice they bring out Dick Cheney, the running mate, the vice presidential candidate. He speaks in a very businesslike manner. He presents their case. He says I'm not worried about what the Gore campaign is doing. I am not going to give advice to the Gore campaign. We are going to do what we are going to have to do.

He announced setting up the campaign transition office. Announced some of the appointments, some that we have heard before. But bringing on some of the legal help, some of the congressional relations help as well, a spokesperson as well, and moving ahead. And what they are trying to do is present that image of moving ahead.

I think perhaps one of the most interesting things, though, that Secretary Cheney said was that Colin Powell was coming in with him to see the governor at his ranch to talk about the transition, even though no major announcement is planned for this week. Colin Powell has been mentioned for quite some time as a possible secretary of state in a Bush administration.

He also talked about why the governor has moved to the ranch. He went there last night and will spend the next several days at the ranch. And we have seen out here, as well, a reason to go to the ranch, not only there -- usually construction going on here. There are cameras that surround the -- the Governor's Mansion watching the comings and goings, and on weekends supporters are out here, and it is simply hard to hear inside. There is the distraction of supporters chanting outside. And so, by going to the ranch near Crawford, Texas, it is a way to get away from all of that, and to be able to talk and think and plan for a new administration once the election is finally settled -- Natalie.

ALLEN: He's fortunate he has that ranch to go to. Thanks so much, Tony Clark, amidst the hoopla left behind there in Austin. Thanks, Tony.



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