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Election 2000: Presidential Ballots Arrive at Tallahassee Courthouse; Bush and Gore Legal Teams Prepare for Supreme Court Hearing

Aired November 30, 2000 - 4:23 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: So, the ballots have arrived in Tallahassee for hearings there and there was a delivery as well at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington today. Quite a day planned there tomorrow.

Here's our senior Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer -- Charles.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, within the past hour attorneys for George W. Bush filed their final brief with this court prior to tomorrow morning's arguments. One note out of that brief, it says, the partisan struggle in Florida today is precisely the kind of chaotic situation that would have been avoided by adherence to the statutory deadline, and that is in essence of what the Bush lawyers are asking the U.S. Supreme court to do and that is to roll back the Florida Supreme Court's decision, which extended the hand count of ballots and roll it back to the November 14th deadline which was for the automatic recount, and that would slightly increase Mr. Bush's margin of purported victory in Florida.

The Gore lawyers filed their brief earlier in the day. One of the points it makes is to say that Mr. Bush seeks not just to run out the clock but extraordinarily to have this court turn back the clock so that he can declare the game over. The language, the rhetoric, is a bit harsh in these documents but most of it is legally bound up in the arguments presented earlier this week to the court and which will be argued over an hour-and-a-half of time here on Friday morning.

In essence, the Bush campaign saying -- declared the Florida Supreme Court to have overstepped its bounds to have tried to make Florida law rather than to adhere to it and to require them to put aside that decision down there. The Gore camp saying, in essence, that all the Florida Supreme Court did was to interpret the law and that the counts and procedures in Florida should continue. Indeed, some of those procedures will continue anyhow. They will not be directly affected by what this court here does -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Charles Bierbauer, thanks. And as you can see, more boxes coming off the truck there in Tallahassee. Now to Lou.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The two men at center of the ballot battle, Al Gore and George W. Bush are letting their legal teams do the talking for them in Florida. Gore remains in Washington. Bush is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. We're keeping an eye on both campaigns, of course.

Let's begin by checking in once again with CNN's Jeanne Meserve, who is taking up residence in Austin, Texas -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, in the view of the Bush team, if you want to talk international policy or defense, who better to talk with than former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell? And so a meeting today between Governor Bush, Powell, and Dick Cheney, the head of Bush's transition team, as well as his running mate. Powell, of course, has been widely rumored to be Bush's pick to be secretary of state.

Today, he revealed to reporters that Bush has not yet popped the question.


GEN. COLIN POWELL, FMR. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHMN.: I've been reading that in the newspaper. But I have had no such conversation with the governor or with Secretary Cheney or anyone else. I'm not sure where that came from. It has always been my understanding in my earlier conversations with the governor that he would not move in that direction and begin appointing members of a Cabinet until all of this matter is behind us and resolved.

Obviously, he has appointed members of his transition team and those who have to get to work now so that we don't lose too much time now during the transition period.


MESERVE: Powell was also asked if he would accept if and when he is asked. He said he would tell Governor Bush before he told the rest of us. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer spoke to reporters today and noted that about one-third of the time normally allotted to transition has already passed.

In his view and the view of Governor Bush, it is only prudent to start planning and assembling an administration, even though the election is still entangled in the Florida and federal court systems.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason why we are moving forward with our discussions and our -- and the transition is because, when the counting finally stops, we want to be prepared to lead this nation. That's what we were elected to do.


MESERVE: The Bush-Cheney-Powell meeting is taking place at Bush's ranch. It could easily have been conducted out of public view, but it is not. The media was summoned. The lines were well rehearsed -- all of this part of the effort to portray a Bush presidency as a fait accompli -- Lou, back to you.

WATERS: Jeanne Meserve in Austin, Texas -- here's Natalie.

ALLEN: And now the latest on the Gore campaign. CNN's Eileen O'Connor joins us from Washington -- Eileen.

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, the vice president is expected to be coming back here to his residence at the Naval Observatory any minute now.

He is at the White House, has been there all afternoon. He met with his transition team, the head of transition team, Roy Neel, Alexis Herman -- another one of his advisers -- Katie McGinty, Charles Burson -- and of course with his running mate, Joe Lieberman -- obviously an effort to show that this is also a team that is preparing for transition, preparing to lead, that this is not an election that has yet been decided.

And that is what the Gore campaign wants to project here. And also, they were upset with the Florida legislators' decision to have the special session and possibly -- and discuss electing its slate of electors. They said that this was tantamount to the legislators saying it was more powerful than the voters.

They also said that they accused them, the legislators -- Republican-led legislature down in Florida -- and Jeb Bush -- who is the governor down there and of course the brother of George W. Bush -- accused them of trying to supersede the will of the people, and also leading the country into potential constitutional crisis.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're talking here about the integrity of the selection of a president of the United States. We're talking about history and the precedent that everything we do this year will set for those who follow us in years ahead. I just think it would be a terrible mistake for our country if the Florida legislature and Governor Bush went ahead and did what they said they're going to do.

And I hope they'll reconsider.


O'CONNOR: Senator Lieberman also saying that where this leads us, he says, is down a path that America doesn't want to tread. It could lead potentially to a kind of constitutional crisis. This could ultimately come back here to Washington, to the House and the Senate, which are both, at this point, Republican-led -- although it's a 50/50 split now in the Senate, which could be very interesting indeed.

And also, this a path that the Gore campaign knows is not something that the public wants to go down. And they realize -- and that's why they are fighting so hard to get those ballots counted in Florida, because they need public support. And they would like to keep this in the courts, get the court decisions, and those -- the court to act and the ballots to be counted, and the vice president be picking up votes before that legislature acts -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Eileen O'Connor in Washington -- thanks, Eileen.

WATERS: And what about the public? How are you holding up?

CNN's Greg LeFevre has been getting some opinions on the streets of San Francisco today -- joins us once again to see what the folks are saying -- Greg.

GREG LEFEVRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... who is an airline pilot. You are in the middle of a run around the city. What are people talking about in the cockpit, with all of this, as you scoot back and forth across the country?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're pretty much like anyone else. We want to see it all settled. You know, we're tired of all the litigation and we want to press on and get our president in place.

LEFEVRE: If you had five bucks to wager either way, what's your guess on -- would it be Al Gore as the president or George Bush as the president?


LEFEVRE: You think so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's going to finally come out. I think, the Gore campaign will probably just tire of the litigation eventually. I'm hoping that, anyway.

LEFEVRE: You scoot from city to city in your job. Right now, you are running around here. And I appreciate you taking the time with us. What's the buzz that you pick up: either from the passengers or the folks from the gates? What do you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like the talk is kind of dwindling now. I think people are tiring of it. And it seems like the news is carrying it on more. But things are kind of -- you know, Christmas is taking over. You have the holidays more take a precedence.

LEFEVRE: OK. Great, Karl, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

You know, we spoke with two ladies this morning. One voted for George Bush. And she really is upset with his tactics, she says. Another woman voted for Al Gore. And she says she expects him to concede. And we have a crowd behind us here who are perhaps oblivious to the moment, but enjoying their time on TV.

Lou, back to you in Atlanta.

WATERS: Yes, that's what it's all about, Greg: being on TV -- Greg LeFevre in San Francisco -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, we've heard from both campaigns, a voter there in San Francisco, and the children. Who's next? Well, it must be Bill Schneider's turn. Who's winning and who's losing here, Bill, this eve before we see the Supreme Court step into the fray?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's kind of a stand-off, Natalie.

I think, after the certification of the Florida vote on Sunday night, we saw more people say they thought Bush had won and Gore should concede. But most Gore supporters are sticking with their man. They are not ready for him to throw in the towel. And he has gone on television several times to tell them: Be patient. This is all going to work out. All we have to do is count the votes.

And he's given them a strong reason: namely, that every vote should count. So right now, we are kind of at a stand-off. We're waiting for something dramatic to happen. And that, of course, could come out of the Supreme Court.

ALLEN: It's been kind of a hurry-up-and-wait couple of days, hasn't it? Now we're looking at the Supreme Court and the hearing on Saturday. And we heard Mr. Lieberman today come out and talk about their discouragement with the Florida legislature deciding to meet in special session -- and Lieberman saying that the legislature picking their own electors could mean the country would be in a constitutional crisis.

What was your reaction to Mr. Lieberman's words today?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I'm not sure I would agree that it's a constitutional crisis. These are procedures. There are laws to deal with them. You could end up in a situation where there are competing slates of electors: namely, the legislature names the Bush electors -- and it has the right to do that under federal statute -- and sends that state as the duly constituted electors, signed by the governor -- who happens to be George Bush's bother -- to Congress.

And then it's possible that sometime later in December, the courts could name the Gore electors as having won the state of Florida. It's not exactly a crisis. We know what to do. But what to do could be very interesting, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right.

SCHNEIDER: Because both slates of electors would go before the United States Congress on January 5 or 6 -- depending on when they decide to meet -- and Congress would then have to make a decision. And, boy, would that be a political showdown.

ALLEN: Would that ever. You know, Lou asked that very question of Greta Van Susteren this morning and she said you should ask Bill Schneider, he'll know the answer to the two competing elector question. So thank you for answering that before I could even ask it. Now, let's talk about the move today by George W. Bush there at his ranch to get away from it all, but they invited the cameras in when Mr. Powell showed up? SCHNEIDER: Well, he's trying to create the aura of the presidency to show that he's getting on with the transition process. There's a kind of use of Colin Powell here to sprinkle holy water on the transition process, a figure who's probably the most admired -- certainly, the most admired political or public affairs figure in America, and I think he's trying to convey that the impression he's calm. He's under control. He's not out there trying to spin the result.

Meanwhile, Republicans and conservatives are mounting a pretty aggressive effort to pressure Gore to concede. But George Bush is trying to show that he's above all that. He and Colin Powell are discussing high affairs of state, not chads in Florida.

ALLEN: And finally, we had the Bush lawyers talking in Florida. Some questions arose about whether the Bush lawyers are trying to slow this process down and drag it out. They denied that. But the -- Barry Richard, the attorney for George Bush, indicated they think there's plenty of time in all of this. Is there plenty of time for the Gore side at this point?

SCHNEIDER: We don't know. I mean there is this theoretical deadline of December 12th when the electors are supposed to be certified and the controversy is supposed to end. But you know, that date could slip. It's really up to Congress. They could ignore the date if they want to. We've known a recount to take as long as December 28th in Hawaii in 1960, and those votes were actually accepted by the United States Congress.

So, Congress can basically do whatever they want. We know, of course, there's one dead deadline, which is January 20th when the new president, whoever that is, has to be inaugurated. But there is pressure on Gore because, look, there are a lot of ballots to be counted and the whole meaning of trucking those ballots up from South Florida to Tallahassee today was for the Bush campaign to make the point, if you're going to recount the disputed ballots, we're going to insist that you recount all the ballots.

I mean, the Bush campaign is being accused of slowing things down, perish the thought. Of course they're slowing things down. They want it to take as long as possible because if this isn't done by that January deadline, whenever it is, whatever the effective deadline is, then it just can't happen.

ALLEN: All right, Bill Schneider -- thanks, Bill for joining us. We'll talk again. And we'll take a break and we'll be back.


WATERS: We just know you've been wondering, so here it is. Dimpled or hanging chads will not be a problem for Wisconsin voters after next year. The decision to get rid of punch card ballots by the end of 2001 was unanimous among Wisconsin election officials. The state's use of those punch cards was already diminishing. Only 7 percent of Wisconsin voters used that method in the November 7th election. ALLEN: Well, how the cards fall in this presidential election may lie with a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices will hear arguments tomorrow on the matter of vote recounts. Some Americans see the justices as mysterious people, but they are real people, as we learn from CNN's Garrick Utley.


GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind the imposing towering columns, seated in their majestic courtroom, what is it like to be a justice of the United States Supreme Court? They too are mortals.

MICHAEL DORF, FORMER SUPREME COURT CLERK: I think Chief Justice Rehnquist sometimes plays poker. I think Justice Scalia has been know to attend that card game. Sometimes pairs of them will go to a baseball game.

MARCI HAMILTON, FORMER SUPREME COURT CLERK: These are people who are good friends, they socialize together, some of them play tennis together. It's not the kind of ivory towerish atmosphere people think.

UTLEY (on camera): If that comes as a surprise, it shows how little we the public really know about what happens inside the Supreme Court, which is just what the court wants. Since its beginnings, the court has achieved its authority not only through its interpretations of the Constitution, but also through a finely honed mystique, a mystery.

(voice-over): But then that is what the men who wrote the Constitution wanted, to protect the Supreme Court from prying eyes and public pressure. Unlike Congress, the court's hallways are not filled with peddlers of influence.

DORF: There's no -- what we talk about in Congress as log- rolling. It's considered completely improper for one justice to say, well, I'll vote with you on this case, if you vote with me on this other case.

UTLEY: Each year, or term, the court receives more than 7000 appeals. How much work do the justices have to put in?

HAMILTON: They'll kill me for saying this, but probably about nine to seven, five to six days a week can get in all the work that needs to be done at the court right now.

UTLEY: That's because only about 100 cases actually get argued before the court each year and lead to formal written opinions. And what can the lawyers before the court expect on Friday morning?

HAMILTON: My guess in this case is that the first person, the petitioner to stand up, will get about maybe 50 words out, and then there will be questions, and it will be a free for all from there.

UTLEY (on camera): A legal free for all perhaps, but conducted with the decorum and traditions of the court. And one of those traditions involves a simple human gesture: Before the justices enter the court room to hear a case, all nine shake each other's hands to show that although their opinions may differ, they share a common purpose.

(voice-over): To serve as the ultimate judge of what the Constitution describes so eloquently and simply as the due process of law.

Garrick Utley, CNN, Washington.


WATERS: And we've taken a few minutes out of this election special report to bring you some other news, including a big project for NASA tonight -- the launch of another space shuttle.

ALLEN: A look at the impact this mission will have on the new International Space Station. That's coming right up.


ALLEN: And there with the closing bell, almost an hour ago -- tough day on Wall Street: The Dow was down more than 214 points, it was down over 300 at one point this afternoon. The Nasdaq closed more than 109 points down. We'll have analysis on why this was such a downday on Wall Street, when you join us for "MONEYLINE" at 6:30 Eastern tonight.

WATERS: Butterflies down at Cape Kennedy.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to lift off tonight from Florida. It will make an 11-day supply and construction run to the International Space Station.

CNN space correspondent Miles O'Brien has more about the mission and Endeavour's powerful cargo.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a shuttle crew with some real juice. The five-man, all-veteran Endeavour team plans to carry and connect the first big power plant for the budding, yet amperage thirsty, International Space Station. They are led by a commander named Jett -- no kidding.

BRENT JETT, ENDEAVOUR COMMANDER: I mean, we are really trying to light up the station. We are trying to give them the power they need to continue the assembly sequence, but also really to fully support the crew that's up there now.

O'BRIEN: That three-man station-keeping crew, NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, will no doubt marvel at the site as the $600 million solar arrays are plucked out of Endeavour's cargo bay, bolted onto the station, and then unfurled. MARC GARNEAU, ENDEAVOUR CREW MEMBER: Well, when this complete mission is complete, suddenly people are going to realize that this is a very big station.

O'BRIEN: The solar arrays will span 249 feet, the longest structures ever to leave the planet, making the space station the third brightest object in the sky, behind the moon and the star Sirius. Astronauts Joe Tanner and Carlos Noriega are slated for three space walks, first and foremost: to insure the arrays are latched on properly.

JOE TANNER, ENDEAVOUR CREW MEMBER: You know, if we can't do that, then we've either got to bring it home or throw it away, and we don't want to do either one of those.

O'BRIEN: If all goes well, the space walkers also plan to plug the arrays in to the station's power grid, bringing good things and more elbow room to life for a crew so far shut out of the U.S. side of the station for lack of power to turn on the heat.

MIKE BLOOMFIELD, ENDEAVOUR PILOT: If we don't do this mission, we don't do the next mission, and if we don't do this stuff right, there is a slight chance that Shep and his crew may come home.

O'BRIEN: NASA, the Russians and the 14 other nations building this $100 billion perch over the planet are loathed to consider vacating the premises now, just one month after the lights went on and humans started calling it home.

Miles O'Brien, CNN.


WATER: And CNN plans live coverage of the Endeavour launch tonight, Kennedy Space Center. You can see that at 10:06 p.m. Eastern.

ALLEN: And now to the Middle East: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who faces new elections, proposed an interim peace deal today. He offered Palestinians a state and more land, but he suggested delaying negotiations on Jerusalem. The Palestinians rejected the proposal.

There was more violence today in the Mideast. One Palestinian died in Gaza, two killed in separate incidents near Bethlehem. All this as a funeral procession wound through Gaza streets in an almost daily ritual. The two Palestinians died from injuries received in clashes with Israeli troops earlier this week.

And coming up here, political spin and presidential politics -- how the election deadlock is being played for jokes on late night TV.


WATERS: Well, we've heard stories of Americans being either frustrated or exasperated with what's going on with the presidential election down in Florida, but the comedians are getting quite a jolt out of all of this.

ALLEN: They are having a lot of fun.

And we will share some of that fun with you now in case you were watching more serious coverage on CNN last night.


JAY LENO, HOST: God, we still don't have a president. How many are are mad that Ponce de Leon even discovered Florida in the first place?


And Al Gore -- man, I think he is going too far with these hand counts, like this morning he demanded a hand count to make sure there are really two scoops of raisins in every box of Raisin Bran. Al Gore's people down there, this one is not quite a raisin.



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: And now, the good news is the White House is giving George W. Bush intelligence briefings.


You know, some of these jokes actually write themselves.


WATERS: I don't get it.

ALLEN: We'll continue to bring it all to you, the serious and the fun. I'm Natalie Allen.

WATERS: I'm Lou Waters. "INSIDE POLITICS" is next. Just take care.

ALLEN: See you tomorrow.



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