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Election 2000: Sen. Graham Discusses Supreme Court Decision

Aired December 4, 2000 - 1:33 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We are now going to speak with Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, who joins us, now from Florida.

Senator Graham, thanks for being -- you're in Washington -- sorry about that.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: Good afternoon.

ALLEN: Good afternoon.

Well, and this United States Supreme Court has spoken, and everyone's kind of scratching their head yet again on another issue. Is this what do you think is going to happen next, as far as what the United States Supreme Court has said today?

GRAHAM: Well, apparently the Supreme Court has, essentially, punted this to the Florida Supreme Court to give some additional explanation of the basis of its November 21st decision. What we have going on here are three simultaneous activities. One is legal, the other one is public relations -- I think the way this was characterized by the networks immediately upon the release of the Supreme Court opinion, where it was variously described as a significant victory for George W. Bush, is, in fact, a public relations benefit for George W. Bush -- but maybe the most significant factor is time. There's a clock ticking, and Al Gore cannot afford to lose even a matter of hours in terms of getting these votes counted if he's going to have a chance of victory. And this has eaten up some time.

ALLEN: Right, because now it has delayed Judge N. Sanders Sauls, who says he's looking over what the Supreme Court has decided today to see if it's affected that track. We just heard David Boies say it shouldn't. Would you care to have an opinion after, probably, watching many of the hearings this weekend? What do you believe might happen there?

GRAHAM: I don't know what Judge Sauls is going to rule. I know that whatever he decides will quickly be appealed by the losing side to the Florida Supreme Court, and so we're likely not to have any definition of a future course of action until after the Florida Supreme Court gets the case. So we may have the Florida Supreme Court, effectively, consolidating both the requests that it's getting from the Supreme Court for clarification on its November 21st ruling, as well as the Supreme Court ruling on what Judge Sauls will decide when he decides later today.

ALLEN: Well, it just seems like time just keeps ticking on and the time for Al Gore to be able to get the chance to count those ballots he wants to count in Miami-Dade county just is slipping away. We've got Dick Cheney saying it's time for Gore to concede. What would you say to Al Gore if you could speak with him today about where this battle stands?

GRAHAM: I think the larger issue is the legitimacy of the next president of the United States. In my opinion, based on the circumstances today, December 4th, neither George W. Bush nor Al Gore would assume the presidency with full credibility, and it is very much both of their interests that this matter be resolved by a rule of law that the American public sees as fair and as coffering the authority of the president of the United States to the next occupant. That I believe is the critical question, and whoever is our next president will be in a position to serve as a strong president representing the interest of the people of the United States and as the leader of the world.

ALLEN: So you are a Democrat who plans to stay loyal to Al Gore's legal fight, no matter how long it takes?

Well, I will stay loyal to the proposition that we need to have a legitimate president of the United States, and the only way, under these circumstances, that that legitimacy is going to be bestowed is through a full application of the rule of law to resolve the number of outstanding questions which still remain in the election 2000.

ALLEN: Senator Bob Graham, thanks for talking with us.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: One thing we know for sure, it's going to get mighty busy at the Florida Supreme Court, and soon.

Here's Susan Candiotti from there -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello Lou. While we are waiting for official reaction from the Florida Supreme Court, we can tell what is happening at this hour.

According to a spokesperson for the court, at least some of the justices have already begun reviewing the Supreme Court decision. Now, normal procedure would be for them to review any decision, or any new information that would come about, and then meet in conference before deciding what to do next, and we presume that that would be the procedure in this case.

Let me tell you how this whole day started. The Supreme Court justices reported to work this day after hearing a whole week's worth of oral arguments last week, and they were preparing their written decisions on those oral arguments when all of this happened.

Now, how did they learn of this to begin with? According to a spokesperson, it was members of the staff that heard about the Supreme Court ruling from news reports, took it upon themselves to call the U.S. Supreme Court, and asked that copies of the decision be sent here to Tallahassee. And it was in that fashion that those copy were then distributed to the Supreme Court justices here.

Now what will happen from here? We are unclear, but we can remind you that it was two weeks ago, approximately, tomorrow, that this court extended that deadline for the hand recount, and that set the stage for those hand recounts to begin in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. extending the deadline for those hand recounts until November 27th.

Now, we can tell you, as well, that after the Supreme Court reviews all of this latest decision from the Supreme Court and makes a decision about how to proceed, that's not end of the road for other election matters pending before this court. At 3:00 this afternoon, the court had set a deadline to receive briefs from a man who lives in Naples, in Collier county, who has been challenging the constitutionality of hand recounts in Florida. Matt Butler, the citizen, contended that he should have the right, along with any other political party and candidate, to challenge the results of an election. And this Supreme Court has decided to, at least, accept briefs on that matter before making a decision about that.

So a number of matters now pending before the Supreme Court. And once we get their official reaction to the U.S. Supreme court decision, we'll, of course, Lou, pass it on to you.

WATERS: And Susan, what we constantly talk about is the clock ticking down on the Al Gore campaign. David Boies, just a few minutes ago, saying that the Florida Supreme Court would not have the to take much time, they wouldn't have to revisit their statutory interpretation of this decision -- which allowed them to extend the deadline -- only to clarify the ambiguities and that seems to be what the Supreme Court wants.

However, the Leon county case, which everyone says is going to make it up into the Florida Supreme Court, that's going to take some time.

CANDIOTTI: It could. It could take some time, and naturally, as you already know and have reported, everyone is -- Judge Sauls has said that he is waiting to further review the Supreme Court decision before he even makes that announcement. So, as you rightly pointed out, Lou, the clock continues to tick. Mr. Boies seems to think, and not surprisingly, that what the Supreme Court had to say will not impact whatever kind of official ruling or further interpretation we receive from the Florida Supreme Court. However, naturally, none of us knows for sure until we hear this court speak.

WATERS: Boy, is that the truth. Susan Candiotti, down there in Tallahassee, at the Florida Supreme Court, we'll get back to you.

Natalie, what's next?

ALLEN: Well, trying to predict a Supreme Court ruling based on how the justices grilled the various lawyers is risky business, to say the least. Still, though, a couple of exchanges from Friday's arguments may have foreshadowed the ruling we received just now today. Consider these remarks from Antonin Scalia.


JUDGE ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I read the Florida court's opinion as quite clearly saying having determined what the legislative intent was, we find that our state Constitution trumps that legislative attempt. I don't think there's any other way to read it. And that is a real problem, it seem to me, under Article Two.


ALLEN: And on the other side, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made some observations of her own and then raised the very prospect that came to pass today.


JUDGE DAVID H. SOUTER, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: What I'm saying is didn't they say that the date of the 7th cannot stand, not because of the Constitution alone, but because there are other provisions in the statute that cannot be accommodated with the 7th day.



JUDGE RUTH BADER GINSBERG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: And they said that twice, and I think that that's critical if you add to that that we read a decision of a state's court in the light most favorable to that court, and not in the light least favorable. I suppose, if there would be a possibility for this court to remand for clarification.


ALLEN: And we await that clarification from the state Supreme Court.

WATERS: And we're awaiting the ruling by Judge N. Sanders Sauls. You may have watched the trial, two-day trial, that took place over the weekend. Well, the judge, apparently, has reached his decision. He's waiting to release it till he reads over the Supreme Court decision. We'll check in with our Tallahassee people when we come back.

ALLEN: We'll take a quick break. Much more ahead.



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