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Florida Judge Deals Gore a Crippling BlowAired December 4, 2000 - 4:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The ball is back in the Florida Supreme Court.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down a decision on the matter of hand recounts in Florida.
Hello. I'm Joie Chen. Welcome to this CNN special report on the still-undecided presidential election.
WATERS: And hello, I'm Lou Waters at CNN Center in Atlanta. We are -- we also welcome our international viewers, and here is what's happening: The legal road leading to the final resolution of November's presidential election is as bumpy as ever. Here's a snapshot of where we are. We are awaiting word on a decision from Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls. That announcement of his decision is expected at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, less than 30 minutes from now. Sauls heard the case in which the Gore campaign is seeking a hand count of some 14,000 disputed ballots from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
Now earlier today, the United States Supreme Court vacated the Florida Supreme Court's decision to extend the vote certification deadline. The nation's highest court sent the case back to the Florida court, simply for clarification.
CHEN: All right. We're following up on developments now, as Lou mentioned. There is the matter of a decision new from Tallahassee, Florida, the courtroom Leon County Circuit Court of Judge N. Sanders Sauls. That decision is expected within this half hour.
CNN's Brian Cabell is there now with the latest -- Brian.
BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Joie. When Sanders Sauls left the courtroom yesterday about 10:30, 10:45, he told us that he would have a decision by this morning. Well, we've been standing by since about 7 o'clock this morning. We're then told it wouldn't happen until maybe noon at the earliest. Then it was 2 o'clock, then it was 4 o'clock, and now we are told finally this momentous decision -- and it could be that -- will be at 4:30 from the courtroom. He will rule from the bench.
We know that he worked late last night. We know that as of a couple hours ago he was outside the court building. Apparently, he was concerned about the possible implications of the U.S. Supreme Court decision shortly before noon upon his decision this afternoon at 4:30, but apparently he has worked that out.
Lawyers have been circulating all afternoon here, working the crowd, giving their spin, and of course, they will be crowding into the courtroom probably as we speak right now.
The central question, the central practical question is this: Will the judge allow some 14,000 ballots from Palm Beach County and from Miami-Dade County, will he allow them to be recounted by hand? That is the question the Gore people want to know. That's what the Bush people want to know. And again, we should have an answer. Will it be clear-cut? We don't know. But again, he will be announcing from the bench at 4:30 upstairs on the third floor here in just about one half hour.
Of course, the Gore people want that decision made as quickly as possible. They want the hand recount to start as quickly as possible, because time is running short for them. They have only eight days before those electors have to be selected -- Joie.
CHEN: Brian, I'm not sure how much you know about all this, but what goes on inside Judge Sauls' deliberation? After all, it is all on him. It's all up to him. There's a tremendous amount of material for him to look at and for him to consider in what he heard over the weekend.
Does he sit down by himself to ponder this decision or are there other people with him? Does he bounce ideas off anyone else? Or is this just really a private decision for this one judge to sit in his chambers and consider?
CABELL: We've kind of gotten the sense that it's primarily up to him. We aren't privy to exactly what goes on, but we were told that last night he immediately started on this himself. Now, he may have some aides working with him, going through this some-22 hours of testimony that he heard over the last couple of days.
But primarily, this is a decision for him, and frankly, everybody was surprised yesterday, or last night, when he said, I'll be back in the morning with a decision, because that was a lot of evidence to go over and a very important decision to come up with. And there's probably -- there's little doubt that it took an awful lot of work on his part to get through this and come up with a decision so important at 4:30 this afternoon.
CHEN: All right. We'll stand by for that. CNN's Brian Cabell in Tallahassee, Florida -- Lou.
WATERS: What's important to consider here is whatever Judge Sanders Sauls decides this afternoon, it will be reassessed most likely by the Florida Supreme Court. That's where the action has gone once again with the vacating of the Florida Supreme Court's decision over extending the deadline for ballot recounts and now the Judge Sanders decision. CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Tallahassee at the Florida Supreme Court with more about all this -- Susan.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Lou. Yes, indeed, after Judge Sauls makes his decision one way or the other, we do fully expect whoever loses in that decision to come dashing over here to the Florida Supreme Court to file an immediate appeal. We know that attorneys for both sides have already been preparing the paperwork just in case, and each stands ready to come over here just as soon as possible after that decision is rendered, depending who does not fare well, to plead their case further before the Florida Supreme Court.
But as you are well aware, that is not the only thing that is going to be taking up the court's time this day. In an earlier development, earlier this day as we all know by now, the U.S. Supreme Court did indeed vacate a Florida Supreme Court's ruling that had extended the deadline for completing recounts in Florida, and in fact, by doing so, Governor Bush's lead took a dip from about 930 votes down to 537 votes over Vice President Gore.
Interestingly, the justices here learned of the U.S. Supreme Court decision after members of the staff here heard about it from news reports and themselves contacted the U.S. Supreme Court to have copies of that decision sent down here to Florida so that the justices could review that decision, a decision that now has the justices full attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAIG WATERS, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT SPOKESMAN: Yes, the court has issued opinions in the past that have been in whole or in part vacated, and we have received cases before where the Supreme Court remanded to us or sent them back to us with instructions about how to proceed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDIOTTI: So indeed what is happening at this hour, according to that court spokesman, Craig Waters, is that the justices are looking over the Supreme Court's order, and indeed at some point later this day, later this afternoon, the justices will be getting together, all seven of them, to confer on the matter and decide how to proceed from here.
Whether that means asking for additional briefs, whether that means simply clarifying their order for the U.S. Supreme Court and sending it on to them by fax or overnight mail or by e-mail, we don't know. However, we are expecting an update from the court spokesman later on this day to advise us as to how the justices will proceed from here.
That's it from here, Lou.
WATERS: All right. Susan Candiotti down there in Tallahassee covering us on the Florida Supreme Court. If you would like to read the entire U.S. Supreme Court decision, you just need to click onto cnn.com. If you don't have that opportunity, we can click on our national correspondent Charles Bierbauer right now, has a firm grasp on what happened today at the court -- Charles?.
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, if the Florida state Supreme Court was surprised by the rulings, so were we here at the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, we were sitting in the courtroom with the justices hearing arguments in another already scheduled case when a court official started passing the ruling down to us, and that created an immediate exodus from the press rows as we all dashed out here to report the news.
And the news lies in this seven-page opinion, which represents a unanimous view of the court even if there are some dissenting elements within it. It is not -- there is no dissent filed and in fact there is no single justice who has authored this ruling, which is called a per curiam ruling.
Let me point to several passages in it. So much has been questioned about whether the Florida state Supreme Court erred in extending the amount of time allowed for counting the ballots.
What this ruling says was: "If the State Legislature has provided for final determination of contests or controversies by a law made prior to Election Day, that determination of contests or controversies" -- "that determination," rather, "shall be conclusive."
The essential point being here that the question was raised: Did the Florida state Supreme Court interpret the law or write the law rather than have a law in place prior to this election? Well, what the justices here said was that after reviewing the opinion of the Florida Supreme Court, they found that there was considerable uncertainty as to the precise grounds for the decision coming from Tallahassee. And the U.S. Supreme Court opinion goes on to say: "We are unclear as to the extent to which the Florida Supreme Court saw the Florida Constitution as circumscribing the legislature's authority."
In other words, did they act upon the legislature's writing of the law or the Constitution? A critical point which may seem arguing on the head of a pin here, but the Constitution and the legislature's activity is underscored and in some cases perhaps supplanted by the federal Constitution. The justices felt they could not get to that federal question because of the unclarity in the Florida opinion.
In short, complicated though the language may seem, they told the Florida Supreme Court to take another look at it again, give them a better explanation. That does not guarantee that there will be another hearing before the Supreme Court here in Washington -- Lou.
WATERS: All right, Charles Bierbauer, at the court in Washington. And joining us now to provide some perspective on today's legal wranglings are CNN's election law analysts Kenneth Gross is in Tampa, Florida today. David Cardwell joins us from Tallahassee.
Kenneth, first of all, James Baker stepped out today, called this a win for his team. The Gore campaign retorted with: It's a draw. Which is it?
KENNETH GROSS, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: I think it's closer to a draw, except that the passage -- this clock is getting -- the ticking of the clock is starting to get louder and louder. So, in that sense, this favored the Bush team, because it delays a final resolution. But really, the substance of the opinion just sends it back to the Florida court. And I'd be reluctant to characterize it as a win on the merits -- certainly not a win on the merits -- and even a win in that regard in just even as a procedural matter.
WATERS: It shouldn't take the Florida Supreme Court that long to revisit this statute interpretation, should it? I mean...
WATERS: I mean, they don't have to dig it up again.
GROSS: No, I don't think so. I think, 20 -- you know, they are already meeting, apparently. So 24, 48 hours, they can issue an opinion now. Now, it's sort of converging with the appeal from Judge Sauls. Depending on who loses, as Candy -- as was just reported...
WATERS: That's tough to keep track of too, sometimes.
GROSS: As was just reported. Whoever loses the decision in the circuit court before Judge Sauls is also going to come to the Supreme Court of Florida. So they're converging from two different directions on the Supreme Court of Florida.
David Cardwell, be our traffic cop here for a minute. We have these intersecting legal rulings. And we're expecting, in about 20 minutes or so, the one from Judge Sauls. He apparently -- or at least we're told -- has been contemplating the Florida Supreme Court's reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court before make his ruling. What's going on? Put this into some -- sort this all out for us.
DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, if you are going to make me a traffic cop, I think we're in the middle of a roundabout, where we are trying to figure where we can get off. This is sort of circling around from circuit court to Supreme Court to U.S. Supreme Court, back down and, over to circuit court.
Right now, the Florida Supreme Court does have the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court. There was an announcement that they were studying it -- but nothing much beyond. I think Ken is right: that what we're going see is that the appeal from Judge Sauls' order, whatever it may be -- we know that whichever side loses will appeal this -- they have announced it in open court and just about everywhere else -- that that will make its way to the Florida Supreme Court.
There is no real urgency for the Florida Supreme Court to issue their clarifying opinion immediately. They may wait until they get the contest case before them. And they can sort of take it as a package. Even though there's been a lot of argument that the first opinion dealt with protests, and what they would be doing here deals with a contest, I think there is still the issue of: What was their basis for reconciling the statutes? And is there a role for the Florida state courts in resolving this election of our electors?
WATERS: We see now Barry Richard coming into Judge Sanders Sauls courtroom down there in Tallahassee. Attorneys are beginning to file in. So we are expecting this decision shortly.
And, Ken, you were mentioning about the clock ticking here. Is -- is time slipping away for Al Gore? Is that the strategy of the Bush team: to run out the clock, do you think?
GROSS: Oh, yes. That's been an important part of the Bush strategy. And it sounds like: Well, is that fair play? When it comes to lawyering, you try every maneuver: substantively, procedurally. And clearly, time is on the side of the Bush campaign. So you maneuver legally in a way that protracts the process. And that's, in part, what they've done.
We are working up against this December 12th deadline. And while I think the Florida Supreme Court can move with dispatch, it's already December 4. And they need to count these ballots. That is sort of the mantra of the Gore lawyers: We need to count these ballots. And every day that goes by that the ballots aren't being counted or counted again is a loss for the Gore campaign.
WATERS: All right.
And, David, finally, how critical is this Judge Sauls' decision we're about to hear?
CARDWELL: Well, it's critical from the standpoint of we're going have a -- hopefully -- a winner and a loser. And that's going to establish the respective positions in going to the Supreme Court. It's much easier to sustain a lower court decision in the appellate court than to overturn it. If you're trying to overturn it, you have got the burden of proving that the court was wrong. And appellate courts will defer to the local courts.
Time is critical here. I'll tell you that what will probably happen in that courtroom: As soon as the announcement is made as to which way he's ruled, you are going to see some people running out of there, or you're going to see some people running from law offices in Tallahassee to get over to the Florida Supreme Court.
WATERS: All right. We have David Cardwell, who will join us later when the decision is read. Ken Gross, thank you.
CHEN: All right, Lou, we want to go immediately to Austin, Texas. Governor Bush is meeting before the reporters there. He is also with Andrew Card, who is expected to be the chief of staff in what would be a Bush administration.
Let's listen to what the governor has to say.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... just going to make sure that the outcome of this election is fair. And we were very pleased, and I'm grateful for their decision.
QUESTION: Governor, do you wish the Supreme Court had gone a little bit further and given you a certified victory?
BUSH: Well, we're pleased with the decision. And I think America ought to be comforted to know that the highest court of our land is going to make sure that the outcome of this election is a fair outcome. And, again, I'm grateful that the court made the decision that it made.
Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that a lot of people boldly predicted that the court wouldn't even hear our case, and now they're involved in making sure the outcome of the election is fair.
QUESTION: Governor, yesterday Secretary Cheney suggested that it's time for the vice president to concede. Are you prepared to articulate that yourself?
BUSH: No, I'm not. I think each of us is going to have to, you know -- that's a very difficult decision for anybody to make, and I understand that.
I do believe I have won this election. I believe that I won it on the first count and on the second count and on the third count. But the vice president's going to have to make the decisions that he thinks are necessary.
And I know that he'll put -- the interests of the country will be important in his decision-making, just like it would be in mine.
QUESTION: Sir, are you saying you don't agree with Cheney's view...
BUSH: I think the vice president is entitled to his view. But I do agree with this, that he's going to make a great vice president.
QUESTION: Have we reached the point where the national interests are now in jeopardy because of this protracted process, Governor?
BUSH: I wouldn't take it necessarily that far. I will tell you, though, it's important for us to, at least as far as I'm concerned, it's important for our team to move forward.
Tomorrow, the vice president, at my request, is going to go up to Capitol Hill to further our discussions with the leadership and members of Congress, because we've got a very strong agenda. And it's an agenda that I strongly believe has put me in the position I'm in.
It's an agenda to strengthen the military to keep the peace; it's an education agenda. There are some warning signs about our economy that I think we ought to take seriously. And I talked to the leadership about that at the ranch over the weekend. And those -- which argue for a tax relief package, and it's a tax relief package that I campaigned on.
And we need Social Security reform. And one of the benefits of Social Security reform is not only to make sure there's a Social Security system for the elderly today and for younger workers coming up, but under my vision of Social Security reform, it will help with capital accumulation, which will help the economic growth.
QUESTION: Have you spoken to any more Democrats? And will Secretary Cheney be speaking to any tomorrow on the Hill?
BUSH: I think the understanding with the secretary is that he'll be meeting with Republican leaders tomorrow, and Republican members, and no I am not, since I talked to you on Saturday.
QUESTION: Governor, are you looking to have a Democratic as Treasury secretary?
BUSH: Well, I'm not ruling anything out. I know there's a lot of speculation going on, but I haven't made any decisions yet, and if I did, I probably wouldn't tell you.
QUESTION: Do you think the Florida legislature should go ahead and meet and vote on a slate...
BUSH: Well, I think we ought to take this process one day at a time. And today's the day, evidently, the judiciary's going to make some strong statements. And I felt like the Supreme Court of the United States made a very positive statement on our behalf.
The sentiment I want to convey is this, that I am comforted by the fact that the highest court of our land heard our case and will make sure this election is fair.
BUSH: I think that's very important for our citizenry to hear. And as far as what the legislature does in Florida, that's going to be up to the leadership in the legislature.
QUESTION: Governor, people were criticizing you for speaking about the judiciary affairs...
BUSH: When was that now?
QUESTION: When you talked about the court issuing legal...
BUSH: Oh, you mean the Florida Supreme Court?
BUSH: Well, I felt like -- I felt like their decision was not a fair decision at the time, and I felt like they had rewritten the law. So, therefore...
QUESTION: Governor, are you saying you will abide by the rulings of any and all courts in this matter?
BUSH: Well, I think the court system is very important in the country, but I felt like in the case of the Florida Supreme Court, like I said in my statement and like Secretary Baker said in his statement, that they changed the rules and the Supreme Court reviewed that.
Now, we'll remember, many of the -- many of the experts were saying, well, the Bush team has no chance to get their case heard by the Supreme Court. Not only was the case heard, but the Supreme Court acted in a way that I think is a positive -- positive for our campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
BUSH: Thank you all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: Tell you what our viewers have been looking at. You saw Governor Bush there apparently in a photo opportunity with the governor of Colorado, Bill Owens, appearing before photographers and the television cameras there in Austin, Texas, the governor's mansion. Now, this was the first opportunity we had to hear from the governor on the outcome from the U.S. Supreme Court.
He said using the words both "grateful" and later the word "comforted" by the court's decision. He said that he is glad the high court had heard the case and that they were involved in making sure the outcome of the counts are fair.
He also acknowledged that he thought it would be a difficult decision for Vice President Gore to concede, to decide to concede, but he also added very quickly, I believe I won on the first, second and third counts of the vote there in Florida.
CNN's Eileen O'Connor is covering the activities of Mr. Gore today and she joins us now from Washington -- Eileen.
EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, the Gore campaign says that painting this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court as a victory for Governor Bush is pure legal spin. They say that it was a draw, that the U.S. Supreme Court decision has no impact on their legal case right now before the Leon County Circuit Court, contesting the results of the election, asking for manual recounts of those undervotes in Miami-Dade County, and of course, the disputed ballots in Palm Beach County.
They say that this was simply the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Florida state Supreme Court to clarify their decision and ensure and reaffirm that it was based on Florida state law, which the Gore campaign says it definitely was, based on Florida state law.
Now, the vice president was at the Old Executive Office Building today. He was meeting with Senator Joseph Lieberman, his running mate, and they met with other members of the transition team. Senator Lieberman also participated in a conference call with the House minority leader, Richard Gephardt, to shore up Democratic support for the vice president and his recount effort.
So far, that support has remained fairly consistent along -- of course, the Gore campaign was hoping for a clear and decisive victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. Although they had said that no decision up there would have had any practical impact on their legal efforts, they did believe that a victory there would have helped them in the court of public opinion -- Joie.
CHEN: But Eileen, is their acceptance and understanding? After all, we are getting to very late on Monday and time really is ticking away for the Gore ambitions in the sense they're going to run out of time before they can get dissolution the way they want it.
O'CONNOR: Well, right now, they're saying now, and actually some of them are saying privately, that, you know, the silver lining in this is it's back where they want it to be, back before the Florida state Supreme Court, and they're hoping that they can consolidate the cases there.
You know, Joie, no matter what happens with this Leon County Circuit Court decision, the side who loses is almost certain -- certainly going to appeal that to the Florida state Supreme Court. So everything is going to be back here before the Florida state Supreme Court, and they are hoping that the Florida state Supreme Court will mandate these recounts, do it quickly, and that with enough counters they can get it done.
But the vice president himself did not rule out the possibility they could be still counting ballots mid-December, past that December 12th deadline -- Joie.
CHEN: Eileen O'Connor for us in Washington. We want to move quickly to Jeanne Meserve, who is in Austin, Texas. You heard the comments just a few moments ago from Governor Bush, seeming pretty relaxed seated in that photo opportunity, full of energy and talking about plans for his administration.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and portraying this U.S. Supreme Court action today as a positive thing for his campaign, building upon the comments made earlier by Secretary of State James Baker, who is, of course, quarterbacking the Bush legal efforts down in Florida.
What Baker said was that the court in making its decision today vacating the Florida Supreme Court ruling had done so on the very grounds that the Bush campaign argued in court: namely, that you can't change the law after the election has taken place, that you can't change the rules of the game after it started.
Bush very much playing along with that, saying this was positive for his campaign, he was encouraged by it.
An interesting thing that came up in that photo opportunity -- and let me explain who that other guy was you saw sitting there. That was Governor Bill Owens of Colorado. He's described as a friend of the governor who was in town for a fund-raising event of his own. He stopped by on a courtesy call. It might raise some questions, because we are, of course, in the middle of talking about transition, but that's why we're told Owens was there.
The governor was also asked about comments by his running mate yesterday, Dick Cheney. Cheney, you'll recall, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" the time has come for Al Gore to concede this election. Governor Bush choosing not to echo those sentiments, but as you pointed out saying, as he has so very often, we did in fact win this election -- Joie.
CHEN: All right, CNN's Jeanne Meserve, thanks to you. We'll ask you to stand by as we wait for a decision from Leon County coming up in a few minutes.
WATERS: Yes, we're watching Judge Sanders Sauls' courtroom. The attorneys have filed in. David Boies and his legal team, Barry Richard, his legal team. They're waiting for the judge's decision, which we expect to be announced within a matter of minutes here.
While we wait for that, let's call about our CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider to talk to us about the reaction, first of all, Bill, to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today. As we've been mentioning, James Baker calling it a win, the Gore people calling it a draw. I believe one Democratic adviser called it the baseball -- he used the baseball metaphor and called it a "rain-out."
What's your reaction to the reactions?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Lou, what happened is the Supreme Court punted. The people were waiting for an authoritative decision from the Supreme Court, above the political fray, that could really settle this issue and be a real decision, the voice of the Constitution. But they didn't get it. I think the court took this case, but it failed to fulfill its political responsibility. And my reading of it is the court is just as divided as the American people and the Congress and the parties and the politicians on this.
They couldn't reach an agreement, so they just sent the thing back to the Florida court for -- quote -- "clarification."
WATERS: And it does indicate, though, how the political spinners are hanging on every legal decision now.
SCHNEIDER: Well, that's right, they are. I think basically, while the court didn't make a decision favoring one side or the other, it helps Governor Bush's cause, because anything that creates delay and confusion helps Governor Bush.
Look, what Al Gore wants is very simple: count the votes, start now. No clarification, no delay. And he realizes, I think his people certainly realize, that once the court, this court we're going to hear from shortly, if this court authorizes the recount to begin, it's going to be politically very, very difficult to stop it.
How you can say, whoops, the deadline's up, stop counting the votes? It's going to be outrageous. If you start counting the votes, it's going to be very difficult to stop counting the votes. Governor Bush can come in and say, well, wait a minute, they're only counting votes in two counties. What about the rest of the state? We demand that they count votes in more counties. But you know what? Then the responsibility for the delay will be on his head, not on Al Gore's.
WATERS: But no matter what happens here in another two or three minutes with Judge Sauls, it's going to go right back up to that Florida Supreme Court.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. They're going to be the ultimate authority and they're going to be the ones who say, start counting the votes, or wait to count the votes. The Bush team wants this to last one more week, until a week from tomorrow. Once that week is past, then essentially the deadline has past, they're not counting the votes. The legislature can step in, and frankly, among voters we're seeing some clear signs of Florida fatigue, and they'll want this situation resolved.
But if they start counting the votes between now and next Tuesday, all bets are off.
WATERS: So you're saying that if Judge Sauls rules in favor of the plaintiff today -- that would be the Al Gore people -- that that's politically huge for Al Gore?
SCHNEIDER: It's politically huge. Once anyone appointed by the court -- masters, anybody, the state police -- sit down and start counting those ballots, it's just going to be politically very difficult to step in and say, time's up, stop counting, the ballots don't count anymore.
That's ridiculous. You can't do that.
WATERS: All right, Greta Van Susteren, I imagine you're with us also. Is that right?
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm with you, Lou.
VAN SUSTEREN: For better or for worse.
WATERS: OK, what are we watching for here now?
VAN SUSTEREN: We're waiting to see that magic word. Will the judge order a hand count or not, because as soon as that decision is made, I can assure that one side is going to go running, literally running to the Florida Supreme Court. I talked to a source inside one camp today, and the brief is already written on one side for the Florida Supreme Court, so I imagine that the other side has done so as well, because the loser is going to go fleeing for help from the higher court.
But -- so we're waiting to see: Will the judge order a hand count or not, and of course, who's going to be racing to the Florida Supreme Court? WATERS: There's been considerable discussion today about whether the decision reached by the United States Supreme Court would have any effect at all on this contest in Judge Sauls' courtroom. What say you?
VAN SUSTEREN: It should not, because the issue before the Florida Supreme Court had to do with the protest phase and the certification. What's going on here is something different. This is a contest. Under Florida election law, you have a protest phase where you go back to the canvassing board basically and say, count the ballots. Then you have a certification. This, as you go to court, and you say, count the ballots.
WATERS: OK, Greta, hold on just a second.
We have a spy in the courtroom, CNN's Gary Tuchman is on the phone with us. Gary, what's going on in there?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, all the lawyers are in place, all the spectators are in place, there are literally spectators sitting on the floor in this courtroom. I'm talking to you from a jury box in the courtroom, where -- it's built normally for 12 adult human beings; right now, there is about 19 people in this jury box with the camera equipment.
I talked to some of the lawyers just a few minutes ago, they all claimed to me they are relaxed -- I am not so sure I believe their claims. This is an unprecedented case. They argued for 23 1/2 hours Saturday and Sunday. And now is the moment of truth when Judge N. Sanders Sauls makes the decision. We expect him to arrive at any minute.
I should tell you the Democrats, the Gore lawyers have sent a letter to the secretary of state, Katherine Harris, telling her she should not, if she's thinking of doing so, recertify the vote to the levels it was at on November 14. They are saying she should not take the U.S. Supreme Court decision to mean that she could do that, and they are asking if she does decide to do that to at least give them the courtesy of giving them one-day warning. So right now, everyone is waiting, all that's left is for the judge to come in and issue his decision.
Lou, back to you.
WATERS: OK, Gary Tuchman.
And, Greta, since the judge said last night that he would have a decision today, we're assuming he reached his decision during the trial or shortly thereafter. What's taking him so long to come out with a decision?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, for the very reason, you know, someone is going to go running to the Florida Supreme Court. So what he wants to deliver, whether it's verbally or whether it's written, he wants to make sure that it's done in a very coherent way that truly reflects the law and the facts. He doesn't want to be sloppy, because he doesn't want to have it sent back to him like the Florida Supreme Court is getting its case sent to -- sent back to it. So he really wants to make sure that he is doing the right thing and that whatever he decides, will be reviewed by another court, but at least it will be reviewed and will be fairly reviewed and not -- and he won't be criticized for having not considered the facts and the law.
WATERS: And, Bill Schneider, the moment we hear this decision read here in the courtroom by Judge Sauls, what would be the immediate political spin put on it by one side or the other?
SCHNEIDER: They're all lining up to say, you know, we won, or this wasn't a real setback, just like they did after the Supreme Court ruling, which frankly was a little bit confusing, no one knew what it meant for about an hour. We hope that Judge Sauls is a little clearer than the Supreme Court and a little more definitive, because this is dragging on and on and on. I think basically the question is going to be very simply what Greta said: Does he order the hand recounts to take place, or does he not? That's the determination of which side wins. If he does, then of course Bush will go to the Supreme Court and ask for an emergency injunction forbidding anybody to start counting the ballots until the Florida Supreme Court rules, but then the burden will be on him to get that injunction and to stop the recount.
WATERS: All right, we are inside two minutes before the judge is going to step out.
We also have Jeff Greenfield, our CNN senior analyst in New York joining us.
Jeff, what do you make of all of this today?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: What do I make of it? I think this is a fairly important day and I think there is something uniquely American about it, that a -- this morning we heard from the highest court in the land; in a few minutes, we're going to hear from what they call a court of original jurisdiction at the state level. It's about as initial a level as you can go, and what Judge Sauls says may tell us either who the next president is, or how long we'll have to wait. It's absolutely astonishing in any other political season, but given what we have been through the last 27 days, I guess this is just one more chapter.
WATERS: We have heard repeated references today to this December 12 deadline and how the clock is running out for Al Gore. Is that December 12 deadline really a deadline?
GREENFIELD: Well, it sure is if the Florida legislature decides it is and steps in and uses what seems to be its plenary power under the Constitution to pick a set of electors. Whether there is some other scenario you could create in a different state with a different state legislature, you probably could argue it could slide a few days, but if the legislature says, we have to act by the 12th of December, then every day that this decision is delayed is another day that will give the Florida legislature a reasonable argument, in their view, to take this process over. So you have to -- when you -- you know, that's where we are.
Eileen O'Connor has been covering us on the Gore campaign, she has some news for us.
Eileen, what is it?
O'CONNOR: Well, basically, the Gore campaign had a conference call with Democrats on Capitol Hill and they say that the support from Democrats is still hanging strong despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision, although they are looking to this Leon County Circuit Court decision, and if it goes against the vice president, one source said, that it could marginally affect that support. Obviously, time is of the essence to go through all of these legal maneuverings -- Lou.
WATERS: All right, Eileen O'Connor.
Still strong support from Democrats, Jeff. Is it necessary for Lieberman to call around and make sure everything is holding together?
GREENFIELD: It's sure necessary that somebody in the Gore camp makes sure that there is no crack on the wall of support. The more you hear Democrats say, let's get it over with, the worse it is. I mean, you remember all the way back to impeachment? As long as the Democrats stayed firm behind Clinton, there was no way he was going to be removed from office -- well, you can analogize it: if the Democrats start slipping away from Al Gore, his political position becomes less and less tenable, and that's why even though today's decision is not the last chapter of the last chapter, a decision against Al Gore is very, very significant -- psychological and political problem for him.
SCHNEIDER: Gore desperately needs a legal victory here. I mean, the Supreme Court didn't hand him a legal victory this morning. He has been setback in a number of court decisions. I think to keep his base together, to keep those members -- those Democrats in Congress behind him, he needs to show that there is some legitimation of what he is trying to do here. He desperately needs a legal victory just to go on.
WATERS: OK, Gary Tuchman is back with us from the courtroom.
What is holding things up, Gary?
TUCHMAN: Well, Lou, the same thing that's been holding them up the last couple of days. The judge usually wanders in five or 10 minutes late, so we don't think it's anything major. Everything else is in place.
I should tell you a little bit about the judge's decision making today. We were told the reason this is happening so late is not only because he wanted some explanation of how the U.S. Supreme Court decision would affect his decision, but also, his aides tell us he hadn't made his decision up yet. He read his information this morning. He had lots of papers to read, lots of exhibits to look at, and they say he was finalizing his final decision up until this afternoon. So, according to his aides, people thought he had made his decision up yesterday and had it finalized -- they say he hadn't. They say it was a last-minute thing, he is all done now, and he is ready to announce to America what his decision is -- Lou.
WATERS: It makes me wonder how he could have said last night, I'll have a decision for you tomorrow.
TUCHMAN: Well, Lou, we were marveling at that also. He has a blizzard of paperwork to look at, and when he left the court yesterday, I talked to him and I said, what time tomorrow in the morning? And he says, it'll be in the morning. And I said, are you going to do it on the bench, or will it be a written order? And he said, I don't know yet. But we were just saying it just seemed very unlikely it would be in the morning and indeed, I think even if it wasn't for this U.S. Supreme Court decision, we still would have been here in the afternoon.
WATERS: We heard from Mark Potter earlier the judge wasn't even in the building.
TUCHMAN: He wasn't -- he was working at home all morning, getting this all together.
So he was on this by himself? Someone asked the question earlier whether he was surrounded by aides, or if he took this decision all upon himself. Is it the judge's decision totally without aides offering opinions and such?
TUCHMAN: Well, I could tell you one thing, Lou, we'll try to ask him afterwards. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) At this point, we don't know if anyone else has made this decision. For all we know, it could have been his spouse.
WATERS: If we ever see him.
WATERS: Yes, OK. That's Gary Tuchman inside the courtroom, in the jury box with a couple of hundred other people waiting for Judge N. Sanders Sauls, who is about to make his decision in the contest brought by the Al Gore campaign.
Greta Van Susteren, what goes into this circuit court decision, does the judge consider this -- well, in this case, two days of testimony, all himself, or does he have some legal help around him?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he probably has a law clerk to help him, but the buck stops there. He is the one who has the ultimate responsibility. He may have consulted his law clerks, that's not unusual, but that's just simply to sort of bat ideas around. The decision is his, it's his alone, it's based on the evidence -- 22 hours of evidence, witnesses, both direct examination and cross examinations by both sides, and then he listened to the argument of the lawyers that went into the late evening hours last night in which they argued the facts that the judge had been listening to for about 22 hours.
He then retreats to chambers and reviews the law, and applies those facts of the law and then he does what we hope every judge does well, is he exercises his judgment. He applies his wisdom, judgment and his legal experience to come up with the right decision. But believe me, someone is going to think this is the wrong decision and that someone is going to be the losing side, who is going to be running to the Florida Supreme Court with the filing fee in hand and a brief with the notice of appeal.
WATERS: It's just up the street, isn't it?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, yes. Technically, you actually file the notice of appeal in the clerk's office in the existing court, so they're probably going to just run down the hall in that courthouse. But, you know, it's sort of -- but it ultimately will go to the Florida Supreme Court.
WATERS: I don't expect you to read the judge's mind, but there has been several assessments that this would be the most important judicial decision in this man's life. Do you feel -- do you think he feels the pressure here?
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he might. But remember, these judges in Florida often are called upon to issue death sentences in criminal cases, so, you know, this certainly is a very important decision, but I imagine that some judges who sit on death penalty cases in that state on those very tough issues when juries recommend death -- or any state for that matter -- that those are tough decisions as well, you know, it comes with the job. You get the pleasure of having everyone walk around and call you Your Honor all the time and basically laughing at your jokes even when they might not be particularly funny, because lawyers are always smart enough to laugh at judges' jokes, but bottom line is it's not an easy job. You have tough decisions, and he is going to get heavily criticized by people.
Remember last -- or about two weeks ago, that Jim Baker, former secretary of state, was highly critical of the Florida Supreme Court. One of the problems of being a judge, you have to have very thick skin, because there are a lot of people who don't like your decisions, who think you are plain wrong, and people express it, so you have to have thick skin. You're going to have some singing your praise, but you're going to have some that say very nasty things about you.
WATERS: And it certainly will more than likely happen here.
David Cardwell, our election law analyst is with us also from Tallahassee.
David, this appeals process we have been talking about, that will tack more time onto the deliberative process, whittling away the time necessary for the Al Gore people to get ballots recounted if even that is a factor. How long do you think this appeals process will take? CARDWELL: Well, it'll be lightning fast as compared to the way it normally is done. Keep in mind though that while they're going to get to the Florida Supreme Court, they first have to go to the 1st District Court of Appeal and the 1st District has to certify it. I am sure that will occur immediately. They'll also probably file a suggestion, a certification with the court, and the 1st District will get it up to the Supreme Court immediately. It could be at the Supreme Court sometime late today or early tomorrow morning. And then, the Supreme Court will have to establish an expedited briefing schedule, oral argument. They could have a decision by the end of the week, if not before then.
WATERS: And then, if there -- are there any federal issues in this contest that might make it up to the United States Supreme Court once again?
CARDWELL: Well, certainly there's been -- we do have a federal election involved here, but it's primarily a matter of state law. But again, we could final ourselves running into an argument. Is new law being created here, or is this strictly a contest under state law? It's going to depend on how Judge Sauls renders his decision and what his basis of it for, because regardless of who wins and loses on his order, he is pretty much establishing the parameters for the appeal by identifying the basis for his ruling. So one side is going to say he is correct, the other side is going to say that he made an error and that the Supreme Court ultimately should overturn that, though they will try to raise a host of issues if possible. But we have to look at his order to see on what basis did he render his decision?
WATERS: And, Greta, what's your view of that? Because most folks that I've talked to now, folks who don't even know me will walk up and say, when is this all going to end?
VAN SUSTEREN: ... January and takes the oath of office, I would think then it was over. Until then, there is a lot to come.
WATERS: All right, what we are watching here is the courtroom of Judge -- Leon Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls, who has made his decision based upon the testimony and the evidence evaluated over the weekend in that 22-hour marathon contest of the federal election by the Al Gore people.
Here's the judge. So let's listen to what he has to say.
JUDGE N. SANDERS SAULS, LEON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: I have this case, give me the style of this case. Do you have it?
Do you have the court file?
All right. At this time we call the case of Albert Gore, et al, v. Katherine Harris, et al, case number 2000-2808. And at this time, the action having been tried, the court at this time will enter its rulings from the bench, due to the exigencies surrounding this case. These rulings and findings shall be incorporated in the final judgment, to be immediately entered herein.
At this time, the court finds and concludes as follows. The complaint filed herein states in its first paragraph that this is an action to contest the state certification in the presidential election of 2000, asserting that the state Elections Canvassing Commission's certification on November 26, 2000, is erroneous as the vote totals wrongly include illegal votes and do not include legal votes that were improperly rejected.
Plaintiffs further contest the state of Florida's certification of the electors for George W. Bush and Richard Cheney as being elected.
Plaintiffs further challenge and contest the election certifications of the canvassing boards of Dade, Palm Beach and Nassau counties.
As to the Dade canvassing board, plaintiffs seek to compel the Dade board to include in its certification, and the state Elections Canvassing Commission to include in the state certification, a six- vote change in favor of plaintiffs, resulting from the board's initial test, partial manual recount of 1 percent of the county-wide vote total, conducted with respect to three precincts designated by the plaintiffs' designees; also additional votes manually hand counted in a further partial recount, total resulting from the board's discretionary decision to stop completion of a full manual recount of all of the votes in all of the precincts in Dade because of insufficiency of time to complete the same -- these represent the result of the count of an additional 136 precincts of the 635 precincts in Dade County; and also, the results of any court-ordered manual review and recount of some 9,000 to 10,000 voter cards or ballots, which at the plaintiffs' request have been separated or were separated as alleged undervotes by the Dade canvassing board or the Dade supervisor of elections as a result of all of the county-wide ballots being processed through the counting machines a third time and being nonreadable by the machine.
As to the Palm Beach Canvassing Board, plaintiffs seek to compel the Palm Beach board to include in its certification, and the state Elections Canvassing Commission to include in the state certification, additional votes representing the results of an attempted partial certification of results completed before the November 26, 2000, deadline mandated by the Florida Supreme Court, as well as the additional remainder of the results of the manual recount, which was completed after the deadline and the attempted certification thereof on December 1; and in addition, the results of any court ordered manual review and recount of some 3,300 ballots, which were objected to during the Palm Beach board's manual recount, which plaintiffs allege should have been counted as valid votes because that board used an improper standard.
As to Nassau, the Nassau County Canvassing Board, the plaintiffs seek to compel the Nassau board to amend its certification, and the state elections canvassing commission to amend the state certification, to reflect and include the results of the board's machine recount rather than the results of the board's original machine count, thereby resulting in a favorable net gain to plaintiffs of 51 votes.
It is the established law of Florida, as reflected in State v. Smith, that where charges of irregularity of procedure or inaccuracy of returns in balloting and counting processes have been alleged, the court must find as a fact that a legal basis for ordering any recount exists before ordering such recount.
Further, it is well-established, as reflected in the opinion of Judge Jonas in Smith v. Tynes (ph), that in order to contest election results under Section 102.168 of the Florida statutes, the plaintiff must that but for the irregularity or inaccuracy claimed, the result of the election would have been different, and he or she would have been the winner.
It is not enough to show a reasonable possibility that election results could have been altered by such irregularities or inaccuracies. Rather, a reasonable probability that the results of the election would have been changed must be shown.
In this case, there is no credible statistical evidence and no other competent substantial evidence to establish by a preponderance a reasonable probability that the results of the statewide election in the state of Florida would be different from the result which has been certified by the state Elections Canvassing Commission.
The court further finds and concludes the evidence does not establish any illegality, dishonesty, gross negligence, improper influence, coercion or fraud in the balloting and counting processes.
Secondly, there's no authority under Florida law for certification of an incomplete, manual recount of a portion of or less than all ballots from any county by the state Elections Canvassing Commission, nor authority to include any returns submitted past the deadline established by the Florida Supreme Court in this election.
Thirdly, although the record shows voter error and/or less than total accuracy in regard to the punch-card voting devices utilized in Dade and Palm Beach counties, which these counties have been aware of for many years, these balloting and counting problems cannot support or affect any recounting necessity with respect to Dade County, absent the establishment of a reasonable probability that the statewide election result would be different, which has not been established in this case.
The court further finds the Dade canvassing board did not abuse its discretion in any of its decisions in its review and recounting processes.
Fourthly, with respect to the approximate 3,300 Palm Beach County ballots of which plaintiffs seek review, the Palm Beach Board properly exercised its discretion in its counting process and has judged those ballots which plaintiffs wish this court to again judge de novo.
All cases upon which plaintiffs rely were rendered upon mandamus prior to the modern statutory election system and remedial scheme enacted by the legislature of the state of Florida in section 102 of the Florida statute, or chapter 102 of the Florida statutes.
The local boards have been given broad discretion, which no court may overrule, absent a clear abuse of discretion.
The Palm Beach County board did not abuse its discretion in its review and recounting process. Further, it acted in full compliance with the order of the circuit court in and for Palm Beach County.
Having done so, plaintiffs are estopped from further challenge of its process and standards. It should be noted, however, that such process and standards were changed from the prior 1990 standards, perhaps contrary to Title 3, Section 5 of the United States Code.
Furthermore, with respect to the standards utilized by the board in its review and counting processes, the court finds that the standard utilized was in full compliance with the law, and review under another standard would not be authorized, thus creating a two- tier situation within one county, as well as with respect to other counties.
The court notes that the attorney general of the state of Florida enunciated his opinion of the law with respect to this in a letter dated November 14, 2000, to the Honorable Charles E. Burton, chair of the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board, which in part is as follows: "A two-tier system would have the effect of treating voters differently depending upon what county they voted in. A voter in a county where a manual count was conducted would benefit from having a better chance of having his or her vote actually counted than a voter in a county where a hand count was halted."
As the state's chief legal officer, I feel a duty to warn that if the final certified total for balloting in the state of Florida includes figures generated from this two-tier system of differing behavior by official canvassing boards, the state will incur a legal jeopardy under both the United States and state constitutions.
This legal jeopardy could potentially lead Florida to having all of its votes in effect disqualified, and this state being barred from the Electoral College's selection of a president.
The court finds further that the Nassau County Canvassing Board did not abuse its discretion in its certification of Nassau County's voting results. Such actions were not void or illegal, and it was done within the proper exercise of its discretion upon adequate and reasonable public notice.
Further, this court would further conclude and find that the properly stated cause of action under Section 102.168 of the Florida statutes to contest a statewide federal election, the plaintiff would necessarily have to place an issue and seek as a remedy with the attendant burden of proof a review and recount of all ballots in all the counties in this state with respect to the particular alleged irregularity or inaccuracy in the balloting or counting processes alleged to have occurred.
As recently stated by Judge Klein, with the concurrence of Chief Judge Warner, in the 4th District Court of Appeal case of Fladell v. Palm Beach Canvassing Board, Section 102.168 provides in subsection 1 that the certification of election may be contested for presidential elections.
Section 103.011 provides that, quote, "The Department of State shall certify as elected the presidential electors of the candidates for president and vice president who receive the highest number of votes."
There is in this type of election one statewide election and one certification. Palm Beach County did not elect any person as a presidential elector, but rather the election was a winner-take-all proposition dependent on the statewide vote.
Finally, for the purpose of expedition due to the exigencies surrounding these proceedings, this court will deny those portions of the pending motions to dismiss of the various parties herein not affected by or ruled upon in these findings and conclusions with those portions consisting solely of matters of law being reviewable upon such denial.
In conclusion, the court finds that the plaintiffs have failed to carry the requisite burden of proof and judgment shall be and hereby is entered that plaintiffs shall take nothing by this action and the defendants may go hence without delay.
All ballots in the custody of the clerk of this court shall remain pending review.
The judgment will be entered and filed with the clerk immediately following this hearing.
All right. That'll conclude. The court will stand in recess.
WATERS: Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls issuing his judgment in the Al Gore contest. The Al Gore legal team failed the requisite of burden of proof. That's the bottom line, Greta Van Susteren. They didn't prove their case.
VAN SUSTEREN: Boy, I'll say. That is what we call a slam dunk. I mean, the Gore people didn't win one thing today before this judge. The Bush team is a big winner, and this is a very, very important case. This was the one that needed to be won by the Gore people -- they have lost. But of course now they'll make their step to the intermediary court of appeal and on to the Florida Supreme Court. But I can tell you, the Bush lawyers are quite jubilant, quite happy, this is a big victory for the Bush team, this is a big loss for the Gore team.
WATERS: David Cardwell, did you expect it to be this much of a slam-dunk?
CARDWELL: Well, I thought that the judge would come down one way or the other. After hearing all the arguments, we thought it was a close case. But obviously, the judge felt that there had not been any showing of credible evidence to support the claims by the Gore side. We were surprised on Saturday when the Gore legal team rested after only two witnesses, and then the Bush team put on a lot of witnesses that really went to some of the issues that had been raised in the contest. But if you look at the ruling from the judge today, he didn't give the Gore side anything. He didn't try to, you know, cut the difference down the middle or give them anything. They're going to have to go to the Florida Supreme Court and say that he completely erred and get a complete reversal if they're going to try to get anything out of this.
That's going to be a very, very difficult task for them to do.
WATERS: David Cardwell, we're watching the courtroom of Judge N. Sanders Sauls. We're getting immediate reaction from David Boies and Barry Richard on the other side. Reporters swarming around them in the courtroom. We'll hear more about these later, but we have other things to hear about right now.
CHEN: Lou, time for a little bit of perspective from the -- from the camps themselves. Jonathan Karl with the Gore team, Jeanne Meserve in Austin, Texas.
Jonathan, start with you, I guess it's a little bit early for reaction there, but surely this is going to be seen as a blow. The legal experts tell us the judge gave the Gore team nothing.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, actually, Joie, I've actually been on the phone with two Gore campaign spokesmen on this. The first, Doug Hattaway, said to me while the judge was concluding reading his decision that -- quote -- "Everybody expected this to be in Florida Supreme Court by dinnertime today, regardless of what this judge said. So here we go."
The clear implication is that they are moving appeal, just as Greta Van Susteren said before this, right down to the process, filing this appeal immediately as they said they would. In fact, the notice of appeal had already been written before this judge came out to read his decision.
I also spoke to Mark Fabiani, who is the top spokesman for the vice president, was his deputy campaign manager, and Mark said essentially that this is going to the Florida Supreme Court, and it is appropriate, in the view of the Gore campaign, that all these matters be resolved before the Florida Supreme Court. That's the body it should be resolved in.
Fabiani also saying that the Gore team never had any great hopes for this case before this judge, and that, I can tell you, was something that I also heard before this decision was announced by members of the Gore legal team, saying that from the start they felt this judge was somewhat of a skeptical judge, started this out on a rather sluggish pace, in their view.
But of course, Joie, all this trying to make the best of a clear defeat, an obvious defeat for the Gore team, coming on the heels of their non-win today from the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court, of course, failing to knock down the Bush suit, sending it back to the Florida state Supreme Court.
So the Gore team headed to appeal, headed to Florida state Supreme Court.
Back to you, Joie.
CHEN: All right, Jonathan. We move quickly to Jeanne Meserve, who is in Austin, Texas, following Governor Bush -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: Joie, no official reaction yet from the Bush campaign, but I am sure they are very happy. A campaign aide said to me last night after proceedings had concluded in Leon County Circuit Court: "The facts are in our favor; the law is on our side. We hope the result will reflect that."
It certainly has: The Gore case simply stomped in that courtroom this afternoon. Of course, there will be an appeal. This is a big step in moving toward the end, said one Bush aide, but it is not the end.
The Bush campaign very much did not want to have to go into the Florida Supreme Court looking to have this decision overturned, very mindful of the fact that the justices on that Florida Supreme Court were appointed by Democrats. And this is exceptionally good news for the Bush team coming on the back of the U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier today, which they are portraying as a win.
They are -- they believe the court said to the Florida Supreme Court, you can't change the rules of the election after the election has taken place. Now this. No official reaction yet, but you can bet, Joie, they're mighty happy at Bush headquarters.
CHEN: One could guess. Jeanne Meserve for us in Austin, Texas -- Lou.
WATERS: And as you've heard, the political spin has already begun to be spun.
Bill Schneider, if you are a Gore person now, how do you handle a decision like this?
SCHNEIDER: Well, you immediately ask for an appeal and you worry a lot about keeping your base together, because, you know, there's been trouble among Democrats. They've been held -- they've held together pretty well for Al Gore. But he's got to worry now that that base may crumble, that he's going to lose support in public opinion. People are going to say, it's over, we've heard all the counts, the recounts, the judgment of the court.
There are a couple of things still out there. There's a case in Seminole County and in Martin County that could throw out some Bush votes, but Gore hasn't taken a position in those cases because he doesn't want to argue that those votes should not be counted. Basically, this was a very serious blow to the Gore campaign. I said before he needs a legal victory just to give him some political momentum. He didn't get it from the Supreme Court and he didn't get it from the circuit court today in Florida. And he's going to worry a lot about keeping his support more or less intact.
WATERS: And Jeff Greenfield, do you get the feeling now we're closer to that day of reckoning?
GREENFIELD: Yes, the problem for the Gore campaign keeps mounting every step up you go. The circuit court, Sauls, said you have to give a lot of discretion to the canvassing board. That was part of his decision in which there was no good news for Al Gore other than his lawyers were not jailed for contempt.
And the Supreme Court traditionally gives a lot of discretion to the circuit judge. So every time you move up, the decision-maker on the lower rung gets the benefit of the doubt. On this case, that's the benefit for George W. Bush.
And you know, if you're a Hollywood liberal screenwriter trying to write a happy ending for the Gore campaign, you've got to come up with almost like a "Perry Mason" moment: either, as Bill said, the absentee ballot cases in Seminole and Martin counties, or a Florida Supreme Court, already being looked at somewhat skeptically by the U.S. Supreme Court, now having to reverse the decision of a trial judge in this contest.
And I'm sure if you're Al Gore -- I shouldn't say I'm sure. My guess is, if you're Al Gore, this is like the ultimate anxiety dream, where every time you turn around another door shuts in your face.
And by my calculation, there's about one door left and that's it.
WATERS: All right, Jeff Greenfield, Bill Schneider, we'll hear a whole lot more about this throughout the evening and for the next few days. We understand the Democrats, the attorneys for Al Gore have already filed a...
CHEN: Let's listen to Joe Klock. He is the attorney for the secretary of state of Florida.
JOE KLOCK, COUNSEL FOR FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: The canvassing committees -- the canvassing commission's certification stated on the face of it that it had one certification that was dependent upon the Supreme Court's decision, but in the face of it, it also contained what it would have done had the Supreme Court's stay not been in effect. So I don't believe the commission has to do anything further if it doesn't want to.
QUESTION: Does the decision say that the secretary did exactly what she should have done (OFF-MIKE)?
KLOCK: The secretary has been completely vindicated, in my view, at this point. Absolutely. The judge found against them in every particular and basically has upheld everything that the secretary did.
QUESTION: So do the two rulings today combined, U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Sauls' ruling, does this take the vote total up to 930 now, in the secretary's view?
KLOCK: The secretary has not opined on that. I think if you look at the face of the commission (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it depends on whether or not the Supreme Court would take the position its stay is still in effect.
But what difference does it make? The contest has been denied. A trial judge has found as a matter of fact, after hearing the evidence and the testimony, that there's no basis for a contest challenge. So it doesn't make any difference whether he won by five votes or 2,000.
QUESTION: What do you think about the prospects on appeal?
KLOCK: For whom?
QUESTION: For the plaintiffs.
KLOCK: Not good. I mean, the trial judge considered the testimony of the witnesses, the credibility of the witnesses, and he found against them.
QUESTION: What possible grounds would there be for appeal at this point?
KLOCK: I think you'd have to argue -- they'd have to argue a matter of law. It's sort of the law of the dimples, that there's some sort -- the law somehow requires that every dimple be counted. Dimples for Gore.
QUESTION: State your name, sir?
KLOCK: Klock, Joe Klock.
Anything else? Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: This won't be the final word. How quickly will it move to the Supreme Court? (OFF-MIKE)...
KLOCK: I'm sure that they have papers ready to file right now, and the Supreme Court has definitely indicated a willingness to work 24 hours a day almost to deal with all the matters that have come before it. It has a number of other appeals up there now. I'm sure that they'll get to it as soon as they can.
QUESTION: Mr. Klock, legally, what do you think convinced the judge? Specifically, what arguments do you think worked in the trial?
KLOCK: This is a very thoughtful judge. He paid a lot of attention to the law. I think that while all of the lawyers -- we may take great satisfaction out of our courtroom performances, the fact of the matter is the judge was listening to the testimony very carefully. He paid a lot of attention to the law. And I think that the result that he came up with was mandated by the law and by the testimony he heard.
QUESTION: Mr. Klock, did you say it doesn't matter whether he won by five votes or 2,000 votes?
KLOCK: No. I said it doesn't make any difference what the candidate won by, whether he won by five or by 5,000. As you know, I'm a Democrat, so therefore it wouldn't be a win as far as I would be concerned as a Democrat. The secretary of state does not have a horse in this race, as secretary.
QUESTION: Did you feel gratified that the judge accepted, and I believe it was your argument, that in a contest period, if it is a statewide contest, that if you are going to do a court-ordered recount, it has to be a statewide recount?
KLOCK: I don't take any credit for anything the judge did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was my argument.
KLOCK: It's his argument. He can take credit for it. Great argument.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Klock.
KLOCK: OK, thank you.
CHEN: Joseph Klock, the attorney for the Florida secretary of state, that would be Katherine Harris, appearing before reporters there in Tallahassee, on the outcome of the decision by Judge Sanders Sauls in the circuit court of Leon County, essentially giving the Bush team everything that it was looking for in a decision. But Mr. Klock speaking on behalf of the secretary of state -- well, we've got another interruption here. We thought we were going to move on, but here's David Boies on behalf of the Gore team.
DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We would be pleased to answer some questions if you have any.
QUESTION: What do you think the implications of this ruling does to the democratic right to vote and to that right for the vote to be counted?
BOIES: We've said from the beginning that we think it's very important for the votes that were cast actually to be counted. And what we are going to do, we have filed this afternoon an appeal to the district court of appeals with a request that it be certified as a matter of great public importance and urgency to the Florida Supreme Court.
We hope that the Florida Supreme Court will promptly entertain this appeal, so that we can resolve, once and for all, what the right is of citizens to have their votes counted.
QUESTION: In this case, it seems that it really got to the bottom line, who won this election, was it valid? He seemed to be pretty crystal clear on the certification of whether to say -- and he also seemed to have a warning that the electors of Florida could be in jeopardy, sort of warned all sides to be careful of that. What is your reaction specifically to what you heard the judge say from the bench? And did you take from him any sense of "this needs to be ended"?
BOIES: Well, I think the issue in terms of Florida's electors has always been the desire expressed by the Florida Supreme Court that this be resolved by December 12. And one of the reasons that we had urged the court a week ago to begin the manual count, to review the ballots that were actually the evidence here, was in order to push that along, so that Florida's electors would not be in jeopardy.
While we appreciate the fact that the court has now ruled, and now we have an opportunity to take this issue directly up to the Florida Supreme Court, we think that one of the things that is going to be very important is that that review of the evidence take place. Because remember, our position from the beginning has been that, consistent with Florida law, the ballots were the best evidence.
And unfortunately, this ruling comes without the judge having looked at a single ballot. Even though those ballots were admitted into evidence, none of those ballots have been reviewed.
QUESTION: But, Mr. Boies, the judge also said that you didn't make the case. I mean, you didn't present enough evidence to show that the ballots should be counted. Do you regret not presenting more witnesses?
BOIES: The point of the evidence is that, when you introduce evidence, that is part of the record to be reviewed and taken into account by the court. Now, what the court did was to decide that it was not even going to look at those ballots. In other words, the court decided that although those ballots were in evidence, the court was not even going to look at those ballots until it had reached certain other legal conclusions.
BOIES: We think that that was error. Whether or not that is error, the Florida Supreme Court will decide. But the point that we will make, or one of the points that we will make on appeal, is that under the law of Florida in an election contest, you can't resolve that contest without actually looking at the ballots.
QUESTION: If you had chosen different witnesses -- I mean, the judge speaking about the credibility of the statistics. Do you regret having chosen Dr. Hengartner to prove that statistical...
BOIES: No. I think the witnesses were quite persuasive. And, indeed, one of the things that we had was from their own witness, Mr. Ahmann, the testimony that you had to do a manual review of the ballots.
Even if you didn't take into account Florida law that requires the judge to look at this evidence, you had the defendants' own witness come forward and say -- and remember, this is the man who sold those machines to Miami-Dade County and told Miami-Dade County 15 years ago that they were inadequate and ought to be changed -- he testified that you had to have a manual recount in these kind of close elections.
So we think the witnesses were the right witnesses; we think the record is the right record.
BOIES: I think that you get closer and closer to December 12 every day that goes by. I think that is a matter of the calendar.
However, I think there is still time for those ballots to be counted. Remember, Palm Beach and Broward, even operating with three people looking at the ballots, instead of a single judicial officer looking at the ballots, were doing 200 or 300 ballots per hour. So this is something that can be done expeditiously, once a court rules that it has to be done. And that's one of the critical issues that is going to be presented to the Florida court.
QUESTION: The court seem to set a much higher threshold than you did in your arguments for requiring, in a contest period, counting of ballots. You said, I believe, that there need to be only a decent probability that could affect the 11th outcome of the election. He said that there needs to be almost a near certainty and that you didn't prove that. Do you agree with his threshold?
BOIES: Well, we don't. And while I don't want to make the entire legal argument right now, one of the things that he said, as you just said, was that you had to have a near certainty, a reasonable possibility, a likelihood. That's not what the statute says.
Remember, the statute says you need only have a sufficient number of votes to change or place in doubt the result of election, and I don't think anybody can say that the result of the election has not been placed in doubt by the evidence that is there.
And that's particularly true when you take into account that he had not even looked at any of the ballots. That is, we put the ballots in evidence, the ballots that Florida courts have repeatedly said over the years were the best evidence of the voters' intent. And this is the first case, that I'm aware of, that in a ballot contest a court has refused to look at any of the ballots that are the subject of that contest.
BOIES: And so we think that the evidence is there in the record and we appreciate the court maintaining that evidence. Remember, the court said at the end that the ballots were going to be kept here and maintained until this matter was reviewed. QUESTION: Coupled with the Supreme Court decision today, how devastating is this? I mean, are you afraid that support among congressional Democrats is going to start sliding?
BOIES: I'm not an expert on what the congressional Democrats are going to do or not do. I think that, as a matter of law, what has happened today is that we have moved one step closer to having this finally resolved.
The Florida Supreme Court has a history of acting expeditiously in important matters, whether it's this matter or other important matters that it has considered. We all know that this is going to be a matter that's going to be decided in a few days. We've always known that this was a matter that was going to be decided ultimately by the Florida Supreme Court.
QUESTION: Didn't this court decision and the Supreme Court decision basically say that these canvassing boards have a lot of discretion? Isn't that what you're arguing against?
BOIES: Certainly, the decision today said the canvassing boards have a lot of discretion.
However, the statute, the contest statute, does not provide for any discretion for the canvassing boards. The canvassing boards have discretion as to whether or not to start a manual recount. In this case, all three boards exercised that discretion to start the manual recount. The courts have ruled that once that starts, they don't have any more discretion. That is with respect to the certification process.
We're now in the contest process. We're now in where the Florida Supreme Court drew a line that said, you have the certification process and then you have the contest process. There has never been a statute that provided for discretion, that used those words in words or in substance to the canvassing boards for the contest period, which is judicial period.
And that is something that the courts have ruled: You've got to look at the ballots. That's, we will contend, what was not done here and what should have been done here.
QUESTION: ... with these setbacks, will you get more involved in the Seminole and Martin County suits?
BOIES: I think the Seminole and Martin County suits are progressing. I saw on television that there was actually hearings in those cases. I think those are well along. We're going to be focusing on this case; this is the case we want to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.
QUESTION: Do you have any preference as to who actually does the counting of those ballots?
BOIES: I'm sorry. I can only hear one at a time.
BOIES: Sure. The court ruled, and one of the rulings we will be appealing, is that you have to have a recount statewide.
Now, first of all, this is not an action for a recount; this is an action to contest the election. And I am not aware of any Florida case that has ever held that, in election contest, you have to look at all of the ballots. One of the things that we pointed out to the court yesterday was in the Beckstrom case two years ago, the Florida Supreme Court in an election contest case, reviewed only a small number of the ballots that were at issue.
In election contest cases, the courts only review the ballots that are contested. I am not aware of any Florida Supreme Court case, or really any trial court case in Florida prior to today, that has ever ruled that you have to look at all of the ballots in order to have an election contest.
QUESTION: So why do you think -- in essence, for all you've said, you lost. Why do you think you lost?
BOIES: Well, I'm never going to speculate as to why the judge makes a ruling that the judge makes. My job, as a lawyer, is to present my arguments.
BOIES: His job, as a judge, is to make decisions. He doesn't make my arguments for him; I don't make his decisions for him. When we don't agree with a decision, we take it up on appeal, but we don't speculate as to why he made the decision.
BOIES: I'm sorry, what?
QUESTION: Should the vice president start considering conceding at this point?
BOIES: I think that one of the things we're going to do, is we're going to take this case before the Supreme Court, just like we always have said we would do. All sides have said this was going to be resolved in the Florida Supreme Court.
Most of you have reported that both sides said today that, if they lost they would appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. We said it, they said it. They won, we lost, we're appealing. This is going to be resolved by the Florida Supreme Court promptly. And what I think is that that will be the end of the matter.
I think whoever wins in the Florida Supreme Court will accept that.
We have certainly said, from the beginning, that we accept the rule of law, that when the Florida Supreme Court makes its decision on this matter, we will accept that. And what we are looking for is to have that decision made as promptly as possible.
STAFF: Two more questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Boies, did you say that you had filed your appeal already? And how quickly do you think that it could go, the briefings or hearings or rulings?
BOIES: We have filed our appeal in the district court of appeals. As most of you know by now, probably becoming expert in Florida election law and Florida appellate procedure, in a case like this, you file in the district court of appeals and then you ask the district court of appeals to certify it as an important and urgent question for the Florida Supreme Court to review directly.
BOIES: We have filed that appeal with the district court of appeals this afternoon. We will await their decision. If they pass it directly on to the Florida Supreme Court, we will file our brief in the Florida Supreme Court promptly.
BOIES: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Have you talked to Mr. Gore?
BOIES: I came from the courthouse down here.
QUESTION: Did you have somebody standing by then to file that appeal, since they did it so fast?
BOIES: We had papers ready to file, and we filed them.
QUESTION: So you had somebody standing by...
BOIES: No. No, we didn't have anybody standing by. We had people in the courtroom. But people left the courtroom and went and filed the appeal.
You'll see that the appellate paper is about two pages. It's not an elaborate document that had to be prepared.
QUESTION: How likely is the Supreme Court to combine your appeal with its consideration of the U.S. Supreme Court...
BOIES: I can't comment on that. The Supreme Court might very well decide that the best way to do this was to combine those two issues. Whether they consider those issues together or separately, though, we would expect them to consider both issues promptly.
CHEN: All right, David Boies for the Gore legal team speaking to reporters right after the hearing in Judge N. Sanders Sauls' courtroom.
Let's bring you up to date on events over the past hour. Judge Sauls turned down pretty much every element of the Gore case presented over this weekend for -- the Gore request for the hand counting of certain ballots, most of them from South Florida.
After the hearing, after the announcement from Judge Sauls in his courtroom, Joseph Klock, who is counsel to the secretary of state, Katherine Harris, of Florida, said that she had been completely vindicated in the judge's decision, and that the judge had upheld everything that the secretary did.
And then David Boies, as you just saw there, for the Gore legal team came forward before the reporters very quickly, saying that his team had already filed the appeal. There's a certain pattern of events that occurs in the Florida legal system. It would go to the district court of appeals to ask for certification to the Florida Supreme Court. There are a number of things that David Boies said about that appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, notably he underlined that his team had always believed that this case would end in the Florida state Supreme Court. And he says that they're moving quickly to try to get there now.
CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren has been standing by through all this, and, Greta, we want to move quickly to the question of what Mr. Boies' contention is, on what grounds he's going for with this appeal. It seemed like a he got a pretty hard slap from the judge there.
VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, it was a very decisive opinion. What he must demonstrate to win in the Florida Supreme Court is that this judge abused his discretion when he found the facts as he did and applied the law. It is a huge standard to beat. He's going to have a very tough time in the Florida Supreme Court because even hypothetically, if the Florida Supreme Court thought the judge was wrong in some of his findings of facts in the applications of law, unless it's an abuse of discretion, unless it's wildly out of the line, then the Florida Supreme Court must uphold what the trial court judge did -- big hurdle for the people Gore people in the Florida Supreme Court.
CHEN: Greta, stand by. This is Ben Ginsberg for the Bush legal team.
BEN GINSBERG, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We think that the facts and the law triumphed here today, and we are very pleased with the outcome.
Let me say special thanks and great praise to our fine legal team who represented Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney through this. Irv Terrell from Baker & Botts in Houston; George Terwilliger from White & Case; Phil Beck from Bartlit and Beck; Fred Bartlit from Bartlit and Beck; and, of course, Barry Richard, who played the lead role from Greenberg Traurig and did such a fantastic job.
With that, we'd be happy to answer a few questions.
QUESTION: The appeal that's coming, do you think -- obviously are you asking them to concede or are you ready for the appeal? GINSBURG: I think...
GINSBURG: I think the appeal is anticipated, and we would hope that the interests of the country at large would be paramount in everyone's mind at this point.
QUESTION: The Florida Supreme Court already turned down an emergency petition to start the recount in Dade County. Is that a tip as to whether they would now be likely to overturn this decision?
GINSBURG: I think you can't judge things like that, and we'd make no predictions.
QUESTION: Mr. Boies said that he'll base the main part of his appeal on the fact that the judge did not look at the ballots to determine the original evidence and that was an error on the judge. What are your thoughts about the basis of that appeal?
BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Well, I imagine, if you were watching, you heard it in great detail in my closing argument last night. Obviously, I vigorously disagree with Mr. Boies, and I think that Judge Sauls hit every point. He even got one that I didn't think of.
QUESTION: Which one was that?
RICHARD: I'm not going to tell you which one it is.
QUESTION: Mr. Richard, do you think the U.S. Supreme Court helped you, at least psychologically, today?
RICHARD: It looks to me like Judge Sauls has been working on that opinion for a while, so I would suspect that it probably wasn't the major factor in his decision. His decision was based largely on his findings of fact. Obviously, he made some legal conclusions as well, but it was substantially based upon his findings.
QUESTION: Now that this case is over with, as far as this judge goes, are you going to devote more resources in Seminole and Martin County cases?
RICHARD: Well, we'll devote whatever resources the cases require, as we've done from the beginning.
RICHARD: Well, I think that the witnesses that they put on failed to provide the elements necessary for them to win the case, which is weak enough, from our standpoint.
QUESTION: And what about your witnesses? Your witnesses caused some problems for you. Did you regret putting them on, in the little time you had?
RICHARD: There is no such thing in a trial as putting on a witness that the other side can't find something to cross-exam on.
I know that one of our witnesses received some considerable media attention, because of the issue regarding the patent application. In fact, it was not a serious issue, either from an evidentiary standpoint or its legal relevance to the case, so I don't think we regret any witness that we put on. We thought all of them did exactly what we called them to do. And, obviously, Judge Sauls was satisfied.
QUESTION: Did you hope for a stronger ruling in this? Was this as strong of a ruling as you could have gotten?
RICHARD: I couldn't think of a stronger way to write it.
QUESTION: What is the vote result in Florida today?
RICHARD: I'll have to turn that over to somebody else.
GINSBERG: The certified result from the secretary of state is, I believe, 537 votes. I think, if you look at the certificate itself, you will see that they planned for the contingency that we find ourselves in today. So in either event, whichever number it is, the fact is that Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney have won Florida.
QUESTION: There was concern about the partisanship the last time the Florida Supreme Court made a decision. Are you concerned again that you going before seven Democrats?
GINSBERG: We're sure that the justices of the Florida Supreme Court will look at the facts and the law, as presented by Judge Sauls here today, and rule accordingly.
GINSBERG: You had a question there?
GINSBERG: We are but humble lawyers, and I'm sure we wouldn't want to guess about the political ramifications of that.
GINSBERG: Again, it's time for everyone to do what's in the best interests of the country. I know Mr. Boies said that -- told all of you he had filed the appeals. We'll deal with them accordingly. But this was an awfully strong, well-reasoned ruling from the trial court judge.
QUESTION: Mr. Ginsberg, what do you mean by the last statement, "It's time for everyone to do what's in the best interests of the country"?
GINSBERG: I think that the -- I think we'll leave the statement stand as what it is. Thanks.
QUESTION: Mr. Ginsberg, there's 10,000-some-odd ballots in Dade County where they may or may not have cast a ballot for president. What do you say to them now that their votes aren't going to be counted?
GINSBERG: Same thing that I believe we've said all along and that the judge confirmed today: Those ballots have been counted not once on election night but twice in the recount. And how many did you say there were?
QUESTION: Ten thousand seven hundred fifty-eight.
GINSBERG: Ten thousand seven hundred fifty-eight. If you know the exact number, doesn't that mean they've been counted?
Thanks very much.
CHEN: All right. Ben Ginsberg and Barry Richard, both attorneys for the Bush side of this. We'll talk a little bit more about what they said before the reporters in a few minutes. First, though, we want to go back to Tallahassee.
CNN's Gary Tuchman is standing by with David Boies, attorney for the Gore legal team -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Also, Joie, one thing you want to keep in mind, there are still 1.1 million ballots in this building behind me. The judge ordered those ballots from palm Beach County and Miami-Dade County to come here in case they were to be counted or used as exhibits. So far they haven't been counted. they haven't been counted, and one of the men who wants them to be counted eventually and is going the Florida State Supreme Court is David Boies, the attorney for Vice President Al Gore, the lead attorney.
First of all, you must be very disappointed by this.
BOIES: Well obviously we're disappointed that the judge ruled the way he did. On the other hand, I think that we're also grateful that he ruled as promptly as he did. What both sides have said is that this is a decision that will ultimately be made by the Florida state Supreme Court.
This allows us to get the appeal to the Florida Supreme Court and to get it to the Florida Supreme Court on a full record.
TUCHMAN: Now some of your people are privately telling us earlier today, and I thought this was very unusual, that they were not very confident that you would get a good ruling today. Why were they telling us this?
BOIES: I don't know, and I don't know who's telling you that. What I was telling you was that I wasn't going to predict what the judge did.
TUCHMAN: Are you more confident, though, that you'll get better news from the Florida Supreme Court?
BOIES: Again, I'm not going to predict what the Florida Supreme Court is going to do. We said from the beginning that we believe in the rule of law and that we will accept what the Florida Supreme Court rules but that we want to have that ruling, that we want to have a final resolution of whether or not under Florida law voters in Florida who cast their ballots have a right to have those ballots counted.
TUCHMAN: David, you desperately wanted the judge to count these votes and to start counting them before this trial started. You talked to him about it, you moved to have him do it, but you didn't really push him really hard to do it. Do you think maybe that would have been a technique you should have used?
BOIES: Well, I'm not sure how much harder we could have pushed him. We asked him three times to do it, and each time he said, why are you asking me again, I've already told you I'm not going to do it.
TUCHMAN: Do you think if you'd even pushed harder, though, it would have backfired? I mean, frankly you couldn't have done any worse than you did today.
BOIES: Well, I think one of the things that could have happened is we could have delayed getting this resolution. Because while you never like to lose, in this particular case when you're going against the clock you want to have a decision win or lose as promptly as possible. Because until you get that decision, you can't get a final resolution.
TUCHMAN: Some people are talking about the last door that's open is the Florida Supreme Court. But there is another door open for Vice President Al Gore. There a case that goes to trial this Wednesday, a Seminole County case. Republican operatives are accused of going into an election office, filing out missing information on applications for absentee ballots. But the Gore team is not a party to that...
BOIES: That's right.
TUCHMAN: ... and that could be the last chance Al Gore has to the president of the United States. Will you become a party to that?
BOIES: No, as you know, that case is going to trial on Wednesday. And just as our contest has to get finished quickly, that contest has to be finished quickly if it's going to count. And if we were to try to intervene at this stage, that would certainly be used as an excuse to delay that trial. That trial's going to go on its own path.
TUCHMAN: Is Vice President Gore against this on principle, though, or just because if you intervene it would delay it?
BOIES: I really can't speak to that. The main point that I can say is that we've concentrated on our contest. That contest has been a separate track, and certainly we don't want to do anything that would interfere with that contest getting to trial.
TUCHMAN: Mr. Boies, you've filed the papers, by the way?
CHEN: Mr. Boies this is Joie Chen, two things...
BOIES: We've filed the papers.
CHEN: Excuse me, gentlemen...
TUCHMAN: Joie, you're going to have to ask me the question because he doesn't have his ear...
CHEN: He can't hear you, OK.
TUCHMAN: So ask me the question and I will pass it onto you.
BOIES: All right, Gary, I just want to ask this. Mr. Boies had said earlier that he understood this would all -- the team had always understood that this is over in a few days and it would all end in the Florida state Supreme Court. Is he prepared now to say that whatever the decision of the Florida Supreme Court is on this particular matter, disregarding anything else happening in Seminole County or anywhere else, that that will be the end of it?
TUCHMAN: David Boies, you have said that you're prepared to have this all end in a few days and the Florida Supreme Court will be the arbiter, the last word. No matter what happened in Seminole County -- there's another case in Martin County that's similar to Seminole County, but are you prepared to say this will be all over if the Florida Supreme Court rules against you?
BOIES: Well, when the Florida Supreme Court resolves the contest issues that are outstanding. I don't think that anybody wants to preempt what Judge Clark is doing or what the Florida Supreme Court does.
But the Florida Supreme Court is going to resolve all of these issues within the next week.
TUCHMAN: Including Seminole County?
BOIES: I think -- including Seminole County. Because just like our contest has to be finished by December 12th, all the contests have to be finished by December 12th. So until those contests are completed, you can't have the final certification. The Florida Supreme Court has been very clear about one point, and that is, this is all going to be done by December 12th.
TUCHMAN: David Boies, thank you. Joie...
BOIES: Thank you, Gary. TUCHMAN: Nice talking to you. I want to tell you, Joie, I was in the courtroom when the decision came down, and I was staring at the attorneys' faces on both sides. And these guys are pros and they've been doing this for a long time and they generally don't try to show any reaction. And if you looked at them casually, you wouldn't have seen any reaction. But if you looked at them subtly, you saw that the Bush side got very relaxed when they heard the good news. The Gore side tensed up when they got the news.
So even these gentlemen -- that's one thing to keep in mind for the general public and members of the news media. We haven't seen a presidential contest before, but either have these very polished and very experienced attorneys. It was the first time for all of us.
Joie, back to you.
CHEN: Gary Tuchman in Tallahassee, Florida.
We want to check in now with CNN political analyst, senior analyst, Bill Schneider joining us from Washington now.
You've heard what David Boies has said. He has talked quite a bit about understanding that this would end with the Florida Supreme Court. Are -- is this some sort of indication that, yes, there is an acknowledgement there needs to be some sort of political exit strategy and the time is coming very quickly here from the Gore team?
SCHNEIDER: Well, I think it's an acknowledgment that it really can't go any further. I mean, there's been a circuit court decision, the Florida Supreme Court. There's really -- not only is the calendar running out, but the avenues of appeal are running out.
You know, there's an old saying, Joie, among law students. If you've got the facts, argue the facts. If you've got the law, argue the law. If you don't have either, pound the table.
Now what is happening here is the Gore campaign very clearly is arguing the facts. We just heard David Boies say, the ballots are the best evidence. Look at the ballots. They didn't look at the ballots. They're all there, a million of them, 1.1 million all looked up. They ought to look at the ballots. Those are the facts, and they will prove that Al Gore won. And I can tell you, Gore believes that president Clinton believes that, most Democrats believe that. Just look at the evidence.
But the Bush campaign says the law is on our side, and so far the law has prevailed over the facts in this case. Because we don't know what the facts are.
CHEN: All right, we need to back to Gary Tuchman now. He's back in Tallahassee and he has another guest with him -- Gary.
TUCHMAN: Well, Joie, I was just talking to you about the relaxed faces in the courtroom when the ruling came down. And one of those relaxed faces was the man standing next to me, Ben Ginsberg. He's an attorney for George W. Bush. Good day for your team, right?
GINSBERG: It was a good day for us. We're very gratified by the rulings of the Florida Supreme Court and the circuit court here in Leon County.
TUCHMAN: OK, but it was a good day for your team, but it ain't over yet, right?
GINSBERG: Well, I think that's not up to us at this point.
TUCHMAN: Nut now the Florida Supreme Court, you've already lost a key ruling with them. How concerned are you about this?
GINSBERG: Well, I think anytime there is an appeal going up, we'll of course answer it. It's interesting to note that the Gore campaign asked the Florida Supreme Court to take the action that resulted in today's Supreme Court ruling. Then the Gore campaign also asked the Florida Supreme Court on Thanksgiving Day to enjoin the county of Miami-Dade, the Florida Supreme Court felt that was too far of a reach. And then the Gore campaign also asked that the Palm Beach butterfly ballot be thrown out, and that was too big a reach for the Florida Supreme Court.
TUCHMAN: Ben, let me ask you, do you think it's over?
GINSBERG: Well, that's not up to us, but I do hope that the interests of the country will prevail over any other considerations at this point.
TUCHMAN: Well there are many people in the country, because Al Gore did win the popular vote, who think it shouldn't be over yet. And that's why I'm asking you, do you personally, does your team, think this is over?
GINSBERG: Well, that's just not up for us to decide.
TUCHMAN: OK, now the Seminole County case, we were just talking about it with David Boies. This a case where a voter in Seminole County is accusing Republican operatives of illegally filling out absentee ballot applications. It appears the Republicans are very worried about this. They tried to get the judge to disqualify herself. I want to ask you point blank: How concerned are you about this case?
GINSBERG: Look, any time the Gore team tries to disenfranchise 15,000 voters in Seminole County, you have to be concerned on behalf of those voters. But make no mistake about it, this is an attempt to disenfranchise 15,000 people who, under any -- under the unconverted facts, did nothing wrong. There was a problem here. There was a problem with an election administrator, not the voters. And it is unfortunate that the Gore campaign is trying to disenfranchise those voters.
At the same time, they make the pious plea over counting votes again that have already been counted in the three South Florida counties.
TUCHMAN: Final question I want to ask you, when you went into court today, were you confident you would win this, or did you have a twinge of worry?
GINSBERG: Well, I think that we were confident that we had presented a strong case on the facts and the law, and the heavy burden that the Gore campaign needed to meet had not been met.
TUCHMAN: Ben Ginsberg, thank you for talking with us.
GINSBERG: Gary, thank you very much.
TUCHMAN: We appreciate it.
Twenty-three hours of testimony Saturday and Sunday. It was grueling, but the toughest part was waiting for the judge to come in and issue his ruling for these attorneys.
Joie, back to you.
CHEN: All right, CNN's Gary Tuchman in Tallahassee, Florida, talking with the lawyers there.
I want to advise our viewers that the developments in this story keep coming along. At 6:15 Eastern time, just about 45 minutes -- no, about 35 minutes from now, Craig Waters, who's the spokesperson for the Florida Supreme Court is supposed to step out and speak with reporters there. We'll find out what he has to say. Stay tuned to that on CNN coming up about 35 minutes from now.
Now we want to check in with CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield watching all of the events of this day, both from the Supreme Court, the nation's high court, as well as Leon County and the circuit court there and Judge Saul's decision.
Jeff, what do you make of all of this? Time running out for the Gore team?
GREENFIELD: I think that's probably the understatement of the century, assuming the century started this year.
Look, we're now at a point where I think that the strongest legal case, if you're a Gore supporter, that you've got is the case that violates everything they've been saying over the last three and a half weeks, namely that Seminole County case where there are 15,000 absentee ballots that the judge could, if she decides that there was a sufficient violation of election law, throw them out. And you can see already just from what Mr. Ginsburg said and what every other Bush spokesperson has said and will say, that the Gore campaign has been saying that you've got to count all the votes, you've got to count all the votes. And then their last thread of hope, even though they're not parties to the case, would be if the judge said, throw out these.
And, look, you understand politically that, I think, it would be a much weaker case for Gore from the beginning, not constitutionally but politically, had he not been running a few hundred thousand votes ahead in the national popular vote. But the fact is, we don't elect presidents this way. It has all come down to a single state where the margin of victory, 537 or 900, is on the order of about one-one hundredth of 1 percent of the statewide vote. And as I said before this decision, if you're the Gore campaign, you have got to be in a kind of torture of the damned realizing how close you came, how close the vote was in Florida, but that every time you think you have a way out, the door's shut in your face.
Just look at one example. Their biggest victory came in the Florida Supreme Court a couple weeks ago -- it seems like about a year ago. And yet every time they try to leverage that Supreme Court victory to say to Miami-Dade, do the manual recount, say to Palm Beach board count the dimpled ballots, they lost at that level and the Florida Supreme Court didn't give them relief. And they are now just about out of any move.
When you ask, is it almost over, I think Bill Schneider made the obvious point: If the Supreme Court says no, what are they going to do? Are they going to persuade the Florida state legislature, overwhelmingly Republican, to appoint a Democratic slate of electors? Are they going to convince a Republican House of Representatives in January for some reason to reject the count from Florida? No, I think the Supreme Court and that Seminole County judge, which will ultimately go to the Supreme Court, is it for the Gore campaign.
CHEN: This may be an implication of something sinister afoot, so I'm a little bit reluctant to do it, but I've got to ask you this: Mr. Boies in his last statement is making what Schneider called something of a banging-the-table argument, saying, hey, look, those ballots are still locked up in there. If you look at those ballots, that's still the best evidence in the case. What happens if the state Supreme Court says, no, forget it, just forget this whole business and it really is over from a pragmatic sense. Is the long-term strategy here to sort of underhandedly suggest that forever afterwards the public will be left with the feeling that perhaps we should have gotten another look at that million stack of ballots locked up in Leon County, leaving the Bush administration, if that's what it is, sort of this feeling that we just couldn't establish that legitimacy with a people who are still worried about those million votes?
GREENFIELD: Well you raise an interesting point. Whether sinister is the right word, I'm not sure. But it's clear that Democrats have been saying -- Mr. Carville said it, I think, on "THE CAPITAL GANG" just the other night. You know, he said, sooner or later somebody's going to come in and count these ballots under the Florida sunshine law, the Freedom of Information Act, somebody, a Democratic operative, an academic, a graduate student is going to look at all those ballots. And, my, my, wouldn't it be something if in March or April or May we learn that then-President George W. Bush didn't win after all.
And so I do think that while that is obviously nothing that's going to change how the Florida Supreme Court makes its decision, I think that raise a very good point that I think Democrats, some Democrats, are suggesting that we're going to find out in a few months, if people look at those ballots, that maybe the guy in the White House shouldn't have been in the White House.
And, you know, look, Joie, this campaign has already taken on more different twists and turns than I think the most -- the most jaded of us, the most bizarre minded of us would ever have thought possible. So why not in April or May somebody comes along with that kind of claim. I don't know what the political implication of it was, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if somebody tried to look at those ballots, you know, long after the inauguration.
CHEN: And that is the last word on this 45 minutes of looking at the latest developments.
Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst in New York, as well as Bill Schneider, Greta Van Susteren, Gary Tuchman down in Tallahassee, we appreciate all of you and the insights you've been able to provide.
Stay tuned to CNN. Our coverage is continuing of a very still developing story.
Six fifteen Eastern time, less than half an hour from now, Craig Waters for the Florida Supreme Court will be coming out to talk before the cameras. We're going to take that live for you as well, and CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS" is coming up after a break with a lot more to talk about.
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