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Election 2000: Legal Rulings Could Decide Presidency By Next Week

Aired December 5, 2000 - 2:07 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore sent his top lieutenant to Capitol Hill today with a message for the Democratic troops: stick with me. Will they?

CNN's Jonathan Karl is with the Gore campaign in Washington -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, that is the question. And, in fact, we did hear from Joe Lieberman on that and we are expected to hear from the vice president himself within the hour. The vice president is, right now, at his office in the old executive office building of the White House behind me. The vice president's been there for about two hours.

We're told this is one of the first days in a long time that he hasn't had any of those transition meetings at his White House office. I know he's had office time, his aides tell us. He's expected to come out and give his statement within the hour. We're told not to expect any major surprises, that the vice president will, essentially, reaffirm what Joe Lieberman said today.

Basically, that he is appealing this case to the Florida Supreme Court; that he believes he has a strong case, but no matter what that court rules -- if it rules against him he will honor that and this will be over. There is a clear end in sight.

Meanwhile, Joe Lieberman was up on the hill. His primary duty was to keep those Democrats in line -- to tell Democrats who are nervous that, hey, this is almost over; that we video a shot here, but even if we lose, it's over, so please stick with us. One of the most important things he told Democrats in his meetings on the hill, is that the Florida Supreme Court is, in his words, "the final arbiter" in this case.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Judge Sauls' decision was a disappointment, but with all respect we believe, and our lawyers certainly believe that that decision was wrong on the law. And we, therefore, go to the final arbiter, the Florida Supreme Court, the system of justice, the rule of law, for a judgment in this case which we think will be the final judgment and we hope and sincerely believe will be a favorable judgment for us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KARL: With the Florida Supreme Court now issuing a timeline in this case -- oral arguments to begin Thursday morning at 10:00 -- the Gore campaign -- Gore's top lieutenants can now go to Democrats and say, we have a firm timeline here. We only need you to say with us, to be onboard for another few days, maybe through the end of the week. And the Gore campaign also saying on one hand, look, if the vice president loses, he's going to back out. He's not going to pursue this further.

But they're also pointing out that, should they prevail, should they get a favorable ruling from the Florida Supreme Court, those ballots, those 14,000 disputed ballots we've talked so much about will finally get counted. And Gore aides saying that may be a tough battle for us; but if those ballots actually get counted, everything changes. They're trying to remind nervous Democrats to hang in there for at least a few more days -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, we'll see what Al Gore has to say in just a moment; thanks Jonathan Karl.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And George W. Bush dispatched his running mate to Capitol Hill as well today. Back in Austin, the governor is keeping busy with the possible transition.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve is keeping track of all of this in Austin -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the Bush campaign carrying on much as it has the last several weeks, preparing to assume office. As you mentioned, Dick Cheney, the vice presidential running mate and head of the Bush transition effort, trotted up to Capitol Hill today to meet with Republican leaders. This builds on a meeting over the weekend at the Bush ranch between Bush, Cheney, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. And the agenda was very much the same -- the transition and the legislative agenda.


DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The main subject of conversation that I wanted to hold, again, at the request of the governor today, is to talk to Republican members about the transition, about the process that's underway, about our ongoing efforts to get on with the business of putting together a cabinet, sub-cabinet and building an administration so that we'll be ready to exercise our responsibilities beginning on January 21.


MESERVE: Governor Bush in Austin also spent his day on transition matters. He got his first national security briefing this morning from the CIA; that lasted about 45 minutes. He'll be getting those on a regular basis as he gets up to speed on security matters. The person who was widely expected to be his national security advisory, Condoleeza Rice, was expected to meet with Bush this afternoon. There have been some travel snafus -- they will now be getting together tomorrow morning. Things look considerably brighter for the Bush campaign today than they did yesterday in light of those court decisions, but the optimism is quite restrained.

Governor Bush was asked, is it time for Al Gore to concede?


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that's a decision the vice president has to make. It's a difficult decision, of course, and I can understand what he may be going through. It's been a very interesting period of time for both of us. It's been one month from today that the people actually showed up and started to vote, and here we stand -- and here I stand still, you know, without a clear verdict, although I must say that I'm very encouraged by what's been taking place and hopefully the issue will be resolved quickly.


MESERVE: But politics isn't everything. Governor Bush also keeping up with the health of his father, who underwent a hip replacement surgery today at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. This afternoon he said he'd gotten a report from Minnesota -- it was a good report and his father is, quote, "doing really well."

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: OK, that's good news; Jeanne Meserve from Austin, Texas -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, there are legal goings-on today as well at a federal appeals court here in Atlanta. The 12 judges of the 11th Circuit Court heard arguments in a case brought by Bush supporters on the constitutionality of manual recounts.

Our national correspondent Bob Franken has been following this one; he joins us -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, these are the cases that the Supreme Court did not take on an expedited basis, saying that the circuit court of appeals should consider this in virtually the normal order.

It's not entirely normal, all 12 of the judges here decided to hear two cases, in actuality, Florida cases that had been turned down by district courts. The Republican arguing that, because some counties in Florida had recounts and others did not, that it was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution, the 14th Amendment. That has been the argument of the Republicans, who also told the judges that, in spite of the fact that events seem to be focused in Florida, this case is not moot, meaning unnecessary. The possibility would exist that it could influence the outcome in the state of Florida. Now, the Democrats argued this didn't even belong in the federal court system. there were no federal questions that the constitutional arguments that were raised by the Republicans, in fact, had little merit -- that there was no question about equal protection under the law. As a matter of fact, both sides made the argument that they've made many times before.


TERESA WYNN ROSEBOROUGH, GORE RECOUNT ATTORNEY: We maintain that every citizen has the right to have their vote counted if they cast a lawful ballot and if a human being can discern their intent from the face of the ballot. We think Florida law is to that same effect, and that's what we've asked the court to hold.

THEODORE OLSON, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We're trying to say that unconstitutional manual processes that involve subjective determinations by people as to what an indentation really means in terms of a vote is an unconstitutional deprivation of people's constitutional rights.


FRANKEN: Now, this may not have much effect on the Florida outcome, but it could have an effect on the precedents that are set for future elections -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Thank you, Bob Franken.



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