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Baker Says Bush is 'Pleased' By High Court's Suspension of Recount

Aired December 9, 2000 - 3:48 p.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: It has been, again, an amazing day in Florida. Just down the street here at the Leon County Public Library, just about an hour ago where the hand counting continued of the undervote. Again, it was ceased as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court did announce 60 minutes ago that the hand count must stop, and oral arguments now on the docket for the U.S. Supreme Court and its nine justices Monday morning at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

Also getting word through Bob Franken that there will be a release of a tape recording to the public similar to the last time when oral arguments were conducted there.

You may also remember the lead attorneys that were arguing for Al Gore was Laurence Tribe and for the Bush campaign it was Ted Olson. Unclear right now if these same attorneys will go up before the nine justices. Again, this is something that will certainly be worked out within the next 48 hours.

Also here from Tallahassee right now, still waiting for James Baker, the chief spokesperson for George Bush in Tallahassee, to come to the microphone and explain his latest position. He has been in Florida dating back to the 9th of November.

Also waiting for David Boies, the lead attorney for Al Gore. He says he will talk as well at about 4:00 local time. Again, that is less than 15 minutes from now.

And all these moving parts continue to shuffle their way around like shifting pieces of sand on a beach. Again, there are a number of counties that were forced to cease their count.

And as I talk, here is James Baker right now inside the Senate building in Tallahassee.

JAMES BAKER, BUSH CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I have just spoken to Governor Bush, and of course we are pleased by the United States Supreme Court's decision this afternoon to stay the mandate of the Florida Supreme Court, and to grant our petition for a writ of certiorari.

This means that the partial manual recount system created yesterday by the Florida Supreme Court will not now proceed. As the three dissenting justices of the Florida Supreme Court emphasized, their four colleagues risked violating federal law and the United States Constitution by developing an alternative and flawed recount system.

The United States Supreme Court's action confirmed the foresight, I think, of Florida Chief Justice Wells, who stated that the decision of some of his colleagues, quote, "cannot withstand the scrutiny which will immediately follow under the United States Constitution," close quote.

Therefore, we're very pleased that we will have the opportunity to argue the merits of our case before the United States Supreme Court on Monday.

I'll take a few questions.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, does this effectively end it, in your mind?

BAKER: Of course not. They haven't ruled on the merits. This is a stay. But it is a stay, and they have granted a writ of certiorari; they have asked for briefs, and they will hear oral argument on Monday morning.

QUESTION: But in the dissent to the stay, several justices seemed to make clear that in their mind, this was tantamount to a ruling. Do you agree with that?

BAKER: I don't really want to put an interpretation upon the brief statement granting the stay or the dissent from the granting of the stay. I think that's something that -- we will make our case on Monday before the full court, which is, I think, is the appropriate thing to do.

Just one last question.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what it's been like for Governor Bush these past 24 or 48 hours?

BAKER: It's not been just these past 24 or 48 hours, David. It's been ever since we began this process, this odyssey, on November 8.

It changes from day to day. It's one day you're up, one day you're down. It's taken a lot of twists and turns. But it's very, very gratifying to us -- I know to Governor Bush, to all of us -- that the United States Supreme Court has now, for the second time, indicated a willingness and an interest in hearing this very, very important case and this very, very important federal issue.

There's nothing that would have a more significant national nexus than the election of our national leadership.

QUESTION: Early reports, actually, out of some of the canvassing boards have Governor Bush doing much better than people expected. I mean, isn't maybe a...

BAKER: The issue is not whether we were doing better than expected in the earlier counting. In my view, the issue is still what it was several weeks ago when we met here in this very room, and we talked about the requirements of federal law that say that fairness requires that the rules be played under -- that the game be played, I'm sorry, under the rules that existed on the date of the election. And it is simply not fair nor is it appropriate under federal law nor is it constitutional for those rules to be changed after the game has been played.

QUESTION: Secretary Baker, thank you very much. Can you give us a little bit of a behind-the-scenes feel of what it's going to be like between now -- you have a very short time until tomorrow, when you have to file your briefs. What's it like for your legal team, which I know must already be quite exhausted?

BAKER: Our legal team has done an extraordinarily good job with many, many tight deadlines. It would not be accurate for me to say that they are not -- that they have not had a lot of activity. And, yes, they are -- some of them are tired. That's a fair statement.

I'm sure there's some tired lawyers on the other side, because we have had to respond to many, many deadlines on short notice. We now have some more lawyers coming in, just as the other side does.

But I'll say the same thing I said last night. I really think it's not -- I really think it's sad that we seem to be deciding a national election for president of the United States in lawsuits and in courthouses, after the election outcome has been certified.

This is the first time, I think, in modern history that that has happened.

But our folks are ready to go. We have a fine, we think, petition for a writ of certiorari before the court today. Most of the arguments that we will be making in our briefs are in that petition for certiorari, which we -- an application for stay, which was worked on throughout the night last night.

So we'll be ready on Monday morning. And we're extremely gratified that the United States Supreme Court has once again recognized, or seen, what we think are some very serious deficiencies in the way the process has been conducted down here.

It's just simply not fair to change the rules after the game has been played.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: ... your most recent conversation with Governor Bush.

HEMMER: All right, James Baker, latest comments saying he's pleased they can argue the merits of the case in front of the Supreme Court. Again, a 5-4 ruling just about an hour and 10 minutes ago from the U.S. Supreme Court to stop all continued hand counts of that so- called undervotes in the state of Florida.

Again, he referred to his comments last night, saying it was a sad day for America, a sad day when it is, quote, "not fair to change the rules of the game." James Baker from a short time ago.

Quickly to David Cardwell right here.

And to our American citizens watching this and everybody around the world on CNN International, we're going to hear a lot about what's called Article II of the U.S. Constitution. What is it, what does it say and how is it relevant?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Article II of the Constitution is the article that deals with the office of the president.

Section 1 of that article details how the president is elected through the Electoral College, and it says that in selecting the electors, the ones who will constitute the Electoral College and cast the actual votes for president, it says those electors are chosen in the manner prescribed by the state legislature.

And that's really where you're going to hear a lot of the debate. Because the Bush campaign is going to say that the Florida Supreme Court is now enacting the process, the manner of selecting electors, not the legislature. And of course the Gore campaign is going to say the legislature passed the statute allowing for an election contest. We're merely following what the legislature has prescribed.

HEMMER: Well can one assume right now that's going to be the heat of the discussions on Monday or not?

CARDWELL: It will be that and also an interpretation of a provision in the United States code, which is the statutes, the laws enacted by Congress. You'll hear references to 3USC section 5 and 3USC section 15. Section 5 is the one that deals with the selection of the electors and that if they've been selected by the sixth day before they vote, i.e., December 12th, then they are considered conclusive and cannot be challenged when it's read to Congress on January 6.

HEMMER: I'm going to an encyclopedia to figure it out. David Cardwell, thanks again.

It is 4:00 local time here in Florida, and I will tell you right now in the past 24 hours it has been another amazing day here in the state of Florida. We will wait now until Monday morning at the U.S. high court in Washington.



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