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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Latest Florida Recount Unconstitutional

Aired December 13, 2000 - 11:39 p.m. ET


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: The United States Supreme Court justices have ruled in Bush vs. Gore.

CNN's Charles Bierbauer is outside the high court -- Charles.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, the bottom line of this ruling which came to us around 10:00 this evening was that the "judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida is reversed," I'm reading, "and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion." After that, it gets complex.

The justices found that, as they put it, the recount cannot be conducted in compliance with the requirements of equal protection and due process without substantial additional work, work which they judged could not be completed within the provisions of the calendar and the federal election laws that require electors to be named by Dec. 2 -- 12, rather -- so that they can vote by Dec. 18. That is the -- called the "safe harbor" provision.

And the justices found in this ruling for the court here that the Florida state legislature intended to meet that safe harbor provision. And while there seems to be the narrowest, infinitesimally small crack that says, try it if you can, but we don't think you can do it, the caution is to stay within the safe harbor.

The language gets strong when you get to the dissents of Justice Stevens, for example, who says that, "although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear." Justice Stevens says, "it is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." And he dissents.

But Chief Justice Rehnquist in a concurring opinion says, "This inquiry does not imply a disrespect for state courts, but rather a respect for the constitutionally prescribed role of state legislatures."

The attorneys for Gov. Bush sought to find a federal case, a federal reason for this court to be involved. These justices felt there was one, that the Constitution has not been complied with, and they have so instructed the Florida courts, in essence saying, you can't go to the recounts, you've got to take it as it is. And that seems to point with very slim options to George W. Bush being named the winner of the Florida count -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Charles Bierbauer -- Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And now to John King, who can tell us what he's hearing from the camp of Al Gore -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, as we said, that statement now out in public from the campaign chairman, William Daley, saying that Sen. Lieberman and Al Gore are reviewing this decision tonight and they will not have any official and full reaction until tomorrow.

Already, though, we're getting the sense now of the mounting pressure on the vice president. I spoke a short time ago to a senior Democrat in the House who said, look, we trust that the vice president is getting very good advice. We know the people around him, we know that they would not do anything too risky here. And we believe that if their advice to him is that it is over, that he will accept that advice.

And this from a top aide to a Democratic senator who has been keeping quiet these past couple weeks, but who has been on several occasions ready to step out and tell the vice president he believes it is time to concede. The top aide to this Democratic senator telling us the situation is now, quote, "desperate," saying that if they throw a Hail Mary tomorrow, people will start to bail.

Again, this top aide to a Democratic senator saying the general mood among nervous Democrats; Democrats up, say, in two years, Democrats from states and/or districts carried by Gov. Bush saying, quote, "this is over."

But the general mood is to let him make his statement. If he wants to fight on, then he will face trouble from within his own party. So mounting pressure among Democrats here as they read this decision and they, too, share the pessimism of many of the vice president's legal advisers.

And as we reported earlier, some disagreement within the Gore campaign, some of his political people on the ground in Florida suggesting he fight on, suggesting he at least send his attorneys once more into the Florida Supreme Court and see what the mood of those justices is after they review the Supreme Court decision.

SHAW: From John King to Candy Crowley in Austin, Texas for the Bush camp's reading -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, privately, someone close to the Bush legal team in Tallahassee tells me that they considered this, have looked at this page by page, that preliminarily they believe this is a complete victory. They believe that the vice president has run out of options.

We got the public answer from James Baker, who is Bush's point man in Florida. What we did not hear during that statement was any word of victory. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I've just spoken to Gov. Bush and Secretary Cheney. They are, of course, very pleased and gratified that seven justices of the United States Supreme Court agreed that there were constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. They wanted me to once again express their appreciation to the fine legal team and the hundreds of volunteers who have worked here in Florida on their behalf for the last 35 days. This has been a long and arduous process for everyone involved on both sides.

Thank you and good evening.

QUESTION: Sir, Mr. Baker, do you feel it's over now?


CROWLEY: Once again, nothing from Baker claiming a legal victory or any other kind of victory, and with this purpose in mind. They do sense that this is now drawing to a close, but they do know that this is Al Gore's decision. They know that this legal -- there may be some legal outs, perhaps, that the Gore legal team might find, so they need to leave that out there as a possibility. But more than that, what the Bush team is doing now is backing off the stage and giving Al Gore some room, free of any public pressure from the Bush campaign, to do what he's going to do -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you Candy Crowley in Austin, Texas.

Joining us now, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli at this late hour, 15 minutes before midnight Eastern time.

What's your read of this situation?

SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, the Supreme Court has obviously been deeply divided -- deeply divided on whether there was a remedy to what had a larger group in the court, and that is the question that there was an equal protection problem as the votes were being recounted in Florida. They may have sent this case back to the Florida Supreme Court, but they did so giving the court absolutely no latitude to do anything, in my judgment, but to certify the election as it now stands. That leaves Al Gore with a, I think, predictable but very difficult decision to make.

WOODRUFF: You think he should get out?

TORRICELLI: Well, I'm not going to try to make the judgment for him, and I don't think any of us in the Democratic Party or its leadership should speak to that before he does. But this is a man -- on a human basis, I think all of us have to feel some compassion. He fought long and hard for the presidency, he has served his country with great distinction for a number of years, but it is clear that the electoral situation now for him has become legally extremely difficult.

SHAW: You just used the word "predictable." You said he's going to have to do the predictable. What is that?

TORRICELLI: Well, it is that for several days, I think to many of us in the Congress, it has been clear that the legal situation was precarious, and that without some intervening event this election was headed for the floor of the United States Congress. And while I may be disappointed with this result, I wanted Al Gore to succeed, I feared something more than Al Gore's defeat, and that was a potential deadlock and a straining of our constitutional system if this election was sent to the House and the Senate.

WOODRUFF: We just heard our John King reporting a few moments ago, Senator, that some of the vice president's people in Florida, his supporters, are saying to him, in effect, hang in there, fight if you possibly can, see what you can do, think about taking this back to the Florida Supreme Court. Is that appropriate, in your view?

TORRICELLI: We all have the partisan instincts who have fought for a long time to always go that extra mile in a fight. But in the end, it's the country we care about and it's the constitutional process. The Supreme Court of the United States, and what they did today, may be debated for years, some of us may deeply disagree with it, but it is the law of the land. And this judgment of the court does not appear to me to leave any latitude to return to the Florida courts and get any different decision than what was rendered tonight. It appears that the last vote in Florida has now been counted.

SHAW: Sen. Torrecelli, if Vice President Gore loses, is it important how he loses?

TORRICELLI: I think it is important how he deals with his statement tomorrow. George Bush comes to the presidency under extremely difficult circumstances. Never in more than a century has a president's legitimacy been challenged in this country, has there been an issue of their authority or their right to serve in office. All of us, not simply members of Congress but all Americans, have a responsibility not to revisit this election again. What has happened is past. We can regret it, we can debate the aspects of law, but the nation's going to have a new president and that president has to succeed. And all of us have an obligation to make his administration work.

SHAW: Did I just hear some news? You said, "in his statement tomorrow." Do you know for a fact that the vice president is planning a statement tomorrow?

TORRICELLI: I don't know. I think it's simply a good assumption that something would be said tomorrow. One way or another...

SHAW: That's what you sense?

TORRICELLI: One way or another, the vice president's going to have to clarify his intentions tomorrow.

WOODRUFF: But just to be very clear, before we thank you, Sen. Torricelli, you said it appears to me the last vote has been counted in Florida. TORRICELLI: Well, reading the Supreme Court judgment tonight, they say they disagree on the vote counting on an equal protection basis. And by a 5-4 vote, they see no remedy. Given the deadline of the 12th of December having passed, they do not believe it is lawful to make any other changes in the counting of the votes. It appears to me that no matter anybody's intentions, the Supreme Court is not going to tolerate any new vote counting in Florida.

WOODRUFF: Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, thank you very much.

SHAW: Thanks.

TORRICELLI: Thanks for having me.

WOODRUFF: Appreciate you joining us.

And across the studio from where Bernie and I are sitting, Jon Karl has been talking to other Democrats on Capitol Hill -- Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've been trying to take the temperature of Democrats on Capitol Hill; also our producers up there, Dan Abashan (ph), Ted Barrett (ph) working the phones very strong.

First thing, Dick Gephardt, the House minority leader, his office is saying that he will not make a statement today, and in fact he has no plans to talk to the vice president today -- tonight, and he will wait till tomorrow to see what -- take his cue from the vice president.

But some other Democrats, one Southern Democratic senator telling CNN that -- the quote's very short -- "it's over." That from a Southern Democrat who's not going to come out publicly and say that. There's also another Democrat from the West who's saying very much the same thing, that if the vice president tries to go for this discussion that this Democrat had with John King, tries to throw a Hail Mary here and go for it, that he's going to lose support very, very quickly.

But Mark Fabiani, the spokesperson for the vice president, I asked him about this reaction also about what Sen. Torricelli is saying, which is essentially -- you just heard Sen. Torricelli say, the last vote's been counted in Florida. Well, the Gore team's not ready to say that. And they have a response to those like Sen. Torricelli within their party who are coming out and getting ahead of them on this. The quote from Mark Fabiani is, "reasonable people are going to give Gore the time to read the Supreme Court's decision before making his own decision." Fabiani goes on to say, "But in every party, there are people who would rather get on TV than be fair and reasonable."

So the Gore campaign not happy with what they have been seeing with some Democrats coming out privately, and even publicly, and making these statements. The one that most perturbed them was the statement by Ed Rendell, the general chairman of the Democratic Party, who came out and said it's time for Gore to concede. That prompted a hasty response from Joe Andrew, the chairman, the other chairman of the Democratic Party, saying that Ed Rendell speaks for himself, he does not speak for the Democratic Party -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Jonathan Karl.

We have on the telephone Professor Laurence Tribe, legal adviser to the vice president.

Professor, your basic and brief read of this ruling tonight?

LAURENCE TRIBE, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Well, Bernie, let me actually say the principal thing that I wanted to say, and that was I understood that someone on CNN had reported that I was advising the vice president to concede. And I simply wanted to make sure that it was understood that was incorrect. I certainly have not offered that advice.

What I have done is read this opinion quite carefully, and it is a complicated opinion. The Supreme Court of the United States, rather than itself taking responsibility for the conclusion that this election is over, attributes to the Supreme Court of Florida an interpretation of what the legislation -- legislature of Florida would want in these circumstances. It's a very convoluted, hypothetical thing and it simply needs closer analysis. I know that everyone wants closure, but I would think that an overnight period of careful study and reflection is, at the minimum, what the Constitution and the country deserve.

WOODRUFF: But Professor Tribe -- it's Judy Woodruff -- you know these issues very well. You've been dealing with this day in and day out for the last number of days.

TRIBE: Yes I have.

WOODRUFF: And even though you didn't argue for the Gore team before the court yesterday, what window is there for Al Gore to get the recount that he's been asking for? It's not clear to a growing number of people that there is a window?

TRIBE: First of all, I'm not insisting that there is a window. And there are some important paragraphs in the opinion that, if I were teaching a law class, I would point to right now and say, look at this, look at this. But I don't want to do that on the air because I don't think that's fair to the vice president or fair to your viewers.

The fact is -- and this is the important thing that I think anybody reading this opinion can notice. The fact is that the opinion pins everything, in the end, on the fact that the Supreme Court of Florida has made some statements about the intentions of the state's legislature about this safe harbor that we've heard so much about. Reading through all the technical jargon, what they are saying is the highest court of Florida believes that the Florida legislature would rather have it all over with by Dec. 12 to take advantage of the safe harbor than to take some extra care and possibly get it right by Dec. 18. It may be that the Supreme Court of Florida thinks that's what the Florida legislature believes, but it may not. And I'm not suggesting that, as a result of that, the right course of action is to move on legally. Those are decisions that I'm not going to be making. But I just don't want people to think that, A) I believe this opinion is definitive or, B) that I've recommended that the vice president concede. Those are political judgments ultimately and I don't pretend to be making them.

SHAW: Professor, when you were referred to here on CNN, we did not report that you were advising the vice president, we quoted your remarks in an interview that you made to NBC and MSNBC. Do you recall what you said?

TRIBE: Well, I obviously don't have a transcript in front of me.

SHAW: Well, "I think the gracious thing is to accept even if one disagrees with the decision of the Supreme Court," quoting Tribe. And I'm reading to you from Reuters news service. "I'm sure that Vice President Gore has the kind of reverence for the Supreme Court as an institution that he will really not undertake to be less than complete and gracious in his acceptance of this result," unquote.

TRIBE: Now, that's certainly right.

SHAW: The headline from...

TRIBE: That's certainly right. But in context, I'm talking about his acceptance of the result once he has analyzed it and not prematurely. I certainly think that if, upon reading this decision and reflecting on it, the vice president concludes that it closes the door legally, that he would not undertake to let his disappointment with that somehow...


TRIBE: ... overtake his willingness to move on. But I don't think...

SHAW: Professor.

TRIBE: ... that means that he should prematurely conclude that this opinion is definitive.

SHAW: Professor, correspondent Charles Bierbauer is still outside the Supreme Court reading this decision and he has a question for you -- Charles.

BIERBAUER: Professor Tribe, I just wanted to try and be as clear as we can as to whether there is any window out of the safe harbor provision which the court seems to be saying that Florida is bound to stay within, and how, why or how...

TRIBE: Excuse me, Charles. Excuse me, Charles, the court isn't saying...


TRIBE: ... Florida is bound to stay within the safe harbor. It is saying...

BIERBAUER: Well, there's no -- they...

TRIBE: It is saying -- and I'm reading -- I'm looking at page 12 of the court's...

BIERBAUER: Yes, so am I.

TRIBE: It's saying that it believes that the legislature would want the state to stay within the safe harbor. And it simply doesn't address the question of what the legislature would do if the choices were safe harbor or something else. In other words, the choice of staying within the safe harbor, that's a desired thing. The legislature would want that if possible. But if it were told the only way you can get that is to leave potentially tens of thousands of votes uncounted, the court is not saying, and it would be hard to say, that the Florida Supreme Court believes the state legislature would want to leave those votes uncounted as the only way of staying within the safe harbor.

Now, that's the way I would teach this in a class on constitutional law. I would ask students to dissect it. But I really want to draw a sharp line between that and what the vice president should do, what anyone should do in these circumstance, which are more political than legal in character.

BIERBAUER: And would you judge, Professor, that they have made the hurdle so high as to be insurmountable to conduct any kind of a count at this point?

TRIBE: They've made it extremely high, extremely high. I can't say that it's literally insurmountable, but certainly they have tried as hard as they could to create a hurdle that couldn't be surmounted without coming out and saying themselves that they wish to bring this to a close. That is the remarkable thing in a way. There are many remarkable things about the opinion, but one is that the court is punting. It's not really accepting responsibility. It's saying, here are all the things that have to be done, we don't think you could get them done by midnight tonight -- big surprise...

WOODRUFF: Well, Professor...

TRIBE: ... and we think the legislature would want it done by midnight tonight.

WOODRUFF: Professor Tribe, I think what -- it's Judy Woodruff -- I think what we're basing our assumption here on is that the dissent in a number -- several of the dissents, the language is very clear that the dissenting justices expressing regret that the majority doesn't agree with them that there's a way to get this done by the 18th.

TRIBE: Well, having taught hundreds of these opinions, though none quite as momentous as this, one of the things I observe very often is that dissenters quite powerfully dramatize and sometimes exaggerate what the majority has wrought hoping to peel off a member of the majority, or hoping to speak to history in terms that are maybe are more apocalyptic than justified. It's not unusual for the dissenters to stay, the sky is falling as a result of the majority opinion when in fact there are silver linings around some of the clouds.

SHAW: Professor, you just told our audience that you believe the highest court in this nation is punting. In your words, it's not really accepting responsibility. My question is this: What does this ruling do to this court's integrity?

TRIBE: I don't think that I am arrogant enough to render that kind of verdict. I think that history will have to render it. I do know that it is going to be hard for many people to teach this opinion without raising questions about the court's institutional performance. But it's much too soon to talk about what the page will look like when the ink is dry.

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Professor Tribe, this is Roger Cossack. Are you at all surprised about the notion of the United States Supreme Court's majority in this case dictating to the Florida Supreme Court what the intent of the Florida legislature was; that is, coming back and saying that you obviously, the legislature obviously intended to be part of the safe harbor? Isn't that more of a state question than a federal question?

TRIBE: It's certainly ordinarily a state question. Here there is the excuse that they are quoting from the state court's highest -- from the highest state court in an opinion that it rendered, referring to the desire of the legislature that the state participate fully in the election process. And so they are interpreting that language as a kind of judgment by the state's highest court of what the legislature wants. But it's a pretty amazing thing.

It's also quite remarkable for the U.S. Supreme Court to be telling the state that if it is to revisit the matter and try to come up with some solution before the 18th, it must do so on the basis of oral argument. That is, detailed micromanagement of the way in which the state's system deals with the matter is not characteristic of a court that believes in states' rights.

COSSACK: Professors Tribe, do you think that this Supreme Court will be called -- and I don't mean disrespect, but it's the word that comes to mind -- hypocritical in the sense of what they did was stay the count that was going on, continue it in a way until a decision comes down on Dec. 12, and then come back and say, you must then complete your action by Dec. 12, and since you can't do it, you won't be able to do it? If they had never put that stay in, they apparently would have been able to do it.

TRIBE: You know, it's tempting for me to take advantage of this opportunity to slam the court because I'm so distressed by its result. It's tempting to compare it to that famous statement in "Casablanca" you know, where the guy walks in and says, I'm shocked, shocked that there's gambling going on in this establishment, when it was, after all, known all along. But that really wouldn't be fair to the court, because the fact is that even if they hadn't stopped the count that was going on a couple of days ago so precipitously, their conclusion that there were equal protection problems with the way it was going on would have required that that part be redone. And so it's not as though the only reason time is basically out is that they stopped the process before it could get completed.

WOODRUFF: Professor Laurence Tribe, one of Vice President Al Gore's legal advisers, we thank you very much for joining us on the telephone.

TRIBE: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We do appreciate it.

TRIBE: Thanks.

WOODRUFF: A whole lot to think about here. Jeff Greenfield, our senior analyst, joining us from New York.

Jeff, any reaction to Professor Tribe or something else?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Or the last five weeks? You know, I was thinking, Judy, we started this conversation almost two hours ago by looking back five weeks. It was 7:50 p.m. the evening of Nov. 7 when all the networks gave Florida to Al Gore. And as Michigan and Pennsylvania fell into his column, the Democrats believed they had won the presidency. There was almost no way for him to lose. From the moment Florida was taken out of Al Gore's camp and put into undecided, there has been almost not a moment when Al Gore could have said, I have the advantage over George W. Bush in this protracted battle for the White House.

And I think you just have to go back and think if you are Vice President Gore all of the what-ifs, all of the close calls, all of the near misses, and that appear to have come to an effective end tonight. We often forget when we look at politics that beneath all the spin and the artifice there are human beings with human emotions involved, and one can only imagine what those emotions are like now in the home of the vice president.

WOODRUFF: Entirely true, Jeff Greenfield. And, I mean, it all started on the night of Nov. 7. And you're right, the vice president was lifted up high about 7:50 when the networks gave him Florida, in effect. And then along came Michigan and Pennsylvania and the thinking started to be, well, you know, we're looking like we're going to have a winner here sooner rather than later. And then somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00, what the networks giveth the networks taketh away, and Florida was put back in "too close to call." The rest is history. It was up, down...

GREENFIELD: And remember, Judy, that he was on his way to concede at 2:30 in the morning when the word came from Florida, you know, you haven't lost Florida, it's only a margin of a couple hundred votes. We of your supporters think those votes may be out there. And so from the heights to the depths to a sense that life was still around in his campaign. And for 35 days, every time the Gore campaign thinks it has gotten a lifeline from those two Florida Supreme Court rulings, something has happened to cut it off. And tonight, that rope looks to have been severed irretrievably.

SHAW: Our Washington bureau chief, Frank Sesno, has pulled up a chair.

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU: Bernie, it's very interesting to watch and listen to this unfold in realtime, as we've seen so much of this unfold in realtime. And we're all along for the ride and it's a very bumpy one indeed. What is going on right now as we piece it together from a number of telephone calls we've been making -- John King, Jon Karl, Chris Black, myself -- in the vice president's camp is that, first of all, they are really poring over this in many of the same ways that we heard Laurence Tribe discuss, paragraph by paragraph.

There are some, we can tell you, who feel that the door is not completely closed, who feel that there's a principle here that the campaign and the candidate should press, which is to count all the votes. There are some -- and I would hasten to point out that the decision is not made but the discussions are continuing -- there are some who say the Florida Supreme Court has upheld the principle, as perceived by the Gore campaign, that the votes count and the votes should be counted; who say that they should go back to the Supreme Court and see what the Florida Supreme Court would say; and who say that even if, come the 18th of December when the Electoral College must meet, if the vote count is still ongoing or is still being disputed, and it is then not complete enough and the slate of electors goes for George W. Bush -- in other words, they count but the electors go for Bush anyway -- that it is the principle that they should continue to fight for.

So at this late hour, Bernie, there are those inside the Gore campaign who are saying, press on despite what we heard from John King about some of these Democratic senators who are saying "it's over," "it's desperate," and what may well be a sort of break in the dam of political support.

SHAW: Frank Sesno.

Judy, you have something.

WOODRUFF: All right, well, as we know, it all began at the Supreme Court a little after 10:00 tonight Eastern time. And let's go back there now where it did begin to our Supreme Court person, man on the spot, Charles Bierbauer, for a brief recap of what we've seen and what we've learned -- Charles.

BIERBAUER: Well, we've learned after waiting a day and a half from yesterday's arguments that the sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court -- with four justices writing very stern dissents on this ruling -- we've learned that the court felt that there were severe constitutional problems, mostly the equal protection clause of the Constitution, that not all votes were being treated alike, and that this court felt that there was not a conceivable remedy that the Florida court or the Florida election officials could put into place to remedy. They set the hurdle, as we heard Professor Laurence Tribe say, so high as to be almost insurmountable, and they have vacated the rulings, which would have kept the count going. They have said that the Florida state Supreme Court has to act in concert with this ruling, which would seem to be to give them the very limited choices of either coming up with some miraculous scheme at the 11th hour -- and we do and have said that this safe harbor date of Dec. 12 is not sacrosanct.

But the ruling from this Supreme Court is a very stern one that will be very difficult for the vice president to overturn. As cold as it is out here, I think it's a much chillier night for Vice President Gore tonight -- Bernie, Judy.

SHAW: Thank you, Charles Bierbauer.

And as we initially said in our reporting, as Secretary of State James Baker appeared tonight in Tallahassee, he said that he had spoken with Vice President -- rather, with Gov. Bush and Secretary Cheney. He said that they are pleased and gratified that seven justices of the United States Supreme Court agreed that there were constitutional problems. And a statement issued by William Daley, the vice president's campaign manager, said that Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are now reviewing the 5-4 decision issued by the high court. "The decision is both complex and lengthy. It will take time to completely analyze this opinion. We will address the court's decision in full detail at a time to be determined tomorrow," unquote.

WOODRUFF: And, Bernie, just very quickly here, a couple of points. We heard Laurence Tribe, Professor Tribe saying, in his view, the Supreme Court has "punted." We know that in one of the dissents, Justice Stevens saying, "although we may never know who the winner of this election is, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear." He said it's "the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

Much poring over of this opinion to come in the days ahead.

And, Bernie, I think the one thing that everyone does agree on is it's not been a good night for Al Gore.

Much more coverage coming up from CNN. We'll be back. We're going to take a break.



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