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Election 2000: Gore Orders Florida Recounts Suspended, Will Address Nation Tonight; Cheney on Hill to Outline Goals for New Administration

Aired December 13, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: It's Wednesday, December 13, 2000. This is "NEWS DAY" on CNN, with our special coverage of last night's Supreme Court decision and today's presidential election on the threshold of resolution.

Welcome to our viewers around the world who are joining in on CNN International -- thanks for being with us.

From Washington, I'm Frank Sesno, Jeanne Meserve on assignment today.

Fourteen hours after a divided U.S. Supreme Court dashed his hopes of a recount that could have reversed the Florida election, potentially, Vice President Al Gore is preparing to give up the fight formally.

Here are the latest developments: Gore has ordered his allies to suspend the recount effort in Florida. He will address the nation tonight. Governor George W. Bush is at the Texas Statehouse in Austin. For now, there's no public declaration of victory. His running mate, Dick Cheney, is on Capitol Hill, meeting with Republican senators to outline goals for a new Bush administration. No doubt a difficult and emotional day for the vice president and his supporters.

CNN's John King has been checking with sources in the campaign and around town here.

John, let's recap for people what can be expected from Al Gore in this day ahead -- what he's done, so far as we know, behind the scenes, what he's going to do behind the scenes and in front of the camera as the day proceeds.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with on front of the camera. 9:00 tonight, a very brief introduction from his running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman. Then the vice president will speak to the nation. We're told he understands his main message tonight must be bring the country together, say the process has run its course -- not concede, not say he that lost the election, but say the process has won its course and we must respect the will of the courts.

Behind the scenes, the vice president reaching out to Democratic leaders, first to thank for their support in the election and during this recount period, and to ask them to step back and give him the first chance to explain what he's doing here. And as though conversations take place, on another track, his top aides now reaching out to the Bush campaign, we're told, saying that the vice president will call Governor Bush later today, before that speech, and that the vice president stands ready to meet with Governor Bush, privately first and then to make public statement sitting next to his rival and say it's time for the country to come together.

SESNO: John, officially, this is going to be a day for magnanimity, where Al Gore says it is time to bind the wounds of the nation, effectively. However, there is another strain, another thread, running through the Democratic party. Congressman Chaka Fattah, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, in a statement today says the Supreme Court decision is, in his words, out of step with the last century of American progress where we've been moving to enfranchise voters. Strong feeling in the minority community.

KING: Strong feelings, and remember we have a divided Congress, and a Republican candidate who will now be the president-elect who did not do anywhere nearly as well as he had hoped to do among black votes and among Hispanic voters. In this divided environment, this raw anger will carry over despite what the vice president does tonight, particularly among the Black Caucus leaders, among the Hispanic Caucus leaders. We just spoke to Joe Andrew, the Democratic national committee chairman -- he says the phones are ringing off the hook, these people don't want Al Gore to back out. They believe they have been disenfranchised, they believe they have been robbed, they want to press this case in the courts.

Certainly, as the vice president steps aside, they will continue their fight. Just how remains a bit uncertain, but it is clear that President-elect Bush faces quite a remarkable political challenge now in trying to untie the country and to try to do business in Washington, and as we close one chapter, we're opening another one that could be different, but equally remarkable.

SESNO: It's been a troubled Clinton administration. The Bush administration will be off to a very challenging start, of course.

And again, we want to remind you, the speech tonight from Al Gore at 9:00 Eastern time -- that's 6:00 Pacific time: He will speak from the old Executive Office Building, from the ceremonial room there. He will be preceded, briefly, by his running mate, Joe Lieberman. We're told that Al Gore's speech will be less than 10 minutes in length.

We do want to go to that next chapter now that John King mentioned a moment ago because now, apparently, we enter the time of a Bush administration.

So to Austin, Texas, from the latest -- for the latest from the bush campaign, and national correspondent Tony Clark, who's been following developments there -- Tony.

TONY CLARK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Frank, as John was saying, you know, the governor faces a very difficult situation -- a divided Congress, the bitterness over the past few weeks -- but the Bush campaign points out that this is one of the things that George W. Bush does best. He gets along with people, he tries to bring people together, and they say that is going to be not only the challenge that he faces, but that is one of his strong points, is his ability to do that.

The governor arrived at the state capitol about two hours ago, and he didn't say much, just a good morning. Asked jokingly if he was cleaning out his desk, he laughed. Asked whether we would be hearing from him later today, he said we'll see. The whole attitude of the Bush campaign right now is to give the vice president room, not to add to the rancor.

You know, last night James Baker spoke not of victory, but it has been a very difficult process. And he talked about the governor and his running mate, Dick Cheney, being pleased and gratified by the court's decision, but not gloating.

The Bush family -- Governor Bush, the Bush family -- knows what it's like to go through defeat, and so they are trying to be gracious -- as I say, give the vice president room, wait for the vice president to speak to the nation, and then go about the effort of trying to bring the country together. And be gracious in the speech that the governor is expected to make perhaps later this evening, after the vice president speaks -- Frank.

SESNO: Tony, we are told by sources within the Bush campaign that he will be coming to Washington this week. Perhaps as early as Friday, he'll meet with the president of the United States, Al Gore, and there will be, quite likely, some outreach efforts with Democrats -- this part of his effort to be the uniter, not divider, as he put in his campaign.

CLARK: Indeed, that's one of the things that he has talked about all along. In fact, when the vice president suggested a meeting, Governor Bush said, you know, after the controversy in Florida is over, he was eager to meet with the vice president. Aides have talked about him going to Washington to meet with the president, pay a courtesy call there, and it's at that point that we may here some of the announcements for a Bush cabinet. But you know, he has intentionally held off over the past few weeks while he has worked on transition, not announcing members of his White House staff, other than Andrew Card as his prospective chief of staff, not announcing cabinet members, not wanting to appear too presumptuous, because these are the kinds of things that would simply create more of a rift. Now his task is, as has been said so often, bringing the country and the political arena together, and I think we may see the first steps of that later this evening.

SESNO: OK, Tony Clark, thanks very much -- of course, we're watching it right along with you and with everybody else.

And while Governor Bush has kept a low profile. relatively speaking, since election day, running mate Dick Cheney has been very much in the public eye, heading a transition planning effort, which may now move into full gear -- surely will move into full gear. He was at the campaign's temporary transition office early this morning. Government offices and resources would be made available once the winner is declared. Cheney has headed to Capitol Hill, he's been meeting with Republican lawmakers there.

And we want to go to our congressional correspondent Chris Black.

Chris, you have been talking both sides of the aisle -- a lot of expectation what Dick Cheney is doing today and really laying the groundwork for the future, which is going to a challenging one.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, Frank. This is a place where the mood can change very, very quickly, and it has. Democrats and Republicans alike are already buzzing about the prospects for a Bush administration: The king is dead, long live the king.

As you noted, Dick Cheney is meeting with Republican lawmakers today. These are meetings that were scheduled before the Supreme Court decision and before Al Gore made his decision to get out of the race. He began the day on the House side with Representative Chris Cox to talk about policy and budget -- the budget process in the next Congress.


REP. CHRISTOPHER COX (R), CALIFORNIA: To emphasize the importance of upholding the institutions of our country and of moving forward and working cooperatively. We've never had a better chance than this to work cooperatively, because of the relatively even partisan split in the capital and the closeness of the national election.


BLACK: He also met with Senator Chuck Grassley, who's the incoming chairman of the finance committee, which handles a lot of the issues that George W. Bush campaigned on.

But it is his meeting with five moderate senators that's attracting a lot of notice today. These five moderate Republicans -- four from New England, all from the Northeast -- invited him here because, they say, they have some experience working with Democrats.

As for Democrats, there's a great sense of personal sadness for Al Gore, more than a little bit of resentment. Senator Pat Leahy, who's a Democrat from Vermont, and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, is a statement: "The Senate must now serve as the conscience of the nation."

In code, Frank, that means the Senate will be a graveyard for anything that does not have bipartisan support -- Frank.

SESNO: Chris Black, on Capitol hill. We'll be watching that location closely in the days and weeks to come.

The U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling essentially did two things: it stopped further recounting of the ballots in Florida, obviously, and it sent the case back to the Florida Supreme Court. now what happens now?

CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Tallahassee with what, if anything, the state high court has left to do -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Frank, as we wait to hear from the Florida Supreme Court about what its plans are in an ongoing duel, of sorts -- if I might borrow a phrase from our analyst David Cardwell -- we wanted to provide for you a little background, a little color about the events of late last night and into this morning.

Joining us now live is, first of all, the clerk of the Florida Supreme Court, Tom Hall.

Mr. Hall, you got the call from the U.S. Supreme court last night, did you not -- at what point did you get that call?

TOM HALL, CLERK OF THE COURT: I got the call from the court a few minutes before they made the public announcement. They indicated to me the sort of bottom line ruling as to what they had decided and told me they had e-mailed it to our my court. At that point, I called the chief justice of our court, told him that they'd e-mailed to us, and he asked me to go into the court, print out copies, and make them available to the justices in case they wanted to come in and look at it.

CANDIOTTI: And do you know whether any of the justices did, in fact, look at the material last night?

HALL: I'm not really sure because after I made the copies and distributed them to their offices, I went home.

CANDIOTTI: Do you know what's happened so far this day?

HALL: At our court, there's not been anything happening, other than the justices and their staff are looking at the opinion and trying to make a decision about what they're going to do about remand.

CANDIOTTI: All right, Mr. Hall, thank you.

And now we'll also turn to your colleague, a spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court, Craig Waters, who we have also all come to know.

What is before the court right now, what's the procedure it must follow?

CRAIG WATERS, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT SPOKESMAN: Well, of course, we have a remand from the United States Supreme Court -- that's the highest court in the land. The court has indicated that we are to conduct further proceedings consistent with what they have said. So we will be studying that to determine what it is we need to be doing to meet the instructions of the U.S. Supreme Court -- and we, of course, do have a few other matters pending brought by individual citizens, not by Mr. Gore. CANDIOTTI: Outstanding matters before this court, including one involving absentee ballots, and someone else is challenging that constitutionality of manual recounts in Florida.

But what are the options before this court now that it has the remand that's being sent back from the highest court. What is before these seven justices?

WATERS: Well, there are a number of possibilities of what could happen. As you saw in the last remand, they simply issued a clarification that answered the questions that were posed by the U.S. Supreme Court. There have been some reports that Mr. Gore may concede. There's the possibility that one or more parties could then suggest that the case is moot and ask that it be dismissed. We just don't know at this point; it's going to depend on what events develop during the day.

CANDIOTTI: Just really quickly: the mood around the building this day?

WATERS: Well, the mood around the building this day has been much like it is in the past. We have been hopeful that this is the light at the end of the tunnel, but I can tell you many times in the past we have only found out there's another train coming at us.

CANDIOTTI: Well, and this train is rolling. Indeed, no one knows, at this point, where it going when it involves the Florida Supreme Court. How will it respond to this request to this remand from the U.S. Supreme court.

Frank, back to you.

SESNO: Thanks very much, Susan. It's not only the Florida state Supreme Court that has to decide what it does next, but the Florida legislature, which has been seep in deliberations.

Mike Boettcher joins us, from Tallahassee --Mike.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Frank, at 1:00 p.m., the legislature -- the Senate side -- will gavel into session. That is the only sure think we know. We know that the Senate Republican leadership is trying to figure out what to do next and talking to it membership. And talking to many senators this morning, it seems that the most likely scenario is they will come in, and then probably shortly thereafter adjourn and wait and see Vice President Gore does.

They may also leave open the possibility of leaving the session to the 18th open all the way to that point before they call sine die, which would be final adjournment, just to make sure that no issues crop up.

But in talking to the senators here, it seems rather certain that there will not be a vote in the Senate on this resolution that would name the electors. The House voted yesterday by a vote of 79 to 41, but again, it seems unlikely the Senate will be doing the same.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, live, Tallahassee.

SESNO: Thanks, Mike.

And we want to tell you to check out our web site,, for the Supreme Court decision that brought us to this final act of this election drama. You can get the whole thing, read the text, or selected portions, of course, plus exclusive interviews exclusive interviews with CNN correspondents who have been following this remarkable story for all these weeks, as they're posted around the country, and their unique perspective on this story.



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