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Transition of Power: Concerns Raised About Illegal Immigrant Housed by Bush Labor Secretary Pick

Aired January 9, 2001 - 1:03 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the long and bumpy road facing George W. Bush's pick for labor secretary shows no signs of getting any shorter or smoother. The question today: What did Linda Chavez know about the illegal immigrant living in her house and when did she know it?

We'll probably get some answers to those questions from Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer. He'll be holding a live briefing in a few moments. Here's the room where he'll be. We'll bring you live coverage of that in a moment.

Right now, let's go to CNN's Tony Clark, who joins us from Austin, with the latest on the story -- Tony.

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, Ari Fleischer saying in a telephone briefing a few hours ago that it is not exactly clear exactly when Linda Chavez found out that the woman that she was allowing to live in her home was an illegal immigrant, and exactly -- not exactly clear as to the payments that were given, the money that was given to her. In the past, it has been described as an act of compassion by the Bush staff, but at this point, what they are saying is simply that there are more questions that need to be answered.

There are investigations currently under way. The vetting process is under way, FBI agents asking neighbors and others questions about exactly what Ms. Chavez new and when she knew it, Associated Press reporting that later this afternoon, around 4:00 Eastern time, Ms. Chavez may have a news conference. And again, we may know more from Ari Fleischer.

In addition, the attacks are mounting against another nominee, John Ashcroft, former senator John Ashcroft. He is Bush's pick to become attorney general. Today a variety of groups came together to announce their opposition to Mr. Ashcroft, the senator -- former senator. The complaint there is his stand on civil rights, also his stand on abortion, his anti-abortion stance. And the complaint is that those are the kinds of philosophy that he would carry into the Justice Department as the chief law enforcement officer.

The Bush campaign has said all along that while Senator Ashcroft is conservative, it is President-elect Bush's philosophy and it is his policy that will be pursued by the attorney general, and they are encouraging senators to support his confirmation. So a rough road ahead both for Senator Ashcroft and Linda Chavez -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And any word on why she's holding a news conference?

CLARK: At this point, no. It might be assumed to explain her position. One of the things I think that is -- is important to note that Ari Fleischer mentioned this morning is that memories over the years -- we're talking about 1991 and '92 -- that memories have an ability to cloud and that people remember things differently.

The woman, Marta Mercado, talked to Ms. Chavez -- I believe it was Saturday night -- and they talked to each other, kind of -- I guess refreshed each other's memory may be the word to use -- indicated that there was no attempt on Ms. Chavez to try and say this is how things happened, but just simply asking questions about how long were you staying here -- Ms. Mercado saying it was two years, Ms. Chavez thinking it was only one year.

And so we may be able in talking today to clarify some of those questions.

ALLEN: We'll certainly wait and see -- thanks so much, Tony Clark, in Austin.

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