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Democrats on Hill Prepare to Attack AshcroftAired January 15, 2001 - 2:13 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Bush's choice for attorney general, however, the former Senator John Ashcroft, is expected to face some tough questioning when his confirmation hearing gets under way tomorrow. Our congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl is following developments on that front and has more for us now from Washington -- John.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Joie. Democrats up here on Capitol Hill are signaling that they will use the confirmation hearings for Ashcroft, which kick off tomorrow, as a chance to go with a coordinated assault on his record, his record of two terms as attorney general in Missouri, as a senator, and also as the governor of Missouri.
Now the hearings kick off tomorrow. For two days, it will be simply Ashcroft as the witness, taking questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Overall, the hearings are expected to last about four days. But for those first two days, Democrats are splitting up exactly what they want to do in terms of taking on Ashcroft. In other words, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy, has signaled that he's got some very pointed and specific questions about the standards that Ashcroft has used and would use in the future with judicial nominees. Of course, we'll know more about that later in the week with Ronnie White, the Missouri chief -- the Missouri member of the Supreme Court, the state Supreme Court, that Ashcroft defeated in an effort to get him on the federal court.
Also, Senator Ted Kennedy has got some questions for Ashcroft in the area of civil rights, and more and more questions very specifically coming from different members of the committee. This is going to be a coordinated assault. The effort is in each of these areas to paint Senator Ashcroft as an extremist, as somebody who is outside the mainstream, not fit to be the attorney general.
Meanwhile, as this goes on, on Capitol Hill before these hearings, you also have outside groups that'll continue to agitate against Ashcroft. Most recently today, you had Jesse Jackson out in Chicago giving a speech for the Martin Luther King holiday at Northwestern University, painting the case against Ashcroft in very stark terms.
This is what Jackson had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: This man would have the power, the power to pursue prosecution, determine who to investigate and under what conditions. The combination of Ashcroft as attorney general and Hatch determining federal judges, Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas and Justice O'Connor would be a severe setback of 50 years of social struggle for workers, women and people of color.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: But Joie, while the stage is set for clearly an extremely contentious confirmation hearing and also protests throughout the four days of hearing, at least four days of hearings, the conventional wisdom up on Capitol Hill is that Ashcroft will be confirmed. As a matter of fact, Republicans are united in support of Ashcroft right now. All 50 Republicans, including moderates who disagree with Ashcroft on issues such as gun control and abortion rights, are all saying that unless something unforeseen comes out of these hearings, they will support John Ashcroft for attorney general.
Meanwhile Ashcroft's allies up on Capitol Hill are also saying that he has gotten assurances from several Democrats, as many as 10 or 11 Democrats, who have told him that they will support him. So in other words, it looks like you may see a lot of noise, a lot of controversy, a lot of tough questions, but unless something unforeseen comes out of these confirmation hearings, the feeling is that Ashcroft will ultimately be confirmed, and actually by a comfortable margin, unless, of course, something unforeseen happens. And we've seen that happen before up on Capitol Hill -- Joie.
CHEN: Jonathan Karl, our congressional correspondent, who will be on-hand at Senator Ashcroft's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee gets under way tomorrow. It's scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.
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