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Special Event

John Ashcroft Confirmed as Attorney General

Aired February 1, 2001 - 2:47 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: We're going to take you back to Capitol Hill for the final vote on John Ashcroft.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Right. And let's move immediately there. Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate gives its advice and consent to the nomination of John Ashcroft of Missouri to be the attorney general.

CHEN: The final vote there: 58-42. But, actually, the confirmation of John Ashcroft had been confirmed quite a bit earlier in the hour when Mr. Ashcroft reached 51 votes. But they wanted to wait for Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware. He had to go out to a family funeral earlier in the day, had rushed back to make his vote. They had held it off for nearly an hour to give Mr. Biden an opportunity to vote.

He did cast his ballot no. And that would make it 58-42. But, in any case, John Ashcroft was confirmed this afternoon as attorney despite all the hue and cry. Despite the long and extended commentary and the long criticism of him, he was finally confirmed this afternoon. There have been a number of press conferences given this afternoon by both Democrats and Republicans. Just a few minutes ago, we heard from the Utah senator, Orrin Hatch, expressing his disappointment with some of the senators who had voted against Mr. Ashcroft.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: This is one of the worst episodes in the onward trashing soldiers routine that I've every seen. Outside groups basically cowing United States senators, telling them they all have primaries and that they'll do everything they can to defeat them, unless they send this message to President Bush. And frankly, I'm just happy that we had 51 votes, because that's what I was shooting for. And we had 58 in the end and that's a pretty good victory -- 58 to 42.

So I feel good about it. And happy to have John Ashcroft as attorney general. I think, he'll distinguish himself and he'll distinguish that position.

And like I said before, out of 67 prior attorneys general, there are only a handful that have some of the qualities and some of the qualifications that he has.

So I think we are all going to be lucky to have a good attorney general. And, I think, you can go to bed maybe feeling a little more safe in the next coming months, because you're going to have an have attorney general who's going to get tough as heck on crime. And, to me, that's what attorney generals' are all about.

But I call it the onward trashing soldiers routine. And it only happens every once in a while, but it is degrading to the Senate. And not everybody on the other side was part of the onward trashing soldiers routine, but there were a significant number and I was very disappointed in them.

Will we get along better afterwards? Yes, because we're big people, and we'll gradually put this behind us, but it was disgusting. Some of it was disgusting. There were some very sincere people who believed what they were doing was right, but there were a lot of them who were doing what the outside groups forced them to do. And that really, really was disgusting to me.

QUESTION: Senator, you mentioned...

(CROSSTALK)

HATCH: I would not vote for anybody for president that basically had to kowtow to that type of a routine.

QUESTION: All the Democrats who had talked about running for president voted against him.

HATCH: Really? Really?

(LAUGHTER)

HATCH: I used to be a Democrat; I don't think I'd vote for any of them.

QUESTION: In the states where senators are up next year for election, you mentioned the threat of primary opposition. The fact that they voted against Ashcroft, how much of an issue, if at all, do you think that will be in those elections?

HATCH: I think it's going to hurt people. Look, I think it will hurt them. Because, look, there is a basic issue of fairness in this country. They trashed John Ashcroft and even those who did not participate in the trashing, who voted against him, they knew it. I've had more than one Democrat come up to me and say, "This is disgusting. It was pitiful what they've done."

Look, if John Ashcroft was even a question mark, that's another matter. But they served with him for six years. Every one of them, basically, admits that he is a person of integrity and decency, and he certainly has experience. You don't get elected chairman or president of the National Association of Attorneys General by all your peers, you don't get elected as the head of the National Governor's Association because you're an idiot. I mean, you've got to be pretty good to get that.

And you know, it's an insult to everybody in Missouri, it seems to me. Because, for 28 years this man has been elected and served well, that state. I have a lot of respect for Missouri. And if I was a Missourian, I'd really be upset right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah specking of what he called a good victory today in the Senate for supporters of John Ashcroft, who did win his confirmation this afternoon. It took quite a long time. There was a bit of an extended procedure in the Senate this afternoon. But, ultimately, the final vote for the John Ashcroft nomination was 58 in favor, 42 against the nomination of Ashcroft. Still, he will be the attorney general of the United States.

Earlier, we had also heard from some of the Democrats who had opposed Ashcroft, who said that their primary message was to send the indication to President Bush that: In the future, you should look for some more moderate figures to send up for judicial appoint. And that was a message from some of the Democrats, but Mr. Hatch noting his disappointment with some of the comments made during the course of the confirmation hearings for Ashcroft. Nonetheless, he is the attorney general of the United States and was confirmed that way by the Senate this afternoon.

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