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CNN Today

Ashcroft to Be Sworn in as Attorney General This Evening

Aired February 1, 2001 - 4:02 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: Continuing our coverage of the Ashcroft story, CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena joins us. She'll be covering the new attorney general and what he faces now -- Kelly.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Joie, right behind me you should see the United States Supreme Court. That is where John Ashcroft will be sworn in at about 5:00 by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. Now this is event is for Ashcroft's family only. The event will be reenacted at a later date for the public.

As you mentioned, the vote today was a very close race -- a very close vote on the Senate floor. Democrats say that they hope that it sends a very clear message to the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I hope this vote sends a very strong message to the president of the United States about the strength of the commitment of the Senate of the United States in protecting these particular fundamental valuess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: White House spokesman Ari Fleischer offered these assurances to Ashcroft's opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Now the president believes that the United States and all Americans, whether they voted for him or not, whether they support Senator Ashcroft at this moment or not, are going to come to see an attorney general they are proud of. And he thinks that in time people will recognize that we have a nonpolitical attorney general, an attorney general that will enforce the law and an attorney general who we will all be proud of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: Now that this confirmation is over with, we should expect to hear a slew of new nominations for the Justice Department. Most specifically, the number two position, deputy attorney general. That position right now is reportedly very much going to Larry Thompson. He's a former U.S. attorney in Georgia. He is reportedly very much in the frontrunning. We are told by sources that it is his job if he wants it. He is going through the vetting process.

There is also the job for solicitor general open. Ted Olson, who argued successfully for President Bush in Florida, is said to have a hold that job if he wants it. So we should be expecting to hear those announcements made very quickly.

As you know, this whole process has gotten a late start due to the problem over the confirmation. But now that it's done, we should get back to business -- Joie.

CHEN: Kelli, are there particular cases now pending before the Justice Department that are going to require Mr. Ashcroft, particularly on the issues that have raised so much consternation in the course of the confirmation process, I guess civil rights cases as well as abortion cases?

ARENA: Well, Joie, you know, most of those issues, unfortunately, we don't have anything in the immediate pipeline. But what we do have in the pipeline are ongoing issues.

Number one, you do have airline mergers that have been proposed, most notable between United and US Air, American buying TWA. Those are things that have to be -- those are deals that have to be approved by the Justice Department.

You have the ongoing case against Microsoft. That is before an appeals court right now. We have to see what happens with that case, what strategy Justice adopts now under the new administration.

We also have the case against the tobacco companies. As you know, the U.S. government was suing tobacco companies to try to get back some of the money that was caused by smoking-related illnesses. All of those very much on the front burner, should set the tone, at least in the antitrust part of Justice -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Kelli Arena on the Capitol grounds right across the street from the Supreme Court. Thanks, Kelli.

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