CNN BREAKING NEWS
Sen. Lott to Hold News Conference Today
Aired December 13, 2002 - 11:23 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS: We're also planning on having coverage here on this network of this press conference that's been announced by Senator Trent Lott. That should be taking place around 5:30 Eastern Time, around 4:30 p.m. Central Time.
Jonathan Karl, our correspondent from Capitol Hill has been following the news after this announcement came out just moments ago.
Jon, what have you learned?
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, officially from Senator Lott's office, what they are saying is that he is returning to Mississippi to answer questions that have arisen since his statements at Strom Thurmond's birthday party last week.
But a Lott adviser I spoke to said that Senator Lott is going down. He is going to issue essentially a mea culpa. That was his adviser's words, and he's going to give a much more thorough and in- depth and forceful response to the concerns that have been raised about his praise at that birthday party last week for Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist campaign for president.
Lott's been under pressure to do this, including from his Republican colleagues, perhaps even especially from his Republican colleagues, who have been warning that if he does not do this, if he does not come out and issue a more forceful, and direct statement and answer questions, that his leadership of the Republican Party in the U.S. Senate is in jeopardy.
So you can bet the most important audience for this press conference will be his Republican colleagues on the Hill, in the Senate, because those are the ones that will decide whether or not he stays on as majority leader.
HARRIS: Very interesting. So it's very clear that the pressure basically since there were no voices, there weren't any voices really that count, that were coming out speaking in his behalf. Was Trent Lott the senator, was he very fearful to this point that he could be in a position to lose his leadership spot there?
KARL: I'm also told that emphatically Senator Lott will not resign at this press conference, and I'm told in his private discussions he is confident he will not have to give up his leadership post. But, Leon, there is a growing feeling among Republicans that his leadership may be in jeopardy, that he may be forced to step down, and this will be the critical moment. The critical moment will be this press conference, how he handles the questions, and whether or not he can put these issues beside him.
In terms of public calls on resignation, there have been none from Republicans on Capitol Hill. There have been some calls from conservatives off Capitol Hill and certainly from Democrats on Capitol Hill, but privately, these discussions are very serious up here. There is a growing sense that he is in jeopardy as leader.
HARRIS: Very interesting. Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill. Thanks, John. Quick hustle on that story for us this morning. We appreciate it.
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