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Ashcroft tells caucus he's committed to ending racial profiling

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General John Ashcroft Wednesday promised members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which had strongly opposed his nomination, that he is committed to ending racial profiling.

The closed door session on Capitol Hill, which Ashcroft characterized as "frank and candid," was his first meeting with any lawmakers since he was confirmed last month.

Ashcroft said he would follow the directive issued by President Bush in his speech to Congress on Tuesday night, vowing to eradicate racial profiling throughout the nation.

"I'm eager to respond to the president's charge," Ashcroft told reporters following the meeting. "I believe racial profiling is an unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection under the Constitution and I think we should do what we can to stamp it out," he said.

"He said the right things, but it's not words, but actions that matter," said Black Caucus Vice Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, following the meeting.

Ashcroft said he would send letters to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees indicating the need to "determine the extent and nature of racial profiling" and then take steps to end the practice of police stopping individuals based on their race.

Cummings said the lawmakers used the meeting to emphasize several issues they view as important, including what the African American leaders continue to insist was an illegitimate presidential vote count in Florida.

"We do not want this to be forgotten, because this must never happen," Cummings said.

He said the Black Caucus rejects the "analysis by the newspaper" (the Miami Herald) that indicated George W. Bush would have prevailed in Dade County's presidential vote if all of the votes had been counted.

Cummings also said the caucus members pressed Ashcroft to back the re-nomination of Judge Ronnie White to the federal bench. Ashcroft told them he had not changed his views, but that if President Bush supported the re-nomination, he would not oppose it.

Ashcroft led Senate opposition in the defeat of White's nomination to be a federal judge.

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