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Republicans Slam Clinton Administration for Forcible RemovalAired April 22, 2000 - 3:28 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: There is controversy over the attorney general's decision to forcibly remove Elian Gonzalez from his home in Miami, but this morning, President Clinton praised Janet Reno and the Justice Department.
Kelly Wallace is at the White House -- Kelly.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Gene, that's exactly right. There is controversy. Republicans have come out slamming the administration and Attorney General Janet Reno comparing this mornings raid to something they would expect to see in Fidel Castro's Cuba.
In a statement, Senate majority leader Trent Lott said -- quote -- "The use of this type of force clearly was not justified. Negotiations were ongoing." He continued: "My first thought was that this could only happen in Castro's Cuba."
Now, House majority whip Tom DeLay also issued a statement saying -- quote -- "This is more reminiscent of Castro's Communist Cuba than the America I thought I knew."
Short time ago, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said the administration is disappointed that Republicans are trying to make this a political issue.
Now as for President Clinton, he came out this morning. He said the Department of Justice and Attorney General Reno went to great lengths to try and bring about a voluntary transfer. He was briefed yesterday twice by the attorney general.
And then at 2:00 this morning, his chief of staff received a call from Attorney General Reno. She said she would continue these negotiations, but if they prove not to be successful, she would take enforcement action. The president signed off on that plan. And this morning, he expressed his full support for Ms. Reno's decision.
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WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When all efforts failed, there was no alternative but to enforce the decision of the INS and the federal court: that Juan Miguel Gonzalez should have custody of his son. The law has been upheld, and that was the right thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, this case has also made its way to Campaign 2000. Vice president Al Gore broke with the administration's policy in this case. He said he thought it should be handled in family court. He issued a statement this morning saying the same thing. He believed it should have been handled through the family court and with the family coming together. However, he said all Americans, regardless of their positions, should obey the rule of law.
Mr. Gore's opponent, Republican, Texas Governor George W. Bush also has spoken out. He issued a statement saying he was troubled that the administration was not able to bring about a negotiated solution. So this is probably likely not to be the last we've heard on the campaign trail or in Congress about this case.
Kelly Wallace, CNN, reporting live from the White House.
RANDALL: And we have just learned that the Cuban government will have its first formal reaction to today's event sometime later and when that happens, we will bring it to you, of course.
But for right now, we'll take a break. Back in a moment.
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