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Election 2000: Bush Intervenes in Florida Secretary of State's Legal Consolidation Effort; Gore Asks Florida Supreme Court About RecountsAired November 15, 2000 - 1:25 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: Well, the candidates themselves are still letting their lawyers do the talking, but we still want to check in with our reporters in Austin and Washington.
First up, CNN's Jeanne Meserve, deep in the heart of the Texas capital where she's been for several days now and to tell us how George W. Bush is holding up through all of this -- Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, let me tell you first that we have some protesters outside the governor's mansion today , about 150 of them, marching around with various signs. One which we particularly noted reads: Al Gore's psychic hotline -- palms read, tarots read, ballots read. And as they go around the governor's mansion here, cars coming by, honking their horns in support here of what they have to say.
The Bush campaign, we are told, has intervened in a legal action by the Florida secretary of state, Katharine Harris, which has asked the Florida state supreme court to consolidate the myriad legal actions that are underway in Florida, and also to halt the hand counts. Halting the hand counts, of course, the top priority of the Bush campaign. They believe this is a flawed process, and it only works to the benefit of Al Gore.
Also, we're told no reaction yet to the proposal by Warren Christopher this morning that the supreme court be asked: Are the hand counts appropriate, what is the deadline for completing them, and what are the standards for determining if they are justified?
The governor, meanwhile, remains at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, about two hours from here, remaining out of sight, consulting closely, we are told. with his aides here in Austin, and also with his lawyers on the ground down in Florida. As we get more information, we'll pass it on to you.
Jeanne Meserve, CNN, reporting live from Austin, Texas
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And as Jeanne mentioned, the Gore campaign had plenty to say today.
Let's check in with CNN's Jonathan Karl with the Gore campaign in Washington -- John. JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Lou. As we speak, the Gore campaign is preparing to file a petition with the supreme court, the state supreme court, of Florida. Basically, what this petition to do is to ask for the state supreme court to rule on what they call the two questions that are at the heart of the matter. First question is do these counties have a right to go ahead with their manual recounts? And if they do, at what deadline would they have to have them done by, give a time frame?
The second big question is what constitutes a vote? The Gore campaign is asking the state supreme court to rule on this question of what actually constitutes a vote. When they look at these hand ballots, when they look at them by hand, is it the whole question of the shard -- how do you determine voter intent, did they intend to vote for a candidate
Those are the two big remaining questions that the Gore campaign says need to be resolved. Questions that are before various state courts in the state of Florida. So the Gore campaign asking that the supreme court intervene and answer the two questions once and for all.
Meanwhile, the Gore campaign representatives down there, Warren Christopher and David Boies, the new attorney for the Gore campaign, made the point -- unveiled this new proposal -- and also made it very clear the reason why they're doing this is they think that the most important thing to happen here is for the hand recounts to go forward and here's why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Under Florida law, any candidate has a right to get a manual recount. It's always been that way. That's happened in a lot of campaigns in the past. It's happened in this campaign in other counties. And what we're saying is don't change the rules in the middle of the game. Don't shut out the manual recount here when that has been a traditional part of Florida law
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Meanwhile, the vice president's Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are turning up the heat on the Florida secretary of state, Katherine Harris. Most recently, Tom Daschle, the minority leader in the Senate, told CNN's Chris Black that Katherine Harris should recuse herself from this whole process, says that she has a conflict of interest because she served as the co-chairman of the Bush campaign in the state of Florida. As a result, Daschle making this point that Harris should not be part of this process, that she should step aside, as the governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush, did more than a week ago.
Reporting live from Washington, this is Jonathan Karl.
WATERS: All right, Jonathan.
ALLEN: OK, Jonathan. Well, when you're fighting over the closest presidential race in memory, and probably in history, you don't turn to the yellow pages for a lawyer.
WATERS: Probably not. You turn to your rolodex, and as we've seen over the past eight days, both sides have very good rolodexes. CNN's Allan Dodds Frank introduces us to a few of the legal luminaries who are helping decide this presidential election.
ALLAN DODDS FRANK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the battle for the presidency intensifying in court, the Democrats brought in the biggest name in litigation.
WARREN CHRISTOPHER, OBSERVER FOR THE GORE CAMPAIGN: Now I would like to introduce the newest member of our team on this point, David Boies.
FRANK: He's the man the government hired to argue its antitrust case against Microsoft. And Napster turned to him to keep its controversial on-line music sharing service alive. But they were no contest compared to his current assignment.
DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: All that this campaign is attempting to do is to get the votes counted. Nobody's trying to litigate this issue.
FRANK: Boies joins a court battle that is already deep in all- star legal talent. Heading vice president Gore's team, Warren Christopher, former secretary of state under Bill Clinton and a renowned international corporate lawyer.
Governor Bush has his own former secretary of state, James Baker, who served under president George Bush. Baker is also known for his diplomatic, political and legal savvy.
While the Republicans, so far, have no superstar corporate lawyers out front, they have brought in a tough litigator, Ted Olson, a former assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration. Olson has already popped up on the morning talk shows.
Matched against him, on the Gore team: Harvard professor Laurence Tribe.
But it is the top dogs who are in charge of spin.
JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR THE BUSH CAMPAIGN: In every election, you have to have to balance, I think, the interests in making sure you have a recount, if necessary, against the interest of finality.
CHRISTOPHER: Let me reiterate that the most important thing now is for the counties whose manual counts are in process to continue and to complete their work.
When that finality will come is in doubt, but both sides are taking no chances, with lawyers deployed all over Florida, ready to flood state and federal courts. So many it would be funny if the issue weren't so serious. JAY LENO, HOST OF "THE TONIGHT SHOW": He's air-dropping them into Florida. Look at that, there they are, ladies and gentlemen.
Allan Dodds Frank, CNN Financial News, New York.
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