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Democrats and Republicans Battling Over Whether to Accept Manual Recounts; Gore Makes Offer to BushAired November 15, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight: Al Gore's endgame proposal...
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AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If this happens, I will abide by the result. I will take no legal action to challenge the result.
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ANNOUNCER: As we wait for the Bush campaign response, the legal showdown over the Florida recount leaves behind a statewide paper trail of sometimes confusing legal maneuvers.
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WARREN CHRISTOPHER, OBSERVER FOR GORE CAMPAIGN: We understand the frustrations of everyone to reach a result on these matters. On the other hand, I think the American people want to see us do this in a fair, consistent, rapid way.
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JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: The Gore campaign strategy, I think, is crystal clear: keep conducting selective recounts, keep filing lawsuits, keep making false charges that divert attention.
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ANNOUNCER: A closer look at the lawsuits and the arguments behind them and the political implications of Al Gore's proposal.
All ahead, on this special edition of THE WORLD TODAY: "The Florida Recount.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting tonight from Washington. It was a day that was filled with competing waves of legal filings and court hearings that stretched from the coast to the capital of Florida. But perhaps the day's biggest developments happened in the past hour and a half. Vice President Al Gore tonight offered a set of proposals to governor George W. Bush that could, in theory, supersede the escalating legal battles that have engulfed this presidential election. Gore described his offer as a way to end the current political standoff within a week. He said, quote, with finality, to determine who really won Florida's 25 electoral votes, and, in turn, who won the White House.
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GORE: First, we should complete hand counts already begun in Palm Beach County, Dade County and Broward County to determine the true intentions of the voters based on an objective evaluation of their ballots.
Observers and participants from both parties should be present in every counting room, as required under Florida law.
The results of this recount would, of course, be added to the present certified vote total and the overseas absentee vote total. If this happens, I will abide by the result, I will take no legal action to challenge the result, and I will not support any legal action to challenge the result.
I am also prepared, if Governor Bush prefers, to include in this recount all the counties in the entire state of Florida. I would also be willing to abide by that result and agree not to take any legal action to challenge that result. If there are no further interruptions to the process, we believe the count can be completed within seven days of the time it starts.
Now, second, I propose that Governor Bush and I meet personally, one on one, as soon as possible, before the vote count is finished, not to negotiate, but to improve the tone of our dialogue in America. We should both call on all of our supporters to respect the outcome of this election, whatever it may be. We should both call on all our supporters to prepare themselves to close ranks as Americans and unite the country behind the winner as soon as this process is completed.
Shortly after the results are known, we should both come together for another meeting, to reaffirm our national unity. If I turn out to be successful, I'll be ready to travel to Governor Bush's home. If I am not, I'll be ready to meet him wherever he wishes.
I would also like to urge all of those speaking for either of us to do their part to lift up this discourse, to refrain from using inflammatory language, and to avoid statements that could make it harder for our country to come together once the counting is over. That is the direction I have given to my own campaign.
I don't know what the final results will show, but I do know this is about much more than what happens to me or my opponent; it is about our democracy. My faith is in the people's will, in our Constitution and in our system of self-government.
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BLITZER: And with latest thinking from both the Bush and Gore camps on this proposal, we are joined by CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley in Austin, Texas. She's covering the Bush campaign, of course. And CNN's Patty Davis here in Washington. She's covering the Gore campaign. Let's begin with Candy.
Candy, has there been any formal or even informal reaction yet from the Bush campaign?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we expect the governor, who is headed back from his ranch in Crawford, about two-hour drive time from here, to have a statement no earlier than 10:15 Eastern time.
But in the meantime, I've been trying to get a sense of where Republicans are on this and what they thought of Al Gore's speech, delivered, what, a couple hours ago. I will tell you that one person close to the goings on here, said they give him an A for presentation; they thought it was obviously well-thought out. They thought it was very smart. They said, look, the TelePrompTer was there, they've obviously been thinking about this all day long. They noticed the pictures of Mrs. Gore in the back -- the presentation was perfect.
They argued that the substance of it is not that different. No. 1, the idea that, just to continue with these hand recounts in three Democratic counties, add that to the absentee ballots and call it a day -- nothing different from what they've been saying for the past several days.
Now, the idea of a full county recount, looking at that, it was pointed to me, that not once in all of this has the Republican team picked up on the idea of hand recounts in other counties. We've been consistent, said one Republican; because, you know, how could we say, look, we think these chads and pregnant chads and dimpled chads and passing these ballots around and going for the fourth recount is open to mischief, is open to mistake and all of that, and then say, but let's do it in 67 counties. So it would not seem consistent for the Bush team to accept the idea that, OK, well let's do these hand counts that we think are really open to misuse and abuse in all 67 counties.
As for a meeting -- very open to question. I'm told that the statement that Governor Bush will make they're working on now. That things change rapidly. I don't have a good sense of the idea of whether he will or won't meet with the vice president or, indeed, what exactly he will say, because I'm told they're still working on that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks Candy.
Let's bring in Patty Davis; as I said, she's covering the Gore campaign. Patty, based on what you're hearing from some of the advisers working with Vice President Gore, do they really believe this is a proposal that Governor Bush can accept, or was it done more for public relation purposes, designed to show that the vice president is trying to get this out of court? PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Gore campaign tells me that it does believe that the Bush campaign would accept this. But, you know, the Bush campaign has come out with proposals of its own that have been summarily rejected by the Gore campaign. So there's a real question there. They say that the very important thing, the new, the different thing about what Vice President Al gore did today was this whole idea of dropping the lawsuits.
No one, they say, on the Gore side has offered to do that so far. And they're saying, if you allow the hand count to go forward, add that along to the votes that are already certified, add that along to the overseas absentee ballots -- even if, when that's all done, Vice President Al Gore loses, they will not challenge this in court.
Now, they're saying that's very different. But I have to add that they probably wouldn't go ahead with this if they didn't feel they had a very good chance. They feel that they're picking up votes in those counties where the hand recounts are and would be taking place, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Patty.
I want to just bring Candy Crowley in for another question. Candy, you and I, we've covered a lot of these kinds of stories -- negotiations among politicians. We heard a proposal from Bush camp yesterday to end it, James Baker, the former secretary of state -- now Vice President Gore has a proposal. Are these opening bargaining positions or simply public relations ploys designed to put their respective candidates on the high ground?
CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I think, you know, it's a little bit of both; but I'm not sure that the genie isn't already out on the bottle on this -- that the court things that are already in place -- it's hard to pull them back and say, let's now negotiate.
We didn't hear -- in fact, the vice president said very specifically, look, I don't want to negotiate, let's just raise the tone, that's why I want to talk to him. I don't see negotiations going on here so much as jockeying for position.
Let me point out one other thing that was pointed out to me, again; separate this from what the governor may or may not say this evening -- but something that was pointed out to me by someone who was close and familiar with the thinking of the Bush campaign -- let's suppose that the secretary of state of Florida comes out at some point and says, OK, I've looked at these things and these reasons why these manual recounts must go on. I've decided there really isn't much reason for that. And she goes ahead, say, Saturday -- after the absentee ballots are in and says, OK, I certify the election.
It then, at that point, becomes very, very difficult and involves more and more courts in order to go in and change what the secretary of state of Florida has certified. So, you know, insofar as that comes into play in the thinking of the Gore camp or in the thinking of the Bush camp, it's definitely on their minds as to what the secretary of state is going to do. And I note, with interest, that she may have some comments later on this evening.
BLITZER: And we're now told, by the way, those comments might come as early as 9:00 p.m., less than one hour from now.
Patty Davis, finally, to you; this proposal that Vice President Gore made for face-to-face meeting with Governor Bush, is there any indication you're hearing from the Gore aides that this is realistic, that this might in fact happen in the not-too-distant future?
DAVIS: Well, the Gore campaign hasn't specifically talked about that. I mean, they're certainly going to propose that to the Bush campaign and see if they'll accept it. But no realistic -- no response yet from the Bush campaign. They're certainly hoping that'll happen. Like I said, the bottom line here in all of this is that the Gore campaign really wants this hand recount to go on. That's the bottom line because they feel that they can really add some votes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: OK, Patty Davis covering the Gore campaign here in Washington. Candy Crowley covering the Bush campaign in Austin, Texas. Before gore made his comments in Washington this evening, the battalion of attorneys for the Republican and Democratic campaigns opened new legal fronts in their battles over how to reach a final, accurate ballot count in Florida.
The day started with officials from both parties asking the state Supreme Court to get involved, and this afternoon, the judges denied a request from the secretary of state to stop all manual recounts. At the federal, in the meantime, an appeals court in Atlanta agreed to hear arguments on a Bush campaign move to block those same hand counts.
For latest from Florida's capitol, we join CNN's Deborah Feyerick in Tallahassee. Deborah, tell us about this remarkable day in the state capitol of Tallahassee.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was indeed. And just to give you an idea of just how many papers were filed today, we have a stack more than an inch thick of different motions from different parties. To fill you in on the latest, the secretary of state will be giving a press conference we are told at about at 9:00 tonight.
There are several things that she could discuss, including the Supreme Court today denying her emergency petition to effectively stop the Florida recount. She had filed that petition, hoping that perhaps she could create some sort of standard so that all ballots that are recounted could be judged the same way in all counties regardless of who is doing the counting.
Katherine Harris also had wanted to combine all of the lawsuits that are out in the state of Florida. Again, the Supreme Court denied that motion as well. But they did so without prejudice, and effectively what that means is that they didn't rule one way or another. What they did say is you've got to go through other courts first. Speaking of other courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals, briefs due from both sides tomorrow morning at 7:00. Governor George W. Bush there still trying to stop this recount in the Court of Appeals. So where does that all leave us?
We still don't know whether this recount is going to count. Four counties today did meet a deadline and they wanted to effectively to tell the secretary of state their reasons as to why they felt they should be able to do a full hand recount and have those tallies included in the final total of the votes. The secretary of state is considering this.
A state judge yesterday had told her she must consider all the facts and the circumstances before arbitrarily dismissing any of the reasons that the counties gave for why they wanted to do this. And the judge made it very clear that to just toss them out, to just ignore these would be effectively what he called an abdication of responsibility -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, reporting live from Tallahassee. Thank you very much. I want to go back to Candy Crowley, who's in Austin, Texas covering the Bush campaign. Candy, I take it that even in the past few minutes this fast-moving story has moved a little bit further?
CROWLEY: Yes, we do have a statement from Spokesman Ari Fleischer, a spokesman here at Austin Bush headquarters in response to what the vice president had to say. And let me just read it to you. "A fair and accurate vote count is best achieved by following the law, not through a political deal."
If I were to sum this up, it looks like a rejection of what the vice president laid out in his speech just a little while ago. But again. saying that a fair and accurate vote count is best achieved by following the law. By that they mean both Florida law and of course that 11th Circuit Court of Appeals case that they do have pending in Atlanta and not through a political deal by which we assume they mean what Al Gore has suggested.
BLITZER: A terse statement from Ari Fleischer. Thank you so much, Candy Crowley. Now joining us is George Terwilliger, one of the attorneys representing George W. Bush and his campaign in this entire legal that's going on in Florida. Mr. Terwilliger, thanks for joining us.
Give us your reaction as an attorney working for Governor Bush, tell us what your reaction is to this proposal from Vice President Gore?
GEORGE TERWILLIGER, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Well, Wolf, I don't think it's my place as an attorney to react to what the vice president has suggested or proposed. I'm sure that Governor Bush and people in Austin will do that.
The lawyers that are down here are interested in trying to make sure that we get a fair process that gets an accurate result. You know, our basic position on this, Wolf, is very simple. There is a myth that's been created that somehow the more times these ballots are counted, the more accurate the result will be. And that simply not the case.
BLITZER: Well, why not? People assume that a hand count -- a lot of people, at least -- assume a hand count is more reliable than machinery.
TERWILLIGER: Well, if that were the case, then I guess we would count ballots by hand all the time instead of using machines. In fact, the opposite is true.
If you talk to the experts, Wolf, who know about voting and election procedures, the reason this country has migrated from ballots and paper ballots and hand counting to machines is because of the accuracy that the machines bring us. The only reason to go to a hand count, and this is really what's at the center of this entire dispute, the only reason to go to a hand count is if there's something really, truly abnormally wrong with the machine count.
In this case, we had a close election. They did a machine count and then they recounted. And the second count came out the same as the first. Now in some places, including Palm Beach County, these same ballots have been counted four times, including several times by hand and they've been handled. This causes the ballots to degrade, these little pieces paper that we all now know as chad, fly off. They lay around the on the floor. They clog up the machines. It's a horrible situation.
Legally, Wolf, what the Florida law is about is making sure that the will of the voters gets expressed in the result of the election and the Florida Supreme Court been clear on that. Hand counting these ballots over and over doesn't help get us there.
BLITZER: But didn't the Florida Supreme Court today allow the hand counting in these counties to go forward by rejecting this emergency appeal from the secretary of state?
TERWILLIGER: No, I don't think that's the case. We'll have to see what the court does tomorrow with a more narrow question that appears to be before it concerning the opinion of the secretary of state that was issued that the hand counts are basically not justified under Florida law.
You know, that's another important thing, Wolf, I'm glad you brought up. The secretary of state is the highest election officer in Florida and her word is the rule of law unless a court finds it to be clearly erroneous, and she has said and issued an opinion upon request that's binding in Palm Beach and Broward Counties that those hand counts are not justified under Florida law. There's not a good reason for them.
BLITZER: The former Secretary of State James Baker, who's representing Governor Bush in these legal proceedings as well, keeps talking about the potential there for mischief if these hand counts go forward. A) is there any evidence that such mischief has occurred and b) just what specifically does he mean by mischief?
TERWILLIGER: Well, what you have, and, you know, your network has covered it quite well, people have seen it themselves, is you have this ballot with these infinitesimal little holes in it that's meant to be counted by an optical reading machine, and you have people trying to read it.
And first they had one set of rules. They were holding the ballots up to the light and trying to see if any light came through on of these little holes and, you know, it kind of looked like Karnac the Canvasser. And then you had a situation where they went back to another set of rules in 1990.
The fact of the matter is, Wolf, I'd encourage you folks to pick up one of these ballots and look at one of these pieces of so-called hanging chad and think about what the potential is for human error in just trying to read those little holes.
On top of that, the fact of the matter is that, you know these election officials are very often partisan people. People get partisan juices going and, you know, if something sort of on the line or in doubt, it would only be human in some cases if their partisan affiliations got in the way of their judgment. That's no way to decide who's going to be the next president.
BLITZER: All right, George Terwilliger, you've made your case. Thanks for joining us on this special edition of THE WORLD TODAY.
TERWILLIGER: Nice to be with you.
BLITZER: Thank you, and now let's bring in a lawyer, one of the elite attorneys representing the Gore campaign. He's David Boies. He joins us as well.
Mr. Boies, you just hear the case made by George Terwilliger from the Bush campaign. He says that this whole process of hand counting is open to lot of mischief.
DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Well, the problem is that hand counting seems to be fine with Republicans as long as they ask for it. There's hand counting in counties in Florida that the Bush campaign asked for. There's hand counting in other states the Bush campaign asked for.
There's been hand counting throughout Florida's history. Florida law specifically provides for hand counting when there is a challenge and the reason is because machines make mistakes. You don't have machines because they don't make mistakes. You have machines because they're faster.
But when they make mistakes, hand counting is what the Florida statutes provides for and if this is going to be an election about rules, we've to follow the rules. The rules have been followed in past elections. The rules have been followed in this election in other counties. BLITZER: The Bush campaign seems to have rejected this latest proposal, this proposal only made within the past couple of hours from Vice President Gore. If, in fact, that is a formal rejection -- a brief statement from Ari Fleischer, the press secretary -- what does that suggest? The legal process obviously is going to continue if this political effort fails.
BOIES: I guess that's so. I think that's very unfortunate. I would hope that initial signals coming out of the Bush camp are not going to accurately reflect the way they eventually come out. I think that the proposal to try to take this out of the legal arena, to settle it finally once and for all, based on the count of the votes done over the next week, is the right way to do it.
I think it's unfortunate that so much is being done by the Republicans to stop the vote counting. They went into federal court and asked the federal court to stop it. Federal court said no. They then tried self-help. They had the secretary of state say stop counting. The Florida circuit court said you can't do that. They went into the Florida Supreme Court this morning and said, won't you stop the recount, and the Florida Supreme Court said, of course, we're not going to do that.
At some point, I would hope that everybody sort of steps back and recognizes that what's really at issue here ought not to be legal maneuvering, but ought to be trying to find out what the people said when they voted. That's what's really at issue here, and the sooner we get back to that -- and I think the federal courts and the state courts are both saying the same thing to the Bush campaign. Let the recount get done. Maybe Gore will win, maybe Bush will win, but let the people's voice be heard.
BLITZER: Mr. Boies, what happens if on Saturday after these overseas absentee ballots come in the secretary of state of Florida announces that Governor Bush has won this election? What recourse does the Gore campaign have at that point?
BOIES: I really don't want to speculate on that. I hope the secretary of state will do the right thing. The court has already told her not to do that. The court has already said it would be an abdication of her responsibilities to do that.
She's delayed the recount to try to take advantage of that and cut this off prematurely. I think it would be a terrible mistake. I hope she doesn't do that. Obviously, if she does do that, maybe there's no alternative to be back in court.
But I would really hope that people could pick up the spirit of what Vice President Gore said today and begin to think of how to do we get this back to the kind of situation that I think the American people really want, which is to allow the votes to be counted and then to abide by that result.
Remember, no matter what happens in Florida, it's undisputed that Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman won the popular vote. That's not going to change. It's not going to change that they won the electoral vote outside of Florida. What's at issue here is are we going to do in Florida what's been done in all the other states, which is to count the votes and record them the way that the people intended. And I would hope everybody would take that objective, try to get it done and then let the people decide, and get on with the business of the country.
BLITZER: All right, David Boies, one of the attorneys representing Vice President Gore in all these legal battles. Thank you so much for joining us from Tallahassee.
And this reminder...
BOIES: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you. This reminder: At the top of the hour, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris will make a statement that CNN will carry live. But next here, the absentee and overseas ballots, how they're counted and their impact on the final Florida result. This is a special edition of the "THE WORLD TODAY."
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like the way that each party is putting down the other. I don't like the sniveling. I don't like the accusations. I think it's terrible.
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BLITZER: Welcome back. There's a wildcard in this election: overseas ballots. A few hundred Americans scattered abroad may very well determine who takes up residence in the building you can see over my shoulder.
CNN national correspondent Charles Zewe reports on how the mail- in effort is being handled in one country.
CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Miami-Dade County elections office, 1,700 ballots were mailed before the November 7th election to Florida voters living overseas. The ballots were almost evenly split between Democratic and Republican voters, with 400 requested by independent voters. So far, more than 1,100 have been returned and included in vote totals already reported: 150, however, are sitting in trays under lock and key in the Miami elections office, yet to be tallied.
Officials say 400 more ballots could arrive before the deadline of 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time Friday, and they're taking extra steps to make sure that every ballot is counted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to have people at the post office. The post office is assuring us they are going to whisk these things through customs, because everything has to come through customs, and from there we have a delivery guy that's going to be brining it in. And then we're going to canvas them and open them.
ZEWE: A quarter of overseas ballots from Miami alone went to military personnel. In 1996, Bob Dole won 54 percent of the military vote in Florida. But the Gore camp is hoping to offset those overseas military votes with pro-Democratic voters in Israel, drawn by Joe Lieberman's vice presidential candidacy.
There's also a wildcard at play in the vote tally: 74 so-called federal write-in ballots have arrived in Miami and will be included in the vote totals Friday. Write-in voters are Americans who show up at any U.S. embassy, present their passport, and then write in their choice for president.
(on camera): 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time Friday is the cutoff for receiving overseas mail-in ballots. Election officials say after that deadline the votes will be tabulated and relayed to the Florida secretary of state's office in Tallahassee, where barring a hitch they'll be added to the state's presidential vote totals.
Charles Zewe, CNN, Miami.
BLITZER: Statewide in Florida, more than 22,000 overseas ballots were requested. That's according to a county-by-county survey of election officials by "The St. Petersburg Times." Of those, more than 1,800 have been received but not yet counted, and nearly 7,600 have not been received as of Tuesday.
Joining us now from West Palm Beach with some perspective on all of this is David Cardwell, former Florida state elections director, who's been helping us understand the intricacies of Florida election law.
Mr. Cardwell, give us your sense of how important precisely these overseas ballots could be.
DAVID CARDWELL, FORMER FLORIDA STATE ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Wolf, the overseas ballots could be really critical in the election with it being as close as it is. And it's really sort of a wildcard. These are ballots cast by citizens who are residing overseas as well as military personnel.
Florida has a lot of overseas residents who claim Florida as their residency, usually for tax purposes, but will vote in Florida and cast absentee ballots. Also, we have a very strong military presence in Florida with several large military bases where personnel have been sent overseas, so we could have a significant number of ballots coming back through this federal overseas citizen voting program.
BLITZER: Now, we're told, Mr. Cardwell, that some 12,000 of overseas ballots have already been counted. When do they count some of these ballots and when do they wait until Friday night to count these ballots? What is the procedure there? CARDWELL: If the ballots had been received in the supervisor of elections' office -- and that's to whom it is addressed -- it goes back to the supervisor in the county that the individual claims a residency in Florida. If it was received in that office on or before November 7th, then it was included in the count that was done on the 7th. Florida election supervisors could begin tabulating absentee ballots on the morning of Election Day. They just cannot announce the results until after the polls close. But if those ballots have been received, they were already included.
If the ballot was received in the supervisor's office after November 7th, then it will be held and they will be opened together and counted after the deadline passes on Friday.
BLITZER: We've heard a lot of speculation that these overseas absentee ballots tend to be more Republican than Democratic. Is there any hard evidence in past elections that has been the case?
CARDWELL: Well, these are ballots that have never gotten as much scrutiny as they are certainly getting this year. A lot of things that were not closely looked at -- or, this year being closely looked at and this is one of them. The last election, last presidential election, the overseas ballots went about 54 percent for Senator Dole. But there really hasn't been a real pattern that you could look at and really hasn't been any statistics really to follow how those votes have been cast in prior elections.
BLITZER: David Cardwell, thank you once again for joining us, helping us better understand Florida's elections procedures.
We have to take a quick break. When we come back, we'll go down to West Palm Beach. Once again, CNN's legal analyst Greta Van Susteren will join us. She'll take a closer look at the 11th circuit court, U.S. court, in Atlanta. Stay with us.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the votes will not determine who is the president. I think it is the will of the lawyers. They will decide who will win this thing.
BLITZER: Welcome back to this special edition of THE WORLD TODAY. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington.
These programming notes: at the top of the hour we're standing by awaiting a statement from secretary of state Katherine Harris in Tallahassee, Florida. CNN, of course, will bring that live when it occurs. And during the 10:00 Eastern hour, around 10:15, we are told, Eastern time, the Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush will be making a statement in Austin, Texas. We expect to bring that to you live as well.
For now let's go back to West Palm Beach. Our CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren is standing by. Greta, tell us what's happening and what we can look forward to tomorrow as the legal process continues.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Boy, Wolf, there's an awful lot happening, but I suppose what is top on the radar screen is what's happening in the United States court of appeals, which is located in Atlanta. And to help us sort that out, we have two law professors joining us in Atlanta. We have Neil Kinkoff and Richard Freer.
Let me go first to you, Neil. Tomorrow morning, 7:00 a.m. is a filing deadline for the lawyers. Why so early?
NEIL KINKOFF, CIVIL PROCEDURE PROFESSOR: Well, Greta, I think the court of appeals would like to hear what the lawyers have to say and have the opportunity to respond to that in a timely fashion.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you really think, though, that all 12 judges are going to get all those briefs at 7:00 a.m. and begin reading them?
KINKOFF: Greta, I think this is an extraordinary case. It would not at all surprise me if they get out of bed a little early to take a look at those briefs. It will be very interesting reading.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you expect that there will be a hearing, an oral argument in this case, Neil?
KINKOFF: That wouldn't surprise me at all. I think judges would like to have an opportunity to test their thoughts and to test the positions of the litigants and would find, for those reasons, oral argument to be very helpful.
VAN SUSTEREN: Taking you behind the scenes, Neil, the briefs get filed tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. What's the realistic path? What happens after that?
KINKOFF: Well, I think the judges will read them and so will their law clerks and they will caucus together, the judges with their law clerks and then the judges with one another. And they'll talk about the merits and demerits of the various arguments being made. It's a complicated case, and I think they will look for as much input as they can get.
VAN SUSTEREN: Richard, this is an emergency request. It's an effort to stop the hand count here in Palm Beach and other counties. But there's the issue about when the federal court should get involved in state elections. Help us, where is that line? When does a federal court get involved?
RICHARD D. FREER, FEDERAL COURT JURISDICTION PROFESSOR: Absolutely right, Greta. I think it's very important to keep the federal courts and the state courts completely separate because we have proceedings in each one. And the federal court was asked, the federal trial court in Florida was asked to issue an injunction, an order, stopping the hand recount in those counties. That is a very tough, uphill battle for the person who wants it for two reasons. One is it's very tough to get an injunction because you have to show likelihood of the success on the merits of your underlying claim.
But more importantly, in this case, you have a federalism issue. Federal courts do not like to get in the way. They have abstention doctrines, which counsel that they not muck up the works of what states are doing. And this is an example where you have state machinery going at two levels, both at the electoral level and also in state litigation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Richard, you say that they don't like to get involved. Does that mean they can't get involved or they don't get involved or they won't get involved?
FREER: Well, I think at this point it means they won't get involved. I cannot imagine that the 11th circuit will do anything with this other than affirm what the district judge did. I would be very surprised if there were anything other than a brief opinion affirming what the district judge did, possibly on this federalism issue, this abstention issue, that at this point, you have to let the state proceedings run their course. When those are done, there may be some issue that the federal courts can look at.
But right now I don't see anything that the federal courts can get involved in at all. I would be astonished if the 11th circuit did anything other than affirm. I think the fact that they went with an en banc hearing shows that they want to expedite matters. It shows the exigency of the situation.
VAN SUSTEREN: But Neil, doesn't that also, though, I mean any time all 12 judges in a court get involved in a case instead of the routine three, which is typical in an appellate case in the United States courts of appeals -- doesn't the fact that 12 are getting involved suggest to you that they may think this is more important as we lawyers read the tea leaves on this case?
KINKOFF: Well, it may suggest that they think this is an important case. And, in fact, I think it's hard to deny that this is an important case. But it also means that they think it's important to decide it quickly. And I think that's the major reason that the court has decided to go straight to the en banc hearing.
VAN SUSTEREN: Richard, what's the relief of the losing party in the U.S. Court of Appeals? Is this the type of case -- is this the type of issue that the United States Supreme Court would entertain?
FREER: I cannot imagine that the Supreme Court would take this now. It seems to me that after the 11th Circuit affirms, which I think they will, then the battle goes on in state court and what we have here is a very interesting example for the country of what lawyers know all the time, is forum shopping. People choose a system that they might prefer to be in because they think that they may get a better shake there. VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well Neal Kinkoff and Richard Freer, thank you both for joining me. We're going to take a break and when we come back we're going to give you some local color. We're going to introduce you to the chief judge in the Palm Beach Circuit Court. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD: We are a three-person local election board who is trying to act fairly, act appropriately, and I think, more importantly, to act lawfully. There is much litigation surrounding this election everywhere. I'm just kind of sharing with you that the frustration that this board has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back. My guest is now Judge Walter Cobath, who is the chief judge in this complex that we're sitting in, this judicial complex.
Judge, what's this like for you? For your courthouse to have all the media descend upon you and the attention?
CHIEF JUDGE WALTER COLBATH, PALM BEACH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: Well, it's confusing, of course, but we were fortunate. We've learned a couple of things from the Kennedy-Smith trial, from the tobacco case, so we were almost prepared.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is this exciting for you?
COLBATH: It's difficult.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why is it difficult?
COLBATH: It's difficult in terms of having to be behind the scenes, but make sure that everything is OK for the media, for the litigants, for the judges. We have five staff attorneys assigned to this case doing nothing else but supporting the judge who is on this case.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's the buzz, though, in the courthouse? Is everybody talking about this case and about the importance of this, who they saw outside and what's going on in the courtroom?
COLBATH: Strangely, no. And I don't know if it's because they've been there, done that with those other cases I mentioned or if they're just busy going about their own job.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's sort of almost unique. The cameras in the courtroom was started here in Florida with the William Kennedy Smith case that you mentioned, which CNN instantly carried a number of years ago, do you think it's a good idea that there's -- this is such an open system here in Florida that we have cameras in the courtroom here and we get to see what goes on? COLBATH: Yes, I do, because the judicial process is a mystery to most people. They think they're educated by soap operas and TV lawyers and that sort of thing, not referring you to you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Of course.
COLBATH: And that's not the real world. And I think that something -- the openness is a good education.
VAN SUSTEREN: What's the best thing and worst thing about your job as a chief judge?
COLBATH: The best thing is I'm going retire in about six months.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK, good. And the worst thing?
COLBATH: The worst thing is trying to organize something like this and dealing with -- I have 49 judges that I'm responsible for.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you've been very hospitable to the media here in West Palm Beach, and thank you very much for joining me.
COLBATH: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Wolf, back to you now.
BLITZER: It's a lot warmer where you are than where I am, but you're having fun, I'm sure. Thanks again. After the break, Florida's secretary of state thrust into the spotlight. Katherine Harris walks a fine line between partisan politics and objectivity. We'll talk to her predecessor to discuss the pressures on Harris and the woman herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: We have a genuine drama going on as to who the next president of the United States will be. At this point, we have an administration in place that's functioning and in no way, shape or form is there any diminution in the strength of the United States or our ability to conduct foreign relations at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back. In about 10 minutes, we'll be hearing from Florida's secretary of state Katherine Harris. When she speaks in Tallahassee CNN will bring that to you live.
In the meantime, let's speak with one of her predecessors, a former secretary of state of Florida, Sandy Mortham. She joins us now live.
Thanks so much. The criticism that you've heard from Gore supporters, from Democrats of Katherine Harris alleging her partisanship, is that criticism fair?
SANDY MORTHAM, FORMER FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't think it's fair at all. She's been elected statewide by Republicans, Democrats, independents to do a job, and frankly, I think she's doing just that.
BLITZER: What would you be doing differently if you still were the secretary of state, differently from Katherine Harris?
MORTHAM: Well, I've watched real closely. I don't have all the background, the nitty-gritty, so to speak, but I can tell you that as of today I think that she has called the shots very well, and I think that right now, I would say that I would do almost everything that she's done to date.
BLITZER: Tell us about Katherine Harris, the woman. What is she like as a person?
MORTHAM: Well, Katherine has come up through the ranks of the Florida Senate. She did a very good job there. She has a lot of responsibility as the secretary of state right now. The focus is elections and that's what we really need to be dealing with. And I think that she's bright, she's capable and I think she's forthright and I think she will do her job in this case as well.
BLITZER: You've heard the criticism. She was a co-chair of the Bush campaign in Florida, an ardent supporter of Governor Bush. Isn't there, as some of the Gore supporters are alleging, a built-in conflict of interest that would require her to recuse herself or to remove herself from this process?
MORTHAM: I think it would be totally inappropriate if she were to recuse herself. I was secretary of state for four years. I was the national co-chair for one of the presidential campaigns and I can tell you that I could have very easily taken off my campaign hat and put on my secretary of state hat and my fiduciary responsibility to the people of the state of Florida. And I think Katherine Harris is doing just exactly the same thing.
BLITZER: Will she have any leeway right now, the so-called discretion she was awarded by the court, the circuit, the local court in Tallahassee yesterday? How much leeway will she have to certify that this election, this presidential election in Florida is a done deal?
MORTHAM: Well, there are lots of differing opinions on that but I have to tell you that, again, I've read that law very closely and I happen to disagree with the circuit judge. I'm not an attorney and probably I shouldn't make that call, but I don't think there's any discretion whatsoever in our statutes. And I do not believe that she's got any leeway whatsoever in accepting those ballots. And so, I think that it is very clear. I don't think there's any ambiguity whatsoever. She's got a job to do and she needs to do it.
BLITZER: Sandy Mortham, thank you so much for joining us during these tumultuous times here in the United States. MORTHAM: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
When we come back we'll get some final thoughts from our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He'll wrap this remarkable day up for all of us. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Joining us now, CNN's senior preliminary analyst, Bill Schneider.
Bill, button up this remarkable day for us, the big picture if you will.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, yesterday Bush looked like the big winner in the court decision that said the secretary of state can announce the vote. Today Gore looked like the winner when the supreme court of Florida said that the manual recount would not be stopped. It would go on. So, Gore came out, more or less in celebration and he made an offer which sounded very reasonable.
Now Bush has to accept his offer or reject it, whatever he wishes in about an hour. The question is, Gore now says he wants closure. He's not going to challenge the results if you do the manual recount in three counties. And if Bush wants a full recount of the whole state, he's going to be responsible for extending this process for an unreasonable amount of time. Now we are waiting to go hear from Governor Bush.
BLITZER: And we will be hearing from Governor Bush during the 10:00 hour a little more than an hour from now.
Bill Schneider, thanks so much for joining us.
And that is our special edition of THE WORLD TODAY. Next on "LARRY KING LIVE," former President Jimmy Carter and William Daley, the chairman of the Gore campaign.
One hour from now, Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff bring you a special report on the Florida recount. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.
And we'll be back tomorrow night to bring you all the latest developments in this Florida recount. Don't forget, within the next hour: Katherine Harris the Florida secretary of state is expected to make a statement. We will bring that to you live as well.
For now, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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