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Inside Politics

Gore Suffers Major Legal Defeats

Aired December 4, 2000 - 5:49 p.m. ET



JUDGE N. SANDERS SAULS, LEON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: The court finds that the plaintiffs have failed to carry the requisite burden of proof.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: A Florida judge rules against Al Gore and his contest of the state's presidential vote count hours after a U.S. Supreme court opinion, that left both sides spinning.


JAMES BAKER, BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I would argue to you that from our standpoint at least it was a win.

RON KLAIN, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: The U.S. Supreme Court's decision today, I think, is just a no decision.


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Now the legal ball is back in the Florida Supreme Court, and the presidential waiting game ticks on and on.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS, with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: Thank you for joining us on this day of back-to-back legal decisions in the presidential election stand off. As you saw and heard live on CNN a short while ago, a Florida judge rejected Al Gore's contest of the state's presidential vote and his request for a hand count of some 14,000 disputed ballots.

Several hours ago, the United States Supreme Court set aside a ruling that permitted some earlier hand recounts, and the justices sent the matter back to the Florida Supreme Court asking for clarification. The Florida high court now is reviewing the latest legal twists.

CNN's Gary Tuchman joins us now with more on the just-announced ruling -- Gary. GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, from the Gore team there is no sugar-coating it. This was another defeat for them. Last week, they asked the judge to please move this trial along. They wanted it started by Monday the 4th, which is today. The judge took them two better. He said, I'll start the trial on Saturday the 2nd and we'll finish it over the weekend.

The Gore side also said, we want the ballots brought up here to Tallahassee. The judge said, OK. It ended up 1.1 million ballots from Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade County came to Tallahassee, and they remain right now in two vaults behind me.

The Gore side also said, we want those votes counted, and the judge said, well I'm not going to count them, at least until I hear the testimony.

Well he heard the testimony, and today he said news that was not very good at all for the Gore side.


SAULS: The evidence does not establish any illegality, dishonesty, gross negligence, improper influence, coercion or fraud in the balloting and counting processes.

Secondly, there's no authority under Florida law for certification of an incomplete manual recount of a portion of or less than all ballots from any county by the state elections canvassing commission, nor authority to include any returns submitted past the deadline established by the Florida Supreme Court in this election.

Thirdly, although the record...


TUCHMAN: So if this judge's word is final, there will be no hand counts for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman. You heard his 16-minute speech, but on paper it just comes out to one paragraph. And it basically said that the plaintiffs, Albert Gore Jr. and Joseph I. Lieberman, shall take nothing by the action, and the defendants may go hence without day -- a legal sentence, but what it means is there is absolutely no good news for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman today.

However -- and this is what the Democrats are banking on -- the Florida Supreme Court. They've already gotten a ruling from that court. That court's two blocks away from me. A short time ago they delivered their appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeals. The way it works here is you deliver your appeal to that court, and then that court customarily bumps it up to the Florida Supreme Court. We expect sometime this week to get a final ruling from the Florida Supreme Court about whether any votes will be counted.

Bernie, back to you.

SHAW: Gary, let's briefly go back into the courtroom. I was struck by the warning Judge Sauls issued from the bench when he said that if two standards, two different standards for vote counting are used, it could jeopardize Florida's standing in the Electoral College.

TUCHMAN: There's no question about it. His words were very harsh. It was interesting, Bernie, being with this judge all week. He's been very folksy, very funny, cracking jokes with both sides. And just today such a totally different atmosphere. I mean, this weekend, 23 hours of testimony. Everyone was exhausted. They went until 11:00 last night. But still, everyone was kind of having fun for some of the time.

But today, it was very serious, very tense inside that room and the words were very harsh from the judge. He was very clear that this was a victory for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney -- Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you, Gary Tuchman -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we are joined now by CNN legal analyst Greta Van Susteren.

Greta, was it clear all along that the Gore team had to show, in the judge's words, that there was a reasonable probability, that the election results would be substantial -- would be different if these votes were counted?

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It was clear because what guided all teams on this and the judge was the Florida statute. And that statute basically says you have to come into the courtroom and show that the wrong guy won.

WOODRUFF: So having done this, and I heard you talk about this a minute ago, you're saying the standard now for the Gore folks to count on any kind of grace for the state Supreme Court is very high, the hurdle, in other words.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, every -- in any litigation, the deeper you get into it, the more you lose, the harder it is to win. Because now when they go up to the Florida Supreme Court, they're not asking the Florida Supreme Court to take a look at it new. The Florida Supreme Court doesn't step into the shoes of the judge and decide the case over. What they do is look to see if the judge was out of line, which is a much -- which is a much higher standard. Because the judge could be almost flat out wrong, and the Florida Supreme Court would say, we don't agree with you, but we have to affirm you because we don't think you abused your discretion.

WOODRUFF: This is probably an unfair question, Greta, but looking back on the way the Gore people argued over the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, is there anything that you're aware of that they could have or should have done differently to end up with a better verdict?

VAN SUSTEREN: Probably not. Here's one of the problems that you have: When you have a single person deciding the case, you know, what one judge may think meets the standard, the next one might not. So really, lots of times in close cases, it's the luck of the draw. And...

WOODRUFF: So you're saying it's not the law, it's what he thinks the standard is?

VAN SUSTEREN: No, it's how a judge listening to the evidence evaluates it. And it's like artwork. You and I could look at a piece of art and you could think it was gorgeous, and I'd say, Judy, are you out of your mind? You know, people -- and this is the tough job of the judge. You are assigned to decide the facts and apply the law. And you do the best job you can. But the problem is -- you know, at least in a jury you have 12 people making a decision. In a single trial, you have one person making the decision, and they are unable to persuade that one person.

WOODRUFF: So when he flatly said, as he did at one point at the end, in this case there is no credible, no credible evidence, to show a reasonable probability that the results of this election would be different than the votes that were certified by the secretary of state. Is that subject to interpretation?

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I'm saying that -- he's saying that, in my opinion, and I get to the make that decision because I'm the judge, that's my job and judges do it every day of the week, but I find that there's no credible evidence.

WOODRUFF: All right, in terms of the Bush team, do you give them credit for the way that they held up their end of the argument here?

VAN SUSTEREN: I always tip my hat to the winner. I mean, I've been a winner and a loser. It's much more fun to win, and I tip my hat to the winners here. I mean, they played fair and square and they won. But the battle's not over. The Gore people are going on to the Supreme Court. It might be a friendlier forum, but it certainly is harder for them at this point.

WOODRUFF: Before the Supreme Court, Greta, what will they have to do, if anything, differently. They just go before the Florida Supreme Court and make exactly the same arguments that they made before Judge Sauls?

VAN SUSTEREN: They're just going to have to show that the judge was just way out of line, that he abused his discretion, that his findings of fact were irrational. For instance, if the judge said, I find no credible evidence of X, but then they can show that the record is replete with evidence of X, that would show a judge abused his discretion.

So they comb through the record, and by the record I mean, transcripts from all the evidence presented, to show that the judge was way out of line in his ruling. But it's not an easy task for this Gore team. They may be able to do it. I mean, people who have been around the block enough know you never predict how courts are going to rule. But I can tell you, it's much more fun to be the winner going to the Florida Supreme Court than the loser.

WOODRUFF: All right, Greta Van Susteren, thank you very much. I know you've had a long weekend waiting for this.

Well, joining us now with the campaign reactions, Jonathan Karl in Washington with the Gore team, Candy Crowley in Austin with the Bush camp.

Jonathan, let's start with you. What are they saying?

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, first let me tell you that as the judge announced his ruling there was a member of the Gore team sitting in that courtroom holding a two-page appeal. I talked to that member of the Gore team. He was holding that notice of appeal, and as soon as the judge was done speaking he walked down the hall and filed the appeal.

The Gore team very much going into this expected that there was a great possibility that they would lose this case with Judge Sauls. They thought from the start he was a skeptical judge. They were disappointed with some of the way the trial got started, thought it was sluggish, thought it was slow. So they were expecting this. They were expecting to go to state Supreme Court from the start. But of course this a major blow from the Gore team.

One thing they are very concerned about is Democratic support, maintaining support among especially moderate and conservative Democrats going into this appeal phase. They get a little bit of a boost in that regard from Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, who just a few minute ago released a joint statement saying, quote, "We are united in our support of the decision to appeal this ruling."

So that's at least from the Democratic leadership. They're far less firm about whether or not those conservative and moderate Democrats will be there to support them.

Meanwhile, David Boies gave the initial response here, the official response, from the Gore team. Boies made one central point here, which is this judge erred in that he said the Gore team needed to prove that the election outcome would be different. He said the only way you could prove that is if you actually count the votes themselves. They have said all along that their most important witness in this case is the actual disputed ballots.

Here's what Boies had to say.


DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I don't think anybody can say that the result of the election has not been placed in doubt by the evidence that is there. And that is particularly true when you take into account that he had not even looked at any of the ballots. That is, we put the ballots in evidence, the ballots that the Florida court has repeatedly said over the years were the best evidence of the voters' intent. And this is the first case, that I'm aware of, that in a ballot contest a court has refused to look at any of the ballots that are the subject of that contest.


KARL: Boies also made the point that on three separate occasions the Gore team, the Gore legal team asked that judge to begin counting the ballots while the contest hearing was going on. They were obviously denied all three times. There were also denied during the course of the hearing from the Florida Supreme Court -- they had asked the Florida Supreme Court to order that those ballots had been -- to start being counted while that case was going on. They were denied without prejudice.

Now, they go to the Supreme Court to see if they can do any better. They say they feel they've got a strong case. They say they still believe in the strength of that case. They believe they're on friendlier ground with the Florida Supreme Court, with justices predominantly appointed by Democratic governors, all of them appointed by Democratic governors. They believe that they've got a stronger, more favorable audience in the Florida Supreme Court. But they know it's a very high hurdle, and they're also very concerned right now about keeping Democrats in their support of the vice president's case.

WOODRUFF: Well, Jonathan, on that point, do they have a plan in place to make sure the defections don't begin?

KARL: Well, Joe Lieberman did a conference call today before this ruling came down with Democrats on the Hill, reassuring them. Ron Klain, the top legal adviser, was also on that call, trying to reassure Democrats that this may likely go to appeal. And they on that conference call got word from Democrats on the call that they would support the Gore team through the appeal.

But again, that conference call coming from the loyalists. Most of the people on the call were loyal Democrats, were not some of the moderates and conservatives that have expressed some skepticism about how the vice president has been going forward. So they are very nervous about some of those more independent-minded Democrats, and there is some discussion even of having the vice president himself go up to the Hill to talk directly with the Democrats as they come back -- they come back into town.

So, that's one possibility, no decision made on that. But they know they've got a lot of work not only in terms of the legal arena of pursuing this appeal, but also in the political arena of making sure that their party, all of their party, remains unified in supporting the vice president, even now as he suffered this very major setback today in Leon County.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jonathan Karl here in Washington. And now let's go to our Candy Crowley. She's with the Bush camp in Austin.

Candy, it's they're worried about anything but defections there, I'm assuming?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. We have not officially heard yet from the Bush campaign, though we expect to hear shortly from communications director Karen Hughes, but you can bet that they are very happy about this.

Within the political framework, this is major for the Bush campaign, and I expect that Karen Hughes will address this at least in some way from the political point of view. It's very evident that over the last 24 hours, even in advance of this decision, much less the Supreme Court decision to vacate the Florida Supreme Court decision on certification and send it back to that court, it's very clear that the Bush camp is increasing the pressure on Al Gore.

We had first Secretary Cheney yesterday on the talk shows saying that he thought Al Gore should concede. Then after the Supreme Court ruling today, we got a chance to talk, however briefly, to George Bush, who said, no, he didn't think he would call on the vice president to concede. But listen very closely to what George Bush had to say.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a very difficult decision for anybody to make, and I understand that. I do believe I have won this election. I believe that I won it on the first count and on the second count and on the third count.

But I'm -- I'm -- the vice president is going to have to make the decisions that he thinks are necessary, and I know that he'll put -- the interests of the country will be important in the decision-making, just like it would be in mine.


CROWLEY: The interests of the country. Now, let's move forward a little bit. We just get this ruling from the judge in Leon County. Then we see the Bush lawyers come out, and one of them is Ben Ginsberg. He's one of the few lawyers down there that has been on the Bush payroll all along, therefore a campaign lawyer. The first thing out of his mouth was "I would hope that the interests of the country would be paramount in everyone's mind."

It's very clear here at the Bush campaign that that phrase you will hear. Ginsberg said that twice during the news conference and once when he on the air being interviewed by Gary Tuchman a little earlier on CNN.

So they are increasing that pressure, talking about the interests of the country. This is another chapter in their "it's over, we need to moving, there's a whole lot of issues out there that we need to get moving on." But this is very clearly where the Bush campaign is going with this and something that I would suggest that Karen Hughes will probably come out and talk about when we hear from her -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Candy, so very good news from that circuit court in Leon County, Tallahassee. What about the Seminole County case, also coming up in Leon County, but before a different judge tomorrow? Are they worried about that?

CROWLEY: Sure. As they say, there -- you know, this has sort of been a vote-by-vote, county-by-county thing, and of course they are. They don't particularly privately think that this is a very strong case, because it almost asks the Gore campaign, at least according to the Bush campaign, to go against what they've been saying all along.

The irregularity, if you will, had to do with the applications for absentee ballots, not with the absentee ballots themselves. So what the court would have to do would be to throw out valid votes that have not really been questioned under any circumstance. So the Bush campaign thinks that's going to be a very high mark.

Let me tell you that they also believe -- and Jonathan touched a little bit about this, that the Gore campaign believes that there is sort of friendlier turf in the Florida Supreme Court because most of them are registered Democrats, all but one of them was appointed by a Democratic governor, the other by -- jointly, by a Democrat governor and a Republican governor.

But in any case, the Bush campaign is well-aware of the makeup of the Florida Supreme Court, but they believe with the Supreme Court ruling that they got today, the message is, we're watching. And they believe that that acts as a sort of lever. They say, it's like your boss watching you or your colleagues watching you, and they believe that that sort of takes some of the edge off the Supreme Court, where they admittedly say that it's not particularly friendly territory for them.

WOODRUFF: All right, Candy Crowley in Austin, thanks very much -- Bernie.

SHAW: Our senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield in New York, has been following all of this. Jeff, a very simple question to you, in your judgment, is Al Gore's basic problem time or the law?



His problem now is a big problem with the law, because, as we've heard, once a local court judge rules, the Supreme Court is less likely to step in on his behalf. And if he's only got so much time until December 12th.

You know, we need to say one other thing: Not only did Al Gore suffer a big loss in the courts, but one of the biggest political losses he suffered is this ruling, if it stands, takes the Florida legislature off the hook.

One of the Democrats' big political arguments was if the Florida legislature had stepped into appoint electors, it would have been seen as anti-democratic. Now, the very venue that Al Gore chose to fight this case, the courts, has given Governor Bush a big victory. And I think down the road, apart from the law that you mentioned, Bernie, and apart from time, in a political sense, he suffered yet another loss in depriving the Gore campaign of one of its big arguments they were prepared to make.

SHAW: And Jeff, don't Al Gore and his advisers have to worry -- we heard that Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt were on the phone saying we support your decision to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. But doesn't the Al Gore brain trust have to worry that the party rank-and- file might be stampeded by these double losses today in the U.S. Supreme Court and In Judge Sauls' court? GREENFIELD: To coin a phrase, Bernie, bigtime. I mean, remember, the Congress is coming back into session, which means that the members of the House and the Senate -- 60 to 80 so-called "blue dog" Democrats, less liberal, from states that George Bush carried. They now -- they don't have to make phone calls to each other. They can meet in the House dining room, in the gym, in each other's offices, and it wouldn't be at all surprising to think that this will be a topic of conversation.

And even as this case moves up on appeal, if in fact a few dozen House Democrats, let's say, begin to talk among themselves about enough already, we can't keep sustaining these losses, the country is getting impatient, I can see how that could create some very powerful momentum: the last thing in the world the Gore campaign wants or needs right now.

SHAW: Very quickly, in the next 48 hours, what will you be looking for?

GREENFIELD: I'll be looking to see whether or not there is -- this drumbeat beginning among more moderate and conservative Democrats in Washington that Al Gore should stop already. And then, of course, the two things we're all going to be looking at is, is the Florida Supreme Court going to take this case and it would be possible for them to reverse this decision? And are we going to get the 56th curveball of this post-campaign season coming out of contests in Seminole and Martin counties about those absentee ballots.

But since this is INSIDE POLITICS rather than "BURDEN OF PROOF," Bernie, let's take a look at whether the Washington climate gets a little frostier for Vice President Gore in the next 24 to 48 hours.

SHAW: And because this is INSIDE POLITICS -- you're a former speechwriter -- do you think somebody on Gore's staff is beginning the first words of a drafted concession speech?

GREENFIELD: The reason I don't, Bernie, is that the last couple of times Al Gore has said -- has had something important to say, he's tended to take those words on himself, and I wouldn't be at all surprised, if the time comes in the next three or four days that the vice president has to concede, those words will come largely from him.

SHAW: OK, Jeff Greenfield in New York. And still ahead here on INSIDE POLITICS, a closer look at today's legal rulings in this presidential race. We'll go to our reporters at the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court.


SHAW: Now to the Bush campaign spokesman, Karen Hughes, in Austin.

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: All of us who are fortunate enough to live in America, in this great democracy, want to be sure that the votes that will decide the next president of the United States are counted in a fair and accurate way. And so Americans will be comforted to learn that the Florida judge found no credible evidence to suggest that the results from any additional recounts would be any different from the results of the counts and recounts already conducted, all of which show Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney won Florida's electoral votes.

The judge also concluded that the evidence does not establish any illegality, dishonesty, gross negligence, improper influence, coercion or fraud in the balloting or counting processes.

In other words, the court reviewed all the facts, listened to all the arguments, considered all the evidence, and concluded that Florida's vote were cast and counted fairly and properly.

Governor Bush asked me to once again thank the attorneys and the many volunteers who are working on his behalf in Florida.

QUESTION: Karen, do you think that the strength of this ruling will give you the standing with the public to nominate more members of your prospective team?

HUGHES: I think that primarily what we're focused on is the strength of this ruling. It is a very comprehensive ruling. It was very thorough. It was based on the facts. It was based on the law. And I think that Americans themselves can be comforted that the court has reviewed all the evidence, has heard all the testimony, has looked at all the facts, and concluded that there's no credible evidence that any additional counting would result in any different result than the results we've already seen from Florida, which are that Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney won the election.

QUESTION: Karen, do you have any advice at this point for Vice President Gore?

HUGHES: Well, obviously, Vice President Gore needs to make his own decision as to how to proceed. As Governor Bush said this afternoon, they've both been through a long and difficult campaign. It's been a close election. And I would not think it was appropriate for me to presume to give the vice president advice.

QUESTION: Karen, today the governor called Secretary Cheney, "Vice President Cheney." Was that intentional? Does he consider himself the president of the United States now?

HUGHES: Well, as you know, Governor Bush last week asked all of our members of our staff to continue calling him Governor Bush. He wanted to handle -- this situation is unique. And it's unprecedented, as we've talked about before, and he wanted to handle it in a humble and gracious way. And so he's asked all of us to continue calling him Governor Bush.

QUESTION: Can you talk about the confidence level of the campaign after the -- especially the afternoon, the ruling just come done in the last hour -- can you talk about the confidence level of the campaign, that this is about to come to an end with your side on top? HUGHES: Well, I think -- I think clearly that those of us in the office who watched the judge were comforted by the strength of the ruling, by the fact that he obviously approached this in a very thoughtful and a very thorough way, based on the law, based on the facts, based on the evidence.

He had two full days of hearings. And I think that was very comforting to all of us to feel that he had reviewed everything and again found no credible evidence to suggest that any additional counting would produce any different results than the results we've already seen.

QUESTION: Karen, Governor Bush was very critical previously of the Florida Supreme Court. Any concern that this court may not uphold Judge Sauls' ruling?

HUGHES: Well, again, we'll have to see what occurs. I understand -- in fact, I need to leave here in just a minute, because I understand the spokesman for the Supreme Court is going to make a statement shortly.

But again, we feel that this ruling is very comprehensive, very thorough, clearly based on the facts and clearly based on the law.

QUESTION: Karen, going back to the last question, to what extent does the governor feel he can, with this court ruling in Florida today, proceed, maybe accelerate his transition after this?

HUGHES: Well, as you know, the governor asked Secretary Cheney to begin the transition effort. We have an office up and running. And Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney felt it was the responsible thing for them to begin the process of preparing to govern. And they are continuing with that work.

Thank you all, very much.

SHAW: Governor Bush's campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes in Austin. Now quickly to Jonathan Karl, covering the vice president -- Jonathan.

KARL: Well, Bernie, two developments regarding the Florida Supreme Court. One, the Florida Supreme Court has notified both sides in this lawsuit that they have until 3 o'clock tomorrow to file briefs regarding the issue that was sent to them from the U.S. Supreme Court, and that's likely to hear -- at this announcement we'll hear from the Florida Supreme Court any minute now.

The second thing is the Gore campaign filed their appeal, technical matter, to the appellate court. Well, the appellate court has already turned it around and filed it -- sent it up to the Florida state Supreme Court. So the Gore campaign's appeal of Judge Sanders Sauls' decision now stands before the Florida Supreme Court.

That appeal was filed at 4:58 p.m., and within an hour it was passed all the way up to the Florida Supreme Court. So things moving very quickly down in Florida. SHAW: Indeed, Jonathan Karl. We're standing by to hear from Craig Waters, the spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee. We suspect that when he comes out in a matter of seconds, when he comes out of this door and walks up to this podium, he will confirm what you just reported, the time sequence from the appeals court at 4:58 p.m., which was passed on very quickly at 5:58 p.m. to the Florida Supreme Court.

The door is open. Let's listen.

CRAIG WATERS, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT SPOKESMAN: The court has now entered a scheduling order in the case that was remanded to us today from the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is going to accept supplemental briefs from the parties through 3:00 p.m. on December the 5th, 2000, on the implementation of the mandate to this court from the United States Supreme Court. The briefs are to be no more than 20 pages.

As you know, Judge Sanders Sauls issued a ruling today. We understand that that matter has been taken to the 1st District Court of Appeal. As of the present time, we do not have a certification from them, so that matter is not currently before our court. If the certification is received overnight, it will not be processed until the morning, so you all don't have to stay here. We will have that documentation, if it comes in, available for you in the morning.

Are there any questions?

QUESTION: Might those two issues be combined, the contest with Judge Sauls and this briefing?

WATERS: The question was whether the two issues could be combined. That will be a question that the parties themselves could move to do if they wished. The court might or might not do it, we just don't know at this point.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how quickly a briefing schedule might be decided upon once you receive certification from the 1st District Court of Appeals?

WATERS: Well, I think, as you've seen in the earlier cases here, that these will be expedited briefing schedules. That's what the court has done in all of these cases.

QUESTION: What are the options before the court after -- that might set a briefing schedule?

WATERS: Right. It might set a briefing schedule. The court has not yet determined whether there will be oral argument in the case involving the mandate from the U.S. Supreme Court. And, of course, after we receive briefs and any certification, then the court will also have to determine whether or not there would be oral argument.

QUESTION: The would be on both issues, first the Supreme Court issue and separately the appeal forthcoming...

WATERS: There has been no decision at the present time to have further oral arguments.

QUESTION: The Supreme Court, once it gets the briefing on December 15, from the U.S. Supreme Court case, it wouldn't need to have oral arguments to rule, would it? It could rule any time after it has its briefs in if it so choose.

WATERS: Yes, the court does not have to schedule oral arguments in the remand from the U.S. Supreme Court. That would be a question that it would determine later. It has just simply not made that determination at the present time.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how the justices spent the afternoon once they received the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court?

WATERS: Well, I do know the justices conferenced and discussed these matters. And then, of course, came up with the scheduling order in this matter from the United States Supreme Court.


WATERS: I'm sorry. I can't hear you.

QUESTION: Briefings deadline until 3:00 p.m. tomorrow means the court won't do anything on this case until after they get -- until that deadline's passed.

WATERS: No. Once the court has established a briefing schedule, it will wait for the briefs to come in to hear the arguments before it will act on the case.

QUESTION: Mr. Waters, I've just received a copy from the 1st District Court of Appeals that it -- that it has certified this over to the Florida Supreme Court.

WATERS: Well, if that's the case, CNN once again is ahead of me.

QUESTION: Might a certification or a briefing schedule be forthcoming from this court tonight, as early as tonight?

WATERS: No. The court will not take any further actions tonight.

QUESTION: Would that be certified over here electronically, or would somebody have to deliver it?

WATERS: We often get it by fax. Sometimes it is hand delivered.

Any further questions?

QUESTION: Was the -- were the Florida justices -- can you give us a sense of how they reacted to this ruling today from the U.S. Supreme Court? After all, there's been a lot of attention to this matter and the court was asked to clarify its position on something that -- did the court feel as though it had been clear?

WATERS: Right. I did not have a chance to talk with all of the justices. I can tell you that the justices are concerned to make sure that the law is applied according to the law of the land. That is their sworn duty as judges.


QUESTION: If there is certification at the court of appeals, what time we might be hearing from the court on that?

WATERS: You're asking what time would the -- will they be available, is that your question?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) might we expect something from you guys on that?

WATERS: Well, we just don't know when the court would act on that. Our doors, of course, will open at 8 a.m.

QUESTION: Is there an average time that you usually rule on election contests? How quickly is the process in the court?

WATERS: Well, there have been election contests before, but as you all realize, this is a rather unique one.

QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of whether anything remotely compares to this in terms of an election contest? Has the Florida Supreme Court reversed a lower court's ruling regarding an election contest?

WATERS: That's a question you need to pose to the lawyers.

QUESTION: Well, actually, I thought it was a historical question based on what this court might have done in the past.

WATERS: Well, if you're asking a historical question, I just don't have the history in my head right now. So, sorry.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SHAW: Craig Waters, the spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court, responding to reporters' questions there on the steps in Tallahassee, and answering CNN's Susan Candiotti on a number of points. At one point, Susan Candiotti confirming to the Supreme Court spokesman that the Florida Supreme Court had received a certified appeal from the First District Court of Appeals, part of the process as Vice President Al Gore presses his appeal.

CNN's INSIDE POLITICS will continue in a moment.


WOODRUFF: Action in courtrooms all across the state of Florida, at least in north Florida tonight. Susan Candiotti at the Florida Supreme Court. Susan, we just heard your voice a few moments ago as Craig Waters, the spokesman for the Florida court, came out to tell us some news. It sounds like the justices there in Florida are wasting no time getting moving after the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the appeal by the Bush people.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Judy. It's clear that this court wants to move things along. The spokesman for the court has said throughout that these justices are indeed very mindful of that December 12th deadline that is looming at which time all the electors must be chosen. And so, indeed, that is why it has ordered briefs to be filed by tomorrow afternoon, limited to 20 pages, by all those parties concerned before it makes a decision as to whether to set a further briefing schedule or to set oral arguments in this matter.

More likely more briefs would not be a possibility, but instead that oral arguments might be scheduled, or it might be ready to issue a ruling or clarification to the U.S. Supreme Court simply based on these briefs that it receives. And then as you heard -- apparently we received the information even before the court did -- we understand that a clerk from the First District Court of Appeals is on its way over here on that other very important matter.

In fact, the court has made it over, I am told now, to the Florida Supreme Court from the First District Court of Appeals, which is called a "pass-through order," so that the appeal filed by the Gore campaign is now in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court, although you did hear Craig Waters say that they will take no further action on this matter tonight, but indeed, would more likely than not act on that tomorrow.

Now, the possibilities there, just like this matter involving the U.S. Supreme Court, is that the justices could agree to accept briefs and then either issue an order or possibly schedule oral arguments on the Gore appeal. All of this, presumably, could wrap up as early as by the end of the week in order to try to meet that December 12th deadline.

WOODRUFF: So, Susan, the Florida Supreme Court has two hot potatoes in its lap. I heard the question -- I'm not sure if it was you -- asking whether it's possible these two cases, from Judge Sauls and then from the U.S. Supreme Court, could be combined. Did I understand him correctly to say that that's a question the parties could move to do?

CANDIOTTI: Yes, that seemed to be unclear to -- that's right, Judy. It seems unclear as to whether those could be combined. That is something that the lawyers would have to answer, and possibly decide upon or not, but clearly you've got two hot potatoes, as you said, moving along on parallel tracks.

Whether those tracks will cross, we don't know yet, but certainly I think tonight probably no more information forthcoming from the justices here, after they spent a full day discussing what to do about the U.S. Supreme Court matter and quite mindful that a decision was indeed to come down from Judge Sauls, and in fact, it did. So now things aren't and moving along at a very fast pace.

WOODRUFF: All right, Susan Candiotti. And I thought it was very telling that at the end there Craig Waters said the justices are concerned to make sure the law is applied according to the law of the land, when he was asked what the reaction of those Florida justices was to the U.S. Supreme Court.

All right, Susan Candiotti, in Tallahassee. Thanks very much, Susan -- Bernie.

SHAW: Now to the United States Supreme Court and CNN's Charles Bierbauer on the announcement today -- Charles.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Try again, the U.S. Supreme Court told the Florida Supreme Court. Explain how the Florida justices concluded it was permissible to extend the time for counting ballots. It took the justices here just three days to send the matter back, saying: "After reviewing the opinion of the Florida Supreme Court, we find that there is considerable uncertainty as to the precise grounds for the decision."

VIET DINH, GEORGETOWN LAW CENTER: The United States Supreme Court has now put the ball back into the Florida Supreme Court for that court to answer, in the first instance, the central question between how it interprets the law, and whether in that process of interpretation it has in effect made law.

BIERBAUER: The justices, noting a split between legislative and judicial authority, said, "We are unclear as to the extent to which the Florida Supreme Court saw the Florida Constitution as circumscribing the legislature's authority, and perhaps, ignoring the federal Constitution and election statutes."

JEROME BARRON, GEORGE WASHINGTON LAW SCHOOL: It does not say that there was -- the federal Constitution was violated. It simply says that the federal -- that the Supreme Court of Florida may -- may not have considered the federal statute to the extent that the Supreme Court thinks it might have.

BIERBAUER: The justices provided a guideline: "If the state legislature has provided for final determination of contest or controversies by a law made prior to Election Day, that determination shall be conclusive."

Internal dissent is evident in the ruling, but not in the way the justices unanimously agreed to handle it.

BARRON: As they debated these technical points, I think someone must have said, what benefit do we do the country if we decide this matter 5-4?

BIERBAUER: The ruling was a mid-morning surprise. The justices were hearing another case when a court official handed the ruling to reporters, creating a hasty exodus from the courtroom. (on camera): Legal experts say the Florida Supreme Court may take another stand at explaining its ruling, but it is not mandatory for the justices here to give it a second review.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.


WOODRUFF: And when we come back, Bernie talks with former Florida elections official David Cardwell.


WOODRUFF: A word to our viewers who may be missing the start of "THE MONEYLINE NEWS HOUR," INSIDE POLITICS is going to stick around tonight for an extra half an hour until 7 o'clock Eastern just so that we can catch up on all the breaking news from Florida.

And recapping the latest developments in the presidential election standoff: In a serious blow to the Gore campaign, a Florida circuit court judge has rejected the vice president's contest of that state's certified presidential vote count. Gore's lawyers already have filed an appeal as they press their effort to get a hand recount of some 14,000 disputed ballots.

The United States Supreme Court set aside a Florida high court ruling that had allowed earlier hand recounts. But the justices seemed to add to the presidential uncertainty by sending the matter back to the state high court for clarification. In response to that, the Florida Supreme Court announced just a short while ago that it will accept legal briefs from both parties through 3:00 p.m. tomorrow. There is no timetable yet for the state high court to hear the appeal of the Gore camp's contest of the Florida vote count -- Bernie.

SHAW: Now, let's hear from our election law analyst David Cardwell, also in Tallahassee.

David, as Judy just reported, the justices on the Florida Supreme Court are scrambling at this hour to respond to this land's highest court, which in effect said to the Supreme Court in Florida, explain to us your rational for permitting the recounting of ballots. And I'm just wondering, going behind what's going on right now, how concerned are justices about their place in legal, and for that matter, political history?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, I think they want to make sure that they get it right, and the U.S. Supreme Court did give some guidance to the Florida Supreme Court on this order that was issued today. If you look -- read through the opinion, it was obvious that the justices, and it was also evident, I think, from the oral argument last Friday that the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court had some concern as to what was the primary basis for the Florida Supreme Court decision? Was it the Florida Constitution's rights on suffrage and elections, or was it going into the two statutes and trying to reconcile them? And that gets to the legislature's power, when it -- we deal with electors. But I think the Supreme Court gave -- of the United States -- gave a pretty good indication to the Florida Supreme Court what they should say, which is we were just trying to reconcile statutes enacted by the legislature, the briefs will address that. But right now that's probably not as important as some of the other cases coming to them.

SHAW: And what were you thinking when Judge Sauls issued from his bench a warning to the parties involved when he spoke about using two standards for counting ballots, he said, you could jeopardize Florida's standing in the Electoral College -- what was going through your mind?

CARDWELL: Well, when I heard that, we sort -- we're wondering where he was headed with that. I think what he was doing was saying that he -- that the argument was raised about these standards and he recognized that there were potential problems on having differing standards, particularly differing standards during the recount process.

I think he was also paying attention to that U.S. Supreme Court ruling -- did a change in a standard amount to the enactment of a new law after the date of the election? And that could affect the electors. I think he was saying, I believe, and that's all he could do -- that he could say that he believes that going down the road of those two standards might jeopardize the electoral votes from Florida.

SHAW: And in this day of whirlwind legal developments, the U.S. Supreme Court issuing its ruling, Judge Leon -- N. Sanders Sauls, rather, issuing his ruling, in effect, rejecting Vice President Gore's case.

For you personally, what has impressed you about all this?

CARDWELL: Well, what impressed me over the weekend was the intensity of the argument, the fact that this was an incredibly important case and that really it was a process that played itself out according to the rules. There was not a lot of rancor in the courtroom. I think everyone recognized the seriousness of the issues, but at the same time there was some levity, the judge sometimes would crack a few sayings to kind of break the tension some.

I also thought it was really wonderful that the people of the United States and elsewhere were able to see those proceedings on television and see how the process is playing itself out, so we're seeing that the rule of law is right now more important in deciding this election than any, you know, spin or other things. We're going to resolve this through our legal system.

SHAW: Our election law analyst David Cardwell, and we're blessed to have you here at CNN to help us explain to our viewers around the world what is happening and why. Thanks a lot. I'm sure we'll see you again.

CARDWELL: Thank you.

SHAW: Welcome.

Just ahead, the Florida legislature weighs its options in this historic presidential race.


WOODRUFF: The Florida state legislature is apparently poised for action, with the Republican House speaker prepared to call for a special session to choose presidential electors pledged to George W. Bush. But the Republican leader in the state Senate is taking a more cautious approach.

Joining us now with the latest on all this, Mike Boettcher in Tallahassee -- Mike.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are stepping back a bit. They don't want to take the aggressive attitude. They believe that their strategy of no hurry has worked for them and they plan on sticking with that, but that is the Senate side of the fence.

Tonight, the House speaker Tom Feeney was to have a press conference, but he canceled it -- will have one tomorrow. It was said he wanted to comment on the court rulings today. But certainly, during this whole talk of a special session and the legislature naming the electors, it has been the House that has wanted to go ahead and do this and the Senate that has wanted to take a wait-and-see attitude. The Senate believes that they have been proven right in that regard, and we'll see what happens later in the week. Although, we are told it still seems pretty certain that there will be a special session.

One of the problems is, as far as the legislature is concerned, they don't have a lot of trust, the Republicans on that side of the aisle don't have a lot of trust in the Supreme Court. They still fear the Supreme Court could rule against Judge Sauls and they would be back to where they were before.

Now, the Democratic caucus of -- in the legislature held their meeting today and they heard from their constitutional experts, who said there is no reason for a special session, they were urged to fight on and told that there is already a statewide certification that has been passed on to Washington, a certificate of ascertainment signed by Governor Jeb Bush. They are vowing to be loud in their fight, although if there is a special session, they know they cannot win -- the Republicans in the Florida legislature hold almost -- in the House and Senate -- almost a two-thirds majority.

Now, back here at the state house, the secretary of state, Katherine Harris watched today's court rulings on CNN, she felt vindicated; so too did Bob Crawford, who was another election commissioner, he felt vindicated. But all three of the commissioners received letters from the Gore attorneys, specifically Dexter Douglass, telling them not to recertify the election results.

There had been some discussions between some of the commissioners and their attorneys if they should go ahead and recertify, but they determined that they really don't need to, they say in the certificate of ascertainment sent to Washington there's an asterisk that says, if there is court action, we revert back to the original certification, which gives Governor Bush about a 930-vote lead.

Back to you.

WOODRUFF: Mike, is it fair to say then, with regard to the Florida legislature, that as long as there's any chance that a court might overturn the results, they want to be ready, they want to have a special session, they want to be able to appoint their own electors?

BOETTCHER: Absolutely. That seems to be the strategy now. I'm told from both sides that they would like to see a special session by the end of the week. They would introduce the legislation as a joint resolution, which would take less time than a bill, and they believe they have enough time if they were to go in on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, to still pass this joint resolution and have that as a safety valve, a stopgap, in case the Supreme Court reverses the judge in the Leon County Circuit Court.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Mike Boettcher at the Florida state House in Tallahassee, thanks very much -- Bernie.

SHAW: And when INSIDE POLITICS continues, we're going to get reaction from Capitol Hill to today's legal developments.


WOODRUFF: So far, Democrats on Capitol Hill have stood by Al Gore in his fight contesting Florida's election results. But what happens now in the wake of the rulings by the United States Supreme Court and a Florida judge?

Well, for that we turn to CNN congressional correspondent Chris Black.

Chris, what are you hearing?

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, Democratic congressional leaders Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle wasted no time in coming out in support of Al Gore's decision to appeal Judge Sauls' ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. But more significant was a statement of support from Cal Dooley and Jim Moran, leaders of the centrist coalition in the House, a group Al Gore needs to keep on his side.


BLACK (voice-over): Within hours of the Supreme Court ruling, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman was on the phone with his House and Senate colleagues in two separate conference calls. The most skittish Democrats, those representing constituents who went heavily for George W. Bush, are growing restive; said an aide to one conservative Democrat -- quote -- "we heard the clock ticking, but it just got louder."

A centrist Democrat from Florida, Senator Bob Graham also hears the tick of the clock.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: And there is a clock ticking and Al Gore cannot afford to lose even a matter of hours in terms of getting these votes counted if he's going to have a chance of victory, and this has eaten up some time.

BLACK: Democratic concerns were echoed by a Republican: Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Psychologically, it's a tough blow to Vice President Gore and legally is a tough blow to Vice President Gore, and he's already sort of on the ropes and reeling.

BLACK: Congressman Cal Dooley of California, leader of the centrist House Democrats, predicts most Democrats will stay loyal to Gore.

REP. CAL DOOLEY (D), CALIFORNIA: An overwhelming majority of Americans think that you should have a hand count of the votes in Florida in order to really determine, you know, who is the winner in Florida. I think that gives a lot of strength of resolve to Democratic members of Congress to stick with the vice president.

BLACK: Some Republicans used the court decision to call on Gore to concede. Republican House Conference Chairman J.C. Watts adding -- quote -- "America needs to move forward, not be bogged down by the desperation of one man's obsession."

And House Speaker Dennis Hastert, back from his weekend visit with Bush in Texas, said nothing is conclusive until someone throws in the towel and says, this is it.


BLACK: But so far, neither side is showing any sign of throwing in the towel, though some Democrats are saying that these two court decisions are changing the political dynamic. One senior Democratic senator went so far as to predict this is going to wrap up very soon -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Chris, let me just try to get to what -- let me ask you this. How much do these Democrats support Gore in the notion that every vote that they say has not been counted must be counted?

BLACK: Judy, there's no question they feel very strongly about that principle. And most Democrats believe, as Al Gore and Joe Lieberman do, that he did get more votes in Florida. They're convinced of it. They believe it without a shadow of a doubt. The only question is whether he would get the opportunity to prove it. But it is important -- up here, Judy, they understand the power of the presidency, they want the Democrats to keep the White House. A Democratic president would set the agenda, make things a lot easier for them with the House and the Senate so evenly divided.

WOODRUFF: All right, CNN's Chris Black at the Capitol, thanks very much. And more INSIDE POLITICS when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHAW: And joining us now, CNN's political analyst, senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

One question: What is the Democrats calculus in all this?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Their calculus is going to be, is this going to cost us if we continue to support Al Gore. You know, the Democrats are very sensitive to public opinion, because they're all elected, and what they're looking at is polls that are showing more and more Americans saying that Al Gore should concede. But Americans have also said they also want the ballots counted, hand recounted if necessary, because they believe the voters' voice should be supreme in this. The problem is that the courts say there is no reason to recount the ballots, there is no standard for recounting the ballots, and most of all, there is no time left to recount all the ballots. Then the Democrats are going to say, well, wait a minute, then really all hope is lost.

SHAW: Time, the clock, the calendar -- how much time do you estimate Al Gore has?

SCHNEIDER: Well, there is one calculation that's in his favor and I'll tell you what it is. The calculation is if they can get some court somewhere -- this would be the Florida Supreme Court at this point -- to order a recount started of those ballots, he counts about 14,000 disputed ballots -- there are 1.2 million (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ballots -- but if he can just get that recount started, it's going to be politically impossible to stop it.

That's Gore's calculation, it's a smart one, because once you see independent masters or whoever, sitting down and counting the ballots, then the voters will say, now wait a minute, they can't reach any conclusion here until all the ballots have been counted. So if they can get it started, and they've got one week left to do that, then it may be politically difficult to stop that count. And they believe if you start that count, he's going to win.

SHAW: And if they do not get a recount of the ballots?

SCHNEIDER: It's over. That's the only way Gore wins. You know, there is an old saying among lawyers: if you have the facts, argue the facts, if you have the law, argue the law, and if you don't have either one, pound on the table. Well, Gore has been arguing the facts, he says those ballots should be counted and if they're counted, I believe I won. Republicans are saying, the law is on our side, we don't have to recount those ballots.

So far, the law is winning. But if Gore can just get one court to say, start counting the ballots, then his argument is, there are no deadlines, they all go by the wayside, because once the ballot counting process starts, it has to be completed.

SHAW: And the clock ticks away?


SHAW: Thank you, Bill Schneider.

Well, that's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But of course you can go online all the time at CNN's

WOODRUFF: And these programming notes: two Florida congressmen, Democrat Alcee Hastings and Republican Mark Foley will discuss the Florida legal battles tonight on "CROSSFIRE." That's at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

And at 10:00 Eastern, our colleague Jeff Greenfield will be back with a one-hour election 2000 special report.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: I'm Bernard Shaw. After a break, we'll join "MONEYLINE NEWS HOUR" in progress. Thanks for joining us.



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