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Appeals Court Nominee Pickering at White House

Aired March 6, 2002 - 10:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to show you a videotape we're getting in now from the White House. President Bush meeting with judicial nominee Charles Pickering, trying to get his nomination on the floor of the Senate.

Let's listen in.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... the attorney general of the state of Mississippi.

He is here to lend his support for Charles Pickering.

As well, the former governor, Governor Winter, has expressed concern about a process that would malign a man such as him and expects him to be confirmed.

Frank Hunger feels the same way. These are people in Mississippi who know the man for what he is, a man who respects the rights of all citizens, and a man who not only respects the rights of all citizens, who has acted on that strong belief, a man who is a fine jurist, a man of quality and integrity. And I hope the Senate stops playing politics.

This is not good for the Senate, and it's not good for the country. They got to get him on the floor and get him a vote and get him in. He'll do a fine job.

Thank you all for coming.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Here's what I believe, I believe this man should be confirmed. I know him. I've known him for a long time, but more importantly, people from Mississippi have known him. Democrats and Republicans know him, and you know, he needs to be confirmed. This is a good, good, honorable citizen, and they're playing politics with him up there.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Everybody -- all these issues...

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: All of these allegations have been laid out. He has been confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate in the past. This is a good honorable man who should be approved by the United States Senate. Otherwise, we wouldn't have a Democrat attorney general, a very popular former governor, Al Gore's brother-in-law, all of whom have stood and said the man needs to be confirmed.

Thank you all.

KAGAN: We've been listening to some videotape from the White House. This played out just a couple of minutes ago. This is an issue over Charles Pickering, a nominee for the federal appeals court, the fifth U.S. circuit court, which is based in New Orleans. His nomination can't get out of the judiciary committee. President Bush pushing, wants the full Senate to vote on it anyway.

Let's bring in our Major Garrett.

Major, one of the big objections to Judge Pickering allegations that he is not strong on civil rights or abortion rights.

That's true, Daryn. That's certainly the opinion of Senate Democrats who are going to vote in lockstep against the Pickering nomination, the judiciary committee itself. And the only way the White House can get Judge Pickering's nomination to the full floor is if there's a second vote at that committee, and some Democrats changes his or her mind and allows the nomination to go to the floor with a negative recommendation.

Without that, this nomination is dead, and the White House is late in entering this fight over Judge Pickering's fate. The president wanted to structure this event to at least turn up the heat slightly on the Senate Democrats. Whether or not that happen remains to be seen.

On the civil rights issue Judge Pickering has a past that Senate Democrats have focused in on, specifically relating to, for example, when he was in the state legislature, he voted twice to support something know as Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, which was basically a spying commission set up to keep track of civil right activist in the '60s. And he's also had some statements and other votes and associations in the early live '60s that many Democrats believe were in opposition to civil rights.

The president said all that has been vetted, but Judge Pickering came before the Senate to be nominated and was confirmed to a lower court posting, and for that reason, he should be elevated to the circuit court.

A little bit of history on this, though, Daryn, three of the four Clinton nominees to this fifth circuit, which is Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi were denied even getting a hearing. And so Senate Democrats, in a little bit of retribution, are doing much the same to Judge Pickering.

KAGAN: President Bush said it was playing politics. Sounds like it might a little bit of payback there.

Thank you, Major Garrett from the White House, helping us interpret that tape that we just watched -- Leon.

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