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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Sen. Frist Says He's Made No Decision on Lott

Aired December 16, 2002 - 10:38   ET

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

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We need to make a correction right now in a story that we brought you early in this hour, in our lower third font. The information that we put there said Senator Bill Frist is backing Senator Don Nickles for Senate Majority Leader. That was not correct.
CNN's congressional correspondent Jon Karl, however, reported the correct information, and we brought him back out again, so he can come out and explain himself, and get the whole story straight for you out of the words out of his mouth and the words on our screen -- Jon.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Leon, For a minute, I thought whoever writes the lower third must have better information than I had and must have better sources up here, but that was not the case.

What we have reported to be very clear is that Senator Nickles has told fellow Republicans up here in the Senate that he has Frist's support in the effort to get a new vote on the question of whether or not Trent Lott should continue as majority leader.

Now I've spoken now -- and I'd told you at the time that I'd not spoken yet to Senator Frist's office. We now have official word from Senator First, the official line from them is that Senator Frist has made no decision on either matter, no decision on the matter of whether or not Trent Lott should go and no decision about whether or not there should be another vote. He's talking to his colleagues. He's considering that.

Meanwhile, momentum seems to be growing among another Republicans up here to go in the in the direction of a new vote, a new vote on the Senate leadership.

As you know, you've had some prominent Republicans come out publicly and call for that, including of course Don Nickles himself, who has made no secret to colleagues that he would be certainly consider replacing Trent Lott.

But Don Nickles is also saying that that's not the issue. The issue is we probably need somebody new here in the Senate, because Trent Lott is so damaged, he will not be able to lead us effectively pursuing the president's agenda. That's the word from Don Nickles.

But it certainly looks right now like we're gearing up towards a leadership battle here, a leadership battle for the Republican leadership, something that was really already decided back in November, when Trent Lott back then was elected unanimously as the Senate leader to a two-year term. So if they go forward with a new vote, with a vote on leadership, it would be an extraordinary step here -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, good deal. Thanks, Jon.

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