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Florida 2000
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Text: Warren Christopher and William Daley
Monday, November 13, 2000

Following is the transcript of Warren Christopher, Vice President Gore's legal adviser, and campaign chairman William Daley on the Florida recount.

CHRISTOPHER: Good afternoon. It's certainly been an eventful day, hasn't it?

A short while ago, in federal court in Miami, the court rejected Governor Bush's attempt to stop the counting of the people's vote here in Florida. We're very pleased, naturally, by this decision and hope the Bush campaign will reconsider its efforts to block the lawful counting of ballots here in this state. There's really no reason why the full, fair and accurate tally of the votes should not proceed to its continuation within the next several days.

At the very time the hearing was going on in Miami this morning, Florida's secretary of state told us she intends to claim authority under Florida law to stop the counting of ballots in the presidential election. She's going to stop it, she said, tomorrow evening. We regard this action as being both arbitrary and unreasonable, particularly in light of these three facts.

First, the hand counting of voting here in Florida is proceeding under Florida law, as the secretary of state herself has acknowledged.

Second, due to the need to count the votes coming from overseas, the election results themselves cannot be certified until at least next Saturday.

And, finally, under secretary law--under Florida law, sorry--the secretary has discretion to delay the certification of the elections. She has authority to suspend the time, to agree to a longer period of time.

It's hard to understand why, under the circumstance, the secretary of state would act to deny thousands, and perhaps more than that, votes that Floridians have asked to be considered.

Her plan, I'm afraid, has the look of an effort to produce a particular result in the election, rather than to ensure that the voice of all the citizens of the state would be heard.

It also looks like a move in the direction of partisan politics, and away from a non-partisan administration of the election laws.

To date, as you know, we have tried to keep these election matters out of the courts. It was the Bush campaign that took the first step to move into the federal courts and brought this dispute to the federal court in Miami. Now, the Florida secretary of state has compelled us to appeal in the courts ourselves, an action that we'd hoped to avoid. Our effort, however, in going to the courts is for a very different purpose than that of the secretary of state.

We intend to seek a court order not to deny the counting of votes, but rather to allow the lawful counting to go to its completion. And I emphasize that we are making our move in the state court, not in the federal court. We're making a move we think which is essential to protect the right of votes to be counted in this state. We want only enough time to permit the completion of the hand counting of the votes, which may only be a few days.

Let me tell you what we are doing and are going to do. We've entered the action today that was filed by Volusia County here in Tallahassee. We're going to be joining the county in asking the court to stop the secretary of state from ending the vote counting on next Tuesday night, tomorrow night.

We participated in a hearing this afternoon--I'm sure many of you were probably there--before the state court judge. And at his direction, we're going to be filing additional papers later today. And I'm going to the continuation of the hearing. No doubt many of you'll be there, too.

We call upon all the counties that have begin to have hand counts to continue just as they are now doing--Volusia, Palm Beach--I'm sorry, Palm Beach County, Dade and Broward County. We want them to proceed with the procedures that each of them has annunciated, which, as you know, are at different parts of the process.

I want to conclude here, I want to stress several facts. First, Al Gore is ahead in the popular vote with the largest number of votes ever cast for a president in a presidential election, save in one instance. Second, Al Gore is leading at the present time in the electoral count. And finally, we believe down deep that if the views of the Florida voters is truly known, it will turn out that Al Gore has more votes than others here in Florida.

With so much at stake, with the whole country watching, I hope that the Democrats and Republicans will agree on one thing: that a full, fair and accurate count of the votes here in Florida will serve the national interest whatever result is reached.

Thank you very much. And Secretary Daley and I will take questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, before today, had any state official given you the indication, here in Florida, that they would not enforce that deadline? And if so, did you feel blind-sided this morning in the meeting with Secretary Harris?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, she had asked us to come in at that time, and we speculated on what she might be asking us to do. Our speculation ranged over a number of issues, so I can't say we felt blind-sided by it. But frankly, we were surprised, from a substantive standpoint, because we thought, with only a few days ahead, that it was quite extraordinary for her to have set this deadline, especially having in mind that we all know that, until next Friday, things can't be completed because the overseas ballots have not come in.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of just how the hearing went today, how far did you get, and a sense of which direction you think the hearing is going at this point?

CHRISTOPHER: You know, there are so many different intersecting matters going on, that we're not able to all be at each proceeding. And I wasn't there at the proceeding, I was doing something else, so I can't give you a firsthand impression, nor was Secretary Daley; we're trying a lot of different bases.

QUESTION: How would you describe, Mr. Secretary, the tone of your meeting this morning with the secretary of state?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, I suppose, to be generous, it was businesslike. It was brief and businesslike.

QUESTION: When you say "generous," what do you mean by that?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, we had expected that she would not take such an arbitrary position.

QUESTION: Secretary, you've mentioned that she might possibly have partisan motives. Do you think that she does have partisan motives in doing this?

CHRISTOPHER: I didn't impugn her motives there, and I don't do so now. What I will say is that she's been a long supporter of Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, and she's also been active, quite active in the campaign of Governor George W. Bush.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what about the fact that there are no uniform standards for all of these different hand counts and that, under state law, perhaps it is at the discretion of the Florida Election Canvassing Committee to decide whether these hand counts are valid anyway?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, that's the essence of the Florida law. You know, you have a well-articulated system here, with each of the counties having an election commission, a canvassing commission, composed in many instances of a bipartisan representation. These hearings or vote-counting sessions have been open to--not only to the press, but also to observers from both parties. So it's a process with a lot of fairness built into it.

QUESTION: Why did you enter the state action today? Volusia County is in court proceeding on its own. What is it that the Gore campaign brings to that? Better lawyers or...

CHRISTOPHER: Well, I certainly wouldn't claim better lawyers. But, frankly...

(AUDIO GAP)

CHRISTOPHER: ... a good reason for us to join the action, wouldn't it, the fact that Volusia might be completed tomorrow? We are firmly in that action, we're part of that action, and if for some reason Volusia does not need the protection of a temporary restraining order, we will seek it for the other counties.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... do you promise to (inaudible) results and take no more action?

CHRISTOPHER: No. I answered that question over and over again. I'll answer it again. We're working on one step at a time. As this moves along, we're going to be considering all our options.

I think all of you who've been following this closely, and I know many of you have, will know how many and unexpected directions that this matter takes. And so I think it'd be not responsible for us to take actions off the table until we see how this many-faceted situation is developing.

QUESTION: Doesn't that open you up to the accusation you just made, that you won't stop until you get the count you want?

CHRISTOPHER: It seems to be getting a little bit argumentative. I suppose that we could be open to any accusation. But, you know, we're proceeding in what we regard as a fair and responsible manner. And we, as I say, did not want to go into court until we were forced to do so by the action of the secretary of state this morning. And we want to be able to defend ourselves, to defend the rights of the voters of Florida to have a fair outcome.

I go back to the context here. Al Gore has more popular votes than anybody else in this election; he now leads in the Electoral College. And there's no reason to presume that we shouldn't be fully defending his rights, but not only his rights, but the rights of the voters of Florida and of voters of the whole country.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... vice president's team polling public opinion at all in this matter? Are you concerned...

DALEY: At this point we have seen plenty of public opinion polls that seem to indicate that the American people are obviously not concerned to the degree that one would think that there's any great urgency here. They understand the system is working. They seem to be very pleased to see, according to the public polls, the system working its way through, and seem to be pleased with the fact that this is being done in the way that it is, open.

None of us, I think are pleased that we're in the state that we're in, in that the nation does not know at this point who the president-elect is. But there is a president, there is a system. The Electoral College doesn't meet till the end of--towards the end of December. The inauguration isn't until January. So we don't have a presidential--president-elect yet, but we will have one.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: If we don't get the ruling, Mr. Daley, that you want from the judge, and if Volusia County doesn't get their votes tallied by the deadline tomorrow, where will you go from here?

DALEY: Well, this--first, the hearing will not be completed until sometime later today, obviously. There is some speculation that other counties may join in. We are optimistic that the request to the judge in this county will be granted, and that the hand count, which will produce an accurate count as to those counties in dispute, will be completed shortly, and then hopefully the secretary of state would move on to certify.

STAFF: We'll take two more.

QUESTION: On this other action that might be taken, are you going to join with other counties? And, if so, what if they don't go to court? What exactly is the backup plan?

DALEY: Well, we're presently talking about the four counties that have begun to count hand ballots. And I think the action we're taking would protect their rights to continue and conclude those votes.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) with other counties today?

CHRISTOPHER: I don't think it's necessary, because the scope of the temporary restraining order that we're seeking will cover that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

CHRISTOPHER: Pardon me?

QUESTION: You might have a strategy to go someplace else or get something quicker?

CHRISTOPHER: We don't have a strategy to go to other judges at the present time. And I've been a lawyer quite a long time, and judges generally don't like to have you come up when you're in the midst of litigation and start talking about appeals. But we're not--we're not going to rest easily about this. We think that we have a strong, legitimate position, and we'll pursue it.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Palm Beach County--Palm Beach County is--an the official said today it could take six days for them to complete that hand count. That would take you past this Friday midnight deadline into Saturday. In this remedy in the court, would you be satisfied with that Friday midnight? Or are you looking for an extension, when all of the hand counts are done?

CHRISTOPHER: I think the latter. We think the right relief from the court would be at least to provide the time until the hand counts in these four counties are done.

And I stress, we don't think--we think it's a matter of days, not a matter of weeks.

Thank you.


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