Text: Warren Christopher and William
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
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.
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
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
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
CHRISTOPHER: Well, I certainly wouldn't claim better lawyers. But, frankly...
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
CHRISTOPHER: Pardon me?
QUESTION: You might have a strategy to go someplace else or get something
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
And I stress, we don't think--we think it's a matter of days, not a matter