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Text: Bush Campaign Press Conference
Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Following is the transcript of the Bush campaign's press conference with communications director Karen Hughes and spokesperson Ari Fleischer.

KAREN HUGHES: Later today, Governor and Mrs. Bush will travel to the ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he will continue to work for the next several days on staff and transition issues. Secretary and Mrs. Cheney will join him later this week.

And Ari Fleischer is here with me to answer any of your questions or bring you up to date on progress of the transition.

Earlier this afternoon, Vice President Gore made some additional comments about his challenge to the outcome of the election in Florida. Having failed to make his case with the American people last night, he apparently felt the need to restate his arguments.

The vice president said today that he wants the process to arrive at, and I quote, "a fair, expeditious and truly democratic conclusion." As people across America are realizing, it already has.

We had a count of the votes in Florida, and then a complete recount of all those votes, and then a selective manual recount of some of those votes. We had one deadline for certification of the votes that was set by Florida law before the election, and then we had another deadline for certification of the votes that was ordered by the Florida Supreme Court after the election.

The original count, recount and certification deadline are all behind us. The selective manual recounts and the post-election court-imposed deadline for certification of Florida's votes are behind us. And now, having come up short in all those counts and all those times, Vice President Gore is proposing to make up yet another set of rules. He proposes yet another count and yet another deadline. Common sense does not allow it and the rights of the citizens of Florida to have their votes count do not allow it.

We have previously talked about attempts to change the rules in the middle of the game. Now, regrettably, it appears that the vice president wants to go back and change the rules after the counting is over. The vice president has now instructed his lawyers to go back to court to try to overturn the certified results of the Florida election.

Now that he, by his own action in demanding a manual recount of the votes, has delayed the amount of time available for his contest, he wants to short-circuit the amount of time that we have to answer his challenge.

The law allows up to 10 days for us to respond to the vice president's challenge to the outcome of the election. The judge, in his order yesterday, cut that time by more than half to four days. The judge set forth a timetable yesterday of having us come to court by Friday, and we will abide by that timetable.

I'll be glad to answer your questions.

QUESTION: Are you going to delay naming any prospective appointments until the Supreme Court has its hearing?

HUGHES: Well, as Secretary Cheney said yesterday, I believe what he said that he did not feel it was likely that the governor would make any announcements, although he would not entirely rule it out. That's, of course, a decision the governor will have to make.

But at this point, I think that Secretary Cheney has said that it does not appear likely.

QUESTION: Did Colin Powell tell you he's reluctant to participate in anything before--while there's so much court stuff still going on?

HUGHES: I'm not aware of that, but I think I'm going to defer to Ari to answer any questions on transitions.

QUESTION: What are the plans for bringing people down here?

(CROSSTALK)

ARI FLEISCHER: I have no information on that.

I have not heard that.

QUESTION: What about plans for bringing people down this week? Is he one of the people that might come down?

FLEISCHER: Secretary Cheney, as you know, will be coming down here at the end of the week to meet with the governor at his ranch. And they will be discussing transition efforts. And if we have any additional announcements to make we'll, of course, always keep you posted.

QUESTION: Karen, a class action suit was filed today, saying the Bush-Cheney ticket is unconstitutional, claiming both are from Texas, and, therefore, the electors in Texas may be in jeopardy. I know you looked at this at the time the Cheney appointment was made. Do you have any concerns that this could sabotage you now?

HUGHES: No. As you noted, that was reviewed. Secretary Cheney is a resident of the state of Wyoming. He has maintained a residence there for a number of years. He served that state in Congress. And this was all looked at prior to his selection as the governor's running mate.

QUESTION: Karen, if, as you suggest, in essence, the game is over, if Gore's trying to change the rules after the game, why is that Governor Bush still is asking aides to call him governor and not president-elect? Why is he not resigning as governor of the state of Texas?

HUGHES: Well, as I think I told you all the morning after the certification or late that night, the governor has asked us all to be humble and to be gracious. He felt it's most appropriate while this contest is under way that we continue to refer to him as Governor Bush. And he will make decisions about the governorship at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: Is it still under way? I thought the contest is over.

HUGHES: Well, the vice president has gone to court to challenge the outcome...

QUESTION: So he doesn't consider himself a president-elect until that has run its course?

HUGHES: Well, I think that, as we stated the other night, that the votes of the people of Florida have now been certified.

QUESTION: Right.

HUGHES: The votes of Florida elected Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney, but he feels that it's the responsible thing to do to move forward with the transition, but to do so in a humble and gracious way.

We recognize that Vice President Gore has gone to court in Florida to try to overturn the outcome of this election, and there's been a hearing scheduled in that, I think, for later this week. There's some deadline been set by the judge for later this week.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... he considers himself a bona fide president-elect, do you consider yourself part of a new administration?

HUGHES: Well, I think you can try to argue all the semantics here. I think Governor Bush has asked us to be humble, to be gracious. As Secretary Cheney said yesterday, we feel a responsibility to begin the tremendous work of preparing a transition.

As Secretary Cheney outlined yesterday, there's a great deal of work to be done. There are a lot of decisions to be made, there are a lot of staff selections to be considered, there's just a lot of work to do. And they feel, Secretary Cheney and Governor Bush feel a responsibility to begin that process of preparing to govern.

We are, however, mindful of the fact that the vice president, obviously, a little more than an hour ago, reiterated that he is continuing in court to challenge the legitimate outcome of the election.

QUESTION: Karen, according to some who are associated with this campaign have said that the Democrats are trying to steal this election?

HUGHES: I don't believe I've ever said that. What we have said is that the vice president has now instructed his lawyers to go to court to try to challenge, to overturn the outcome of the election.

QUESTION: What was the governor's reaction last night to the vice president's remarks, when he talked about, you know, it's a democratic thing to count votes, that everybody in the country is at risk if all votes aren't counted? He seemed to be questioning the legitimacy of the government without the counts that he wants.

What is his gut reaction to that?

HUGHES: Well, I think his reaction is the same as what I outlined here today. And that is, again, that the votes have been counted. And the votes have all been recounted. And in some cases they've been again manually recounted, in some counties I think as many as four or maybe even five times by the end of all the process.

Clearly, as we saw on television the other night in a ceremony that I described to the press as more formal and more--I had a greater sense of finality than I expected to see, you saw the canvassing board certify the results of that election.

But we are now in uncharted waters. We're in an unprecedented period where a presidential candidate is going to court essentially to try to contest and overturn the results of an election that has now been certified.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... the governor resigning so the state of Texas can get rid of all uncertainties as to who's going to be in charge here for the upcoming session?

HUGHES: Well, again, he will make that decision at the appropriate time.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... the timetable for the announcement of potential Cabinet people.

HUGHES: I'll refer to Ari on that transition question.

QUESTION: Insofar as the governor has already named Andy Card as his chief of staff and that Secretary Cheney has said it's not likely until after the legal wrangling is over, is any delay or any immediate announcement considered in the context of the legal wrangling or is it just a question of the administration timetable? What's the consideration there?

FLEISCHER: The governor's focus, as far as the transition personnel is concerned, is really on two areas. One is beginning the process so we can build a White House staff, a senior White House staff, as well as selecting members of the president's Cabinet.

And the governor is going to make his decisions in a deliberate fashion, as events warrant and as he sees fit.

And we'll announce that timetable to you at the appropriate time.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... that doesn't clarify whether or not the secretary's remarks, it's not likely until after the legal wrangling is completed, is an expression of concern that it would be inappropriate or whether it's just a question of all the dominoes falling in a chronology.

FLEISCHER: No, I think again the governor is focused on what he needs to be focused on, along with Secretary Cheney, which is this process is now 1/3 over for a transition. Typically, you have about 75 days, now we're down to about 50 days. And it is the responsibility of the two to proceed. And they, as always, even as the process had begun right after Election Day, would make announcements on a timetable that they had arrived at and they thought was a most appropriate timetable. They'll share that with you at the appropriate time.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... at the ranch, potential?

FLEISCHER: Whenever we do have guests, we'll be sure to advice you, of course.

QUESTION: On intelligence briefings: Is Condi getting the briefings first and then passing it on to Governor Bush or will he get them directly from Sandy Berger? Has that been worked out?

HUGHES: Do you know that? I don't know.

FLEISCHER: Yes, I think that process is still being worked out for the process of notifying the governor and appropriate staff of what security briefings will be available. That process is still in a state of flux, it's being determined...

QUESTION: There's been no briefing yet?

FLEISCHER: No briefing yet.

QUESTION: I realize this is kind of unchartered waters, but I mean how would this normally work? I mean, normally would it go through staff to the governor or, you know, in this case, the president-elect? How would this normally go through?

FLEISCHER: Normally go through staff to the governor--or to the president-elect.

QUESTION: Karen?

HUGHES: I want to make sure you all also note that Governor Bush, this morning, called President-elect Vicente Fox in Mexico, in advance of his inauguration later this week on December 1 to offer his congratulations. And they had a brief telephone conversation.

But Governor Bush did call him to offer his congratulations.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Is he sending anybody to Mexico for the inauguration?

HUGHES: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Has he talked to any other heads of state, any foreign leaders called the governor to offer congratulations...

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: Not that I'm aware of. Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Has he gotten congratulations from any high-level people in this country...

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: Well, he's been making a series of telephone calls. I think he's called fellow governors, members of Congress. He's been making a series of telephone calls. I'm sure he's been receiving some congratulations and some advice and recommendations as he works on transition business. But I'm not aware that he's been called by other heads of state. We probably ought to double-check with Condi about that, but I'm not aware that he's--I was briefed this morning that he had spoken with President-elect Vicente Fox.

QUESTION: Karen, why is he going up there? Is he sick of the fish bowl here? Is he trying to bring people in? What is the purpose of him going to the ranch?

HUGHES: I think that it's a tranquil place where it's easy to do some thinking and reflecting and to spend time on the telephone and to call around the country.

As those of you who've been parked outside across the street from the mansion know, the mansion has been somewhat hectic in recent days, with very enthusiastic crowds gathered around, which is great, except for when you're inside trying to think or work. It's sometimes a little hectic. So I think it's just a tranquil place.

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: Very, very much so, yes. Yes. When you're in a meeting inside, you can pretty much hear the...

QUESTION: Chanting.

HUGHES: ... chanting and things outside, right. So it's just a more tranquil place, I think, in which for him to reflect and think as he prepares to...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Karen, does the governor feel like he's got an arm tied behind his back as he tries to move forward? Is it weird? Is it strange? What's the feeling?

HUGHES: Well, it's certainly unprecedented. I don't know if I'd describe it the way you did. But I think it is--it's obviously, we all recognize that this is an unusual circumstance, as both Secretary Cheney and Secretary Baker described it yesterday.

It's unprecedented. So we're all trying to operate as appropriate as we go forward.

Thank you all very much.

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: We're trying to work out a system of regular briefings, yes. I appreciate your patience very much. I think once Ari gets to Washington, we're trying to work that out now. When we get our transition office opened there, we will try to have regular briefings for you.

I imagine we will have some regular briefings on transition from Washington, because that is where Secretary Cheney will be located most of the time, and that is where he will be. And that's why Ari will probably travel up there.

Ari, do you know yet?

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: Have suitcase, will travel.

QUESTION: When the governor has announcements to make, would he be making them here or in Washington?

HUGHES: Again, that has not been decided yet. But we'll do our best to keep you advised. And I'm going to stay here. So I will be here and Ari will be in Washington, so we should have both...

QUESTION: ... the Supreme Court suit. You said that you're worried about the Gore people trying to lengthen the court battle. Would you be willing to drop the Supreme Court suit for the sake of time?

HUGHES: Well, the governor brought that based on some important principles, and he feels those are still important principles. And so long as the vice president is continuing with contesting the outcome of the election in Florida, we think it's important that we remain before the nation's highest court.

Thank you all very much.


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