Text: Bush Legal Team Makes Remarks
Tuesday, November 28, 2000
Following is the
full text of a Tuesday news conference held by George W. Bush adviser James
A. Baker III to introduce senior members of the Buwh campaign's legal team.
FORMER SECRETARY JAMES A. BAKER III
BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISER
BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY
IRVIN TERRELL, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY
FRED BARTLIT, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY
PHIL BECK, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY
DARYL BRISTOW, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY
BAKER: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Regrettably, the Gore campaign has now filed a lawsuit contesting the certified
election results here in Florida. Their aim, of course, is to overturn the outcome
of the election after 19 or 20 days of counts and recounts and more recounts.
America has never had a presidential election decided by a contest of the
election outcome in the court. This is an extraordinary procedure and we are
entering new uncertain and controversial territory.
Therefore, I would like to introduce the senior members of the litigation
team who will be defending the vote of Floridians in favor of Governor Bush
and Secretary Cheney. I have earlier introduced to you Barry Richard of Tallahassee,
Florida, with the national law firm of Greenberg Traurig. Other members of our
team are Fred Bartlit and Philip Beck of the law firm of Bartlit Beck in Chicago,
Illinois. The other two members of our senior litigation team are law partners
of mine at Baker Botts in Houston, Texas.
These five gentlemen are here to summarize our view of the overall contest
proceedings and to set the record straight on four issues that the Gore campaign
continues to mischaracterize.
RICHARD: We believe that the election contest is without legal substance.
I'm very pleased to have this quality group of lawyers to work with, in order
to deal with the multiple issues that have been raised in the petition. As Secretary
Baker said, we have divided up the issues among the lawyers, and each one here
with us today is prepared to comment on a specific issue.
TERRELL: Good morning. My name is Irv Terrell. I'm with Secretary Baker's
firm, Baker Botts.
I'd like to talk to you about one of Mr. Boies' pet theories in the case and
that is the myth that there are 10,000 votes that are not counted in Miami-Dade
County. In fact, those are nonvotes. And, indeed, it is not unusual for people
not to vote fully in every election on a ballot.
In fact, those 10,000 nonvotes are about 1.6 percent of the votes cast in
that county. If you look at other states and other counties other states
outside Florida and other counties in Florida--you find that in at least 34
counties in Florida, there are higher percentages of nonvotes. And, in fact,
in the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Illinois, there are substantially higher
percentages of nonvotes.
That makes sense because not every person who comes to an election and who
comes to the ballot box, particularly in hotly contested election, chooses to
vote. So that when they say that these votes are votes, they're wrong. And when
they say that these votes and I tell you, they're nonvotes have
never been counted, we know they've been counted twice by machines, at least.
And in each instance, they've been found to not be votes.
Thank you very much.
BARTLIT: My name is Fred Bartlit. I'm going to talk about myth number
two. That's the myth that Miami-Dade would have conducted the manual recount
unless they--if it wasn't for a Republican mob that intimidated the canvassing
board. Gore lawyer Ron Klain said that a mob stormed the counting facility to
stop the count. That's the myth; here are the facts.
The board is composed of independent David Leahy, a supervisor of election
for 26 years, a highly experienced individual, and two other sitting judges.
What was being protested was a violation of the Florida Sunshine law; the count
was moving behind closed doors.
The New York Times was at the forefront threatening litigation if the count
wasn't opened. Mr. Leahy said that the demonstration was all he saw was
something that was noisy and peaceful and nothing else. There were babies in
the crowd. There were little kids there. There was, in some ways, a holiday
Mr. Leahy and others said that they were not intimidated. They said the count
was stopped because they could not possibly could not possibly
meet the deadline set by the Supreme Court. The air in the room when they made
the decision was calm, it was relaxed, there were no shouts. There was no pressure
in the room. There were many, many police there. There wasn't a single arrest.
No one ever asked the crowd to desist.
A statement under these circumstances about a mob storming a counting facility
is desired to heat up the situation, and it really is time to tune back the
BECK: My name is Phil Beck. I'm going to discuss briefly the question
of butterfly ballots used in Palm Beach County.
The butterfly ballot, which is a typical ballot used throughout the country,
was designed by a Democratic election official in Palm Beach County. It was
sent to and approved by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. It was
posted in newspapers so that citizens could comment on it. And the law is that
if anyone has a concern with the form of the ballot, that has to be expressed
before the election, not after the election.
It is not according to law. And it is not fair to wait until the votes have
been counted, and then if you don't like the outcome, to say, that the ballot
there was something wrong with the form of the ballot.
BRISTOW: Good morning. I'm Daryl Bristow, and I want to talk to you
for a moment about Nassau County and the suggestion that 218 votes earlier declared
illegal were counted on final certification.
These 218 votes were real votes by real people who did what they needed to
do to express their will. No one at no time declared these votes illegal. They
are not nonvotes; they are not overvotes; they were real votes. They were counted
in the original count.
It was discovered on the machine recount that these votes had been misplaced
and were not counted. The voting machines were checked to make sure that there
had been no malfunction. The permission was asked and received to include those
votes in the final certification. The board unanimously voted, including two
Democrats and that included the supervisor, that this should be done to express
the will of 218 people who had really cast their votes.
BAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, any one of us up here would be glad to
respond to your questions. I would be glad also. But I hope that if you have
questions for the attorneys with respect to any of these issues, you would just
address it to them.
QUESTION: What about Seminole County? You're not concerned about those
BAKER: We're not concerned about Seminole County. We do not think that
that claim really has merit. And we will be delighted to talk to you specifically
about that at a later time if you want.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that this contest election and contest
trial will go passed the December 12 deadline and, therefore, it will all be
thrown in the state legislature, making this moot?
BAKER: Well, we're concerned that there is a contest after the election
results had been certified. So, therefore, we would be concerned, of course,
if it dragged on to December 12 or thereafter.
QUESTION: While this is going on, the legislature will begin the process
today of calling a special session. What would your advice be to the Republican
leadership in the house and senate about how to proceed or if to process with
the special session to name the...
BAKER: Well, I don't really want to get into that here. I would like
to spend the time we have, whatever time we have here, addressing the question
of the contest, that's why all of these gentlemen are here. We'll be glad to
take some questions from you about legislative problems or approaches or solutions
at some other time.
QUESTION: This is a question for Mr. Terrell. It seems to me that you
folks have offered two different explanations on the Dade County votes. One
explanation which you just offered is, it wasn't really a vote; these are nonvotes.
The alternative explanation is, they might be votes, but there's no difference
between how those machine votes are run through versus how they're run through
in any other place in Florida.
Let me ask you this QUESTION: If you're right and these are nonvotes,
what's the problem looking at the ballots and ascertaining that, yes, indeed,
they are nonvotes?
TERRELL: It depends on how you look at the ballots and it depends on
which ballots you look at. You raise a very important point. One of the 34 counties
that I was addressing in Florida where there's a higher nonvote is in Duvall
County, heavily military.
It's 9.07 percent. There is well in excess of 20,000 nonvotes in Duvall County.
So if Mr. Boies and his client, Mr. Vice President Gore, wanted in fact to check
the ballots, why don't they want to check Duvall County ballots? Is it because
of the military issue that they seem to be afraid of? I don't know. But we say
that you have to check them all if you check them.
But you're correct. That is alternative. We think there's no reason for us
to be in court now. We believe that the certification was done properly and
that due difference must be given to the people who counted the votes, the people
who certified the votes, and that it is inappropriate for any single person
to sit and decide and try to figure out, through some sort of divine inspiration,
whether a mark on a ballot that is improper is somehow intent to vote. But if
we're going to do it, why don't we do it in Duvall County where there are 20,000
votes, which would swamp these Dade votes?
BAKER: I didn't respond to your Seminole County question, but Barry
Richard here is prepared to do that, and I think you deserve an answer to that.
RICHARD: As those of you have been having these extended conversation
with me for the last several weeks know, I don't generally like to try a case
outside the courtroom. But I am pleased to tell you what our position would
be on the Seminole County issue when we file it.
Seminole County did not involve the challenge doesn't involve ballots;
it involves an application for absentee ballots. Under Florida law, any person
let me back up a step.
The problem, as I understand the challenge, is that there was some information
that was left off the application. The supervisor's office permitted the persons
who were presenting it to come in and add that information back in.
Now, under Florida law, any person can assist the voter in filling out an
application for an absentee ballot. The voter who is requesting the ballot must
sign the application, and the information on the application must be related
to that voter. But any person can assist the voter in filling it out and can
present the application to the supervisor's office.
Now, what happened here was, there was information required that was inadvertently
left off of the application. The supervisor permitted those persons who were
presenting it to come in and add the information back in in the office. That's
really a nonissue.
Those persons could have taken back all of those applications, gone back to
their homes or their offices, filled it in and resubmitted it, or could have
simply told the supervisor to discard them, prepared new ones and brought them
Instead of going to that trouble, the supervisor simply permitted them to
come in and add the information. It is perfectly lawful. It does not require
the voter to put the information in.
The information was not in controversy. It's information that is I
don't, frankly, remember whether it was the person's Social Security number
or the zip code or what it was that was added in, but it was not something the
voter would exercise any judgment over.
QUESTION: Isn't the issue, though, that there was access to the ballot
after a signature was already put on it?
RICHARD: It had nothing to do with the ballot.
QUESTION: I mean, access to the application, rather, after a signature.
RICHARD: Well, anybody can have application to the--they can have access
to the application. The information that was included was not information that
a person could manipulate. It was information that the supervisor compares to
the name of the voter to make sure that this is the same person that's on the
registration rolls. So if an individual had access and put the wrong information
on, it would have been rejected. This is not something that was a risk of security
because somebody could manipulate it.
As I said, the same persons who presented that information could have taken
it back, added the information and resubmitted it. The voter doesn't have to
be there when this information is submitted. So there's really no issue here
about anybody doing anything that was either illegal or suspect.
QUESTION: Two quick things: Is there any thought on your part of withdrawing
your case in the Supreme Court? And, two, is there a sense amongst all the lawyers
that David Boies is giving a sense that this is something that could take days?
Among the people here involved with the litigation, knowing the issues involved
in this contest, is there a sense of how long this is going to take to be properly
done, the contest?
BAKER: How long what's going to take, the contest?
QUESTION: The contest, and then also if you could comment on the Supreme
But how long will this take? I mean, the Democrats are trying to get across
that this is something that can take a couple of days to litigate this. They
can go through it and get an appeal done. Is there any sense...
BAKER: Look, we've got quite a bit of accumulated years of trial experience
behind me here, and I'm going to let one of them answer your question about
how long it might take to resolve this contest. But whoever answers it
and, perhaps, Barry, if you don't mind, if you'd answer it, I would like you
to speak as well to the question of gathering evidence, presenting evidence,
going through a full trial and then the question of whatever appeals might be
QUESTION: The Supreme Court issue, is that something that is being
considered, withdrawing that?
BAKER: No. The answer to that is no, assuming, of course, that Vice
President Gore is not willing to dismiss all of his litigation, including the
first ever contest of an election outcome in court after certification.
RICHARD: This issue arose in court yesterday. It is not our intention
or desire to unnecessarily delay the contest proceedings.
However, as I told Judge Sauls yesterday, the fact that we're dealing here
with the presidential election doesn't justify suspending due process or normal
rules of procedure. Those rules allow us to expedite a hearing, but there still
needs to be a reasonable opportunity for us to know who the witnesses and what
the exhibits are that are going to be introduced against us, for us to have
an opportunity to prepare our own witnesses and our own exhibits, for us to
be able to engage in the most rudimentary discovery with respect to deposing
witnesses on the other side and also making ours available for deposition. So
things are going to have to happen, even if it's truncated, because we don't
rush to judgment without an adequate opportunity to prepare for what happens
to be a very important evidentiary hearing.
I might also mention that the reason that we find ourselves in this situation,
this case could have been--this contest could have been filed after the original
certification. The reason that we find ourselves with less time available now
is because the Gore legal team made the strategic decision instead to seek an
extension of time to continue the recounts before they filed their contest.
But that doesn't justify depriving my client of the opportunity for the normal
time not the normal time, but a reasonable time to prepare for an evidentiary
hearing for a trial.
BAKER: We're going to take one more question, and you're going to ask
it, and then we got to get out of here.
QUESTION: A question for Mr. Terrell, with all due respect, sir, you
didn't really answer the question about the 10,000 votes. Have you seen those
votes? How can you guarantee that there aren't votes there?
TERRELL: All right, let me try to answer your question. The machines
count them in such a way that they determine whether or not they're punched
out. You know that. They have been considered historically in Florida, as no
In fact, if you look at the secretary of state's unofficial results put out
yesterday, the Division of Elections, it calls them "no votes,'' and there are
over 175,000 no votes.
QUESTION: Have you seen them? Do you know what they look like?
TERRELL: Obviously, I have not seen them.
QUESTION: So how can you guarantee, just because what the machine says,
that there's no vote there?
TERRELL: I don't think that even our worthy opponents contend that
somehow the machines missed punched-out ballots.
BAKER: May I just add to that?
Of course we cannot guarantee that, any more than we can guarantee that all
of the nonvotes that have been thrown out in Duvall County and in all of these
other states across the United States, in greater percentages than were thrown
out in Miami-Dade, are nonvotes for sure. But we have a system, and there's
a proper procedure for conducting our elections.
It is wrong, simply wrong, and I would submit not fair to say, as our opponents
do over and over, that these votes have never been counted. They've been counted
just like all of the other nonvotes, not only in other counties in Florida,
but across the United States of America have been counted. They've been counted,
and they've been recounted by machines. They have not been manually counted,
but neither have all these other votes that were thrown out in other counties
in Florida and cross the United States.
Thank you all very, very much.