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Florida Recount: Vice President Gore Suspends Recount and Plans to Address Nation Tonight

Aired December 13, 2000 - 11:04 a.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning once again, I'm Daryn Kagan at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, continuing our coverage of this significant development in election 2000: receiving word that Vice President Al Gore has suspended operations of a recount in the state of Florida. We know that by a statement released by his campaign manager, William Daley. Here it is: "The vice president has directed the recount committee to suspend activities. He will address the nation his evening."

We understand that speech is going to take place between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. Eastern. More on that in just a moment.

First, we have a full slate of correspondents covering this developing story for you. First, we have Frank Sesno, our Washington bureau chief. He of course from Washington, along with our John King, and then we have Patty Davis outside the gore residence in Washington D.C., and Tony Clark outside the governor's mansion, covering George W. Bush in Austin, Texas.

First to Frank Sesno, Frank, I understand, you have word, a little nugget, perhaps indication of what the vice president might have to say to the nation later tonight.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Daryn. We're getting the outline of the vice president's speech this evening that will be delivered. I'm told it will be a statesman's-like speech in which he will, as you might expect, be talking about how it is now time to put the interests of the nation before the interests of the politicians. He will talk about the principle that he believes he has fought for over these past five weeks, since that very disputed election night ended so dramatically, and morphed into this experience we've had, which is one person, one vote, the sanctity of the vote, we'll hear that in the vice president's speech this evening. We will also hear again in this speech this evening, it is time to bring the country together.

Now, what's unclear is whether and how he will refer to the Supreme Court of the United States, and this decision that has so many in the Gore campaign, including Al Gore himself, so bitter. He will reach out and call on Democrats and Republicans to work together, and to reach across the aisle and to do what is best for Americans. The speech is a work in progress. The vice president himself has been on the phone today, briefing major Democratic leaders to include House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and the Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle. Those conversations, according to sources, already having taken place, beyond that as we told you earlier, the legal team down in Florida, they're coming out. The speech is seen as very critical. It's meant to be, as I say, statesman's-like, in the words of the source close to the vice president, and with it will fold his tent in this very contested presidential race, and will be over.

KAGAN: Thirty-six days in.

Frank Sesno, thank you very much. Back to you in a second.

Now to John King. John, you were pointing out, don't necessarily look for words like "lose" and "concede" in tonight's speech?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, but as Frank said, look for the vice president to tell his supporters and to tell the nation, that from the beginning, he said he would respect the process, and he will make the case, we're told, that the process has run its course. He will not necessarily agree with the result, of course, but he will try to make the case that the process has run its course and now time, as Frank mentioned, to rally around President-elect Bush.

I spoke to someone who spoke to the vice president this morning, He said -- quote -- "He's both resolved and resigned. He can do the math here. He understands what he has to do." This person also said the vice president, he believes, is "up to the challenge," a quote from the senior adviser, "up to the challenge" of delivering address tonight that this adviser says is critical first in trying to convince the nation to rally around governor bush now, soon to be President- elect Bush, and also to make the case through no direct words but from the impression of the vice president what he was asking for is fairness, so that he leaves with "grace and dignity" in the words of adviser.

Now the conversation around town among Democrats now quite critical of course, Secretary Cheney going to Capitol Hill. It will be interesting to watch the most liberal members of the House of Representatives who feel here that they have been disenfranchised, who feel that they have a case to make. Their reaction in the days ahead will be critical. And we should add this as well, we're told by sources at the White House that they will let the vice president go first. President Clinton, obviously, is overseas right now on a trip. But once this situation has some clarity to it, an invitation will be issued by the White House for Governor Bush to come and have a courtesy call with the president of the United States.

KAGAN: All right, John King.

And now to Patty Davis, standing outside the Gore residence in Washington D.C. -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, aides in Tallahassee are saying that they are very deeply disappointed in the -- once that announcement came out this morning from campaign chairman Bill Daley, that, in fact, the vice president would be folding tent. They say that were tears all around. They are packing bags and the staff is coming out of Tallahassee.

Now one legal adviser is telling me this morning that they were directed to come up with all the possible options. They stayed up all night doing that, looking for legal options for the vice president. They say that there were legal options. They say that he was viable, there was viability, that specifically, that the U.S. Supreme Court misinterpreted what the Florida Supreme Court had said about the deadline; that there would have been an opportunity for the Florida Supreme Court to clarify that. Specifically, the source telling me that the Florida Supreme Court saying that the deadline was not mandatory, that they were referring more to the safe-harbor provision. But the vice president apparently deciding he did not want to press on and take the chance for the clarification. There could have been a lot more legal wrangling involved in that, and perhaps they would not get the desired result that they wanted.

The legal advisers, aides are saying, they are extremely disappointed but very united. They feel they fought the principle principal battle that every vote should count, and they did their best -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Patty Davis outside the Gore residence in Washington D.C. Now the last we saw, the Texas governor, George W. Bush, he was walking into the state capitol. He has a few words which indicated he had not received this word yet of Al Gore calling off this recount effort in the state of Florida.

Let's Bring in Tony Clark from Austin, Texas.

Tony, any reaction yet, official reaction from the Bush camp?

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, Daryn, the Bush campaign is trying to be very quiet, very low-key, trying to give the vice president as much room to make a concession speech as possible. They don't want to add any pressure, any rancor to this, because they know that it is, as the governor has said before, a very difficult situation for the vice president, and they don't want to add to his difficulty. They also don't want to add to any more of the rancor that has gone on for the past weeks during this battle, because that would simply make it harder for the first weeks and months of a Bush presidency.

The governor arrived at his capitol office just about an hour or so ago. He had made some calls to aides say almost everyone he knows, top advisers -- Andy Card, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, his running mate, Jim Baker, pretty much everyone he knew, to talk about not only transition, but where they go from here. One of the reporters asking if he was cleaning out his desk at the state capitol. He just laughed at that point. Another reporter asked whether he would have anything to say later today. His response simply, "We'll see."

So right now the governor expected to stay at the capitol another hour or two. Meanwhile, his running mate, Dick Cheney, on Capitol Hill, meeting with five moderate Republican senators, because the campaign feels that they're going to play a key role in trying to bridge any gap between the Republicans and Democrats, and they're going to be very important to a Bush campaign to try and make a smooth transition, a smooth administration into the first week. So the meeting at lunchtime today between Dick Cheney and the moderate Republicans.

Again, at this point, no word from Governor Bush or his campaign. They're keeping very quiet, trying to give the vice president as much room, as much space to prepare for a concession speech as they can -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Yes, Tony, on that note, no word what when we might hear from Governor Bush, but one might assume that it would not be until after Al Gore has a chance to address the nation, in terms of protocol?

CLARK: Absolutely. In fact, that's been one of the themes over the past several days, not to announce appointments to cabinet positions, White House positions, not to do anything that would try and upstage the vice president. They wanted to wait until the legal wranglings were over. Now they want to wait to hear from the vice president. One could assume that the vice president at some point today would pull Governor Bush, talk to him before going on national TV.

But again, we're in much the same position as we were when the Supreme Court was deciding, we are simply waiting -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Tony Clark in Austin, Texas.

We'll leave to you wait for a bit, and check back with you in just a bit as well.

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