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Breaking News

Vice President Could Be Hospitalized Overnight

Aired March 5, 2001 - 6:03 p.m. ET

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

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Two important stories we are following this afternoon. In addition to the shooting in Southern California, two students dead at a hospital, shot by another student. In addition, Vice President Cheney back in the hospital.

Less than four months after his latest heart attack, the vice president checked himself into a hospital in Washington this afternoon because of discomfort in his chest. He was due to undergo a procedure described by the White House as precautionary.

CNN's Bob Franken is at the Capitol and our John King is at the White House. First to you, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The procedure is a catheterization, where a device, a very, thin, slim sliver is put through the circulatory system. They are looking for any signs of a blockage.

We are told that after he called his cardiologist, who by the way, is Dr. Jonathan Reiner, to report that he had been having some discomfort, the doctor said you'd better get yourself back in here right now because as you pointed out, last November 22nd, the then- vice president-to-be was brought to the hospital. It turned out he had a mild heart attack.

As you said, it was his fourth. His first one occurred when he was 37 years of age. That was 23 years ago. That is to say 1978. He has had a bypass. Cardiologists will tell you that over time, sometimes they will deteriorate. But of course, we have no idea whether that's factor here.

The White House has gone to great pains to say that this is not an emergency procedure, although, of course, there is sort of an information blackout right now while they conduct the tests that they're going to conduct on the vice president.

We will tell you that a news conference that originally had been scheduled to occur about an hour ago, it hasn't happened yet. We have no actual reason why, no indication that it has anything to do with the treatment or the tests that are being given of the vice president. Among those who's expected at the news conference is his cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken, we want you to stand by. And now let's go to the White House to John King.

John, what have you learned there about the circumstances surrounding today's episode with the vice president?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, let us start by saying we're told by senior administration officials that Vice President Cheney's staff, as we speak, on the phone with the doctors over at the hospital and we're told by two sources that that catheterization procedure was indeed started. What we don't know is if it is finished, if the care is finished.

But we do know the vice president's senior aides at this moment on a conference call with the doctors over at the hospital. As Bob Franken noted, so far the White House saying very little. The only public comments by the administration this piece of paper released by Mary Matalin, the top adviser to the vice president, simply saying that he suffered two episodes of chest discomfort and contacted his doctors and then went in for this procedure, again, a repeat catheterization.

This afternoon, here at the White House, reporters tried to ask President Bush what he knew about all of this, but the president had very little to offer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Has the vice president been taken to the hospital? We've been hearing reports the vice president is in the hospital.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Precautionary measures.

QUESTION: Precautionary.

QUESTION: What's the ailment, sir?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The vice president is 60 years old. Again, of course, right after the campaign he had a catheterization and a stent put into his arteries. He's had a history of heart trouble, which of course raises concerns.

Aides say of late, that he has been doing a better job keeping to the diet prescribed to him by his doctors, exercising as well. He just recently moved into the vice president's official residence on Massachusetts Avenue and we're told among the items on his agenda, just yesterday, of course, he was on the Sunday shows, including "LATE EDITION" here on CNN.

Also, yesterday we're he attended a birthday party for the Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan. He was up very late last night. Aides said he was having trouble sleeping and again twice he had pains in his chest, described now by the White house as mild. But obviously, given his history, the doctors decided it was best that he come in and, obviously, they decided as well to do another catheterization to take a look around to see just how significant any damage might be -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: John, how active a schedule has the vice president been keeping recently?

KING: A very active schedule, most of it here in Washington. He's been doing some media interviews with local stations around the country as part of his effort to promote the president's budget and tax-cut plan the morning after the president's speech. Of course, he was in the Capitol seated behind the president last Tuesday when the president gave his big budget speech to the Congress.

The next day, he was here in Washington giving a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers, one the pro-business groups the vice president has been focusing much of his attention on as he tries to build up support not just in the Congress, but also among the interest groups and mostly Republican Party constituency groups here in town.

We are told, though, he does try to leave the office, keep a regular schedule and again we are told of late, he has been much better. Aides were very critical of him, remember, during the transition, after the episode right after the campaign, saying he was working too hard and not sticking to his diet.

Aides say he has been better of late, but obviously, after these two recent episodes of discomfort, we're told the second was Saturday after exercising at the vice president's residence, his doctors suggested he come in and be checked again -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, and now, John, quickly back to Bob Franken at George Washington Hospital. Bob, what are they telling you? How is information being released at the hospital.

FRANKEN: Very grudgingly, as matter of fact. They are not even confirming here that the catheterization is going on. We have been finding it out from a variety of different people. I did talk to couple of Secret Service agents who said I should expect to be here quite a few hours. A catheterization normally requires some sort of anesthetization, a sedative which could very easily mean in the minds of many who we've talked to that the vice president might be spending the night.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken at George Washington Hospital, John King at the White House. We're continuing our coverage in the aftermath of the vice president experiencing chest discomfort and then checking -- being checked in to GW Hospital here in Washington. We're also, of course, following that school shooting in Southern California where two students were left dead, 13 others wounded. The shootings by a 15-year-old student. We'll be back in a moment with more of our live coverage.

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