McCain Camp Ready To Contest Voting Irregularities Farai Chideya continues the conversation about the possible legal challenges facing this year's presidential election with George Terwilliger, legal counsel to the McCain campaign. He led the legal team for then candidate George W. Bush in the 2000 recount.

McCain Camp Ready To Contest Voting Irregularities

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

And now we're going to turn to a legal advisor to the McCain campaign. George Terwilliger is a former deputy attorney general in the George H. W. Bush administration. Thank you for joining us.

Mr. GEORGE TERWILLIGER (Legal Advisor for the McCain Campaign): Well, thanks for having me.

CHIDEYA: So we were just talking a little bit with Eric Holder about financial issues, and one of the things that you did was take a look through the financial fraud task force. You know, basically this question of what is a fair application of government statutes to the financial industry, including credit liens and these other incidents where things went badly wrong. So from that perspective, having that experience, what is the role of the attorney general in taking a look at what's been going on these past months.

Mr. TERWILLIGER: I think the primary role will really belong, and the emphasis belongs on economic recovery, rather than retribution. But clearly, part of the recovery aught to be understanding exactly what happened. And if fraud and fraudulent activity played a role in it, then that squarely falls within the jurisdiction of the Justice Department to not only ferret it out, but to address it where justice requires.

CHIDEYA: Now, we've been talking also about possible legal strategies for dealing with the election, and you actually led the legal team for then candidate George W. Bush in the 2000 recount. So what challenges now are you preparing for in this election, with this team, if things become tense or tight or contested on election day?

Mr. TERWILLIGER: Well, I think what we're preparing for is to, if necessary, once again to see the rule of law prevail and to have in the great American political tradition any dispute about elections or voting settled in the way that the law provides and not with people in the streets. It was amazing to me how many of my colleagues who are around the world said to me that people in other countries, particularly less developed countries, were amazed that in a matter of such great controversy, when the justices finally decided the people accepted the rule.

Here, I think there are some other issues in play. I was a little disappointed to hear Eric say during your interview - and I'll file note that Eric is a friend of mine and someone that I professionally admire a great deal, but I was a little disappointed to hear him put the emphasis on voter suppression. Nobody wants to see votes suppressed of course. But we've heard an awful lot about allegations of fraudulent registrations. And unfortunately, Senator Obama seems to have in the comments he's made about it, made light of it. I would hope that Senator Obama and his lawyers, rather than write the Justice Department and tell them to stand down, would be encouraging the Justice Department to ferret out false registrations which can become false votes. Because if there is a false vote, then the vote of every legitimate voter is diluted and the very heart of the franchise of democracy is threatened.

CHIDEYA: How do you make a decision when to contest a vote? I mean, there - 2000 was special in every way. I mean there was nothing typical about it. But there hasn't been a lot that's been typical about this race either. So under what circumstances would you decide, we think that there's been enough fraud in this election to go ahead and contest certain states or certain votes?

Mr. TERWILLIGER: I don't think sort of hypothesizing about what the threshold for a lawful election contest might be is on our radar screen at all. I think what's more important right now is that the state election officials who - many of whom are volunteers, by the way in the polling places on election day - are given the tools they need to separate legitimate votes from those that are votes coming from people for whatever reason and for whatever candidate trying to gain the system. Because as I said, that just dilutes the importance of every legitimate vote and it challenges the very framework of our democracy.

CHIDEYA: One last thing, and also briefly, issue of Guantanamo. I brought that up with Mr. Holder. Is that a priority for what would be a McCain administration if it is elected?

Mr. TERWILLIGER: Yes. You know, Senator McCain, particularly given his own experience in the military, believes very strongly that the United States has to lead the world in how we deal with people that have to be detained. And he has made it clear that he would close Guantanamo Bay as a prison and move to a different system to adjudicate the responsibility of people who are involved in or planning terrorist acts.

CHIDEYA: Well, Mr. Terwilliger, thank you so much.

Mr. TERWILLIGER: Thank you for having us.

CHIDEYA: That was George Terwilliger, legal advisor to the McCain campaign. He is also a former deputy attorney general in the administration of former President George H. W. Bush.

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