Access to Miers records denied


WASHINGTON -- President Bush said yesterday that he would resist calls from Congress to release documents from Harriet E. Miers' White House service, setting up a possible standoff with senators over how much information they are entitled to know about his choice for the Supreme Court.

Senators of both parties complain that Miers - who has held three White House jobs in the past five years, including counsel to the president - is largely unknown outside the White House. As a result, Republicans as well as Democrats have said they might not vote for her unless the White House voluntarily provides at least some materials that demonstrate her qualifications to sit on the nation's highest court.

At the close of his weekly Cabinet meeting, Bush flatly rejected the suggestion.

"It's a red line I'm not willing to cross," the president said, arguing that releasing such materials would cause aides to hold back unvarnished advice in the future.

"We are not going to destroy this business about people being able to walk into the Oval Office and say, `Mr. President, here's my advice to you, here's what I think is important,'" Bush said. "And that's not only important for this president, it's important for future presidents."

The chairman of the Judiciary committee, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who is overseeing the congressional confirmation process, suggested that the president and senators might be able to reach a compromise over release of documents that don't contain confidential advice.

"A number of senators, including Republican senators, have asked that a search be made as to nonprivileged documents," Specter told reporters yesterday.

He suggested that a White House release of some documents might take pressure off Miers' performance during confirmation hearings set to begin Nov. 7.

Miers' nomination has encountered unusually stiff opposition from conservatives who feel her career does not demonstrate either outstanding jurisprudence or a commitment to conservative values.

Some conservative organizations are in the process of organizing a formal campaign against Miers.

"We are calling on Ms. Miers to withdraw her nomination, and if she does, we call on President Bush to use this opportunity to select an individual with impeccable credentials," said Joseph Cella, president of Fidelis, a Catholic anti-abortion political advocacy group.

Democrats have also demanded access to White House documents, and expressed dismay at the president's dismissal of the idea.

"The president says people need to learn more about Harriet Miers and senators on both sides of the aisle agree," Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. "That is why we have asked for documents from her time in the White House that aren't covered by any privilege, and it is disappointing to me, and I am sure to all of us, that it looks like the White House is now refusing to agree to those requests."

The White House gave no indication the president was considering withdrawing her nomination. Nor did Miers herself, who paid a courtesy call yesterday to Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, one of a number of Senate Republicans who have expressed concerns about her nomination but have not said whether they would vote for or against her.

Maura Reynolds writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.