Bush Will Not Release All Miers Documents

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 24, 2005; 12:42 PM

President Bush, standing by his troubled nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, today criticized senators' requests for documents regarding her work for him and said he would not cross a "red line" of executive confidentiality.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting that included an update on Hurricane Wilma, which rampaged across southern Florida today, Bush again extolled Miers, 60, in the face of bipartisan criticism of her qualifications. He indicated he was standing firm against calls from some commentators to drop the nomination before Senate confirmation hearings begin Nov. 7.

Asked whether the White House is working on contingency plans to withdraw his nomination of Miers, Bush replied, "Harriet Miers is an extraordinary woman. She was a legal pioneer in Texas. She was ranked one of the top 50 women lawyers in the United States on a consistent basis." He added later, "Harriet Miers is a fine person, and I expect her to have a good, fair hearing on Capitol Hill."

Bush said it was understandable that "people want to know more about her" and pointed to the hearings as the way to acquire that information.

"Recently, requests, however, have been made by Democrats and Republicans about paperwork out of this White House that would make it impossible for me and other presidents to be able to make sound decisions," Bush said. "In other words, they've asked for paperwork about the decision-making process -- what her recommendations were -- and that would breach very important confidentiality. And it's a red line I'm not willing to cross."

Bush added, "People can learn about Harriet Miers through hearings. But 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. . . .' That's not only important for this president. It's important for future presidents."

Earlier, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush remains confident that Miers will be confirmed, despite a Democratic senator's assertion that she currently does not have enough votes to win approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducts the confirmation hearings and holds an initial vote, or in the Republican-controlled Senate as a whole.

"I think, if you were to hold the vote today, she would not get a majority, either in the Judiciary Committee or on the floor," Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, a leading Democrat on the committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. "I think there is maybe one or two on the Judiciary Committee who have said they'd support her as of right now. And I think you have concern on these three areas -- qualification, independence, judicial philosophy -- by people of both parties and all political stripes."

The hearings "are going to be make-or-break for Harriet Miers in a way that they have not been for any other nominee," Schumer said. "And she's going to have to do real well there."

McClellan told reporters this morning that "as senators come to know [Miers] like the president knows her, we're confident that they will recognize she will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice."

In his remarks following the Cabinet meeting, Bush refused to comment when asked if he shared the concerns of some Republicans that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald may have become "overzealous" in his investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's name.

"This is a very serious investigation, and I haven't changed my mind about whether or not I'm going to comment on it publicly," Bush said.

Among those seated in the Cabinet room as Bush spoke were two officials who have been identified as subjects of the investigation: Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and top political strategist, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. Neither man said a word or betrayed any emotion during the exchange.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company