Bush resists requests on Miers' workBy JAMES KUHNHENN
October 25, 2005.
WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Monday that he wants to probe a land-condemnation proceeding in 1999 that awarded Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers more than $100,000 for a half-acre of family-owned land in Dallas.
The amount, more than 10 times the land's market value, was determined by a three-person panel that included a close associate of Miers' and that was appointed by a judge who had received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from her law firm. The transaction was described in a Star-Telegram story Sunday.
"The story contained some allegations that I think require investigation," said Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
The land deal added a new wrinkle to a nomination that appeared Monday to put President Bush on a collision course with Senate Democrats and Republicans over the release of documentation about Miers' work as White House counsel.
Providing such documents, Bush said Monday, "would make it impossible for me and other presidents to be able to make sound decisions."
"In other words, they've asked for paperwork about the decision-making process, what her recommendations were," Bush said. "And that would breach very important confidentiality, and it's a red line I'm not willing to cross."
Specter said he was willing to limit his request to a description of the issues Miers handled at the White House, not details of her advice on those topics.
He said that even a list of subjects would help the Senate determine what legal cases Miers might have to decline to hear if she were to become a Supreme Court justice.
"We're very mindful of executive privilege," Specter said.
"If you take, say, advice that Ms. Miers gave the president on his constitutional authority to hold detainees in Guantanamo, that would be executive privilege. If on the other hand you want to know if she gave him advice on Guantanamo, that would not be executive privilege."
Miers also took another hit from conservative critics Monday, who launched a Web site called WithdrawMiers.org, calling on her to step aside and let Bush nominate a proven conservative to the court.
The land transaction in West Dallas also attracted interest from watchdog groups.
"I think it raises questions that need to be looked into," said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice.
"Miers apparently got paid a heck of a lot more than the property was worth, and it is valid to ask the question how and why."
Russell Verney, Dallas director of Judicial Watch, a conservative public-interest law group, said he expects the committee to pay special attention to the condemnation proceeding and other private transactions because of Miers' lack of a judicial record.
"I think we can anticipate that the Senate confirmation hearings will be radically different than for any other recent nominee," he said.