President Bush has instructed former White House counsel Harriet Miers to defy a congressional subpoena [PDF] requiring her to testify at tomorrow’s hearing on the controversial firings of eight United States attorneys. A letter from Miers’ lawyer to House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers (D-Mich.) confirmed that the onetime Supreme Court nominee will definitely be a no-show.
Bush’s instructions could prove troublesome for both Miers and the White House. Miers, as a private citizen, could easily find herself slapped with contempt charges (and thrown in jail for up to a year) for defying the subpoena. The president could face even greater problems: One Talking Points Memo reader has dug up a law that seems to say that the president’s order to defy the subpoena was itself illegal.
The bigger problem for Miers, as Conyers explains in a letter posted to Nancy Pelosi’s blog, is that the subpoena represents a legal obligation to at least appear in front of Congress, while the president’s instruction carries no such legal weight. Miers would have some more wiggle room if she followed the example of former White House political director Sara Taylor. Taylor, whom Wonkette called the love child of Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, showed up to testify yesterday but refused to answer many of the committee’s questions. There’s a very convoluted scenario under which this latest debate over executive privilege could wind up before the Supremes, whose ranks Miers once hoped to join. It’s fun to ponder: Would Sam Alito have to recuse himself?