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Harriet Miers says clash with Congress may outlast Bush term

FORT WORTH -- Former White House counsel Harriet Miers predicted that her constitutional clash with Congress over executive privilege and the separation of powers doctrine may not be settled until after President Bush leaves office next year.

Miers, a former Supreme Court nominee, was sued and cited for contempt by the Democratic-controlled Congress this year for declining to talk about her role in the firings of U.S. attorneys while serving the Bush administration.

"It wouldn't surprise me if it extended beyond this administration," Miers said after her speech Tuesday at a Tarrant County Bar Association luncheon celebrating Law Day. But it also could be settled at any time "with the agreement of the parties," she said.

"All sides had hoped, I suspect, that it would be resolved by accommodation. That hasn't happened. Now it's in the hands of the judiciary, which is the way the system works," Miers said. "It's an opportunity to see the Constitution actually function and work."

Miers would not comment on the merits of the litigation, which the Justice Department is handling.

Inner circle

Miers is a partner at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, the Dallas law firm where she worked before going to Washington, D.C. She works in the firm's public policy and litigation group, where she handles high-profile commercial cases.

She was in Bush's inner circle with political consultant Karl Rove and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. While serving as Bush's counsel, Miers was nominated for the high court. She withdrew her name after conservatives questioned her credentials.

After leaving Washington, she became ensnared in the administration's refusal to provide testimony and documentation about the firing of nine federal prosecutors. Democrats say the firings were politically motivated.

The contempt citations have since escalated into a constitutional showdown over the scope of executive privilege.

It's personal

Miers made an oblique reference to that confrontation during her Law Day speech when talking about the Constitution's separation of powers. "I never anticipated it would come about that their application would become so personal," Miers said.

In her brief speech, Miers talked about how the rule of law trumps the rule of man and all its personal whims.

After the speech, she said her own situation "is a real issue, and it's being litigated by the courts," and it involves all three branches. "That's the design of our Constitution."