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Specter: Taylor Can't Come Out a 'Winner'

If half the battle in politics is just showing up, Sara M. Taylor did just that with her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

One of Taylor's goals today clearly was to protect President Bush -- whom she said she still admires for his "unflinching devotion" to doing what he thinks is right - but she might have lost that battle on legal grounds. If the other goal was protecting her own legal standing, the former White House political director probably achieved that by sufficiently charming Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) with her three-hour appearance before the hostile committee.

Taylor answered - or did not answer - questions from seven Democrats and Specter, the lone Republican to show up in the latest sign of GOP indifference toward defending Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for the handling of the mass firings last year

Democrats jumped on what they consider contradictions. For example, she said she never discussed the U.S. attorney firings with President Bush, but declined to answer about whether any such deliberations took place with her immediate boss, senior White House adviser Karl Rove.

They said Taylor's ability to answer some of those questions hurt White House claims of executive privilege in refusing to turn over documents and produce testimony from staff to House and Senate Judiciary committees investigating the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

"That you did not discuss these matters with the president and to the best of your knowledge he was not involved is going to make some nervous at the White House because it seriously undercuts his claim of executive privilege if he was not involved," Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said.

Specter (R-Pa.) begrudgingly appeared to concur that some of her answers might have gone into territory that could have been covered by White House privilege claims, thereby hurting the overall assertion by Bush. "You might have been on safer legal ground if you'd said absolutely nothing," Specter said. (Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers is taking that advice, refusing to show up for her subpoenaed appearance tomorrow at the House Judiciary Committee on the same topic.)

Early in the hearing, Specter made clear his distaste for pushing a contempt-of-Congress citation against Taylor, even after she rebuffed one of Leahy's inquiries. "It is my hope that your refusal to answer the questions as articulated by the chairman will not be the basis for a contempt citation," Specter said.

For the remainder of the hearing, Taylor went out of her way not to infuriate the cantankerous Specter. Three months ago, when Gonzales appeared before the committee, the attorney general interjected as Specter was asking his first question, leading to a several-minute fight between the beleaguered attorney general and Specter, with the senator dressing him down on national TV.

Today, early in Specter's first round of questions, Taylor made a deft recovery that might have set the tone for the day. Specter was inquiring how well Taylor knew Tim Griffin, the former White House political operative who was named U.S. attorney of Little Rock, ousting Bud Cummins. Here's the dialogue:

SPECTER: Deputy Attorney General McNulty said that Mr. Cummins had done nothing wrong, but was removed to make room for Mr. Griffin. Now, your testimony is quite to the contrary: that Mr. Cummins had planned to leave.
TAYLOR: Well...
SPECTER: Wait a minute. You haven't heard the question.
TAYLOR: I'm sorry. I apologize.

With that, Specter resumed his questioning. At various points, Taylor similarly started to interject during questions. Her attorney, W. Neil Eggleston, who was given the privilege of sitting next to her at the witness table, even nudged her a few times as she interrupted senatorial questions. Each time she apologized.

At the hearing's conclusion Leahy remained undecided about whether to try to bring contempt charges against Taylor for refusing to answer so many questions, but Specter again spelled out his opposition. A key moderate, Specter's refusal to support contempt against Taylor would almost surely inoculate her from such a fate, making it very difficult for Leahy and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to round up the 60 votes they'll need to overcome a likely GOP filibuster to such a measure.

Specter concluded by predicting that no U.S. attorney would ever serve up a contempt charge against her, as would be required even if the full Senate approved such a citation. But he noted that it is still possible his Democratic colleagues might seek one. Even if unsuccessful, Specter said such an attempted move "will be a big cloud over you."

"You are between a rock and a hard place. There's no way you can come out a winner," Specter said.

But she can come out of this as half a winner, which Taylor just might have done today.

By Paul Kane  |  July 11, 2007; 6:54 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: Dems Hint at Constitutional Showdown Over Miers' No-Show

Comments

A private citizen is ordered by the President to not answer questions put to her by the Senate? GW is not The King sending down Royal edicts. Last time I checked the Congress was a co-equal branch of the Federal government. Cite the young loyalist for contempt of Congress and throw her in jail until she answers legitimate questions. Send Harriot M. to keep her company. This insanity has to stop!

Posted by: thebob.bob | July 11, 2007 7:49 PM | Report abuse

thebob.bob has it absolutely correct. Taylor could have been a winner by telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Why do so many people in this town, including journalists, EXPECT the lies, the obfuscation, the obstruction? These people were given power by the votes of people. They cannot assume any more than they were given and they cannot order ordinary citizens what to say and what not to say.

Taylor should be considered for contempt. And Miers should be dragged to the hearing by the seargent at arms if she does not show up and charged with contempt if she refuses to talk. And Bush should be held for obstructing a congressional investigation. He absolutely cannot order anyone to ignore a congressional subpeona. What gaul. What arrogance. What a lousy president. Just another criminal act by this criminal administration.

Posted by: Fate | July 11, 2007 10:43 PM | Report abuse

GOP Senators pulling part-time duty? Man, it's like 2001 to 2006 all over again. Too bad Palfrey's out of business, and Signatures has closed down. What to do with all this free time? AH, let's vote against giving the troops extended stays between their multiple tours.

As far as the GOP goes, Goldwater has long since left the building.

Posted by: JP2 | July 11, 2007 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Video: Ex-Bush Aide Refuses To Testify on Attorney Firings

Loyal even after leaving the White House, former Bush political director Sara Taylor obeyed White House instructions and refused to answer senators' questions about her role in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Watch this video report on the latest now:
http://onthehillblog.blogspot.com/2007/07/video-ex-bush-aide-refuses-to-testify.html

Posted by: Anonymous | July 12, 2007 12:01 AM | Report abuse

why was she given the privilege of having her lawyer with her? i don't recall other witnesses allowed to have such help.
she is not a child, she was a bigshot in this gang of thieves and liars.

and why is specter helping her? he should be cited for contempt for coaching a witness, or at least silenced by the majority on the committee.

leahy needs to learn to play hardball, just like his opponents. hope he can recall that cheney told him on the senate floor to perform an impossible anatomical action on his lower regions...

can't any of these clowns be forced to tell the truth or go the jail?

perhaps some lawyer out there can sound in on what rights these people have- assistance at the hearing, e.g.
now that they have resigned their govt. jobs, they are private citizens, so how can exec.priv. be used to silence them?

Posted by: inedal | July 12, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

why was she given the privilege of having her lawyer with her? i don't recall other witnesses allowed to have such help.
she is not a child, she was a bigshot in this gang of thieves and liars.

and why is specter helping her? he should be cited for contempt for coaching a witness, or at least silenced by the majority on the committee.

leahy needs to learn to play hardball, just like his opponents. hope he can recall that cheney told him on the senate floor to perform an impossible anatomical action on his lower regions...

can't any of these clowns be forced to tell the truth or go the jail?

perhaps some lawyer out there can sound in on what rights these people have- assistance at the hearing, e.g.
now that they have resigned their govt. jobs, they are private citizens, so how can exec.priv. be used to silence them?

Posted by: inedal | July 12, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

why was she given the privilege of having her lawyer with her? i don't recall other witnesses allowed to have such help.
she is not a child, she was a bigshot in this gang of thieves and liars.

and why is specter helping her? he should be cited for contempt for coaching a witness, or at least silenced by the majority on the committee.

leahy needs to learn to play hardball, just like his opponents. hope he can recall that cheney told him on the senate floor to perform an impossible anatomical action on his lower regions...

can't any of these clowns be forced to tell the truth or go the jail?

perhaps some lawyer out there can sound in on what rights these people have- assistance at the hearing, e.g.
now that they have resigned their govt. jobs, they are private citizens, so how can exec.priv. be used to silence them?

Posted by: inedal | July 12, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

why was she given the privilege of having her lawyer with her? i don't recall other witnesses allowed to have such help.
she is not a child, she was a bigshot in this gang of thieves and liars.

and why is specter helping her? he should be cited for contempt for coaching a witness, or at least silenced by the majority on the committee.

leahy needs to learn to play hardball, just like his opponents. hope he can recall that cheney told him on the senate floor to perform an impossible anatomical action on his lower regions...

can't any of these clowns be forced to tell the truth or go the jail?

perhaps some lawyer out there can sound in on what rights these people have- assistance at the hearing, e.g.
now that they have resigned their govt. jobs, they are private citizens, so how can exec.priv. be used to silence them?

Posted by: inedal | July 12, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

why was she given the privilege of having her lawyer with her? i don't recall other witnesses allowed to have such help.
she is not a child, she was a bigshot in this gang of thieves and liars.

and why is specter helping her? he should be cited for contempt for coaching a witness, or at least silenced by the majority on the committee.

leahy needs to learn to play hardball, just like his opponents. hope he can recall that cheney told him on the senate floor to perform an impossible anatomical action on his lower regions...

can't any of these clowns be forced to tell the truth or go the jail?

perhaps some lawyer out there can sound in on what rights these people have- assistance at the hearing, e.g.
now that they have resigned their govt. jobs, they are private citizens, so how can exec.priv. be used to silence them?

Posted by: inedal | July 12, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

why was she given the privilege of having her lawyer with her? i don't recall other witnesses allowed to have such help.
she is not a child, she was a bigshot in this gang of thieves and liars.

and why is specter helping her? he should be cited for contempt for coaching a witness, or at least silenced by the majority on the committee.

leahy needs to learn to play hardball, just like his opponents. hope he can recall that cheney told him on the senate floor to perform an impossible anatomical action on his lower regions...

can't any of these clowns be forced to tell the truth or go the jail?

perhaps some lawyer out there can sound in on what rights these people have- assistance at the hearing, e.g.
now that they have resigned their govt. jobs, they are private citizens, so how can exec.priv. be used to silence them?

Posted by: inedal | July 12, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

why was she given the privilege of having her lawyer with her? i don't recall other witnesses allowed to have such help.
she is not a child, she was a bigshot in this gang of thieves and liars.

and why is specter helping her? he should be cited for contempt for coaching a witness, or at least silenced by the majority on the committee.

leahy needs to learn to play hardball, just like his opponents. hope he can recall that cheney told him on the senate floor to perform an impossible anatomical action on his lower regions...

can't any of these clowns be forced to tell the truth or go the jail?

perhaps some lawyer out there can sound in on what rights these people have- assistance at the hearing, e.g.
now that they have resigned their govt. jobs, they are private citizens, so how can exec.priv. be used to silence them?

Posted by: inedal | July 12, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

why was she given the privilege of having her lawyer with her? i don't recall other witnesses allowed to have such help.
she is not a child, she was a bigshot in this gang of thieves and liars.

and why is specter helping her? he should be cited for contempt for coaching a witness, or at least silenced by the majority on the committee.

leahy needs to learn to play hardball, just like his opponents. hope he can recall that cheney told him on the senate floor to perform an impossible anatomical action on his lower regions...

can't any of these clowns be forced to tell the truth or go the jail?

perhaps some lawyer out there can sound in on what rights these people have- assistance at the hearing, e.g.
now that they have resigned their govt. jobs, they are private citizens, so how can exec.priv. be used to silence them?

Posted by: inedal | July 12, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

why was she given the privilege of having her lawyer with her? i don't recall other witnesses allowed to have such help.
she is not a child, she was a bigshot in this gang of thieves and liars.

and why is specter helping her? he should be cited for contempt for coaching a witness, or at least silenced by the majority on the committee.

leahy needs to learn to play hardball, just like his opponents. hope he can recall that cheney told him on the senate floor to perform an impossible anatomical action on his lower regions...

can't any of these clowns be forced to tell the truth or go the jail?

perhaps some lawyer out there can sound in on what rights these people have- assistance at the hearing, e.g.
now that they have resigned their govt. jobs, they are private citizens, so how can exec.priv. be used to silence them?

Posted by: inedal | July 12, 2007 4:55 AM | Report abuse

Such a beautiful, intelligent young woman. Such empty, soulless eyes.

Posted by: Nicekid | July 12, 2007 5:57 AM | Report abuse

As a lifelong Democrat, I have always had the uptmost respect for Sen. Specter. When he was chair of this committee, and now as a ranking member, he has always been a voice of reason and moderation. Although he and I would not agree on many issues, I cannot help but applaud his decency and clear headedness. The Post should have written that while he was against a contempt citation for Taylor, he said he was willing to consider one for the White House as a whole.

Posted by: Henry | July 12, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I'm half surprised some flaming lib didn't run up and throw a pie in Taylor's face. They like to do that. It's "kewl."

Posted by: Mark | July 12, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

It is time to stop blaming Bush, Cheney, Rove and all the others. Half the people in this country voted that bozo back into office in 2004, when they knew what he and his henchmen, and henchlwomen were doing to this country. Look in the mirror, if you voted for Bush in 2004 then all the deaths and maiming of those American soldiers and Iraqi civilians is on your hands, so grab your sackcloth and ashes and head to the public square, or just shut up.

Posted by: Greatape | July 12, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I say let's get to the bottom of this - clearly she did not answer all the questions and those that she did answer were only half truths. If there is nothing to hide why lie? Scooter can you enlighten me?

Crooks the lot of them and I know that our congress knows that - impeach and do it before they can do any more harm to our country!

Posted by: kathy5 | July 12, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

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