Insiders see hint of Miers pullout

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The White House has begun making contingency plans for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers as President Bush’s choice to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, conservative sources said yesterday.

“White House senior staff are starting to ask outside people, saying, ‘We’re not discussing pulling out her nomination, but if we were to, do you have any advice as to how we should do it?’ ” a conservative Republican with ties to the White House told The Washington Times.

The White House denied making such calls.

“Absolutely not true,” White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.

But the conservative political consultant said that he had received such a query from Sara Taylor, director of the Office of White House Political Affairs.

Miss Taylor denied making any such calls.

A second Republican, who is the leader of a conservative interest group and has ties to the White House, confirmed that calls are being made to a select group of conservative activists who are not employed by the government.

“The political people in the White House are very worried about how she will do in the hearings,” the second conservative leader said. “I think they have finally awakened.”

“Absolutely false,” Miss Taylor said. “Some of these conspiracy theories have risen to a new level.”

The White House also said yesterday that Miss Miers will carry on with all previously planned meetings with senators on Capitol Hill and is still working to schedule new ones.

“They’re continuing to work to schedule meetings,” White House spokesman Jim Dyke said.

The Times reported yesterday that Senate Republican lawyers said no new meetings with Miss Miers would be scheduled — at least until after the hearings.

A conservative political consultant with ties to the White House said the president and his political team once thought Democrats would go easy on Miss Miers, a friend of Mr. Bush’s and his personal counsel. The theory was that Democrats see her as the best they could expect in the way of Bush appointments to the high court.

“But now Democrats smell blood in water,” said the Republican, adding that he received a call from Miss Taylor seeking contingency advice on how to handle a possible decision by Miss Miers to withdraw her name or a decision by the president to withdraw the nomination.

“So there are some in the White House and some Republicans in the Senate who are worried the Democrats can now build a case that she is not competent enough or knowledgeable enough to be a justice on the Supreme Court,” he said. “Really, that is the most damaging case you can build against a nominee.”

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