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Bush picks Mukasey as attorney general

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070917/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/attorney_general Bush picks Mukasey as attorney general By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer 55
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 16, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070917/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/attorney_general

      Bush picks Mukasey as attorney general

      By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer 55 minutes
      ago

      WASHINGTON - President Bush has settled on Michael B.
      Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York, to
      replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general and will
      announce his selection Monday, a person familiar with
      the president's decision said Sunday evening.

      Mukasey, who has handled terrorist cases in the U.S.
      legal system for more than a decade, would become the
      nation's top law enforcement officer if confirmed by
      the Senate. Mukasey has the support of some key
      Democrats, and it appeared Bush was trying to avoid a
      bruising confirmation battle.

      The 66-year-old New York native, who is a judicial
      adviser to GOP presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani,
      would take charge of a Justice Department where morale
      is low following months of investigations into the
      firings of nine U.S. attorneys and Gonzales' sworn
      testimony on the Bush administration's terrorist
      surveillance program.

      Key lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, had
      questioned Gonzales' credibility and competency after
      he repeatedly testified that he could not recall key
      events.

      The White House refused to comment Sunday. The person
      familiar with Bush's decision refused to be identified
      by name because the nomination had not been officially
      announced.

      Bush supporters say Mukasey, who was chief judge of
      the high-profile courthouse in Manhattan for six
      years, has impeccable credentials, is a strong,
      law-and-order jurist, especially on national security
      issues, and will restore confidence in the Justice
      Department.

      Bush critics see the Mukasey nomination as evidence of
      Bush's weakened political clout as he heads into the
      final 15 months of his presidency. It's unclear how
      Senate Democrats will view Mukasey's credentials, but
      early indications are that he will face less
      opposition than a more hardline, partisan candidate
      like Ted Olson, who was believed to have been a
      finalist.

      Mukasey has received past endorsements from Democratic
      Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is from Mukasey's home state.
      And in 2005, the liberal Alliance for Justice put
      Mukasey on a list of four judges who, if chosen for
      the Supreme Court, would show the president's
      commitment to nominating people who could be supported
      by both Democrats and Republicans.

      "While he is certainly conservative, Judge Mukasey
      seems to be the kind of nominee who would put rule of
      law first and show independence from the White House,
      our most important criteria," Schumer said. "For sure
      we'd want to ascertain his approach on such important
      and sensitive issues as wiretapping and the
      appointment of U.S. attorneys, but he's a lot better
      than some of the other names mentioned and he has the
      potential to become a consensus nominee."

      Last week, some Senate Democrats threatened to block
      the confirmation of Olson, who represented Bush before
      the Supreme Court in the contested 2000 election.
      Democratic senators have theorized that Bush might
      nominate Mukasey, in part, because he wanted to avoid
      a bruising confirmation battle.

      The possibility that Bush would pick Mukasey, however,
      angered some supporters on the GOP's right flank, who
      have given Mukasey less-than-enthusiastic reviews.
      Some legal conservatives and Republican activists have
      expressed reservations about Mukasey's legal record
      and past endorsements from liberals, and were drafting
      a strategy to oppose his confirmation even before it
      became known that Bush had chosen him.

      Mukasey was nominated to the federal bench in 1987 by
      President Reagan. He was chief judge of the U.S.
      District Court for the Southern District of New York
      before he rejoined the New York law firm of Patterson
      Belknap Webb & Tyler as a partner in September 2006.

      He first joined Patterson Belknap in 1976 after
      serving as assistant U.S. attorney in the criminal
      division of the Southern District, where he rose to
      become chief of its official corruption unit. During
      his 18 years as a judge, Mukasey presided over
      thousands of cases, including the trial of Sheik Omar
      Abdel-Rahman, who was accused of plotting to destroy
      New York City landmarks.

      In the 1996 sentencing of co-conspirators in the case,
      Mukasey accused the sheik of trying to spread death
      "in a scale unseen in this country since the Civil
      War." He then sentenced the blind sheik to life.

      The Mukasey nomination could be Bush's last major
      Cabinet appointment.

      Friday was the last day of Gonzales' 2- 1/2 years at
      Justice. Solicitor General Paul Clement will serve as
      acting attorney general until the Senate confirms
      Gonzales' replacement.

      Gonzales' conflicting public statements about the
      firings of the U.S. prosecutors led Democrats and
      Republicans alike to question his honesty. Their
      charges were compounded by his later sworn testimony
      about the terrorist surveillance program, which was
      contradicted by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller and
      former senior Justice Department officials.

      A congressional investigation into the firings
      recently shifted its focus onto whether the attorney
      general lied to Congress. The Justice Department also
      has opened an internal investigation into the matters.

      At first, the president backed his embattled attorney
      general. At an Aug. 9 news conference, Bush said, "Why
      would I hold somebody accountable who has done nothing
      wrong?"

      A little more than two weeks later, Bush announced
      that he had "reluctantly" accepted the resignation of
      Gonzales, who followed John Ashcroft's four-year stint
      as Bush's first attorney general. Bush said Gonzales,
      his loyal colleague from Texas who was his White House
      counsel before heading to Justice, had worked
      tirelessly to keep the nation safe.

      Bush said opposition lawmakers treated Gonzales
      unfairly for political reasons. "It's sad that we live
      in a time when a talented and honorable person like
      Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work
      because his good name was dragged through the mud,"
      Bush said.
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