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Mukasey confirmed as attorney general

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071109/ap_on_go_co/senate_mukasey Mukasey confirmed as attorney general 9 minutes ago WASHINGTON - The Senate confirmed retired
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 8, 2007

      Mukasey confirmed as attorney general

      9 minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - The Senate confirmed retired judge
      Michael Mukasey as attorney general Thursday night to
      replace Alberto Gonzales, who was forced from office
      in a scandal over his handling of the Justice

      Mukasey was confirmed as the nation's 81st attorney
      general after a sharp debate over his refusal to say
      whether the waterboarding interrogation technique is

      Republicans were solidly behind President Bush'
      nominee. Democrats said their votes were not so much
      for Mukasey as they were for restoring a leader to a
      Justice Department left adrift after Gonzales'
      resignation in September.

      In the end, Mukasey was confirmed by a 53-40 vote. Six
      Democrats and one independent joined Republicans in
      sealing his confirmation.

      The choice, according to one of those Democrats, was
      essentially between "whether to confirm Michael
      Mukasey as the next attorney general or whether to
      leave the Department of Justice without a real leader
      for the next 14 months," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of

      "This is the only chance we have," she said, referring
      to Bush's threat to appoint an acting attorney general
      not subject to Senate confirmation.

      But members of her own party didn't agree. Mukasey,
      his opponents argued, refused to say whether
      waterboarding is torture and put the onus on Congress
      to pass a law against the practice.

      "This is like saying when somebody murders somebody
      with a a baseball bat and you say, 'We had a law
      against murder but we never mentioned baseball bats,'"
      said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
      "Murder is murder. Torture is torture."

      Being better than Gonzales or an acting attorney
      general is not enough qualification for the job, said
      Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

      "The next attorney general must restore confidence in
      the rule of law," he said. "We cannot afford to take
      the judgment of an attorney general who either does
      not know torture when he sees it or is willing to look
      the other way."

      The confirmation vote capped 10 months of scandal and
      resignations at the Justice Department. Mukasey's
      chief Democratic patron, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.,
      drove the probe into the purge of nine federal
      prosecutors that helped push Gonzales out.

      The debate came after a tense day of negotiations that
      at one point featured Majority Leader Harry Reid
      threatening to postpone Mukasey's confirmation until
      December. His confirmation had long been certainty
      despite the debate over waterboarding.

      Waterboarding, used by interrogators to make someone
      feel as if he is going to drown, is banned by domestic
      law and international treaties. But U.S. law applies
      to Pentagon personnel and not the CIA. The
      administration won't say whether it has allowed the
      agency's employees to use it against terror detainees.

      "The United States will not be viewed kindly if we
      confirm as chief law enforcement officer of this
      country someone who is unwilling or unable to
      recognize torture when he sees it," said Sen. Dick
      Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.

      Mukasey has called waterboarding personally
      "repugnant," and in a letter to senators said he did
      not know enough about how it has been used to define
      it as torture. He also said he thought it would be
      irresponsible to discuss it since doing so could make
      interrogators and other government officials
      vulnerable to lawsuits.

      "He felt that he could not make that pronouncement
      without placing people at risk to be sued or perhaps
      even criminally prosecuted," said Sen. Arlen Specter
      of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the Senate
      Judiciary Committee.

      Mukasey, who received a strong endorsement from
      Schumer, was the White House's first choice to replace
      Gonzales. Gonzales announced his resignation on Aug.
      27, and the White House interviewed Mukasey the same
      day. Three weeks later, Bush introduced the
      66-year-old Mukasey as "a tough but fair judge" and
      asked the Senate to confirm him quickly.

      Mukasey, the former chief U.S. district judge in the
      Manhattan courthouse just blocks from ground zero, was
      first appointed to the bench in 1987 by President
      Reagan. He also worked for four years as a trial
      prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York's
      Southern District — one of the Justice Department's
      busiest and highest-profile offices in the country.

      Mukasey oversaw some of the nation's most significant
      terror trials in the years before and after the
      attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

      He sentenced Omar Abdel Rahman, known as the "blind
      sheik," to life in prison for a plot to blow up New
      York City landmarks, and he signed in 2002 the
      material witness warrant that let the FBI arrest U.S.
      citizen Jose Padilla. That warrant marked the start of
      a case that wound its way through several federal
      courts as the government declared Padilla an enemy
      combatant and held him for 3 1/2 years before he was
      convicted last month on terrorism-related charges.

      In an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal,
      Mukasey criticized U.S. national security law as too
      weak in some areas by noting that prosecutors are
      sometimes forced to reveal details of cases at the
      risk of tipping off terrorists. He is also a supporter
      of the government's anti-terror USA Patriot Act, wryly
      writing in 2004 that the "awkward name may very well
      be the worst thing about the statute."

      Mukasey, a partner at New York-based law firm
      Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, is also a close friend
      to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican.
      He stepped down as an adviser to Giuliani's
      presidential campaign, on which he served as part of
      an advisory committee on judicial nominations.

      Besides Schumer and Feinstein, Democrats voting to
      confirm Mukasey were: Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Tom
      Carper of Delaware, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben
      Nelson of Nebraska. Of the Senate's two independents,
      Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted for confirmation
      and Bernie Sanders of Vermont voted against.

      Not voting were Democratic presidential candidates Joe
      Biden of Delaware, Hillary Clinton of New York, Chris
      Dodd of Connecticut and Barack Obama of Illinois. All
      four had said they opposed Mukasey's nomination.

      Republican presidential candidate John McCain of
      Arizona also was absent, as were GOP Sens. Lamar
      Alexander of Tennessee and John Cornyn of Texas.


      On the Net:

      Justice Department: http://www.usdoj.gov
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