Report: Bush to nominate ex-N.Y. judge as AG

From staff and wire reports, USA Today, Sept. 16, 2007

WASHINGTON — President Bush has picked Michael Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York, to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general and will announce his selection today, a person familiar with Bush's decision told the Associated Press on Sunday evening.

The person refused to be identified by name because the nomination had not been officially announced. USA TODAY could not independently verify the report.

Mukasey, 66, served from 1988 to 2006 and presided over well-publicized terrorism cases. He has won plaudits from Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a Senate Judiciary Committee member who warned the Bush administration to pick a consensus choice.

In a statement Sunday night, Schumer said 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. 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 has the potential to become a consensus nominee."

The attorney general nominee must be confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has a Democratic majority. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had vowed to block another possible nominee, former solicitor general Theodore Olson.

On Sunday, White House press secretary Dana Perino would say only that "we are not commenting on any possible names" for the post. She added, "You could expect an AG to be named very soon."

Prominent conservatives with ties to the White House praised Mukasey over the weekend. "Judge Mukasey is a very solid, conservative, law-and-order guy," Jay Lefkowitz, former White House domestic policy adviser and now an attorney in New York, said in an interview Sunday. "He has impeccable credentials."

The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, reported on its website Saturday that Mukasey was the leading candidate.

Appointed to the bench by President Reagan, Mukasey judged the 1995 trial of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the "Blind Sheik" who was sentenced to life in prison over a plot to blow up New York tunnels.

Schumer's endorsement of Mukasey raised questions with Mark Levin, president of the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation. Levin said he is "curious" as to why the liberal Schumer would support Mukasey, though he is still learning about the judge.

"I sense a few rumblings here and there" among other conservatives, Levin said. "But my sense is there are enough conservatives at this point who are supportive."

Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who led the Abdel-Rahman case, noted that it was conservative icon Reagan who put Mukasey on the federal bench. Mukasey also has connections to Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, who tapped him for his campaign's Justice Advisory Team.

Bruce Fein, a conservative attorney who has criticized the Bush administration over its assertions of executive authority, said the White House may want to avoid a fight by sending up Mukasey.

Lefkowitz said Judge Mukasey is both confirmable and highly qualified, calling the combination a "happy coincidence."

Contributing: David Jackson and Kathy Kiely

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