/ 17 September 2007

Bush wants ex-judge for Attorney General

United States President George Bush was planning to announce on Monday he had chosen former federal judge Michael Mukasey as his nominee for attorney general, the White House said.

Mukasey (66) would replace Alberto Gonzales, who resigned last month after he became embroiled in controversy over the firings of nine federal prosecutors. Gonzales was also criticised for implementing Bush’s war on terrorism policies that some said impinged on civil liberties in the US.

Bush was to make the announcement on Monday at 2.30pm GMT at the White House.

”The president in selecting Judge Mukasey has selected someone who is very accomplished,” White House spokesperson Dana Perino said. ”He brings a fresh perspective.”

Mukasey, considered a law-and-order conservative and authority on national security issues, emerged as Bush’s choice after Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid vowed last week to block another potential top nominee, former US solicitor general Theodore Olson, as too partisan.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, who led the drive to force Gonzales out, said Mukasey had the potential to become a consensus nominee.


”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,” said Schumer, who is from New York, where Mukasey spent his career.

”For sure, we’d want to ascertain his approach on such important and sensitive issues as wire tapping and the appointment of US attorneys, but he’s a lot better than some of the other names mentioned.”

While on the federal bench in New York for nearly two decades, Mukasey presided over a number of high-profile cases, including one in which a dozen people were tied to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre.

Mukasey was nominated as a US district judge for the southern district of New York in 1987 by Republican president Ronald Reagan. He spent six years as chief judge. When he retired from the federal bench last year, Mukasey became a partner at the firm Patterson Belknap Webb and Tyler, where he had previously worked.

Mukasey served as an assistant US attorney in Manhattan from 1972 to 1976. He has close ties to Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and current Republican presidential candidate. Mukasey and his son are both legal advisers to Giuliani.

A Democratic Party aide said Mukasey may have an easier time winning Senate confirmation than some others who had been mentioned for the job, including Olson and Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff. — Reuters