Calling him a "tough but fair judge" President Bush named Michael B. Mukasey as his choice to replace embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who resigned after months of criticism for his management of the Department of Justice. Bush said that Mukasey is a "sound manager" who will bring "impressive credentials" to the job.
Mukasey, a retired federal judge, said he was "deeply honored" to be selected and said that his "fondest hope and prayer" was to give the employees at the Department of Justice the "support and leadership they deserve."
Mukasey said he had received a congratulatory call from Gonzales this morning.
The naming of Mukasey is seen as a concession to Democrats who had pressured Bush to name a consensus nominee if he hoped to avoid controversial confirmation hearings.
Democrats praised the choice of Mukasey, acknowledging that although he had a conservative record he had a solid reputation as a fair judge.
Mukasey is a favorite of Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who had recommended him to Bush as a possible candidate for the Supreme Court in 2003. Schumer released a statement praising Mukasey, saying that while he "is certainly conservative," the choice of Mukasey is "a lot better than some of the other names mentioned."
While some conservatives were initially skeptical of Mukasey, others, including prominent commentator William Kristol, have expressed their support. In an editorial in the Weekly Standard, Kristol wrote that conservatives should "hold their fire" and "support the president."
Mukasey, who was nominated to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, is well acquainted with the legal issues pertaining to the war on terror. He presided over the terrorism trial of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and originally handled the case of terror suspect Jose Padilla.
Mukasey serves on the Justice Advisory Committee of Republican presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The two are longtime friends and Mukasey's son Marc works at Bracewell & Giuliani.
Last August, writing an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Mukasey urged Congress to address the issue of prosecuting terrorism suspects. In the piece Mukasey encouraged Congress to fix a "strained and mismatched legal system" before another terrorism attack could lead to demands from the people for "hastier and harsher" legal alternatives.
In the article Mukasey points to the case of Padilla as evidence that the legal system needs to better address the war on terror. Mukasey argues that Padilla's legal odyssey, which began with allegations that he was trying to make a dirty bomb, extended through nearly three years of isolation in a military brig and ended with a conviction in a Miami court for far less serious charges, helped to illustrate "in miniature the inadequacy of the current approach to terrorism prosecutions."
Mukasey worries that terrorism trials in the United States have "unintentionally provided terrorists with a rich source of intelligence" and writes "disclosure not only puts our secrets at risk, but also discourages allies abroad from sharing information with us lest it wind up in hostile hands."
Mukasey has also written in support of the Patriot Act. In another opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal from 2004 he wrote, "Before attacking the Patriot Act, try reading it."
In the piece written while he was still on the bench, Mukasey admits that there have been people taken into custody "who in retrospect should not have been," but wrote that the grievances are "redressable under the law" and that an investigation conducted by "fallible human beings in the aftermath of an attack is bound to be either overinclusive or underinclusive."
White House Counsel Fred Fielding spent part of Sunday in meetings with conservative groups introducing them to Mukasey. The other top-tier candidates on Bush's list were Larry Thompson, general counsel of PepsiCo, Theodore Olson, former solicitor general, William W. Wilkins, federal judge, and George J. Terwilliger III, former deputy attorney general under George H.W. Bush. Last Wednesday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., leader singled out Olson saying that he would move to block his nomination because of his close ties to the Bush administration.