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Bush Nominates Mukasey as Attorney General

Hear Mary Jo White, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who has tried terrorism cases before Mukasey.

President Bush on Monday nominated retired federal judge Michael Mukasey to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, a choice aimed at avoiding bipartisan bickering gaining quick Senate approval.

Mukasey, 66, currently serves as a judicial adviser to GOP presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani, who he once worked under as an assistant U.S. attorney in New York.

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During a Rose Garden announcement, Mr. Bush referred to Mukasey's involvement in several New York terrorism trials and said the nominee has "an especially vital role to play in time of war."

The president said Mukasey was "clear eyed about the threat our nation faces," adding that he would "make sure that law enforcement has the tools to do their jobs."

"He knows what it takes to fight this war effectively and he knows how to do it in a manner consistent with our laws and our Constitution," Bush said, standing next Mukasey in the Rose Garden.

The president urged the Senate to quickly confirm Mukasey, who would be Bush's third attorney general.

If approved by the Senate, Mukasey 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.

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Mukasey said he was honored to be Bush's nominee to take the helm of the department and that it was his "fondest hope and prayer" that if he is confirmed, he can give department employees the "support they deserve."

Senate Democrats declared no outright opposition to Mukasey. But they made clear that there would be no confirmation hearings until the administration answers outstanding questions about the White House's role in the firings of federal prosecutors over the winter.

"Our focus now will be on securing the relevant information we need so we can proceed to schedule fair and thorough hearings," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Cooperation from the White House will be essential in determining that schedule."

Mukasey is not exactly a Washington insider, but has strong national security credentials. He was appointed to the federal bench in New York by President Reagan and heard many high-profile terrorism cases in the roughly 20 years that followed. One such case was that of Jose Padilla — the so-called American enemy combatant.

The White House settled on Mukasey after Senate Democrats rejected other possible nominees during the last two weeks. Democrats mentioned Mukasey early on as a Republican they believe would make a good attorney general.

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 Democrats and Republicans.

But he has drawn lukewarm reviews from some members of the GOP's right flank. 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.

Bush critics contended the Mukasey nomination was evidence of the president's weakened political clout as he heads into the final 15 months of his presidency. The president's supporters say Mukasey has impeccable credentials, is a strong, law-and-order jurist, especially on national security issues, and will restore confidence in the Justice Department.

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 in prison.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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