President Bush nominated retired judge Michael Mukasey to replace the outgoing attorney general Alberto Gonzales amid threats from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) that Democrats would block former solicitor general Ted Olson from the post.
When Bush announced the nomination this morning, he cited Mukasey’s experience working on terror-related cases, namely his work prosecuting Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Commonly known as the “Blink Sheikh,” Rahman attempted to bomb the World Trade Center and several other New York landmarks in 1995.
Mukasey also shepherded the murder prosecution of Jose Padilla, an American citizen arrested in 2002 who aided terrorists and sought to detonate a “dirty bomb” inside the United States. After Padilla was convicted, Mukasey recommended that Congress pass new laws to streamline the justice system with the military’s work on the war on terror.
In light of the busy Senate schedule filled with budget work and Iraq debate, Mukasey’s nomination is considered a compromise with the Democratic Senate.
Last week, Reid warned Bush in a written statement: “Ted Olsen will not be confirmed. I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general."
Reid indicated support for Muskasey’s nomination Monday morning. His office released a statement: “I’m glad President Bush listened to Congress and put aside his plan to replace Alberto Gonzales with another partisan administration insider.”
Reid also praised Mukasey’s “strong professional credentials” and said “a man who spent 18 years on the federal bench surely understands the importance of checks and balances and knows how to say no to president when he oversteps the Constitution.”
Before today’s nomination, Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y) encouraged President Bush to nominate Mukasey to the Supreme Court.
The left-leaning Alliance for Justice also recommended Muskasey to the Supreme Court in 2005.
In a press conference on Monday morning, Schumer told reporters: “The nomination of Judge Mukasey certainly shows a new attitude in the White House. Instead of simply throwing down the gauntlet, they are trying to meet us part of the way in choosing someone who by reputation and in his career has shown fidelity to rule of law above conservative politics.”
Schumer said, “The Mukasey nomination means that confrontation should not be in the front of anybody's mind right now.” Schumer would not rule out voting against Mukasey’s confirmation, but added, “I think I am open-minded and hopeful he will satisfy the concerns that I have and other Democrats have and he will become the consensus nominee.”
In the past, Mukasey received scattered criticism from social conservatives for his 1994 decision not to grant political asylum to a Chinese man who fled China because he was being persecuted by Chinese authorities for defying the country’s one-child per couple, forced abortion rule.
Judge Mukasey wrote in Dong v. Slattery that immigration law would not permit political asylum. Mukasey later participated in an appellate decision in 2006 that ordered further proceedings for women who sought asylum based on forced sterilization.
Soon after the president’s announcement, Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.), Judiciary committee Ranking Member Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.), Senate Republican Conference Chairman Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) expressed support in written statements for Mukasey.
Ed Meese, president of The Heritage Foundation, issued a statement of overwhelming support for Bush's choice: "Judge Mukasey is an excellent nomination for attorney general. His past experience in the Department of Justice as assistant U.S. attorney and his tenure as chief judge of a major federal district court give him the necessary background for this position. His demonstrated capability in the handling of numerous criminal cases, including those involving terrorist acts, provides evidence of his fairness and professional legal ability. He enjoys an excellent personal reputation and will provide strong leadership for the Department of Justice."
Recently, Mukasey has served on the Justice Advisory Committee of Republican presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and has donated $1,200 to his presidential campaign.Mukasey also donated $1,000 to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.) reelection fund in 2006, according to campaign finance reports.