- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

UPDATED:

Doctors gave Attorney General Michael Mukasey a clean bill of health Friday afternoon and released him from the hospital less than 24 hours after he collapsed while giving a speech.

“All tests at the hospital have come back with good results, and I feel fine,” Mr. Mukasey said in an email to Justice Department employees. “Accordingly, I plan to report to the Department this afternoon and to continue doing the work I swore to do last November and which it has been an honor to do with you ever since.

Mr. Mukasey, 67, was rushed to George Washington University Hospital on Thursday night after he lost consciousness while addressing the Federalist Society at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Northwest.

“It really appears to have been a fainting spell,” Justice Department spokesman Gina Talamona said. “He works long days, he is very active, it was a late-night speech under hot lights.”

Ms. Talamona said he did not suffer a stroke or any heart-related ailments. Doctors kept him at the hospital overnight for observation and to conduct routine tests.

“The Attorney General had a CT scan, it was normal. He had a clear MRI. They ruled out TIA, transient ischemic attack, which can be associated with stroke. He had a stress test—it was completely normal,” She said Friday. “The doctor said he is in good shape and basically that he ‘beat the machine.’ He also had a stress echocardiogram which was completely normal.”

The attorney general collapsed about 20 minutes into a speech about the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts, said Craig Richardson, a Colorado lawyer attending the gala.

“He started slurring a word, then it became an entire sentence, and his head went down into his chest,” Mr. Richardson said.

As Mr. Mukasey slumped at about 10:20 p.m., he was caught by people on the platform before hitting the ground. He was immediately attended to by his security detail and a doctor who happened to be in the audience.

According to Mr. Richardson, a circle of Federalist Society members, included former Attorney General John Ashcroft, surrounded the unconscious Mr. Mukasey to shield him from public view.

“Everyone was just quiet, people were praying and thinking of him,” said Mr. Richardson. His wife, Valerie, is a reporter for The Washington Times.

Medical technicians quickly arrived and attended to Mr. Mukasey on the stage before taking him in a stretcher to an ambulance. Shortly after Mr. Mukasey collapsed, former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson escorted Susan Mukasey, the attorney general’s wife, from the ballroom.

He was described as “conscious, conversant and alert” with strong vital signs shortly after he arrived at the hospital.

He spoke to President Bush by phone just before 7 a.m. Friday morning, according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. “The Attorney General sounded well and is getting excellent care,” she said.

Ms. Talamona stressed Mr. Mukasey did not transfer power to Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, who was expected to brief the Attorney General from his hospital bed at 10 a.m. Friday.

Mr. Mukasey was a retired federal judge, having served for 18 years in U.S. District Court in New York.

He was nominated Sept. 17, 2007, for the top job at Justice and confirmed by the Senate on Nov. 8. He replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, who resigned after being hounded for much of the year by charges that he purged several federal prosecutors from their posts for improper reasons.

Mr. Mukasey’s nomination hit some political turbulence in hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee when he would not categorically say that an interrogation technique known as waterboarding is illegal.

However, his nomination passed the committee when two Democratic senators — Charles E. Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California — broke ranks with their party and voted in Mr. Mukasey’s favor.

Mr. Mukasey pledged to uphold the freedoms of U.S. citizens while fighting terrorism, after being ceremonially sworn in at the Justice Department by Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

He said his chief duty as the nation’s top law-enforcement official would be to combat “those who believe it is their religious duty to make war on us,” referring to radical Islamic terrorists.

However the furor over the Bush administration’s interrogation and warrantless surveillance programs followed Mr. Mukasey wherever he went, even Thursday night’s speech.

“You are a tyrant,” a heckler had shouted at Mr. Mukasey before he collapsed. The heckler was then shouted down by others in the audience.

Jon Ward contributed to this report.