- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS President Bush has settled on Michael B. Mukasey, a retired federal judge from New York, to replace Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general and will announce his selection today, a person familiar with the president’s decision said yesterday evening.

Mr. Mukasey, who has handled terrorist cases in the U.S. legal system for more than a decade, would become the nation’s top law-enforcement officer if confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Mukasey has the support of some key Democrats, and it appeared that Mr. Bush was trying to avoid a bruising confirmation battle.

The 66-year-old New York native, who is a judicial adviser to Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani, would take charge of a Justice Department where morale is low after months of investigations into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and Mr. Gonzales’ sworn testimony on the Bush administration’s terrorist-surveillance program.

Key lawmakers from both parties had questioned Mr. Gonzales’ credibility and competency after he repeatedly testified that he could not recall key events.

The White House declined to comment yesterday. The person familiar with Mr. Bush’s decision declined to be identified by name because the nomination had not been officially announced.

Mr. Bush’s supporters said Mr. Mukasey, who was chief judge of the high-profile courthouse in Manhattan for six years, has impeccable credentials and is a strong, law-and-order jurist, especially on national-security issues. They agreed he would restore confidence in the Justice Department.

But Bush critics see the Mukasey nomination as evidence of the president’s weakened political clout as he heads into the final 15 months of his presidency. It’s not clear how Senate Democrats will view Mr. Mukasey’s credentials, but early indications are that he will face less opposition than a more hard-line, partisan candidate such as Theodore B. Olson, who was thought to have been a finalist.

Mr. Mukasey has received past endorsements from Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. And in 2005, the liberal Alliance for Justice put Mr. 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 both Democrats and Republicans.

Last week, some Senate Democrats threatened to block the confirmation of Mr. Olson, who represented Mr. Bush before the Supreme Court in the contested 2000 election. Democratic senators have theorized that Mr. Bush might nominate Mr. Mukasey in part because he wanted to avoid a confirmation battle.

The possibility that Mr. Bush would pick Mr. Mukasey angered some supporters on the Republicans’ right flank, who have given Mr. Mukasey less-than-enthusiastic reviews. Some legal conservatives and Republican activists have expressed reservations about Mr. Mukasey’s legal record and past endorsements from liberals and were drafting a strategy to oppose his confirmation even before it became known that Mr. Bush had chosen him.

Mr. Mukasey was nominated to the federal bench in 1987 by President Reagan. He was chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York before he rejoined the New York law firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler as a partner in September 2006.

During his 18 years as a judge, Mr. 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.

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