WASHINGTON (AP) _ Attorney General Michael Mukasey is meeting the press publicly for the first time Tuesday with a decidedly tense topic on the agenda: the CIA's destruction of videotapes of terror suspect interrogations.
Officially, Mukasey's news conference in Washington will focus on U.S. relations with European Union justice ministers. Specifically, the officials, who also include Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, are meeting to discuss U.S. visa policy, extradition treaties and other border measures.
But Mukasey, a retired federal judge who presided over several high-profile terror trials while on the bench in Manhattan, is expected to face questioning about whether the CIA ever asked the Justice Department for advice on destroying the videotapes.
Several senators also are demanding to know whether Mukasey has decided whether an interrogation tactic known as waterboarding is a form of torture _ an issue that almost derailed his confirmation last month.
During his contentious Senate confirmation hearings, Mukasey said he could not answer that until he was able, as attorney general, to review the Justice Department's past legal opinions about waterboarding. Mukasey was sworn into office Nov. 9.
The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and top Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, also want to know how Mukasey will decide to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the destroyed tapes _ and whether doing so obstructed justice.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday he would call for a special counsel if the Justice Department and congressional investigations ``encounter resistance or are unable to find the truth.''