WASHINGTON (AP) _ The nation's top judge prepared to issue a ceremonial oath of office to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who in his short term at the Justice Department has promised to enforce laws fairly and independent of political pressure.
The White House said President Bush also was to speak Wednesday at the Justice Department ceremony, after which Mukasey would address his employees for the first time.
Mukasey was sworn in officially last Friday in a brief rite with little pomp, letting him start receiving daily classified briefings from his national security aides. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was to re-enact the oath in Wednesday's fete in front of hundreds of dignitaries and Justice Department attorneys, with potentially thousands of other employees across the country watching on the Justice Department's internal TV network.
Mukasey, the third attorney general of the Bush administration, has 14 months until the president's term is up to turn around the beleaguered Justice Department. He replaces former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who resigned in September amid allegations that he allowed politics to interfere illegally with personnel decisions and lied to Congress about national security programs.
An ongoing Justice Department investigation also is looking at last year's firings of nine U.S. attorneys, and whether at least one of them was dismissed because he refused to target Democratic candidates shortly before the 2006 elections.
Mukasey, whom Bush nominated the day Gonzales left, has made clear to Congress that he will not tolerate political meddling at the Justice Department, and promised to fire anyone who allows it.
A retired U.S. District chief judge from New York, Mukasey's own nomination briefly snagged after he refused to say whether he believes a harsh interrogation tactic known as waterboarding is a form of torture. The Senate narrowly confirmed him last week, 53-40. Critics noted that marked the slimmest confirmation margin for an attorney general in more than 50 years.