Attorney General Nominee Prepares For Confirmation

Wednesday, October 3rd 2007, 10:24 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has told Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey his confirmation could hinge on demonstrating he'll keep White House influence out of Justice Department decisions.

A key test, Leahy said in a letter to President Bush's nominee, would be Michael Mukasey's willingness to answer questions the White House won't about a litany of issues, ranging from warrantless eavesdropping to what Michael Mukasey would do to prevent federal prosecutors from being used to influence elections.

White House Counsel Fred Fielding has declared those details off-limits under executive privilege.

``Regrettably, the White House has chosen not to clear the decks of past concerns and not to produce the information and material it should have and could have about the ongoing scandals that have shaken the Department of Justice and led to the exodus of its former leadership,'' Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wrote to Michael Mukasey in a letter first obtained by the Associated Press. ``Those matters now encumber your nomination and, if confirmed, your tenure.''

Senator Patrick Leahy still has not scheduled confirmation hearings even though Michael Mukasey's nomination is expected to draw few objections. He has indicated hearings will not be held until Fred Fielding accommodates his concerns about the president's controversial eavesdropping program and interrogation methods with captured terrorist suspects. But Leahy’s letter to Mukasey conveyed a lost hope for getting those answers from White House Counsel Fred Fielding, and implied a willingness to move ahead with hearings. Democratic officials widely expect Senator Leahy to schedule the proceedings later this month after an additional private session with Mukasey.

``I look forward to meeting with you,'' Leahy said in a handwritten note below his signature.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy sent the letter Tuesday, just before Michael Mukasey returned a more routine questionnaire about his legal and professional background.

``I think now that they have all the information and now that he's met with all of the members of the Senate, I think there's no reason to delay scheduling a hearing,'' said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Among the questions Senator Leahy told Michael Mukasey to expect at the hearings:

What steps Mukasey will take to ensure that federal prosecutors will not be fired at the behest of the White House or for any political reasons, as lawmakers widely charged earlier this year in the wake of the U.S. attorney dismissals by the Justice Department run by Alberto Gonzales. Democrats said it appeared that some prosecutors were fired for failing to pursue corruption cases that might have helped Republicans in last year's elections. Gonzales and the White House have denied that.

``I will ask for your assurance that the Department of Justice and in particular, our U.S. attorneys, will not be employed in upcoming elections to seek to effect the outcome,'' Leahy wrote.

Senator Leahy and Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have said that Michael Mukasey told them in private meetings that he would fire any to fire any Justice Department employee who discusses sensitive cases with the White House without his approval.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy sent his letter Tuesday before he received another document from Michael Mukasey, a more routine questionnaire about the nominee's legal background, committee officials said.