I’ve got bad news for you. The Senate is signaling to the White House that it can buy its way out of a US Attorney’s firing investigation by simply nominating a competent AG. Paul Kane at WaPo has some skinny:
This is the $64,000 question of the moment. Very interestingly, Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein told myself and Jonathan Weisman in separate interviews Monday that if Bush picks a consensus AG, that the spirit and drive of the Dem investigations into the US attorney firings would likely dissipate. Chuck Schumer said that! This guy’s made his political living off of this scandal. not only that, Schumer signaled to me that he likes Paul Clement, the solicitor general who will be acting AG. Clement is a former Judiciary Committee senior aide, who worked for John Ashcroft on the panel when he was a senator.
DiFi floated a couple of other names, according to the Orange County Register:
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein had some names for the White House today, just hours after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation: former Missouri Sen. John Danforth and former Deputy Attorney General James Comey.
So, it seems once again, our intrepid Senators who have been dealt a poker hand of unusual strength are going to freakin’ cave in to Buscho in exchange for crumbs. Crumbs!
Beyond the names already mentioned in the quotes above, I know someone else that Senator Schumer likes. In fact Schumer likes him so much, that he put him on the Senator’s short list for SCOTUS nominees. Since this individual was until very recently the Chief Judge in SDNY, and since unlike some of the scarier names being bandied about like Chertoff, Silberman, or Cox, he is not a household name; and since, unlike some of the truly qualified by training, experience, personal integrity and past performance possibilities like PatFitz and Jim Comey, he has not been endlessly discussed here, I thought I would introduce you to Judge Michael Mukasey.
Former Chief Judge Mukasey was an AUSA in the Southern District of New York where he worked in the public corruption unit with a much younger Rudy Guiliani for a trial partner. Judge Mukasey was appointed to the bench in 1988 by Ronald Reagan.
I remember when he was first appointed and a colleague of mine was going to try one of the first few criminal case he presided over. None of the younger AUSA’s knew what kind of judge he would be, so each evening when she came back to the office after court, we would grill her about her day.
He was tough, but in a good way. You had to be prepared and he required the utmost professionalism from lawyers appearing in his courtroom. Unlike some judges, he did not automatically assume that AUSA’s “spoke with the voices of angels” to use a term often thrown about by unhappy defense lawyers.You really had to earn your conviction (and defense lawyers their acquittals) in his courtroom.
His reputation is that of a man who follows the law, even if he does not agree with it. The other day, he wrote an OpEd in the WSJ complaining that criminal procedure law is an inadequate tool for combating terrorism. While I don’t agree with his conclusion (I think it makes more sense to surgically amend the criminal procedure law) the problems he raises are both real and thought provoking. I will come back to this OpEd in a minute.
He also ruled against Big Tobacco in a suit brought by shareholders of Phillip Morris relating to the company’s fraudulent concealment of nicotine’s addictive qualities.
He presided over one of THE most important anti terrorism cases held to date, the trial of “the blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rachman and El Sayyid Nosair and 8 other defendants for plotting to blow up the UN, bridges, tunnels and other landmarks around NYC.
He is also the judge that produced the split ruling in the Jose Padilla case; saying that Padilla could be held in a military brig as an enemy combatant (a decision that has since been reversed by an appellate court) and holding that Padilla was entitled to a lawyer.
One of Padilla’s lawyers, Donna Newman was quoted in the New York Sun as saying “I admire him [Mukasey] greatly.” She described herself as a “another weeping fan” apparently as an expression of regret that he was retiring from the bench.
Jude Mukasey stepped down from his position as chief judge in July when he reached the maximum “active” judge age of 65. Once federal judges reach that age they must take “senior status” with a reduced workload, or they can retire.
Judge Mukasey announced that he would retire and then rejoin his old law firm in September. However, while on his summer hiatus between jobs, the judge for no apparent reason decided to pen an OpEd about the law, Presidential power and terrorism cases.
Please do click through to the WSJ OpEd and see if you get the same vibe I did. Could it be that Jude Mukasey was signalling the WH that he wanted the job and would not be in a hurry to undo the changes that have been made in how DOJ handles terror cases? Could he have been trying to reassure the President that he is tough on terror even though he felt the need to follow the law with respect to right to counsel?
I gotta tell you. I do not see a Mukasey confirmation hearing being a bloodbath, even without Schumer’s support. However with Schumer, Judge Mukasey can probably whistle through SJC. I think the guy is very confirmable.
So, here’s the problem. The Senate is about to give away its oversight powers and the Senators who should be opposing this will be totally on board, convinced they have done good thing by getting a competent guy into DOJ.
However, they don’t need to bargain away anything to accomplish that. Elliot Richardson was reputed to be a competent guy and the Senate got a Special Prosecutor AND the specifics of the charter appointing him in exchange for confirming a competent guy.
Further, I fear that a man of Mukasey’s reputation and life experience would find it inconceivable that Bushco would hide information from him to manipulate him into going along with something nefarious or that they would try to use him as an unwitting “beard” for their next assault on the Constitution. Which is how they will be able to punk him, just like they did Ashcroft. He won’t see it coming.
I may change my mind tomorrow, but today I just bet my law partner a nickel that Mukasey is the AG nominee.
Image via WSJ.