[JURIST] US President George W. Bush Monday nominated [WH screenshot] retired federal judge Michael B. Mukasey [WH fact sheet; PBWT profile] to serve as the next attorney general of the United States. Mukasey, 66, retired from the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2006 after 18 years – the last six of them as chief judge. He recently rejoined [press release] his former firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler [firm website] in Manhattan. While on the federal bench, Mukasey presided over a variety of high-profile cases, including the terrorism trial of Omar Abdel-Rahman [MIPT profile] for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Although generally regarded as strict in national security matters, Mukasey ruled [PDF text] in March of 2003 that US citizen Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive] had to be allowed to meet with counsel despite being classified as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive].
In his announcement of the nomination [transcript; recorded video] Monday, Bush also said that Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler [official website] will serve as acting attorney general pending Mukasey's confirmation, replacing Solicitor General Paul Clement, who Bush said would "remain focused on his duties as Solicitor General, so he can prepare for the Supreme Court term that begins just two weeks from today." Keisler announced his resignation [JURIST report] as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the DOJ Civil Division earlier this month. During his tenure at the Justice Department, Keisler was responsible for managing litigation over the habeas corpus rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees. Last year, President Bush nominated [JURIST report] Keisler to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but the Senate has yet to confirm the nomination.
In his remarks at the White House, Bush described Mukasey as:
…clear-eyed about the threat our nation faces. As a judge and a private lawyer, he's written on matters of constitutional law and national security. He knows what it takes to fight this war effectively, and he knows how to do it in a manner that is consistent with our laws and our Constitution. And when confirmed by the Senate as Attorney General, he will work to ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence officers have the tools they need to protect the United States and our citizens. …
With Mike Mukasey, the Justice Department will be in the hands of a great lawyer and an accomplished public servant. Mike has shown good judgment in the courtroom, he's shown good judgment outside the courtroom. …
It's a pivotal time for our nation, and it's vital that the position of Attorney General be filled quickly. I urge the Senate to confirm Judge Mukasey promptly.
In his own remarks [WH photo] Monday, Mukasey said:
Mr. President, I am also grateful to you for giving me the chance to return to the department of Justice where I served early in my career.
The department faces challenges vastly different from those it faced when I was an assistant U.S. attorney 35 years ago. But the principles that guide the department remain the same — to pursue justice by enforcing the law with unswerving fidelity to the Constitution. I have always had great respect for the men and women who follow those principles day in and day out in all the constituent branches of the department. My fondest hope and prayer at this time is that, if confirmed, I can give them the support and the leadership they deserve. …
I said a moment ago that the challenges the Department faces are vastly different from those we confronted 35 years ago. Less than a week ago, we marked a solemn anniversary that reminds us, if we need reminding, of how different those challenges are. Thirty-five years ago, our foreign adversaries saw widespread devastation as a deterrent; today, our fanatical enemies see it as a divine fulfillment.
But the task of helping to protect our security, which the Justice Department shares with the rest of our government, is not the only task before us. The Justice Department must also protect the safety of our children, the commerce that assures our prosperity, and the rights and liberties that define us as a nation.
If confirmed by the US Senate, Mukasey will succeed Alberto Gonzales [JURIST news archive], whose resignation officially took effect [JURIST report] Monday.