Michael Mukasey

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Current U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey

Michael B. Mukasey was nominated September 17, 2007, by President George W. Bush to be Attorney General of the United States.[1] He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on November 8, 2007, to replace Alberto R. Gonzales, who resigned August 27, 2007.[2][3]

Mukasey, then chief judge for the Southern District of New York, re-joined his former law firm, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, as a senior partner in September 2006.[4]

Mukasey, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 to the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York, "presided over the trial of the terrorist known as 'the Blind Sheikh,' and his co-defendants in the conspiracy to destroy prominent New York City landmarks, including bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993."[1]

Positions and record

Federal judgeship

Mukasey was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a judge for the U.S. District Court in Manhattan and served on the bench from 1987 - 2006. He was chief judge from 2000 - 2006.[5] He presided over the trial and conviction of 10 militant Muslims who for plotting to blow up the United Nations building and other New York City landmarks in 1995.[6]

Allowed detention of U.S. citizen without criminal charges

Mukasey was the first judge to rule on the case of Jose Padilla after his arrest.[7] The government accused Padilla researching a scheme to build a "dirty bomb" (a conventional explosive that spreads radioactive matter) in Pakistan and then stealing radioactive material in the U.S. to build it. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the government's primary interest in detaining Padilla was to gain information to prevent terrorist attacks.[8]

  • Mukasey allowed detention of U.S. citizens detained on U.S. soil without criminal charges: The federal government, Mukasey ruled, was "authorized under the Constitution and by law to direct the military and detain enemy combatants." This included, Mukasey said, "the power to detain unlawful combatants" without criminal charges and that it "matters not that Padilla is a United States citizen captured on United States soil." Mukasey said it did not matter that in the "conflict" in question, the "courts are functioning," there was no declaration of war (with Afghanistan) or that, as Padilla's attorney's said, the "current conflict with al Qaeda... can have no clear end." "A formal declaration of war is not necessary in order for the executive to exercise its constitutional authority to prosecute an armed conflict - particularly when, as on September 11, the United States is attacked," Mukasey ruled. The government's case was also bolstered, Mukasey wrote, by the congressional joint resolution authorizing the president to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to in response to the September 11th attacks and by the USA Patriot Act.[8]
  • Mukasey said he would review the government's evidence: Mukasey did say that he would review the government's evidence for the president's finding that he was an "enemy combatant." The only public evidence offered by the government was one unclassified statement by a Defense Department official, Michael Mobbs, that Padilla had travelled to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and had met with al Qaeda's former chief of operations Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in Pakistan earlier in 2002. The statement was the basis of President Bush's finding that Padilla was an enemy combatant.[8]
  • Mukasey allowed Padilla to meet with his attorneys: Mukasey granted a motion by the defense to allow Padilla to meet with his attorneys. The federal government had barred any communication between Padilla and anyone, including his lawyers, since that June.[8]
  • Mukasey had allowed widespread use of "material witness" detentions: Padilla was first detained on May 8, 2002, on a "material witness" warrant signed by Mukasey. Mukasey had earlier made a ruling that the unprecedentedly widespread use of the warrants in the wake of the September 11th attacks was constitutional.[8]

Support for torture policies

As a judge, in October 2001 Mukasey "dismissed concerns by a 21-year old Jordanian immigrant that he had been beaten while in U.S. custody, leaving bruises that were hidden beneath his orange prison jumpsuit."[9] "'As far as the claim that he was beaten, I will tell you that he looks fine to me,' said Judge Mukasey."[10]

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reported in the October 1, 2007, issue that three sources said that Mukasey, in "a series of private meetings arranged by chief of staff Josh Bolten prior to the nomination... reassured top [ conservative ] hard-liners, such as Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo and former A.G. Edwin Meese" that he supported Bush administration's War on Terror policies:

"Mukasey said that he saw 'significant problems' with shutting down Guantánamo Bay and that he understood the need for the CIA to use some 'enhanced' interrogation techniques against Qaeda suspects. Mukasey also signaled reluctance with naming a special prosecutor to investigate Bush-administration misconduct, according to one participant."[11]

"Terror trials hurt the nation even when they lead to convictions."

In an August 22, 2007, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Mukasey[12] "argues that 'Terror trials hurt the nation even when they lead to convictions'," ArgusRun wrote in The Daily Kos.[13] "Not because they involve detainees who have been tortured or mistreated, or secret information not available to the defense. No, this respected jurist does not care about the damage done to the rule of law or our constitutional protections. Rather, he is terrified that the trials give valuable information to the terrorists."

"Mukasey is obviously just what the Justice Department needs to restore Americans' confidence in their legal system: A judge who does not have confidence in our legal system," Argus Run commented.[13]

Defended Patriot Act

In a 2004 speech, Mukasey defended the USA PATRIOT Act:

"I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law 'Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.' You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute."[14]

Close ties to Giuliani

Defense of Giuliani's tough tactics used in Mafia trials

Michael Mukasey was "an assistant U.S. attorney and head of the official corruption unit" when Rudolph W. Giuliani was U.S. Attorney in New York. "To prepare for trials, Giuliani practiced his cross-examinations on Mukasey, who would portray the witness."[15]

In 1985, when Mukasey was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Giuliani "was coming under intense criticism for his aggressive tactics in prosecuting organized crime, including his use of mass trials, his habit of holding defendants without bail and his practice of subpoenaing defense lawyers to testify at their clients' grand jury hearings, which lawyers argued was a violation of client confidentiality.

"Springing to Giuliani's defense was a former colleague, Michael B. Mukasey, who argued in a strongly worded opinion piece that Giuliani's tough tactics were justified to defeat an enemy that, he said, was far more dangerous and powerful than Giuliani's critics were willing to acknowledge," Alec MacGillis reported September 18, 2007, in the Washington Post.[16]

Swore Giuliani in as NYC Mayor

On January 2, 1994, Judge Michael Mukasy swore in now Republican 2008 presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani as Mayor of New York City.[17]

"When Giuliani was elected mayor of New York in 1993 and 1997, Judge Mukasey presided at his friend's swearing-in. In fact, one of the ceremonies was held at Mukasey's own Manhattan apartment."[15]

Mukasey and son affiliated with Giuliani campaign

Both Mukasey and his son, Marc L. Mukasey, were named on July 16, 2007, as members of Giuliani's 2008 campaign Justice Advisory Committee.[18]

Son in Giuliani's Firm which defends Verizon; Possible Conflict of Interest on FISA

Marc Mukasey is a partner in Giuliani's law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani (as of November 2007).[19] According to the Village Voice, October 30th 2007 "Verizon is a prime client of Bracewell & Giuliani"[20]. This has also been mentioned on Keith Olbermann's Countdown [21]

Political campaign donations

In 2007, Mukasey has made political campaign donations to only one candidate: Rudy Giuliani.[22]

Mukasey's involvement with tobacco


This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

On April 8, 1996, "U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey reversed his earlier dismissal of a suit brought against Philip Morris Companies, Inc. by disgruntled stockholders. Plaintiffs produced new evidence concerning the cigarette manufacturer's knowledge of nicotine's addictive properties to persuade Mukasey to issue the new Opinion and Order."[23]

According to a motion filed in the above mentioned shareholder suits arguing that Judge Mukasey should recuse himself from the case, "In a status conference on May 9, 1994, the Honorable Michael B . Mukasey informed plaintiffs' and defendants' counsel that in his previous work as a private attorney he represented tobacco companies in defense of smoker litigation."[24]

Mukasey's nomination for Attorney General

Refusal to condemn waterboarding

In response to a question from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) of whether waterboarding was constitutional, Mukasey answered, ""If waterboarding is torture... torture is not Constitutional." When pressed on whether waterboarding was torture, Mukasey only answered, "If it amounts to torture, then it is not Constitutional." (video)[25]

Schumer and Feinstein finally showed support for Mukasey

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced on November 2, 2007, that they decided to side with the White House in voting to send the nomination of Mukasey as attorney general to the Senate floor. “I believe that Judge Mukasey is the best we will get and voting him down would only perpetuate acting and recess appointments, allowing the administration to avoid the transparency that confirmation hearings provide and diminish effective oversight by Congress,” said Feinstein. While Schumer was torn on the nomination after recommending Mukasey, five committee Democrats, including all four senators seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and other Democrats, due to his stand on a waterboarding ban, put Mukasey’s nomination in jeopardy. But with the support of Schumer and Feinstein, along with the nine Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, Mukasey will more than likely have enough votes for his nomination to be sent to the floor as well as backing for confirmation. [26]

Nomination approved by Senate

With the approval of six democrats, one independent, and a united Republican caucus, the senate confirmed Michael Mukasey as attorney general with a 53-40 vote. A hot-button issue in determining this vote, which was predicted to endure a filibuster or a delay till Thanksgiving recess, was the waterboarding issue and whether or not Mukasey thought that it constitutes illegal torture under U.S. laws. Many questioned his capabilities as the attorney general if he could not come up with a clear legal answer for this issue. However, he argued that he had not been briefed on the specifics of CIA interrogation techniques. “After the longest confirmation process in nearly 20 years, the Senate has finally voted to confirm Judge Mukasey as attorney general,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Senate GOP Conference. “The Department of Justice has a vital role to play in the war against Islamic terrorists, and it is critically important that it have a leader who can ensure that it fulfills its mission. Judge Mukasey is this kind of leader.” [27]


Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 "President Bush Announces Judge Michael Mukasey as Nominee for Attorney General," Office of the White House Press Secretary, September 17, 2007.
  2. "Mukasey Confirmed As Attorney General" by Laurie Kellman. Associated Press. Nov. 9, 2007.
  3. Gonzales' resignation letter dated August 26, 2007, posted by TPMmuckraker, August 27, 2007.
  4. Peter Lattman, "Judge Michael Mukasey to Join Patterson Belknap," Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2006.
  5. "Judges of the United States Courts," Federal Justice Center.
  6. "And the Next A.G. Will Be...," The Peacetrain, August 30, 2007.
  7. "And the Next A.G. Will Be...," The Peacetrain, August 30, 2007.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Phil Hirschkorn, "U.S. can hold 'dirty bomb' suspect. Judge allows attorney access for Padilla," CNN, December 10, 2002. See also Bernard Hibbitts, "'Dirty bomber' access to counsel ruling," Jurist, March 11, 2003; "'Dirty bomb' suspect to get lawyer," BBC News, March 11, 2003.
  9. Think Fast, Think Progress, September 24, 2007.
  10. Philip Shenon, "Post-9/11 Cases Fuel Criticism for Nominee," New York Times, September 24, 2007.
  11. Michael Isikoff, "Justice: Grilling a Bush Pick," Newsweek, October 1, 2007 (issue) and "Mukasey signals support for torture," Think Progress, September 24, 2007.
  12. Michael B. Mukasey, "Jose Padilla Makes Bad Law. Terror trials hurt the nation even when they lead to convictions," OpinionJournal, August 22, 2007.
  13. 13.0 13.1 ArgusRun, "Who is Michael Mukasey?" The Daily Kos, September 15, 2007.
  14. Peter Lattman, "Seven Things to Know About Michael Mukasey," Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2007.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Jennifer O'Shea, "10 Things You Didn't Know About Michael Mukasey," US News & World Report, September 17, 2007.
  16. Alec MacGillis, "Giuliani-Mukasey Ties Go Back Decades," Washington Post, September 18, 2007.
  17. Associated Press photo by Mark Lennihan, Netscape.
  18. "Rudy Giuliani Campaign Unveils Justice Advisory Committee," JoinRudy2008.com, July 16, 2007.
  19. Profile: Marc L. Mukasey, Bracewell & Giuliani.
  20. http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0744,barrett,78212,6.html/2
  21. http://www.crooksandliars.com/2008/01/31/countdown-special-comment-on-fisa-and-telecom-immunity/
  22. Judiciary Political Donations: Michael Mukasey, NewsMeat.
  23. "Disgruntled Shareholders Given Go-Ahead to Sue," CourtTV.com Legal Documents.
  24. [http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/cco76c00 William Steiner, Plaintiff, Against Philip Morris Companies, Inc., Defendants, 94 CIV 2372 (MBM). Jerry King, Plaintiff. Plaintiff's memorandum of law in support of their motion for recusal of United States District Judge Michael B. Mukasey, June 23, 1994, Smith JG, Starr Z, Zola NL.
  25. Paul Kiel, "Is Waterboarding Torture? Mukasey: Yes, if It's Torture," TPMMuckraker.com, Oct. 18, 2007.
  26. Manu Raju, "Schumer and Feinstein to side with White House on Mukasey," The Hill, November 2, 2007.
  27. Manu Raju, "Senate approves Mukasey nomination," The Hill, November 9, 2007.


External articles



  • Spencer Ackerman, TPMmuckraker, October 17, 2007:
  • Satyam Khanna, Think Progress, October 17, 2007:
  • October 18, 2007: Live-blogging Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing
  • Spencer Ackerman, TPMmuckraker, October 18, 2007: