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Add one more subject for attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey to bone up on ahead of a crucial meeting with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and his confirmation hearing, expected to start later this month. On top of explaining unfulfilled records requests concerning the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006, the controversial warrantless spying program, and the fight over executive privilege regarding subpoenaed White House officials, Mukasey must now prepare to answer questions about secret Department of Justice memos justifying questionable CIA interrogation practices. Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said last week that Mukasey’s confirmation was “encumbered” by the ongoing spats but that he hoped to meet wih Mukasey on Oct. 16 and launch the confirmation hearings the next day if Mukasey and other senators agree. The Oct. 4 disclosure of the secret Justice memos’ existence by The New York Times further angered lawmakers, who said they want answers — fast. But even if they don’t get them from Justice officials before Mukasey’s hearing, that is not likely to derail his confirmation, observers say. One thing working in Mukasey’s favor is that influential senators have already given him their blessing. And his long legal experience as an attorney, prosecutor, judge, and mediator has impressed lawmakers and outsiders. “I don’t think it’s going to affect him much,” says Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for then-Attorney General John Ashcroft who has been critical of ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. “I think it could play to his advantage. .�.�. In this particular sense, you have a Senate predisposed to liking this guy, allowing him to establish that distance between himself and Gonzales right away.” Joseph Whitley, a veteran Department of Justice official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, says lawmakers will get answers if they give Mukasey a chance to run Main Justice. “He will not be given a clean slate .�.�. but I think the operation of that department is too important to lie fallow,” says Whitley, an Alston & Bird partner who also served as the Department of Homeland Security’s first general counsel. Meanwhile, the Senate last week released an 85-page questionnaire mailed in by Mukasey that details his longtime relationship with presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani and his legal and civic work spanning four decades. The document also lists his net worth at $3.5 million.
Pedro Ruz Gutierrez can be contacted at [email protected].

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