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Michael Mukasey was supposed to have an easy ride when he came to Washington. Nominated by President George W. Bush in September to replace Alberto Gonzales as attorney general, the Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler partner and former chief federal judge from New York was immediately sold as a consensus nominee who would easily win confirmation. Indeed, on the first day of his confirmation hearings in October, it was a virtual love-fest for Mukasey at the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then came Day 2. Mukasey was asked whether he thought waterboarding � the now-infamous practice of simulated drowning used as an interrogation technique � constituted tortured. His answer: He didn’t know, and thus, couldn’t say. Later, in replies to follow-up written questions, Mukasey said he could not provide an answer because he had no access to classified information and that he did not want his answer to put CIA agents in legal jeopardy. Senate Democrats exploded. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said they would not vote to confirm him, and dozens of other Democrats jumped ship. Meanwhile, Bush pledged to not send another nominee if Mukasey was rejected. The spotlight turned to Mukasey’s fellow New Yorker, Sen. Charles Schumer, who had touted Mukasey to the White House and to his fellow Democrats. He decided to stick with the nomination, saying that Mukasey was the best nominee that Democrats could expect from Bush.On Nov. 8, five Democrats joined Schumer in voting to confirm Mukasey. The Senate vote was 53-40 � one of the narrowest margins ever for an attorney general. The new AG is remaining tight-lipped. On Dec. 14, Mukasey told the Judiciary Committee that he wouldn’t discuss the ongoing Justice Department inquiry into the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes.
Pedro Ruz Gutierrez can be contacted at [email protected].

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