Bush settles on US judge for Atty General-report

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WASHINGTON, Sep 17 (Reuters) President George W Bush has settled on former US District Judge Michael Mukasey as his choice to replace outgoing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, The Washington Post reported.

The nomination of Mukasey, considered a law-and-order conservative and authority on national security issues, could come as early this morning, the Post said yesterday citing two sources familiar with the decision.

A senior Republican aide told Reuters that background materials about the retired 66-year-old jurist were distributed to Senate Republican staffers, in preparation for Mukasey's anticipated Senate confirmation hearing.

The aide said Bush seemed to turn to Mukasey after Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid vowed last week to block another potential top nominee, former US Solicitor General Theodore Olson, as too partisan.

''It's our expectation -- that of the senior Senate (Republican) staff -- that it will be Mukasey,'' the aide said.

''We expect an announcement this week.'' Mukasey was nominated to the federal bench two decades ago by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in an e-mail: ''We are not commenting on any possible names for the attorney general nomination.'' But she added, ''You should expect an announcement soon.'' Mukasey, appointed as a federal judge for the southern district of New York, retired last year after nearly two decades of service. He earlier served as a federal prosecutor.

DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGES If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Gonzales, who resigned as attorney general last month, effective on Monday.

Gonzales quit after months of Democratic and some Republican lawmakers challenged his truthfulness and ability to do his job as the chief US law enforcement officer.

Gonzales drew much of the fire for his dismissal last year of nine federal prosecutors and his handling of Bush's domestic spying program, which critics have denounced as unlawful.

Olson, who represented Bush in the Supreme Court case that settled the contested 2000 presidential election, had been widely viewed as the top contender early last week.

But Reid appeared to slam the door on him, vowing to do all he could as majority leader to prevent Olson's confirmation.

A Democratic Party aide said Mukasey may have an easier time winning Senate confirmation than some others who had been mentioned, including Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff.

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who led the drive to force Gonzales out, mentioned Mukasey in March as a possible and acceptable replacement for the attorney general, describing him as among those ''conservative Republicans'' who ''put the rule of law first'' and was above partisan politics.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, ''I know the name (Mukasey), but I don't know anything about him.'' However, if Mukasey can convince him that as attorney general he would be the nation's lawyer, not the president's, ''I could support him,'' Biden said on ''Fox News Sunday.'' As a federal judge, Mukasey presided over a number of high-profile cases, including one in which a dozen people were tied to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Reuters RC VP0605

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