Attorney general's nomination by Bush sparks warnings

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Washington, Sep 18 (UNI) US President George W Bush's nomination of retired federal judge Michael B Mukasey as 81st attorney general faced warnings by Senate Democrats.

The Judiciary Committee would delay confirmation of president Bush's choice for attorney general if the White House did not turn over documents that the panel was seeking for several investigations, warned Senators Patrick J Leahy of Vermont and Charles E Schumer of New York yesterday.

''All I want is the material we need to ask some questions about the former attorney general's conduct, on torture and warrantless wiretapping, so we can legitimately ask, 'Here's what was done in the past, what will you do?','' Mr Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chairman was quoted by The New York Times, as saying.

Reiterating the concern of Mr Leahy, Senator Schumer said, ''Chairman Leahy's concern is genuine. He strongly defends the prerogatives of the committee. I stressed that to both White House counsel Fred F Fielding and Mukasey. It would be much better for everyone concerned if they could reach an agreement.'' The White House is trying to cast the Mukasey confirmation as ''urgent''. Deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto said the request for documents and the confirmation of Mr Mukasey were ''separate issues that should not be linked.'' Besides this, the aides to Mr Bush were also expecting that Democrats would not want a messy confirmation fight.

However, some Democrats like Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin reacted cautiously to Mr Mukasey's nomination, saying ''Mr Mukasey will have to prove that he is independent of Mr Bush and that he can repair the damage done to the department by Mr Gonzales, whom many Democrats regarded as a crony of the president.'' Commenting on the nomination, Senator Joseph I Biden Jr of Delaware said he was ''pleased that President Bush put aside his old habits and picked an outside professional to nominate as attorney general, rather than a member of his own circle.'' Announcing the selection of the retired federal judge from New York, who has presided over several high-profile terrorism trials, Mr Bush said ''Judge Mukasey is 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.'' After being nominated, Mr Mukasey said ''I am honoured to be asked to lead a department where I have worked as a prosecutor 35 years ago.'' The White House had been extremely concerned about finding a consensus nominee as with just 16 months left in the administration, Mr Bush cannot afford a nasty confirmation fight.

Outgoing attorney general Alberto Gonzales was a longtime friend of the president and had served as White House counsel. Mr Gonzales announced his resignation last month, but came into effect yesterday only.

Mr Gonzales was criticised at home and abroad for the administration's tough anti-terrorism policies. Democrats as well as some Republicans opposed him for ousting nine federal prosecutors.

UNI

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