By Devlin Barrett and Lara Jakes Jordan
The Associated Press
Friday 02 November 2007
Washington - Michael Mukasey drew closer to becoming attorney general Friday after two key Senate Democrats said they would vote for him despite his refusal to define an interrogation technique that stimulates drowning as torture.
The decision by Sens. Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein came shortly after the chairman of the committee, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced he would vote against Mukasey, a former federal judge.
"This is an extremely difficult decision," Schumer said in a statement, adding that Mukasey "is not my ideal choice."
In announcing her support for Mukasey, Feinstein, D-Calif., said "first and foremost, Michael Mukasey is not Alberto Gonzales," referring to the former attorney general who resigned in September after months of questions about his honesty.
Including Leahy, five of the Judiciary Committee's 10 Democrats had said they would vote against Mukasey's confirmation after the nominee earlier this week refused to say that waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning, is torture and therefore illegal.
But with nine Republicans on the panel, Schumer's and Feinstein's support for Mukasey virtually guarantees that a majority of the committee will recommend his confirmation when it votes on it next Tuesday.
Leaders in both parties have said they expect Mukasey to get at least 70 votes when the full, 100-member Senate votes on his confirmation. But Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had said he would not bring it up for a vote without Judiciary Committee action first.
Schumer's announcement followed a private meeting Friday with Mukasey to discuss waterboarding.
"I deeply oppose it," Schumer said of waterboarding. "Unfortunately, this nominee, indeed any proposed by President Bush, will not agree with this. I am, however, confident that this nominee would enforce a law that bans waterboarding."
Schumer, who was Mukasey's chief Democratic sponsor, said the retired judge told him that if Congress passes a law banning waterboarding "the president would have absolutely no legal authority to ignore such a law." Schumer said Mukasey said he would enforce any congressional ban the controversial interrogation method.
Torture is considered a war crime by the international community and waterboarding has been banned by the U.S. military, but CIA interrogators are believed to have used the technique on terror detainees as recently as a few years ago.
Mukasey has called waterboarding personally "repugnant," and in a letter to senators this week said he did not know enough about how it has been used to define it as torture. He also said he thought it would be irresponsible to discuss it since doing so could make interrogators and other government officials vulnerable to lawsuits.
Early Friday, President Bush renewed his plea for Mukasey's confirmation.
"He's a good man. He's a fair man. He's an independent man, and he's plenty qualified to be attorney general," Bush said of Mukasey, just after landing in Columbia, S.C., on his way to a political fundraiser and to give a speech at Fort Jackson.
On Thursday, Bush had warned that the Justice Department would go without a leader in a time of war if Democrats thwarted Mukasey.
Bush also said that if the Judiciary Committee were to block Mukasey because of his noncommittal stance on the legality of waterboarding, it would set a new standard for confirmation that could not be met by any responsible nominee for attorney general.
Diane Feinstein caved once more, what a despicable waste of human flesh. It is hard to imagine that she was once mayor of the most liberal city in the Bluest state in the
This vote is a vote for irrelevancy, if Mukasey gets a free pass on waterboarding then what is the point of her being in
What a pathetic endorsement she gave to Jude Mukasey. Better than Alberto Gonzales? A banana slug would be a better A.G. than Gonzo. At least the slug can’t help sliming up the Justice Department, what was Alberto’s excuse?
Odd to think that the Senior Senator from California is on the Intelligence committee because she has failed to show even the most rudimentary intelligence on the most simple matters of decency. Madam Senator- torture is wrong, it is immoral, it is illegal under US and international law. Torture violates our most cherished beliefs, it is profoundly Anti-American. Madam Senator Waterboarding is torture; we tried and convicted Nazis for this procedure. Even one of Gonzo’s former underlings, Daniel Levin, has stated that Waterboarding was torture. He should know he underwent the procedure. To let Mukasey wiggle out of answering the Waterboarding question, to let him split hairs and dodge the query via legal parsing was a dereliction of Feinstein’s sworn duty. What part of protect and defend the constitution slips her grasp?
Has the good Senator bothered to read that august document? Has she perused the forth amendment? Has she bothered to read the fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth? Has she pondered article one, which outlines the legislative duties and responsibilities of her office? Has anyone bothered to inform her of the Geneva Conventions and our responsibilities as a signatory? Or is she just so afraid of George W Bush accusing her of weakness that she proves her lack of courage by surrendering to Bush’s petulant demand that she approve the nomination of this deeply compromised man, Judge Mukasey?
Diane Feinstein needs to leave her post and spend “more time with her family.” Someone else needs to fill in her slot. Someone who understands that law and order mean something, that no one is above the law. Someone who understands that the greatest threat to our way of life is not Osama Bin Laden but fear mongers in our own country. Someone else who can stand up to any president and say “no” when they get out of line. Someone else who will really support and defend the constitution. Someone else who will put love of country over love of self and reelection.