Michael Mukasey LAW ’67 was confirmed as the nation’s 81st attorney general by the Senate late Thursday night.
Nominated by President George W. Bush ’68, Mukasey was at first well received by senators on both sides of the aisle. But the Senate’s 53-40 vote late Thursday night reflects the frustration some senators had with Mukasey’s refusal to classify waterboarding — a controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning — as torture.
But several senators, including the six Democrats who voted in favor of Mukasey’s confirmation, said the need for a replacement for former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales outweighed the concerns they had with Mukasey, who served as a federal judge in the Southern District of New York until 2006.
One of Mukasey’s most ardent supporters during the confirmation proceedings was a classmate from Yale Law School — Senator Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67.
Lieberman introduced Mukasey during the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings.
“This is a man of the law, not a man of politics.” Lieberman said during the hearings.
On the second day of his testimony, Mukasey said he was not familiar enough with the specifics of waterboarding to comment on its legality. The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, said he voted against Mukasey’s confirmation because of this response.
Mukasey’s nomination also sparked discussion within the Law School community. Professor Jed Rubenfeld wrote an opinion piece in the Oct. 23 issue of The New York Times saying that Mukasey needed to provide more information about his stance on executive power. Law School professor Kate Stith responded with a letter to the editor of The Times in which she argued that Rubenfeld unfairly characterized Mukasey’s remarks.
When Mukasey was first nominated, Law School Dean Harold Koh said he supported the president’s choice.
“Judge Mukasey has always been a source of pride to his law school,” Koh said in a statement. “Our Justice Department needs an attorney general who has been a strong leader and a principled lawyer.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting.